Sunday, June 19, 2016

Paddle over to see a Tomales Bay icon while you can

Despite appearances, the "S.S. Point Reyes" is no shipwreck

“Picturesque derelict” sounds like a contradiction...

But any kayaker who’s ever paddled on Tomales Bay knows what I’m talking about. It’s a nautical hulk known as the “S.S. Point Reyes” or the “Tomales Bay shipwreck.” In fact, it’s no shipwreck at all, but an icon for the West Marin County community that became its final resting port. Just step or paddle back a bit and observe the scene, on or off the water.
A suspicious fire last February nearly destroyed the old girl

Tomales Bay rises and falls dramatically with the tides, from shimmering salty expanse to stinking mud flat. Many structures near the waterline are a bit rough and ragged but as full of character as some of their inhabitants.

Everything is precariously situated – the “Reyes” rests on a sandbar, which in turns sits atop a major fault line that at some future date could make flotsam and jetsam out of Inverness, Point Reyes Station, Marshall and all the hamlets in between.

But hey, no hurry on Tomales time.  Whether you’re on the geologic clock, checking tide tables for a kayak trip, or driving on Francis Drake Boulevard, slow down on the approach to Inverness and that strange relic just behind the general store.  Like its surroundings, the “Reyes” has for decades conveyed a sense of dignified, gradual decline – at least until recently.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Reservoirs and kayaker fortunes finally rise again

BEFORE: Rolling down the hill to launch at Rattlesnake Bar last October.
AFTER: Fishing boat at about the same spot, March 18

Our long-term drought may not be over yet.... 

But these days, the view from a kayak looks pretty good around Northern California. Consider this before-and-after comparison at Folsom Lake Recreation Area's Rattlesnake Bar. 

It was just last October 30 that NorCal Yak pal Dale and I drove to the launch near
BEFORE: A weedy wonderland
Penryn, as Folsom was shrinking to historic low levels. Dale had scouted the area on foot and swore there was enough water to float us about six miles down to Granite Bay. 


But after we walked our kayaks a country mile down a steep hill, made our way through thick brush that towered over our heads, repelled our yaks down a small cliff, and then crossed a wide beach to reach the water, I shoulda known better. Apparently, I was completely unencumbered by the thought process.

Let’s just say that for the rest of that day, there was more mud-slinging than in a Republican presidential debate.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Use tie-downs on every kayak trip -- or risk disaster

At the scene -- and time definitely did not stand still 

You know you’re in for a hair-raising kayak story when it begins...


"Miraculously, no one was killed or injured." 

This is one of those stories. Not to sound melodramatic, but it’s a paddler’s tale with lessons that could save lives. And off the water, at that.    

It happened last Nov. 27, Black Friday. While most folks were already stampeding into the shopping malls or sleeping off their turkey dinners, I headed toward Tomales Bay with paddling pal Trudy on I-80.   

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Early splashdown kicks off kayak waterfall tours

Finding waterfalls at Englebright? As easy as one, two, three 

Snow melt turns on the faucets for area lakes and rivers....

Dry times aren’t over, not by a long shot. But there are trickles of hope for paddlers in Northern California’s lakes and rivers, thanks to early runoff from the Sierra. And that sets the scene for waterfall tours by kayak, even before the spring equinox arrives.

Our paddler pod enjoyed just such an outing last Saturday at Englebright Lake in the Yuba River gorge near Marysville. A ten-mile round-trip jaunt revealed several