Wooden Ships, History and Paddling in Port Townsend, WA

21 09 2018
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Schooner at the Wooden Boat Festival

My friends Suzanne and Bob Eggleston recently moved up to Port Townsend and I went up to visit. When you’re living in Portland, Oregon, it’s often easy to forget that a wonderful salt water recreational paradise lies a couple of hours north! Not only that, but many towns in the northern Puget Sound are in a rain shadow – they receive less than half the rain Portland or Seattle gets. This meteorological fact has attracted quite a few folks relocating or retiring.

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Port Townsend has quite a view. You can typically see not only the beautiful vessels in the harbor and the historic buildings, but Mt. Baker dominates the view east. Mt Baker is  10,781 ft and is very glaciated. But on this trip, smoke from wildfires in British Columbia obscured the view.

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Working every weekend in the outdoor recreation business, I looked forward to this mid-week visit. Just after Labor Day and before the Wooden Boat Festival. The early 20th-Century downtown was not thronged with tourists. To get there, I drove up the Hood Canal, and arrived in town about mid afternoon on Tuesday. The drive up Hood Canal was very pretty. Quite the transition to a saltwater culture. Lots of towns right on the water. Some seem to be harvesting oysters for income, and others making ends meet from the tourist industry.

Suzanne and Bob settled in a community named Kala Point. It’s very much peaceful once you pass the gate. Problems of the outside world are left behind. It even has its own pickle-ball courts and a beach where kayaks and rowing boats are stored.

In town, we walked the waterfront, glimpsing the wooden craft coming into port for the Wooden Boat Festival. Power Yachts big and small, schooners, ketches, yawls, sloops and dinghies all coming in.

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Suzanne and Bob on the docks.

After walking the docks, we went to dinner at Sirens Pub, which has a to-die-for view of the docks. Not only that, but my Portobello Mushroom salad was really scrumptious.

One of our highlight activities was to be a paddle on the bay!

I brought up my kayak and Suzanne borrowed a Hobie pedal drive kayak from a kind (and trusting) neighbor.

 

 

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Dinner with a view at The Sirens Pub

Kala Point has its own beach so we headed down there. Perfect day for a paddle! Wind out of the North Northeast about 10-12 mph. Launching my Current Designs Sisu is a simple affair, even with the seaweed along the shoreline. Suzanne’s Hobie Mirage Drive kayak is a bit more problematic. It has these “fins” which move back and forth underneath the kayak and are driven by pedals up on deck. It’s got bicycle chains connecting, and anything that the fins/chains come into contact with can throw off the whole system. So launching Suzanne involved keeping “fins up” and moving out beyond the clogging seaweed. Either way we got ourselves launched and out into the bay.

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Suzanne about to go to sea!

We spent several hours out there. Super nice to get out on the water!

 

 





Waldo Lake, OR – Beautiful Paddling and Starry Nights

13 09 2018

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Waldo Lake, located about 50 miles east of Eugene, is one of the most pure lakes in the world. It’s one of Oregon’s natural wonders. For sailors and paddlers Waldo Lake is a dream. No powerboats are allowed. So it’s like going back in time. It has no incoming streams – it gets its water from springs and snowmelt only. In fact, the water is so pure, fish cannot live there. Gliding over its surface, you can see 140 feet down. I’ve been going there for years, because the camping on the west side is paddle-in only. Recently, though, forest fires seem to crop up in mid-August every year sending smoke. So there are campfire prohibitions on that side. So this time we car camped on the east side. Because Waldo sits at 5,240 feet altitude, snow melts late and mosquitoes can be a problem in early summer. With the bugs early and fire smoke later on, we decided to visit in early August rather than around Labor Day, as we’d normally do. We lucked out. The bugs were not bad and we had clear air.

I set out with Jessie and her brother Joel. We stuck three kayaks on the roof of my Ford Escape and packed in all the gear. We set out to snag a camping spot. Bill Baxter and Julie Dale would join us the following day.

I’ve never made camping reservations and as usual it worked out this time. We camped at the North Waldo Campground. It’s got a lot of lakeside sites but they were all taken. Still, we got a site just across the road, within walking distance to get our boats to the shore.

After setting up camp, we “slothed” around, reading and relaxing. It was so beautiful by the lake. There were a number of different types of clouds, cirrus, and cumulus. It was fun to watch the little cumulonimbus clouds build. None reached thunderstorm strength. Then, after dinner, we went down to the shore. One by one, the planets came out. We saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all at once. Then the International Space Station flew over, and then according to my Star App on my phone, the Hubble Space Telescope too! The Milky Way was so magnificent. And with my powerful binoculars we could check out nebulae.

Next morning, after breakfast, Jessie and I set out to explore the shoreline to discover new campsites. We didn’t really find any on the east shore. We did find some beaches and lunch spots though!

Our paddle took us all the way across the lake, not far from Rhododendron Island. It was much farther than I remembered. By the time Jessie and I made it back to our starting point it was after 2:00. We were both exhausted. After wolfing down lunch I took a stroll exploring the campground. When I returned Bill and Julie had arrived! We all had a gregarious afternoon and evening. We checked out the stars again and did another paddle.

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Next morning we gobbled up everything and set out for another day on the lake. There is no doubt that camping coffee is a nectar of the Gods that can’t be beat!





Backyard Lakes: Trillium and Timothy

25 06 2018
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Trillium Lake just over an hour from my house!

Anyone who lives in Portland, Oregon like I do, has difficult decisions with free time. Go west 75 mins to the coast? Go north to Mt. St. Helens or the Gifford Pinchot National Forest? Head to the Columbia Gorge? South to Wine Country? Or due east to the playground that is the Mount Hood National Forest. Over the past couple of weeks the weather has been great, so I spent some time up by Mt. Hood.

I spent a day relaxing at the shore at Timothy Lake, and not long after, met my friend Laura up there and spent an evening under the stars. Each time, the weather was spectacular. And early season, before school gets out, these lakes shine and seem like Olde Tyme camping. That’s because they are super warm, nobody’s around, and it’s super off season. And added bonus: You will have spring flowers at your campsite! Rhododendron and Trillium are in full bloom. And the there is still snow on the peaks. The flowers, the blue lakes, the green forest and the snow on the mountains make for a feast for the eyes!

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On the day visit, I needed some “me time” and simply packed a lunch, some stuff to read, and most of my camp stoves to tune up for the camping season. I forgot the old Coleman Dual Fuel 533.

On the “day visit,” campgrounds were maybe 25% full. It was so quiet I only encountered one wife with kids on the shore. Oh. Well, wait a minute! I encountered a whole family! Just not human.

 

The geese have a plan of action. Adults have a guard who keeps up a vigil whilst the kids and other adults can clean and preen. There is a rear guard too. I found the longer I just sat, the trust built and they came up almost to my toes. No worries!

Okay, so then the following Monday I resolved to go up and spend the night. It would be my “birthday eve.” Laura, who was in Bend, Oregon, offered to meet me up there and celebrate. It was another perfect day!

The evening was pretty chilly but in my sleeping bag, with pillows, and a ski hat and the all-important eye shades for the Pacific NW 4:45 a.m. sunrise, I was set. No tent fly needed, the stars are far more important! The sky was absolutely bright with the Milky Way on full display.

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Venus was on hand for my birthday eve sunset. Not the sharpest focus but I hope you get the idea!

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Laura captures an image of the sunset.

For Timothy Lake, my suggestion is its best times are before school gets out in the early summer, or after Labor Day.  In high season summer, it’s best mid week. However, there are plenty of kayak-in or hike-in spots on the opposite side of the lake. There is opportunity for quiet camping over there!

 





The Coracle: A Vietnamese Fishing Boat and Handy Dinghy

28 12 2016
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Paddling a coracle. The paddle is held on with a rope.

Along the Vietnamese coast and waterways, I couldn’t help but notice people paddling round basket boats. I’d heard about these boats and couldn’t remember what they were called. I thought they were found mostly in Europe, but here they were!  And I’d never seen one in person. Hot damn. I came to learn they are coracles. Not the most efficient craft for sure, but somehow, these craft have endured for centuries, so there must be positives for them to persist.

Some research reveals coracles have been used since the Bronze Age and apparently Julius Caesar’s army made use of them. Since then, the round boats have spread all the way to India and Southeast Asia. In Ireland, they are called Curragh, and in Tibet, Kowa. Traditionally a coracle is like a woven basket, with a layer of waterproofing on the outside. The waterproofing might be resin and tar, for example. Today such boats still ply the waters, though fiberglass and polyethylene versions are common.

My favorite memory of Vietnam was stopping by a fishing village where coracles were the primary means to get to the quarry. We walked through the village, and its inhabitants were not used to seeing Westerners at all. They looked at us with a bit of trepidation. We learned they were concerned we might be prospective real estate buyers. As if we might buy their whole village. There has been so much development on the Vietnamese coast that their way of life is endangered. No, we were just tourists having a look. Children squealed with excitement to have visitors, though, lining up to high-five us. And then we had offers of food and fish.

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Net repair

Walking through, we saw life as they live it. Cooking meals over coal-fired stoves. Knitting or repairing clothing. Kids playing.

 

 

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Some coracles had motors

Out on the beach there were dozens of coracles plus some larger boats lined up. Folks were mostly immersed in maintenance tasks.

Some were fixing nets, some working on motors. Others were caulking the older style basket coracles.

I could have spent a whole day working with these people. Just to get a glimpse on their way of life would be fulfilling.

 

 

 





Trinidad, CA – A Slice of Coastal Heaven

13 10 2016

My visit with Jason Self and Shay Bickley in Trinidad, California, was more than hikes among Redwood giants and herds of Rossevelt Elk. The region sports some of North America’s most spectacular coastlines!

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Near Crescent City

Foggy and rugged, thickly forested, and impacted by frequent Pacific storms, this coast shows off when the sun pops out. Highway 101 passes through this region, tracing its line along surf beaches, through dark redwood forest, climbing to 800-ft above the sea before opening up to spectacular unlimited vistas dotted with sea stacks.

We spent a sunset hiking along the beach, and another afternoon walking to a point high above the waves. No matter what route you pick, rewards are rich.

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Man’s Best Friend waits for his family to come in.

One evening we took a pre-dinner stroll along the shore near the Moonstone Grill, a terrific restaurant with an unmatched Pacific View. It was surreal. No wind and calm seas. So beautiful!

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The incoming tide was mesmerizing. I could look down on the wavy sand, and see, with each passing wave, how the water was navigating its way further and further ashore. We found a few stranded sea creatures and set them back into the ocean, much to Shay’s delight.

The following day was to be our paddle on the bay. Days here often dawn in a pea soup fog, but most of the time, that fog loses out the the sun by mid day.

On paddle day, there was barely any fog at sun up.

We breakfasted, loaded the boats on the cars, and partially donned out dry suits. Then it was time to head to the bay.

The town of Trinidad leads to a peninsula – with beaches on the NW and SW sides. On this day the swell was coming in from the NW.

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The sea laid down for us!

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Shay readies the P&H Delphin.

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We launched on the protected SW side – which, I’ve got to say, had become an undulating lake! We got maybe a mile or one and a half miles down the shore, paddling amongst sea stacks and harbor seals, before the swells were bigger, and I could see waves crashing against rocks. Even with the small seas, they were quartering from behind, and I got a weird feeling like the sea was a magnet, and I wanted to fall in. Jason said it was a touch of vertigo. I have had vertigo sensations before, but never at sea, and I’ve never been sea sick. Turning around, facing the swell, completely reversed that feeling.

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A bay of kelp and harbor seals. And, as Jason says, sharks.

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We checked out the sea stacks, rocks, and took a “stroll” along a cliff face. There, we found murrelets, more seals, and a couple of otters! One otter came out of a little cave. Another had caught a fish, and was hurriedly eating, as if it were concerned a rival might try to steal its catch.

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And Jason LOVES his recently acquired P&H Hammer, but not having his photo taken! It was a memorable day on the big P. I hope to visit again!





Kayaking in the Footsteps of Lewis & Clark

6 09 2016

I have lived in Portland, OR for years, but I’d never visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 following their Voyage of Discovery across the American continent. This summer I made plans to see the place. A little research revealed that besides the fort, there is also a free historical kayak tour. So my friend Jessie Bader and I made plans to make a trip out there.

Fort Clatsop lies on the Oregon Coast, near the mouth of the Columbia River and Astoria, Oregon. We decided to overnight at Fort Stevens State Park Campground. Our first day, we arrived in mid afternoon. So we set up camp and, with plenty of time, headed to Astoria to check out the waterfront. Our kayak tour was the following day at 1:00.

First up was ice cream. Cones in hand, we headed down to the riverwalk along the Columbia River. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, with exhibits like a full sized Columbia River Pilot Boat beckoned. We debated and didn’t enter. But behind lay the Columbia Bar Lightship and the Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

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Just a few dozen yards inland we discovered the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. It is super cheap $1 a ride. It glides along the waterfront running to the end of the line east. Then it reverses and goes to the western end of the line, in town. The seats are benches, with a twist – literally. When the train needs to head the other way, passengers get up, move the seat back the opposite way, and sit down facing the new direction.

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The streetcar showed me some new things about the waterfront. It gets much closer to the docks than the road. There are a number of piers with restaurants and recently opened breweries on the piers.

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We got off and took a stroll down the waterfront.

It was a really beautiful August afternoon. A sea breeze blowing. On such a pretty day, it was easy to forget that Astoria spends most of the year in gray stormy conditions.

But on that day, all is forgiven.

Not so for the Lewis and Clark crew in 1805. For they arrived in the winter season. The expedition spent 106 days at Fort Clatsop, it rained every day but 12 and they saw the sun a total of six times. It’s no wonder they gave names like “Dismal Nitch” to landmarks in the area.

Today, Fort Clatsop is administered by the National Park Service. It’s got a museum, gift shop, and dedicated guides to share information on the place.

One of the most popular attractions is the daily loading and shooting of a musket. At 10:00 a.m. a guide gives a talk on the uses of fire arms back in those days, and the way people loaded and fire them.

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After the musket presentation was finished we took advantage of a half mile guided nature walk. And then, it was time for lunch. We found a thoughtfully constructed picnic spot nor far away. On this day it was Euro style, cheese, hard sausage, crackers, fruit, nuts, etc.

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Then we met the tour down at the put in on the Lewis and Clark River. The group would be a family, a couple of individuals, plus Jessie and I. We had two guides, Pat and Cadence.

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A bit of paddling 101 instruction by Cadence got the group started.

The river here is completely tidal. At low tide, much of the area is mud flats. So, the time the tours take place vary all summer, to coincide with high tide. Reservations are required. Our tour was full. We had some lively children, and Pat wasted no time in gaining the upper hand. If they even so much as yawned or stared away, she snapped “A-tten-sion!!!”

On the water, Pat immediately dropped her VHF radio and it was gone, stuck on the bottom. “Well, that’s my second dropped. They’ll fire me!”

With everybody launched we made a three-mile paddle.

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At various points we gathered for a little talk about conservation, or the challenges Lewis and Clark faced.

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The Park Service has purchased additional land adjoining the original site, and has done a good job restoring its property to the way it looked back in 1805. Wildlife has taken note. Many species of birds have returned. Elk and deer are more common.

If you are in Astoria, or camping at Fort Lewis, a stop at Fort Clatsop is definitely worth your time!





Kayakers Rejoice! Kokatat Re-Invents the Dry Suit – The Idol

24 01 2015

This week I was one of a few privileged souls to witness a revolutionary development in the kayaking world: The unveiling of the Idol dry suit by Kokatat, Inc. Why is the Idol dry suit revolutionary? Answer: The Idol is the first dry suit in history that can be zipped into two pieces – and each can be worn independently.idol-drysuit-leaf-small

Why Own A Dry Suit?

A dry suit is an expensive proposition. A top notch Gore-Tex drysuit from Kokatat or Sweet Protection can set you back $1,100, and that’s not chump change. So, what is the big deal? Your life. If you exit your whitewater or sea kayak in 50-degree water, and you don’t have a wet suit or a dry suit, you are a goner in short order. So, you ask, why a dry suit instead of a wet suit? There are several reasons. Suppose you are paddling and the water is 45 degrees. You’ll need a wetsuit north of 10mm to be safe if dunked more than 30 minutes. And you must get wet to even get warm. When dry, that wetsuit is useless. Wind goes right through it. Now, imagine paddling with that. With a Gore-Tex dry suit, all you need is a dry, comfy fleece layer under that dry suit. When out of the water, you’ll be warm and dry. It shields you from wind. The Gore-Tex will move your perspiration out of the suit. If you do take a spill, this doesn’t change. Even under water, Gore-Tex moves your sweat to the outside environment.

Dry Suit Trivia

Are dry suits something invented for 21st Century adrenaline junkies? Nope. Dry suits have been the immersion wear of choice going back to ancient times. Fact is, Arctic Inuit hunters invented dry suits centuries ago. They discovered seal intestines had the ability to pass sweat in one direction and keep water out. They used dry suits in their whale hunting exploits.

What is the big deal with a two piece dry suit? Well, for one thing, in a one piece dry suit you are stuck when needing to relieve yourself. Manufacturers have come up with rear zippers or front zippers. But still, kayakers have to wear this garment with neck and wrist gaskets even when it’s warm outside. Always a source of irritation. And it’s all or nothing because it’s one piece. Garment makers offered Gore-Tex pants or Gore-Tex tops. But if you are capsized, either meant total immersion in icy water as water enters at the waist. Therefore, for many years, the vast majority bought a one piece dry suit.

The Challenge – A Zipper That Can Do the Job

The Holy Grail was to somehow make a two-piece dry suit. And one that can be three garments in one. A dry top, dry pants, and a total dry suit if zipped together. The challenge has always been a waterproof zipper capable of the job. Metal zippers when worn around the waist are just unforgiving and uncomfortable-after all, a spray skirt has to fit over the zipper. The breakthrough is an upgraded T-Zip plastic zipper, and its SwitchZip technology and Ringseal closure. The plastic zipper is waterproof and much more flexible than a metal zipper.

idol dry suit,kokatatThe Kokatat Idol drysuit can be split into two separately worn pieces. The top can be worn as a standalone dry top. The pant can be worn as a waterproof breathable pant-with included waterproof breathable socks. That means on warm days, kayakers can launch their boat completely dry and paddle comfortably without having to wear the whole dry suit. So while the Idol drysuit costs $1,100, it replaces two additional garments! Not only that, it makes relieving oneself in the great outdoors so much easier. Whether you need to go #1 or #2 you can separate the pants and perform the duty much easier than performing the whole machinations necessary with a one-piece dry suit!

OK, I Wanna I Wanna! How Can I Get My Mitts on One?

To order one of these amazing products, you must visit a Kokatat retailer. In Portland, Oregon, visit Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. Kokatat says the Idol will be available in the 2nd quarter 2015. But you can order today.

Here’s a Kokatat Video on the Idol Drysuit