Every year, the Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) and the Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC, more on them later) get together for a night of rambunctious kayak caroling. Here's how it works.
Prepare and decorate. Nena and Alice meet up in a commercial parking lot in Mill Valley with a large sign that says "NO BOAT LAUNCHING..." or something along those lines. We gradually unload our boats and prep them in the lawn by the water. Prepping, in this case, involves wrapping them in [expensive] red and green ribbons [from Whole Foods] and taping [very expensive] fake non-waterproof candles [also from Whole Foods] to the deck. Next, strap [cheap] wine under the deck lines. Alice's lights are waterproof and twinkly. I'll be more prepared next year. Couples pass us on their evening walk and say "can you launch from here? I didn't know you could put your boat in here?" We smile and tell them to have a nice walk. Fully outfitted, we stealthily move our cars to the back of the crowded restaurant parking lot next door.
Estero: "small river," "marsh," or "estuary" in Spanish. I looked it up before agreeing to go on the trip. "Drakes" because it's the likely landing spot of Sir Francis Drake in 1579 during his circumnavigation of the world (thank you, wikipedia). We departed from the Drakes Bay Oyster Company around 10am. The Oyster Company manages a pretty extensive network of wooden racks with oyster beds throughout the Estero - when the tide reached a certain water level, we kept scraping the bottoms of our boats on wooden poles just below the surface. There's a lot of controversy surrounding the company -- oyster collection disturbs seal pups, covers eelgrass beds, and leaves some plastic waste floating around the estuary.
Brief vent (happier discussion below): California Parks like rules, fees, and regulations.
I sometimes think that moving here has made me more conservative (in the fiscal sense). I don't remember paying for park entry, parking, or launching during the summer I paddled on the 11 Finger Lakes. If we encountered someone who told us to pay, we could drive down the next dirt road and find a free spot to put-in. Also, night paddles are not illegal in NY. What I really wanted to do on Saturday was to have a peaceful sunset paddle on the reservoir, but I had to be off the water by 6:30pm (1.5 hours before sunset)...
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
Email updates on new blog posts, about once per month.
Click the "Read More" link at the bottom of each summary for more photos, to see an interactive map of the route, and to read about the adventure.
Maps in each blog post: Click the icons to learn more about the launch site (amenities) and destinations. Click the square in the bottom-left corner to see an aerial photo behind the route.
Click the RSS Feed link, copy the URL, and paste it into your favorite feed reader.