In which our novice launched into his new endeavor with four paddle trips at West Point in Discovery Park in Seattle, two trips each to Green Lake and the Elks Club beach, and one each at Golden Gardens Park, the 14th Street NW boat launch, and Cormorant Cove Park near Alki Point in West Seattle. East of town, Issaquah Creek from Lake Sammamish State Park and Sammamish River from the WDFW boat launch were explored.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dead calm at the West Point buoy.

Dead calm off the West Point buoy.

During a calm, hot afternoon with Lee, on the south side of West Point at Discovery Park in Seattle, I launched from ankle-deep water off the beach, not wanting to risk my used but new-to-me kayak on cobbles.

My boat isn't what Water Rat would have had in mind, but it should do for me. Made in 2009, it's a rotomolded, linear polyethylene, short eleven foot version of a 17 foot sea kayak.

It's a Necky Manitou Sport, 10 feet 11 inches long and 44 pounds. It has sea kayak lines, but with a bit of rocker along its length and a skeg molded in aft. Widened to keep enough floatation and with a rounded chine, it's very forgiving. With a large, nearly recreation-sized cockpit, it's not built to defend against water coming in.

Tuesday, the 26th

After a stop at the NorthWest Outdoor Center (NWOC) on Lake Union to buy two foam blocks, two straps, and a used PFD, all for 73 bucks, then the carpet store on 85th Street for a 28 by 48 inch bound carpet remnant for nine dollars more, at last I was on the water at Green Lake, floating off Duck Island in a bower of willows.

So loading and unloading from both the interior and the roof are taken care of (except for the car connection points for the front and back lines for the roof). The PFD for $25 was about a third of new, giving me more to spend on the boat. I don't suppose you could swamp your boat with drips from your paddle, but you sure can get wet. I need a cockpit cover.

Sunday, August 31st

At Green Lake with Lee in attendance, I twice dumped the kayak and went swimming, then emptied the boat of most of its water and reboarded, scramblng cowboy style over the stern. The first time was in water shallow enough to just barely stand up, and emptying and reentering were both easy. The second time was in deeper water. Emptying and entering the boat with only a sleeveless shorty wetsuit and no PFD was possible, but left enough water to make the boat unstable without a lot of bailing. Climbing aboard was harder, too, but not by much. It's pretty easy over the stern.

Monday, September 1

Our little riviera at Golden Gardens Park. The impressionist effect here is Photoshop's serendipity, but the lovely composition is mine.

Our little riviera at Golden Gardens Park.

Three hours at West Point working out how to launch through little breakers on the beach and not get too wet -- move quickly through the breaker line to calmer water and launch from there, if it's not too deep.

After that, I played in the waves in the shallow water off the point, then paddled down toward the Hidden Valley beach, with sea lions, rocks, and a good paddle back. Loading up gets easier each time. But my hands are shot -- my kayaking might have to be limited to shorter trips.

Wednesday, the 3rd

I used the new cart to cross the sandy beach at Golden Gardens. The kayak twice slid off the cart before I figured it out -- the boat had to be nearly centered and tied more securely. I launched, eventually.

At the green buoy I sat for a bit, hoping for a ship's wake to play in. The water stayed quiet, so I paddled north to look at the little rock garden, then back south, into the sun.

Landed the boat on the beach, to the car for a snack, then back on the water and south for a look at the Shilshole Marina ramps and docks.

I didn't see how I'd get my little boat from the water up onto the dock -- it seemed too much of a lift for me -- and I didn't want to risk the boat on the concrete ramp, either. So back I paddled to the beach. There, to keep sand out of the van, I ended up just shouldering the boat and carrying it over the sand to the grass by the car.


Birdhouses on the pilings at the Elks Club. High tide.

High tide at the Elks Club. On the pilings are birdhouses for purple martins.

On a high tide I launched from the Elks Club beach just south of the Shilshole Marina. (I'd been told that low tide would expose a mud flat.) As I paddled south toward Shilshole Bay, the wind picked up just as there was a rush of boat traffic outbound from the locks.

It added up to some confused wave action. Then, not sure how easy returning against the building north wind would be, I paddled back.

After beaching and bathroom break at the Elks, I headed north into the wind, hoping for a break from the marina breakwater, but no luck. So paddling against the moderate wind provided a nice lesson -- stay off the water when it's very windy.

Saturday, September 6th

I launched from the 14th Avenue NW boat ramp in the fresh water of Salmon Bay, for a jaunt down to the locks into a little breeze and with the wind back. Very little current was evident from lake outflow.The spray deck showed its worth today as a couple of steep waves from a powerboat wake washed over the kayak's bow. Without the spray deck I'd have been soaked, but with it, hardly any water at all.

Afterward, I drove over to Magnolia to look at the put-in at Commodore Park just west of the locks. It would be a steepish but grassy thirty yard walk to a bit of sand beach, at higher tides.

Sunday, the 7th

Magnolia from the Elks Club.

Launching at the Elks Club beach again, this time with serious sea lettuce, I paddled across Shilshole Bay to the Magnolia side and along the shoreline to the Hidden Valley beach in Discovery Park. There I learned to be more careful of shore surf when I beach the boat if I want to stay completely dry. I skipped going all the way to the lighthouse, but did poke into the bay a little on the way back.


I had wanted to do a moonlight paddle, but decided on all days one of the few we've had this summer that was gray and threatened rain. So a day off shopping instead.

At the library I borrowed paddling washington as it styles itself. I'll buy it and Paddle Routes of the Inland Northwest, too. Even tho' the latter repeats much of paddling washington, it describes more routes in its smaller area. I'll also buy kayaking puget sound and san juan islands, which seems to cover its area well, including such details as the gyre in Shilshole Bay.

Tuesday, the 9th

Mount Rainier over West Point's south bight.

Mount Rainier over West Seattle and West Point's south bight.

At West Point again, hoping for a moonlight paddle, even if a day late. But by the end of my second, evening paddle it was getting dark with no moon showing through the clouds yet, so I bailed for home. But it was fun, paddling at sunset. And my technique seems to improve a little each time.


This afternoon the wind was picking up and there were small craft warnings for this evening. So instead of going out and playing in the waves (I'll order a real spray skirt tonight), I stayed home and tightened all the screws on the Necky, fixed the Sienna's seat belt (without dismantling anything), and sawed and shaped a plywood cover for the Sienna's spare tire. On a roll, I installed the dashmat, too.


I drove to West Seattle and explored the put-ins from south of Duwamish Head to Alki Point to Cormorant Cove Park. There I finally found a put-in protected from the surf, but which required a somewhat difficult carry -- which, it turned out, did a job on my back.

With a moderate north wind and waves everywhere else, Alki Point protected the water of Cormorant Cove. But paddling out from the point provided practice in how not to broach in a following sea, plus demonstrated the need for both a skirt for the cockpit and more skill. I ordered a skirt, cover, and dry bag from REI. Am working on the skill.


Picked up the skirt and cover from REI and returned the spray deck, then stopped at NWOC to exchange the PFD for a larger size.

Saturday, the 13th

My back still a mess, I made it to the Friends of the Library book sale at Magnuson Park and in an hour and a half picked up 15 books at a dollar a book -- kayaking, climbing, trees, birds, and more. It was like Christmas. After, I drove over to the small craft center and ate a late breakfast as I people-watched on the dock. It was being used as a beach, with sunbathers, readers, and chatterers, plus divers, swimmers, boarders and boaters of all ages and kinds. But I left the kayak in the car.

Thursday, September 25th

Blocked by the logs both on the right and up on the left around the corner. When paddling back down around the corner, the current put me into those bushes on the left. Lesson there.

After a couple of weeks shopping and exploring by car, today I was back on the water with a put-in at the Lake Sammamish State Park boat launch. It was a ten-minute paddle across the little bay to Issaquah Creek and its miniature delta. Paddling up the creek seemed almost as easy as if there were no current, testifying to how little there actually was.

Paddling back out Issaquah Creek.

So, up the creek to the foot-bridge and beyond a hundred yards or so to where a tree across the creek blocked passage.

Below that tree I'd scootched across one tree, snuck through another, and ducked under a third, but this one would have required a portage, so that was that for this exploration.

The paddle back with the gentle current was fun. Out in the lake again I reported to a kayak fisherman how far I'd got and we chatted a bit. He'd caught one Chinook. I tried playing in the creek's current where it was apparent in the lake. At one point I found myself edged way over and barely bracing. I think I finally might be getting the hang of stable edging. We'll see.


Sammamish River.

Sammamish River in March just a few minutes upstream from the Kenmore boat ramp.

From the Wahington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) boat launch in Kenmore (off NE 68th Street, across the river on river left), I paddled up Sammamish River, with a side excursion up a tributary that shortly ended at a tree-chocked dead-end. [Later I learned I'd been up Swamp Creek.]

I floated back down the side channel and continued up the river. Looking for slower water, I ferried from the inside of one river bend over to the next, in a kind of watery ju-jitsu, using the force of the current itself to ferry me from side to side.

That wasn't always the thing to do when the river widened, dropping its already slight current to near nil and a more direct line, straightening the stream as it were, was the better approach to the task.

I made it about three miles up to Bothell Landing, where there was no landing today -- with all the heavy equipment there maybe they intend to make one.

On the drive I stopped at Lyon's Creek Park. It was nice enough, but with on-street parking and a wheel to the water. Note that with a south wind the waves at this north end of Lake Washington have at least a ten-mile fetch.

Sunday, the 28th

The lower Snoqualmie River, from the Riverview Road dike.

Late light on the lazy lower Snoqualmie, from the Riverview Road dike.

I drove to Everett to look at possible access for the Snohomish delta. I checked busy Marine Park boat launch for Jetty Island, Langus Riverside Park on Smith Island, the Union Slough Restoration Site, then a last hop to Marysville's Ebey Waterfront Park and boat launch. Jetty Island looked good, and I think Ebey may be the best put-in for the sloughs.

It looked as if two miles west down Ebey Slough would get me to the flats around the west end of North Ebey Island and the triple confluence of Ebey, Steamboat, and Union Sloughs. From there, either out into Possesion Sound or up one of the other sloughs.

Or, east up Ebey Slough about four miles to Otter Island and a cut through to Steamboat Slough for a return through the mud flats to home. All very ambitious.

From there I drove back down I-5 to US2, immediately off its viaduct and down around to the Snohomish River's main channel, on the way crossing Ebey Slough with disappointedly no access at all, and along the lovely Riverview Road, also with no water access for miles. I hit Hiway 9 at Snohomish, then fast to home.

Tuesday, September 30th

A Great Blue Heron taking off.

A Great Blue Heron takes wing.

To West Point again. A sea lion was on the buoy as I paddled out, staying a little distance away. I watched the big guy stretching and yawning, before he plopped into the water.

Then, near as I could tell, he spent the next twenty minutes scratching himself on the cable anchoring the buoy or eating or something. He was nose down in the water, back or tail flippers up, as he kinda hung there, then came up for a snorting breath.

At one point a young harbor seal popped up so close to me that I was afraid he might hit my paddle, but of course he didn't. (An hour or so later another kayaker reported that the sea lion was still at it.)

After that I headed into the sand spit off the point to try to surf the wakes that can stack up and run in the shallow water. I got a little taste from a tug, and then a cruise ship. The tide was still too high, though, and the waves to small for much real surfing. But it was fun and my hip snap felt right, too.

Here's the journal for the next month of October 2014.

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