Drakes Beach to Drakes Bay Boat Launch, August 7th 1995

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This was a foggy morning with a strong breeze, and rising waves. I was happy to be doing an easy paddle in a sheltered bay. Drakes Beach has calm water, a visitors center, and a restaurant. The water is so calm here that it doesn't have one of those signs telling you 7 reasons why you shouldn't swim here. The wind was so strong that I wasn't comfortable getting in my wetsuit until I climbed inside the bus to change. And it was so foggy that I could not see the bay to see the whitecaps. The wind was blowing out over the beach, but the waves were still coming in. I got in the water with no problems, and headed to my right around the curve of the bay. I could hide in the wind shadow of the sandy cliffs, and defer a decision about crossing straight back across the middle of the bay in the fog for later.

I stayed in sight of the cliffs the first part of this trip around the bay and watched the early morning Pelicans heading out. After a while, the waves got even milder, and I was able to stay 10 meters or so from the sandy shore. This way I got to see a lot of shorebirds. Marty talks about birds that are so adapted for the ocean that they loose the ability to walk, their legs are so far back on their bodies. I saw one of these birds on the shore: He would stand up and then fall forward onto his keel and slide a handful of centimeters closer to the water. This repeated too many times before he got into the surf, and did a graceful dive through the next breaker and paddled out to sea. It was probably a sick bird who hauled out onto a secluded beach to rest. It was larger and grayer then the Meurres I've been seeing a lot of, I don't know what it was.

When I got most of the way around the bay, I found this tiny little cave with a small sandy beach in front of it. I was able to land and walk 10 meters into the cave, but it looks like it is full of water at high tide. As I got to the boat houses near the Chimney Rock end of Point Reyes, the fog blew away and I could see across the bay to Drakes Beach where I had started a few hours earlier.

I decided to cut across the bay even though it was into the wind, since it would cut 3 kilometers off of the return trip. Before I started across I though I could always cut back towards shore, but soon it became obvious that cutting back would add a lot of distance to my trip. If I stopped paddling from this extreme end of Point Reyes, the prevailing north west wind would blow me all the way to the Golden Gate before I blew ashore. With the fog gone, I could see the whitecaps all across the bay, and I expected to have to work hard for my trip back. There was a yacht anchored in what I thought was the middle of the bay, directly on my line of sight across. I measured my distance and course by sighting over this yacht for a while. After I passed it, I stopped and took of the wetsuit jacket. Even with a cold wind, I was working hard enough to keep warm without it. After a while, I looked back and discovered that the yacht was very close to Point Reyes, and not anywhere near the middle of the bay. So I paddled across the greatest part of the distance with no references to help me tell if I was making progress into the wind. The visitors center building did seem to get closer and closer over time.

The wind blew up waves that went in the opposite direction to the waves hitting the beach, and it wasn't until I got into the wind shadow of the cliffs again that I could see the swells were still going my way. Eventually I did make a soft landing on the beach and slide my kayak back up to the car. I changed back into dry clothes and went to check out the restaurant. Here we are in the middle of a bay, a few miles from the Oyster Capitol of Northern California (Johnsons Oyster Beds). Do you think I could get a hang town fry for breakfast? (Hang Town Fry is an omelet made with more oysters than egg). Nope, what America wants for breakfast is eggs, bacon, and pancakes. The only seafood they serve is clam chowder for lunch, but it wasn't warmed up yet. I saw some testimonials on the wall about the wonderful oyster fry and asked about that. Its only available on weekends in the summer, when some guy pushes a cart onto the beach and bar-b-ques oysters on his cart. It never occurred to the guy behind the counter that he could cook seafood and serve it to people. He didn't even have lox for bagels. No bagels either, that's probably weird ethnic food to these people.


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Mike Higgins / higgins@monitor.net