Calm Day on the Estero

Thursday, September 12 I was supposed to have a photo shoot for a client, but the shoot was cancelled. My backup plan was to manage some desperately needed home repairs. My wife had a different plan. She said “let’s go paddling on Drakes Estero.”

Paddling through the eel grass beds on Drakes Estero

So at 10 am we were on the beach at Drakes Estero along with several fellow BASK friends, looking a flat calm and with warm weather. I didn’t even opt for a dry suit or a paddling jacket.

Drakes Estero is an estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Named after Sir Francis Drake, who may have anchored in adjacent Drakes Bay during his explorations. The estero was also famous for oyster farming up until recently when the oyster farm was shut down. Congress declared the Estero a wilderness and oyster farming is not consistent with the management of the wilderness. See my previous posting about the book The Oyster War.

In any event we had a lovely paddle, paddling out to a small beach we have dubbed Sunset Beach, having a leisurely lunch and paddling back. Logging about 8 miles overall.

Island Hopping on San Francisco Bay

Our BASK Thursday Paddle on September 5 took us past three islands. Launching from Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, we paddled out between The Brothers Islands. East Brother is an old light station that now serves as a Bed and Breakfast Inn.

There are 48 islands in San Francisco Bay. Alameda Island is the largest, followed by Angel Island, Treasure Island and Alcatraz. Only one of the islands is privately owned. That is Red Rock Island, our lunch stop for today’s paddle.

The island is owned by Brock Durning who inherited it from his father Mack Durning. Mack tried to sell the island in 2012 for $22 million. But a few months later he slashed the price to $9 million. He died before it sold. There are no services on the island and developing it could be a nightmare. The island is split among three counties — Marin, San Francisco and Contra Costa.

Legend has it that pirates hid treasure on the island, though it’s never been discovered. In the early 1800s, Russian fur traders used the island as a camp for hunting otters.

We normally land on the lee side of the island facing the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, although this day the wind was down so we paddled around the island and landed on a small beach on the windward side. We noted a flag pole on top of the island with a very tattered stars and stripes flying. There is no trail to the top and there are steep cliffs on all sides of the island.

After lunch we launched our boats again and paddled back to the yacht harbor, passing close to the ruins of America’s last whaling station, closed in 1971. There is not much left of it now save for a few pilings. We logged 6.8 miles on our paddle with favorable wind and currents. One needs to be mindful of wind, currents and ship traffic including ferries that zip across the bay.

More photos from the trip are available here and a map showing the track of our paddle is show below.

Dead Fish Polo

Kayaker flinging the Dead Fish

The object of this game is to pick up the “dead fish” without using your hands and toss it. Who wants to touch a dead fish?

The other kayakers then scramble for the “fish” and repeat the process. In this case the “dead fish” is a pair of socks tied together with a tennis ball in each toe. Sounds like an easy game. Right? Let me tell you, picking up the “dead fish” with your paddle is a challenge. It’s a great game for practicing boat control. Forward stroke, back stroke, draw stroke, sweep strokes, bracing, leaned turns. It all comes into play in this game. And then trying flinging the thing without capsizing a tippy boat.

This was a week ago. While most of the Bay Area was sweltering in a heat wave. I headed for Tomales Bay to join a few of my BASK paddling buddies. We launched from Marconi Cove Put in, just east of Marshall and paddled across the bay to Marshall Beach, taking our time to explore the coast. Calm weather and quite warm. I don’t recall when the last time I paddled with just a t-shirt and swim suit; not my usual “dress for immersion” gear. Too hot for dry suits or wet suits.

After lunch we got back in our boats and had a friendly game of Dead Fish Polo.

Over the course of the day we paddled 6.4 miles. Here’s a map showing the track of our paddle. Click on the map for more details about the track.

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.

Too Windy for the Gate

BASK Thursday Paddle April 25, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 9:45 am. I’m the first one to arrive at our intended launch site, Horseshoe Cove, just inside the North end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather prediction was for light winds and light current. When I step out of the car though, there’s a stiff wind blowing with the prediction for gusts to 25.

Our plan was to meet at Horseshoe Cove and paddle out the Golden Gate to Black Sand Beach near the Point Bonita Lighthouse for lunch. At 10:30 with several of us huddled discussing the weather we decide to go to “plan B,” which is to drive to Sausalito and launch from the public boat ramp next to Salito’s Crab House. We’re on the water by 11:30, six of us in five boats, one double and four singles.

We paddle along the shore, staying out of the wind with a little beach in mind just beyond the town of Sausalito, paddling in the direction of our original launch site. We paddle past the yacht harbor in relatively calm water, then along the Sausalito waterfront with diners on the decks of restaurants, past the ferry where we wave to the tourists and kids, and past multi-million dollar homes.

Sausalito is a popular tourist destination with many fine restaurants , shops and quaint inns. There’s also an annual Art fair which happens on the Labor Day weekend, also a number of houseboats. Richardson’s Bay has been a popular place for “anchor-outs,” but today we see few of the run-down looking boats. Tourists are out in shorts and t-shirts, many on rental bikes. I’m wearing a dry suit which is appropriate for wind and choppy water.

We find our lunch spot, but before landing several of us decide to go out to Point Cavallo to take a peek at the Golden Gate Bridge. As expected as we rounded Point Cavallo the wind hit us and we all agreed that we made the right decision to avoid going out the Golden Gate.

After lunch we paddled back to our launch point, having covered 5.6 miles. You can view more photos here and view a track of our paddle here.

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