Monday, November 21, 2016

Learning to go with the flow on San Francisco Bay

A gorgeous day on the bay proved to be just a  bonus for our paddling group  

A kayaking class on tides, currents and rough water….

…recently reminded me that I took up writing as a vocation because higher mathematics was a deep, dull subject to me. And by “higher mathematics,” I mean stuff that your average fifth grader can knock out between video games. Not me -- words be my thang.

Jennifer Yearley translates chart
But the class shed a whole new light on practical applications of math, such as avoiding being sucked from San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge in a very small boat and out into a very large ocean.

Our daylong paddle provided clear examples of how to judge current speed and time low and high tides to good effect, as well as interim periods of slack (water). I am a huge fan of slack, in the slang-ish sense that I would like more of it in general, not to mention minimizing physical exertion in the form of paddling. On this day, we spent a bit over 5 hours on the water with a mid-trip break of more than an hour, just my speed.

We launched from Horseshoe Cove at Fort Baker, on the Marin side of the bay, tucked into a natural hip pocket behind the Gate. Instructor Jennifer Yearley’s plan: Start off around slack tide (I was happy already), work our way up the coastline toward Sausalito, hang a right across Richardson Bay to the point at Belvedere, and finesse the cross current of Raccoon Strait over to Angel Island.

Preparing to launch from Horseshoe Cove at Fort Baker

There, we’d break for lunch, then start our return on maximum ebb tide. In other words, go with the bay flow instead of fighting it. Paddling in these parts is not always so easy, considering the playful -- and sometimes treacherous -- personality of the bay. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kayak surfing fulfills a paddler's longtime dream

Update: Slideshow from "Bodega Bash" 

Blogger puts lessons into practice at "Bodega Bash" kayak surfing meet on Sept. 17 (photo courtesy Mark Boyd)  

The kayak instructor’s question was an easy one for me…

Earlier surf session in "Maytag zone" (photo courtesy Kelly Marie Henry) 
Why did you want to take an introductory kayak surfing class? My instant reply: “In the early ‘60s, when I was a kid living 800 miles from the ocean and I heard The Beach Boys on the radio….”  Everyone laughed, but true. “Surfin’ USA” in 1963: ”If everybody had an ocean…” Ha! A kid in in the Appalachian Mountains could only listen to the radio and dream.

But 50-some years later, my dream finally came true with a recent “Introduction to Kayak Surfing” class at Dillon Beach, near the mouth of Tomales Bay.  My first run, from 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Paddle over to see a Tomales Bay icon while you can

Despite appearances, the "S.S. Point Reyes" was no shipwreck -- it was going to be a fixer-upper 

“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.