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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Fox Island Circumnavigation

A really nice paddle in our beautiful—and wonderfully crowded—Salish Sea on what seemed like a summer day!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • TIDES: T NARROWS BRIDGE: 8.8 @ 0856 / 0.0 @ 1551 ARLETTA: 9.4 @ 0859 / 0.0 @ 1608

    CURRENTS: NARROWS SOUTH: 1.6 @ 0845 / S @ 1136 / -2.4 @ 1444 / GIBSON PT: .05 @ 0948 / S @ 1152 HALE PASSAGE WEST:  S @ 0954  / -1.5 @ 1423 / HALE PASSAGE EAST: S @ 1302 / -0.6 @1607.



Anybody who decided to skip this paddle missed quite a treat.  It was only Terry and I who arrived within minutes of each other on the west side of the park and quickly unloaded our boats and gear in the grassy area before moving the cars to the regular parking spaces.  We were launched on time at 0900 and it was a smooth and easy crossing over the Narrows Channel to reach the north east head of Fox Island.

 We paddled through the wakes by a few passing power boats and it wasn’t hard to see where they were heading for.   By the time we reached the marker and headed around the south east corner I counted 18 boats circling around from the middle of the channel and west into Carr Inlet.  There is a marker showing where Toliva Shoal and its neighboring fish haven are located towards the middle of the channel halfway between McNeil and Fox Islands.   There is also a shoal that drops off steeply on the south side of Fox Island and all of these factors cause the fish to rise closer to the surface to the circling boats.  There was also at least one diving boat that churned up a lot of wake and passed probably closer than they should have. 

 We were heading up the pretty southern shore when we spotted a deer trotting along in the water line towards us.  We continued to float along some distance away from shore and I got out my monocular and watched her; she seemed somewhat tense, pausing a few times and looking behind her towards the west and glancing our way a bit before continuing her quick trot.  She covered the sloping and sloppy distance with surprising ease but then deer usually do.

 We then hauled out at a secluded spot for a bio and snack break that lasted about 20 minutes.  We got back in the boats and it was an easy shove off in the pitty pat waves to continue west on up the shoreline.  The sun began coming out a bit as we rounded the corner and approached the spit at the west end of the island.  We hauled out beside the broken up concrete blocks at 1215 and carried our lunches up to a picnic table on the grass.  The sun came out as we ate and took our time, waiting for the current to shift.  We loaded up and shoved off at 1315.  One beachgoer approached as I was getting tucked in to ask some questions re: kayaking.  After a brief chat we continued on in the now bright sunshine that was beginning to get warm. We headed for the middle of the bridge with a current that was now running around ½ a knot underneath it.  We decided to head for Pt Fosdick on the northeast side of Hale Passage. 


Hale Passage is not even half as deep as Carr Inlet on the south side of Fox Island but I hardly ever see any fishing boats in it. But there still must have been plenty of fish.  Not long after leaving the bridge we heard a soft sigh and “poof” to see the curving backs of porpoises ahead of us.  We stopped paddling and they began coming closer, going around in their usual circles.  We counted at least three.  This pattern continued a couple of more times as we passed Wollochet Bay.  We had already been followed by and peeped at by multiple seals.  We also heard but didn’t see any eagles. 


Terry beached at Pt Fosdick to get something out of his back hatch. I waited, floating along in the little current heading east with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge now visible over my left shoulder.  Suddenly a large sleek head popped up about 50’ away and a sea lion and I said hello and stared at each other for several moments.  Then she went under and then resurfaced about half the distance away.  This is unusual…usually sea lions surface, break away fast and keep moving away.  This one seemed curious and took her time, rolling this way and that, studying me.  A boat was coming around the corner and she looked over at Terry who was getting into his boat. She looked back at me and very slowly heaved up and went under where I could admire her graceful movements down to the final flick of her back flipper.  I hollered to Terry that a boat and a sea lion were coming his way but he didn’t hear me.  She came up again behind Terry, watching him get his spray skirt on before finally disappearing for the last time as he came paddling towards me. He missed her!


After a quick check to line up a ferry angle we made fast time across the channel, with a few power boats crossing our path along the way.  We hit Titlow Beach in about 15 minutes to find the water level close to where we left it.  We hauled our boats and gear up and were able to take advantage of the little shower (not available in the winter) at the top of the path to wash the sand off our shoes and suits.  We moved our cars over and quickly loaded up before heading out to The Spar where Terry kindly paid for our tasty hot sandwiches and tots. A really nice paddle in our beautiful—and wonderfully crowded—Salish Sea on what seemed like a summer day!