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Report from Ken
02/22/2006

It seems like there are always great paddling days in February. Clear skies, light airs and favorable currents. The trick is knowing on which dates in February these perfect days will fall, and then making sure to be on the water when they arrive.

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1 of 21

2006 Azimuth Expeditions. All rights reserved

We got lucky with the weather on this one. It was cold, but conditions were otherwise ideal. This leg of the trip was scheduled to go from Port Angeles to Pillar Point and was planned to last 3 days, but because the paddling conditions were so good, we were able to finish the 31-mile section in 2 days instead. Our group size was three: Mary, Miles and myself.

We ran the shuttle, then set out from Ediz Hook in Port Angeles shortly after noon. The water was a bit lumpy at the start, mainly from the wind waves reflecting off the rocks of Ediz Hook, but once we reached the open water and started pulling for Angeles Point, the wind was at our back and the current helped push us on our way. After reaching the point, we started across Freshwater Bay, staying about a half-mile offshore to take advantage of the current. We met up with John, a local paddler out enjoying the sunny afternoon, and spent about 20 minutes with him, paddling the rock gardens and inlets just west of Freshwater Bay. Numerous raccoons roamed the shoreline, and there were several spots along this section where harbor seals were hauled out on the barnacle-encrusted rocks.

We came ashore at Salt Creek and found a spot to camp just up from the sand. (Our selection turned out to be private property, a fact which we would learn the following morning.) By the time the sky had darkened, we had a fire going and were eating dinner. The temperature had already dropped quite a bit, and still had a long way to fall. The sparks from the burning cedar flew upward and mixed with the light from a few billion stars that filled the clear night sky. Before bed, I boiled water and filled my water bottle for use as a bag warmer, a move that turned out to be a very good idea indeed.

Did I mention it was cold? Well it was. We woke in the morning to find a thick covering of frost on every surface, including the inner walls of the tents. The boats were iced over, all of our water was blocks of ice and the neoprene skirts and pogies that we were going to put on after breakfast were hard as rocks. The overnight low temperatures had been predicted to go as low as 12 degrees, and there was no reason to think that they hadn't dropped at least that low. We ate our food quickly, broke camp and got ready to go in short order. Miles used a thermos of warm water to try to thaw out the cuffs and gaskets of his drysuit as he put it on. I warmed my pogies by swishing them around in the icy sea water. Mary wore just about every article of clothing she'd brought along.

Once on the water though, it didn't take long to see that we had stumbled onto the perfect paddling day. A light breeze followed us, and the current was moving strongly in the direction we were traveling. We stayed close to shore at first, where we saw a square cave in the cliffs near Agate Bay and wondered about its origins. We theorized that it must have once been a drop spot for rum smuggled across the Straits from Vancouver Island; we couldn't think of any other reason for it being there, and besides, it was fun to believe.

Our lunch stop was at Twin, which is where we had originally been planning to spend the second night. After a short rest in the sun, we got back in the boats and tackled the remaining seven miles to the takeout at Pillar Point State Park. The tide was relatively high by the time we finished, but there were still a lot of rocks to negotiate as we made our way ashore. We finished shortly after 3pm and drove back to Port Angeles to get some Indian food before the drive back to the south Sound. Only one more leg to go!

Stay tuned to the Field Reports page for an update on the fourth leg of the Straits voyage, scheduled for March of 2006.

 

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