Rock the Boat

Most people prefer to have a boat that’s stable.  Being on a boat that is rocking can be unsettling. Kayaks on the other hand can be a bit tippy, and learning how to use that characteristic to your advantage can be a valuable skill on the water. Take for example a situation where you might get thrown off balance by a wave. Learning how to edge and brace can save you from tipping over.

On Sunday, August 5 our goal was to teach fellow kayakers how to rock the boat.  This is the second weekend of this years BASK 2018 Skills Clinic. Last year I was one of the students in the clinic. This year I’m a volunteer on the teaching side. Putting your kayak on edge also makes it much easier to turn. You have less boat in the water if it is on edge.

BASK 2018 Skills Clinic session at the Berkeley Marina on August 5, 2018.

Learning these skills takes practice, since some of the motions are counter-intuitive. As you can see our students are well taken care of with plenty instructors and volunteers. We start with simple exercises to build the basics and then progress as the students gain confidence in their skills. Part of this process is learning to trust your fellow paddlers. Knowing you’re among skilled and knowledgeable paddlers add to the fun and camaraderie.

What Memo? And Whales!

Thursday, May 3. Up at 5:30 to take care of some business before joining my kayaking friends for a paddle out the Golden Gate. After taking care of business, a conference call, I hopped in my truck and drove to our intended launch site, Horseshoe Cove, near the Golden Gate Bridge. When I arrived I was greeted with “Didn’t you get the message that the paddle was cancelled?” It seems with the weather prediction for wind the official BASK trip had been cancelled. That left five of us with our boats and weather that looked manageable. We huddled up and discussed the prospects. If the predicted wind did come up, it would blow us back in the Gate.

With the requisite radio check and safety talk, we launched our boats for a “non-BASK” paddle. We went out the Gate, and hugged the coast along the north side looking for opportunities to play in the rocks. I’m a bit shy about rock gardening, not wishing to bash my wooden boat into rocks, and thinking I’ll need to get a plastic boat for rock gardening. Playing in the rocks looks like so much fun. I did find a few spots where I could poke in and out of the rocks confidently. We stopped at Black Sand Beach for lunch, and then continued on to towards Point Bonita. We found a blow hole not far from the point, and took turns nosing our boats into the hole and taking a shower in salt spray. An impressive amount of spray for just a little wave action. Then we headed out to the point where we waved to the tourists lining the railing at the light house.

For our homeward leg we took advantage of the wind to blow us back under the bridge. We went for the deeper water making a straight shot for the bridge.  It was there that we saw two whales spout. We first sighted them when they were a couple of hundred yards ahead of us. They closed in on us fast, passing between our boats.  We also saw porpoise, sea lions, seals and a huge flock of grebes. We made quick time returning to our launch site with the wind and current in our favor. We launched at 10 am and were off the water at 2:30 covering 8.9 Miles.

About the time we were pulling our boats out of the water blue shy was showing and the wind was picking up. I seems we were just ahead of the predicted wind. You can view more photos from our adventure here and view the track of our paddle here, including a way point that shows the whale sighting. A remarkable paddle for those of us that didn’t get the memo.

Back on the Water

On Thursday April 12, I manged to get back on the water to go paddling.  We were off to Africa in late February and upon returning home in mid-March I developed bronchitis which kept me off the water for a couple of weeks. Almost two months without a padding “fix!”

In any event,  my schedule permitted me to join my BASK friends for the Thursday Lunch paddle on April 12. Our journey took us from Ferry Point to Point Molate.  We paddled past the tanker pier at the Chevron facility in Richmond. Note the words on the superstructure of one of the tankers “Protect the Environment.” Seems a bit ironic. We had blue sky with puffy cumulus clouds and calm water. There were four of us and our paddle covered eight miles. You can view a track of the paddle here.  As we approached the San Rafael Bridge, I was struck by the graphic element of the bridge with the clouds and I thought it might make an interesting black and white image. What do you think?

 

Lunch at China Camp

 

I joined a few of my fellow BASK members for a paddle from Lock Lomond Yacht Harbor to China Camp where we had lunch. At the launch the weather was looking a bit chilly with the potential for some wind. By lunch time thought, the weather had warmed up and the little wind we had seemed to have disappeared. We paddled out from Loch Lomond going between the Marin Island and then altered our course for The Sisters. There where we took the opportunity to “thread Gridel’s Neddle” a slot in the rock on one of The Sisters that one can paddle through.  Once through the Needle, we headed for the beach at China Camp where we broke our our lunches. After lunch we had the current with us for a quick trip back to the Yacht Harbor.  Clear skies and calm water for the day’s paddle. We get some of our best paddling weather in the fall and winter.  Our course covered nine miles. You can view the GPS track here.

Monterey Bay with BASK

Paddling on Monterey Bay

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.

Paddling on Elkhorn Slough

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.

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.

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.

BASK Skills Clinic 2017: Day 9

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.

BASK Skills Clinic 2017: Day 6

 

Today marked our third weekend and day six of our BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers) skills clinic. The amount of information the instructors and coordinators have packed into the clinic is amazing and almost overwhelming. A great experience to be learning from some very skilled instructors and volunteers. Today, the eight students broke into two pods of four paddlers. Each group of four students was accompanied by four instructors. Our assignment was to prepare a float plan to paddle from McNears Beach to Point San Pablo. With the prediction for light winds in the morning and a flood current, we formulated a plan to paddle out to The Sisters, two rocks just off of McNears Beach, assess the wind and current conditions there and then set a course for The Brothers Light House, which would angle us into the wind and current with the expectation that our true course would be towards our destination. At that point the wind was blowing more than we expected, but a survey of the group indicated that the consensus was to follow through with our plan. As we made our way across the Bay though, it became apparent that the wind and current were setting us back and we decided to abandon our plan and return to McNears Beach.  The wind and current had set us well north into San Pablo Bay, and we were now continuing to struggle into the wind and current. With some paddlers starting to tire,  tow ropes were put into service to tow the tired paddlers, and we broke into two groups of four paddlers. Four of us managed to paddle to China Camp, not too far from our original launch point,  and four hitched a ride on a police boat back to our point of origin. One of the lesson I learned from this experience was the importance of good communications. From the use of handheld VHS radios, to paddle signals and hand signals. A tiring day. Four hours of constant paddling into the wind and current without event a break for a snack bar. To stop paddling, even for a moment, would mean loosing ground against the wind and current. You can see a track and stats for our paddle here.