Day 12: San Rafael Creek to Buck's Launching 8 Miles

From San Rafael north, there is a lot of wilderness space in the North Bay. Marin county has seven islands, multiple wildlife refuge and lots of green space. It's a pleasure to paddle there. In this stretch of the paddle, you'll pass by the West and East Marin Islands, which is a wildlife refuge, Point San Pedro with the Sisters Islands, McNears Beach, China Camp with Rat Rock Island, and the beautiful China Camp marshes with the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. You'll also pass by several hunting houses that are on the water, so be careful not looking like a duck in the spring.

 
 

On January 15, 2017, I paddled from 101 Surf Sports to Buck's Launching with Angel Galvan Raich and her husband Bob met us a multiple points along the stretch on his board while driving their van to the take-out. It was a little challenging at first because the wind was pushing from the northeast but as soon as we round the corner from Point San Pedro it became really placid on the bay. The weather was nice and we had a really pleasant paddle with minimal tide currents. The scenery was really enjoyable and Bob even explored some of the tidal march channels. I saw multiple birds but the best was an Osprey along the edge of the marsh.

Hazards: Your usual piers and low tide issues in the bay, nothing too extraordinary than hunters with their duck houses in the water trying to kill ducks. Don't dress like ducks.

Put-in: 101 Surf Sports is a great shop with a great community of paddlers and great gear for rental and retail. It's a mile into the San Rafael Creek. 

Take-out: Outdoor Adventures has their put-in site at Buck's Launching and is very friendly to small boaters. There are porte-potties at the site and water. Buck's Launching is at the mouth of Las Gallina's Creek (Gallina in Spanish means Chicken but the yellower, fattier and older kind of meat rather than the young, white meat or Pollo). Hence the muddy waters. I'm not sure about the history of Buck's but apparently it has been there for many years. It has closed now and the property is sold to the State Parks. Apparently there'll be a full state park area with small and big boat launch from this site.

 

Day 11: Angel Island to San Rafael 9 Miles

From Angel Island to San Rafael, you'll paddle by some of the best cliff houses in Tiburon, beautiful north bay, San Quentin (the maximum security prison), and San Rafael Bridge. East Bay is visible on a clear day with Richmond in the background. The current becomes less strong after Racoon Strait but it can still be strong with winter runoff.

 
 

On January 14, 2017, after a beautiful cold evening camping at Angel Island and I got up early to get warmed up. It was a long flat paddle to San Rafael against the current of the Sacramento River even with a slight flood. I tried paddling in the middle of the channel thinking that the current might be a little weaker there because of the turn in the bay but I was totally wrong, my speed went from 18 minute miles to 23. So back to the side and got better. After the bridge, I joined some of the racers from 101 Surf Sports and celebrated the end of the run with other paddlers.

Put-in: The kayak camp on Angel Island is on the northwest side of the island between Ayala Cove and Point Stewart. There used to be a cable crossing between Angel Island and Tiburon. The kayak camp trail is just behind the cable crossing pilings. It can be difficult to spot but if you see the black rock beach, you've gone too far. The trail is steep and you'll need to bring up your boards to about 100 feet up the trail where there's a clearing. Definitely do not leave your board on the beach because at high tide, there's no beach. Also with ferries and other boat wakes, the waves can reach pretty high up the beach above the high water line. The camp is awesome with lots of flat space, bear box, picnic tables and a bbq rack (no wood fires, coals only). 

Take-out: 101 Surf Sports is a great shop with a great community of paddlers and great gear for rental and retail. It's a mile into the San Rafael Creek. 

Day 10: Sausalito to Angel Island (with Circumnavigation of Richardson Bay) 10 Miles

Sausalito, Tiburon, Richardson Bay, Racoon Strait and Angel Island are probably the best place to paddle in the bay area for intermediate and advanced paddlers. The view is to die for with Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Skyline in the background. The wildlife in Richardson Bay is abundant with sea lions, harbor seals, large variety of winter birds and sometimes you might even see porpoises in Raccoon Strait. Angel Island has some spectacular campsites. The kayak camp site is on the northwest side of the island sheltered from the prevailing wind from the Golden Gate Bridge. A short walk to Camp Reynolds will give you a nice panoramic view of the city, Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and Mt Tamalpais. Racoon Strait between Angel Island and Tiburon is a very special place because when the San Francisco Bay was not a bay (the ocean level was lower), Racoon Strait was a canyon that the Sacramento river has cut through with the Golden Gate as the mouth of the river. During king tide events and winter/spring run off periods, the river can still be seen from Angel Island. And with the massive ebb tides, so come the standing waves - super fun!

 
 

On January 13th, I paddled from Bluerush Paddlesports with Jen Fuller to Strawberry Point near the Audubon Society. Then I paddled along Tiburon, crossed Racoon Strait and camped at kayak camp. It was just after a big storm and it was incredibly clear after the fog had disappeared. The king tides were in while I did a hike around Angel Island and got some really nice pictures of the Strait as a river. I also played in the riptides after the hike as the runoff was especially strong. It was great fun playing and surfing with just a minute of commute. 

Put-in: There are multiple places to put-in at Sausalito. There's a public ramp next to the restaurant Salito/Bar Bocce - parking can be difficult to find there. There's the public Dumphy Park and a nice little beach favored by kayakers and paddlers. There's also another public beach and a dock near the Bay Model. 

Take-out: The kayak camp on Angel Island is on the northwest side of the island between Ayala Cove and Point Stewart. There used to be a cable crossing between Angel Island and Tiburon. The kayak camp trail is just behind the cable crossing pilings. It can be difficult to spot but if you see the black rock beach, you've gone too far. The trail is steep and you'll need to bring up your boards to about 100 feet up the trail where there's a clearing. Definitely do not leave your board on the beach because at high tide, there's no beach. Also with ferries and other boat wakes, the waves can reach pretty high up the beach above the high water line. The camp is awesome with lots of flat space, bear box, picnic tables and a bbq rack (no wood fires, coals only). 

Hazards: Racoon Strait can definitely be an intimidating place to paddle due to the fast current and boat channel. Wind and fog can be an issue here so close to the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Day 9: Crissy Field to Sausalito 5 miles

Amazing views and very challenging paddling! Paddling around the Golden Gate Bridge is always an undertaking but if you have the right experience and conditions, it's worth every stroke. The views of the pacific ocean through the Golden Gate is timelessly classic, the Marin headlands is green and gorgeous and really, very few people can say that they have paddled under the bridge. 

 
 

On January 10th, 2017, I paddled from Crissy Field to Sausalito alone. It was psychologically and technically challenging to do it by yourself. I had paddled in the area many times in various crafts, but doing it by yourself increase the risk quite a bit. There was a break in the storm and the weather had turned sunny. The wind was blowing from the west at 10 mph, which wasn't much but just to be safe I made the following plan. I waited until the tide was flooding so that if anything happened I would get pushed into the bay. I also waited until the flood tide was receding so I can paddle agains the tide and wind. Several other options were considered: if the wind was too strong, I would paddle to Angel Island and wait till the tide was ebbing so I can slingshot around Angel Island. If I couldn't paddle agains the flood tide or wind, I can always paddle back to safety at Crissy Field, Aquatic Park or other parts of San Francisco waterfront.

It turned out that neither the wind nor the current was that strong, so I was able to make it to the south tower of the bridge relatively easily. I checked the tanker schedule and made sure I cross the channel between two big tankers leaving the bay. The tankers kicked up 4 foot waves and made of mess of things so I paddled on my knees part of the time. All told, it only took me 45 minutes to cross the Golden Gate but it was exciting to say the least. 

Once I got to Fort Baker, it was easy pickings. Paddling around Yellow Bluff is always fun because there are some great standing waves there. It's a nice park and play area to paddle between Fort Baker and Yellow Bluff to surf. The rest of the paddle was uneventful, although you do have to watch out for the Sausalito Ferry and hold your nose when you pass by the Sausalito Sewage Treatment Plant.

Put-in: Crissy Field is a great place for paddlers. The SFOCC (San Francisco Outrigger Canoe Club) has a location at Sports Basement parking lot and they have regular practices there. The beach is friendly to both kite/wind surfers and paddlers. 

Take-out: There are multiple places to put-in at Sausalito. There's a public ramp next to the restaurant Salito/Bar Bocce - parking can be difficult to find there. There's the public Dumphy Park and a nice little beach favored by kayakers and paddlers. There's also another public beach and a dock near the Bay Model. 

Day 8: Mission Creek to Crissy Field 7 Miles

San Francisco waterfront can be an intimidating place to paddle for beginners/intermediates. There is a lot of fast boat traffic especially in the summer. There are two ferry terminals and a cruise ship terminal. The cityscape and the Bay bridge are amazing to look at but be careful of all the boat traffic around you. With that said, I've had many great experiences paddling around San Francisco and there are a lot of places to pull over if you are overwhelmed. 

 
 

On January 9th, 2017, I paddled this stretch with plenty of rain and south wind. Storm-armageddon was back and I was a little concerned of my plan to paddle to Kirby Cove outside of the Golden Gate to camp there. Plus it was gonna be a sog-fest camping anyway. So I cut the plan short and paddled to Crissy Field instead. That turned out to be a great idea except the south wind along the northern city front was pushing me out into the bay and I had to fight pretty hard to stay close to the coast. Also since I paddled with the receding ebb, it gave me an extra push so all told it only took me a couple of hours. 

Hazards: Where to start? In addition to what I mentioned on top of the page, you have to really understand tide currents and wind because now you're in serious open bay conditions. There are tankers, ferry boats, tug boats, speed boats, kite surfers, wind surfers, coast guards, surfers around Ford Point, etc etc... A missed calculation can put you at serious risk in terms of the ebb tide taking you out out of the Golden Gate. If you don't know how to negotiate any of the topics mentioned above, paddle with someone with experience or take a class. Just because you know how to paddle a board doesn't mean you know how to handle yourself in these conditions. 

Put-in: Mission Creek or Mission Bay has several places where you can land. The Ramp (the restaurant) is a great place to land and have lunch. There's a public ramp at Bay View Boat Club which is nice (no bathroom), but you'll need to read the parking signs carefully due to the Giants schedule. Another great ramp is at the end of Mission Creek along Berry Street. There's a public bathroom there and also a boat house that belongs to UCSF. Parking is sparse though. On top of that, there's plans for the Warriors to move their stadium over to Mission Bay in the near future, so definitely forget about parking when that happens.

Take-out: Crissy Field is a great place for paddlers. The SFOCC (San Francisco Outrigger Canoe Club) has a location at Sports Basement parking lot and they have regular practices there. The beach is friendly to both kite/wind surfers and paddlers. 

 

Day 7: Coyote Point to Mission Creek 10 Miles

Crossing SFO with planes flying overhead? Passing by a huge container crane? Three large Navy ships? San Francisco Giants baseball park? Yeah, that's exciting for a SUP trip. Coyote Point to Mission Creek has several put-in and take-outs in between so you can take your pick of the distance between 10 miles as well. Summer downwinders are great with the west wind carrying you down south and winter downwinders with south wind carrying you north. 

 
 

On January 8th, 2017, I paddled from Redwood City to Mission Creek under really favorable conditions. The storm had stopped and I had an opening with slight south wind. The 10 miles was pretty easy to cover under 3 hours. You have to be careful with SFO and stay wide and clear otherwise the police/coast guards might chase you out of there. The current around Hunter's Point could be tricky sometimes and certainly watch out for bridge traffic before AT&T park. The Navy ships that are parked before Mission Creek can be death traps if you paddle between the ships or even close to them during strong current and wind. There are many tug boats that are docked on this stretch and depending on the captain you can have a very different experience even though SUPs have the right-away. Last but not least, sometimes the NW winds during the summer might push you towards East Bay, you'll have to fight your way to stay along the coast.

Put-in: Coyote Point Beach is a perfect take-out for various small boats. There's Boardsports California which rents and sell both wind/kitesurf boards and SUPs. Be aware of GPS confusion, there's a Coyote Hills park in Fremont. Some of our shuttle drivers were reporting that google maps were leading them there instead. Inside of the Coyote Point Recreation Area, there are two parts also - the marina and the beach. Make sure you direct your driver to the beach.

Take-out: Mission Creek or Mission Bay has several places where you can land. The Ramp (the restaurant) is a great place to land and have lunch. There's a public ramp at Bay View Boat Club which is nice (no bathroom), but you'll need to read the parking signs carefully due to the Giants schedule. Another great ramp is at the end of Mission Creek along Berry Street. There's a public bathroom there and also a boat house that belongs to UCSF. Parking is sparse though. On top of that, there's plans for the Warriors to move their stadium over to Mission Bay in the near future, so definitely forget about parking when that happens.

 

Day 6: Redwood City to Coyote Point 10 Miles

From Redwood City to Coyote Point, you'll see many cool sites along the peninsula. Bair Island, Foster City Beach, San Mateo Bridge, and Coyote Point Recreation Area. The view is fantastic and you can often get good downwinders here in the summer with the west wind. In the winter, the south wind can be great too.

 
 

On January 7th, 2017, I organized the Mike's Paddle Team Focus race team to paddle this stretch. The winter storms were coming with what the meteorologists call an atmospheric river event - there's apparently a large volume of water down south and streaming tons of rain to northern California. In the next several days, there were severe wind and flood advisories and Tahoe got 10 feet of snow. But with winter storms, the wind typically come from the south and we were in luck for a fun downwinder from Redwood City to Coyote Point which we finished in about 3 hours. The only problem was fighting the wind to get out of the Redwood City channel. There were few wind shadow spots and some of us got stuck in the shallows on the north end of the channel. It was a short carry to get around the point but once we were going north it was super fun.

Conditions: 15-20 knot S/SW wind, mid-50's, high tide and ebb tide about 1 knot. 

Hazards: The low tide is typically the issue here. Wind was also so strong that some of our folks either turned back or had to carry the boards around the point. In the summer you'll have the same issue with the west wind where it would push you to the south end of the redwood city channel. San Mateo Bridge can be intimidating to beginner/intermediate paddlers with strong current or wind, the waves tend to get bigger around the bridge. Boat traffic in and out of marianas are generally sparce but be aware of blindspots.

Put-in: Redwood City has multiple marinas, but some of them are private and will absolutely refuse small boaters to put-in and take out. The public ramp situated next to the Stanford Sailing and Rowing Center is the quickest access to the water. I find that the south end of the center with the small boats is best for SUPs (see below picture).  

Take-out: Coyote Point Beach is a perfect take-out for various small boats. There's Boardsports California which rents and sell both wind/kitesurf boards and SUPs. Be aware of GPS confusion, there's a Coyote Hills park in Fremont. Some of our shuttle drivers were reporting that google maps were leading them there instead. Inside of the Coyote Point Recreation Area, there are two parts also - the marina and the beach. Make sure you direct your driver to the beach.

The storm is coming and I'm going paddling! 1/7/2017 to 1/12/2017

The winter pineapple express is here! Wind, rain, flash food, and total mayhem! I'm ready though for the next 10 days as the storm is blowing south wind and luckily I'm going the same way! Per the national weather service:

"So far, little change is seen on incoming model data. Rain is expected to begin this evening, and winds are expected to ramp up as well. The initial burst of rain is only a pre-cursor and not
directly associated with the atmospheric river. Expect periods of rain on and off Saturday but generally light to moderate in intensity."

"A high wind watch has also been posted for the area hills starting at 4 am Saturday and lasting
through Sunday morning. Model data shows strong southerly winds at 925 mb in the strong warm advection pattern. Wind gusts from 50 to 60 mph in the coastal hills will be possible. Wind will likely lull for a time Saturday afternoon but then wind speeds are expected to ramp up again Saturday night and Sunday morning as the next wave moves onshore."

Saturday, we're paddling from Redwood City to Coyote Point and Sunday Coyote Point to Oyster Point. Hopefully we'll get some good waves! 1/10/17 and 1/11/17 are still undecided, I may not end up going all the way to Kirby Cove. It could be a long paddle all the way to Sausalito on 1/10 depending on the weather.

1/7/2017 101 Surf Sports in Redwood City to Coyote Point Yacht Harbor- 10 Miles

1/8/2017 Coyote Point Yacht Harbor to Oyster Point Point Marina - 7 Miles

1/9/2017 Oyster Point Marina to McCovey Cove, San Francisco - 10 Miles

1/10/2017 McCovey Cove, San Francisco to Kirby Cove - 9 Miles

1/11/2017 Kirby Cove to Bluerush, Sausalito - 5 Miles

1/12/2017 Break

Day 5: Cooley Landing to Redwood City 8 Miles

The west side of the South Bay and Peninsula is a fun place to paddle with lots of wildlife reserves as well as marinas for landing. After crossing the Dumbarton bridge, a panoramic view of the south bay and east bay is fantastic. On a clear day, you can see all of the peninsula, Marin headlands, Mount Tam, San Francisco, Emeryville, Oakland, Mount Diablo and the rest of east bay. It's so panoramic it looks like a wide-angle go-pro shot. Click below picture to see an expanded map.

 
 

On January 5th, 2017, I tried to put on early but I spaced out and left my paddle in the lyft car that brought me to Cooley Landing. So I had to wait another hour until my driver dropped off the paddle, thankfully! By then the wind had kicked up a little bit and the tide was going out. So another mud wading for me. It was very shallow even a mile away from shore and I quickly developed a paddling stroke using the mud. As I paddled towards Redwood City, a good landmark are the blue buildings occupied by Bio Tech firms in Redwood City. There's a small opening before the main channel into Redwood City just around Greco Island, but you can also just paddle on and turn west. Lots of birds life as usual along the coast.

Put-in: Cooley Landing is a beautiful place on the bay. There's an orange wooden building that's dedicated for the East Palo Alto environmental education. The orange color is a great landmark. There are two parking lots and a porti-pottie as well. Kayaks and SUPs can land on the south side of the point, there's a small trail leading to the parking lot. If you can go to the south side, scrambling up the rocks by the point is also an option but be very careful. Some of the rocks have steel rebars, it wouldn't be fun falling onto one of those. Low tide is of course a problem there as well, anything less than 3-4 feet will present you with a long push off in the mud. Alternatively you can also land in the Baylands Nature Reserve. There's a large dock, water spigot and porta potty there and plenty of parking. It's a mile from Cooley Landing and just north of Hook's Point. The Palo Alto Airport is a good landmark for that take-out. My friend Gary Leong told me that some years ago some idiot engineers from Tesla tried to take off from the airport during heavy fog and flew into the power lines along the coast. But fortunately for paddlers, we can follow the power lines during fog and be able to spot the coast.

Take-out: Redwood City has multiple marinas, but some of them are private and will absolutely refuse small boaters to put-in and take out. The public ramp situated next to the Stanford Sailing and Rowing Center is the quickest access to the water. I find that the south end of the center with the small boats is best for SUPs (see below picture).  

Day 4: Cooley Landing to Alviso Boat Ramp 10 miles

San Francisco Bay south of Dumbarton Bridge, I guess we call it the South Bay (not sure there's another official name, I can't find it anywhere), is a fantastic place to paddle if you can figure out the tides. It's very calm here and it has a lot of wildlife due to all the nature reserves. The Alviso slough and nearby Coyote Creek are sheltered and great for beginners. The water could look dirty due to the mud, but there's fresh bay water coming in and out every day.

 
 

On January 4th, 2017, I got up early and got on the water. The tide was low so I had to push off about 100 feet before I could paddle. It was on the tail end of a storm so in the morning a heavy fog bank settled all over the bay. It was impossible to see any landmarks so I had to use a compass to see that the direction from Cooley Landing to Alviso was directly east (which is kind of counterintuitive because we're in the south bay). But once I set the course, I saw three buoys on the east side of the bay leading towards the Alviso slough. It was easy picking from there. Plus I saw a harbor seal in the bay which was a treat! As you paddle into the confluence of Alviso slough and Coyote Creek, the two sloughs separates at the power lines. Coyote Creek is the one on the north side and Alviso slough is on the south side. The slough is a fun place to hangout and look at wildlife also, on my paddle I saw retail hawks, blue herons, great egrets, and various other winter shorebirds.

Conditions: 5 knot N/NW wind, mid-50's, low tide and incoming flood tide of 0.5 knots. 

Hazards: Low tides of course can be a hazard because it's so shallow in the south bay, if you get on the water at the wrong time, you could be wading through mud for hours or waiting for a couple of hours for the tides to go up. There isn't a lot of boat traffic usually but Alviso boat ramp service a lot of south bay fishing and hunting boats. Just after I landed, a fully rigged hunting boat with camouflage tule weed was going 30mph in the slough, I'm glad I didn't meet this guy on the water. 

Put-in: Cooley Landing is a beautiful place on the bay. There's an orange wooden building that's dedicated for the East Palo Alto environmental education. The orange color is a great landmark. There are two parking lots and a porti-pottie as well. Kayaks and SUPs can land on the south side of the point, there's a small trail leading to the parking lot. If you can go to the south side, scrambling up the rocks by the point is also an option but be very careful. Some of the rocks have steel rebars, it wouldn't be fun falling onto one of those. Low tide is of course a problem there as well, anything less than 3-4 feet will present you with a long push off in the mud. Alternatively you can also land in the Baylands Nature Reserve. There's a large dock, water spigot and porta potty there and plenty of parking. It's a mile from Cooley Landing and just north of Hook's Point. The Palo Alto Airport is a good landmark for that take-out. My friend Gary Leong told me that some years ago some idiot engineers from Tesla tried to take off from the airport during heavy fog and flew into the power lines along the coast. But fortunately for paddlers, we can follow the power lines during fog and be able to spot the coast.

Take-out: Alviso Boat Ramp is a great place for all kinds of boats. There are low and high docks as well as a ramp. There's a water spigot and bathrooms. Watch out for the green lawn next to the water spigot, it's for pets not for boards.