Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Tacoma Narrows

This turned out to be the best night paddle I’ve had yet! Photo credit: Laura Predmore

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • CURRENTS: PT EVANS: S@1753/ -3.6 @ 2155 / NORTH END: -3.1 @ 2133 / SOUTH END: S@1744 / -3.3 @ 2128



 There is a new route to the Pt Defiance boat launch that bypasses the ferry traffic completely.  I drove through the parking lot to arrive at the empty boat launch at about 1530 to see the Predmores and Janet already unloaded.  The others showed up soon after.  There was plenty of parking close to the launch as well as the empty huge parking lot across the way.  It was $7 (credit cards ok) to launch a kayak from the boat launch.  We did so on time after a short huddle at 1600.  We waited for the ferry that was just arriving to get by and started out in the smooth water. While not at their height yet, the fall colors along one of the most beautiful shorelines in the Puget Sound made it very enjoyable.  A few seals were visible at Point Defiance which had very little room on the shore due to the rising flood. Janet had never done the tour along Salmon Beach so we did so although we were going against the current in the back eddy.  We didn’t stop to say hello to the mermaid but did very briefly with one of the other residents.  We headed out towards the middle to catch the dying flood and were visited periodically by some sea lions.  One seemed to have a real thing for Terry, coming surprisingly close.  A police car was pushing a car along at the top as we were approaching the bridge.  It didn’t make much difference to use the angle to play the current before turning left to go to Titlow Beach, arriving at 1830.  A man was coming out in a little inflatable rowboat.  He is the one who is in charge of the jack-o-lantern project and was just getting started putting the battery operated lighting in them.  There are about a dozen carved pumpkins all done by local artists placed on top of the pilings.  He said he asks for a $20 fee to cover the lighting equipment and he volunteers his time, gas and equipment to place and light them.  They are just a treat to see and are really well done.  He had spaces for two more that he was waiting on.

 We didn’t have much space to pull the boats up but as we were at the top of the tide we didn’t have to pull them far with only some soft sand to deal with so no complaints there.  We got our drysuits off and dry shoes on sitting on the benches of the roomy front porch of Steamers before going in.  After a hot and very pleasant meal we put it all back on again including our lighting on ourselves and boats and took off from between the pumpkins back into the dark at 2100.  It was evident by the strong back eddy just getting past all the pilings that the current was barreling along.  It didn’t take long to hit mid channel and swing to the right and head for the bright lights of the bridge.  Brian clocked us at 7.3 knots before we paused for pictures to be taken before proceeding on.  The full moon peeped out occasionally from behind the high clouds but there was still the milky glow along with the lights on the shorelines except for the totally dark area of Point Defiance Park. 

 About 10 minutes after we had cleared the bridge I realized that with the speed we were making we were going to wind up going up Colvos Passage if we didn’t get over to the east side so after a brief course adjustment we continued on.  Our speed was really making up for the slow southern journey.  I knew we were really moving as I could see the lights of Vashon disappearing fast with every stroke behind Point Defiance.  By the time we had reached the white flashing marker Brian clocked us at 8.3 knots!

 While I didn’t hear any chatter indicative of a big tide race we still prudently went a little wide around the point to avoid any unexpected rocks.  I had just cleared the point and was working through a boil when I heard a chuffing off to my left.  Just as my boat was shuddering over an eddy line a sea lion’s head and shoulders appeared above the foam wake in the black water less than a stick length away from me and lunged straight at the side of my boat. Its head stopped about 2’ away before it dived under, its back coming within inches of whacking my bow. After my adventure with them last summer I’m beginning to wonder if my boat and I are just a target!

 We did the six miles in almost exactly an hour, pulling up to the boat ramp at 2200.  The rain had just started to fall now and then as we packed up and had a short post huddle with many thanks and no complaints after we were loaded and dry.  This turned out to be the best night paddle I’ve had yet.  All paddlers performed well with excellent group dynamics.