In which I put the kayak in the water four more times at Shilshole Marina in Seattle, twice at Bowman Bay on Fidalgo Island to explore the area around Deception Pass, a couple more times at West Point back in town, and once in the soup at Sandpoint on Lake Washington.

New Year's Day, 2015

Meadow Point and the Golden Gardens beach and bathhouse lie beyond the Shilshole marina breakwater and fishing pier.

I didn't get out of the house 'til two pm, so instead of exploring the length of Whidbey Island as I'd planned, I settled for a paddle at Golden Gardens in Seattle. At the Eddy Vine boat ramps just north of the Shilshole Marina, I managed the getting-ready and launching in reasonably quick time.

I paddled north out from behind the marina's breakwater into a cold north wind, maybe 36 degrees and ten knots, to the Meadow Point buoy. During the long half mile up, the waves in my face started whitecapping just a little, and I could play just a little.

It was nice to tuck behind the buoy for a few minutes before running with the sea back to the marina, there to strip off the drysuit for lunch.

With only an hour or so of daylight left, rather than go out again , I came home to rest up for tomorrow's jaunt up Whidbey Island, I hope.

Saturday, January 3rd

Double break: evening at Partridge Point, Whidbey Island.

A surfer paddles out evening's double break at Partridge Point.

I had intended to hop the ferry from Mukilteo and drive the length of Whidbey Island north up to Deception Pass. But that goal was far too ambitious, what with all the stops on the drive up the island.

From south to north, parks I passed but didn't visit this time included Possession Point Park, Dave Mackie County Park, Double Bluff Park, Freeland Park, and numerous other spots with beach access.

Parks and such that I did see were Langley Whale Center (I met an Alicia), South Whidbey State Park (closed for the winter but with a warm bathroom), Fort Casey State Park (back-beach camping open in winter but exposed to the south wind, with a lighthouse, eagles, and deer), Fort Ebey State Park (surfers at Partridge Point), the Hastie Lake boat ramp, and Joseph Whidbey State Park (also closed).

With today's small swell and three-foot wave, the break at Partridge Point looked fun, at least for a proper surf boat (or board). There are rocks off the point, but on the north side there's a nice beach. It was steep now in winter, but might be surfable in my boat with a bigger swell and lower water. I'll check back.

Sunday, January 25th

On a three foot tide on a warm winter day, from the Shilshole Marina boat ramp I paddled around the north end of the breakwater and headed out to the buoy "flashing four seconds private," with three studly sea lions and one harbor seal looking around.

Then followed a second leg in to the breakwater's little beach, hoping for, but not finding, a bit of surf. I decided not to land for lunch, and instead let the easy north breeze (and maybe a bit of current) drift me south toward the end of the breakwater as I munched my sandwich.

From the breakwater's south end (green "3"), swells and breeze helped me toward the green can "7" in Shilshole Bay that sits in the current from the locks. There I practiced coming downstream to catch the eddy behind the can. First time was sloppy and late, second time was still a bit sloppy but I managed to tuck in tighter, and the third time, on my strong side, was muscular, tight, and clean. I'll note that putting an eleven foot sea kayak in the eddy behind a three foot buoy is hard work, but good practice.

Thursday, the 29th

Rosario Head from Bowman Bay.

Across Bowman Bay. Do click it.

When I put in at the boat ramp in Bowman Bay at Deception Pass State Park, it was clear in the high 40s with no breeze and an ebbing tide. This pretty bay on Fidalgo Island is bound on the north by Rosario Head and on the south by Reservation Head.

The currents in Deception Pass have a reputation, so even at a near slack tide, it was with some trepidation that I headed out. (You can see detail for the area snipped from Marine Chart 18423.)

I paddled south around Reservation Head, past tiny coves formed from cliffs a hundred feet high, decorated with bonsai of Douglas fir and Madrona. In the water appeared tiny rock islets, kelp beds, sea birds, and two harbor seals. As one dove he slapped the water like a big beaver.

Rounding Lighthouse Point (green "1"), up ahead I could see the whitewater of wavetrains through Canoe Pass and Deception Pass.

As I paddled east toward Canoe Pass, past Lottie Bay and the little bay that I call Canoe Cove, the ebbing current picked up and I started using the back eddies near the cliffs to more easily advance against it.

Looking across the entrance of Lottie Bay toward Canoe Pass.

On a later walk during slack water, I looked past the entrances of Lottie Bay and Canoe Cove to Canoe Pass and Pass Island.

On the other side of Lottie Bay near Canoe Cove, in the easy swirling waters of the eddy line, I tried to dance from swirl to swirl -- not very successfully. Near the pass, I again had to use eddies along shore to advance. Finally, at the farthest into Canoe Pass that I could paddle, I rested in an eddy behind a shore-side rock and assessed the water.

I'd mistimed it and the current seemed to be approaching maximum. The peel-out into the current looked no harder than what I'd practiced at Big Eddy on Skykomish River, but the consequences did. This was not a place I wanted to go swimming.

So I stayed out of the river of whitewater streaming through the pass and worked my way back in the calmer eddies near shore. But now I was paddling against those eddys' currents, so splitting the difference I tried the eddy line.

That was interesting, with boils and small whirlpools that appeared and disappeared. As little whirlies suddenly formed below me, I almost dumped it twice, saved only by a fast brace and paddle out.

Back in Bowman Bay with an hour of light left, I walked the trail out to see where I'd just paddled to find that the current had eased. That was when I should have been on the water. Ah, well, I'll be back.

Friday, the 30th

At West Point a dense fog persisted to early-afternoon's mid-tide, so I stayed on shore for a walk on the beach. Occasionally I heard the engines of boats and ships out on the water that I never saw. A single horn sounded forlorn through the fog.

Saturday, January 31st

Off the beach at Golden Gardens Park, a lone kayak in the fog.

Another foggy day in Seattle, so I drove out and looked first at the Zurfleuh rapid at the confluence of Snoqualmie River with Raging River, and after that looked at the Snoqualmie's Powerhouse run.

The Snoqualmie was at 2260 cfs and the little rapid at Zurfleuh was mostly drowned and the Powerhouse rapids were little better. I think I'd want about half that amount of water to get more rock garden play. Afterwards, I walked the first half of the Little Si trail before my hip and the fading light sent me back home.

Monday, February 9th

After a few emails back and forth, from a craigslist ad I bought a lightly scratched Sweet Stutter helmet for $60. Black with a bill almost like a baseball cap, light weight carbon fiber, Norwegian. They go for almost $200 new.

Thursday, the 12th

I was late to Shilshole Marina on another warm winter day with no breeze and a two foot tide. So, a mile down the outside of the breakwater, with two eagles, six herons, and one sea lion checking me out, I played at eddy turns behind the "7" green can and "8" red nun as a harbor seal watched. Coming back, at the "6" nun there was an even better current and eddy, which surprised me since it's further out in Shilshole Bay.

Saturday, the 14th, and Sunday, the 15th

A cruise ship, sailboat, towboat, and cargo ship: marine traffic off Golden Gardens Park.

A cruise ship, sailboat, towboat, and container ship -- marine traffic off Golden Gardens Park.

First swimming at Sandpoint in algae and then at Shilshole Marina in the salt -- very interesting. The Seals Sneak spray skirt won't stay put during a roll attempt, and remounting the boat weighted down with the skirt and drysuit acting as wet anchors is hard.

I emailed Seals to ask if they'd make me a real neoprene skirt for the Manitou Sport.

  Re: Seals Request
  Tuesday, February 17, 2015 9:51 AM
  From: "Christina - Seals Skirts"

  Thank you for your e-mail. We do not make any type of neoprene decked product any larger than our Seals size 2.5 due to safety reasons. The 4.2 size is larger than the 2.5 size. The Sneak style sprayskirt is not suitable for rolling. We only recommend neoprene decked products for rolling, but unfortunately, we don't make them in the size for your kayak.
Thank you for your inquiry.
  Best Regards, Christina

Back to the drawing board. If I'm really at risk of dumping it, maybe I'll just wear a wetsuit.

Wednesday, February 18th

Easing ebb current on a Canoe Pass evening.

A heron guards the entrance to Canoe Pass. Click to enlarge.

On a balmy, windless, winter day, at 1:30 I put in for the second time at Bowman Bay and did the short paddle out around Reservation Head and Lighthouse Point, past Lottie Bay, to Canoe Pass. (See the area in a detail snipped from Marine Chart 18423.)

It should have been just before the 2pm slack tide, but as a fisherman on the bank said, the tide tables are just predictions, and today he saw the current go from flood to ebb with no noticeable slack water.

With that slight ebb current against me, I eddy-hopped through the pass toward Strawberry Island. I came back through the pass with the building ebb, tucked in behind Pass Island, then ferried across Deception Pass to the Whidbey Island side. I waited for a fast boat to go by, then ferried back behind the island to look at Canoe Pass again.

As I nosed into Canoe Pass, I found that the current had now built up to as fast as I could paddle, maybe three-and-a-half or four knots. (Maximum current in Deception Pass was predicted to be 7.4 knots at 5pm.) I ferried across to the Fidalgo Island shore and eddy-hopped up into the pass as far as I could go.

Rosario Beach, the San Juans behind.

Rosario Beach, Urchin Rocks, and distant San Juan Islands.

After a brief inspection I peeled out across the eddy line into the current, rode the current down a short bit, paddled across the eddy line into a shore-side eddy, and worked back up into the Pass for another peel-out into the building current.

After a few rounds of that game, I caught and rode the current, whirls, and waves back to Lighthouse Point. Nearing Reservation Head I eased through a narrow channel into a tiny cove, around a rock island, and out again. Then it was back to the beach in Bowman Bay.

Out of my drysuit with a bathroom break, brownie, and small talk, I decided that rather than paddle to Rosario Head I'd take the one mile walk. Built with CCC stonework in the 1930s, the lovely path provided stunning views across Bowman Bay.

The path skirted Rosario Beach, then climbed the grass-covered bald of Rosario Head. There were views in all directions, of rocky islets below, headlands, and tree-covered islands beyond, with scenic backgrounds of the San Juan Islands and the Olympic Mountains.

Oystercatchers argued on the rocks below the cliffs, and a river otter swam through Sharpe Cove.

Monday, February 23rd

The little rock garden north of Meadow Point at low tide.

Low tide at the little rock garden north of Meadow Point.

I was close to home again, with a one foot tide on another perfect winter day. From Shilshole Marina I paddled north past Golden Gardens Park to the little bight beyond Meadow Point.

Through the clear water of the shallows the sea-floor of rock, sand, and eel grass passed below like a movie. Fronds of seaweeds swayed in the gentle currents as crabs scuttled across the bottom from one hiding place to the next.

I paddled over the low tide shallows up to the little rock garden north of Meadow Point. Nary a sea star to be seen, but there were seagulls, cormorants, brant, bufflehead, widgeon, one eagle, and more.

Paddling back from the rocks and still in the shallows, I caught the second wave of a set from a ship's wake. The wave was a couple of feet high with a frothy crest as I surfed in toward the beach with a stern rudder. I stayed on the wave for twenty yards or so -- a great ride, too short but fun. At the beach I got a little splash, but turned around okay.

I paddled out to the green "1" buoy, then back to the marina. Other kayaks were coming out as I loaded the van around 4:30.

Tuesday, February 24th

Clam siphons in the shallows, among other things.

Clam siphons in the shallows off Meadow Point.

The launch on another one foot tide off a sand- and mud-flat on the south side of West Point, was not too messy, but to be avoided in the future. The shallow-water waves from ships wakes for surfing never quite materialized, but I did manage to ground the boat on the spit off the point.

To avoid the south-side flats, I took out on the cobble beach on the north side of the point and wheeled the kayak to the car. The cart worked fine.

And onward to the journal for the next month of March 2015.

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