Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kayak Camping Lake Sonoma Thumb Campground

Boat-in camping at Lake Sonoma is rated a 10 out of 10 in the book "California Recreational Lakes & Rivers"! The Thumb boat-in campground is a 3 mile paddle from the boat ramp. See this review of the Thumb campground:


Lake Sonoma is about 11 miles from one end to the other. The Thumb campground is on the secluded, narrow Dry Creek Arm of the lake. 
There are numerous coves to explore just in the 5 MPH zone. Swimming is allow. Early mornings are usually super calm, and is a good time for some smooth water kayaking.

Video of the Thumb campground

Video of people having fun at the Yorty Creek boat launch

About the campground:

Each of the 10 sites at the Thumb boat-in campground has a picnic table, fire ring, and lantern holder. Restroom facilities consist of chemical vault toilets. No potable water is found at the campgrounds; campers are advised to bring 1/2 gallon of drinking water per person per day. Alternatively, the lake water is clean enough to drink through a filter or boiled. The 10 shaded camp sites each has a maximum capacity of 8 persons. Here you can see a picture of each camp site:


The cost is $14/ night and there is a 2 night minimum. There is a link on the page to book the sites. The Thumb sites is indicated by the code THUM. To book a site, go to the site reservation page below. For some reason, it's a bit tricky to get the sites to display correctly. Follow these step to book a site at the Thumb boat-in campground:

In the Looking For box, enter "Boat Site". In the Park or Facility Name box, enter "Lake Sonoma". Select the Specific Date bullet. Enter a date for the Arrival Date. Enter your Length Of Stay; for weekends there is a 2 night minimum. Click the Search button. On the results page, click "Boat-In Sites (Lake Sonoma) (CA)". On the next results page, click the Date Range Availability link. It's going to say "no results found.", but it will display correctly if you do the following. Now, click on the "(Clear search and show all)" link. For the Loop box, select "THUM". Click the Search Site button and you will see all 10 camp sites of the Thumb campground.

Just remember that it takes about an hour to paddle the 3 mile distance to the campground.
Campground check-in is 2 PM. Here is a map showing the no wake zones (5 MPH zone). We will be camping in the no wake zone which should be very quiet:

Directions to the lake:

Per park rules, before going to the boat ramp, you need to first stop by the visitor center (on the south side of the lake) to pick up a parking pass. Here is the web site for the park with lots of info:

Here is the visitor center and park headquarters:

This is the location of Yorty Creek ramp:,-12..."

The green arrow below shows the exact location of the Thumb campground. The campground will have a large sign which can be seen from the water::'+36.78%...

Here are the GPS coordinates of the campground:
38 46' 36.78"N, 123 05' 07.67"W

Cell phone coverage is low or non-existent at the campground.

Kayak and canoe rental is available at the marina on the south side of the lake. Car topping will be necessary to transport a kayak to the Yorty Creek boat ramp:

Campground check-out is 12 PM.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review of Advanced Elements RapidUp Kayak Sail

At the end of last season, I purchased an Advanced Elements Rapid Up Sail for my Pathfinder II kayak. Since then I have had the opportunity to sail it in various wind conditions and finally understood its pros and cons. For those who haven't seen the Advanced Elements Rapidup Sail, here it is on Amazon:

Below is a video of the RapidUp Sail:

The following site has a very nice description of the RapidUp sail:
Installing the Rapid Up sail on my Pathfinder was easy. The Pathfinder has 4 D-rings at exactly where the RapidUp's attachments are. Here is how it looks installed on my Pathfinder. Even if your kayak only has 2 D-rings, the two clips on each side can be length adjusted to attached to a single D-ring.

Having had some experience with the Advanced Elements RapidUp Sail, here are my observations:

  • The Rapid Up sail is best used for going directly downwind. However, it can travel nearly cross wind, as long as there is some downwind breeze to catch. Unlike a sailboat, which goes faster cross wind, my Pathfinder rigged with a RapidUp sail will travel slower cross wind than downwind.
  • If you are looking for a sail that make you go faster than the other kayakers, or experience exhilaration like you do when windsurfing, this is not the one. The problem is the flexible frame inside the sail. As easy as it is to fold up, in winds higher than 12 to 14 MPH, the RapidUp starts to bounce around and the top edge starts to curl down. The flexibility need to fold the sail causes the frame to give in higher winds. So you don't really go faster in winds higher than 14 MPH. In similar strength cross winds and high chops, the Rapid Up sail gets pushed down into the water by the wind and causes extra drag. Others have mention that it is not easy to close the sail in high winds and I agree.
  • The Advanced Elements Rapid Up sail can be best categorized as a muscle offload device. In around 8 to 10 MPH wind, the sail alone will cause my Pathfinder to travel at 1 to 2 MPH. This provide noticeably easier paddling effort to achieve 3 to 4 MPH, which is the speed of an intermediate kayaker. I have also figured out how to use the kayak paddle as a rudder by keeping it always in the water and steering with it. This makes slow travel downwind possible without any padding, which is pretty cool. I am sure other more streamlined kayaks will go faster with the RapidUp.
  • The beauty of the RapidUp sail over other downwind kayak sails such as the WindPaddle ( is that the RapidUp is completely attached to the kayak, thus freeing your hands to paddle or steer.
  • The greatest feature I find of the Rapid Up sail is that it can be folded up easily while going upwind. Along with the negligible weight of the sail, taking the Advanced Elements RapidUp Sail out on each and every paddle is a no brainer!
There are a few other options for kayak sails and this site has a nice evaluation of each:

For a portable sail kit that can go upwind, check out Sailboats To Go (scroll down on the site to see the various models):