Today was a good day for a swimming field trip. Angie, Sheila, Colleen, Jonah (Colleen’s son), and I met up at China Camp Beach in San Rafael. It’s a kind of magical place where buildings from the fishing village that thrived here in the 1800s still remain.
Now a museum and cafe, these buildings were once part of a bustling fishing village where at its peak in 1880, nearly 500 people lived, catching, preparing, and exporting shrimp. A series of discriminatory laws, (beginning with the Exclusion Act of 1882, which forbade new immigrants from China and denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants already in the United States) began to limit the fishing season, banned the export of dried shrimp, criminalized traditional Chinese fishing techniques, restricted the size of the catch, and generally limited the ability for Chinese immigrants to continue to exercise their rights to earn a living. Between these racist policies and environmental degradation that diminished the shrimp population, the shrimping community dwindled and eventually died out.
Now it’s a state park where, thanks in large part to the efforts of the late Frank Quan, who had himself been a child in the village, the history of the shrimping village has been preserved. Walking through these buildings with their wind-battered wooden planks and dilapidated beauty, the sense of history is palpable and I’ve always loved coming here.
Today, though, is the first time I’ve ever swum here. It was a bit cold arriving, the storm that we are all crossing our fingers is coming today, was already heavy in the air. Overcast and breezy, I felt like I could smell the rain in the air. The water looked inviting, mostly flat with occasional ripples and as we glided in the cold circled my wrists. Colleen checked the temperature: 58 degrees, a nice change from the 60-62 of the last week. I welcomed the zinging cold against my skin.
We stayed close to the shore, passing by several lovely little beaches, and then out to Rat Island, where we inadvertently startled some nesting birds.
We swam around the island and then a little further north. There were several deer in the green growth of the shoreline. All of this is State Park land and it has a wild, peaceful feeling. Colleen’s son, Jonah, was hiking while we swam and he took this video of us in the water.
I started to get a little cold and vigorously front-crawled my way back in. It felt good. The water was clear and cold and my whole body buzzed with well-being.