Larry and the whale 10.27.18.JPG

Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Tacoma Narrows

Any whale sighting is a welcome treat and this was the first time that I have seen a humpback in the Puget Sound which made this trip a special one. Photo credit: Terence Soh

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • CURRENTS: 0.1 mile east of Point Evans: S@1444  +3.2 @ 1724 / S@1930 / -4.5 @ 2507; North end (midstream): S@1449 / +2.7 @1720 / S@1946 / -4.1@2312 

    WEATHER: SEA CALM, SLIGHT SSW BREEZE, CLOUDS AND RAIN, VISABILITY POOR TO FAIR, ABOUT 50 DEGREES

SIGHTED: EAGLE, KINGFISHER, GREAT BLUE HERON, SEAL, SEA LION, HUMPBACK WHALE.

 This trip reminded me how much I like and have missed night paddles! I arrived at the boat launch next to the Vashon Island ferry dock about 1600 to find Terry and Larry already unloading. Herman, Terence and Will had carpooled from the Redmond area and pulled in shortly after I did.  I think we were the only cars to park in the new large parking area directly south of the boat ramps.  The parking/boat launch permit machine is next to a small covered kiosk next to the clean and stocked Honey Buckets.  Cost for a kayak is $6.50 and the machine takes credit cards.  After a pre-trip huddle we launched on time at 1700 and made an immediate left to head west down the pretty coast line towards Pt. Defiance.  As we were passing the last boat ramp a paddler that had just arrived in a group called that they had seen a whale.  In spite of the lack of sun there was still plenty of color in the beautiful trees all along the water and this continued once we rounded the quiet point that was crowded with seals and a sea lion or maybe two and turned south.  Larry did some rolls and then a cowboy re-entry at some point.  We were following a course that would take us down the mid channel under the bridge when Terry said suddenly, “Whale!”  We saw the spouts towards our left and the current pushed us at a rapid clip towards the area.  The humpback would go under for a few minutes, then reappear, spout and move on the surface about three times before diving again.  There were a few repeats of this when it suddenly appeared almost right next to Larry who was closest to the shore.  Larry said it was  eventually about 25’ from him and he guessed the blowhole was about 12-15” around.  I wondered if it was going to swat Larry with its tail. Terence got a video of it.

 All of this had slowed us down a bit and it was dark by the time we reached the restaurant a little before 1900.  Some of us shed our drysuits and left them on the benches on the nice covered front porch of Steamer’s before going in.  Surprisingly we were the only ones there and were warm and cozy as we ate our hot and tasty dinners served up in the usual hefty portions.  We were suited up and leaving at 2000.  We paused to admire the carved pumpkins with their colored lights attached to the top of the some of the piers before doing a radio check.  We stayed a pretty close group and made rapid and easy progress to the bridge arriving almost directly under the green lights on the underside of it that mark the mid span.  The water was still quiet and we paused for pictures to be taken before proceeding towards the streetlights for the road above the housing community on the east side.  At that point we then headed for the nav aid at Point Defiance.  Just as we were reaching it I saw what I thought at first was the moon breaking through the clouds. Instead it was an extremely bright light right on top of the point.  There must be some kind of construction project going on up there.  We heard a tremendous splashing as we got closer to the rocks and realized we must have startled a group of seals somewhere along the shore.  This didn’t stop several from following us almost all the way to the ferry dock.  We could hear them splashing behind us as we went along and I watched one swimming along beside me for a bit. They must have been curious about the lights on our back decks and I bet we looked odd floating along with them that close to the water to any observers.  We arrived back at the boat launch about 2200.  After loading up we had a brief post huddle during which nobody complained, Terence promised photos and thanks were exchanged.  Any whale sighting is a welcome treat and this was the first time that I have seen a humpback in the Puget Sound which made this trip a special one.  All paddlers performed well with excellent group dynamics.

 Terence Soh’s pics/video can be seen at https://photos.app.goo.gl/BXzWNkr4yM25YXiA7.  For perspective, keep in mind that Larry’s boat is about 17’ long.  =)

 

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