Trans Bay Paddle, February 28th 1998.

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I seem to remember that last winter there were lots of breaks between the storms. Each break had a day or two of calm water on the ocean and I got to go out paddling. But this year the weather never seems to calm down enough to do an open ocean paddle. Despite this I feel like I’ve done a lot of kayaking this winter, going on a lot of BASK initiated trips in calm water like the San Francisco Bay. On this particular weekend there were two trips scheduled on the same day. One to paddle across Drakes Estero before it closed for the seal pupping season, and one across The Bay. I would have preferred the Estero paddle, but I ended up having to go on the Bay paddle. A bunch of us are planning a trip to Baja in April, and all the rest of the Baja people were going to be on this Bay paddle. We were going to meet to have our first planning meeting in San Francisco after paddling across the bay.

We met at the Berkeley Marina on the south side where there is a small boat launch dock. Some of us were going to stay in SF for the Baja meeting, some were driving back after the paddle, and some were meeting us in SF and carrying their boats back before the paddle. The hardest part of the trip was figuring how to shuttle the people and boats back and forth before and after. That was finally done two hours after the initial meeting time and we finally jumped into the water. It was a popular trip with fourteen people on thirteen boats (one boat was a double).

We crossed diagonally towards the Bay Bridge and let the current carry us under the span just before it landed on Yerba Buena Island. The tide was still flooding pretty fast and pushed us around the south corner of the island. There we ducked into the lee of the tide and searched for a sandy beach to land on and eat lunch. I was overheating in my wetsuit, polypro, nylon windbreaker, and PFD. So I stripped down to the wetsuit and waded out into the water to cool off. The sandy beach extended far from shore and I had to go a ways out to get into water up to my neck.

After lunch we launched and headed across a busy shipping channel towards San Francisco. This should have been easy, but there was a lot of discussion about where we were supposed to aim our prows. In the cluttered metropolitan shoreline it was difficult to recognize any landmarks to guide us to our landing. Joe Petalino, who initiated this trip, pointed out the most likely place, a big black dry-dock, and we aimed for that. Joe’s cosmopolitan navigational skills turned out to be correct and our landing spot, a restaurant with a boat ramp, was just to the right and behind the dry-dock. “The Ramp” is a restaurant on the waterfront that has apparently been closed for some time and had just re-opened on the day we planned to land there. The new proprietor was glad to see us land and then take up two tables for an early dinner. And the Baja group simply stayed a little longer to start our plans.

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Mike Higgins /