This weekend the Novice kayakers had to practice planning and packing for an expedition. Many of us have noticed that the amount of gear needed to go on an overnight trip is just about the same as the gear needed for a two week long trip. The only difference is a slight increase in the amount of food. So having the Novices camp overnight on Angel Island is a good approximation of what it is like to go on a kayaking expedition.
I am planning an expedition down the rough west coast of Baja in April, and have not decided what boat I should use for that trip. At the PaddleFest recently, I tried a Prijon "Yukon" kayak that I liked a lot, a river kayak that has been expanded until it is large enough to hold a lot of gear. It is a plastic boat that is made extra thick for bouncing off rocks in a river. It felt solid and indestructible, something I would appreciate when making rough landings in big seas on an unknown coastline. Unfortunately I have been told that this boat is slow and I would not be able to keep up with my paddling partners in touring boats. I talked to Keith Miller of California Canoe and Kayak and rented a different Prijon boat from him, the "Kodiak". This boat is designed for touring and is reputed to be very fast for a plastic boat. I figured I could try it on the short Angel Island trip and see how I liked it. It did not have the solid feel of the Yukon, and to my surprise it did not hold as much gear as I had hoped. To simulate a long trip I took a lot of gear, including my large tent and a folding chair. With clothes and other gear the boat was practically full without any food in it! Re-packing to leave Angel Island the next day I managed to make room for another dry bag or two, but it still felt small. I think I have been spoiled by my sit-on-top Scupper Pro which has extra storage in the center of the boat where a sit-inside boat has a lot of wasted space in the cockpit.
The novices were broken up into pods and headed out of Sausalito towards Angel Island. The plan was to stop on the island at Pearls Beach for lunch, then circumnavigate the island counter clockwise to take advantage of the flooding tide. My pod took longer to pack up so we were the last to leave. When we got to Pearl's Beach, nobody else was there and we didn't even see any kayak tracks in the sand. It turns out that the first pod went north past Tiburon and crossed over the north end of Raccoon Strait. They stopped a Ayala Cove for lunch and bought lattes at the coffee shop and never went around the island! Pearls Beach faces the Golden Gate and some waves do come in to break there. The second pod of kayakers looked at these waves and decided that it was too rough to land on and continued around the island. I was still chaffing about having missed the opportunity to take the Novices out in ocean surf the weekend before. So when we got there I told my pod that "THIS isn't REAL surf" and made them land anyway. We did the "rough surf landing protocol" where one kayaker goes in first, then signals the rest to come in one at a time when the weaves look mild. All the waves looked mild to me, but to the novices they did not. It probably was a good exercise.
My pod had one novice who did not have a good forward stroke, which made him slow and made his shoulders sore. We also had another paddler with a wrist injury and we were concerned about her going all the way around the island. Since we got such a late start, it looked like it would take us too long to go all the way around the island to the Kayak Camp, so we aborted that trip and took the short trip back. We were the first kayakers to get to the camp.
That evening, we invited a special guest to dinner with us. Dan Winkelman, of the Peace and Quiet party, arrived and was introduced as "THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES"! Dan is a ranger who lives on Angel Island and he has been collaborating with cartoonist Phil Frank to do a spoof of the presidential campaign. Dan appears regularly as a character in Phil's comic "FARLEY" in the San Francisco Chronicle. For more information about the Peace and Quiet party, see Dan's WEB page at http://www.angelisland.org/ranger.htm where many of the comics are reproduced, or Phil's WEB page at http://www.sfgate.com/sf/farley/winkelman.html . Dan gave us his rousing campaign speech and I for one was almost convinced to vote for him. What the heck, I didn't have any other real choice this year.
In the morning we packed up to head home. The plan was to paddle across the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge to have lunch at Kirby Cove. My pod was late and slow again and we decided to stop at Horseshoe Cove just before the bridge for lunch. There we found all the other kayaks waiting for us. Everybody else had apparently been hungry. To simulate having to shuttle cars on an expedition our plan was to land at Horseshoe cove in the afternoon. While a few boats were paddling back to start moving cars, a large group of us went under the bridge and completed the planned trip to Kirby Cove.
At Kirby we simulated a rough surf landing again with kayakers coming in one at a time. Then we shoved off and headed back. Will Tate, one of the novices, has had a lot of ocean experience and he hugged the shore on the trip out and back. This "rock gardening" is the type of kayaking I enjoy the most so I joined him close to shore. On the trip back several others joined us close to shore and poking our noses into blow-holes. Back at Horseshoe cove the novices unloaded their camping gear and practiced rescues (getting back into your boat) until it was practically dark and time to head out for dinner.