Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rock Garden Etiquette- Part One

Northern California has an awesome coastline for sea kayaking - specifically rock gardening.  There are many variations of kayaking in ocean rock gardens.  I believe the simplest explanation of rock gardening is kayaking in and around rocks in the ocean.
Sea kayaking in the rock gardens and sea caves of the Mendocino Coast.
Variations range from tooling around rock gardens and sea caves in calm conditions to traversing technical passage ways, riding pour-overs, and surfing in rock gardens and sea caves.  For safety and enjoyment, it is important that we follow the written and unwritten rules of this marine playground.
Cate with a juicy rock garden pour-over ride.
First we need to consider that this is not just our playground but is home to many marine creatures and our actions can effect their survival.  Right now, things are drastically changing in the Eastern Pacific.  Many marine creatures are struggling to survive.  The rock garden habit in which we play is quite sensitive.

What we need to do:

Tread lightly - avoid landing on and crushing marine life.  Mussels, kelp, sea stars, anemones, and abalone are all important to the balance of the marine ecosystem.  Be cautious about where you land and try not to step on creatures or injure the kelp.

Police plastic - pick it up and pack it out.  We all find trash and plastic out in the marine environment.  Help out by picking it up and packing it out and of course packing out your own trash.

Minimize impact of plastic from kayaks on rocks.  Timing, boat control, and judgement are key skills to make sure that we don't impact rocks with our kayaks and leave behind plastic curly-q's.  If the tide is too low or the swell is not powerful enough to run a feature without scrapping over it, move on and find a spot that is working.  Avoid landing and dragging kayaks on abrasive rock surfaces including mussels and barnacles.

Be aware and avoid wildlife during the nesting and pupping season.  Most paddlers are aware of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are conscious of not disturbing harbor seals.  It is also our responsibility to avoid bird nesting areas during nesting season.  On the Mendocino Coast, this is typically March through the beginning of August.  The population and nesting success of birds that nest near shore is being monitored by local and state Audubon Societies as well as by Fish and Wildlife.  Human disturbance is a considerable issue and one that often results in chick mortality.  Human disturbance can also lead to areas being closed.  It is best for us to avoid these areas during the nesting season.  On the Mendocino Coast, species of concern is the pelagic cormorant.  Pelagic cormorants nest on the cliffs of headlands, near shore rocks and commonly around sea caves.
Large nesting colony of pelagic cormorants on the Mendocino Coast.
Smaller nesting colony of pelagic cormorants.
Stay tuned for Part II where we talk about rock garden etiquette related to humans.

Sea kayakers using a circuit for safety and fun.

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