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!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Paddling the Delta

What makes paddling the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, AKA the California Delta, so special?

I'll try my best to answer that question in hopes you'll take it upon yourself to come and experience it on your own or with myself on a guided tour.

I'll begin with a little background information. The California Delta is unique in that it is an inland inverted delta. What that means is that it's not your typical delta where a single source of water flows to or though a narrow opening and then fans out depositing sediment. Our California Delta is fed by many rivers and streams and encompasses an area from Sacramento to the north, Tracy to the South and Stockton to the east. All waters come together at the Carquinez Strait where it continues to the San Francisco Bay and out the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean.

The California Delta is the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. It encompasses an area of over 1100 square miles which include over 50 major islands and hundreds of smaller ones. There are endless paddling opportunities whether kayaking, paddleboarding or canoeing. One thing I love about the Delta is that every day it's different. You can paddle the same spot everyday of the year and you'll experience a difference in how it looks and feels each day. You'll have diverse animal encounters whether it's viewing countless species of waterfowl or a chance meeting with a family of river otters, the Delta never disappoints.  Viewing wildlife from a kayak is a unique experience. You become part of the river as there is no way to get closer to the water unless you swim. Your soundless movement over the surface of the water allows you to get a glimpse of the wild as it truly is. It's an amazing experience to feel solace and tranquility while being surrounded by nearly 7 million people in the Bay Area.

With so many paddling options where do you start? Because I am completely biased, I'd suggest Antioch. With Antioch being a designated San Francisco Bay Water Trail site it makes launching a breeze with the kayak launches available at the Antioch Marina. If you don't have your own kayak you can always rent from Delta Kayak Adventures where I will offer suggestions and tips based on weather and tides for the best possible experience. You can search my blog here for trips I've posted on paddling from Antioch. I will continue to add trips as time goes on. Beginning your trip from a SF Bay Water Trail site is a great choice because that site has been determined to be human powered craft friendly.

There are currently 4 SF Bay Water Trail designated sites within the "legal" delta with more additions planned. They include Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley, the Antioch Marina, Pittburg Marina and Riverview Park in Pittsburg, though Riverview is more practical for kiteboarders. There are also 2 sites in Suisun, not considered to be a part of the legal delta but another beautiful area to explore. My hope is that someday the SF Bay Water Trail will link to the Great Delta Trail which is in its planning stages.

Another reason the California Delta is such a special place to paddle is that it can be paddled year round. With proper gear and attire you can enjoy a cool winter paddle and view migratory birds visiting our area. When the summer winds pick up, you can surf the swells on the San Joaquin or find secluded islands and smaller sloughs to explore that are protected from wind. In spring you can see hundreds of egrets and heron raising their young. Fall brings new winged visitors to our Delta and is my favorite time of year to paddle.

The Delta is an exceptional place to fish. Kayak fishing is another way to enjoy time on the water. You can fish for Salmon during the fall, black bass, striped bass, blue gill and crappie year round. If you want a sleigh ride you can try your luck at targeting sturgeon. The Delta is known as a world class fishery with many tournaments and festivals throughout the year. Delta Kayak Adventures offers guided fishing tours or fishing kayak rentals throughout the region.

Delta Kayak Adventures is a Mom owned small business. My children are often at my side ensuring our clients safety on the water. We offer kayak and paddleboard rentals, guided tours, classes and use high quality equipment to ensure a good time on the water. Our classes include an Intro to Kayaking or Paddleboarding 2 hour class to get the basics and safety down and to give you the chance to see if kayaking or paddleboarding is a sport you want to pursue. We also offer more in depth sea kayaking classes that are a full day of learning and having fun on the water. Rescue classes are offered to ensure you can safely re-enter your kayak in real world conditions. We offer private group tours throughout the Delta region and discounted trips for veterans and their family. Rentals are available from the Antioch Marina 7 days a week and you can choose to rent for an hour, half day or full day.

I invite you to come and explore the Delta with me. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.