Friday, March 27, 2009

Paddlers research a tragedy

"The Island of Lost Souls"... sounds like a place you'd find in some half-world between here and an afterlife. This trip is a little bit like that, and explorers Steve Weileman, Jason Goldstein and Brad Miller will be on their way in May to find it.

Their project will take them by Alaska Ferry to Wrangell, where they'll paddle 200 miles round trip to Coronation Island, scene in 1908 of a "disaster without parallel" in which the vessel Star of Bengal was wrecked in a storm with over 100 crew crushed to death in the wreckage on the rocks.

Steve shot some excellent video at the last two Deception Pass Dash races but this trip will challenge the photography, paddling and research skills of these superbly qualified explorers. Wish them safe travels along with me, and follow the updates to their trip at Essex Explorations' web site.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Weekend trip to Whidbey Island

Gray Whale in Saratoga Passage, photo from

Can't believe I ran out to the Island last weekend and didn't paddle... but we were talking paddling with Ed Young at Whidbey Island Kayaking Company on the south end of the island. Curious Harbor Seal, photo from

Ed signed on as a dealer with Stohlquist Waterware and Bending Branches Paddles for his upcoming summer trip season. In addition to custom destinations, he regularly guides trips from Langley along Saratoga Passage where his guests see everything from Gray Whales to Harbor Seals to Harlequin Ducks and Bald Eagles. He provides the gear so all his guests have to do is hop the ferry from the mainland, head for the put-in and jump in a boat.

Ed enthusiastically supports the Orca Network, working to protect marine mammals and their habitat. He's also on the lookout for experienced guides for the 2009 season. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's just a little San Juan trip...

Been planning a 4-to-5-day trip in the lovely San Juans with my buddy Bernie Swanson for a while now. Taking off Sunday the 29th of March from Friday Harbor after dragging our boats on the Anacortes ferry as foot passengers and dropping some gear with our friends at Discovery Sea Kayaks for safekeeping -- thanks Richard!

Mucho kudos also to my buddies Jim and Nadja who took a break from planning the San Juan Orca Challenge to send me a sweet list of suggested menu options leaning toward lots of fruit, nuts and fish. Speaking of the Challenge, it's coming up soon on May 16, and check out the official event watercolor, showing our heroes in their yellow Chiquita sprinting to the finish line alongside a friendly Orca.
So while gearing and planning, the luxury - and pitfall - of being an Eddyline rep in this wonderful business is picking which boat to bring along. The Falcon for distance... but Bernie says he's out of shape and doesn't want to go far... the Fathom for hot shot maneuverability... but is it too maneuverable for the conditions? the Nighthawk 17.5 if I want to carry two weeks' worth of stuff on a 4-day trip? And still hold pretty good speed? Sure, why not. Nighthawk it is.

Meanwhile all the layers of Stohly rashguards, bunny suit and bPod dry suit are going in the gear bag, of course the Stohlquist WDG bag which is awesome for sticking in the hatch and using to haul everything from the boat up to camp.

Next comes route planning, which was complex due to the timing and strength of the currents predicted for next week... ebbs beginning in mid-morning, and they generally run South in these islands, while our hoped-for route would take us North for the first couple days. We worked out a Friday Harbor-Cattle Pass (at the 1:30 slack current)-to San Juan County Park route for our first day, and now looking at predicted 20+kt SW winds and major potential swells coming from the Strait directly at the SW side of San Juan Island, thinking, hmmm, what's Plan B? Griffin Bay, Shaw Island, surf the wind waves up to Eastsound and beg a shuttle to the ferry from Shawna and Leon? Thinking, good judgment is your most important piece of safety gear. Yep. It's just a little San Juan trip... but just a little preparation can save a lot of hassle.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's the horse, not the chariot

The first in the 2009 series of Wednesday-night paddling races came off in quick, cold, quiet fashion last night at Magnuson Park. Susan Roth's pictures of the small group (just six of us) are here:

We felt secure in predicting that the evening in the high 20s, with a brisk North wind that laid a mildly challenging side swell across our course, was to be remembered as the coldest race night of the year. We're counting on the weather doing nothing but getting better from here.

In spite of all my coaching from Don, and my lightning-fast Eddyline Falcon S18, this guy just didn't have it. In fact Don smoked me by a couple minutes over the 3-miler, and he was paddling with his hands, lying on his belly. More training!

All the news about the Wednesday-nighters, which are non-hosted and are for all levels of paddlers, can be found on the Google group, SWIFT Paddlers:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We interrupt this evening...

...for an awesome full-moon paddle on Lake Union, Portage Bay, and Lake Washington.

This amazing shot was taken last night as the full moon rose over Lake Washington by my buddy Phil Philbin. Check more shots in Phil's slideshow right here. Somewhere off in the dark beneath Seattle's Montlake Bridge I'm paddling the new Eddyline Journey with three more of our group. Good thing I was layered up in the 25-degree weather in my Stohlquist rash guard, bunny suit, and dry suit. Phil's blog, Perils of Caffeine in the Evening, is an ongoing joy to read. Everything from Seattle kayaking to Buckeye Basketball, with dry humor and some very deep and inspiring memories. Check it out. Thanks for sharing, Phil.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a Shore Thing

It's A Shore Thing... at the Caribbean!
Annual Auction & Dinner
Saturday, April 4th
Community Center at Mercer View

It's become a tradition in the Northwest paddling community to look forward to the annual Washington Water Trails Auction. This is WWTA's main public fundraiser and supports the organization's activities -- environmental advocacy, volunteer site stewardship, Leave No Trace education, the list is endless -- that are vital to the health of our local waters and to our ability to access them.

This year, with items like the one below (from the news on WWTA's web site) popping up wherever you look, it's crucial to help out in any way we can. If you can't get there, donate an auction item. Send a cash donation. Or at least, if you haven't done it yet, JOIN WWTA!

Special thanks to Dan Henderson and his crew at Cascade Canoe & Kayak for their support of WWTA and their sponsorship of the auction.

Budget Proposal Threatens to Close Four Cascadia Marine Trail Sites

The Governor’s proposed 2009-11 budget reflects the critical state of the national economy. Services and spending are being cut across the board, including funding for parks and recreation. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission budget proposal for the next biennium, which begins July 1, aims for a $10 million reduction. This budget cut includes reductions in equipment replacement, administration, services, and a move to “mothball” or close 15 parks and expand seasonal park closures. State Parks will close and seek other public owner-operators for 13 parks deemed by the Commission as “not consistent” with the Centennial 2013 Vision (premier destinations or places of regional or statewide significance). Among the park closures, are four key Cascadia Marine Trail Sites: Kopachuck, Fay Bainbridge, Joemma Beach, and Fort Ward. In addition, a new site was planned for Old Fort Townsend, another park slated for closure. WWTA will advocate to keep the Cascadia Marine Trail Sites open and available for overnight use by non-motorized boaters if and when ownership of these important sites changes. Stay tuned to the email newsletter or Easy Current News for more information, as it becomes available. You can help! Call or write to voice your support today!