On Sunday February 20, I paddled my kayak up San Rafael Creek, launching from Loch Lomond Yacht Harbor. The original plan was to meet with a number of fellow paddlers for a paddle across the bay. With high winds predicted, crossing the bay did not sound like a wise thing to do, so I cancelled the organized paddle. Being the trip initiator though, I thought I should show up at the launch site to intercept anybody that might not have gotten the word about the cancellation. No other kayaks showed up. From the launch site it’s just a short distance to San Rafael Creek, and for the most part, staying close to shore provides protection from the wind. I decided I would go on a solo paddle. I was wearing a full dry suit for protection should I end up in the water, my personal flotation device (PFD, lifejacket), and I had a marine VHF radio and cell phone which I keep in a Lifeproof case, along with my trusty little Olympus Tough TG-4 waterproof camera which has become my go-to camera for paddling. I was also curious to know how my new boat, the Pygmy Ronan, would handle in the wind. So I put my boat in the water, climbed in and took my time paddling up the creek as far as I could go. Being solo I was able to poke along and explore the yacht harbors and boats without having to keep up with the gang; free to do my own thing. Here are a few photos I captured along the way. Happy to report that the boat handled the wind better than I expected. Many kayaks tend to “weathercock” meaning they turn into the wind, which adds to the effort required to get the boat to go in the direction you want. Skegs and rudders are often used to correct for this. I’m thinking I may be fine without any modifications. Shortly after I returned to my launch site the wind picked up and I was happy to be off the water. A round trip of 5.5 miles. If you are curious about just where it was I was paddling you can see my track here.
Here’s a photo I captured yesterday at Horseshoe Bay as the morning fog was starting to dissipate. The three kayakers in the foreground were part of the Paddle Golden Gate Symposium, and event sponsored by California Canoe and Kayak. I participated in a workshop on “Forward Stroke Refinement.” When paddling with others recently, I’ve marveled at paddlers that can go great distances without their arms falling off, and I’m motivated to learn how to do that. Who would know how much technique can go into making a kayak go forward smoothly and efficiently? On the very basic level, you just put your paddle in the water, use it as an anchor and drive the boat forward with your feet, using your hamstrings and obliques to power the boat. Sounds simple right?
Our class had 11 participants, with folks from Boston, Port Townsend, Seattle, and Los Angeles, and three world class coaches, Sean Morley, Chris Hipgrave and Marcel Bieg. I took a quick tally of the class rosters and figured there were well over 100 boats on the water with paddlers participating in 13 different workshops. Quite an amazing event. I’m off today, catching up on some work projects, and back tomorrow for “Traditional Skills & Rolling.” I may get wet tomorrow. Stay tuned!
The weekend of January 13 found us in Monterey, with our kayaks, for a three-day weekend. We drove to Monterey on Friday arriving at Monterey Venterans Memorial Park at 2:30. Our plan was to get there early in the event the campsites filled up. Camping is first-come and there is no reservation system. We were happy to find that there were plenty of spaces available when we arrived. By Saturday evening though there were few if any sites left. The three-day weekend with Martin Luther King day and to good weather may have had an impact. One of the camp maintenance people told me there is always room this time of year. On Saturday we had hoped to launch our kayaks on Monastery Beach in Carmel with our fellow Bay Area Sea Kayaker (BASK) members, but the surf looked a bit intimidating so we opted to launch from the Municipal Beach in Monterey. From there we paddled to the beach at Lovers Point where we landed for lunch.
On Saturday we repeated the paddle, paddling out along Cannery Row, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium and on to Lovers Point. There’s always plenty to see in Monterey Bay with sea lions, sea otters and birds. On Monday we took advantage of a very high tide to paddle on Elkhorn Slough, paddling through Rubis Creek and up the slough to Kirby Park. Kirby Park is currently closed to vehicle traffic but open to kayakers arriving on the water.
While tradition seems to support ringing in the new year with a celebration as the clock turns over on New Years eve, I prefer to wake up to the New Year well rested with an early start, a clear head, and an opportunity to get out doors. So today we strapped our kayaks on top of our rig and headed east to one of our local regional parks, Big Break Regional Shoreline. Local is a relative term, since it’s a 50 mile drive, but having recently heard that this is a good spot for a flat-water paddle we decided to check it out. We had very calm weather with mild temperatures and no wind. Big Break is located in the delta region of the the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, an area that is noted for rich farm land, with farming established at the time of the California Gold Rush. As time progressed, farmland that was originally above the level of the river has subsided and levees were built to protect the farms. In 1928 a big break occurred in the levee and the resulting flooded farmland is now a waterway with a variety of islands and wildlife. On today’s paddle we saw seals, otters, egrets, herons, ducks and scoters. There were thousands of scoters scattered in a number of flocks and as they took to the air, flying in formation, they produced a sound like a loud wind, with thousands of wings flapping the water.
At one point in our paddle, I spotted a flock of ducks and I was curious to see how close I could get in my kayak. They seemed unperturbed as I approached, and I was paddling stealthily hoping not to upset them. As I drifted close I was surprised to discover that they were decoys. I had been sneaking up on some fake birds! A duck blind not far away should have been a clue.
We had hoped to land on one of the islands for lunch, but with the extreme high tide and the thick reeds we found that landing was not feasible, so we rafted up and ate on the water as we drifted lazily with the current.
If you plan on paddling here bring a dolly for your boat. The kayak launch is 1/4 miles from the parking area. We paddled a little over six miles over the course of the afternoon. You can view a track or our course here. You can view additional photos from our trip here.
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.
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.
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.