Muir Beach to Horseshoe Bay, May 11th 1997.

This was a BASK trip that was initated by Russ Pritchett who limited it to ten paddlers. I was too late to get in on this, but a second group of people ran the same trip two hours later and I got in on that group. We started arranging a suttle at 10:00 AM and managed to get in the water around noon.

Soon after we left Muir Beach, Jamie Morgan started hugging the shore and lagging behind the main group which was paddling straight from point-to-point away from shore. Since I always seem to lag behind, and since I prefer to explore the shoreline, I ended up saying back with Jamie and another adventurous kayaker named John. Jamie went perilously close to shore and behind every rock. I stayed conservatively a little farther from shore.

Only a kilometer or so south of Muir Beach Jamie went right up close to shore near a row of suberged rocks. A larger than normal wave broke in front of these and he fairly easily scrambled over it and continued on. Unfortunately, John was following close behind him and had more trouble with the wave. He got surfed over the suberged rocks and banged up against the rocks on shore. John bailed out of his fiberglass sit-inside kayak and started wrestling with it in the surf. Jamie and I watched for a minuted to see if he needed help. John was unable to turn the prow back out to sea between the waves and the boat looked like it was taking a beating against the rocks when the breakers came in.

Jamie agreed that John needed some help and then asked "How should we do this"? I answered (with a leaden feeling in my chest) "I should be the one to go in there because launching my sit-on-top will be easier than having two sit-inside people trapped there". I paddled into shore, surfed gracefully over the row of submerged rocks, and pushed my kayak up between two rocks to get it out of the way. Then I started stumbling and falling and flailing around in the surf with John trying to get his boat pointed out to sea. We were in a little pocket of water that extended into the shore between rocks piled up on both sides. There was room to turn a boat around, but you had to be able to find solid footing and the boat was heavy and more cumbersome than usual half full of water. Between the two of us, we managed it. Then I held the prow into the breakers so he could concentrate on getting back in to the cockpit and attaching his spray skirt.

While we were wrestling with the boat, Jamie came back close to shore and threw us the end of his tow line. The plan was to tie this up to the prow of John's boat so Jamie could help pull out to sea. But while he was still close to shore another set of large waves came in and knocked Jamie over. I saw him trying to roll up, and then later saw him out of his boat. Since John was in his boat by now, I told him to go for it. Even half full of water he was able to paddle over the rocks and out to sea. A short distance out I saw him pumping water out and then waiting for us.

At first I thought Jamie would get himself back into his boat and I started to pull my boat out. But Jamie lost control and his boat came into the pocket between the rocks and thretened to knock me over. I pushed my boat back onshore and concentrated on getting Jamie's boat turned around. This was begening to look like a game we could play all day long: "Tag kayak rescue". While turning Jamie's boat around, I noticed a crack in the fiberglass on the bottom. This crack lined up with a crack on the gunwale as if the boat had been seriously bent. Once his boat was pointed out to sea, Jamie was able to strattle it with his legs trailing behind in the water and paddle it out to sea. Then he climbed in with the help of a paddle float and pumped out the water.

After only a few problems of my own I pointed my boat back out to sea, waded out to the row of submerged rocks, jumped on and paddled out to meet everyone else. Considering the location I had very good luck (or skill) with the landing and launch. We rafted up to pump water out of the sit-inside boats and assess the damage. Both fiberglass boats had new cracks in the gel-coat, both had a split in the seam allong the gunwale, and John's boat seemed to be leaking. We talked about aborting the trip, but John felt he could proceed if he pumped the water out often. We kept our eyes open for a calm beach to land on to try appying some duct tape.

Because his boat was taking on water and handling poorly, John wisely stayed away from shore the rest of the trip. But Jamie soon returned to his usuall ways and paddled into every cave and behind every rock. I passed by one rock thinking that it looked like the kind of place Jamie would try to go around. When I looked back a minute later, sure enough I saw Jamie's boat there, upside down!. This gap between the rock and the cliff turned out to have very strange water that seemed to trap the boat there for a minute until Jamie could strattle it and paddle it out. He rafted up to me and discovered that his bilge pump, which was only bungie-corded to his deck, had been swep away. I loaned him mine, which until now has never been used in an emergency. I saw the missing pump being tosded around in the water behind the rock, so when John rafted up to Jamie's boat on the other side, I went back to recover it. Fortunately the waves spit it out and it drifted out to meet me so I didn't have to risk the rough water myself.

We paddled past Timber Cove and decided that it was too rough and dumpy to make a landing. Rodeo Beach would also be too rough. As we approached Rodeo, however, Jamie turned into a little notch in the cliff with a sandy beach on the end of it. The waves often rose up entering the notch, but they calmed down again before hitting the beach. We landed and turned over the boats. Jamie's had a bad kink in the keel that didn't look like it was leaking, but we duct taped it anyway. We didn't notice the split seam in the gunwale until we landed later. John's boat had one triangular crack that was definately leaking and four others that we also decided to cover with duct tape just to be sure. Between the three of us I was the only one who carried duct tape in my emergency kit so I donated it to the cause.

We paddled past Rodeo Beach and through the cave in Bird Rock. I had paddled through this cave once several years ago. This trip through the cave looked a lot bigger than I remember. Was the tide out? Has the cave erroded visibly in the last two years? Or am I jaded now by all the smaller caves I have been through since my last trip here? Jamie new the area and turned close to shore and lead me through an arch that had a cave branching right and back out to sea. A little later he paddled into a cave that looked like it exited out to the right. While he was in the main part of the cave looking to the right, a large wave rose under us. I shouted "Heads Up!" but apparently Jamie did not hear me. The wave slammed into the cave and Jamie disapeared for a while. When the wave passed we saw Jamie swimming outside his upside-down boat again. I paddled into the cave to help but he did the same rescue as the last two times: Strattling the kayak he paddled it out to calmer water. This time we slid his boat accross mine and dumped most of the water out. Then we rafted all three boats together while Jamie got in and put his spray skirt back on. Jamie said that three failed rolls was too many for one day and he was through with caves for the day. When we passed a few more caves a minute later, I thretened to tie the tow line to his boat if he considered going in one of them.

We paddled past the Point Bonita Lighthouse and turned into the mouth of The Bay. (Waving at the tourists looking down from the lighthouse). Jamie went close to shore behind the rocks again but managed to stay out of trouble. I also went close to shore hoping to catch a ride surfing around the corner. This didn't work with the first set of rocks, but there was a second set past the lighthouse. I paddled between the last two rocks and a large wave rose up behind me. It broke noisily and pulled me over a rock I was trying to avoid, but with enough water that I was OK. I had to brace into the wave so hard that my left leg was lifted out of the pocket in the deck and I was almost pulled out of the boat. But I held onto the brace and slid into the camm water behind Bonita Point. Jamie was watching and his comment was: "These are not five foot swells today"! I had recently checked the weather radio and it was still reporting 5 foot swells, although the data was almost three hours old.

Behind Bonita Point we finally caught up with the rest of our paddlers, who were just launching after a rest stop on a calm beach. They had figured we were having fun (which was generally true) and were horrified to hear that two of our three boats were going to need fiberglass repair. We paddled with the larger group the short distance accross to Diablo Point, accross to the north pilon of the Golden Gate Bridge, and straight into Horseshoe cove for our calm and safe landing.

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All text and images Copyright © 1997 by Mike Higgins / contact