An Out-the-Gate paddle is a right of passage for sea kayakers in the Bay Area. Not just anyone can paddle out under the Golden Gate Bridge and see the unique view of San Francisco from the other side. Intense currents flow through the gate four times a day: twice into the bay (flood) and twice out of the bay (ebb). These tidally-driven currents can be incredibly fast (over 5 mph - 1 or 2 mph faster than a typical sea kayaker), but luckily they can be planned-for well in advance by looking at local tide tables (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/curr_pred.html).
In September 2008, Nena and Terry met and moved into a little apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Terry taught Nena how to dance like Justin Timberlake and Nena taught Terry how to recycle (ok, so both of those lessons failed). However, some of the cross-cultural exchanges stuck. For example, Terry developed an affinity for hiking and country music that grew long after the end of the Procter & Gamble internships. In May 2014, Terry visited Nena in California with one request: go on a California adventure.
Commence road trip to Morro Bay, in the first person...
At 8:20am on Easter morning, Alice and I simultaneously pulled into our favorite Park-N-Ride in San Rafael. We have a history of perfect timing - we're both 10 minutes early. We loaded White Lightning onto my car (next to Big Purple) and headed up the 101. Estero Americano flows into Bodega Bay, roughly 1.5 hrs north of the Bay Area. The launch site is at the end of a dirt road that spurs off the intersection of Marsh Road and Valley Ford Franklin School Road. Another kayaker arrived shortly after us, and spent 20 minutes urging Alice and I to join a kayak racing club in Berkeley.
Alice and I made reasonably spontaneous plans to paddle yesterday (no cancellations and only planned 2 days in advance - that's real progress). Since we were both tired of driving, we decided to meet in the middle, at San Quentin. Yes, San Quentin State Prison. There's an easy launch spot called Jailhouse Beach that's sheltered by the prison on one side and by the Richmond bridge on the other. There are only a few parking spots along the side of the road, but we had no trouble. It's 1-hour parking, but in Alice's last 3 visits she hasn't gotten a parking ticket. Shhhh!
I've always loved the graceful aspects of kayaking: wake-less drifting, a perfectly-carved turn, an effortless roll, a silent lake. Kayak polo throws elegance out the window in favor of aggression, throwing, tackling, and yelling. But it's different, it's fun, and I'm hoping to stick with it.
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a Berkeley Kayak Polo Meet-up group. Okay, I didn't stumble - Google is just good at advertising. It seemed too good to be true: young kayakers, $8, all gear included (makes logistics much simpler), 10 minutes from my apartment (a rarity in this crowded/spread out Bay), and not already filled to capacity (also unusual for outdoorsy meet-up groups). The sessions are run by the Bay Area Kayak Polo Club (BAKPC) and meet at the Berkeley Marina, in a sheltered area (see photo above and map below)...
Alice, Stijn, Johnny, and I met at the Berkeley Marina at 9am for a very "unplanned/casual" paddle. I use quotes because it took us a week of rapid-fire emails and changing plans to reach this point. Most of us (except Johnny) had abandoned our boats for far too long. For most of us, this was our first sea kayaking trip out of Berkeley. We launched from the docks near Cal Adventures on the south side of the marina. The parking is free and the launch works well at most tide levels.
[This post has been in draft form for 1.5 months, so I figured it was time to accept its imperfections and wrap it up. Lindsey, my fellow king-tide tour-guide also wrote a post, available here]
Choose inundation over inebriation** and celebrate King Tides because it's much more exciting than celebrating the New Year. Why? [Thanks to Lindsey for helping brainstorm this list]
So... what are King Tides...?
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.
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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.
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