Summary: This is an interesting paddle, about seven miles round trip, that will take you from the Sausalito waterfront via Raccoon Strait to Ayala Cove on Angel Island. Dunphy Park has plenty of parking and Ayala Cove has restrooms and refreshments!
Special Cautions: When planning any paddle that traverses a large body of moving water, consult the tide tables to calculate the best times to cross. Generally speaking, cross to Angel Island on the flood, paddle back on the ebb. On an average 4.5 knot max ebb at the Golden Gate, there will be a 2.7 knot ebb in Raccoon Strait. This is an excellent opportunity to work on your ferry angles!
Though off-limits to shipping, a lot of motor boats use Raccoon Strait as a shortcut between San Pablo Bay and the Golden Gate. Stay alert and together as a group when making any crossing. Raccoon Strait, though just over half a mile wide, is over 100 feet deep and a lot of water moves through it. There are tide rips caused by a bar that extends from Point Stuart into the channel, where the deep water is forced to the surface and on big ebbs there is a large area of standing waves and confused water. On leaving Ayala Cove for the homeward journey, you may decide to hug the shore of Angel Island until Point Stuart, then make a dash across the Strait to Peninsula Point (the southern tip of Belvedere Island) and think that your worries are over. Be warned: Richardson Bay itself, while shallow, receives those summer afternoon westerly winds dropping off the ridge above town that then hurtle across the Bay. Not for nothing is there an area of Sausalito called Hurricane Gulch. Be prepared for some hard paddling into the wind.
Directions to launch site: To get to Dunphy Park from the north, get off 101 South at the Sausalito exit, turn left at the lights, cross under the highway and turn right at the lights onto Bridgeway. Continue on Bridgeway past the Bay Model and turn left opposite the stainless steel sail sculpture at Napa Street. From the south, take the Sausalito exit immediately after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and just follow the road into and through Sausalito on Bridgeway, past Bar Bocce on the right, then turn into Dunphy Park on Napa Street. Afterwards, head to Bar Bocce on Broadway or the Thai restaurant on Caledonia Street, both in Sausalito.