Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tomales Bay

My daughter and I were able to escape the heat Friday and make our way to the coast where we explored Tomales Bay. We launched from Nicks Cove at 11:30 with the incoming tide and headed across the bay towards White Gulch. It was a beautiful day on the bay with winds blowing under 10 knots and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees.

There are many places to launch your kayak on Tomales Bay but we chose Nicks Cove because we wouldn't need to carry our boats very far, worry about tide height and availability of clean restrooms. The downside is there isn't a lot of parking available. I was actually surprised to find the lot for vehicles with trailers full when we arrived. There is parking available for vehicles without trailers up a hill behind the restrooms which I'm guessing fills quickly on weekends. It's also one of the few spots you can park overnight if camping on the bay. There is a $5 fee for day use and another $5 for overnight parking and there is a machine available that takes credit cards.

Our prime objective for this adventure was to explore the beaches which allow camping to aid us in our decision making for a future overnight adventure. I've heard much about the bio-luminescence activity on Tomales Bay and want to experience it for myself.

Hog Island

After launching, we made our way northwest and paddled between Hog and Duck Islands. Duck Island and the east side of Hog Island are closed to the public year round. We spent a little time paddling close to the west shore of Hog Island in search of sea life. We spotted a couple of bright orange sea stars and lots of little crabs. We left Hog Island and headed to the nearest beach directly in front of us which was just south of White Gulch. The incoming tide was moving at a pretty good clip and we needed to ferry across at a steep angle to hit our target beach.

Pelican Point

The beaches that line the shore on the bays' western side are absolutely beautiful. They make for great destinations to stop and stretch or even pack a picnic and stay for an afternoon. We continued our journey south staying close to shore and soaking in our surroundings. We passed Pelican Point which was occupied with both White Pelicans and Cormorants. Pelican Point is another restricted area so don't land here. Our next stop was Tomales Beach, one of three group campsites.

Tomales Beach

We landed on Tomales Beach where there were a couple of picnic tables and vault toilets. We noticed some large tracks in the sand and soon discovered a large amount of cow patties dotting the entire length of the beach. The beach itself was beautiful but the cow patties were a disappointment as the odor engulfed us and made for an unpleasant lunch spot. Hopefully it's an uncommon occurrence because it really is a pretty location.

Marshall Beach in the distance

We left Tomales Beach and continued south for about a mile to Marshall Beach where there are two group sites with vault toilets available. Both locations looked absolutely amazing and were already filling with campers for the weekend. We continued paddling another quarter mile to Lairds Landing where we discovered several deteriorating buildings and a rope swing hanging from a tree over the water. For more historical info about Lairds Landing click here.

Lairds Landing

The tide had become slack so we decided to begin making our way back to Nicks Cove. We paddled back toward Marshall beach and I made the decision to cross the bay from there at an angle. It probably would have been better to follow the shore and return the way we had come but once in the middle of the bay we were committed to make it to the other side. It really wasn't bad but it was a bit of a slog paddling against a 10-15 knot headwind. I know the wind can be much worse or change unexpectedly so for future paddles we'll be sticking close to the western shore for better protection.

It was an amazing day on the bay and can't wait to get back for an overnight excursion! The day was filled with sightings of jelly fish, seals, crabs, starfish and a multitude of waterfowl. Tomales Bay has a lot to offer kayakers but be sure and do your homework before paddling here and be safe.

Happy paddling!

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