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.

Yellow Bluff

Thursday, July 18 found me on the water gain with my BASK paddling buddies. Our launch site was the public boat ramp in Sausalito. Anticipating heavy traffic on the commute across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge I decided to get an early start, and to my surprise the traffic was light. I was way ahead of schedule.

The plan was to paddle to Angel Island. When I stepped out of the car though, I got caught by a gust of wind that nearly blew me off my feet. Not good conditions for paddling to the island. I decided I’d wait until my buddies showed up before unloading my boat. At 10 am there were four of us on the boat ramp, discussing plan “B,” which was to hug the Sausalito shoreline and paddle out to Yellow Bluff.

At 10:30 we were on the water, paddling north along the shore. We paddled past the yacht harbor, under the piers of The Spinnaker Restaurant, and passed the ferry dock. Once passed the Trident Restaurant we had a bit of a slog straight into a brisk wind, but only for about 20 minutes when we found ourselves in fairly protected water.

Yellow Bluffs is a popular spot for kayakers who want to play in some dynamic water. The tide, current, wind and swell can make for some lumpy water. Not a good spot for beginners, but fun for those that want to practice some more advanced skills. Conditions today were just moderately bumpy.

When I’m paddling in lumpy water, I’m not taking pictures. It’s time to keep both hands on the paddle. We paddled past the Bluff and on towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Then it was time to turn around and head for a little beach just north of Yellow Bluff where we landed for lunch. We found an abandoned kayak on the beach. Full of water and gravel.

Our return trip was a breeze, literally, since we had the wind behind us pushing us along. Paddling back past the tug boat Owatonna. Want to live on a tug boat? This one is for sale and outfitted for four people as a live-aboard. Then it was back to the boat launch. We were off the water at 2 pm, having paddled 6 miles. You can see more photos here and you can view a track of our paddle here.

Lunch on Angel Island

Approaching the beach at the Angel Island Immigration Station.

We were a small group for the BASK Thursday Lunch Paddle on May 9. Just three of us with Danny, Susan and myself. With today being Thursday and too stormy to paddle it’s time to catch up on my blog. For last week’s paddle we launched from Paradise Cay under cloudy skies with a prediction for wind in the afternoon. The plan was to paddle along the East Side of the Tiburon Peninsula which would afford us some projection from the wind with a stop for lunch at a little beach just shy of Bluff Point. Our paddle took us along the shore and past the Center for Environmental Studies Estuary & Ocean Science Center (Romberg Tiburon Center) operated by San Francisco State University. This was a Naval Net Depot for maintaining submarine nets across the Golden Gate during World War II.

We were paddling along, chatting and riding an ebb current and before we knew it we were at Bluff Point staring at Angel Island which seemed to be offering us an invitation for lunch. Conditions in Raccoon Straight looked favorable so we crossed to Angel Island and landed on the beach at the Immigration Station. On our return the wind tried to tease us a bit, coming at us from various directions, deflected by the land masses. We hung close to the shore admiring the mansions and estates along the Tiburon Peninsula. Our paddle covered 9.4 miles. You can see more photos here and view a track of our paddle here.

Track of our paddle from Paradise Cay to Angel Island

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.

Lunch on Angel Island 8/23

On Thursday August 23 with my work docket managed, I strapped my kayak on the top of my truck and headed to Sausalito to join fellow Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) for a jaunt to Angel Island. We had a cool “Fogust” day with favorable currents and wind. We launched from the public boat ramp next to Salitos Crab House. You wouldn’t know there is a public boat ramp here without some local knowledge; and while it’s a convenient spot to launch on a weekday morning, I can imagine it would be a challenge on the weekend with the town full of tourists.

We launched at 10:30, Paddled down Richardson Bay to Peninsula Point where we poked our heads out into Raccoon Straight to see what was in store for us. Conditions looked promising, so we headed across the straight towards the West Garrison. As we crossed Raccoon Straight it became apparent that the current was carrying us east so we altered our course for Ayala Cove where we landed and had lunch.

After lunch we were back in our boats and we made a course for the Corinthian Yacht Club. Once we were across the straight and close to the Yacht Club we paddled along the shore admiring the houses clinging to the cliffs. We had an easy paddle out and back, on what can be a bit of a challenge if the wind and currents are contrary. We were back at our launch site at 2:30 in the afternoon having covered not quite seven miles.  You can view more photos here and you can view the track of our route here