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.

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.

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.

Back on the Water

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!”

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?

 

Up the Creek

On Sunday February 20, I paddled my kayak up San Rafael Creek, launching from Loch Lomond Yacht Harbor. The original plan was to meet with a number of fellow paddlers for a paddle across the bay.  With high winds predicted, crossing the bay did not sound like a wise thing to do, so I cancelled the organized paddle. Being the trip initiator though, I thought I should show up at the launch site to intercept anybody that might not have gotten the word about the cancellation.  No other kayaks showed up. From the launch site it’s just a short distance to San Rafael Creek, and for the most part, staying close to shore provides protection from the wind. I decided I would go on a solo paddle. I was wearing a full dry suit for protection should I end up in the water, my personal flotation device (PFD, lifejacket), and I had a marine VHF radio and cell phone which I keep in a Lifeproof case, along with my trusty little Olympus Tough TG-4 waterproof camera which has become my go-to camera for paddling. I was also curious to know how my new boat, the Pygmy Ronan, would handle in the wind. So I put my boat in the water, climbed in and took my time paddling up the creek as far as I could go. Being solo I was able to poke along and explore the yacht harbors and boats without having to keep up with the gang; free to do my own thing. Here are a few photos I captured along the way. Happy to report that the boat handled the wind better than I expected. Many kayaks tend to “weathercock” meaning they turn into the wind, which adds to the effort required to get the boat to go in the direction you want. Skegs and rudders are often used to correct for this. I’m thinking I may be fine without any modifications. Shortly after I returned to my launch site the wind picked up and I was happy to be off the water.  A round trip of 5.5 miles. If you are curious about just where it was I was paddling you can see my track here.

Paddle On

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Here’s a photo I captured yesterday at Horseshoe Bay as the morning fog was starting to dissipate. The three kayakers in the foreground were part of the Paddle Golden Gate Symposium, and event sponsored by California Canoe and Kayak. I participated in a workshop on “Forward Stroke Refinement.” When paddling with others recently, I’ve marveled at paddlers that can go great distances without their arms falling off, and I’m motivated to learn how to do that. Who would know how much technique can go into making a kayak go forward smoothly and efficiently?  On the very basic level, you just put your paddle in the water, use it as an anchor and drive the boat forward with your feet, using your hamstrings and obliques to power the boat. Sounds simple right?

Our class had 11 participants, with folks from Boston, Port Townsend, Seattle, and Los Angeles, and three world class coaches, Sean Morley, Chris Hipgrave and Marcel Bieg. I took a quick tally of the class rosters and figured there were well over 100 boats on the water with paddlers participating in 13 different workshops. Quite an amazing event. I’m off today, catching up on some work projects, and back tomorrow for “Traditional Skills & Rolling.” I may get wet tomorrow. Stay tuned!