Out the Gate with BASK

On Saturday, December 7, I joined fellow BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers) members for a paddle “Out the Gate,” meaning a paddle out from the relatively protected waters on San Francisco Bay , out under the Golden Gate Bridge onto the Pacific Ocean. Tides and currents under the Golden Gate Bridge can be a challenge, not to mention the wind. This is not a place for novice paddlers, but for those that have the skill and knowledge of the risks, it is an awesome adventure.

Our launch point was Horseshoe Bay on the Marin Headlands, and with 27 paddlers we were quiet a fleet. We formed small pods of two to three paddlers, using a buddy system, and those again formed into two larger groups; those that wanted to play in the rocks and waves; an activity referred to as rock gardening; and those that were more interested in paddling in the calmer waters away from the rocks. I chose the latter group, since I don’t think my wooden boat will fare well bashing into rocks.

We launched our kayaks at 9:45 am and paddled along Marin Headlands. There is plenty to see along the headlands; sheer cliffs come down to the water, and in some places it’s easy to paddle along the cliff watching for sea stars and birds.  There were also plenty of harbor seals and a few sea lions.

Paddling a little further out the gate, we began to feel the ocean swell. One moment I’ll be up in the air looking down at the waves crashing on the rocks, the next moment, in the trough of a wave looking up at the back of the wave that just passed.

We paddled about four miles out to Point Bonita. Our plan was to land on a beach for lunch, but it seems there was a fierce wind blowing offshore,  straight out the Golden Gate. We were faced with the challenge of paddling into a strong headwind. Rather than dally around we decided to head back to Kirby Cove, a relatively protected cove.

It was a bit of a slog back to Kirby Cove and we hugged the coast as much as possible to try to get some protection from the wind.  Once on the beach, we broke our our lunches, eventually climbing back into our boats to paddle back to our launch point. If the water in the photos looks calm, it’s  because when I’m paddling hard, I want to keep both hands on the paddle. Putting the paddle down long enough to take a photo could have dire consequences.

You can view a track log of our paddle here.

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San Francisco’s Wave Organ

San Francisco is full of hidden surprises. The morning found me in San Francisco, having made my way to the Marina District to look a a project I’ll be photographing for a client. Having left the project I was in no hurry to make my way home with such a clear crisp day and the waterfront of the Marina beckoning me. I was on foot, having arrived by way of public transportation using BART and bus. Looking at a map and I noticed something at the end of the jetty labeled “Wave Organ. Unique acoustic sculpture on the bay.” I was intrigued so I made my way to the end of Marina Green Drive and on out to the end of the Jetty.  The Wave Organ is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture.  The concept was developed by Peter Richards and was installed in collaboration with sculptor and master stone mason George Gonzales. Installed in 1986. To really appreciate this you need to sit on a bench and just let the sounds wash over you; a very subtle and gentle experience.  In addition to the wave organ, the location offers a spectacular view of San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in the distance.

Paddle on Estero Americano

On Saturday, November 18, we launched our boats near Valley Ford for a paddle on Estero Americano. The Estero is a creek that meanders through the the low rolling coastal hills of Sonoma County ending at the Pacific Ocean. The property along the estero is all private farms and ranches, and with no public access, so there are very few people. The estero is also a popular place for bird watching also.  There were 13 of us on the paddle. A paddle organized through BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers). We launched our boats at the bridge near Valley Ford and paddled five and a half miles to the ocean where we landed and had lunch. Joining us on the beach were four fellow BASK members that paddled on the coast side, from Dillon Beach and landing in the surf on the beach. There is a sandbar across the mouth of the estero so that the water from the estero does not actually drain into the ocean, although when conditions are right the estero will breach the sandbar and connecting the estero to the ocean.  In addition to the photos above, you can find additional photos here and you can view a track log that show a map or our paddle here.

BAMPFA and Ottoman

We made a visit to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive today, arriving by bike after church. Our motivation for the visit was to watch the film “The End of the Ottoman Empire” by Mathilde Damoisel, a documentary overview of the Ottoman Empire and its decline. The Ottoman Empire is not something I ever studied in school and not something for which I’ve had much appreciation. This movie helped enlighten me, and helped me understand some of the history and cultural issues that still impact much of the middle east today. Recommended viewing if you get a chance. There is another viewing on December 4. Don’t delay though. Tickets for today’s showing sold out early!

Aside from the movie, the building itself has some fascinating architecture.

New Boat on the Water

Saturday, November 11, we managed to get our new boat on the water. The new boat, a Ronan from Pygmy Boats measures in at 14′ 3″ weighing 32 pounds. It’s been in the works since May. The bigger boat is a Pygmy Coho, 17′ 6″, which I have been paddling for 18 years. Joann gave the new boats a hearty thumbs up, saying it felt more stable and tracked better than the Golden Eye she’s been paddling for quite some time.

For our sea trial we launched from Ferry Point in Richmond, paddled out around Brooks Island, where we dallied a bit at Bird Rock to watch the birds and the seals. Then on to a little beach at Barbara and Jay Vincent Park in Richmond where we had lunch. After lunch we paddled along the Richmond Waterfront, where we had a close look at the Red Oak Victory, and then back to our launching point.  Our journey covered just under seven miles. You can view the track of our paddle here. You can also view more photos of our trip here.

Aside from this being Joann’s first paddle in the new boat it was also the first time we had both boats on top or our Fourwheel camper.

BASK Thursday Paddle

Thursday November 10. Seven of us launched our kayaks from Paradise Cay for a paddle to Angel Island where we landed at Immigration Cove for lunch. This was the first time I had my new boat on the water, a Pygmy Ronan. We had a perfect paddle with light winds, slack current and an amazing display of clouds overhead. We paddled about 10 miles round trip. You can view a partial track of our paddle here. Unfortunately, the battery in my iPhone, which I use for keeping a track log, died before I completed the track.

Decisions

October 10th, 2017. We’re on our homeward leg of our fall color trip. Our objective is to head for home. Crossing Nevada. For many people Nevada is a wasteland of desert, although I find the desert fascinating. Joann is driving and I’m watching countryside pass by. Suddenly I see a 30 foot tall alien flash by. I’m torn between making miles and stopping. Do I ask Joann to stop or keep my mouth shut and keep going. Sometimes my photographic ventures can try Joann’s patience. Keep driving for the sake of marital harmony, or stop and for my own sake. If I stopped for every thing that caught my eye we’d never make it home. So much along the route I find fascination; abandoned buildings, rusty farm equipment, abandoned gas stations; what I call rural decay. And then I wonder having just visited the Walker Evens exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), is this an influence of having been exposed to Evan’s work, over the years, or is there something universally fascinating about abandoned buildings, dilapidated store fronts and rusty tractors? Not that this qualifies as “urban decay, but it catches my attention. I ask Joann to stop, turn around and go back. An advertisement on the door says “Alien Tequila. An Abduction in Every Bottle.”  Strange things happen in the desert. We’re not far from Groom Lake, a top secret air base, often referred to as “Area 51.” This facility is clearly an opportunity to merchandise on the fascination of Area 51. An interesting stop in the middle of the Nevada desert.