Vallejo to The Gate, February 16th 2008.

Don Fleming says that ever since he started kayaking he has wondered if it would be possible to paddle from his hometown of Vallejo to the Golden Gate Bridge in one day. It is reasonable to expect that a flood tide would help you on your way, if you picked a day with good tides. This is a twenty eight mile trip so it is not reasonable to expect that you could paddle back to Vallejo in the same day. Don considered paddling part way back and ninja camping someplace like Red Rock. But even Red Rock is an additional 8 miles back. Instead Don figured he could fool a bunch of his friends into helping him.

Don had us meet at Horseshoe cove, right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. He was skipping around for joy like a schoolboy on a field trip. He finally got to do his dream paddle! Six people showed up in 4 cars, which was just enough to leave 2 cars behind and carry all of us, our gear and kayaks back to Brinkmanís Marina in Vallejo for the launch. Don says the shuttle was easier than he thought it would be and he should have done this years ago.

Don picked his tide correctly and as we paddled down the Napa River our GPS units clocked us as going 7 miles an hour. We hugged the breakwater on the bottom of Mare Island and then paddled from one navigational light to the next across San Pablo Bay. The lights were out during the day but they allowed us to stay to the right of the channel and leave the right-of-way to any super tankers that came by. Donís plan was to stay near the channel as long as possible and then cut across to the Brother Islands. I picked a good range, an alignment of islands and features across the bay, and navigated a straight line to the Brother Islands. Everyone else followed Don the long way around and arrived there long before I did. By staying in the channel they stayed in the full force of the ebb tide current while I apparently cut across eddies and was slowed down.

We paddled past Red Rock and cut across The Bay to Angel Island. The current pulled us through Raccoon Strait and then we were in sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought our goal was simply to return to Horseshoe Cove and our cars but Don charged on and went under The Bridge before he would call the trip over and turn back to the cove. We stopped for drinks and food at the Princeton Yacht Club before schlepping the kayaks back to Vallejo to get our gear and vehicles all back where they belonged.

All text and images Copyright © 2008 by Mike Higgins / contact