Archive for the '2011 Trips' Category

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Elephant Seals at Point Reyes – Jan. 19, 2011

I just got back from Chimney Rock overlook where the elephant seals are thicker than bugs on a bumper. There are also a few scattered males along Drakes Beach. Both places allow for relatively close-up viewing but make sure to bring your scope or binoculars. If you are patient, you might see the females giving birth!

Drakes Beach is best at lower tides. Avoid the weekend crowds (or go early). The lighthouse and Chimney Rock are great places to watch the migrating gray whales too.

You can’t appreciate the size of these amazing creatures from my photos. Some of the males are as big as a car and weigh 5,000 pounds (the ones in my photos are not that big).


Trinidad – Jan. 16, 2011

Hey Everyone,

Just got back from an amazing trip to Trinidad Ca. I paddled with a few of the locals on one of their Sunday Morning rough water paddles. The first thing I will say is the people from the kayaking community up there are top notch. If you ever get a chance to go up and paddle with this group, do it! You will not be disappointed.

So Sunday after a long night of restless sleep we met up at Trinidad Harbor at 8:00AM. The usual group of 8 people were already there with their boats on the beach. I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost everyone there was paddling a Sterling Illusion or Grand Illusion. I say pleasantly because I sell Sterlings Kayaks, and my purpose for the trip was to product test his new Reflection Kayak. So my friend and I geared up, strapped on our waterproof cameras and hit the water. The weather felt like classic North Coast, overcast, misty, and a cool 55 degrees. The ocean was predicted to be at 8-10 ft swell at 12 seconds out of the West, perfect conditions to put the new boat through its paces. So as we paddled out of the harbor we weave our way through moored fishing boats, bobbing side to side in the ocean swell. We spot a few seals, and even a pod of Harbor Dolphins.

Local tradition is to paddle out through the first rock formation you come to called Prisoner Rock. Its two big rocks that stick up out of the Harbor with a wide slot big enough to paddle through. Legend has it that this island gets its name because back in the day this is where people would drop off drunk fisherman to sleep it off. Wether true or false I can’t say, but the story helped lighten the mood of the day, and we all took our turn paddling through the slot and into the Pacific Swell.

The first placed we paddled was called “The Corner” which made perfect since because it was the corner of Trinidad Head. Here you are in the full exposure of the Pacific swell along a long steep rock wall. The waves wrapped around the corner rising and falling along the wall making it a great place to get comfortable in lumpy reflection waves. We all took our turn trying to get in
close to the wall and see how high we could catch a ride up the wall. After a bit we began to paddle further around Trinidad Head. To our right was a towering rock wall with constant white wash and foam crashing against it. We made our way up to the next play spot called Smack Wall. I had been to Smack Wall before last summer during a Club Mixer put on by 4 Northern Ca paddling clubs, so I sort of knew what to expect, but this day was not like the last. As we sat back and watched a few sets come in, we saw the water exploding up the cliff and creating a curling wave that sometimes seemed to be 20 ft tall. Then a few seconds later the reflection wave would hit us, and our boats would jump out of the water, as if we where plowing through the surf. I was the first to take a turn. I paddled up nose to the wall and waited for a big set to roll in. When it did I felt the water suck away from the wall leaving an enormous troth between the wave and the wall, and then in a second I was lifted up and shot into the air on top of this frothy monster. I felt myself being back surfed out to sea and I knew what was coming next. The wave curled at the top and sent me cart wheeling backwards for what felt like eternity. While in the wave I made sure to keep my paddle loose in my hands and made sure my elbows where in tight to my body, I was ready to let go at any minute if I felt any pressure on my shoulders. After a fun ride I rolled up in the wave and paddled back in for another ride. After a few more good rides, and a few huge dumpers I decided I better call it a day let someone else have a turn. Right behind me was Marcella, a graceful lady with nerves of steel. She paddled up to the wall as if she had done it a million times, spun her Illusion around and surfed the reflection wave right our to sea. She made it look so easy and smooth and my hat goes off to her. After that a few other got in close to the wall and caught rides including another local gal named Georgiana. I was so impressed to see the Trinidad women charging harder than many of the guys that day.

Being the flat lander that I am, I began to see green. Sitting in the swell looking at a camera lens made me feel a little sea sick so I asked the group if we could paddle to the next spot. We made our way over to Pilot Rock. A large circle rock a hundred yards off the coast. The way the swell wrapped around both sides of the rock made for an interesting point break and surf ride. We all took turns and practiced Greenland rolls while we waited. After about an hour or so we made our way back to the corner, than back through Prisoner Rock for tradition.

I was so impressed by this wonderful group of people, their skill level, and their humility in their boats. You could tell they were all so passionate about the ocean and about sea kayaking. If you ever go paddling up their do yourself a favor and hook up with the Trinidad Locals. You will not be disappointed.

So after we hosed our gear off and loaded the boats, everyone invited us to meet up at the local coffee shop to shoot the breeze and have drinks. As a group they decided that they would be giving me their perpetual Smack Wall trophy for having the biggest ride. The trophy reads “Smack Wall Master” “Awarded for extraordinary skills, courage, and absolute Lunacy.” and it has a kayaker
sitting in a gold cup with an intense look on his face. The fact that they welcomed me in to their community, showed me their spots, and let me have their trophy even though I live 6 hours away, really blew me away. Although its just a cheap plastic trophy, this little award means more to me than almost any award I have ever received, because it was given by peers that I look up to and respect.

A big thanks to all the Trinidad Locals who paddled that day. Mike Dedman, John Day, Marcella, Georgiana, Bruce, Damon, and Mike Z.

As for the test of the new Reflection Kayak? Look at the pictures and you will see what I thought :)
Here is a link to the photo album with all the picture from that day as well as a few from another  trip that went out of Trinidad on Sat.

And this is what I am most proud to show off. Here is a few minute video of Smack Wall going off! From what they said, this is as big as it can get without closing out. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Dan Arbuckle

Lake Sonoma – Jan. 16 & “The Cabins” – Jan. 17, 2011

14 PPers plus one later, showed up at Yorty for a fine day on Lake Sonoma. The water was high and quite clear for this time of year.

Off we headed for Dry Creek on a nice sunny warm day. We passed where the old eagles had been, but it must have blown down in a storm because we couldn’t find it. Those eagles have built a nice new shiny one and we saw an adult baldie sitting nearby.

When we got into the clearer water of Dry Creek we saw an imm. Black-crowned Hight Heron. The water is so high we made it way past where we usually stop. We found a nice sunny spot for lunch, by now it was about 70 degrees. We had crab and chile and salads etc. While we were eating, Frieda paddled up and said she was going to hike to the falls.

We finished up lunch and on the way out we saw two River Otters frolicking in the water. The rest of the paddle back to Yorty was pleasant: warm with a nice tail wind. We paddled 11 miles.

Today, we arrived at Black Point to find thick soupy fog. Finally seven PPers showed up and we loaded our boats and headed upstream. We had a nice flood pushing us and we were making great time. We found the entrance to San Antonio Creek and proceeded towards the cabins. There are Lots of birds on the river now but they were a little hard to identify in the soupy fog. We made it to the cabins in a little less than two hours and proceeded to break lunch out.  Christina and Mike showed up just then. They had paddled out from Lakeville.  We had a fab lunch and chit-chatted vigorously. Before long the tide started dropping really fast so we packed up and headed back down river. We got a big push from the tide and made it back in 1.5 hours.

Though it stayed foggy the temperature was quite pleasant and there was no wind all day long. The facility at Blackpoint is in nice shape and it is a good spot to launch for paddling in that area. We paddled 15.8 miles with a nice push each way from the current.


Nick’s Cove, Tomales Bay – Jan. 9, 2011

Only loons and lunatics braved the daunting NWS weather report for Tomales Bay:

Sunday: Cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 52. Breezy, with a northwest wind 7 to 10 mph increasing to between 20 and 23 mph. Winds could gust as high as 29 mph.

Clearly, you’d be nuts to try paddling in those conditions.  But the loons and lunatics were well rewarded for their bravery.  The fog was lifting as we arrived, clearing to a  brilliantly sunny day with hardly a breeze at all.  You really couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.  Ok, so it was a little chilly at the start, but hey, it’s winter.

The ten brave lunatics would be Ray, of course, and then another Ray (the more Rays, the better), an Alan, Christina, Joe, Gail, Chocolate Larry, Mike, Dick, and Liz.  Larry’s wife was taking the corgi’s to a dog showin hopes of a top award, and who knows what flimsy excuses everyone else had for missing such a beautiful day.    We launched from Nick’s and headed north, swinging through the oyster beds at Hog Island to spy on a white spot on a brown lump up in a dead tree.  A bald eagle, having a lazy Sunday.  Crossing the bay to the Point Reyes side, we saw a bobcat sitting in the rocks along shore just 30 to 50 feet away.  It seemed fairly calm for a few minutes, and then ambled up the steep slope.   Shortly thereafter a light-colored grazing blob was spotted on the ridge and we added “Tule Elk” to our list.  Around the next bend were a couple turkey vultures feeding on a bloody piece of something we could smell, so we just kept paddling over the pretty red starfish.  To the north were lines of surf breaking across the eastern half of the mouth of the bay.  Several people headed north towards the western, less surfy part of the mouth, and three of us headed across the bay for a better vantage point for spotting whale spouts.  Nothing.

So we took the fall-back option:  lunch on a nice warm Point Reyes National Seashore beachette. There was soup, salmon, Gail’s wonderful cheesy frittata, hummus, potato-leek sludge, crackers, a Brazilian melon, sliced oranges with cranberries, gingerbread muffins, brownies, a few bottles of wine, brie, crackers, and some oranges.  On the way back we stopped at White Gulch to admire bluffs of diatomaceous earth and, more importantly, to look in vain for Ray’s lost pocket knife in the tidal deposits of eel grass.  To make sure we covered the ten miles required for an Official Paddle rating, we continued south to a pelican-less Pelican Point which hosted a small flock of sanderlings.  Ray pointed out a Glaucous Gull, the largest of the gulls, readily distinguished from the other varieties by its grey pinions.  I showed Ray a flock of black quacky things, which he correctly insisted were cormorants.  Also present were willets, buffle head ducks, a cute green finch, more turkey vultures, a couple seals, et cetera.

The takeout was so warm that Ray wished he’d brought his bikini.  And I was dreaming of the Swedish Ice Breaker the Thurseve lads had ordered for my chilly birthday.

In the end, the “lunatics” proved to be a very sensible lot.  Who in their right mind would do anything BUT paddle on Tomales on such a beautiful day? !

  • Launch: Nick’s on Tomales Bay, 10 a.m. OTW, no violations
  • Paddlers: 10
  • Greenland sticks:  4
  • Swells:  2″ average
  • Wave size:  1/2″  average
  • Notable waves:  23   4″ to 6″ wake waves from passing boat
  • Furniture:  2 chairs
  • Conversation range:  paddle and boat talk, to lipid balls crossing the brain blood barrier being tracked by MRI. Contacts with The Law:  Dick was quizzed by NPS about whether we’d been camping, USCG boat passed by.
  • Return time:  Who cares?  Maybe around 2:30 or 3  p.m
  • Miles paddled:  just over 10
  • Safety equipment:  couple radios, unused compasses, spare paddles, paddle floats, pumps, knives, and lights.
  • Hair:  mostly white or dyed, some brown, some blonder
  • Thanks: to Ray, our faithful, dedicated, consistently excellent trip planner and bird expert

Liz H.

Nick’s Cove, Tomales Bay – Jan. 4, 2011

Well , five of us showed up at Nick’s on a cool foggy morning, by the time we got going, the sun was out and it was toasty.

We headed for Walker Creek and sure enough there were two Baldies sitting in the big Eucalyptus tree right by the mouth of the creek. We drifted right under them and they sat there and watched us. Santa brought Ellen a new video camera so she put it to good use.

We decided to cross the bay to see if we could find the w part of the deal and sure enough we could spot an occasional spout against the cliffs on the far shore. The time between spouts was so long that we weren’t quite sure what we were seeing as we usually see them they breathe more often.

We got to the far shore and sure enough there was a 1/2 grown Grey Whale swimming around in a small area. It must have been feeding because it would stay down quite a long time between breaths. It also wasn’t the same one we saw a few weeks ago as it had none of the pink around the blowhole area.

We paddled and drifted as close to the cliffs as we could and it swam back and forth in a line about 100 ft from shore, directly across from Tom’s Point. We watched it for 1/2 hour or so and Ellen got some excellent video. Then we headed further into the bay to find a lunch spot.

The paddle back to Nick’s was pleasantly warm and calm. When we arrived, we saw some new Chevy Volts being filmed in the parking lot. We may be in the commercial.

We’re going to go again Thurs if any of you want to join us. Nick’s 10am OTW.

What a day!


New Year’s – Petaluma River – 1/1/11

On a cold, gray, windy, News Year’s morning, five intrepid PPers put in at the Petaluma Marina, and headed north, toward the center of town.  Ray, Rich, Lori, Don, and I, made up the group.

We were all launched and paddling toward town by 11:00. About forty minutes later, we had reached the turning basin in downtown. We decided  to forgo the lunch stop at Dempsey’s and continued to paddle up river a ways. After passing under the Payran St. Bridge, we decided to turn around and head back. When we had returned to the turning basin, Lori and Don decided to hang there awhile. Ray, Rich and I, decided to head back to the Marina.

As we began paddling, we had a slight head wind, but paddling was still fairly easy. As we turned to enter the marina, we spied a pod of blue dolphins swimming up stream toward the center of town, with Flipper in the lead! All in all, a pleasant  way to begin the new year.