Llafranc and Kayaking

On Friday, June 15 our walk took us from Begur to Llafranc, hiking along rugged cliffs and past small fishing hamlets. There were white caps on the Mediterranean with a strong wind blowing out of the north east and waves crashing on the rocks and beaches. We had hoped to rent kayaks and paddle out of Llafranc the next day, Saturday.

As it turned out the wind let on Saturday and the sea was calmer. We rented kayaks and paddled out of Llafranc, past the town of Calella de Palafrugell and on the Cap Roig. There we turned around and headed back. We had a very pleasant paddle, even with a five foot swell running and sending waves crashing on rocks and beaches. The lumpy water had us feeling like we were on a coastal paddle along the California coast. The outfitter commented that it was extremely rare to have such rough water.

By evening when we dined along the waterfront the the water on the harbor in Llafranc was looking flat calm.

Martinez Paddle

Paddling on the Carquinez Straights

On Saturday April 13 I managed to join two paddling buddies, Don and Jackie for a paddle on the Carquinez Straights, a tidal straight that connects the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers with San Francisco Bay. Being tidal one needs to pay attention to the tides and currents. We launched in the morning and rode the flood current up the straights and turned around about the time the current was changing, so that we were riding the current back down the river also. Our launch point was the Martinez Marina, and from there we paddled east, under the Benicia-Martinez bridges and past several oil refineries with their piers for tankers, keeping our eyes open for shipping traffic, since ships can travel up the river to Stockton and Sacramento. A number of sea lions were holding court in some of the piers and making their presence know with their barking. We also saw a few Osprey, Canadian Geese and numerous shore birds. We stopped at a couple of small beaches, one of which was covered with shards of glass and pottery.

Our paddle covered about 9.5 miles. You can view a track of our course here.

Up the Creek

Jumping into the middle of the thread of posts about our desert trip, here’s an on-the-water adventure from yesterday’s paddle with my fellow BASK members.

February 21. We gathered at Buck’s Landing in San Rafael for a paddle up Gallinas Creek. With the prediction of wind and a very high tide, exploring one of the sloughs around the Bay made sense. Many of the tidal sloughs are only accessible by kayak with high tides.

Six of us were ready to launch at 10:45 AM, and after a brief safety talk and a radio check we were on the water. Radios weren’t really called for on this paddle, but since we have them it’s good to make sure they are working. As we paddled up the creek we were entertained by shore birds; avocets, herons, egrets and a variety of other shore birds. At one point we decided to explore a side channel that headed off in the direction of the Marin Civic Center and that took us as far as a culvert under a bridge that was not navigable. Returning to the main channel we continued up the creek to Highway 101. There the creek disappears in dark tunnel under the road. Pitch Black. One of our intrepid paddlers disappeared into the darkness, followed by another. Half-way though the tunnel it makes a turn, and once around the bend, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon the six of us were on the west side of the highway, looking up at a road sign that read “Marin Co. Civic Center Next Exit.”

Somehow, with the narrow creek we managed to get our boats turned around to head back through the tunnel. Then it was back down the creek to Santa Margarita Island Preserve where we stopped for lunch and took a short walk around the island. Our adventure covered a little over seven miles. You can view more photos here and a map of our route here

Monterey to Lover’s Point

BASK members landing at Lover’s Point Beach. Pacific Grove

With a three day weekend last weekend, Monday being a holiday, honoring Martin Luther King Jr., we decided to join our fellow BASK members for a weekend trip to Monterey. On Saturday morning we congregated on the Municipal Beach for a safety talk after which we launched our boats for a paddle to Lover’s Point Beach in Pacific Grove. Our paddle took us out past the harbor. We passed hundreds of Sea Lions on the breakwater and a number of sea otters on our way out towards Lover’s Point. We paddled past the Monterey Bay aquarium and around Point Cabrillo where we kept our distance from the crashing surf. Turning into Lover’s Point Beach we found the beach quite protected from the swell which made for easy landing. The clear, turquoise water at Lover’s Point Beach reminded me of something out of the Mediterranean

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 to Red Rock Island 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.

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.

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.