At the BASK planning meeting, we were looking for ideas to schedule trips. This being the dead of winter it is sometimes difficult to find kayaking trips to fill the calendar. I volunteered to do a Greenland Paddle Practice at China Camp State Park in San Rafael. Last year I did one of these on a cold rainy day, so we should be able to do another one no matter what the winter weather turns out to be.
When the day arrived, the sky was clear but the wind was blowing from the northeast. This whipped up whitecaps across San Pablo Bay and small waves breaking on the beach at China Camp. The water was reasonably calm behind the pier, but it was so shallow there we could not practice rolls and other Greenland paddle tricks. We had to paddle out into the waves to find water deep enough.
There was a lot of interest in this practice and lots of people called to ask if they could show up for it. Most of them did not have Greenland paddles and wondered if they could borrow one at the event. I started out saying yes to everyone, but after a while I started warning people that there might not be many paddles to try. Last Year John Boeschein and a few of his friends showed up and each of them brought several paddles they had carved. But this time I was the only person to bring any Greenland paddles! I brought my everyday paddle, a 3-park breakdown one that I made from a heavy piece of spruce, and the short one that I made for Maryly Snow.
These three paddles turned out to be enough. Only six people showed up and most of them were only comfortable enough in the waves to practice with their own paddles. My 3-part breakdown paddle was never taken off the back of my kayak for anyone else to try. Charles Harris and I traded paddles. I got to try a Derrik Hutchinson Toksook paddle, which felt heavy (perhaps because it was a 4-part breakdown paddle) and sluggish in the water to me. Charles says that playing with my paddle convinced him that he needs to get one soon. I went through my litany of how to learn to do tricks with a Greenland paddle, but nobody else wanted to try it out under these conditions.
The wind waves were not very big, but every once in a while a larger set would go by. Several of us were able to catch rides on these! I’m not sure why, perhaps the wind and waves combined to get the kayaks up to speed. Jenning Gee, who was there on her new Coaster for the first time, felt a few shoves from these waves when paddling down wind. After paddling into the wind and drifting or surfing down a bunch of times we stopped for lunch.
We gave up all pretence of doing a Greenland practice and decided to go for a short paddle to the Marin Islands and back. The tide and the wind was not ideal for this trip, but several people in the group had never been to these islands and it seemed like a more interesting trip than going north into Galinas Creek. The wind was dying down but we still had wind waves following us south past the Sister Islands and southwest towards the Marin Islands. Jenning was not used to her new Coaster yet and it was turning left and right in the following seas. She asked about installing a rudder on a Coaster and I told her that would be SACRALIDGE! She needs to learn to control the boat by edging it with her hips and knees.
There were only five of us on this trip and three guys pulled ahead as we reached the Marin Islands. They paddled right between the two islands and kept going to look at the mast of a boat sticking up out of the water. Jenning was lagging behind and I hung back to keep her company. We circumnavigated the West Marin Island while we waited, and then noticing that “the guys” were heading back around the East Marin Isla.nd We turned and headed home to try and take a shorter route and catch up with them.
I had put a fleece pull-over under my waterproof paddle jacket which kept most of me warm while demonstrating Greenland paddle tricks. But my head had become very cold while dunking it underwater! So before we started this pleasure paddle, I had put on a neoprene dive hood and paddling gloves. Then I was so hot that I continued practicing rolls in the cold water to prevent over-heating. The gloves have curved fingers to make holding onto a paddle easier, but they still make paddling a little difficult. As we started the return trip, I tried taking the gloves off and strapping them on my deck. This made the paddle feel much thinner than it had for the out-bound trip and gave me new energy to paddle more! I left the hood on and my hands didn’t mind getting dunked in cold water. So I was still warm and willing to hang upside down under my boat from time to time.
The guys went the long way around The Sisters and I wanted to go this route as well, but Jenning was getting tired. I told her what I wanted to do and suggested that she hug the shore and take the short-cut. I zoomed out to the Sister Islands and caught up with the rest of the guys behind the East Sister Island. They looked around and asked me where Jenning was. I told them that she was too slow and the sharks had culled her from the pod. Then I pointed her out next to shore and assured them I was keeping my eye on her.
The wind had completely died down by the time we turned back and we had a very pleasant paddle back to China Camp. The tide was supposed to be starting to ebb against us but we never noticed any current. So it turned out to be a very pleasant short paddle. Everyone landed without incident.