The wind was reported at 27 knots this morning, with 7 foot swells at sea. This made me not want to bother driving all the way out to the ocean from Berkeley this morning, so I stopped and did a 9 kilometer trip in the San Francisco Bay. I had read that there were places to get in the water near San Quentin State Penitentiary. The wind looked calm as I crossed the Richmond Bridge heading west. I drove down the road to the prison, passing a pumping station with an old pier, what looked like a small park with a paved trail to the water, and the visitors parking lot to the prison, which had a nice little beach. I parked near this beach and walked up to the visitors entrance. This turned out to be a long hallway with a side door in the middle, and a window mostly covered with notices, so you can't see through it. The notice on the door said: "Please do not knock. We know you are out there. We will get to you as soon as possible." I waited all alone in the empty hallway, thinking "WE KNOW YOU ARE OUT THERE." and eventually got buzzed in. Inside was a large room that I had to walk all the way across to talk to the guy behind the desk. I told the guy what I wanted to do, and asked if I could park my car in their visitors lot for a few hours. He said "No, it's reserved for visitors, you must park on the street". I asked him if I could leave my kayak on the beach, park on the street, and walk back to launch it. He said yes. But I knew parking on the street was a hassle, and I'd have to walk way back here, so I drove out first to look for a spot. When I got to the little park, there still were no places, so I drove to the pumping station. It said STATE PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING. I parked and went next door to the maintenance building for the Richmond Bridge paint crew, and asked them if they minded if I use that old pier. They didn't have anything to do with it, and didn't mind. Well, at least I did ask somebody, and they didn't say no. I would be on the state property for very short periods of time crossing to the water and back. What could they do? Arrest me and throw me in prison? The prison was right next door. I took my chances and got in the water here anyway. The wind and waves were mild, and there was a shallow rocky beach next to the pier. Launching was easy, and I wondered if I could have done this trip in street cloths, instead of a wetsuit.
I went under the Richmond Bridge and through the pier of the Marin Rod and Gun Club. There were lots of terns in the air, diving into the water. These were smaller terns than the ones on the Russian River, and these had black eye patches instead of black caps on their heads. I started going along the coast, but found it to be a boring row of rocks and recycled concrete to keep the bay from reclaiming lost marsh. So I cut across the water and headed towards a spot where I could see natural shoreline. It was 3 kilometers and 45 minutes before I got there, to find a short section of marshy shore that I know Marty would like to explore. Just beyond that was the entrance to a marina, then a short section of rocky coast out to a point. There were some enormous mansions on this point. What do people do with such large houses? When I got to the end, there was a great blue heron sitting on the very tip of the point. I managed to move away before he got upset enough to leave his perch. All along this rocky section of shore, the wind and waves had gotten stronger and stronger. The wind was blowing almost straight out of the east, opposite from the wind I had left in Berkeley or the wind blowing fog in through the Golden Gate. I was in the sun the whole trip, and the water felt warm to the touch. As I headed out into the bay and towards the Marin Islands, several kilometers from shore, the wind and waves combined to splash and spray over the prow of my kayak. I was glad I didn't do this trip in street clothes after all.
The Marin Islands are two tree covered rocky islands that can be seen from the Richmond Bridge. They appear on all the road maps, but until I considered kayaking to them, I never had the slightest curiosity about them. Now I wanted to know: What's on them, and who owns them? I think I can see structures on the larger one, what are they? When I got to the smaller island, it had an old KEEP OFF sign facing the nearest land, but two new smaller signs had been nailed over this. One said that this was an important bird nesting preserve, please do not disturb. The other said that this was part of a wildlife management project run by the Department of the Interior. I'm pleased to find all this out. I went around the north side of this island, and as I went by, a large number of snowy egrets flew in and out of the trees, looking upset to see me come by so close. There were also a few black crowned night herons, crows and gulls of course, and one osprey flying between the islands. When I got to the large island, there was a big sign that asked me to stay 100 yards from shore to avoid disturbing the birds. Ooops. The large island had a dock and a shack on the shore, a walkway going up into the trees, a water tank, and at least two house sized buildings up on top. (A note pined to the dock said "Darling, enter number 57 in the imaging chamber, I have left a message for you".) One of the structures was a low stone building with a flagpole and lots of windows facing southwest into the center of the bay. It reminded me of the architecture of buildings in many national parks, so I assume it is some sort of lodge for researchers to stay in when counting birds or some such. It would be cool to spend a week here observing birds for the Department, if that could be arranged.
I headed straight across the bay back to San Quentin. This put me almost broadside to the wind, so I sighted through a notch in the Marin hills to a tall tree on the next row of hills. This allowed me to track my sideways progress, and I found that I really did not get blown too far off course. The wind was quite strong by now, with whitecaps all across the bay. But unlike going into the wind, the waves didn't splash up onto me. I just rolled with them, even into whitecaps, and they rolled under me. My paddle, however, kicked up drops of water and the wind blew them onto my left shoulder. But as I approached the Richmond Bridge the wind died down, until it was a warm sunny comfortable day again. I went under the bridge, and tried to surf the waves back to the pump station, but they were not big enough.