Photo by Katya Palladina.
Photo by Katya Palladina.
I’ve only just begun foraging for shellfish around Puget Sound. Eventually I’d like to explore all of the designated harvesting beaches in the area. It gives me yet another reason to get out and paddle, with the added challenge of trying to arrive at my destination at the right time, when beaches are exposed at low tide.
My diet is normally entirely plant-based, but I will eat a small amount of wild foraged shellfish a few times a year. Oysters or mussels are simple organisms that are most likely not sentient and don’t feel pain. Harvesting them also poses very little environmental impact. Because they are filter feeders, oyster farming actually improves water quality. An annual shellfish and seaweed harvesting license costs a little over $16 when you purchase it online. Refer to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Harvest Rules. Mussels can be harvested from salt water year round, up to a limit of 10 lbs/day.
I also always refer to the Shellfish Safety Information site for beach closures due to pollution and biotoxins. Not surprisingly, the areas around Seattle and Tacoma are typically closed to shellfish harvesting due to pollution. Biotoxins such as the one that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) can even occur in the San Juan Islands, despite the much colder water and strong currents. The risk of PSP varies depending on the species. Mussels accumulate the toxin faster than other species, so it acts as a good indicator species. Clams accumulate the toxin at much higher levels and take longer than mussels and oysters to clear the toxin. Concentrations of PSP usually start going down in October and November, but clams can still be toxic an entire year after an algae bloom. This is important to know because some beaches on the Department of Health map appear to be closed (indicated by the red color), but they are actually only closed to clams and are still open for mussels and oysters.
Hope Island is one of my favorite destinations in the South Sound. It has pristine beaches but is easily accessible from Boston Harbor north of Olympia. I discovered yesterday that it is also a good site for finding mussels. Beds of mussels are located on the south east gravel beach right next to the entrance to the park. These are the smaller Foolish mussels (Mytilus trossulus), and only grow to 3 inches long, as compared to the larger California mussels (Mytilus californianus) you find on the coast which grows to 6 inches.
The put-in is the public boat launch at Boston Harbor. The boat ramp is right next to the marina building. There is free parking right next to the boat launch for people with kayaks and canoes, and restrooms with flush toilets across the street in the parking lot. Boston Harbor Marina is a full service marina which includes a grocery store and kayak rental.
The distance to Hope Island is 2.85 nm, 7.11 nm round trip including circumnavigation of the Island.
Before going, check the currents in Dana Passage.
A perfect day for sailing my Joel White Pooduck Skiff, Annabel Lee, from West Point in Seattle to Blake Island.
After hearing that the historic art deco era ferry Kalakala was recently put up for sale by owner Steve Rodrigues for $1, I wanted to see it again. The ferry has been evicted from it’s current berth in the Hylebos Waterway so who knows how much longer it will be in Tacoma. It needs to be moved by the end of the year or it will be seized by the Coast Guard. But it may not even be in condition to be moved. The Coast Guard said that improvements need to be made to keep it from sinking or breaking apart when towed.
It is a short paddle (1.5 nm) from the new Dick Gilmur public access kayak beach on Commencement Bay to see it. It looks like it’s in pretty bad shape.
Thanks to Katya Palladina for the photos.
Vashon Island is practically in my front yard, so I could have started this trip from home. Instead I decided to launch from Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park. Originally, I planned this trip as an overnighter around both Vashon and Maury Islands, with camping at Blake Island. But by leaving from Owen Beach and crossing into Quartermaster Harbor at Portage, I was able to shave a few miles off my original plan and make it a day trip.
I've attempted to make it to the famous Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor with a sailboat a few times. Most of the time I didn't make it because the wind was too light. I was successful once when the wind was blowing 15 knots. Another time I made it by motoring through the Narrows but when I got to the tavern there was no room to tie up on the dock. It's a Gig Harbor landmark and very popular place!
Has anyone out there seen the Gray Whales in Saratoga a Passage this time of year? I paddled from Camano Island State Park southeast to Camano Head, across to Whidbey Island and then northwest to hoping to find some. I understand that Gray Whales migrate 10,000-12,000 miles from their calving lagoons in Baja, Mexico to the cold arctic seas and along the way some of them stop in Puget Sound and are known to frequent Saratoga Passage where they feed on ghost shrimp and tube worms. April through May is supposed to be a good time to see them but I've had no luck. That was a couple weekends ago, so they may be there now. I went at low tide and the Whidbey Island side of the passage was shallow, so I got a great view of all the crab hiding in the eelgrass beds.
While paddling in Hylebos Waterway this morning I ran across what looked like the rotting hulk of an old spaceship. It was the Kalakala, an historic and unique Washington State ferry constructed in an art deco style that operated in the Puget Sound between 1935 and 1967. She's in pretty bad shape. Recently she was threatened with destruction for her scrap metal. It is not clear to me whether the Kalakala Alliance Foundation is still able to continue the restoration or not.
Well, it has been an exciting 4th of July weekend. The Tall Ships Festival came to town and everyone who has a boat of any kind has been out watching them on Commencement Bay. My friend Richard Lovering, who happens to live on a boat literally in the middle of the festival, says he’s finally had enough of listening to people singing sea shanties while dressed up like pirates with stuffed parrots on their shoulders and saying "Arrr" all the time. I guess the festival gets loud and stays loud long into the night. You know how the yachting crowd is -- they’ll use any excuse to get drunk and Tall Ships is just one big party.
Today I joined the South Sound Area Kayakers for a paddle from Owen Beach at Point Defiance to the festival on Thea Foss Waterway. Dozens of little boats had crowded the waterway and the air was toxic from all their gasoline and diesel fumes. Of course, when paddling right behind one of these boats you are at the perfect height to breathe in their exhaust.
Out on the Bay I got a few pics of the Hawaiian Chieftain giving the Amazing Grace a broadside. Damn those guns are loud! For more pics take a look at my photo album.
Today's paddle: I left from Thea's Landing and paddled along the Tacoma waterfront. It was totally flat water and very industrial, but there were a lot of rotting piles and docks to play around and practice bow rudders and hanging draws.
Thea's Landing Park is named after Thea Christiansen Foss, founder of the Foss Maritime Company, the largest tugboat company on the West Coast. She started the business in 1889 with a rowboat she purchased for $5 from a fisherman down on his luck.