From Sausalito to San Rafael - A short story from BOTE Ambassador Tim Bluhm
My friend Dave and I had done a quick overnight trip out to Angel Island using a double kayak and we were both stoked to see how the BOTE Wraith paddleboards would work for a similar trip. Because of the very dynamic tidal currents and winds near the mouth of the Golden Gate, we knew the SUPs would add an element of excitement, and March is pretty much the windiest month for San Francisco Bay. We decided to leave from Sausalito and paddle across the mouth of Richardson Bay over to Tiburon Point instead of just making the much shorter crossing from Tiburon. This would allow us to see how our roughly 20 pound loads were riding on the boards and to gauge the wind speed and direction for a bit longer. The crossing of Raccoon Strait from Tiburon to Angel Island is less than a mile, but it is notorious for ripping currents and standing waves. We of course timed it to coincide with the slack tide, but the wind had already come up out of the SW.
As soon as we started paddling across the mouth of Richardson Bay it was clear that it was too windy to be much fun. It took a lot of concentration to not fall in the cold water and luckily the stability of our BOTE Boards helped as well. Our progress was slow due to the wind waves washing across our boards from right to left, but we made it to Tiburon Point and were regarding Raccoon Strait we both agreed it might be best to change our plan. We knew the forecast for the next day was for even stronger wind, and earlier, and the slack tide would be later in the morning. We decided to follow the curve of the shoreline NE and enjoy some downwind paddling toward calmer water. We thought maybe we could make it to the campground at China Camp, and if not, we could bail out somewhere in Marin and cab back to the van in Sausalito.
As we made our way NE through Raccoon Strait we encountered the ebb tide coming out, and the paddling became challenging for a bit as we crossed the mouth of Keil Cove. By the time we rounded Bluff Point we were finally in pretty smooth water. We stopped at a beautiful little beach and drank what little water we had brought with us. It is said that Robert Louis Stevenson used this area as the setting for his novel Treasure Island. We were in the lee of the land now, and as long as we stayed close to the shore we could avoid most of the growing ebb current. At Chauncey Point we decided to take the shorter direct line for Tiburon Yacht Club instead of staying near to shore. Here the wind waves were coming from our rear right quarter, which combined with the ebbing current, made for some demanding paddling. We gratefully made it into the marina on our BOTEs and filled up our water bottles and rested.
From there we had to cross the wide mouth of Corte Madera Bay, aiming for Point San Quentin. This was the longest crossing and again, the wind coming from our rear right quarter made the going hard. Each wave would lift and grab the tail of the board and sort of surf it sideways. We both fell in the water more than once, but thankfully the sun was pretty warm and the water wasn’t as cold as it was closer to the Golden Gate. With the old prison to our left we finally reached the San Rafael/Richmond Bridge and crossed beneath it, entering San Rafael Bay. Dave and I were both getting pretty tired, having paddled far more miles than we had anticipated. Luckily the water gets shallower there and the wind waves and current became somewhat more manageable.
Again we headed straight across the mouth of this bay toward the gap between West and East Marin Islands. Point San Pedro, around which lay the China Camp campground, was still looking pretty far away to the North, the brick smokestacks of the McNear Brickyard standing in a haze. We knew that the wind was going to shift to the NW and start blowing hard pretty soon, and we didn’t want to get caught out in open water. We reached East Marin Island and sat on the seashell spit on the northern tip and discussed our plan. We both agreed that we had had enough and that the prudent thing to do was to head across to San Rafael and paddle up the creek and call a cab. We crossed the very shallow mud flats over to the mouth of the creek, and just as we entered, the wind clocked around and started a building blow out of the NW. Our decision had been a wise one! We didn’t get to spend the night out, but we paddled 14 miles through some beautiful coastline and got to see how the boards behaved. The BOTE Wraith boards handled the downwind and challenging broad-reach lines beautifully. The elastic cord did a great job keeping the dry bag on the deck. If anything, the extra weight on the nose stabilized the board in certain situations.
For more about Tim, check out his ambassador page https://www.boteboard.com/ambassador/ambassador-tim-bluhm/