Beneath rough-hewn wharf ~ over sandy shallows ~ wee bell jellies hunt
This week kayaking has been great — high pressure has brought clear blue skies, light winds, gently rolling swells and warm daytime temperatures (although the clear nights make for freezing mornings). At launch,
the air temperature has been around 40° F (4° C) and the water temperature is 51° F (10.5° C). By mooring, the air temperature is close to 70° F (21° C).
But today was the stand out. With no wind for a week, the water was glassy calm and the views above and below were incredibly clear. Today was a perfect must-paddle day.
Not 10 strokes off Del Monte Beach (I stow my boat at Monterey Bay Kayaks), I came upon a creature that I’ve never seen before. It was so ethereal that I thought at first I was seeing pieces of something drifting, maybe paper or plastic. But after spotting several,
I realized they were real living things. Floating past me were tiny, delicate, transparent animals called bell jellies (Polyorchis sp.). I’ve since learned that bell jellies live along our coast in bays and harbors near the bottom where they use their many tentacles to sting and capture crustaceans (shrimps, etc.). How something so delicate-looking can survive in the ocean is amazing.
After the bell jellies came the big show —
a swarm of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sea nettles (Chrysaora sp.). The pulsating large and small golden-brown animals stretched from the end of Wharf 2 (the commercial wharf) across the open mouth of the harbor to around both sides of the breakwater. They were everywhere, like the jellyfish scene in Finding Nemo. Looking down (this shot is of the water under me), they’re beautiful and graceful. But I’m aware they sting and am happy where I am. As I kept paddling, I noted no sea lion raft that’s typically at the end of the breakwater.
Any wonder why? (For more about Monterey Bay jellies, visit my bestiary.)
Rounding the breakwater and gliding into the kelp beds along Cannery Row was breathtaking — so calm that I just sat for a long time taking in the scene. This was one of those days when I felt that I could kayak the 20 miles (32 km) across the bay to Santa Cruz. It was so placid.
Kelp canopy regulars — seabirds, sea otters and harbor seals — were hardly noticeable today.
It was all about the water.
The ocean’s deep color and soft texture evoked a feeling of calm true to its name — Pacific.