Monday, September 28, 2009

Like the good ol' days

After getting back from paddling in BC I was really excited about getting back out to the Channel Islands in Southern California. That is really where I started my paddling career and I love the crossings out to the islands, the rugged coastlines and caves to explore, the warm weather and mellow camping. So a couple of weeks ago I got an email out of the blue that my old friend Pedro was planning a weekend paddle out to Anacapa Island with my even older friend Aaron: Would I be interested? - Of course!

Pedro is really the guy who got me started in a kayak, taking a bunch of us on a kayak/camping trip to Catalina. But after he got married and got into mountaineering I didn't see him so often. And then I moved away to NorCal so it had been several years since we've paddled together. Aaron has been one of my best friends since grad school but he's never done more than casual kayaking - this would be his first crossing in open water.

But a week before the paddle Aaron hurt his shoulder and was off the trip - it sucks getting old. So it was just me and Pedro as it was so often in the past. We did some very casual planning and packing the night before and got a not too early start on Saturday morning. Everything is just easy when each person is experienced and you are used to paddling together. The crossing is about 15 miles and on the way over we saw lots of dolphins, some friendly sea lions and a couple of Minke whales.

Once at the island we played in a few caves, went through the famous arch and dragged our boats up to the dock to hang out with Aaron and his wife Dawn who had come over on the ferry. They took the boat back around 5pm while Pedro and I set up camp - sort of. Neither of us brought a tent and I forgot my tarp. Pedro remembered his tarp but had no stakes for it. Without a good wind shelter we passed on trying to cook and just split the Subway sandwich Aaron had brought us. Then we caught the gorgeous sunset before trying to rig the tarp for a little shelter as we slept. In the middle of the night the wind shifted and exploded our poor little structure so the rest of the night was exposed and quite wet in the dense fog. But we were headed home the next day so it didn't really matter.

The paddle back was subdued by the fog. We saw more dolphin pods but no container ships crossed our path - that's the only real danger on a foggy crossing. We made it back by 1:30pm and had a couple burgers and headed back to LA. Smooth sailing just like the good ol' days.

More pictures here.

Video below.

090926 Anacapa Sea Kayaking from Aqua Aevum on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday is Bay Day

The guys at the shop in Sacramento (California Canoe & Kayak) have to work every weekend but have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off when the shop is closed. So it's a good opportunity to get out and paddle during the week. For the spring and summer that normally means the river but now that we are into fall (maybe not technically but we all know the summer really ends on Labor Day) we decided to head back to the ocean.

We headed down to the San Francisco Bay in the morning and launched from Horseshoe Cove at the base of the Golden Gate bridge. It was a foggy start - we could barely see the bridge towers - but the winds were mild so we decided to paddle under the bridge over to the peninsula. There is always something special to paddling under and getting a different perspective on such a well-known physical icon. We then headed to Alcatraz before crossing over to Angel Island for lunch. After lunch we cruised past Sausalito and Yellow Bluff (small current meant not a lot of action in the tide race) on our way back to Horseshoe.

The sun came out as we paddled and the wind was never too fierce. All in all a delightful paddle with good friends in a really cool place. Kayaking can take you to remote and beautiful places far from the touch of man, but sometimes it is those very signs of humanity that give an area its beauty and grandeur.

More pictures here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

American River Festival

This past weekend was the 28th annual American River Festival on South Fork in Coloma. There was a rodeo, a slalom, some kids clinics, a couple downriver races and a couple of parties (officially - probably many more unofficial parties). I was teaching a private lesson on Saturday which was great to get back to teaching but I was free on Sunday. I had planned on doing the slalom competition but when I went to pick up a slalom boat from the CCK warehouse it wasn't there. But there was an old Lazer hanging around which would be perfect for the downriver race.

The downriver race was dedicated to paddling legend Lars Holbek on the Chili Bar section and it was decided to do a mass start, at least with those who weren't busy doing the slalom competition beforehand. The race was divided into long and short boat categories with 11' being the cut off. There was quite a range of boats but my buddy Alex Wolfgram showed up with a Lazer of his own. So at least the two of us had an even playing field and I decided I would try to stick to Alex's tail as long as I could. The plan was working well and two thirds through the race I was right on his stern with only a couple longer boats ahead of us. Then I blew it: Alex was heading for a narrow channel full of rafts and I chose an alternate left route hoping the rafts would slow him down. When the channels joined I was a good 100 yards behind with just a mile of flatwater left before the final rapid (troublemaker) - too much to make up.

So Alex ended up winning the short boat category but I was not second. Nor third. Nor any place. When we got to the take out the question came up as to exactly how long the boat was and what class it was in. After lots of debate and approximation we finally got out the tape measure to settle things. Turns out my boat was 11'3/4" - long boat class. But we also measure Alex's boat since it was from a later version of the Lazer - and it was only 10'11.5". So all told I was third in the long boat category. Next year I will sand down the ends of the boat and give Alex a run for his money!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Going back to Cali

I am finally back from my my BC trip and back in good ol' California. Because of a broken down ferry I was delayed several days and ended up driving two days - straight to Mendocino for a weekend teaching with the Sacramento Sea Kayakers at their annual retreat.

So on Saturday we did an advanced stroke class in the morning and a rescue class in the afternoon. The weather was awesome - after several weeks of grey and wet weather it was nice to be out in the California sun.

On Sunday I helped the surf zone class get set and then went back up to Russian Gulch to lead a rock garden tour. The swells were a little big and then the fog started heading in so after a little exploration on the coast we headed back into the bay and worked on playing in the rocks and channels. It was a great time and we were off the water in time for the salmon potluck.

On Monday morning most people took off home after the pancake breakfast but a few of us decided to head out from Big River and round Mendocino and back. The surf was a little large for some of the group so it got whittled down to just Dave and I. The swells were even bigger so we didn't get much playing in, but were treated to a great show of the impressive power of the waves.

More pictures here.