Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nisqually Reach 2 Alki 2009



I have done a number of day trips in the South Sound but I always wanted to paddle back home rather than return to the put-in. I may have mentioned before that Dave and I have a goal to travel from the southern-most regions of Puget Sound to Alaska by kayak. Yes? No? Whatever, we do and this will be done, in chunks. The South Sound to Seattle was a just a piece of it but the timing was never right. Last Fall while eating lunch at Winghaven State Park (a WWT camp site on Vashon Island) we discussed the idea of banging out the South Sound piece during the Winter. We agreed to do it and in January and we did.


Nisqually Head to Kopachuck State Park
1/30, Friday, Day 1
Cold, Heavy fog to clearing in the afternoon
Winds calm to southerly at 15 knots, Seas calm to 2 foot windwaves


We left Nisqually Head around 8:30-ish. Our original plans called for a departure from Boston Harbor but with the thick fog a start from Nisqually would simplify things and reduce the amount of time we spent paddling blind.


Leaving Nisqually Head
Glenda Brooks

The first couple of hours were spent paddling a compass heading until we bumped into land, taking another heading and going until we bumped into land, repeat, repeat, etc.

We should bump into Anderson Island in 5 minutes
Jon Dawkins


Bumping Into Anderson Island
Dave Resler

By the time we reached the intersection of Balch and Drayton Passages the fog was lifting. Current and wind were in our favor. We rode the ebb through Drayton and Pitt
Passages and stopped for lunch at South Head.


Pitt Passage
Jon Dawkins

The breeze was picking up a bit on Carr Inlet and adding some texture to the water. We rode the quartering wind waves 3.5 NM across the inlet to Kopachuck State Park where we camped.

Kopachuck Campsite
Jon Dawkins

We had the park to ourselves. None of the facilities were open so no hot showers. That would have felt good as it blew hard until near midnight and was pretty darn cold.

Note to self: “Get a real winter sleeping bag”.

Kopachuck to Lisabula State Park
1/31, Saturday, Day 2
Cold, Clear
Winds calm to southerly at 8 knots, Seas rippled




Slack flood was going to be hard up against the bank leaving no beach to load the boats so we were up at 5:30 AM fixing breakfast and tearing down camp in the dark.

Up at 5:30 AM
Jon Dawkins

It was dead calm until we were on the water when a west breeze danced across Carr Inlet. Rounding Green Point we were paddling with the wind at our backs and directly into the sun which felt wonderfully warm.

Jon at Green Point
Dave Resler

The ebb gave us a slight nudge through Hale Passage and around the corner into The Narrows. The current along the shoreline added a nice 2 knot advantage and we were upon Narrows Park before we knew it.

Tacoma Narrows
Dave Resler

Narrows Park is one of the Cascade Marine Trail sites that allows camping for kayakers. Several people were fly fishing for Silvers along the shore.


Narrows Park
Dave Resler

We were making really good time and planned to spend the night at Lisabeula State Park. In view of our progress Dave suggested that we pull into Gig Harbor for brunch at the Tides Tavern. It is located on the water and has a dock for customers so we tied up at 11:00AM. Just in time for opening. It was nice to have some fish and chips and hot coffee.

Tides Tavern

At the entrance of Gig Harbor we bumped into Bob Burnett and seven other paddlers. They had put in at Owens Beach (Point Defiance Park) and had come across The Narrows for lunch. Bob’s group accounted for more boat traffic than we had seen since leaving Nisqually. From my experience the South Sound is quiet year-round. It is odd that you see so much good water with so little boat traffic.

We traveled north up Colvos Passage between Vashon Island and the Peninsula on a brilliant sunny day.


Dave in Colvos Passage
Jon Dawkins

Colvos Passage is an oddity in that the current always runs south to north. Ebb or flood, it runs to the north. Never a lot of current but always north. Remember that in planning a trip. Soon we rounded Pt. Sanford and Lisabeula came into view. An abandoned beach on the last Saturday in January. We set up our tents and basked in the afternoon sun.


Dave Snacking on the Beach
Jon Dawkins

When the sun approached the crest of the Olympics it became cold enough to call for gloves and another layer.

Another Cold Night
Jon Dawkins

Lisabula State Park to Alki

2/1, Sunday, Day 3
Cold, Overcast
Winds to southerly at 12 knots, Seas to 2 foot windwaves





After another cold night I was up and walking the beach around 6:00 AM when I saw four boats approaching from the south. They positioned themselves in a line from Pt. Sanford to Lisabeula. At 8:00 AM each sent a diver over the side. I think that they were diving for Geoduck. The net that they pulled up looked like the dive had been worthwhile.

The morning was overcast with a light southerly breeze which partnered with the north flowing current to push us towards the end of the passage.


North Up Colvos Passage
Jon Dawkins

Normally when crossing the Sound we take a route that is perpendicular to the shipping lanes but visibility was good and the VHF radio confirmed that no traffic was coming our way. The southerly was picking up and blowing directly in a line from Pt. Vashon to Alki so we let the wind and waves push us across to the lighthouse and around to the shelter of Alki Point. It had taken 3 hours to travel from Lisabeula to home.

Rounding Alki Point
Dave Resler

I don’t believe that you can hope to plan a 45 NM trip in January and get tides and weather this good. It was very close to perfect! I’m trying to figure if I was owed this favor for all the currents I’ve had to push against or if it’s something that I’ll have to pay for in the future.