Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Wind and Waves


As winter comes to a close and spring approaches, it won't be long before our seasonal winds pick up in the Delta and the San Francisco Bay Area. With that in mind I thought I would write about how to plan and be prepared for these conditions or how to avoid them altogether.

In general, the wind tends to pick up in March and continue through August. Not every day is windy but it can sometimes feel like it. Knowing how to understand wind and tide predictions will make your paddling adventures so much more fun and help to keep you safe. 

I instruct my students who are just beginning their paddling endeavor to avoid paddling in winds above 10 mph. Many paddlers are capable of paddling in higher winds but as a general rule I suggest not paddling in winds above 15 mph unless you are proficient  with self and assisted rescues and have practiced those rescues in those conditions.

Spring and summer winds in our area are typically northwesterly, which means the wind blows from that direction. A benign day can become challenging or even treacherous when that wind opposes the direction of the current or direction the water is moving. It's important to know what the tide will be doing before getting on the water. Many locations in the Delta can experience 5 to 6 foot swells and breaking waves when the wind is blowing 10-15 mph against a big outgoing tide. These can be fun conditions especially if you enjoy surfing but can be scary for beginners and even intimidating for intermediate paddlers. Shallow water areas or shoals can also experience confused seas and breaking waves with relatively low wind speed.




The wind we experience in the Delta is generally stronger than the currents so I suggest paddling against the wind to begin your paddle so you'll have it at your back on the way home when you may be tired. Here are some steps to take to plan your next paddling adventure:

    1) Check tides and know that in our area that it takes another 2 hours for the river to change direction.

    2) Check wind forecast and be prepared to change your mind at the put in. Wind forecasts have been known to not be precisely accurate. You can also monitor the wind and weather forecast using a VHF radio and a VHF radio is great to have in case of emergency.

    3) Check nautical charts or maps to plan your trip and note potential emergency exit points or places you can shelter from wind.

    4) Make sure to dress appropriately for  water temperature, wear your PFD and bring safety gear such as whistle, two forms of communication, spare paddle, bilge pump and paddle float if using a sea kayak.

    5) Create a float plan and do not deviate from it unless you notify your emergency contact that you are changing times and or locations and or destinations

    6) Make sure the equipment you are using is appropriate for where you are paddling. Recreational type kayaks with no bulkheads or only one bulkhead should be equipped with float bags so the vessel can not sink. If using this type of craft never paddle far from shore.


To avoid windy conditions altogether, look for protected areas to paddle. Smaller sloughs or channels and many of the tributaries of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are amazing places to paddle.

The above information is a brief synopsis of how to decide on whether to paddle in windy conditions. There is so much more to learn and know about tides, currents, weather and trip planning.  Contact Delta Kayak Adventures to learn more about how we can help you become a better, safer paddler by joining some of the classes offered. We offer private and group lessons and tours year round.

The following video is an excellent visual resource to see how wind and current effect each other.






Wind and Waves Against Tide from Moulton Avery on Vimeo.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Paddling Adventures


It's been a while since my last post and for that I apologize. Delta kayak Adventures was forced to partially shut down and we have been open on a very limited basis. This has given me the opportunity to do some paddling on my own. So far I've paddled 215 miles since January 1st and it's been awesome. 



















Some highlights from January include quick trips to the Dow Wetlands and Kimball Island; Sunset paddles and trips to Sherman Lake; longer paddles to Little Break and Lost Slough. I was excited and very happy to have success in finding a route through north Sherman Island and a myriad of hidden sloughs to reach the Sacramento River. 












February included more paddles to the Dow Wetlands and Kimball Island. A couple of trips to and around Winter Island and the first Moonlight Paddle of 2021. A paddle on the Napa River followed by an epic paddle the following week on Lake Berryessa. 









We are barely into March and I'm so excited to have spotted a pair of bald eagles on the San Joaquin River.  The last time I saw a bald Eagle in this area was 2016.  It appears that they are nesting, so hopefully they will be here awhile. Maybe we will be able to spot a baby Eagle sometime in the near future.









Restrictions are loosening a bit and we are now offering small group tours. Rentals are currently available on weekends and can be booked directly online. Weekday rentals or private group tours are available weekdays and can be arranged by contacting us by phone or email. 













Classes, tours and rentals.


Friday, December 4, 2020

Special Wetlands Tours & New Gearlab Dealer

 

Special Wetlands Tour

Due to the recently instated stay at home order we will be limiting tours and rentals to members of the same household. Under the new order, outdoor recreation facilities are allowed to remain open while following strict guidelines. Reservations must be booked at least 24 hours in advance by calling 9256425764.

 

During this time of uncertainty, it is important to maintain both our physical and mental health. We are offering a special Wetlands guided tour to give you the opportunity to recharge your physical and mental well being by offering single household only tours during the stay at home order. Outdoor recreation is allowed under the new order but we will only allow members of the same household to join these special discounted tours. Join us on the water for a guided 1.5 hour tour to the Dow Wetlands. Minimum 2 people maximum 6 people of same household. $45 Tour includes kayak, paddle, PFD, paddle pants and guide. Masks must be worn on docks but may be removed once on the water.

 

Beginning December 13th, Wetlands Special tours will launch daily at 3pm and an additional tour at 11am on Saturday and Sunday will also be available. Join us to experience why this is the best season to paddle the Delta!

 

We sincerely appreciate your help in keeping us afloat during these difficult times and are also offering Gift Cards that may be purchased online. Purchase a $100 gift card and receive a $20 bonus gift card on us. Gift Cards never expire and may be used for tours, rentals and classes.

 

Check out this video on our new YouTube channel for an idea of what you may experience while paddling with us. Be sure to subscribe to see other adventures on the water!

https://youtu.be/viD6ySs5qng

We are now proud to be an official Gearlab dealer.

If you are searching for a Greenland paddle, search no more. We will be receiving a shipment of paddles in December. We will have at least one of each model in stock but they won't last long due to limited quantity. For more information about Gearlab visit their website at https://www.gearlaboutdoors.com/product_catalog/paddles

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Bay Point Regional Shoreline - New Kayak Launch!




Paddlers now have access to another free launch spot! East Bay Parks have recently reopened Bay Point Regional Shoreline after an extensive restoration project. The restoration included habitat restoration, restroom upgrades, improvements to accessibility and trails, interpretive panels and overlooks and the addition of a kayak launch. Overall, the park district has done a wonderful job improving this park and I encourage you to check it out for yourself. Not only for paddling but as a lovely area for an easy hike.


The launch itself is about 1,000 feet from the parking lot so make sure to bring some wheels. The path to launch is not paved but it is a compacted surface which made it easy to pull kayaks to launch. For kayaks longer than 12 feet, you may need to go around a short fence as there is a 90 degree turn before you enter the gangway. There are flushable restrooms and a nice picnic area adjacent to parking lot.

This area gives you access to Honker and Suisun Bays. Fall and winter would be the best times to paddle this area due to less wind but always check tides and wind forecast. The current can be very strong in this area and tides are critical in planning a trip here. Spring and Summer are notorious for westerly winds and this area can be hazardous for novice paddlers. There is some protection from wind near the launch area but you need at least a one foot tide to paddle the protected area. I returned to the launch at a .92 ft tide and there was maybe 3 inches of depth at launch. 






Also beware of debris lurking under the water. There are lots of wrecks with sharp metal protruding that could do some serious damage. The slough you launch in is approximately one half mile to the entrance of Honker Bay. There are many possibilities to land along the shoreline if you needed to get out of your kayak.


There are many potential destinations from this launch if planned properly. To the east you can go to the Pittsburg Marina and take a short walk to the downtown area where there are many local restaurants to choose from. You can head northeast towards Chipps Island and Spoonbill Creek which are lovely areas to explore. Heading west you can paddle by the Concord Naval Weapons Station but stay far away or you will get chased and yelled at by security. It's approximately 10 miles west to the Martinez Marina if you're interested in a longer trip. Bay Point would make a nice lunch spot if paddling from Martinez with the tides in your favor.











Keep an eye on Delta Kayak Adventures calendar. We will be offering guided trips from this location during the winter season or if you prefer a private guided tour, contact us and we'll be happy to plan a trip for your group.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Cold Weather & Water Paddling Tips




Fall and Winter offer some of the best paddling conditions on the California Delta. With spectacular sunsets and abundant wildlife viewing you can enjoy magical moments on the water. You may be thinking it's too cold to paddle but I'm here to let you know you can still enjoy being on the water without being cold and uncomfortable. 

First of all, the number one thing not to wear is COTTON. Cotton absorbs water and takes a very long time to dry. Do not wear cotton t-shirts or jeans when paddling. Synthetic clothing like polyester blends, fleece or wool are great options for layering. We are all unique and some of us run warmer than others. If you tend to chill easily, start with something like a rash guard or thin synthetic base layer. You can also use these year round for sun protection. Next would be a medium weight layer or wool followed by a heavy outercore or expedition weight layer. There are many manufacturers but my personal favorites are Kokatat and NRS. Check their websites for more information about their products. 


Now that you have your base layers down, you want to consider your outerwear. You should always dress for immersion or the water temperature. It can get costly but depending on how often you paddle it can be money well spent. A farmer John or farmer Jane wetsuit is a good economical choice. You can wear a base layer under and then add layers over if needed. You can pair a wetsuit with a splash jacket or dry top. If you plan on paddling often year round, I would strongly consider a drysuit. These are very expensive but offer the best protection against hypothermia. You want to wear layers under the drysuit because the drysuits main purpose is to keep you dry, not necessarily warm. Drysuits typically range in price from $600 to $1500 but are usually backed by a very good warranty and can often be repaired if needed. Be aware that the lower price suits are typically SEMI-DRY which means they are not true drysuits. They do a great job but if you were to completely submerge yourself, chances are you would get water inside. Semi-drysuits usually have a neoprene type gasket in the neck and wrist area as opposed to latex. That makes them easier to put on and take off but are prone to some leakage when submerged.


Another option is pairing dry pants with a dry top. This is a more economical option but again won't necessarily keep you completely dry if you are submerged. Again, beware of dry top and pants vs. semi-dry top and pants.

There are also many choices when it comes to footwear. I prefer wetsuit booties. I wear one to two sizes larger than normal so I can squeeze the excess drysuit socks into them. I sometimes wear my Keen sandals if I don't plan on getting out of my kayak. You definitely want footwear that can get wet and be worn comfortably especially if you want to do any hiking at a landing site.

Finally, gloves can not only help keep your hands warm but can help protect against blisters. I honestly have yet to find a pair of gloves that I love. Neoprene gloves are ok but for me, once wet, it's very hard to keep my hands warm. I'm still experimenting and will let you know if I find the perfect glove. Another option to gloves is using pogies. Pogies allow you to have direct contact with the paddle shaft yet shield your hands from cold temperatures.

Do you have to spend a thousand dollars or more to keep warm? The answer is NO. The most economically safe option is a wetsuit paired with a paddling jacket or semi-dry or dry top. If this isn't in your budget you can always wear synthetic layers and splash pants and splash jacket to help keep you dry.

Whether you wear a drysuit, wetsuit or go with synthetic layers, ALWAYS bring a change of clothes to keep in a drybag in case you do get wet.

Delta Kayak Adventures offers paddle pants or wetsuits at no additional charge to help keep you dry and toasty if you book rentals or a guided tour. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

River Trip #7 Kimball Island Circumnavigation




This is a great trip and can vary in length from 3.5 to 5 miles plus depending on your route. Timed correctly with the tides it can be a couple hour paddle or you can take more time and explore inside Kimball Island. Whichever direction you choose to paddle, you will paddle against the current at some point. Stay close to shore and you can beat the current. Best to launch at slack tide, 1 hour before high or low tide.

Remember the 4 W's. When planning your paddle always check wind, weather, waves and water. If wind predicted or blowing more than 10 mph DO NOT LAUNCH unless you are experienced and have proper safety gear and have practiced self and assisted rescues. When launching from the Antioch Marina, cross directly over to Kimball as quickly as possible and only if there are no ships in sight. DO NOT LINGER IN MIDDLE OF RIVER. If you see a ship, wait to cross, they travel a lot faster than they look and can not stop if you were to capsize in the middle of the river. It's only a quarter mile across but that takes the average paddler 5 to 8 minutes to travel. No matter the direction you decide to paddle, stay close to shore and keep an eye out for river otters, beaver, sea lions, raccoons and various species of waterfowl. This is an amazing time of year to paddle this area!

When temperatures cool down be sure and dress for water temperature. Wear a wetsuit or drysuit. At the very least carry spare clothes in a dry bag in case you end up in the water. Hypothermia is something that should not be taken lightly. Make sure and carry snacks and plenty of water to ensure you have plenty of energy for this paddle.

You have 2 choices when you reach the north or south end of island. You can enter Fast Slough or Cabin Slough. Cabin slough is a little longer and is adjacent to Sherman Island. If you want to explore inside Kimball, take Fast Slough and you will encounter an opening that you can paddle through and explore. There are no places to get out of your kayak inside Kimball, so be prepared to spend a lot of time in your kayak. 


On the south side of Kimball Island you will encounter multiple shipwrecks. These ships were scuttled intentionally to use as a breakwater or plug a levy failure. Paddle with caution near these vessels as there are large exposed nails just under the surface of water depending on tide height. You will also discover a very popular beach on the south side. It's a great spot to get out and stretch although you may find the area littered with garbage from boaters who decided to leave their garbage on the island instead of packing it out.







You'll find this downed tree on the southwest portion of Kimball.
Delta Kayak Adventures offers
guided tours to Kimball Island. You're welcome to join our 2 hour tour to get a glimpse of what Kimball has to offer paddlers. Longer custom length trips can also be arranged. Kayak rentals are also available to explore on your own but make sure to contact us so we can assist you with tide and current information.
















The views from Kimball Island can be spectacular.









Friday, October 16, 2020

What's New?


 It has been way too long since my last post. This year has definitely been crazy. After being shut down for nearly 10 weeks, we were able to reopen on a limited basis. Paddling is probably the safest social distance activity one can do. Thankfully, we have had a very busy but challenging year like so many other small businesses. The excessive heat and smoke from fires throughout the state forced us to close down multiple times, including Labor Day weekend. 

The smoke has cleared but the heat continues which is actually nice because the air and water temperatures are still quite warm. My favorite time of year is upon us. The wind is gone and has left the San Joaquin River looking like glass. The migratory birds are coming in and the wildlife activity has been increasing with lots of sightings of river otters, beavers and sea lions. A couple of weeks ago I had one of the most magnificent experiences during a dinner break on a small island near Sherman Lake. Literally millions of blackbirds flew overhead for a solid 30 minutes. I recorded quite a bit of it but haven't had a chance to upload to YouTube. You can see a snippet of video on our Facebook Page.

We have lots of exciting tours coming up including a couple of new tours that haven't been available to the public. Winter Island, on the San Joaquin River, has been recently restored to wetland habitat. It was a private island owned by a hunting club which the state bought and completed restoration last November. The currents within the sloughs inside the island can be very challenging so I strongly suggest a guided trip to explore it safely. Delta Kayak Adventures has made special arrangements with Oxbow Marina to offer limited tours from their amazing location. Oxbow is a private marina and not open to the public. They are located on Georgiana Slough which is one my favorite sloughs in the Delta. 

Check out our calendar to see what tours are coming up or book a custom tour with friends and or family! Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available year round but reservations are required a minimum of 24 hours in advance. We offer wetsuits and paddle pants during the cooler months at no additional charge.


Happy paddling and hope to see you on the water soon!



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