Every year, the Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) and the Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC, more on them later) get together for a night of rambunctious kayak caroling. Here's how it works.
Prepare and decorate. Nena and Alice meet up in a commercial parking lot in Mill Valley with a large sign that says "NO BOAT LAUNCHING..." or something along those lines. We gradually unload our boats and prep them in the lawn by the water. Prepping, in this case, involves wrapping them in [expensive] red and green ribbons [from Whole Foods] and taping [very expensive] fake non-waterproof candles [also from Whole Foods] to the deck. Next, strap [cheap] wine under the deck lines. Alice's lights are waterproof and twinkly. I'll be more prepared next year. Couples pass us on their evening walk and say "can you launch from here? I didn't know you could put your boat in here?" We smile and tell them to have a nice walk. Fully outfitted, we stealthily move our cars to the back of the crowded restaurant parking lot next door.
Find the other carolers. We launch from Mill Valley and paddle south under the Highway 101 bridge toward Schoonmaker Point Marina in Sausalito. We know we're at the right beach when we see dark figures scampering around with lights. We drag our boats onto the sand and find Doug, Eddie, Joël, and Amy decorating their boats in the dark. Eddie and Joël have very shiny christmas tree ornaments that are, unfortunately, completely invisible in the dark. Jackie promptly provided them with their own set of twinkly lights. Others have entire mini christmas trees perched on the sterns of their boats. It is a festive scene!
Rehearsals. When caroling, it is important to know how to sing. Jackie (fellow BASKer and ETCer) rounds everyone up and passes out perfectly laminated songsheets. We circle up on the beach and begin practicing. The first attempt is quite painful - not enough has been imbibed (ok, I may be one of the only ones imbibing) and people are feeling a bit reserved about belting out Joy To The World. A few iterations later, we are singing loudly and happily (albeit out of tune).
Identify Targets and Commence Singing. Freshly decorated, the growing group of carolers (~20) launches from Sausalito and heads north towards the boathouses. Many of the houses are dark, but as soon as we spot a light, Jackie yells out a song number and starts to sing (we all join in a few seconds later). Inevitably, more lights turn on and a pleasantly surprised or fully confused tenant steps out onto the deck. Most often the response is awkward standing/smiling until we finish yelling [singing], at which point they say "Merry Christmas" and promptly shuffle back into their homes. A man turns his back on us when we begin singing only to return moments later, joining in with his trombone. Every once in a while, we find a jolly group of residents who shouts "Encore!" or tops off our cups of hot toddies.
A successful endeavor. An hour later, a few fake candles short, and fully caroled out, Alice and I split off from the group and head north towards our unconventional launch site. The tide is much lower (we hadn't really considered this...) but we don't have too much trouble getting back to the parking lot. At some point in the dark transit we crack Alice's boat on the rocky revetment, but she's become quite a boat-patching expert so it isn't too big of a deal (I think...)!
Date: Saturday December 8, 2012
Time: ~3 hours
Distance: ~6 miles