Support Strokes Paddle, May 20th 2006.

Every year there is a fund raiser paddle around Alameda Island in San Francisco Bay for breast cancer. It originally started out as a fund raiser for a kayaking buddy of mine Lori Hogan who was dying of cancer at the time. I participated in the first one of these paddles ( back in 1998 but have not had time to participate in all the events since then. This year I registered to do the trip and signed up a bunch of people at work to donate some number of dollars per mile.

CCK (California Canoe and Kayak) sponsors the event and this year they had us launch off their kayak dock near Jack London Square. I thought this would be a hassle with lots of kayakers lining up to launch. But since it isn’t a race, people got in the water as they got ready and there was never a wait. Keith Miller of CCK told everyone to head left up the channel behind Alameda Island and as we started up that way we encountered a strong current. Under one of the bridges there was even a little rip current! When we came around the south end of the island the water was very shallow. I figured Keith had decided it was better to have us fight the current of the outgoing tide than to get to the end of the island later when the tide would be too low to paddle at all. Many of us had trouble finding the channel in the mud flats as the tide went out. I was almost tempted to get out and drag my boat at one point, but we found our way under the bottom of the island to deeper water on the west shore.

Actually the west shore was not that much deeper. When we came to the half way rest-stop, we saw one of the safety people directing kayaks while standing in only 8 inches of water 200 yards from shore! You had to get out and wade through all this distance to land. I decided that I would rather stay out in slightly deeper water. I ate one of my own granola bars and drank some water instead of landing for a free sports drink and candy bar. Many of the kayakers stopped here and were shuttled back to Jack London Square after only 8 miles of paddling.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful as the north entrance to the channel is very deep. Motor boats and sail boats plied back and forth past us as we started up the home stretch. One large motor boat roared past us, then suddenly slowed almost to a stop. When the boat was moving fast and planning it produced a moderate amount of wake. But when it came to a stop it produced a pulse of HUGE waves. Then this boat dithered back and forth slowly in the channel and we were able to catch up with it. I wasn’t sure but the boat seemed to be heading generally in the same direction as us and I considered drafting it. So I zoomed out from our position at the edge and got into the wash behind the boat in the middle of the channel. The guy at the helm turned and snarled at me: “We’re TRYING to stay out of YOUR way!” and turned his back on me. I was so shocked at the rudeness that I stopped with a silly smile on my face and let the boat pull ahead of me. After a minute he roared off at full speed again, producing another pulse off HUGE waves as he got up to speed. If his intent was to not produce a wake while passing kayakers, he was an idiot as well as rude. At planning speed his boat produces much less wake than when starting and stopping and the best thing he could have done for our “benefit” would have been to ignore us.

Many of the other boats going up the channel did just this and I tried to catch rides in their wake. By cutting behind the boats as they passed and turning as I crossed the wake I managed to get a few shoves. I cut it a little close a few times and even had to brace into the waves to keep from going over! Who would have expected there to be this much fun in a harbor channel! I arrived back at the dock after completing the entire 15.5 miles, so my co-workers have to pay up the whole amount they pledged!

All text and images Copyright © 2006 by Mike Higgins / contact