From Sausalito to Berkeley is a good 4hr row. Usually I go under Angel Island rather than over through Raccoon Straits. On Tuesday since my boat was at the San Francisco Yacht Club, I decided to take the Straits.
The forecast was light, 10-12 from the E/SE. Hardly ideal, but I can row into 10-12 knots it’s just not much fun.
Tiburon wraps around the Yacht Club and so when I set off, the water was a mirror finish glistening in the sun. It was just me and the birds and they were lined up on the harbour wall checking out the view.
I now have a small screen which repeats the heart rate being recorded on my watch, so I aim to do the row at 125HR sustained. I find my rhythm, driving with the legs, leaning back, pulling with the arms, my oars making arcs through air and water. I cruise along at 4 knots.
I pass Ayala Cove where the ferry pulls in next to the mooring field and start getting buffeted by a breeze coming off the island.
‘Maybe I won’t be going to Berkeley today after all!’ I say to myself.
I press on, because one thing this year of training has given me is patience. In rowing 630 miles so far in the bay of San Francisco, I have learned that conditions will change. Maybe not immediately, but the winds, the tides, everything is temporary. So I stick with it. I persevere – for the most part I haven’t had a choice. I’ve been out in the bay in a heavy boat with a set of oars trying to get home! But that’s not entirely true. In everything from business to personal relationship you have a choice. You can fight, you can accept or you can bail. Fighting against strong winds and tides is fruitless. Accepting and coming up with a revised plan is the best way, but there are times when it’s prudent to bail or even call for assistance. Fight, accept, bail, this is the triangle of options I face on a near daily basis on my longer rows.
On Tuesday I fought, then I accepted. I didn’t have the option to bail.
Once I clear Angel Island, the breeze disappears and I’m back up to speed at 3.5 knots. The incoming tide sets me slightly north, but then I pick up a southerly flowing stream and power towards Berkeley. In every way it’s the perfect row. I only dip under 125HR when I stop to take pictures for Instagram!
After 2:33hrs from start to finish, I’m dockside at the Berkeley Marine Centre chatting with my friend Elise who is telling me how the ‘King tide’ had all the boats in the marina aground. King tide – I’ve never heard that expression. I like it.
Elise and I have lunch together in the sun.
I’m nervous about the row back. ‘Only row around on the flood’ – my friend Don Bekins voice is in my head. The tide is going out. It’s what my app calls a large tide, a 6hr dramatic crescendo on the graph, a king tide. I usually get an email from Motion-X when Don is out rowing and there haven’t been any emails since the King tides started. This worries me.
I set off at 14:30. I estimate (hope) the row back will be 3-4 hours, maybe less if the wind from the E/SE picks up. It would be great if it did.
My row towards Angel Island is so uneventful, 130HR even, that I put on a podcast.
By the time I realise that I am travelling closer to the south end of Angel Island than the north end, it’s too late. I know that I need to get north towards Raccoon Straits, so I can be sucked through the Strait. Instead I am getting drawn down the east side of Angel Island. Very quickly I’m in Hospital Cove (named for it’s now derelict hospital building) looking at the beach. The King tide has me in its grip.
For the next hour and a half I row parallel to the cove. My GPS says 0.00 speed over ground.
‘Well yesterday you sat on your rowing machine and went nowhere, so what’s the difference?’ I laugh and keep rowing.
I try a new tactic, rowing away from the shore to try and get out of the flow. The GPS spikes to 0.6 knots over ground.
‘I’ll take it!’ I say.
But then it occurs to me that I am going to have to keep this up for another hour until the tide turns at 6PM, but when the tide does turn it will lock me out of the Straits.
My hip flexor muscles start to complain. I formulate a new plan. If I give in to the tide and row under Angel Island, at 6PM the tide will turn and this will help me row up to Belvedere. I turn my bow and set off at 4 knots!
As I near the SE corner of Angel Island, I get hit by 15-18 knots of wind. The wind is blowing against the King Tide and the result is short steep waves that bump me around like a bean in a coffee grinder. Water bottles fall over and roll around, my oars plunge in and out of the water.
I stop to text my friend that I have no choice but to return to Berkeley. Wind defeats tide in my boat.
Hang on… scratch that. I notice that my boat is being sucked towards the gate stern first!
Horseshoe Cove by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge becomes my ‘worst case’ scenario.
I am now rowing, bow towards Angel but being carried sideways. I row hard. I also row with my boat’s stern slightly towards the gate so that the waves don’t slop into my boat. I pull out of the wave machine and start moving at 2.5 knots in the right direction! Maybe, just maybe my plan might work.
The race is on. With the tide still pouring out I’m protected from the lee shore, but when it turns… I’ll be on a leeshore and I’ve been through that before. I need to get to the SW corner of Angel before the tide turns around 6PM.
And there I am staring up at the SW corner of Angel. I’m closer than I want to be, but I’ve done it. I suck in my stomach muscles, I try holding on to straight legs for longer during the catch, anything and everything to ease my hip flexors. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry and I’m still being taken sideways towards the gate.
‘How can this be?’
Fresh water. Fresh water is pouring down from the Delta after the rains we’ve had. And so my trajectory towards Tiburon starts to bend towards Belvedere point.
The row towards the club is a struggle. Then I’m inside the harbour wall.
My usual spot at the SFYC is aground. Aground! The dock lies in a strange wave pushed up by the mud beneath it.
‘Happiness is dockside’ I text my friend.