Rosie the Riveter to Brooks Island, May 22nd 2008.

The forecast was for strong winds, over forty miles an hour out at sea, but John Boeschen was still going to do his Thurseve Paddle. I looked up two graphical forecasts on the WEB: Stormsurf showed 15 mile an hour winds on the bay increasing to 20. NOAA predicted it would decrease to 10 and die down completely by morning. I chose to believe the second forecast. Fifteen is still a lot of wind to try to cook in. I considered bringing dessert but decided to bring a main dish instead. I figured no-one else but John and I would be dumb enough to go out in strong winds and weíd need some real food. I bought some cold chicken dishes at a local grocery deli.

John had us meet at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial park in Richmond. To my surprise three other crazy people showed up to join us. We launched one at a time in a narrow patch of sand in a shoreline lined with rocks. I was dressed warm for the wind in a dive-skin, wetsuit and drytop. It was a warm sunny evening and I was roasting by the time I got on the water. I asked someone to hold my hat so I could hang upside down under the kayak for a bit to cool off.

Then John led the way into the wind and into the setting sun all the way up the long arm of the Richmond Harbor. The wind I could deal with but even with sunglasses on the sun in my eyes was annoying. John wanted to go to the end of the harbor to see a new public boat ramp, actually an old one that has recently been re-opened. Right next to the boat ramp is a yacht club, but they would not let us come in and buy drinks unless we signed up to become members.

We paddled back down the harbor looking at all the beautiful sail boats. At the mouth of the harbor there are a few navy ships at the Richmond Museum of History. Wikipedia says that the USS Horne, a Belknap-class destroyer, is scheduled to be sunk as a target. Showing up here suggests it may have been rescued from that fate to be restored. That is what is happening to the SS Red Oak Victory ship around the corner.

We angled across the harbor entrance to the breakwater that extends from Brooks Island. There is a bump in the breakwater that is big enough to be a little island all to itself. We landed there and tried to find a place were we were not bothering the nesting birds. On the east end there was an oyster catcher yelling at us to try and draw our attention away from her single egg. Almost everywhere else we looked we found California gull nests with three eggs each. John tried looking as far west down the spit as we could walk and he still found gull nests. The gulls did not seem very upset with us when we were near the nests. Either these are abandoned eggs that didnít hatch or California gulls are not as aggressive as the yellow legged gulls Iíve been seeing in Baja. One of the paddlers decided not to hang out bothering the birds and turned back.

The rest of us kept looking and in the very center of the bump in the spit there was a patch of grass. The grass was clipped short in big patches and there were no birds, nests or even any bird-shit. A bent cypress tree gave is welcome shade from the wind. We found a place we could have dinner without bothering the birds. But we chose not to have a fire this time. My guess is the clipped grass was maintained by a rabbit or two on the island.

I had brought my camping gear and at first I didnít think I would find a place to use it. I expected the Brooks Island Spit to be narrow and not have anyplace above the high tide. Brooks itself is a bird preserve and has a caretaker known as the Harpy because of her confrontational screaming at passing kayakers. I didnít feel like paddling the extra distance in the wind to someplace else to camp. But the bump in the spit had plenty of room way above the high tide and clean grass to set my tent up on. Which I did in the darkness after everyone else left.

I slept well, got up early to take my tent down before sunrise and paddled back. The tide was very low and I had to launch through a field of mud. I leaned heavily on my kayak so my boots didnít sink too deep and slid out into deeper water. Landing at Rosie the Riveter Memorial was the opposite problem with no mud or sand. I had to get out of my boat and carry it across the rocks to get to dry land. John and the rest of the guys had landed when the water was still high enough to cover a small patch of sand. Read Johnís version of the evening here.

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