Lost in the Fog

On Thursday January 10, I joined my BASK paddling buddies for the weekly Thursday Lunch Paddle. We congregated at the northeast end Loch Lomond Marina where there’s a small beach that provides a serviceable launch site when the tide isn’t too high.


Paddling in the fog. BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle on 1/10/19.

When I arrived at 9:15 everybody was in a huddle discussing the fog. Boats were still on car tops and it looked doubtful whether we would get on the water. Our original plan was to paddle across the bay from our launch site. Given we would be crossing shipping lanes and ferry traffic, and with the challenge of navigating in the fog, we opted to paddle along the coast keeping the land in sight. We paddled along the shore, paddling under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and then past San Quentin State Prison to a little beach that is a frequent launch site for windsurfers. After lunch we retraced our route, but for the last mile or so we decided to follow a compass course that would take us directly back to the marina. There was a point in the last leg where we were out of site of any landmarks, surrounded by fog. It was an eerie feeling to be paddling in the fog without any visual reference point. It wasn’t too long though when out of the fog loomed the entrance to Loch Lomond Marina. We were back on the beach by 3 pm having paddled 9.5 miles. You can view the track of our paddle here.

Lunch at the Albany Bulb

On Thursday, December 6, I managed to sneak away from my usual work routine for a paddle with some of my BASK buddies. We launched from Ferry Point in Richmond and paddled inside the breakwater of Brooks Island. 

Then after letting some shipping traffic pass we crossed the channel and paddled through a break in the breakwater.

It’s only possible to paddle through the break on a very high tide.  High tide was 6.5 feet at 10:30 am, perfect for us to take a short cut. Once we were through the breakwater we paddled on the inside of Bird Island, where we were entertained by harbor seals and birds.

Once we were passed Brooks Island we set a course for the tip of the Albany Bulb landing at the end of the bulb under the watchful eye of the dragon, a public art sculpture. One of our members managed to stumble on a rock in the shallow water and banged his head on his boat. 

After lunch we explored the artwork on the bulb. 

When we got ready to launch our boats again, what had been a sandy beach was now rocks. Our boats were left high and dry with the receding tide. We ended up carrying our boats a short distance to a better launch point and paddled back by way of the Richmond Inner Harbor to check out the new ferry terminal.

Thursday Paddle

In the midst of a very busy work schedule I manged to carve out Thursday, November 1 as a day off to go paddling with a few of my BASK buddies. We gathered at the public boat launch in Sausalito and had our boats on the water at 10:30; six of us.

Being wary of the ebb current in Raccoon Straight we paddled across Richardson Bay well east of Peninsula Point. Then hugging the shore we rounded the point and paddled close to shore to take advantage of any eddies and slack current close to shore. When we felt we had paddled far enough east to compensate for the current we headed across the straight making our way to Ayala Cove.  Lunch included trying to dispose of left over Halloween candy. Then it was back on the water for the return trip. We had calm water in both directions, with no wind.

Taking photos from a kayak is always a challenge. Where to put the paddle when I’m holding the camera. Trying to compose while my paddling buddies are in constant motion. I’m always looking for something that involves a sense of design and interesting lighting. And once I pick the paddle up after taking a photo, I have to work to catch up with the rest of the group, Not to mention the rather limited point of view with an eye level 30 inches off the water. When the water is rough, it’s all about paddling and bracing, so I focus on the paddle and staying upright. On a quiet day like this I can put the paddle down briefly. Quite a contrast to spring and summer weather when the afternoon sea breeze can kick up a chop and lead to a bumpy ride, not to mention the challenge of paddling in wind.

We covered 7.2 miles on the paddle. Here’s a link to the track.

Lunch on Angel Island 8/23

On Thursday August 23 with my work docket managed, I strapped my kayak on the top of my truck and headed to Sausalito to join fellow Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) for a jaunt to Angel Island. We had a cool “Fogust” day with favorable currents and wind. We launched from the public boat ramp next to Salitos Crab House. You wouldn’t know there is a public boat ramp here without some local knowledge; and while it’s a convenient spot to launch on a weekday morning, I can imagine it would be a challenge on the weekend with the town full of tourists.

We launched at 10:30, Paddled down Richardson Bay to Peninsula Point where we poked our heads out into Raccoon Straight to see what was in store for us. Conditions looked promising, so we headed across the straight towards the West Garrison. As we crossed Raccoon Straight it became apparent that the current was carrying us east so we altered our course for Ayala Cove where we landed and had lunch.

After lunch we were back in our boats and we made a course for the Corinthian Yacht Club. Once we were across the straight and close to the Yacht Club we paddled along the shore admiring the houses clinging to the cliffs. We had an easy paddle out and back, on what can be a bit of a challenge if the wind and currents are contrary. We were back at our launch site at 2:30 in the afternoon having covered not quite seven miles.  You can view more photos here and you can view the track of our route here

Hunt for Sunken Treasure

The word was, that if we were lucky we might find the propeller of a World War II fighter plane that went down in Drakes Estero. The tide has to be just right. If the tide is high the propeller is underwater. If the tide is too low, there’s not enough water to float a kayak. As it turns out our timing was perfect. We launched from the location of the old Oyster Farm and paddled about 2 1/2 miles down the Estero and into Home Bay. The propeller is not far from the eastern shore of the bay.

During WWII Drakes Estero was used as a practice bombing range. It seems hard to imagine P-39 Airacobras flying dive bombing missions over the bay, given it’s current peaceful state.

The usual paddle on Drakes Estero is to launch from the beach at the parking area, the previous location of the oyster farm, and paddle down the bay to the sand spit at the entrance for lunch and return. Here’s a link to a Youtube video I put together a couple of years ago of a paddle on the estero. We were paddling as part of the 2018 BASK Skills Clinic. Our group decided on an alternative plan. We decided to poke into Home Bay and look for sunken treasure, the treasure being the propeller of the P-39. We were lucky enough to find the propeller and then, with a nice beach close by we landed and had lunch. With a rising tide, the propeller was just about all under water when we finished lunch and our boats were just about to float off the rapidly diminishing beach.

Back in our boats we were amazed to watch several schools of bat rays and a few leopard sharks gliding under our boats in the shallow water. With the hopes of capturing one in a photo I stuck my waterproof camera in the water, over the side of my kayak, and snapped away.

Amazingly enough, I actually captured one, although not something to brag about as far as quality of the photo is concerned. When we returned to our launch point the wind was picking up and the fog was moving in. Perfect timing for a pleasant day on the water.

 

Building the Pygmy Ronan

After paddling a Pygmy Coho for close to 20 years I decided I wanted a boat that was a little more playful on the water. The Pygmy Ronan caught my attention and after paddling one at the Pygmy facility in Port Townsend Washington, I decided this would be my next boat. This boat is intended to serve two purposes, when I’m paddling with my wife it will be her boat, and when I’m paddling with others, it will be my boat. I started building in May of 2017 and during the course of the build I kept several time lapse cameras going to document the process. I launched the boat in October. Over the course of the build I accumulated over 40 hours of time lapse video, so it’s taken me some time to edit it down to two minutes.  The boat took about 75 hours to assemble, working in chunks of time from an hour or so up to three hours.

I’m happy to say the boat performs beyond my expectations. Light weight and easy to get on an off my the top of my pop-up camper,  playful on the water and easier to manage in rough water than the 17 foot Coho.

Turn Left at the Gargoyle

#1 Park N Surf Oceanview.. Wild Tender Sanctuary.

On Saturday evening July 21, with the sun setting and the fog moving in I was a bit concerned about finding the campsite I’d reserved. I had printed off instructions on how to find the site. The instructions were two pages long, including such instructions as “veer LEFT on what we lovingly call “Wong Way.” There is a sign on the road that reads “Wrong Way,” and then further along “take a left at the gargoyle and proceed toward the ocean…”

This was following a day on the water learning how to teach kayaking techniques for an upcoming kayaking skills clinic being offered through the Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK). The kayaking was happening in Half Moon Bay, but the closest camping I could find was a site called Park N Surf #1 located on a property called Wild Tender Sanctuary near Pigeon Point Light House. I found the site through Hipcamp.com, a website that’s useful for locating camping alternatives to the better known campgrounds. It’s a bit like Airbnb for camping. Actually I should credit my wife for finding the site. I trust her to conjure up a camping when everything seems to be booked.

I was secure in my camper at twilight, just as the sky was going dark. The next morning I broke camp, and headed back to Half Moon Bay for the second day of kayak exercises. On Sunday it was all about the forward stroke; learning how to make the boat move efficiently without tiring your arms. While the kayaking was fun, the real adventure for the weekend was finding my campsite.

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.