Dolphin or porpoise? Hard to tell which if you only get a glimpse of their surfacing dorsal fin at a distance. 

That’s what Gandalf, Dragon, and I see at the east end of Raccoon Strait, a dorsal fin on a dark, rounded back briefly breaking the strait’s surface. Repeats a couple more times. 

Been sightings of gray whales in the bay the past few months. Dolphins and/or porpoises often tag along with the big mammals. Having seen the duo in the bay years past, I’m hoping to see a gray this evening, but I don’t.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a fin on a dark, rounded back breaking the bay’s surface—and you’re close enough—here’s how to determine which creature you’re looking at: the leading edge of a dolphin’s dorsal fin is pointy and curled like a wave; a porpoise’s dorsal fin is more rounded, not pointy, doesn’t look like a curling wave.

We might not have seen what we saw but for the wind. Launching outta Schoonmaker, our float plan originally has us paddling counter clockwise around Angel Island on our way to Full Moon Beach on the Tiburon peninsula. But the wind …

… so we take a shortcut up Raccoon Strait, see a dolphin and/or a porpoise, then hang a left at Bluff Point, Full Moon Beach a quarter mile further along.

Let me grouse for a few lines. Spring on the bay is typically windy. No surprise to be bounced around in your kayak, white caps breaking over your foredeck. You know it’s gonna happen.

This spring’s a bit different, the wind more intense, more persistent, more often. Used to be, you could count on the wind dying down 40 minutes after sunset. Can’t count on that anymore. Used to be gusts above 30 mph were rare. Not any more.

The wind’s uptick isn’t limited to the bay. No siree. Conditions are downright raucous on a wide swath of the western Pacific Ocean. 

In the last Paddle Report, I mentioned a local fellow, Cyril, paddling out the Gate and heading for Hawaii. Turned out, conditions were so hellacious, he had to be rescued by Coast Guard helicopter less than a week into his adventure.

Here’s a link to Cyril’s blog describing the conditions he was up against. Read it at your own risk: 

Full Moon Beach is on the leeward side of the Tiburon Peninsula, no wind, our tiny cookfire easy to light. We eat our first two courses—Gandalf’s salad and Irene’s(tm) tiger shrimp courtesy of Dragon—while the fire burns down to hot coals for the main course, Irene’s(tm) homemade pot stickers.

We pack up and leave Full Moon 90 minutes after sunset, lots of time for the wind to bed down, least ways it would be in the Before Times. Of course, now is now, not then.

Rounding Bluff Pt. into Raccoon Strait, I’m setting myself up, mentally, to grouse about adverse conditions. But I don’t grouse. Yes, a headwind greets us on the other side of the point in the strait. But it’s a manageable headwind, nothing to grouse about.

The paddle back to Schoonmaker is okay, doesn’t require a rescue. Fact is, it’s more than okay. 

A sailboat’s anchored just before the harbor entrance. Five guys are partying on deck. We angle up to the boat, and Gandalf asks a simple question: “Got any beer?”

We get a simple answer: a can of beer each.

We paddle into Schoonmaker, a more-than-okay paddle behind us.


Date: Thurseve, 3 June 2021.

Distance: Six point nine nautical miles.

Speed: One point three knots.

Time: Five point three hours.

Spray factor: Yes.

Dessert: Seed bars, cute little cookies.