Yellow Bluff Rip Tide, December 12th 1997.

The largest tides and the fastest rip currents of the year were predicted to happen this week. Joan Wiener scheduled this trip with BASK to take advantage of it. We could get the tide to pull us across The Bay in record time, and play in the rip currents on the way. I drove down to the meeting place, China Camp State Park, from the north and took the road past the Marin Civic Center. As I drove through the park, the tide was washing a few inches over the road in several places! It was almost a seven foot high tide. At China Camp Beach the waves were crashing over the beach from time to time and water was pooling in half of the parking lot. We dropped off most of our equipment and shuttled cars to Horseshoe Cove (Fort Baker) where the trip would end.

When we got back from the shuttle trip, the water had already dropped a half a meter or more. I jumped in the water right away and surfed in the rough water near shore. I was able to catch short rides that pushed my boat halfway back up onto the gravely beach. Eventually everyone else got ready and we started out into the bay. We traveled directly out from shore hoping we would find the main current sooner and get a shove from the tide. Roger Lamb was on this trip, and he paddled directly past The Sister Islands and clear across the bay to The Brother Islands. The rest of us turned right at The Sisters and let the tide push us down the bay, under the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and towards Angel Island.

Every time we passed a buoy or a bridge pylon we could tell that the water was moving very fast. But between these landmarks, there were no references and no feeling of exhilaration to tell us that we were really moving along. You had to take a cerebral pleasure from looking at your watch and calculating that we were much farther along than we should be. Across the bay, the moisture laden air made Mount Tam look like a Japanese ink on rice paper painting.

When we turned into Raccoon Strait between Angel Island and the Tiburon Peninsula we could see some dancing water at the end of the strait. I paddled hard to get into this, but found that it was not as interesting as the first time I paddled in a rip current here. Everyone else avoided the rip and headed straight across towards Yellow Bluff. We had expected to have strong winds hindering us, but these never came up. We expected the winds to make Yellow Bluff rougher and more exciting, but this did not happen either. In fact, the rip current at Yellow bluff was not as rough as the last two times I was here. Joan apologized for the unexpectedly good weather again. Without any dancing water to play in, we quit early and returned to our cars. We had crossed 18 kilometers of bay in only two hours of paddling.

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