Kayaking in the Dark

Friday night I took my kayak up to Tomales Bay and put in from a beach near Nick’s Cove. The purpose: to observe the bioluminescence, which I’d read about. It’s a phenomenon in waters hereabouts where luminous plankton glow on dark nights. I’d first seen it several years ago while walking on the beach barefoot on a dark night at low tide. I would kick some water and when it landed, flashing spark’s danced around on the water’s surface. Holy cow! Then I took my hands and threw water on some rocks, small pinpoints of brilliant light cascaded down the rock—ping, ping, ping.

  I paddled over to Hog Island and hit it lucky, sunset-wise. As the sun started going down, flocks of cormorants sailed overhead, going to roost in the shallows of the island. When it finally got dark, I took my paddle and splashed some water, and there were sparkles. I didn’t see a lot of luminescence other than that, maybe because there were a few lights shining on the water from across the bay. Maybe you have to get in a darker part of the bay, like down around Marshall, to see fish swimming in a green glow.

   I loved being out there in the inky blackness of night; no wind, the water glassy. Something about being totally alone in the dark of the moon is exquisite.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

12 Responses to Kayaking in the Dark

  1. Hello there,
    New to your blog but I'll stick around awhile if you don't mind. There is something to be said about being alone in the darkness, all senses are at there height.
    Regards John

  2. Hi Lloyd
    I`m a youngish man at 62 from Denmark.
    When I was very young one dark night I was walking on the beach with a girlfriend. Looking back our footprints were glowin, almost like on fire.
    We went swimming in the ocean. I was behind her, and she was swimming on her back.
    There was so much glowwing plankton in the water that where the water-surface was broken
    the water was like on fire, and since my girlfriend had rather big breasts she made the water glow like a W severel meters behind her.
    I`ll never forget that expirience
    There is a Scientific explonation on what happens when the sand and water glows like that,but I get carried away in happy memories whent thinking about that night and that`s good enough for me
    Bjarne Denmark

  3. The best instance we ever saw of this phenomena was about 20 years back on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja, wherever we stepped in the packed damp sand at waters edge the luminescence would immediately radiate out in circles from our feet! It was electric magic and we proceeded to prance and dance up and down the beach accordingly. Yep, one of those moments you'll always remember.

  4. The first time working on a boat from Vancouver B.C. to Alaska many years ago, I experienced so much bioluminescence on this particular dark night, the porpoises racing to play in the bow wave looked like torpedoes with headlights. The birds diving to dodge the bow could be seen 20ft. deep…amazing. Love paddling at night, keep up the good work.

  5. Lloyd, I know I have commented, some time back, and I believe I have seen others comment,

    MY GOSH, may of your photos seriously grab my heart/soul.

    I wonder if you might consider selling them?

    I know you are soon to have a book release, and might this be an opportunity to test the waters and see if any wished to order enlargements?

    quite honestly, at this point, not sure I am in a position to be purchasing same, however, I would hope to in future, if offered.

  6. by the way, if you did sell enlargements of your photos, maybe choice of some matted/some framed/etc,
    but I , myself, if ordered these
    would for sure love to see them all signed by yourself.

  7. Anonymous, Thanks for the kind words. These days I'm just too busy to print photos. However,if you click on this (or any photo here), you'll get a large image that you can print out.



  8. Lloyd, been going through your posts (looking for a particular one)..

    My gosh, that top photo still grabs my breath…Surely you could make TONS of money with Photo Art like that one, for sale in galleries.

    Not the first photo of yours which has grabbed my interest, but that one on top is (I say again), truly amazing at grabbing my breath.

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