Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tomales Bay Trip

The best sea kayaking trip I've had yet was a trip to Tomales Bay, with Kevin and Casey. It's a long bay that is very sheltered and opens to the Pacific Ocean to the north. If you put in near Nick's Cove, you don't have a long paddle to the ocean, and you get to see a lot. The highlights are Hog Island, a sand bar with pelicans and sea lions, starfish, Tule Elk and going out on the open ocean.

We did the trip on Saturday October 27, 2007. We hit the water around 11am, which was about one hour before high tide, with the next low tide at 7:28pm. That meant we'd be out on the high slack tide for the most part - no major currents.

We put in at a little beach just off Highway 1 south of Nick's Cove. I added a blue pin, and zoomed in for a close up. You can see where you pull off of Hwy 1 and can park off of the road. Lock your car, put your kayak in the water, and you're good to go. You could also put in at Nick's Cove where there is a boat ramp, but we didn't.
Tomales Bay Put In (Far)Tomales Bay Put In (Close Up) id=
The water was glassy. I've never seen such a large body of water so still. First thing I had to do was take a picture to capture the smoothness of the water. Casey is out in front with the blue sit-on-top. Kevin is in the foreground in the Monterey Perception.

The first thing we did is paddle out to Hog Island. There was a large group of paddlers out there, but they were being very quiet, and the scene was very peaceful.

After paddling between the islands and enjoying the peaceful beauty, I paddled over to the far shore. I found myself skimming over a sea grass bed, and the water was so clear that I had the sensation of flying low over a meadow. You can really see how fast you are moving in the kayak when you are paddling in clear shallow water. Then I started seeing starfish in all different colors; orange, yellow, and purple. We paddled up the bay toward the ocean. Along the way we saw sea lions, jumping fish, cormorants, and many loons.

We made our way toward the breakers. Before making our move to the open ocean, we stopped at the last beach on the west side of the bay. Casey wanted to put on some extra gear in preparation for getting wet. Here there are signs that ask you not to hike inland because it is a Tule Elk breeding area. At the mouth of the bay, you can see the white caps of the breaking waves. I took this picture of Kevin just before we made our way through the breakers. Then it was time to put the camera away in its ziploc bag, zip it up in my life vest, and we steamed our way through the waves.

There was an edge to the swells that wasn't breaking and we aimed ourselves at it. The waves still broke over the bows of our kayaks, and washed over our spray skirts, but we didn't get too wet or cold. The best way to get through the waves is to paddle seriously, and lean forward when cresting a wave. Once outside the break, we had a great ride. Big swells kept rolling towards us, and it is like a roller coaster of ups and downs. Here is a shot taken by Casey, of Kevin and I at the top of a swell.

Returning through the break is a lot of fun, because the swells approach from behind you, and you can't see them coming. For me, looking over my shoulder is very destabilizing, so this was a thrill. The trick seems to be staying perpendicular to the wave because it wants to push the stern of the kayak to one side or the other. I have since learned that you can ride the wave by turning the kayak to one side and leaning into the wave. I will try this another time!

We paddled back through the breakers, and then back down the bay. We passed a buoy that has a bell that you can always hear while you are out on the bay near the mouth.

Then there is a sand bar that is a resting spot for birds, and sea lions.

On the way back, looking up at the ridge of Tomales Point, we could see the silhouette of many Tule Elk with their antler racks. It was now late afternoon, and many flocks of loons were scattered over the bay. We had to disturb them as we paddled back to our trucks, and they make a funny sight and sound as they flee from our path. They run with their hind legs on the water, trying to fly, and they make a hoo-hoo-hoo sound at the same time. We tried not to disturb them, but you can't help it, as they give us a wide berth.

Back at the trucks we load up, and marvel at what a perfect day it has been. On the way back home we stopped in the town of Tomales for some amazing sandwiches and smoothies. Always feels good to reload the fuel tank!

No comments: