That’s a Big Bite
By Bill Vonnegut
The Franklin Point rock gardens stretch for only about 1 mile off the coast. But in this one mile, you can find a full day of challenging yourself while making your way through the maze of rocks and coves.
Still fresh in my memory, even though it was years ago, is the day I met some friends, Lucy O’Brien, Tony Johnson and Dave Etheridge, down there for what was Roger Schumann’s first Rock Garden Rescue class. This class was sparked by an incident we has a few months earlier. Wanting to get more training, we contacted Roger, and he agreed to create a class (for a detailed description and pictures of this class, by Tony Johnson see below) for us that was not offered yet. We were told there was going to be a lot of “swimming” involved in this class. That was all I needed to do something I wanted to do for a long while, buy a dry suit. So I ended up wandering into California Canoe and Kayak and purchased my shiny new suit.
The day of the class after gearing up in lots of warm fleece under my new suit, we proceeded to do the hike down the trail to the beach. It’s a hard-packed trail, so any wheels will work just fine. After stashing our wheels in the bushes, we proceeded down the steps to the beach. We had just set our boats down, when we turned to see something on the beach. Oh, its just a seal carcass we thought. Until we looked closer and saw where a shark had taken a very large bite out of the carcass. We have paddled here before and knew this was a sharky area. But seeing this just before we were to spend the day in and out of our boats and swimming throughout this area gave us a little more than we wanted to think about. Of course once we got on the water and Roger asked who wanted to volunteer to be a victim and go for a swim. I could not wait to try out my new dry suit and jump in. We all ended up swimming that day, I guess the love we have for rock gardening outweighs the fear of sharks.
About Franklin Point:
Franklin Point is located between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz Ca, just south of Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Franklin Point is a wonderful place for rock gardening, only one mile from point to point, however, you can spend the whole day playing on many of the features in this area.
Franklin Point Rock Garden Map
The put in at Franklin Point is a sandy beach protected from most of the NORTH swell by a series of rocky reefs. In fact, this whole stretch of rock gardens is protected from most of the North swell by the Point. Franklin Point is a place where more fun can be had on a smaller day. (say under 6-7 ft @ 13 just for an apx. reference) the more northerly the swell, the more protection. After launching, you can head south to the reef, its a short distance from the put in, there you may find some rocky surf breaks to catch a few rides.
|Allen Shaw at the pour over on the Point|
Or, north into the rock gardens, here it’s possible to weave your way through the inside passage and be sheltered from some of the ocean swell. After working your way up to the north end of this area you’ll find a big pour over on the point. This area is much more exposed to the ocean swell, conditions will be bigger as you round the point. If getting around is possible the reward of a decent surf break will be looming just around the corner. The day we filmed this video it was about 5-6@13sec.
There are a couple of protected coves in this stretch just north of the put in where conditions will be smaller for some low key play or an easy lunch stop.
Parking is in the turnout across HWY 1 from Whitehouse Canyon Rd. There is a trail leading down to the put in, this is a few hundred yards long so wheels are a good idea. I normally stash them in the bushes for the day.
Also use caution as this area is just north of Ano Nuevo a place that is know to be a very sharky area. On a couple of occasions we have seen dead seals on the beach with large bites out of them:
Since the 1970s scientists have known that great white sharks congregate at seal rookeries around the Farallon Islands, Ano Nuevo Island and various points off Central California from August to February.
More On The Class
by Tony Johnson
The class included hazard assessment, group leadership, cultivating a reputation for safety, safety gear, swimming, seal landing/launching, self rescue, short tows, throw ropes, maneuvering boats w/o ropes, and many different rescue scenarios. One area we spent time in was a rock outcropping pocket, open to the ocean, and in front were several features. To the right was a slot with different dynamics. We did lots of scenarios in this area, such as, going in with boat, (stern first/ bow first) rescuing swimmer as he/she hangs on to your boat. We did this same rescue with a swimmer on the back deck and practiced getting the swimmer out with their boat and gear. On several occasions we divided the rescue by calling out to the group what parts of the rescue they were willing to do.
We also used throw ropes in this same area, as a LAST RESORT. After lunch we all tossed throw ropes to one another, than got into our boats and did more tossing. It’s difficult to throw from your boat, even more so when ropes are wet. The lighter ones worked best, I was able to throw much further than my heavy bag. Throw bags did work, but most definitely should be a floating bag and line. On one rescue, my line landed in-between two crustacean covered rocks however, the line stayed on top and washed over. Throw bags can be a hazard, and when used they are difficult to put away in rough conditions.
I really liked it when Roger, without the rest of the group knowing, set up a swimmer condition inside. We also played out a dislocated shoulder situation (I had to use my quick release on this one) as a group and as a two party. The two party scenarios required climbing out and looking for help. I also enjoyed dumping and climbing on a rock, hauling our boats up with us. While on this rock we had a short talk then Lucy and Roger did a seal launch!
“Thanks Bill for initiating, this was a great class with good people!
Hope to paddle with you folks again soon.”