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I've never seen the Pacific off the northern California coast so worthy of its name as it was this weekend. We rented a small cottage a few miles north of Fort Bragg. The place had been chosen for the ad on the web--"Fifty feet from the ocean's roar." We should have demanded a refund.

The ocean's roar was a kitten's meow. The sea was a lake. Birds skimmed the water smoothly, just a few inches above. On Sunday morning, we watched divers just offshore. It would have been an easy shore dive--there was essentially no surf to fight through and the visibility was probably a record. It appeared more like the leeward side of a Caribbean island than the California north coast.

I've visited the Mendocino Headlands many times over the past couple decades. It is almost always windy, chilly (often bone-chillingly so) even in the summer time, and one of the features of them is the spectacular crashing of the waves on the rocks below, unleashing megawatts of power, in complex rhythms that have their sources far across the ocean.

Driving back down to the Bay Area, we were astonished on Sunday to stand on the bluffs and look down at a gull calmly paddling in a cove like a duck in a pond. We could easily see the bottom, usually obscured by foam and detritus stirred up by the churning surf. It was warm, and there was no breeze. The smells of decaying kelp and other vegetation drifted up to us, and it wasn't the usual pleasant sea smell.

There are two kinds of people who wouldn't be similarly astonished--long-time residents who have seen it all, and first time visitors, like the couple we saw as we walked back to the car, who had no comprehension of how unusual the conditions were. Only those who, like us, are semi-regular visitors with experience only of the standard conditions, could appreciate them as unique.

In the Caribbean, such ocean conditions would often presage a hurricane. All weekend we wondered what storm perhaps lay ahead, either literally or metaphorically.

Posted by Rand Simberg at September 08, 2003 11:12 AM
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> All weekend we wondered what storm perhaps lay ahead, either literally or metaphorically.

Global warming.

Posted by Erann Gat at September 8, 2003 11:47 AM

Pundit hot air over the recall campaign.

Posted by Kevin McGehee at September 8, 2003 12:03 PM

Late every October, my wife and I go to Bar Harbor, ME for a long weekend. Bar Harbor is a virtual ghost town at that time of year, which suits us well. I am an avid photographer, but my wife and I are equally happy to settle down in our cosy Bar Harbor Inn room to read and listen to the ocean. Alas, with a single exception, the autumnal storms chose to be elsewhere on that weekend. No raging churning sea to photograph, no rushing surf to lull one to sleep. We always seem to draw infernally bright hazy days, a sleeping sea, and at night, silence. Not a buoy bell to be heard.
But it is always worth the visit.

Posted by Jon R Brenneman at September 8, 2003 04:06 PM

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