Vista Point to Diablo Point.

Just east of the Golden Gate Bridge, there is a Coast Guard Station with a small cove and boat ramp. I got in the water here, and headed out towards the bridge. The Coast Guard has a pier there, with a bunch of people fishing off of it. It was a sunny morning, and I felt a little overdressed in a wetsuit and life vest as I passed the pier. The bridge maintenance crew was sandblasting on the north bridge support somewhere, and a plume of sand was blowing into the bay. As I came up to the pylon, the plume blew over my head, and I never even caught a smell of it. They stopped soon after, and were not blasting when I came in. I had planned this trip on a morning when the tide was coming in at maximum flood so that I could not get washed out to sea. When I came around the corner of the pylon, the water was flowing very rapidly into the bay. So fast that there were standing waves around the pylon, and as I approached the far corner, I went slower and slower and finally came to a complete stop paddling as fast as I could. Under the (mistaken) assumption that the water would be moving fastest where it was constricted against the pylon, I turned and moved farther out into the channel. I tried resting and paddling as hard as I could, paddling slowly but steadily, but slowly lost ground and got a better and better view of the bridge. Since I had gotten so close to making it when near the pylon, I turned back to shore and made a second attempt. A giant cargo ship was going under the bridge just then, and I wondered if this was commonly done AGAINST the tide. I felt like I was escorting it under the bridge. This time, I went as close to the pylon and the rocks as I could get and still paddle. Paddling as hard as I could, I made it around the pylon, and there was an idle pool behind it before the first shore rock. I rested for a bit and then went around the point of the rock. There was a lot of current here as well, but it seemed a little easier this time. There were a few other points near the bridge past this that had noticeable current, but nothing to work hard against. From here on to Diablo Point (about 1.5 miles west) it was uneventful, but had interesting cliffs, rocks and a few small beaches. One beach, Kerby Beach, has a group campground that you can reserve at the GGNRA information center. For the return trip, I cut straight across from the point to the bridge pylon. I was looking forward to being sucked back into the bay by the current, but when I got there, it was too late, the tide was slack, and I had to paddle myself into the bay.

When I entered the water, I wondered about the Coast Guard and what regulations they have about very small craft (VSC) in the bay. I decided as I left that I would not ask, since the answer would probably be no. But when I got back, I walked over to their office and asked. The guy who came out to see what I wanted got interested in the answer because he sometimes goes out to Bonita Point (farther than I went!) in a rowing shell. He gave me a pamphlet that was aimed at owners of power boats, with things like registration, numbers on the hull, running lights, and safety vest requirements. It was unclear about VSC. (I made that up, they didn't have an acronym for Very Small Craft) So we asked some other guards. Eventually, someone copied two pages out of a big fat book of regulations that said if you are in a human powered hull under 17 feet long, you don't need to register, number, or even carry life vests(!?). But if you go out at night, you have to carry "an electric torch or lantern of sufficient brightness to prevent collision". I considered asking them how many megawatts it takes to produce enough photon pressure to push two boats apart, but thought better of it.

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All text and images Copyright © 1994 by Mike Higgins / contact