Friday, November 20, 2015


The hard work is not only part of the fun of it, but it beats the doctors. San Francisco Bay is no mill pond. It is a large and draughty and variegated piece of water. I remember, one winter evening, trying to enter the mouth of the Sacramento. There was a freshet on the river, the flood tide from the bay had been beaten back into a strong ebb, and the lusty west wind died down with the sun. It was just sunset, and with a fair to middling breeze, dead aft, we stood still in the rapid current. --Jack London

It is undeniably one the greatest views ever. The Golden Gate Bridge a vision that has inspired story, song and poem. On its opening ceremony in 1937, its chief engineer Joseph Strauss said, "This bridge needs neither praise, eulogy nor encomium. It speaks for itself. We who have labored long are grateful. What Nature rent asunder long ago, man has joined today." When asked how long the bridge would will last? His answer was concise. "Forever." he replied.
Forever, I will have that memory of kayaking out of Horseshoe Bay. The bridge, the mystical structure shines to my south."Its efficiency cannot conceal the artistry. There is heart there, and soul. It is an object to be contemplated for hours." That is what longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote when he described his reverence of the triumphant structure. I feel the same sentiment. When I think back on all the places I have ever wanted to kayak. I had dreamed of clear forest lakes, whitewater in a rocky mountain canyon and a sea view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just to be near the bridge was an overpowering feeling. It was hard to take my eyes off it. Even when I turned to the east, towards Angel Island, I found myself looking over my shoulder enraptured by its sight.

I'm was going solo for first part of the trip. It was early spring morning, the winds were light and the tide was in my favor. I had picked a good time to paddle. San Francisco Bay is legendary to sea kayakers. It has some of the wildest sea conditions on the entire West Coast. The bay is known for steep waves, fast and swirling currents and howling winds blowing through that Golden Gate that require advanced paddling skills. "It really blows on San Francisco Bay," cited American author Jack London, "During the winter, which is the best cruising season, we have southeasters, southwesters, and occasional howling northers. Throughout the summer we have what we call the "sea-breeze," an unfailing wind off the Pacific that on most afternoons in the week."

I'm was crossing the bay to meet up a camping party for an overnight on Angel Island.  They had come the day before and I was joining them.  My kayak, loaded up with camping gear, a change of clothes and assortment of freeze-dried foods and power bars. To my left was Richardson Bay and Sausalito, to my right was Alcatraz Island and San Francisco and behind me the Golden Gate Bridge. Straight ahead is was Angel Island silhouetted against the sun. Its dark mass rises out of a hazy glow before me. My day had just begun.

Canadian author Gilbert Parker wrote, "It must be remembered that the sea is a great breeder of friendship. Two men who have known each other for twenty years find that twenty days at sea bring them nearer than ever they were before." Close to water, vulnerable to its brunt and force, my kayak companions from Bayside Adventure Sports have bonded together well this past year with a shared camaraderie and ministry of paddling in God's creation. BAS is an active outdoor church group based in Granite Bay, California and sponsors many of my paddling activities.

After unloading my gear and quick breakfast, I was back on the water again with the group. We made a quick trip across Raccoon Straights to Tiburon followed by a run back through the straights and around the island. We faced wind and waves on the island's west and tranquil waters on its east while circumventing the bay island. Each stroke of the paddle was a triumph. Each bounding swell an adventure. "Why do we love the sea?" stated American artist Robert Henri, "It is because in has some potent power to make us think things we like to think." The next day, we returned towards Horseshoe Bay and the bridge hidden somewhere in the clouds.