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February 2006
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April 2006

Deception Pass Whirlpools

That recet article in the Seattle Times on Deception Pass put the fear of God into me.  Is it true that those whirlpools can suck you down, so that if you capsize in them you can't roll up?  Can you get trapped in them after wet exiting?  Can they suck you underwater?  I asked around to see if anyone had any experience with this and Rob sent me this interesting story:

About whirlpool retention. Big ones have been known to take large boats. In the Coastal Pilot there are warnings of missiles launched by whirlpools that had until then, previously held down trees that were afloat.

I was asked to help instruct a group of folks at DP as part of a WKC event. It was a 7.9K flood and we were on the NE side of Pass Island.  One of the other coaches blew out of the eddy, but the overfall redirected him into a whirly on the left. His boat flipped and it rotated by the whirly until it was stuck between the whirly and the cliff of Pass Island. He bailed, but the whirly held him to the rock like a starfish until the whirly's forces were changed and he flushed out. A student backed in and clipped onto his boat and another coach did a rear deck carry to get him to shore. When asked what that was like, his comment was: "Wow, that was interesting."

Up at Skooks I was submerged in a whirly to my shoulders and escaped by edging and hard strokes on the right. Truth is, it probably let me go as my presence in it changed the forces significantly. That too, was interesting.


Off To Baja!


Spent the whole day running around getting gear together for my Sea of Cortez Expedition Skills Course through Wilderness Kayak Institute. Had to replace two leaky drybags and a hydration system, a knife (got a shorter one that should make it through the airport), and dug out my old snorkeling gear. I learned that compression dry bags help a lot -- don't bother buying dry bags that don't compress!

This trip seems to come at the right time, after weeks of dealing with upheaval at my job (not made any better by me planning to leave). As you can tell my cedar strip kayak has been on hold for a number of days (means I've been busy). Hopefully, during this next week in the desert I'll have the chance to focus, get my priorities straight, and decide what I really want. It'll be good to have to worry only about food, shelter, sleep, and my forward stroke.

The route takes us around the islands of Parque Nacional Bahia Loreto. I chose this trip though Tofino (Wilderness Kayak Institute) because it was skills oriented and I'd get to paddle my own kayak. In a lot of those guided tours on the Sea of Cortez you get stuck in a double and a support boat powers on ahead of the group so when you get to camp it's already set up with big tents, chairs, coolers full of ice cold beer and a barbeque grill. Sounds kind of fun but I'd be embarrassed to say I went on one of those trips!

So one week without posts, but I should have plenty of new pics and stories when I return!




Got an offer for a job yesterday afternoon. This one really just fell on my lap. I heard about it last week from a colleague, scheduled an interview for the next day, and a little more than a week later got an offer. Why would I leave the job I’ve been at now for the last 8 years? The other place is nearly an identical practice but better pay and less call. People I work with who are familiar with the place tell me that it’s not as fun to work over there though. Where I work now the staff is like family. That relaxed, friendly atmosphere one of the reasons I chose this job in the first place. So here I am ready to make the jump but for dramatic effect let’s say that I’m not completely sure. Should I stay or go? Tough choice.


On one of my first kayak trips (back when I was having a lot of fun pushing my limits but not always exercising very good judgment) I was out camping alone on a little island after 4 days traveling around the San Juans. I planned to cross Rosario Strait at slack in the morning for the final leg of my trip. When I got up the next morning I discovered that the dry bag with all my food was missing, probably stolen by a raccoon. It was a stupid mistake, I know, not hanging that bag up overnight, but didn’t think that any  little critters on that small island could get into that tough heavy vinyl bag or even carry it away. So all I had for breakfast was the last CLIF bar I kept in my PFD and some hot water.The other thing I didn’t anticipate was the fog which had settled in overnight. I couldn’t see anything across the water, but I broke camp and loaded up my kayak anyway, hoping that the fog would burn off in time for the crossing.  I waited for quite a while on the beach, and spent some time looking for that dry bag in the bushes too but didn’t find it. Then I got in my kayak and waited on the water, looking east for any sign of Anacortes.  With those big oil tankers out there there was no way I was I going to cross in fog. Maybe if I spent the morning paddling north I could get lunch and groceries at the Doe Bay Resort Café?  No, I really wanted to head home. Just reminding myself that I didn’t have any more food made me hungry. I made some calculations and decided on a time when I absolutely could not cross because of the flood current. I think about 9 minutes after that time had passed the fog cleared and I set off. The water was totally calm and there wasn’t any traffic except an occasional ferry. It was going to be another beautiful day! About a mile from my destination at Washington Park, I started to paddle harder. The GPS showed that I was going 3.5 knots, but it didn’t seem like I was getting any closer. I figured it must be the current picking up so I paddled even harder. Then when I started to tire I suddenly stopped and looked at my GPS. I was going 6 knots sideways! The big red buoy off Washington Park floated past me. The current is not supposed to be this fast! Panic set in. I’m being washed out to sea! Then I calmed down and paddled with the current. Although it was carrying me away from the park, I had made it far enough through the confluence of Rosario and Bellingham straits that it carried me east toward Anacortes, and not back into Rosario Strait.  So I eventually made it close to shore, doubled back and got home OK. I don't know if that has anything to do with my job offer but I think it's a cool story.



Masikkut Aalatsineq!

I got masikkut aalatsineq (sculling roll with paddle held horizontally on the foredeck)! I've been working on this one for a few weeks. Isn't it wonderful how that happens, how suddenly it seems to come together, and how we can still learn new things? I wanted to try this roll because it's a slow controlled roll that doesn't require a low foredeck, low backdeck, or a flat bottom, so I can't blame not getting this roll on my kayak! I'm sure my form needs a lot of work, but I'm pretty sure I got the basics down:  I lean forward, holding the paddle in the regular paddling position, and place my left hand about 8 inches outboard from the gunwale, lock my knees under the masik and capsize to the left. It takes at least 4 sweeps to come up.  The first sweep goes back on the right side while leaning forward (similar to a storm roll) and pushing down with the left hand. The second (forward) sweep is critical to keep from rolling back under, and requires you to cock your right wrist back for a strong forward scull. The left hand also helps to control the paddle angle. Then repeat the back/forward sequence again and come up!  It can be done with no hip snap, although it helps to add little hip snaps incrementally with each sweep. Good form requires that the paddle maintain contact with the foredeck. I've tried it both holding the paddle far in front of me and closer right up against my waist and on the cockpit coaming. Holding the paddle closer helps keep it under control and on the deck. Using six sweeps would make it a slower roll and probably would help improve my form. Key points for me were leaning far forward, holding the paddle close, pushing the left ("inboard") hand down against the gunwale/deck, and a strong forward scull (backward sculls come naturally). Now I need to take some video of this one to see how bad it looks.



Everything I Know About Dubside


I often run into people who ask me, “Who is Dubside?” It is common knowledge that Dubside's skills at competition rolling are among the best in the U.S. and his knowledge and talent for Greenland rope gymnatics are unsurpassed anywhere outside of Greenland. But did you know these fun facts about Dubside?


  • Dubside’s first paddling job was as a guide at the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe ride in Disneyland.
  • Scientists calculate that based on the average growth rate of human hair, it would take most people at least 11 years to grow their hair as long as Dubside’s.
  • If Dubside wore any color other than black, he probably would look more like a hippie and less like a Navy SEAL commando.
  • Formerly a resident of Philadelphia, Dubside currently lives in a treehouse 95 feet high at the water’s edge in Anacortes, WA.
  • When he’s not practicing for the 2006 Greenland National Championships, he’s building a 45 ft baidarka in which to explore the Inside Passage of British Columbia.
  • The Greenlanders fear Dubside and call him Qivitoq -- the “mountain walker” -- a person with supernatural powers who shuns society and lives in the wilderness.
  • There are many imitators and wannabees, but only one Dubside!


Wooden Boats Can Do It Too!


Me in my wooden stich-and-glue Pygmy Osprey Standard, Deception Pass


How timely!  A friend sent me a link today [original link no longer exists] to a great article on kayaking Deception Pass in The Seattle Times, featuring Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé from Body Boat and Blade. Kayakers come from all over the country and the world just to paddle in Deception Pass during maximum ebb! For the ancient Salish Indians Deception Pass was good fishing ground and a sacred place.They called it "The Big Raging Water".The best warriors could swim across the Pass at max current. Many died trying -- they'd get swept into the Straight of Juan de Fuca and drown exhausted before canoes could rescue them...  Just kidding! I made all that up for the benefit of the nonlocals. It's probably more sacred for the regional paddling clubs than it has ever been for anyone else -- easy access from Seattle, and a great place to practice rough water skills. 

Pic of the Day

Shawna Franklin of Body Boat Blade at Deception Pass.


I first met Shawna and Leon of Body Boat Blade at Deception Pass. I didn't know who they were at the time. But when Leon was getting me a helmet to borrow out of their van it suddenly dawned on me: "Hey, aren't you the guys in that video This is the Sea?"    



Pic of the Day


Kate and Phoebe in "Jelly Bean", our sit-on-top Ocean Kayak Sidekick

The weather is warming up.  The sun was out yesterday and people were playing on the beach. I think I got a tan on my face! I went out in the afternoon just to roll and mess around. Working on my closed fist roll (assak peqillugu nerfallaallugu) and my off side hand roll. Since I've started to pay attention to how many points the rolls are worth it has influenced which roll I want to learn next! I used to try for which ever next roll looked the coolest, but now I go for the points.

Ted Henry and Holly (of Sound Area Wooden Kayakers) dropped by briefly to look at my Shooting Star in Progress. They were looking at houses in the area but brought their kayaks along too.  I thought I was bad but these people just can't leave their kayaks at home! Actually their kayaks are probably the best strippers I've ever seen -- excellent craftsmanship and real works of art -- so can you blame them? I got some good building tips from Ted, then spent a few hours until late last night laying fiberglass and applying the wet-out coat of epoxy on the interior of the hull. It turned out OK -- a few drips here and there but at places where no one will ever look, and no bubbles or wrinkles or anything serious.