This is a classic Puget Sound kayak destination. According to Washburne's Kayaking Puget Sound, the San Juans, and Gulf Islands, "The Nisqually Delta is one of the finest estuaries in Puget Sound, and a good place for kayakers who like to exploit their craft's shallow water abilities and explore the brackish back channels as few other boaters can."
I've only paddled here once before. The problem for me has been timing my trip with the high tide, which opens up the channels in the salt marsh. Another problem has been getting a Department and Fish and Wildlife permit to park in the put-in at Luhr Beach. Even though they are readily available at any sporting good store for cheap, it has been just enough of a bother to keep me from going. If you don't want to put in at the Luhr Beach boat launch, which can be crowded with duck hunters getting their boats in the water, another alternative is Tolmie State Park, located a little less than 3 nm to the south. I think it makes for a longer and thus more satisfying paddle.
It was a crisp, clear day. On the way to the delta Ricardo and I ran into an old tugboat wreck. At a nearby park a couple who was walking their dogs told us that that wreck has been there for years. There was once a woman who used to paint the wreck regularly. When she died they had a memorial service for her on the beach and in the middle of the service the bow of the ship broke off. What odd local folk! During the big Nisqually earthquake a few years ago the smokestack fell in, and it seems the deterioration has recently accelerated.
The tide was at an extreme high at midafternoon, so conditions were perfect for exploring the salt marsh. There were quite a few duck hunters out hiding in their blinds, and occasionally a shotgun blast would go off nearby. Intrusive images of Dick Cheney shooting Harry Whittington in the face ran through my mind. Did you know that doctors had decided to leave up to 200 pieces of birdshot pellets lodged in his body rather than try to remove them? Damn, that must have hurt!
We ate a late lunch in the middle of the marsh, not quite on land, sitting on our kayaks with our legs in the water. Cold sandwiches with cold feet. Then we headed back as the sky darkened.
Ah, there is nothing like a cup of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate® warmed up over a campstove... with marshmallows! Just a reminder as we enter this season of obscene excess that happiness often comes from simple things, and out of hardship. After all, would that hot chocolate really mean as much if it weren't bitterly cold outside, and after a long, hard paddle?
Friday is "Black Friday" the beginning of the "traditional" Christmas shopping season. I've always wondered about the origin of "Black Friday" since I only became aware of the term in the last year or two. According to Wikipedia, the term "Black Friday" has been traced back to the 1970s. It was originally so named because of the heavy traffic on that day, although most contemporary uses of the term refer instead to it as the beginning of the period in which retailers are in the black (i.e., turning a profit).
I'd like to note that Friday is also "Buy Nothing Day", a 24 hour moratorium on consumer spending. It is an idea so radical in 21st century North American culture that even MTV wasn't willing to air the Buy Nothing Day anti-commercial commercials! You can watch the ad here. Ever since I heard of it, I would never buy anything on Buy Nothing Day, not even groceries. This year I'm going to paddle all day long. Yeah, right! I can say that now because I just got all my Christmas shopping done online, haha.
Rich Myhre of the Everett Herald has written an interesting article on Warren Williamson. He talks about his kayaking addiction, going to the Pass three or four times a week during the warm months and at least once a week in the winter. The Pass is indeed his personal playground. [By the way, that picture of Warren talking to the reporter is from last year, and I don't know who the reporter is.]
The article also mentions the race through the Pass, the Deception Pass Dash, which is coming up very soon, on Sunday December 2nd. If you have any interest in entering I highly recommend it. It was the first race I had ever entered, and I paddled my 16 ft strip-built baidarka. It was so much fun I had to sign up again this year. Register before November 24th for $15 and you'll also get a t-shirt! After the 24th the price goes up to $20 and you don't get the shirt. Last year Bill Walker from Seattle Raft and Kayak was giving out quite a few prizes afterwards. I got a dry bag and an NRS hat!
I found an interesting article in the Seattle Times yesterday about a couple who was harassed by the border patrol as they were exiting the ferry from the San Juans into Anacortes. Given that we already know all about how the border patrol likes to go off on power trips in the name of defending the country against terrorists and drug smugglers, that's not surprising. I couldn't help noticing that the author was Korean-American. I won't go so far as to say it's racist, but anyone who looks Asian probably gets a little extra attention passing through the border in the Pacific Northwest -- that's certainly been my experience. The surprising part is that these people hadn't even left the country! They were returning to Anacortes from Friday Harbor on a ferry that was also carrying international passengers from Sidney, BC. So after waiting an hour to get through customs and enduring the expected grilling from the customs agent, the agent advised the couple to carry copies of their passports next time. So if you are traveling in the San Juans just beware of those ferries from BC. It may be worth waiting a few hours for the next ferry instead of "co-mingling" with international passengers.
I just wanted to share a couple pictures of the kayaks that Ricardo is currently making at the Bates Boatbuilding Program. As a more or less legitimate tuition-paying "student" over there, he has the luxury of plenty of tools and space to work with and is able to build on two kayaks at a time. The top is a strip-built Red Fish Return, and the bottom a Greenland skin-on-frame that will serve as a "guest boat", that is, something wide and comfortable for friends who don't necessarily paddle all the time.
As a builder, Ricardo likes to dive in and work quickly. He has a talent for finding excellent sources of wood for cheap. His boats are characterised by pragmatism and durability. He does his research, but plays fast and loose with the instructions. If he can think of an easier way to do something, he'll try it. He won't get hung up over little details or whether a technique is "traditional" or not (such as using plenty of epoxy on a skin-on-frame). It's a refreshing contrast to my personal style. For instance, I'm too single-minded to be able to work on two kayaks at a time. Still his efforts result in remarkable boats, such as the replica of the Howard Chapelle skiff Farmer's Daughter (bottom pic), the boat that inspired me to build a sailing skiff of my own.
I just finished rolling on the second coat of primer on the interior of my skiff. The building manual recommends three coats of primer then two coats of paint on top of that. The plywood seems very porus and really soaks up the paint, so I would say that that would be the minimum number of coats to seal everything and get a durable finish. I have been sanding between coats and cutting in by hand, leaving a quarter inch gap around the varnished areas. I'll cover that gap in the final two coats, which will be a darker "antique cream" color.
I finally finished brushing six coats of varnish on the seats, gunwales, and centerboard trunk of my Joel White Pooduck Skiff. Looking back on it now, it took me over two months! That's because I sanded between coats in every little nook and cranny in those seats. Like I said back in August, if I had the chance to do it over again, I would probably forget all about painting and varnishing and just rub Boat Sauce over the entire boat. It would be a lot faster and easier, and I'd probably be done by now.
On the other hand, nothing compares to a nicely varnished smooth glossy wooden surface. You can look into it and it has depth. The hull panels are still unfinished. The next step is to paint the interior. Before I can do that I had to finish up a few details in the interior: a drain plug and the mast step.
The drain plug is not really necessary but is a neat little detail. It keeps rainwater from collecting if the boat is left outside uncovered. Apparently it was also traditional to put salt in wooden boats to prevent rot, since it is the fresh rainwater that promotes rot, not saltwater. Note how the plug is neatly sunk so it sits flush with the bottom panel.
The mast step is a block of Honduran mahogany with a hole in the middle for bottom end of the mast. It is epoxied and screwed into the bottom panel from the outside. I also carved in a little groove to allow water to drain from the mast step hole. How's that for attention to detail?
The seats and centerboard trunk were only temporarily installed today to drill the holes for the screws that will hold the trunk in place. Everything will be removed again before I begin painting the interior. The centerboard still needs to be installed in the trunk before the trunk can be installed in the boat anyway. The last pic is the centerboard after painting it red.