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My Kayaking Dreams


In the north end of Tacoma is a public beach which is usually crowded in the summer. Other than the beach the shore is dominated by very tall concrete bulkheads, and just off shore is a small island with tall concrete cliffs. The entire island is one solid abandoned concrete structure.

Just off the freeway is a large lake.  It's more like a pond really, because the water is only a few feet deep.  It gets really warm in the summer.  The water stays clear so it's a great place for summertime rolling practice.

On the coast I've stayed in this house that was built at the end of a long spit.  The sand is brown and coarse but very soft.  At unusually high tides the water will cover the road on the spit that leads to the house. The water actually gets pretty warm in the summer.  There is some nice gentle surf that rarely gets over 4 feet.

There is a river out in the forests near my hometown.  The place I am thinking of is actually a confluence of two or three rivers that have deposited a wide expanse of river rock in the middle of the trees . The current is not very swift so it's possible to explore them by sea kayak.  I was thinking of choosing a tributary and paddling up as far as I could until it got too rocky or shallow.

I was at this huge outdoor pool once.  It was a summer evening and they kept it lighted.  It was a great place for rolling practice because no one else was there that late in the day.

There are some tiny islands in the outer San Juans that are one of my favorite destinations. They are exposed and usually surrounded by rough water.  One of them has a lighthouse.

None of these places actually exist.  These are places I've seen in dreams. They must be recurrent dreams because the places seem so familiar.  Imagine my disappointment when I wake up and discover I've been dreaming. I find it funny that I dream about kayaking.  

Merry Christmas and may all your kayaking dreams come true!

BREAKING NEWS: Tom Sharp Speaks


This YouTube video is just in from Tom himself.  While standing on a picnic table in front of 150 kayakers, at the Deception Pass Dash, he denounces Qajaq USA, declares the demise of, then proceeds to hand out all the remaining inventory of DVDs for free.  People snatch them up like zombies scavenging a corpse.
This was a particularly poignant moment for me. I was also there when Tom began shooting video of Dubside on the ropes for Qajaasaarneq, and shot the video I used for This is Warren.  It started and ended at Bowman Bay.  
I think there are very few people who have done more to popularize Greenland Style kayaking in recent years than Tom and Dubside have with the publication of their three videos Qajaasaarneq, Greenland Rolling with Dubside, and Modern Greenland Kayaking.  It is very unfortunate that kayakers in the future will probably no longer have access to these videos, except maybe as rare bootleg copies.  

Deception Pass Dash 2008: A Totally Epic Race!


Here is a picture of my new kayak. It is the first production kayak I've ever owned. All my others were skin-on-frame or homemade wooden composites. So yeah I actually did make that paradigm shift after all.  I think the whole time I was looking for that perfect playful low volume rough water kayak I must have really wanted a fast touring boat. When a friend let me try his Epic Endurance I was so impressed by the comfort, speed and maneuverability that I knew that this was the type of kayak I needed to go farther and faster. Hey if it's good enough for Freya Hoffmeister it must be good enough for me!  I know this kayak is ugly as hell but I think once I start covering the deck with corporate logo stickers it will look much better.

I had my Epic for week before the Deception Pass Dash and had only paddled it 4 times. During that week I switched back and forth between using my Werner Ikelos blade and my Superior Kayaks carbon Greenland paddle. I think I hadn't used my Werner for at least a couple years (since the Baja Incident), but I convinced myself that by using it I could paddle something like 0.2-0.3 knots faster. It was actually not very easy to determine that because of all the confounding currents on Puget Sound. 




Using my Werner in the race turned out to be the biggest mistake of the day. For one thing I am pretty rusty with it for rolling. For another the conditions turned out to be pretty challenging.  Lisa J recently posted the recorded wind speed in knots on the SKSB-NW message board:


"The strongest conditions of the last 48 hours reported by Smith Island were: Sun 12/07/08 SW 7 @ 956, W 14.77 G20.855 @ 1056, SW 13.9 @ 1156, SW 19.11 G26 @ 1256. That was right about the time of the race and probably consistent with the carnage, including a jet skier at the end. Patrol boats reported 5' breaking at that south end of Deception Pass Island before the last boater came though and we all came back through 6+' cresting waves from all directions half the way back into Bowman at about noon."   

The steep waves reflecting off of Deception Island demanded a lot of bracing.  Just after rounding Deception Island I pulled out into a protected spot and switched to my Greenland paddle. That cost me a couple minutes but WOW did I feel so much better! I felt like I was ready for anything and I was finally able to take advantage of the Epic 18x's speed on flatter water. Pushing against the ebb current was not a problem this year compared to last and being able to precisely control tracking with the rudder was a real pleasure. 

There was a brief moment of relief when the safety crew around Strawberry Island told us "It's all downhill from here!" Of course they didn't count on the wind channeling through Canoe Pass, the steep standing waves in the channel, and all the chaotic water around Deception Island that we had just gone through before. It was actually a much tougher fight back with the wind and waves in your face but totally exhilarating.  
There was a guy surfing the standing waves in the middle of Canoe Pass. I don't know if he was part of the rescue team or what.  It wouldn't have surprised me if he was a racer.  More than a few people must have been tempted to forget the race completely and take advantage of the rare opportunity to play in such fantastic conditions.




Some results:
There were 126 racers.
Thirty-two did not finish.
I finished 12th out of 16 in my class ("fast sea kayak") with a time of 87 min 12 sec.  I was the last in my class who finished.
According to my GPS the course was 5.93 nm.
Fifty-two percent of those in high performance kayaks ("surf-skis") did not finish compared to 25% of those in fast sea kayaks and 22.5% in sea kayaks.  
The video below was filmed by Dubside from the Bowman Bay dock and the on water footage was taken from the back of my kayak.



Third Annual Deception Pass Dash (2008) Part 1 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.



Third Annual Deception Pass Dash (2008) Part 2 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

BREAKING NEWS: is closing!



Tom Sharp has announced that is closing on Monday 12-8-2008 at 0900.  That will be the deadline to order any DVDs from the website.  The future availability of the three DVDs, Greenland Rolling with Dubside, Qajaasaarneq, and Modern Greenland Kayaking, even from retailers like Sea Kayaker Magazine, is uncertain.  Any remaining inventory might be donated to libraries.  So if you were thinking of getting any of these DVDs now is the time!

Exploring the Southern Shore of Lopez Island in a Baidarka


Lopez Island has a reputation in the San Juans as being the "friendly island" (as opposed to the unfriendly islands Orcas and San Juan Island, I guess). Seriously though, I've never met any unfriendly people in the San Juans, except maybe a cashier or two at the grocery check-out who must have gotten their fill of summer tourists. Oh yeah, and then there was that cop that gave me a bogus speeding ticket on Orcas. Don't EVER speed anywhere in the San Juans and especially on that country road on the way to the Orcas ferry dock. It's a speed trap and they are just waiting to catch you coasting a little too fast down that hill.




What makes Lopez Island uniquely friendly is how people wave as they pass each other driving on the road. It's not necessarily an exhuberant wave but usually just a polite acknowledgement, briefly lifting your fingers off the top of the steering wheel, for instance. At first I really wasn't comfortable with the whole waving thing. It's a little too intimate for me and made me feel self-conscious. I also started to wonder if I should I wait for the other person to wave first before waving, or should I be the one to wave first? And then there were still some people didn't wave back at all. So in the end I decided the best thing to do is to wave to everyone but not actually make eye contact or see if they waved back.  It strikes a good balance between friendly and impersonal. 


MacKaye Harbor has a public boat launch with a port-a-potty. There is also a beach called the Agate Beach Picnic Area a short paddle/drive away on Outer Bay, but because of the steep stairs down the bank it is not the best place to launch kayaks. MacKaye Harbor and Outer Bay are quite scenic with lots of cliffs and rocky shores. Outside the entrance to Outer Bay is Iceberg Point and a small beach with access to the point.  There are a few trails that leave from Iceberg Point and wander east along grassy hills and provide stunning views of the rugged shore below and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.






The beaches on south Lopez are rocky and exposed to the southerlies and swell coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are plenty of kelp beds, small islands, and coves that could potentially provide shelter if conditions get really bad. I paddled east from Iceberg Point to Watmough Bay where I stopped for lunch before heading back. There is also a county park off Hughes Bay with a public beach that’s a nice place to stop. By the way, the best resource I've found that lists all these little parks is the book Afoot and Afloat: The San Juan Islands by Marge and Ted Mueller.




On the way back the sun came out but the wind picked up. By the time I returned to Iceberg Point I was paddling against a 4 foot swell coming from the southwest. At the entrance to MacKaye Harbor the waves were getting steeper and making things exciting. Be warned that conditions can change around here quickly.


Countdown to the 3rd Annual Deception Pass Dash (2008)

Four more days until the big race. The latest news is that 110 paddlers are signed up for the race on Sunday. It is going to be one huge party! Hopefully there will be places to park and that the logistics of getting everyone signed in and on the water in time works out. 

I was out yesterday afternoon in my Shooting Star baidarka training hard and testing out gear with a couple friends in Seattle. We raced from Lake Union through the Montlake Cut to Lake Washington and back. I usually pooh-pooh lake paddling but one cool thing about messing around in Seattle is that there are plenty of slow moving power boats around that you can draft behind. I was effortlessly doing 5.3 knots behind one of them! It's a real "gas" as long as you can stand a mouthful of diesel exhaust.   

Here is the weather report for Sunday:  
300 PM PST WED DEC 3 2008

If you remember last year there was a high wind and surf warning for the Whidbey Island area the night before. It was a bitter, cold and brutal fight but 76 paddlers slogged through it, although a few didn't finish, due to the strong ebb current, not necessarily the windy conditions. So it will be really interesting to see how things unfold this year.

Here is a pic of me with Bill Walker at the awards ceremony last year.  I won a dry bag!



ADDENDUM:  There are now 119 people signed up and the DPD crew says "The weather looks good for Sunday, a few showers but 49 balmy degrees, with a 10mph SW breeze. Perfect. "   Interesting about that a big discrepency between their reports and mine.

New Video: Deception Pass Merry Go Round

Deception Pass Merry Go Round from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Freya Hoffmeister (in black drysuit and red Illusion), Warren Williamson (wooden Arctic Hawk SS), Reg Lake, Chris Mitchell, myself in cedar strip Shooting Star baidarka, and a few others tear it up in the tidal race (7.3 knot ebb) at Canoe Pass. Also features a guy named Chris in a squirt boat. 
I didn't put a big effort into the videography here -- just set my camera on a tripod and let it run.  I also used a helmet cam for the first time and it was basically a total failure.  The images were shaky and crooked, and there was always water on the lens.  I managed to salvage a few awful seconds out an entire hour of crappy video though.