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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Vashon & Maury Islands Circumnavigation

An easy first day and a surprisingly challenging second one.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • TIDES/ CURRENTS: 06/01/19: NARROWS NORTH END -3.4 @ 0803 / +3.89 @1530 / YUKON HARBOR TIDE: -0.5 @ 1026 / 10.4 @1728

    06/02/19: NARROWS NORTH END:  -3.7@0836 / +4.41 @1513 / -2.23 @2150 /    PT VASHON TIDE: -1.5@1102 / 11.1 @1818

    WEATHER:SAT: Fog in a.m. clearing in early afternoon. Little or no breeze, temps 55-70, visibility good, water rippled. SUN: Sunny, temps same, variable S – SW light breeze at times, temps 55-70, WW 0-1+’, visibility excellent.


 SAT, 15 NM: All paddlers were on time and we were actually a little ahead of schedule for our 0800 huddle and then launch from the quiet Pt Defiance Marina boat ramp.  We headed west along the shoreline and were about halfway to Point Defiance when I saw what looked like a pale rock or buoy that I had not seen there before.  As I got about 20’ from it I saw it actually was an almost white sea lion floating in about 6’ of water as it raised its head, breathed and then dropped it straight back down.  As the water pushed me around to the other side it repeated the motion, completely oblivious to me, its brown eyes half lidded, its body motionless.  All of us paused and for a moment wondered out loud what to do.  Although there was no blood in the water we couldn’t tell if it was injured.  I have seen sea lions asleep in the water, alone with their head straight out of the water or on their side in groups, one flipper extended.  I have never seen one this pale, in or certainly out of the water.  I’m convinced that it was dying but there was nothing we could do so we paddled on followed by curious seals.  We got about ¾ of the way across the Narrows channel before the current caught us and we turned north and entered Colvos Passage.  We made good time, reaching the second nav aid just past Olalla where we stopped for a bio/snack break for about 15 minutes.  We then continued on in the dying current the rest of the way to the northwest campsite on Blake Island, arriving at campsite soon after the sun came out around 1330.  We unloaded the boats then slinged them up the longish beach to the WWTA campsite. There was only one other vacant tent and not crowded on the power boater side so we chose two campsites with Terry and I on one, Steve and Kevin on the other.  There was a burn ban on that had started on 05/05/19---not listed on the website naturally—and the fire rings had been removed so I piled the wood I’d brought up under the table and left it there.

 We set up our camps, ate lunch and didn’t bother to count the caterpillars.  One of numerous rangers came by and told us it was a regular cyclical thing….there were a lot of them.  The water had been shut off on our side and after we had sat around a bit we decided to walk over to the store/restaurant on the other side of the island to get some more water and hopefully ice cream and check things out.  We arrived at 4:20 to find that the restaurant/gift shop had closed at 4:00.  We then wandered over to the campground.  Terry and I found out too late to get any ice cream at the campground office that it had been open until 4:30.  Steve was lucky and was able to get some. He also spotted an otter by one of the marina docks. Another ranger came by and told us it the office would reopen at 6:30 but we weren’t waiting and after refilling our water containers we set back on the trail to return to our campsite.  Eventually we ate our dinners, cleaned up and I went to bed before dark.

 SUN, 20 NM: I got up to sunshine on the tent already around 8:30.  Tide was still going out when we launched at 1015. First timer Kevin wanted to paddle down the east side of the island so we went that route.  The distance is about the same but the western side is usually easier and a little quicker. It took over an hour to go the about 4 nm to the Vashon Island ferry dock with no interference from the ferries. Kevin had discovered on his phone the day before that the La Playa Mexican restaurant has been replaced by The Wild Mermaid.  All that was available were bakery goods, limited sandwich choices and some very good coffee. We sat out on the deck after ordering and paying at the counter.  Service was very slow and finally our sandwiches were brought out which Terry and I couldn’t finish.  Future plans are to turn it into a vegetarian restaurant once the kitchen is remodeled but I for one will not be back and don’t recommend it.

 It was a little after 1300 when we got back down to the boats and shoved off in the rising tide. Nobody needed to stop after rafting up two hours later so we decided to continue on down to Pt. Robinson.  Just as we were crossing a rough point outside of Tramp Harbor a 4+’ boat wake suddenly appeared from mid channel.  Fortunately Steve spotted it coming in time for us to position our boats perpendicular to the set so we had a fun time jumping over the series that had my toggle rattling.  When we reached Pt. Robinson for an extended break about 1600 we found the lighthouse was closed and the beach not too busy.  We all had a snack and took our time before heading out for the last 8 nm to the launch point.  We hugged the 4 nm Vashon Island shoreline and stopped for a bio break just before crossing the mouth of Quartermaster Harbor.  That was a mercy as it took us an hour to cross the 1+ nm opening.  There was little or no wind, the tide was only turning to the ebb about the time we arrived and the water just rippled but it was like paddling in glue.  There are no current charts for this area but local knowledge describes a large whirlpool created by water movements from the Tacoma Narrows, Dalco Pass and Commencement Bay. The ebb had started approximately 1830 but we continued on in the not very helpful back eddy almost to the ferry dock before turning left and heading south across the channel.  The ranges seemed very stubborn to budge and it seemed to take a long time to cross before we finally arrived at the boat ramp about 2000.  As we were loading up an argument began between some power boaters that were pulling out and it was obvious that alcohol was fanning the flames on that one.  We skipped the post trip huddle to get out of there before things got worse although all of the parties had left besides the one guy who seemed to have started the whole mess.   

 All paddlers performed well with excellent group dynamics.