Calm Day on the Estero

Thursday, September 12 I was supposed to have a photo shoot for a client, but the shoot was cancelled. My backup plan was to manage some desperately needed home repairs. My wife had a different plan. She said “let’s go paddling on Drakes Estero.”

Paddling through the eel grass beds on Drakes Estero

So at 10 am we were on the beach at Drakes Estero along with several fellow BASK friends, looking a flat calm and with warm weather. I didn’t even opt for a dry suit or a paddling jacket.

Drakes Estero is an estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Named after Sir Francis Drake, who may have anchored in adjacent Drakes Bay during his explorations. The estero was also famous for oyster farming up until recently when the oyster farm was shut down. Congress declared the Estero a wilderness and oyster farming is not consistent with the management of the wilderness. See my previous posting about the book The Oyster War.

In any event we had a lovely paddle, paddling out to a small beach we have dubbed Sunset Beach, having a leisurely lunch and paddling back. Logging about 8 miles overall.

Island Hopping on San Francisco Bay

Our BASK Thursday Paddle on September 5 took us past three islands. Launching from Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, we paddled out between The Brothers Islands. East Brother is an old light station that now serves as a Bed and Breakfast Inn.

There are 48 islands in San Francisco Bay. Alameda Island is the largest, followed by Angel Island, Treasure Island and Alcatraz. Only one of the islands is privately owned. That is Red Rock Island, our lunch stop for today’s paddle.

The island is owned by Brock Durning who inherited it from his father Mack Durning. Mack tried to sell the island in 2012 for $22 million. But a few months later he slashed the price to $9 million. He died before it sold. There are no services on the island and developing it could be a nightmare. The island is split among three counties — Marin, San Francisco and Contra Costa.

Legend has it that pirates hid treasure on the island, though it’s never been discovered. In the early 1800s, Russian fur traders used the island as a camp for hunting otters.

We normally land on the lee side of the island facing the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, although this day the wind was down so we paddled around the island and landed on a small beach on the windward side. We noted a flag pole on top of the island with a very tattered stars and stripes flying. There is no trail to the top and there are steep cliffs on all sides of the island.

After lunch we launched our boats again and paddled back to the yacht harbor, passing close to the ruins of America’s last whaling station, closed in 1971. There is not much left of it now save for a few pilings. We logged 6.8 miles on our paddle with favorable wind and currents. One needs to be mindful of wind, currents and ship traffic including ferries that zip across the bay.

More photos from the trip are available here and a map showing the track of our paddle is show below.

Dead Fish Polo

Kayaker flinging the Dead Fish

The object of this game is to pick up the “dead fish” without using your hands and toss it. Who wants to touch a dead fish?

The other kayakers then scramble for the “fish” and repeat the process. In this case the “dead fish” is a pair of socks tied together with a tennis ball in each toe. Sounds like an easy game. Right? Let me tell you, picking up the “dead fish” with your paddle is a challenge. It’s a great game for practicing boat control. Forward stroke, back stroke, draw stroke, sweep strokes, bracing, leaned turns. It all comes into play in this game. And then trying flinging the thing without capsizing a tippy boat.

This was a week ago. While most of the Bay Area was sweltering in a heat wave. I headed for Tomales Bay to join a few of my BASK paddling buddies. We launched from Marconi Cove Put in, just east of Marshall and paddled across the bay to Marshall Beach, taking our time to explore the coast. Calm weather and quite warm. I don’t recall when the last time I paddled with just a t-shirt and swim suit; not my usual “dress for immersion” gear. Too hot for dry suits or wet suits.

After lunch we got back in our boats and had a friendly game of Dead Fish Polo.

Over the course of the day we paddled 6.4 miles. Here’s a map showing the track of our paddle. Click on the map for more details about the track.

Yellow Bluff

Thursday, July 18 found me on the water gain with my BASK paddling buddies. Our launch site was the public boat ramp in Sausalito. Anticipating heavy traffic on the commute across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge I decided to get an early start, and to my surprise the traffic was light. I was way ahead of schedule.

The plan was to paddle to Angel Island. When I stepped out of the car though, I got caught by a gust of wind that nearly blew me off my feet. Not good conditions for paddling to the island. I decided I’d wait until my buddies showed up before unloading my boat. At 10 am there were four of us on the boat ramp, discussing plan “B,” which was to hug the Sausalito shoreline and paddle out to Yellow Bluff.

At 10:30 we were on the water, paddling north along the shore. We paddled past the yacht harbor, under the piers of The Spinnaker Restaurant, and passed the ferry dock. Once passed the Trident Restaurant we had a bit of a slog straight into a brisk wind, but only for about 20 minutes when we found ourselves in fairly protected water.

Yellow Bluffs is a popular spot for kayakers who want to play in some dynamic water. The tide, current, wind and swell can make for some lumpy water. Not a good spot for beginners, but fun for those that want to practice some more advanced skills. Conditions today were just moderately bumpy.

When I’m paddling in lumpy water, I’m not taking pictures. It’s time to keep both hands on the paddle. We paddled past the Bluff and on towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Then it was time to turn around and head for a little beach just north of Yellow Bluff where we landed for lunch. We found an abandoned kayak on the beach. Full of water and gravel.

Our return trip was a breeze, literally, since we had the wind behind us pushing us along. Paddling back past the tug boat Owatonna. Want to live on a tug boat? This one is for sale and outfitted for four people as a live-aboard. Then it was back to the boat launch. We were off the water at 2 pm, having paddled 6 miles. You can see more photos here and you can view a track of our paddle here.

Lock Lomond to McNears

After traveling in Spain for a month, and then jumping back into work projects, I managed to get back on the water last week, July 11, to join some of my kayaking buddies for the Thursday Lunch Paddle.

Approaching one of the Marin Islands

We launched from Loch Lomond Yacht Harbor in San Rafael and paddled out around the Marin Islands before heading toward China Camp. The weather prediction was for afternoon winds with gusts to 25 knots in the afternoon. When the prevailing wind is up, paddling along the Marin coast can provide some protection with Mt Tamalpais and the Tamalpais ridge blocking the wind when it’s from the west. There were six of us on the water: Bill, Susan, Danny, Alan, Joann and myself.

Contrary to the prediction though, when we launched we found ourselves paddling into a SE wind, but once rounding the Marin Islands and heading North the wind gave us a bit of a boost. The Marin Islands are part of the National Wildlife Refuge and they are closed to the public, but still interesting to paddle around.

We rounded Point San Pablo, and paddled past the quarry towards China Camp, but upon reaching McNears Beach we decided it was lunch time and we landed there and found a picnic table for lunch. When it was time to get back on the water we had a group of kids from an outdoor education program that were curious about our boats and our gear, and they were eager to help us get our boats back on the water. You can see a couple of kids helping Joann with her boat in one of the photos above. The predicted wind never materialized so we had an easy paddle back to our launch site with a bit of an assist from the ebb current. Our track out and back covered seven miles. You can see the track of our paddle here.

Lunch on Angel Island

Approaching the beach at the Angel Island Immigration Station.

We were a small group for the BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle on May 9. Just three of us with Danny, Susan and myself. With today being Thursday and too stormy to paddle it’s time to catch up on my blog. For last week’s paddle we launched from Paradise Cay under cloudy skies with a prediction for wind in the afternoon. The plan was to paddle along the East Side of the Tiburon Peninsula which would afford us some projection from the wind with a stop for lunch at a little beach just shy of Bluff Point. Our paddle took us along the shore and past the Center for Environmental Studies Estuary & Ocean Science Center (Romberg Tiburon Center) operated by San Francisco State University. This was a Naval Net Depot for maintaining submarine nets across the Golden Gate during World War II.

We were paddling along, chatting and riding an ebb current and before we knew it we were at Bluff Point staring at Angel Island which seemed to be offering us an invitation for lunch. Conditions in Raccoon Straight looked favorable so we crossed to Angel Island and landed on the beach at the Immigration Station. On our return the wind tried to tease us a bit, coming at us from various directions, deflected by the land masses. We hung close to the shore admiring the mansions and estates along the Tiburon Peninsula. Our paddle covered 9.4 miles. You can see more photos here and view a track of our paddle here.

Track of our paddle from Paradise Cay to Angel Island

Too Windy for the Gate

BASK Thursday Paddle April 25, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 9:45 am. I’m the first one to arrive at our intended launch site, Horseshoe Cove, just inside the North end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather prediction was for light winds and light current. When I step out of the car though, there’s a stiff wind blowing with the prediction for gusts to 25.

Our plan was to meet at Horseshoe Cove and paddle out the Golden Gate to Black Sand Beach near the Point Bonita Lighthouse for lunch. At 10:30 with several of us huddled discussing the weather we decide to go to “plan B,” which is to drive to Sausalito and launch from the public boat ramp next to Salito’s Crab House. We’re on the water by 11:30, six of us in five boats, one double and four singles.

We paddle along the shore, staying out of the wind with a little beach in mind just beyond the town of Sausalito, paddling in the direction of our original launch site. We paddle past the yacht harbor in relatively calm water, then along the Sausalito waterfront with diners on the decks of restaurants, past the ferry where we wave to the tourists and kids, and past multi-million dollar homes.

Sausalito is a popular tourist destination with many fine restaurants , shops and quaint inns. There’s also an annual Art fair which happens on the Labor Day weekend, also a number of houseboats. Richardson’s Bay has been a popular place for “anchor-outs,” but today we see few of the run-down looking boats. Tourists are out in shorts and t-shirts, many on rental bikes. I’m wearing a dry suit which is appropriate for wind and choppy water.

We find our lunch spot, but before landing several of us decide to go out to Point Cavallo to take a peek at the Golden Gate Bridge. As expected as we rounded Point Cavallo the wind hit us and we all agreed that we made the right decision to avoid going out the Golden Gate.

After lunch we paddled back to our launch point, having covered 5.6 miles. You can view more photos here and view a track of our paddle here.