Friday, April 25, 2008

Norm's Bait Shop to the Golden Bear

Yesterday, I took my friend Mark out for his first paddle. As you can tell from the pictures, we had a pretty ideal experience, and I hope that he's hooked for life. :)

Based on the tides, I recommended that we be in the water on our way around 10am. This took advantage of the outgoing tide to get us to the strait (at the mouth of the Napa River). Then we paddled to the Golden Bear. The Golden Bear is the California Maritime Academy's training ship, and it is a beauty. It is docked near the two bridge spans (was three for a while) that cross the strait. That was the plan anyway, but water was still moving out of the strait well after low tide at 10:57am. Ah, but I have read that this can happen. It is important to understand the difference between tides and currents. Even though at noon, one hour after the low tide, you would expect the flood to have started, and by the rule of twelfths we would have theoretically had a helping tide taking us toward the bridges. Instead, we had a 1 knot current ebbing against us. That's not a strong tide, and we easily paddled against it to get to the prize, but it is interesting to note that there may be exceptions to what you would expect from the tide table alone. That's why you want to check a chart!

We turned around at the Golden Bear, and then the current coming out of the Carquinez Strait pushed us back along to the Napa River mouth again. This was a lot nicer than paddling. Once we turned into the river, the tide was behind us again (in our favor).

The winds were minimal. Most of the time it was very still, and we were grateful for the cooling breeze. The wind did come out of the West, so it was a cross breeze as we paddled up the Napa River. So, we put down our skegs, and this helped us keep on straight lines. The weather was warmer, if not hot! Especially when you consider that we're dressed for the possibility of ending up in the water.

Here's a Google Map of the route:

View Larger Map
I used Google My Maps to create the line, and it gave me a distance of 2.86 miles each way. I'd say we did 6 miles, because we followed the coast more closely than the line shows. Good job for your first paddle, Mark!

What to Bring
Here's the list of items that I told Mark to bring for his first paddle, and in hindsight, he seemed well equiped. Though he noted that he was very warm, this was due to being prepared for an unplanned trip into the water, so that is to be expected. For our beautiful weather in the high 60s F, here are the items I asked Mark to bring:
  1. Wear a long sleeved shirt of synthetic quick-dry fabric.
  2. Baseball cap or wide brimmed hat.
  3. Sunglasses
  4. Put on sunscreen before you dress (face, ears, under your chin, back of neck, and backs of hands.
  5. Wear water-shoes or Teva-like sandals that can get wet.
  6. Bring a towel and a complete change of dry clothes. These go in a dry bag that goes in your cargo hold just in case.
  7. If you have a wetsuit, bring it. I'll wear mine.
  8. If you have gloves (bicycling, workout, neoprene) that you don't mind getting wet (they will) then bring them to ward off blisters.
  9. Bottle of water and snacks. We can buy lunch at Glen Cove, but it's nice to have snacks with you, too.
To help me plan the trip, I grabbed the tides from:

Tides for Vallejo, Mare Island Strait starting with April 24, 2008.

Day        High      Tide  Height   Sunrise    Moon  Time      % Moon
/Low Time Feet Sunset Visible

Th 24 High 3:32 AM 5.5 6:20 AM Set 8:39 AM 89
24 Low 10:57 AM -0.3 7:54 PM
24 High 6:12 PM 4.0
24 Low 10:36 PM 2.7

I didn't check a chart for the currents, though this would have been prudent. This route is right in my backyard, and is very well know to me. But a chart probably would have shown the Carquinez Strait current.

Weather (Always check the weather!) 4/24/2008:

A mainly sunny sky. High 67F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.

Barometer was steady. Falling could indicate a storm coming. We were prepared to scrap the trip for another day if the wind picked up.

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