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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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.

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.

Gray Day on the Bay

There were just two of us today, Danny and myself, for the BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle.  We launched from China Camp State Park Beach in a light rain with little wind, and headed south around Point San Pedro, past the quarry, paddling inside the pilings to avoid the stronger incoming current  further out.  We ended up at a little beach just off of San Pedro Road near the brick kilns. There we found a couple chairs and a table and broke our our lunches. A cool breeze and the overcast created a bit of a chill, so we were happy to get back in our boats to paddle back to our launch point. Back on the beach we were intrigued by a couple of guys that were arranging pebbles in various locations and taking photographs of them; reminiscent of an Andy Goldsworthy installation.  You can follow a track of our paddle here and more photos here.

Wind in the Rigging

Being a sea kayak, my boat doesn’t have much rigging, just a few deck lines. And today as we rounded Brooks Island a gust of wind hit, creating a howling sound as it raced over the deck. Earlier, at our appointed time of 10:30 the five of us were contemplating the weather. Small craft warnings (isn’t a kayak a small craft?), steady wind of 17 knots with gusts to 25. We decided we’d launch at Ferry Point and paddle along the Richmond waterfront, protected from the northwest wind. With the wind at our backs we paddled up the shipping channel, and across to Brooks Island where we followed the shore. We rounded brooks Island, and it became clear that we had two options, paddle back to the Richmond waterfront against a strong wind, or paddle along the south side of Brooks Island and the breakwater hoping to find a little protection from the wind. Paddling along Brooks Island was a chore, but not too intimidating. We eyed several beaches hoping for a place to stop for lunch, but Brooks Island being a nature reserve, is off limits to visitors, so we continued paddling. After rounding the jetty we headed for fellow kayaker’s house in Brickyard cove, having lunch on Gordon’s new deck, overlooking the yacht harbor.  As we were finishing lunch we noticed that one of our boats had taken off on adventure of it’s own, so we promptly jumped back in our boats, rounded up the rogue boat and paddled back to our launch point. Overall we paddled seven miles, starting out with a wind which eased up a bit as the day went on. More photos here and you can view a track of our paddle here.

Thursday Lunch Break

The weather prediction for today was 100% chance of rain, so we were expecting to get wet on our paddle; our Thursday BASK lunch paddle.  The rain held off though and we had a very pleasant paddle, launching from China Camp Beach in Marin and paddling along the shore past the quarry. Our original destination was Dynamite Beach, although we decided to change plans and paddle around the Marin Islands before finding a beach near Point San Pedro, near the quarry for lunch. There were three of us on the paddle, Danny, Susan and myself. More picture here and you can view the track of our paddle here

Grendel’s Needle

On Thursday, January 5, I managed to join my BASK friends for another Thursday BASK Lunch Paddle.  We were a group of eight,  launching from China Camp and paddling across the bay on calm water. Our route took us out to two rocks called The Sisters,  where we found a strong ebb current that helped carry us towards Richmond. We landed at a beach just south of Point San Pablo where we had lunch. The paddle back  was a bit more work since we were paddling against the current. As we approached The Sisters on the return route, one of the gang suggested we “thread Grendel’s Needle,” which turns out to be a slot in the rock. Not something I would want to attempt on a windy, choppy day, but fun with the calm water. Our paddle covered 7.3 miles. You can view the track of our route here, and see additional pictures here.