I scheduled a trip for the BASK calendar to go to on a wild open ocean paddle. I looked around for a place close to the San Francisco Bay that would be interesting and not one of the ordinary paddles everyone has been on. It occurred to me that just around Tomales Point there is a rock named Bird Rock with a calm beach behind it. I had paddled past this rock only once, exactly three years ago so I was interested in seeing it again now.. Putting an event in the calendar is always a big risk because there is no way to predict the weather. On the weekend of this event the sky was overcast, a strong wind came up, and the swell climbed up to ten feet high. Only two other people bothered to show up. The Bodega Buoy was reporting 24 knot winds, but it was still dead calm at Dillon Beach. Only with binoculars could you see the breakers far out to sea. The waves on the beach looked very inviting. Bill Steiger, BASK’s weather expert, had called me the night before and warned me about the expected strong winds.
I decided not to risk the trip out to Bird Rock. One of the paddlers had a few friends along who were going for a walk on the beach while we were gone, so we talked to them about running a shuttle. Eventually we decided to paddle from Lawson’s landing to Miller Park inside Tomales Bay, then get a ride back here to pick up my car. When the strong winds came up later they would only help blow us to our take-out spot. I suggested paddling out to the opening of the bay, working our way across the opening, and then paddling down the beautiful rugged west side of the bay. One reason I wanted to go out to the opening of the bay was to see how easy the trip to Bird Rock would have been. The original plan was to launch from the landing and fight our way out past the tide as it started to come in.
One of my companions was so adamently against paying the Lawson’s Landing day use fee, that he turned around. He said he would drive down to Miller Park and paddle up the bay and meet us in the middle. To avoid paying a second fee once we were inside the landing, we went to a gap in the sea wall and launched our boats from a sandy beach. Then we paddled north past the landing. The tide was coming in strong and as we approached the narrowest part of the bay the water rose up in a choppy, noisy, tidal rip current. We were able to make reasonable progress against it and soon were outside the bay.
Here we encountered the mild area between the sand bar and the beach. I thought it would be an easy task to cut behind the sand bar across to the deep channel. However, we found that the sand bar has lots of little hills under the water across here and we had to work our way carefully. Another reason I wanted to go out the mouth before cutting across was the hope of doing some playing in the surf. I quieried my remaining companion about his surf skills. Since he was in a sit-inside boat and could not do an Eskimo roll, we decided to play it safe and not look for any more fun than we had to. Cutting across the mouth of the bay we found a few shallow places where the sand churned up to the surface and the waves almost broke in front of us. This was enough excitement for the day and when we made it safely across we turned to do a calm paddle down the inside of the bay. The incoming tide had been possible to work against and I had convinced myself that the original trip would have worked if we had better weather. I’ll try scheduling it again soon.
We took our time and followed the coastline down the bay, admiring the cliffs and valleys and looking for elk grazing on the hillsides. After what seemed like only a short while, we saw another kayaker coming up the bay. I didn’t believe it could be our friend from Miller Park, but there he was! He is apparently a very fast kayaker and he pushed hard to join us as soon as possible. Our trip across the rough opening of the bay probably also took longer than it seemed. Now there were three of us taking our time and paddling back down the bay. We stopped at the ruins of the farmhouse where I had recently collected some flowers, and picked a few more to present to the women driving our shuttle car down from Dillon Beach.
With the tide helping us we soon made it down near Hog Island, and we could have paddled across to Miller Park. But we were much earlier than we expected so we kept going for a while. We paddled out to the end of Pelican Point until we were practically down-wind from the island. We still had an hour until we were supposed to be picked up, but we feared that it would take this long to fight our way against the tide and the wind to get to the island and then across to the park. Never-the-less, we paddled around the island and across to the bay faster that we expected and still made it to the park before our ride made it there. I had time to change into dry clothes I had carried inside my boat in a drysack. Before we drove back to get my car we all stopped at Nick’s Cove, the local bar and restaurant, for a late lunch of oysters and clam chowder.