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.
May 31. Five of us launched our kayaks from the beach at Ferry Point for a paddle around Brooks Island. We were on the water at 10 a.m. after a quick safety talk and radio check. Our course took us from the beach to the end of the jetty at the end of the Richmond Shipping Channel. The plan was to negotiate the exposed leg of the paddle early before the wind and associated waves started to build. Once we were out of the shipping channel, we followed the jetty heading southeast. We were amazed by how much sea grass we encountered. Perhaps my previous experience was with higher tides and rougher water when the seagrass wasn’t so evident.
About halfway along the jetty we found a dead whale. This was cause to take photos, but to do so I had to ask one of my paddling buddies to open my back hatch get out my spare parts kit with spare batteries for my camera. My camera battery went dead shortly after launching. The island is off limits due to nesting birds, so we stayed in our boats.
With the whale well documented we continued on. Pelicans were quite plentiful, wheeling overhead and diving for fish. One pelican dove just a few feet away from my boat giving me the opportunity to capture a few photos at close range.
The water was starting to get a bit bouncy as we approached the southeast corner of the island, but nothing of concern. We landed at Barbara and Jay Vincent Park on the little beach facing the bay. The beach was a bit rocky with the low tide. After lunch we were back in our boats facing a stiff wind coming from the southwest. We decided to paddle straight into the wind which would place us on the leeward side of the jetty, hoping the jetty would provide us some protection. We battled the wind and the whitecaps and eventually found some relief.
Along the way we encountered the Brooks Island caretaker with what looked to be a load of recycling. He advised us not to land on the island due to the birds that were nesting. He also told us that one could land on designated areas from September through March when the birds are not nesting. We reported the dead whale, and continued on our journey. We were back on the beach where we had launched at 1:30 p.m. having logged 6.7 miles. You can view more photos in an online gallery.
April 6. A paddle around Angel Island is always a great adventure. Our original plan was to paddle out the Golden Gate, but with a prediction for a sizeable swell we opted to stay in the bay. Seven of us were on the beach at Ferry Point ready to get on the water at 10:30 a.m. Our plan was to paddle around the island and find a spot for lunch. We had calm water and very little wind.
Since this paddle involves crossing shipping lanes, we kept our eyes open for ships, gathering at buoy #8 to make sure we had everybody together. One thing interesting about buoys and similar features is that as the current flows around the buoy, there is a spot on the downstream side where you can basically park your boat and escape the current.
After we gathered up we paddled to the island, compensating for the ebb current with a ferry angle that would keep us close to our intended destination. As we approached the island, we discussed breaking into two pods, one to stop at the immigration station and the second to paddle around the island in a clockwise direction. We left one paddler on the beach and the remaining six of us paddled around the island, returning to the Immigration Station about an hour and a half later.
Back at the Immigration Station, we landed and broke out our lunches. After lunch it was back on the water for the paddle to our launch point. A very pleasant day on the water. We logged 12.1 miles over the course of the day. More photos are available in my online gallery
I have yet to master the art of capturing photos from a kayak. When I come back from a paddle, I’m often disappointed by how few of the photos meet my expectations. Invariably the photos are out of focus, blurry or have the wrong exposure. It’s a challenge to hold the camera steady with one hand while bobbing around in a tippy boat and holding onto the paddle with my free hand. And then the composition is always changing. I’ll see a potential opportunity forming and by the time I can get the camera in position the scene changes. Then while I’m trying to snap photos my paddling buddies are continuing on their journey. Time to put the paddle back in the water and catch up. And I’m always trying to position myself within the pod to take advantage of the light and composition. Glare on on the viewfinder is another issue, which means I’m more likely to just point and shoot and hope I get something. I like to capture candid moments on the water, water dripping off the paddle blades and the play of light and reflections and clouds. And then there’s the risk of getting water drops on the lens, or worse yet, a smudge of sunblock.
So this past week I decided it was time to master the art of kayaking photography. I use an Olympus TG-5 and on Thursday, November 4, I was determined to see if I couldn’t improve on the quality of the images.
Our launch site was Point Isabel on the east side of San Francisco Bay. One of my paddling buddies suggested this put-in since it is a short drive and I can just sort of fall out of bed and be there. I pulled out of my driveway at 9:02 and parked at the launch site at 9:13. A welcome change from the previous week when I spent two ours getting to our launch site. Our paddle took us to the north end of the jetty on Brooks Island. We had calm water, no wind, and dramatic clouds against a blue sky. Great conditions for photography, with the water offering nice patterns and reflections.
We could see the skyline of San Francisco peeking through the clouds in the distance. We kept our distance going past Bird Rock so as not to disturb the birds.
We were paddling on a high tide, 6.8 feet at 11:40, and as we paddled along we noticed that there appeared to be gaps in the jetty. The tide was so high that it was flooding over the jetty with enough clearance to float our boats. You can see David, riding a little bit of a tide rip over the rocks. We paddled over the jetty and back and continued on to Ferry Point where we stopped for lunch. Then it was back on the water for the return trip. We paddled across the shipping channel and along the inside of the jetty to avoid any shipping traffic. We were back on the beach at Point Isabel at 2:00 having logged 8.5 miles. You can take a closer look at our track here or on the map below. On uploading the photos to my computer, I found that that I had some 424 images! Quite a chore to sort through. But I discovered that the habits I had developed for land-based landscape and architectural photography were hindering my ability to capture photos from a kayak. On land I tend to use a small aperture to maintain a good depth of field. On the water a wider aperture and a high shutter speed seem to work best. I was quite happy with a number of the images. Of the 424 images I captured, I marked 44 as keepers. You can view those photos here. Overall it was a picture perfect day.
March 2, 2021. After returning from my desert sojourn visiting family and exploring the Eastern Sierra, it was time to get back on the water. This paddle took us from Ferry Point in Richmond and out around Angel Island with a stop at the West Garrison for brunch. We then continued around the island and back to our launch site.
A side note here about WordPress. I’ve had reports from those that subscribe and get the email version that the photos are distorted in the email, so I’m experimenting with different gallery settings. The photos above are presented in a Tiled Gallery format. Those below use the straight Gallery format. Please let me know if one of these formats works better.
West Garrison is on the west side of the island facing the Golden Gate Bridge. It was originally called Camp Reynolds, which was established in 1863 as concerns mounted over threats to the Bay Area from Confederate sympathizers and naval forces.
We were on the water at 8:30 a.m. which is early for us. We wanted to take advantage of the tides and currents. Our plan was to paddle to Ayala Cove for a stop but when we got to the West Garrison the water was flat calm and the beach looked inviting so we stopped and pulled out our snacks. You can see our boats on the beach with some pilings and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. We were again on the water at 11:00 and back at our launch site shortly after noon, logging 11 miles and paddling on placid waters for the whole trip. Our trip leader, Jenn, looked quite spiffy in her new boat, black with a sparkling metal-flake finish, yellow trim and deck lines, and matching outfit. I’ve posted additional photos including some artistic representations of a couple of images. Click here to view.
Here’s the track of our paddle.
I’ve posted a number of blog entries about paddling to Angel Island. You can find additional posts by searching for “Angel Island” in the search box.
Friday, January 29. We had calm weather following a storm that wreaked havoc up and down California. Some of our best weather for kayaking happens in the winter in the calm between storms. Come spring, the weather pattern shifts to afternoon offshore winds that create choppy waves on the Bay.
Nine of us were on the water launching from the beach at Ferry Point shortly before 10 a.m. and ready to ride the flood current up the Bay. Our course took us out under the fishing pier and then to the buoy that marks the shipping channel. We had no wind and calm water. Once across the channel we headed north toward Red Rock Island, and from there up to The Brothers, two islands near Point San Pablo.
While we were heading north, a high speed ferry passed kicking up a wake that came at us broadside. I yelled “outside” to my paddling buddies as I turned my boat into the approaching wave. I received a cold, wet slap in the face as the cresting wave broke over the bow of my boat. Tom attempted to surf the wave without much success.
At The Brothers, we found a strong tide rip running between the islands. A few of us decided to play in the standing waves. You can see the disturbed water in one of the photos above.
Then it was over to Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor where we landed on the beach and had a suitably socially distanced lunch. After lunch we were back on the water. With the changing tide, we were able to ride the ebb current back to our launch site.
We all had been admiring the clouds that were off in the distance. To the west towards Mount Tamalpais we could see rain. To the east we had pillows of white cumulous clouds. Chris said the clouds reminded him of a Maxfield Parrish painting. His words inspired me to see if I could capture a photo of the clouds that might be worthy of Maxfield Parrish. I gave the clouds some added emphasis in postproduction to make the point. You view more photos here. Let me know what you think. We logged 12.6 miles over the course of the day. You can view details of our track here.
Thursday, December 5, we had a lull between storms which gave us the opportunity to go paddling. We joined a few of our Bay Area Sea Kayaker (BASK) friends and launched from Ferry Point in Richmond. Our plan was to circumnavigate Brooks Island with a lunch stop along the way. From Ferry Point we headed southwest around the end of the breakwater that protects the Richmond harbor.
Once around the breakwater we headed east, passing Brooks Island, watching the harbor seals that were resting at Bird Rock and continuing to the Albany Bulb. We had hoped to land at a little beach on the Albany Bulb, but the tide was so low that there was no beach, only rocks. We decided to check Point Isabel, a short distance away, but before we got there we found a little pocket beach we dubbed Twin Towers Beach. There we landed and broke out our lunches.
Back on the water we headed towards the Richmond waterfront, paddling past the Red Oak Victory. The quiet water and soft lighting with clouds made for some interesting lighting effects for photography.
At one point I was mesmerized by the pattern of ripples forming behind the boat in front of me. Like dropping a pebble in a pond creating radiating concentric rings, each dip of the paddle would create such a pattern, with the rings drifting off behind the boat and alternating on the left and right; the rings expanding and merging together. It seems the still water and the particular quality of light created a dance. It was a subtle effect and not something I could capture with the camera.
As we neared Ferry Point on our return we speculated about the graffiti which reads “KEEPS” on the old Terminal One building. It seems this piece of real estate is destined to become luxury condominiums. Our paddle covered 8.8 miles. Please feel free to explore more photos here. Fellow BASK members will appreciate the gallery since I made a point of capturing “portraits” of paddlers, taking advantage of the soft light which I find ideal for this kind of photography. You can also view the track log here.
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!”
Kayakers approachint the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. BASK Thursday Paddle on April 12, 2018
BASK Thursday Paddle on April 12, 2018
BASK Thursday Paddle on April 12, 2018
Protect the Environment. BASK Thursday Paddle on April 12, 2018
Return trip with Angel Island and San Francisco in the distance. BASK Thursday Paddle on April 12, 2018
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?
I managed to get back on the water today with some of my BASK kayaking friends. We launched from Ferry Point in Richmond, paddled around Brooks Island, stopped at Barbara and Jay Vincent Park for lunch. After lunch we got back in our boats, paddled through the pilings under the Craneway Pavilion and along the waterfront, slipping into Brickyard cove to say hello to a fellow paddler, and back to our launch point. The weather was quite calm with overcast which created some interesting photo opportunities with reflections on the water, soft light and the urban aspect of the Richmond waterfront. You can view a track of our paddle here and you can view more photos of our adventure here.