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

Elkhorn Slough

BASK Elkhorn Slough Paddle

On Monday January 21 I joined my fellow BASK members for a paddle on Elkhorn Slough. Elkhorn Slough is one of the largest tidal estuaries in California. It’s about 90 miles south of San Francisco and a popular spot for hiking, bird watching and kayaking. Tidal marshes make up a significant part of the slough, and more often than not the marshes are off limits because they are too shallow to paddle or exposed. We had an extremely high tide on Monday, with a high of 6.4 feet at 9:44 AM. We launched from Moss Landing North Harbor. Just off the launch site we saw dozens of Sea Otters. We then paddled south and under the highway bridge, past harbor seals and more sea otters. With the incoming current we had a bit of a boost paddling up the slough. We took a detour up a creek that’s normally not accessible. Paddling under oak trees and through fences, looking out for the occasional barbed wire. We saw plenty of Harbor seals as well as sea otters, and towards out lunch site at Kirby Park we saw Osprey. We paddled 10 miles over the course of the day. You can view a track 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.