During a brisk ebb flow there is more turbulence around the island than at slack or flood. You can use the same direct route shown on the slack and flood section; this is the “just row through it” approach. However, consider the following alternative, if only for the discussion of the rough patches you may find otherwise.
Counter-clockwise around the Island
(if you aren’t concerned with wind through the GG you may want to go around the other direction; see the end of this section):
1. OWRC to Pt. Knox
If you follow the direct path from the Sausalito channel to Pt. Knox you will row parallel to good sized swells (if the ebb is significant) formed as water rushes out of Raccoon St. into the larger part of the bay. If there is a breeze through the Golden Gate against the current (as there often is, especially in the summer) the swells become steeper, eventually developing white caps.
It is longer, but can end up being faster and more pleasant, to first row to Belvedere Pt., inside of the Green 3 buoy. Here stop, turn around, and look at the water between you and Angel Is.
If it is smooth to the north, but rough to the south (toward the Golden Gate) row up into Raccoon St. slightly, and curve around to pass between Red 4 and Pt. Stuart. If it is rough to the North, but smooth to the South, follow the dashed path instead. As you row out into the current you will be carried to the south, but don’t try to compensate completely, just row as hard as you can. About halfway across you should get into a counter-current which will carry you back to Stuart Point. The first half of the Raccoon crossing will be the roughest. Rowing across the little cove between Pt. Stuart and Pt. Knox will be a pleasure.
There is an important and very general suggestion above: there are times and locations where you should carefully examine the water around you in order to plan your route. It’s hard to see the condition of the water when you are so low, but it can be so useful that you should practice looking anyway, and improve your powers of observation by comparing the conditions you find with those you predicted.
2. Around Pt. Blunt
The row down the island to Pt. Blunt should be uneventful, but there is often a significant current parallel to the island if you are more than 100 m out. It shouldn’t be rough going into Pt. Blunt, but the ebb current flowing down the east side of the island will be quite rapid if the ebb is strong.
As you enter this rapid stream (after slipping through gap in the rocks) the current will try to turn you out into the rough-water beyond. Be ready to row hard with your starboard (left hand) oar to resist this turn and point you boat into the current. Row hard past the tall rocks on your right and you will start to move into slower moving water. Curve into the cove between Pt. Blunt and Quarry Point to escape the current and get a rest.
Pt. Blunt not a good place to fall out of your boat. The rip that forms beyond buoy 3, as the current flowing south meets current flowing north, is arguably the roughest patch in the Bay.
On some days, however, especially after peak ebb when the current is declining, the ebb flow moves offshore a bit and the water immediate past Pt. Blunt can be much easier. Be ready for whatever the wind and tides will give you and row accordingly.
3. Pt. Blunt to Pt. Campbell
There will be a good counter current flowing up the shore of the cove to Quarry Beach, so it is well worth the little extra distance to stay close to the shore. At Quarry Pt. you will find a swift current, but it’s usually not rough. Rowing close along the shore of the shallow cove to Pt. Simpton doesn’t seem to gain you much, perhaps because there is no up stream barrier, the current just extends into the shore. There can be very rough water off Pt. Simpton, but it’s erratic in time, on and off every few minutes.
The current around Pt. Campbell can be very difficult. It’s almost 200 ft deep just north of the Point, but there is a shelf only 20 ft deep around the Point. The ebb current flows up onto this shallow shelf with impressive results. You probably don’t want to get too far from the shore, because it is very rough and the water moves quickly. However, if you get too close to the rocky shore you risk beaching the boat as the erratic swirls turn you first one way and then another. You pick the compromise.
If you want to put your rough-water skills to the test, Pt. Campbell at peak ebb is your place. When you have had enough or become exhausted, just bail-out of the rough patch and let the ebb flow carry you home to Richardson Bay.
4. Pt. Campbell across Raccoon St.
Now at least you are rowing with the current. If you prefer, row along the shore and cross where you did before, but you may be opposed by mild back-currents as you do. Otherwise you can take a sleigh ride down the middle of Raccoon St. to Belvedere Pt. and back to OWRC. If the west wind is blowing the effect of the tide moving against the wind can kick-up significant roughness and whitecaps in Raccoon, so you will want to hang close to the shore. Under these conditions the crossing from Pt. Stuart back to Belvedere can be difficult and very wet. It’s only a kilometer, however, so take you time, stay relaxed and let the ebb flow help you get there.
Clockwise around the Island
You will want to avoid as much as possible of the ebb flow through Raccoon Str. by rowing to Belvedere Pt. and then crossing quickly to Pt. Stuart. See the previous section on rowing around CCW to decide how to cross. When you cross and are close to buoy Red 4 you should pick up a counter-current. As you round Pt Ione to go into Ayala Cove, a current glancing off the Point will shove your boat sideways and try to point you out into the middle of Raccoon Strait. Row hard with your port (right-hand) oar to resist this push and turn the boat into Ayala Cove, where you’ll get some relief from the current.
You may encounter some rough-water at Pt. Campbell, especially when the ebb current is building, and at times the tidal roughness can extend into China Cove to Pt. Simpson. On strong ebbs, the rip at Pt. Campbell can be challenging, with a tendency to produce swirling water and boils, and even small whirlpools. If you are up for the challenge this can be an exciting test. The rip current at Pt. Simpson can move quickly but is usually only 100 meters or so across. Stay close to shore and use a burst of speed to get through it.
Once you get to the east side of the Island you will have a nice ride down to Blunt Pt.. At times the ebb flow will be fast along the shore approaching Pt. Blunt. Get close to shore as you come up to the Point and be ready to move out of the current as it sweeps you past the last of the tall rocks that guard the Point. There is a zone of calm water downstream of the tall rock where you can prepare to slip through the gap in the rocks comfortably.
The row up the south side of the Island should be uneventful. If the winds are light you can row a bit out from the island to pickup the ebb flow towards the Golden Gate. When you pass Knox Pt. you should look at the water and decide if you need to go up to Pt. Stuart to avoid swells to the South, or if you can just row directly to the OWRC.