Just back from a trip to Baja, I should have been spending my weekend unpacking, cleaning and putting my gear away. But I talked to Don Fleming and he suggested going on a paddle in Tomales Bay. I had just spent two weeks paddling on the calm Sea of Cortez and hoped that I could talk Don into paddling out to the mouth of the bay and playing in the rough water there! I left my gear in chaos and drove to Miller Park to meet Don.
When we arrived we found two other groups of kayakers from BASK putting their gear on to go paddling in Tomales Bay. One group went south and the other north towards the mouth. We tagged along with the latter group but after they landed for a long picnic lunch, Don and I continued across the mouth of the bay to play in the surf. We rode a few waves breaking over the sand bars and then continued out into the larger Bodega Bay to visit the mouth of the Estero de San Antonio.
It turned out that Don has never visited this estero before and was interested to check it out. Estero de San Antonio is a muddy tidal creek just a mile north of the mouth of Tomales Bay. There are no public access points on this creek, it is surrounded by private property. Where one public road crosses the creek, the nearby property owners somehow convinced the county to let them put up a 6 foot fence to keep boaters from sneaking into their "private lake". The estero is actually under the jurisdiction and part of the huge Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary*. Now the only way to paddle on this body of water is to approach it from the sea and exercise our State Constitutional rights to navigate the waters of California.
Landing at the Estero is not always easy or possible but today it was both. It is exposed to the northwest swell, which was mild on this day. We also found the north end of the beach protected from the waves by a rock garden and were able to make a landing. We didn't really have time to explore the estero itself, so we sat on the rocks near the shore and ate our lunch. Launching back into the waves was as easy as the landing and we started the trip home.
On the way back to Tomales Bay we stopped to surf over the sandbars in front of Dillon Beach. These bars are notorious for rising up large waves to dump unwary fishing boats into the water. But in a kayak these sand bars often create excellent conditions for surfing. The waves rise up and become steep far from shore and give a kayak a shove and a wild ride. Then they break and settle down into deeper water. If you get in trouble you have plenty of time in the calm deeper water to get back in your boat. Neither Don nor I ended up out of our boats and didn't need this emergency recovery. We both got several great rides before heading home again.
At Avalis Beach at the mouth of the bay we ran into our friends. They were just finishing their long picnic lunch and launching to head home. The trip was perfectly timed, the tide was starting to flood and we had the current helping us on our way for the trip back to our cars.
This is a correction supplied by Maryjane Schramm of NOAA. Originally I had called NOAA the "Farallones Institute" and called the Santuary a Reserve. 10/28/03
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