Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Drake's Estero










Last week I had the opportunity to paddle Drake's Estero with a good friend.  This trip had been on my bucket list for quite some time and the conditions on Monday looked like they couldn't be any better.



Low tide was 3 and a 1/2 feet at 11:08 a.m. with high tide predictions at 4:44 pm at 5.3 feet.  Several sources strongly recommended paddling with at least a 3ft tide and I definitely concur.  When we launched shortly after 11:00 a.m. there was just a gentle breeze from the North West. With the breeze at our back, we paddled at a leisurely pace down Schooner Bay taking in the beautiful scenery. We spotted dozens upon dozens of harbor seals sunning themselves on beaches and playfully swimming all around us.  According to the National Park Service Drake's Estero is home to the largest Harbor seal breeding colony in Point Reyes.

Drakes estero and Limantour estero are closed to all types of boating March 1st to June 30th to protect harbor seals from disturbance during pupping season. The NPS has a great video of its' restoration project and photographs of the estero.



After about an hour and a half we found a gorgeous beach on Drake's Head.  After lunch we wandered among the tide pools and spotted sea anemones, hermit crabs and other marine life in the tide pools.  After our relaxing lunch we launched and headed towards Limantour Estero. The breeze was just starting to pick up a little but was still at our backs for the most part. The wind direction did change from north west to to north east and back-and-forth. We explored Limantour Estero for awhile then realized it was just after 3:00 p.m. and we should start heading home.



We pointed our kayaks west and immediately noticed an increase in wind speed. The tide had turned and was now flooding and the wind was opposing the current making for some choppy conditions. We paddled about a mile before we tucked in to a protected cove to reassess the conditions. The wind was now steady at 15 knots and gusting to just over 20. We noticed at Drake's head where the Estero enters the ocean, were rogue waves spilling in and braking abruptly. With determination and lots of bracing, we paddled against the wind and current past Drake's head where we finally caught the incoming tide.

I have to admit that mile was pretty sketchy and nerve wracking because the waves were breaking and not in any sort of pattern that could be predicted. I reassured myself that if either of us capsized we wouldn't have a problem getting to shore to seek shelter and wait it out. After getting by Drakes Head, with the help of the tide and reduced wind speed we were able to paddle at a much more relaxed pace. As we were making our way back to the launch, a baby seal, not much longer than 3ft, poked is head out of the water a couple feet from my kayak. He startled me but with those puppy dog eyes I was put at ease at least until he started swimming under my kayak and bumping the bottom of it. He stuck with us for at least an hour, going back and forth from my kayak to Kelseys' and nibbling on my stern toggle. He would pop up inches from our kayaks and then swim to the rear and I really think he was trying to figure out how to get on the back deck of our boats. Fortunately we had gear on the back deck which didn't leave room for a baby seal.




By the time we reached the put-in, the wind had died down and the estero was like glass once again. We had paddled 12.76 miles overall. It was an absolute fantastic adventure and look forward to returning.

Drakes Estero is a great paddle destination and there are lots of options for both beginners and more experienced paddlers. Be aware of your skills and plan ahead with a float plan. Check tides and weather, have a bail out plan and dress for immersion. It's a very remote area so be prepared for any situation.







Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Update



I've been on the water nearly every day the past couple months so haven't had a chance to write.  We've been enjoying some beautiful weather and doing lots of tours including trips to Delta Meadows, Sherman Island  and round trip tours from Antioch to Big Break to to name a few.  We've had Adventure Camps for kids and  Rescue Clinics and Fundamentals of Kayak Touring for adults.  It's been a busy summer and I'm very grateful.

 I'm looking forward to fall and winter paddling, my favorite time of year.  We have some great tours coming up including our next Dive in to the Delta series number 3 with a trip to Sherman Lake on November 23rd starting at 2 o'clock. The birds are coming in, more wildlife is being spotted and the weather has been amazing.

Keep an eye on our calendar at our website or on our Facebook page for upcoming tours and classes. You are always welcome to create your own custom tour or class for your group. Contact us for more information or to set up a date for your group.

 Just a reminder we have TRAK kayaks available for demo. TRAK 2.O is the ultimate touring kayak. Not only does it pack up into a bag that can be taken easily on planes, trains and automobiles but it is a true performance sea kayak that must be seen and paddled to be appreciated. We'll be teaming up with TRAK in 2020 to offer some amazing camps where you will gain skills in sea kayaking and get to know your TRAK better. Stay tuned for more information!



This past Monday I was able to paddle Drakes Estero and I'm currently working on a write-up which will be posted soon. It was an amazing adventure!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Boreal Baltic 120





I recently added these kayaks to our fleet and will have them available for purchase in September, 2019.

I have fallen in love with this boat! We currently have the thermoformed version but they also come in and HDPE plastic.

Why I love it:
1) For being a thermoformed boat, it's very rigid in rough water. Not quite as much as a composite boat but very close. Other thermosforms I've paddled have a tendency to flex in chop, not this one.
2) Roomy. Lots of room not only in the cockpit but plenty available up to the forward bulkhead. Great for paddlers with large feet.
3) Fits a variety of different sized paddlers. I've had people from 5'2" to 6'2" paddle it and find it extremely comfortable.
4) Comfort. Flexible seat and support for thighs. Backband can be adjusted to under coming or above coaming.
5) Skeg. Usually boats of this size don't have an option for a skeg. A skeg comes standard and can help on windy days.
6) Maneuverability. This kayak is fun to play in! Very easy to maneuver but tracks just as well as any 16ft sea kayak I have paddled.
7) Weight. Thermoformed version is only 46 lbs. The only kayak I've been able to carry on my shoulder without hurting myself.
8) Stability. Excellent primary and secondary stability. 25 inch beam for a good length of the hull makes it stable for variety of paddlers.
9) Storage. Lots of volume in rear and front hatches make this a great choice for kayak camping.
10) Price update: 2020 prices have gone up and Baltic is still a great deal at $1299.







SPECIFICATIONS
LENGTH = 12 FT
WIDTH = 25 IN
LOAD CAPACITY = 350 LBS
PADDLER WEIGHT = <260
HDPE WEIGHT = 55 LBS
THERMOFORMED ABS = 46 LBS


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Dive into the Delta Kayak Tours

Interested in exploring the Delta? 


I have created this series of tours for those who really want to explore more of the California Delta. This is a series of 9 tours, offered once a month at different locations throughout the Delta. Tours vary in length from 2 to 3 hours and launch site information will be provided after booking. They all take place on Saturdays and the more tours you book, the more you save. You are welcome to sign up for any paddle at regular price. The following are dates and locations with breakdown of package prices.

If you want to commit to 4 or more tours YOU MUST CALL TO RESERVE TO GET DISCOUNT.925-642-5764




Dive into the Delta #1 Dow Wetlands 9-28-19 11am-1pm

Dive into the Delta #2 Delta Meadows 10-19-19 12pm-3pm

Dive into the Delta #3 Sherman Lake 11-23-19 2pm-5pm

Dive into the Delta #4 Little Mandeville 1-11-20 11am-2pm

Dive into the Delta #5 Decker Island 2-1-20 2:30pm-5pm

Dive into the Delta #6 South Mokelumne 3-7-20 10am-1pm

Dive into the Delta #7 Franks Tract 4-18-20 10am-12pm

Dive into the Delta #8 Steamboat Slough 5-16-20 1130am-2pm

Dive into the Delta #9 Potato Slough 6-13-20 11am-2pm

Package Pricing:
Any combination of 4 Tours = $299
Any combination of 5 Tours = $379
Any combination of 6 Tours = $429
Any combination of 7 Tours = $469
Any combination of 8 Tours = $499
ALL 9 Tours = $567

Sunday, May 5, 2019

ACA Level 3 Instructor Development Workshop/Instructor Certification Exam

Last weekend I was fortunate to complete a goal I have had for some time. I took part in the Level 3 IDW,Instructor Development Workshop, put on by Sean Morley of River and Ocean.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and exceeded my expectations of intensity.

To be honest I was a little anxious about taking this workshop. I knew I was ready but didn't really know what to expect. Sean did an excellent job of preparing us beforehand by emailing us assignments and background information  before the workshop began.  The IDW takes place concurrently with the Instructor Certification Exam otherwise known as the ICE. Two out of seven of us were taking the Exam.





Sean Morley was our Instructor Trainer and was assisted by Larry Wagner of Kayak Connection in Moss Landing. Both incredible instructors with extensive kayaking and teaching experience.

Before I share my experience, let me give a little background information on the American Canoe Association, aka ACA, and what it represents. Briefly, the ACA is an organization that advocates for paddlers "at the local, state, and federal levels on a range of public policy issues pertinent to paddlers:
  • Work towards greater access to rivers, streams, lakes, bays and coastlines
  • Represents paddlers in meetings concerning lifejacket wear
  • Addresses paddlesports education standards from state to state
  • Represents paddlers in meetings concerning boat registration issues
  • Represents paddlers with state and federal entities"
It also plays a huge role in stewardship: "The ACA is committed to making the world a better place to paddle!

Our paddling community explores waterways from small streams to the sea, making paddlers stakeholders and potential stewards of all waterways.

The ACA's Paddle Green and Stream to Sea programs focus on conservation and education activities that protect the environment, strengthen peoples connection to the outdoors, and foster stewardship ethics that protect our natural resources."

I strongly encourage you to join the ACA because they provide a huge amount of resources and support for all types of paddlers.

DAY 1

One of the best decisions I made was staying at a hotel for the entire weekend. My friend, who was doing the instructor certification exam, and I stayed at the Travelodge in Mill Valley. We arrived Thursday evening and right away began studying, watching YouTube videos and going over what we had prepared for the next day. We awoke Friday morning at 6 a.m. and began packing up our gear and lunch for that day's instruction. We arrived at Sea Trek in Sausalito a little before 8 a.m. and made our way to the classroom. After introductions and an overview of what the day would look like, we turned in the lesson plans we had prepared and spent a couple hours going over ACA class requirements, how to register and report classes we would teach and teaching and learning theory. We then geared up and prepared to launch. Our Instructor Trainer, Sean, then demonstrated how a stroke should be taught using the side slip as an example. We spent a good amount of time working on this stroke and playing a game to hone our skill. In order to be certified at level 3, each instructor trainee must be able to perform the following strokes with skill and efficiency and be able to teach and assess each skill effectively and efficiently: FORWARD STROKE, SWEEPS (forward & reverse),REVERSE (& stopping), DRAWS (to hip, sculling draw, on the move),BRACES (high, low, sculling), LOW BRACE/HIGH BRACE TURN, RUDDERS (bow & stern), EDGING and SIDE SLIP. After working on the side slip we landed at a beach for lunch and while eating received a 10 minute presentation on tides and currents. Each trainee was assigned to do one presentation during the IDW/ICE. Back on the water it was my turn to teach one of the strokes. I chose the stern rudder. After which I critiqued myself and was given feedback from participants. We then paddled back to Sea Trek to be videoed of us performing each of the above strokes and a roll. Workshop participants are not required to roll but those taking the exam are expected to execute a roll. I've been working on my roll and have been successful in the pool but have not been successful in real water. After being videoed we loaded our kayaks and dressed into warm dry clothes and headed back to the classroom to watch and critique what we had just done. It was great to be able to watch ourselves and see where we could use improvement. Everyone was kind and thoughtful but truthful which is always best if you really want to improve technique. We left sometime after 6pm, grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel to study and watch more videos. 


DAY2
We arrived at Horseshoe Cove at 8am and were greeted with a stiff breeze. Wind was blowing 12 knots with gusts to 19 or 20. The conditions were borderline Level 3 and above but each trainee had the skills to paddle and teach in these conditions. After a review of day 1, we launched and headed out the gate towards Kirby Cove. Two trip leaders were assigned for this leg of the journey and were required to teach a stroke along the way. We landed safely at Kirby Cove and presentations on Compass use for Navigation, towing and nautical charts were given. After lunch we were back on the water and began teaching and demonstrating paddlefloat rescues. My friend and I were then assigned as the trip leaders for our leg back under the gate. When we reached the bridge the tide was still ebbing and created a strong current against us as we rounded Lime Point. The rest of the afternoon was spent on rescues and strokes. In order to be certified Level 3, the following rescues must be taught and demonstrated effectively and efficiently: WET EXIT (with spray skirt), SELF RESCUES (scramble, paddle-float),T-RESCUE (& variations), BOW RESCUE (& variations), INCAPACITATED PADDLER RESCUE (Scoop) UNRESPONSIVE PADDLER RESCUE (Hand of God),SWIMMER RECOVERY (bow, stern deck).
ICE candidates then turned in their float plans for day 3 and we discussed what the best options would be considering weather and current predictions. We finished up again around 6pm and headed back to hotel for more studying.

DAY 3
I woke up around 630am Sunday and began experiencing some tummy issues. I could tell I was extremely low on energy and prayed I could make it through the day. We were having some guest paddlers from Western Sea Kayakers and Kayak Connection join us for the day so we would be working with "real" students. We again met at Horseshoe Cove at 8am and prepared to launch with our students. We went over the float plan for the day with the plan to paddle to Angel Island via Richardson Bay to beat the ebbing tide. The wind was up again and I began to have doubts whether  I could complete the workshop. We broke into two pods with Sean taking one group and Larry taking my group. We were to continue teaching rescues on our way to Angel Island. I was assigned the Hand of God or Scoop rescue to teach. Both of these rescues take a lot of strength and I pretty much knew I didn't have it in me but was determined to try. I had a glimmer of hope when someone spotted a whale spout in the bay. I turned to see it just in time as it dove beneath the choppy water and reminded myself why I was doing this. It was my turn to teach the scoop rescue and after finding a willing volunteer I proceeded. It didn't go well. I was able to get the paddler into his boat but upon trying to turn him and his boat over I proceeded to dump both of us in the water. Frustrated and discouraged I got back in my boat and knew I would not physically be able to make the paddle to Angel Island. I was confident I could get there but with the wind against us I feared I wouldn't have the strength to paddle against it on our way back. I pulled Larry aside and shared how I was feeling. Without hesitation he radioed Sean and both groups merged to discuss options. Thankfully, it was decided that we would not paddle to Angel Island and instead continue to work on rescues, towing and strokes near Yellow Bluff. We broke for lunch and I did my presentation on Hypothermia. I received some great feedback and plan on implementing the suggestions when I teach. I felt bad for wimping out on the paddle to Angel Island but a few paddlers mentioned to me that they were glad we didn't go. Not sure if they were trying to make me feel better but was glad to hear I wasn't the only person who was tired. We made it back to Horseshoe Cove around 4pm and thanked and said goodbye to our practice students. We loaded our boats and gear and headed to the Presidio Yacht Club for a beer, debrief and evaluations.

Conclusion

This was definitely one the most physically challenging endeavors I have ever partaken in but also the most valuable. I can't begin to explain how much I took away from this experience. In the end I was certified as a Level 2 ACA instructor and I look forward to taking my Level 3 exam next spring. I couldn't have asked for a better instructor than Sean Morley and I learned much from Larry Wagner. The group itself was made up of extremely skilled guides and paddlers and were so fun to be with! I have left quite a bit out of this post but hope this gives you an idea of what is involved in becoming a certified instructor. My highest respect goes out to all certified instructors who have taken the time to be the best they can be on the water. Kayaking is a sport that involves life long learning and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Keep on paddling!




Wednesday, March 6, 2019

San Joaquin River Trip #6- Antioch to Sherman Island County Park


This paddling trip is a great paddle for those who want  to spend most of the day on the water.  It's approximately 10 miles round trip and is best done during fall or winter. 

 Sherman island county park is well known for kite surfers and windsurfers alike. During the summer months you can see dozens if not hundreds of kite boarders zigzagging across what's known as Sherman Lake. During the summer months the Delta is known for its westerly winds that can average 20 to 30 miles per hour which makes this a good location for the kite surfers but not so great for kayakers or paddle boarders.

During the fall and Winter months it becomes a birders paradise. You will often find no wind and glassy waters during this time a year and encounter multitudes of migratory birds visiting.




There are multiple ways to get to Sherman island county park via kayak but the one I suggest for beginners is fairly direct. The map I have posted will lead you to the sandy beach nearest the restrooms. If you don't need to use the facilities you can always stop at one of the two small sand covered islands just before the park.  If you decide to choose a different route going through the marshy wetlands, be sure to bring a GPS, as it is easy to get lost and some of the many sloughs are cut off due to invasive weeds.



You should plan a minimum of 4 hours for this trip but if you prefer to paddle at a more relaxed pace, 6 hours or more would be ideal.




If you prefer a guided trip to this location please contact Delta Kayak Adventures to create an adventure you're sure to love!


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Antioch to Martinez



On Monday, January 28th, 5 of us launched from the Antioch Marina at 10:14 am at the height of the incoming tide.  It was a windless day with high clouds above us.  The day couldn't have been more perfect with not even a ripple on the surface of the water.

The first hour or so we paddled against what was left of the incoming tide.  As we approached Pittsburg the tide began to slowly turn and helped us gain speed as we made our way down the San Joaquin River.  The south side of the river made for an industrial type paddle. We hugged the south shore all the way to Martinez and glided past commercial enterprises such as US Posco steel, Dow Chemical and PG&E.  After the PG&E plant there is a good deal of wetland marsh along the Bay Point Regional Shoreline up until Port Chicago.




We stopped for lunch at Middle Point adjacent to the Bay Point Regional Shoreline. The tide had turned, but there was not a lot of areas to choose from to get out that were beach like. We found a gravelly rock covered spot for just enough room for the 5 of us.  We covered nearly 10 miles in approximately 2 and a 1/2 hours and we average 3.2 miles per hour.











On this 1st part of our journey we encountered a couple of river otters, dozens of cormorants and  hundreds of gulls.  There were seals and sea lions on every channel marker buoy along the way. Their barking kept us company as we paddled downstream.














The 2nd part of our journey began after lunch as we made our way to port Chicago. Port Chicago was an extension of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, and is known for the location of the Port Chicago disaster in July of 1944 where over 300 soldiers were killed while loading a munitions ship. As we paddled this area it gave us a sort of an uneasy feeling, with huge signs posted "Restricted Area Explosives." We noticed a channel ahead that we thought would make a great shortcut but as soon as we began to enter the channel someone over a loud speaker told us we were in a restricted area and needed to leave. So we ended up paddling north around Seal islands and then gently made our way closer to shore as we paddled the Suisun Bay.







We continued to paddle on glassy waters and witnessed several grebes coming up to the surface and then bobbing back underwater and a couple more seals poked their heads out of the water. Behind us, a large ship began to approach and we made sure that we were out of the shipping channel so it could pass us safely. It was hard to judge distance, especially due to the haze but we watched silently as the ship passed and approached the  Benicia bridge.  We could see the mothball fleet north of us sitting faintly in Suisun Bay.







We passed under the Benicia bridge and I marveled at the structures above. The new span versus the old span, and then the old railroad bridge, built in 1930, which is still in use today, was something to behold.
There was a large tanker docked just after the bridge named Socrates. We paddled past as water from the bilge exploded out of the side of the tanker.  It took us less than 2 hours to reach the Martinez Marina after lunch. 








The narrowing of the waterway from Suisun Bay to the Carquinez Strait increased our speed along with the increase in speed from the tidal outflow, made for an extremely easy paddle.  We averaged 4.2 knots the last 9 miles of this trip. It was an amazing day with a great group of friends and I can't wait to paddle East on the North side of the river and bays!