Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Hartstine Island

All paddlers cooperated and performed outstandingly well to make sure we all were able to stay together in spite of adverse conditions and using vocal, hand and (for once!) radio communication. Photo credit: Terence Soh

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • CURRENTS: TACOMA NARROWS: -3.59 @ 0752/ GRAHAM PT: S @ 0506 / -1.63 @0917,  S @ 1220 , +1.2 @1456. PEALE PASSAGE: -1.3@0727,  S @1049. DANA PASSAGE: -2.6@0745,  S@1120, +1.97 @ 1344 / PICKERING PASSAGE NORTH: -.65 @ 0930,  S@1216, +.78 @ 1456



 Everybody was on time at the boat launch, some arriving in the dark in order to make our 0800 launch time.  After a pre-trip huddle we launched at bit after that.  We immediately ferried across the 1.5 kt current (ebb flows north in Pickering at this time) under the bridge to the Hartstine Island side where we traveled along the shore.  Once in the open part of Peale Passage we paused for a radio check and proceeded mostly mid channel with lots of seal sightings.  We saw what we figured had to be a sea lion splashing before arriving at Brisco Pt approx 1030 where we went outside the marker to catch the 1.5 kt current to sling us around.  We rode the current for what it was worth up the next mile or so where we hauled out for a snack break about 1045.  By the time we got going at least 15 minutes later the NNE wind had started to pick up. It quickly surpassed the predicted low breeze stage to reach a steady 10 knots with occasional gusts about 14 with the accompanying white caps by the time we had reached Wilson Point.  About halfway to Fudge Pt we hauled out at 1130 for a requested break and discussion. After I counted the results of a “behind the back” self evaluation of the group I decided to stay with the original plan and have lunch on McMicken Island. Terence made the very kind and brilliant offer to trade boats with a struggling paddler.  I think I’ve lifted bowling balls heavier than Terence’s boat and it made a big difference. It also helped that the wind had dropped slightly and a lot of the whitecaps disappeared as we headed the mile plus to McMicken, arriving around 1300.  We had lunch sitting on the driftwood benches on the beach (part of the island is private property) and scouted the road access.  There are houses at Fudge Point along the shore, indicating a road close by but I couldn’t see where the public access road was closer to McMicken.  I know there is one as there is a state park there but the spit to it was already disappearing in the rising flood. All paddlers decided to continue so about an hour later we headed back out again.  The wind continued to rise as we headed around the east side of McMicken to then head directly to the shore and proceed to the next point.  By this time the wind was about 17 knots steady with occasional gusts a little higher.   We abandoned the shoreline route and continued directly across the mile wide mouth of the cove and then took another 10 minute break upon reaching it. I carelessly didn’t have any snacks in my PFD pocket and Rohan kindly shared a spare bar that Matt and I gratefully split as we headed out. We had some protection from the wind but lost it as we got closer to Dougall Point, arriving approx 1600.  This placed us at the north end of Pickering Passage about a half hour after max flood and with the opposing wind and about 1 knot of current we briefly found ourselves in some 3+’ ft standing waves getting around the point.  I think I hit the only 4 footer which caused my boat’s front toggle to rattle as we slammed down the back side in a most satisfying manner. 

 With the wind now predictably mostly behind us and the following seas also predictably becoming increasingly flatter we began to make up some lost time on the dying flood.  We arrived at Jarrell Cove approx 1700 and we ducked in for some to get out for a bio break.  I put out the offer for people to haul out at the convenient marina boat launch and wait for a pick up but all declined.  We carried on, making a hard left around the corner across from Walkers Ledge after saying hello to a sea lion for real this time, going wide to catch the faster current to head south.  This brought the bridge in view less than 2 nm away. With no wind to help us another ailing paddler was falling behind and I stopped to see if I could hook up a tow.  My tow belt wasn’t cooperating—I had not prepared it correctly—and the paddler chose to continue after I arranged for the others to turn around and come back on the radio. We continued on to the take out, arriving shortly after 1800.  I discovered why my boat seemed so sluggish…my back hatch was halfway full of water!  It was a good thing I carry float bags in it or might have been had an incident for sure!

 The daylight was disappearing fast as excellent teamwork was applied to get most of the boats up to the parking area.  Terry brought his car down the ramp and when we got my boat up I discovered a nasty hole in the stern that explained the water.  It was almost dark by the time we were loaded up, changed and had a post trip huddle. 

  There were some lessons to be learned on this paddle:

  • When cranking out miles it is important to keep breaks to a minimum duration, particularly early on so that paddlers can take advantage of favorable conditions;
  • If conditions do become challenging think about the journey in small increments as opposed to one long slog;
  • Take frequent breaks when sheltered spots are available;
  • Keep hydrated and fed as much as conveniently possible;
  • Be flexible and take the route that offers the most protection;
  • Exchanging equipment can be the difference between a success or disappointment;
  • Don’t paddle harder—paddle smarter!!!   

 Given the late take out it was only Rohan, Terry and I who had a hot and tasty dinner at the Fish Tail Brewpub in Olympia before heading on back home.

 This truly was—to use a woefully overused phrase—an AWESOME group!  All paddlers cooperated and performed outstandingly well to make sure we all were able to stay together in spite of adverse conditions and using vocal, hand and (for once!) radio communication. Special thank yous to newbies Rohan and Ash for their communication and unfailingly cheerful attitudes, Terry for his ever obliging support and observations, Terence for his trip saving solutions and efforts and most of all to Matt and Steve for willingness to finish in spite of chronic fatigue and discomfort.  Added congratulations to Matt on earning his Olympia Islands Paddle Pin!



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Bruce Durham
Bruce Durham says:
Oct 30, 2019 06:06 AM

A very well written report and I’m very glad that the leader has the good since to interpret flotation in front and back as additional safety equipment float bags in watertight hatches to be proper or best interpretation of a general statement.