Harvest Moon Paddle around Marin Island, October 6th 1998.


Gino Thomas, a BASKer who lives on the Corte Madera Creek, initiated this trip to paddle out into the San Francisco Bay to see the first full moon of the fall. We showed up in Gino's back yard where he was able to unlock the gate to a little dock for us. The dock was important because when the moon is full, it is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. And when the Moon is rising, both it and the sun (just setting) are pulling water away from where we are and the tides are very low. Even the floating dock hit bottom while we were launching our boats and we had a sloping surface to a long drop to get into our boats.

By the time everyone had made it onto the water it was dark and the Moon had already risen behind the hills. We saw our first glimpse of moonlight as we waited for a late night Golden Gate Ferry boat to take off. With some trepidation we followed along the ferry channel in the creek. When another ferry boat came in for a landing many of us stayed way back to avoid the wake. Others paddled into the wake to try to catch a ride. Then we scurried across the channel and headed around San Quentin Prison and under the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

We went under the pier that belongs to the Marin Rod and Gun club and started noticing a current running in our direction. This is to be expected, of course, as the tide follows the moon back up. I parked my boat sideways and let the current push me up against two piers to steady me while taking a picture. We headed out as a group towards the Marin Islands but part way out every one rafted up to talk about the current. If we stayed out too long we would have to work hard to fight that current. most of the kayakers were for turning back now. Don Fleming was interested in paddling around the Marin Islands and back, and I wanted to come along.

While everyone else argued about how close we were to the islands already and how long it would take, Don and I started paddling in that direction and were soon so far from the rest of the group that everyone's decision was made for them. They turned back without us. Unlike some of the estimates it only took Don and I around fifteen minutes to get to the Marin Islands. We paddled between the two islands and clockwise around the larger of the two. I paddled close in to take some flash pictures of the dock on the island and Don came over to pose his boat for scale. He offered to climb up on the dock for a picture, but I told him that wasn't necessary. He knows that the islands are a bird sanctuary and we are not allowed to land there.

There was a party of sorts scheduled at Gino's house after the paddle so Don and I paddled the rest of the way around the island and headed back at a fast clip. Don kept pulling ahead and I had to work hard to keep up. A wind came up and helped the current hold us back. I worked on getting my legs involved in my forward paddle stroke and must have been successful because my butt was sore for days afterwards. We moved very fast and zipped under the very end of the San Rafael bridge against a strong current. As we pulled into the Corte Madera Creek the wind and the water calmed down a little and we headed out across a shallow area towards a bright light that I assumed was the ferry terminal. It turned out I was wrong and we had to turn back a little way to make it into the opening of the creek.

We paddled up the creek and stopped where we could see Gino's house from the water. We could not see anybody inside the building and wondered if we had missed the party. So we continued on for a few hundred meters and landed at the dock. Here we found everyone still loading their boats! It turned out that we had paddled so fast they had only landed a few minutes ahead of us! After changing out of our wetsuits and loading our boats back on cars Don and I were able to join everyone for chips and drinks at Gino's house.


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All text and images Copyright © 1998 by Mike Higgins / contact