Class (Tidal Rips) Report

Posted by Lloyd on Dec 12, 2004

Tides, Currents and Rough water is the name of the sea kayak course I took in the Golden Gate area Saturday, December 11th. We started the session by paddling from Horseshoe Cove to Angel Island, and back, with the main lesson taking place at Yellow Bluff. The red and black lines on the map below roughly define our outbound and returning route.

This course is held once a month during the late fall and winter to coincide with a near slack tide mid-morning crossing to Angel Island and with an after lunch ebb tide that provides a good tidal rip.

This was my first experience in San Francisco Bay and I was astonished by what I saw when we arrived at Yellow Bluff. First, as we approached we found ourselves facing a race of many single outrigger canoes. Our two instructors ordered and pushed the eight of us to maneuver to avoid affecting the race outcome.

Then when we positioned ourselves in an eddy to overlook the tidal rip there was much more boat traffic using the tidal rip.

Our lead instructor said that the main rip area was about two hundred yards long.

As we set up we could see a white haired rower entering the downstream end. I couldnít make out anything about the boat from what I could see peaking out of the waves. Whenever I looked it appeared as though the rower was making no progress against the current. However, after forgetting about the rower for sometime I looked again and could see that she was making it through. Yes, it was a white haired woman!

Our first exercise was to head across the tidal rip holding our bow just a little upstream until we had penetrated it deeply. Then we were to turn downstream (right turn) by leaning the boat appropriately (bringing the right side up) but leaning downstream.

Is that correct? Iím writing this out to try to get it into my mind.

After a fast ride another turn to exit and then paddle back to the eddy.

The main thing I noticed on each trip through was how much my feet and legs came into play. I could feel large forces transferred through my feet to the boat and hope that Iíd done a good job of drilling, filling and drilling of the bolt holes for my foot rests. I did not capsize although there was never much time between someone capsizing.

OK, back in the waiting pointing in the eddy I saw another sight, that with the rower, gives me the strongest memories of the day.

There was a gentleman in a neat looking kayak painted black except for a two inch band of yellow around the deck where the hull and deck join. This fellow was doing rolls with a couple of different kinds of paddles, including one that was just a board about a foot and half long and four inches wide. Apparently he got too much water in his boat for his liking and he jumped out, grabbed the bow turning the boat over and dumping out the cockpit. He had to do this twice before he was satisfied. Then he went to the stern and just jumped on the boat ending up straddling it just behind the cockpit. He braced slowly with his paddle (a Greenland style) as he inserted one leg after the other. It was so cool!

My goal now is to get so good at rolling or getting back into my boat that I can go into these conditions and not worry about capsizing.

This was a very physical experience. At one point I was attempting to ferry across and return but I turned my bow too far and could turn it back to return ferry. I had to finally turn downstream and ride it out. Iíve got good cardio fitness but I was breathing hard after that one, but happy that at fifty-six my heart seems to be in good shape.