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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BASK Skills Clinic Day 10

September 2 found me on the water again with fellow BASK Skills Clinic students and our amazing crew of instructors. With a heat wave baking the San Francisco Bay Area, playing on (and in) the water was the place to be. Following our intro day and four weekends of skills training, this was an optional day.  We opted to spend the morning practicing paddle strokes and rescues. I typically wear a dry suit when paddling on the Bay, since the typical weather pattern is a cool wind and cool water. With temperatures approaching 100 degrees though, I opted to wear my short Farmer John and a t-shirt. Along with the spray skirt and PDF I was quite comfortable in the boat, and in the water. After spending the morning on drills, somebody suggested we paddle to Treasure Island, and off we went. Here’s a link to our track if you want to see our route. We have one more adventure left in the skills clinic; that’s an overnight kayak camping trip on September 23. Stay tuned.

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.

Gone Paddling

A welcome opportunity to get away today. The last three weeks have been quite intense with clients working hard to meet a deadline for a local design competition, but with the deadline come and gone I strapped my boat on the top of the car and joined a few fellow BASK members (Bay Area Sea Kayakers), and headed for the Coast Guard Station at Horseshoe Bay, just inside the Golden Gate. Paddling out the gate is not something you do without paying attention to the wind, the tides and the current. We had good conditions with light winds and a slack tide in late morning and an incoming current in the afternoon. We paddled out past Point Diablo and then returned to Kirby Cove for lunch. Back on the water after lunch we had a fast ride with the current and wind with us for our return. I returned feeling refreshed and restored from the trials of the past few weeks. Nothing seems to charge my batteries, so to speak, more than getting out in nature. You can view more photos here and view a track of our trip 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

BASK Rescue Clinic

“There is nothing–absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

So two dozen of us or so found ourselves in the South Sailing Basin at the Berkeley Marina practicing rescue techniques. Calm day, and the water was a bit chilly, but with dry suits and the proper layers underneath, we had a fun day. Some of the techniques we practiced include the cowboy scramble, T-rescues, paddle floats and a variety of others. Put on by BASK, the Bay Area Sea Kayakers, we had plenty of volunteer instructors and those eager to learn.