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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - McNeil Island Circumnavigation

Another whale sighting although not what we hope to see! Photo credit: Laura Predmore

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • TIDES: STEILACOOM TIDES: .6 @0500/ 11.4@1201/ 7.74 @1732, 

    CURRENTS:BALCH PASSAGE: +1.3 @ 0722 / S @ 1125 / -1.2 @ 1351  PITT PASSAGE: 1.0 @ 0713 / S @ 1022 / -0.7 @ 1307 GIBSON PT: +2.3 @ 0912/  S@ 1213 / -0.9 @ 1446, NARROWS SOUTH: +4.0 @ 0833/  S@ 1149 / -1.6 @ 1446

    STEILACOOM:13.93 @1131 /4.98@1842



 The Predmores were already unloading when I arrived at the Steilacoom boat launch a little after 0800.  They had carpooled so there were only two cars parked in the upper lot for $8 (credit cards ok). Very nice and clean full bathroom in the ferry ticket office. We launched early at approx 0845 after a brief huddle. The channel was quiet and calm.  Laura mentioned that years before she had seen whale skeleton parts on the east side of the island so we moved along to check it out.  We couldn’t see anything conclusive and since you are not allowed to land we didn’t.  We continued on to pretty Gertrude Island where a brief bio break was made while the seals waited.  It was very quiet except for some loons and other bird calls as we moved up the shoreline, picking out the beginning of the fall colors in the trees.  The current was slightly against us but weakened as we left the shoreline and started across Pitt Passage trying unsuccessfully not to disturb a flock of about 40 scoters. We paddled past the west side of tiny and also forbidden Pitt Island.  Laura picked a nice spot away from the beach houses that offered some fine seats on the handy driftwood on the peninsula side and we had a pleasant lunch in the dull sunshine for an hour before leaving at 1245.  We headed across the channel and it looked like there were some bones on the other side on McNeil.  Sure enough there were some vertebrae sticking up and the end of a tail and a spine lying in the water.  Brian reported more vertebrae scattered on the water bottom which would be exposed at low tide.  We paused for a brief discussion before heading across the calm channel towards Eagle Island.  We were accompanied by the guttural noises of what we figured were sea lions.  I couldn’t see any with my binoculars but figured they most have been on the distant buoy southwest of us.  We didn’t get out of our boats at Eagle, just drifted along in the current.  There was a small boat pulled up on the north side of the eastern beach and I had seen a couple of guys walking on the shore as we approached the island.  But no seals.  After a brief consideration for a ferry angle we headed across the channel, arriving at the boat launch at 1535 with its tide left higher than we left it, providing us a short and easy carry using excellent teamwork to a staging area before retrieving our cars.  The Predmores declined a meal afterwards.  This was a really nice gentle class III on a mild day in very good company. Both paddlers performed well with excellent group dynamics.   NOTE: Laura found her photos from years ago showing there are more whale skeleton parts on the east side of the island just to the left of the cable crossing sign.