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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Washington Park to Friday Harbor

This was a really fun trip, racing ahead of storm fronts with fast currents, some rough spots and lots of wildlife viewing! Photo credit: Steve Intelmann

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • CURRENTS: ROSARIO STRAIT GREEN PT : -3.15 @0818/ ROSARIO STRAIT: -3.15 @ 0920 / COLVILLE ISLAND: -3.15 @ 0906 / SAN JUAN CHANNEL (SOUTH ENTRANCE): -4.25 @0818 / S@1135 / +4.88 @ 1453 / KINGS PT: S @ 1226 / +2.92 @1446 / PEAR PT:  S @1215 / +1.95 @ 1602





I picked up Terry at 6:15 and after a brief stop to get our breakfast sandwiches we arrived at 0800 to find Steve beside his boat on the beach.  He showed me on his phone where there was a storm front currently at Forks and working its way to and predicted to arrive in the San Juans in the early afternoon right about the time that we would be running Cattle Pass.  We decided to proceed with caution.  Steve and I did the shuttle to the ferry parking, this time having to park my car all the way up in area D uphill on the right side above the ferry terminal ($12, cr cards ok). We launched on time shortly after our 0900 huddle arriving at Green Point about 15 minutes later after a radio check and porpoise sighting.  A quick survey decided us at an approx 225 degree heading and we arrived on the south end of Boulder Island about an hour later. Nobody opted for a break and we continued on around my unlucky corner where I promptly got stuck in a kelp bed.  (Last year a passing wake threw me up on the rocks!) I was jammed against a good sized piece of floating wood until Terry backed up and I went sideways as he pulled me out by my front toggle. The water was mostly flat and it was easy to see the current flows.  I was cheered to see big fat purple stars on the rocks above the exposed sea grass on the rocks as they have been few and far between the last few years.  There were a lot of seals pulled out on the rocks all the way to Iceberg Point and we did our best not to disturb them, particularly the wee ones. I kept my eye on the dark clouds spilling over the Olympics and towards the Strait. At one point outside Aleck Bay we rafted up and shared a snack bar before proceeding on. NOTE: the current flows east on the ebb in this area. There were a surprising number of heavily loaded power boats going by but we couldn’t tell if they were tourists or fishermen. We arrived at Iceberg Point right about noon and decided to eat our lunch. It only took about half an hour and we decided to get going at 1245 as we could to stay ahead of the clouds which were already dumping rain on Vancouver Island.  The whole western end began to become obscured with rain as we headed up the still quiet channel.  We stopped to consider our options shortly at reaching Charles Island as numerous power boats headed their way north throughout the channel.  It was rippling and there was a barely noticeable westerly breeze that didn’t last when we paused and within a minute or two we were swept into suddenly appearing 1-2’ tide rips. Terry’s rudder slammed my bow a couple of times and as I moved to the right to check on Steve his stick hit my bow.  We heard distant thunder behind us and moved towards the right to get out of the mess.  We skipped landing on the small beach available and headed up the sneaker route between Davis Point and Deadman Island easily going at least 5-6 knots in the rising current. After another brief discussion we stayed a conservative distance between mid channel and Lopez Island.  I kept a watch behind and we stopped briefly to debate heading the half mile to and hugging the shore or heading straight for Turn Island. We were moving fast, the current was still rising and we decided to go straight to the island.  Very light rain began but steady paddling had us over the eddy line and into the very shallow—inches deep on the right side—channel between the San Juan headland and Turn Island in less than an hour at about 1445. I turned to see that there was now rain in the channel behind us almost obscuring the south end of Lopez Island. Same for the Turtle Back Mountains on Orcas to the north but we took a break that was just a treat in the sunshine on the tiny island next to Turn Island. Terry waded across the 20’ “river” to Turn to take a picture. The rain had stopped and we had sunshine for the rest of the day as we rode the flood into Friday Harbor after our 15 minute break, arriving at the kayak dock about 1530.  It didn’t take long to get our boats on wheels and up the ramp where we parked them in the grassy area on the hill beside a band performing to a small seated crowd.  We changed out in the bathrooms and rearranged our packing before wheeling to the ferry terminal where I was told we had a two hour wait to board the 6:30 non-stop to Anacortes.  We decided to go to the top level of the Crabhouse across the street where Terry kindly bought my burger and fries.  Then we walked around the upper corner to get ice cream.  We sat down on the steps across from the ferry terminal and I eventually went and got some coffee.  We boarded about 0615 although the ferry was about 10 minutes late leaving.  We arrived back at Anacortes about 0745 in golden sunshine.  Steve and Terry did the shuttle while I waited with the boats in the staging area for buses.  It didn’t take very long to get our cars loaded up and boats tied on and I was surprised to see there was a driver patiently waiting with a fuel truck….he didn’t say anything.  We had a brief huddle after we moved our cars out of his way and there was nothing but positive comments and thanks. There were only a couple of isolated areas that showed any signs of rain all the way back to Seattle.

 This was Steve’s first time in Cattle Pass and he had expressed some concern to me prior to the trip for both the weather and water conditions but opted to go for it anyway with a positive and cheerful attitude for which I was very grateful. Both paddlers performed very well with excellent group dynamics.