Train Spotting on Elkhorn Slough

With a high tide of 6.2 feet much of the marsh on Elkhorn Slough is underwater. We found ourselves paddling over fences and right up to the railroad tracks. I wonder if the train engineers pay attention to the tide tables.

We launched from Moss Landing, assembling on the beach near Monterey Bay Kayaks. We were on the water at 9:30 a.m. Being a large group, about two dozen people, we formed several pods of kayakers. We paddled along mid-channel watching the sea otters. There were more sea otters than I recall from previous trips, and they seemed quite playful. Then we paddled over the marsh and up an inlet, passing through a fence.

Having explored the north side, we made our way to the south side of the slough where the water was lapping at the rails of the train tracks. Paddling on along the tracks we waited for an approaching freight train. The train was moving quite slowly, out of caution for the high water I would imagine.

It was 11:30 a.m. when we landed at Kirby Park, with the boat ramp completely under water. The current was just starting to ebb, which was a disincentive to paddling the remaining 1.5 miles to the railroad bridge.

After lunch we gathered for a group photo and then made our way back down the estuary, riding a growing ebb current. We were back at our launch site at 1:45 p.m. having logged 9 miles round trip. Along the way we saw plenty of bird life including terns, seagulls, herons, egrets, and a variety of other shorebirds, as well as sea otters and a few harbor seals.

We did have one kayaker capsize under the highway bridge on the return. The current apparently pushed her boat up against the bridge pylons and she flipped over. Fortunately, a couple of experienced kayakers were close at hand and managed to get her back in her boat.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Winter Paddling

People seem to be amazed that we go kayaking in the middle of winter. While much of the country is gripped by cold temperatures the San Francisco Bay Area is often mild. Even this January with the constant parade of atmospheric rivers and their deluge of rain and wind we’ve had some fine weather for paddling. In the spring the wind comes up and that can be a challenge for kayaking.

Yesterday we had rain. Tomorrow we’ll have more rain. Today we have a break in the weather. Seven of us launched from Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. There was some discussion about water quality, given the reports of raw sewage spilling into the bay, as well as debris and who knows what else coming down the river. Even so, we decided the risk was low.

We were on the water at 10:00, paddled out around Point San Pablo and over to The Brothers.

After passing between The Brothers, we picked up the ebb current and headed south towards an island near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Those of you that know the bay will know the location, otherwise you can check the map with the track of the trip on the map below. The island is privately owned and landing on the island is not advised. It was 11:00 AM when we rounded the island. We made good time with a 2-knot current giving us an assist.

After lunch we made our way back. After passing back through The Brothers two of our party split off and headed over to The Sisters in order to add a few miles to the day. The remaining five of us headed back to our launch site. The current prediction had slack water at 12:13 at Point San Pablo, although the additional water coming down the river may have had an effect on the currents. We had no current at 1:00 PM when we passed back through the islands.

Coming back around Point San Pablo we stopped to look at a sailboat that was on the beach, presumably a casualty of the recent storm activity. We did see a fair amount of debris in the water; driftwood, bottles, and plastic bags. Our paddle covered 6.9 miles, with a maximum speed of 7 mph when we had the ebb current with us. We were back on the beach at 1:25 PM.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Roof Rack Failure & Windsurfer

Sometimes it seems the hardest part about kayaking is getting the boat to the water. Getting the boat on the car and getting it off the car and to the water at the launch site can be a challenge. Today I had an added challenge. As I tugged on one of the straps to cinch the boat into the saddles on the car top carrier the cross bar came loose. On inspection I discovered that the support tower that secures the crossbar to the roof was broken. It would be easy enough to just pack it in, but a little voice in my head was saying, “Treve, if you really want to go paddling you have another vehicle you can use.” The racks for the truck were sitting in the driveway, so I accepted the challenge of seeing if I could get the kayak on the truck in time to make it to the launch site. Our intended launch time was 10:00. Google Maps was telling me that it was a 21-minute drive which meant I might just make it. Sure enough, I was able to get the kayak on the camper and on the road in a timely fashion. It was 10:03 when the six of us pushed off from the beach.

With the constant parade of storms coming our way we found a weather window with perfect conditions for paddling. Our course took us past San Quentin State Prison, then under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and on to Loch Lomond Marina. Just for fun we tried squeezing our boats through a narrow gap in the pilings at the end of the breakwater at the Yacht Harbor.

Time for lunch, but in my haste to get on the road after the roof top debacle I did not have time to make a lunch. Andy’s Market has a fine selection of deli foods and a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup, and a loaf of Judy’s bread hit the spot. And don’t forget the chocolate that seems to be ubiquitous on our paddles.

On our return paddle we had calm water and building clouds. We paddled out around the Marin Islands and then back to our launch site, and of course ferry traffic since Windsurfer Beach is close to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

My story starts with car top racks, so it’s only appropriate to end with a photo of my boat on top of my camper after the paddle. We covered 8.5 miles over the course of our paddle. Here’s a map that shows our track.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Starting the New Year with a Splash

Once again, we started the new year by going kayaking. This year it was a paddle sponsored by California Canoe and Kayak (CCK). They offered to provide boats for any of us that wanted to invite friends, so we invited two friends. You can see Kristina here on the dock getting help adjusting the foot pegs.

You can also see Kathryn getting outfitted with a sit-on-top kayak. Not having any experience in a kayak, a sit-on-top seemed to be appropriate given its stability. Now it’s time to get on the water. A couple of us enthusiastic paddlers thought it would be appropriate to assist Kristina in a “seal launch,” guiding her boat as we pushed it off the low dock. Not a good idea; she went bottom side up as soon as her boat hit the water. To stay right side up for this kind of launch you need to be able to use the paddle as a brace, not a technique a novice paddler would know.

Kristina, being dressed in a wetsuit and a good sport, was back in her boat and on the water with a smile. Kathryn found her boat a bit slow compared to the more experienced paddlers in touring boats. When some more energetic BASK members offered to give her a tow, she was happy to accept.

Our destination was the Tidewater Boating Center about 2-1/2 miles from our launch site at Brooklyn Basin. Once we reached the boating center, we got out of our boats for snacks and a break. A couple of experienced paddlers were eager to give some instruction on technique for an efficient forward stroke, something that’s quite valuable for covering distances in a kayak.

After the break we climbed in our boats and headed back to our launch site. Our route took us under three bridges, and we had the opportunity to watch the Park Street Bridge open to let a few sailboats through. You can see Kathryn under the bridge. If you look closely, you can see that she is being towed by another paddler. We returned to our launch site where we enjoyed an extravagant potluck meal. A great way to start the new year. Our paddle covered 4.7 miles.

More photos are available in an on-line gallery.

Gone Paddling x 4

Here are four more paddling adventure which deserve to be documented. I consider this blog to be a diary of my adventures. If I don’t record the adventures, I may forget they ever happened. And for the past few years, as the new year turns over, I have turned my blog entries into a coffee table book.

So here are four paddles: 10/27 Richmond to Albany, 11/03 Eckley Pier, 11/10 Gallenas Creek, and 11/28 Windsurfer.


Richmond to Albany

On October 27 there were just two of us with two wooden Pygmy Boats. We launched from Ferry Point in Richmond, paddled out past the end of the breakwater and then past Brooks Island. We poked into the basin northeast of Caesar Chavez Park thinking we might find a spot to land, but we didn’t see much so we paddled to Albany Beach where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we returned to our launch site by way of the Richmond waterfront, stopping to admire the Red Oak Victory. We logged 11 miles.

More photos are available in an online gallery.


Eckley Pier

November 3. Seven of us gathered at Eckley Pier for a paddle to Martinez. The pilings of several abandoned piers provide an obstacle course to practice boat control. I had my GoPro camera running to capture the action. It remains to be seen when that footage will be available. From Eckley Pier we paddled out towards the shipping channel to take advantage of the flooding current.

Once we reached the Martinez Marina, we hauled our boats up the boat ramp and off to the side to keep the ramp free for boaters. We logged 8.8 miles over the course of the day.


Gallenas Creek

November 10. Up the creek, Gallenas Creek. We launched from China Camp and took advantage of the high tide to paddle up the creek. When we could no longer make forward progress, we returned to the McInnis Canoe and Kayak Dock where we hauled out our boats and had lunch. Our course covered 10 miles.

More photos are available in an online gallery.


Windsurfer Beach

November 29. Loch Lomond to Windsurfer Beach. This paddle takes us under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and past San Quentin State Prison. At lunch on Windsurfer Beach, we watched the ferries and a dredge. We paddled around the Marin Islands on the return leg, a total of 8.2 miles.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Four Islands

There are 18 islands in San Francisco Bay. On December 15, we visited four of them, The Sisters and the Marin Islands, all off limits. Our adventure started at China Camp Village Beach. Four of us were on the water at 10 a.m. We paddled out to The Sisters where we “threaded the needle,” Grendel’s Needle, a narrow slot in the rock on the west side of the west Sister. With the ebb current, it was simply a matter of lining your boat up with the slot and letting the current woosh you through. From The Sisters it was an easy paddle with the current to reach the Marin Islands.

We adjusted our ferry angle to compensate for the current which would have caused us to overshoot our goal without correcting. Sometimes you have to paddle in what seems like the wrong direction to compensate for the current. The islands which constitute the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge are named after the Coast Miwok man known as Chief Marin. We recently learned that not only are the islands protected, but much of the water to the north of the islands is also protected.

Once around the islands we headed for Loch Lomond Yacht harbor where we took advantage of the new kayak dock to disembark from our kayaks. After lunch we made our way back to China Camp, taking the most direct route. We logged 8.5 miles over the course of the day, landing back on the beach shortly before 2 p.m. It was another very pleasant day on the water.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Angel Island

Thursday morning, November 17. A chilly morning, and climbing into my wet, clammy dry suit seemed quite rude. Wet inside and out. I had been out the previous evening for a rolling clinic. The suit was wet on the outside from being upside down in the cold water of San Francisco Bay, and damp on the inside from condensation. I contemplated adding a layer of insulation but figured once I was on the water I would warm up.

Six of us assembled on the beach at Ferry Point. The predicted weather and tides were favorable for a paddle around Angel Island. After a quick safety talk and radio check we were on the water at 10 a.m. Shortly after leaving the protection of the Richmond Shipping Channel, we encountered a breeze and some wind waves out of the northwest. We watched several ferries zipping up and down the bay, and then we held up for a barge that was crossing our path in the shipping lane. We had a couple of harbor seals check us out also.

Our radios were handy for staying in touch and keeping the pod together in the midst of ship traffic. Once we were across the shipping lane we opted to continue our way around the island in a clockwise direction. We landed on Perles Beach a little after noon. Perles Beach faces the Golden Gate with a panoramic view that includes San Francisco as well.

There was just enough breeze to create a bit of a wind chill, so after a brief lunch we were happy to get back in our boats to continue our journey. Back on the water we continued around the island. After rounding Point Stewart, we paddled close to shore to check out the beach at Kayak Camp. One of the photos shows a fellow kayaker with his boat pointed to the trail that leads up from the beach to the campground. There was no trail visible from the water. The trail is presumably overgrown. Once we were back around to the eastern side of the island, we again held up for shipping traffic and then continued on our way back to Ferry Point.

We were back on the beach at 2:20 p.m. after a perfect paddle around Angel Island logging 12 miles. You can see more photos in an online gallery. Here’s the track of our paddle.

Dazzled by Yellow

After three days of chasing fall color I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I felt like I had to give my eyes a rest, and yet we’d find another grove of aspen in full splendor, I’d grab my camera and start snapping photos. And then I’d be asking myself how the image I’m capturing differs from the many thousands of photos I’ve captured over the past 50 years. In any event, every photo is another adventure and the magnificence of the changing seasons never gets old. I’m always looking for a way to create unique photos that celebrate the glory of God’s creation.

Fall color in the Eastern Sierra usually starts in mid to late September with the aspen at the higher evaluations changing color first, and the color progressing down the canyons over the course of several weeks. I usually start to watch the fall color reports in mid September. This year October 4 was the earliest date we could get away, so we stocked the camper with food for a week and hit the road.

From our home in Albany, CA, we decided to take California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass. After passing the summit we stopped briefly near a grove of aspen, admired the view, and then decided to head to our intended camping destination on Green Creek. We were hoping to camp at the Green Creek Campground. Why? Because we wanted to fire up our Dutch Oven to cook dinner; for that we needed a fire ring in an established campground. The campground was closed. There are plenty of places to boondock along Green Creek so we found a comfortable spot to park our rig. We implemented “plan B” for our menu which did not require a fire ring. I was a little annoyed, though, when campers not too far away from us lit a campfire, something that’s prohibited in the dry conditions. I was too shy to confront them. What would I say?

We were so impressed with the fall color along Green Creek, we decided to spend a second night although we moved our rig a mile down the road. The road into Green Creek is a dirt road. For the most part it is navigable by passenger car, although close to the campground it gets a little rocky.

From Green Creek we headed towards Bishop by way of Dunderberg Meadow Road. We admired the aspen along the way and set up camp at the Sabrina Campground in the afternoon. The fall color was about peak there. In the morning we drove to North Lake where I spent some time with my camera and tripod capturing fall color. We also gave our dog Carson the opportunity to hike with us off-leash.

From Bishop Creek we drove to Bishop where we spent the weekend with family. Then we headed home after a night camping on a ridge overlooking Convict Lake. We had intended to spend more time on the road but the furnace in our camper was not working; getting up in the morning with the temperature in the 30s was wearing on us.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Pt San Pablo to Pt Pinole

On October 13, seven of us were on the beach at Point San Pablo Harbor ready to launch. Weather and tide conditions were promising for a paddle to Point Pinole with little wind predicted. Slack tide at 9:47 a.m. at Pinole Point meant we would have the current with us in the morning. We launched at 10:30 and headed out towards the shipping channel to pick up the current. As we paddled, we kept our eyes open for ships and ferries.

We had some ship traffic and noted that one of the ferries heading towards us did an about-turn. What was that about? It seemed like several of the ferries were exhibiting some unusual behavior.

When we reached Point Pinole, we decided to paddle around the point landing at the beach on the northeast side. It was shortly before noon when we landed. The beach has a handicap accessible ramp. After lunch it was back on the water, and we used the pilings of the old pier as an obstacle course. Good for practicing boat control.

Since we were still experiencing the incoming flood, we planned paddled closer to shore to take advantage of countercurrent eddies. We were back at our launch site shortly before 3 p.m. having logged 10 miles. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Martinez to Eckley

On September 29 I joined nine other BASK members for a paddle from Martinez to Eckley Pier. We launched from the boat ramp at the Martinez Marina at 10:30 a.m. Once we were out of the Marina, we turned west where we hit a bit of bumpy water. We had the current with us and the wind against us resulting in some wind waves splashing over our decks. Then it was on to the obstacle course of old pilings which are always fun to paddle through, creating an opportunity to practice boat control. Slack water was about noon, so we had little current to contend with as we meandered through the pilings.

We arrived at Eckley Pier at noon, broke out our lunches and watched the train go by as we ate. Then it was back on the water and back through the maze of pilings. Now we had the wind at our back and the current starting to flood so it was a little more challenging to paddle the maze. Some opted to paddle in the open water. With the current pushing us back up the river it was a quick paddle back to Martinez. We were back at the boat ramp at 2 p.m., having logged 9.2 miles.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Here’s the track of our paddle.

%d bloggers like this: