Getting Out On the Water

On Saturday, after an early morning mountain bike ride, Jose and I set off on our first kayak adventure.  This was on the list of new sports to explore and I was pretty excited (and nervous) to give it a go.  We met up with my co-worker Tim Hallmark, his wife Sandy, and their friend Janet.  All are members of a group out of Everett called the North Sound Sea Kayaking Association

We were thrilled that Tim happened to have some extra kayaks and gear and we quickly obtained a couple of wetsuits to keep us warm and cozy in the event we ended up in the Sound.  After checking the various tide tables and info on wind and all sorts of stuff I have no clue about, Tim settled on a 4:30PM departure out of the 10th Street Boat Launch in Everett, WA. 

Jose and I got there a little early to make sure we could find the place.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a huge parking lot, a picnic area and a free ferry that runs out to Jetty Island during the summer.   Not having time to take the ferry out, we stored that tidbit for later use.  The 10th Street Boat Launch is ideally located for access to anywhere on the North Puget sound and it’s a popular spot for those headed to the San Juan Islands, or just headed out for some fishing and crabbing.  They also boast the largest west coast salmon derby which is held in late September each year. The boat launch has 13 lanes (half for launching, half for those coming back in) with the far right lane being used for non-motorized water-craft like our trusty little kayaks.

Click here for parking and launch fees


We got all geared up, dragging on our wetsuits, borrowed PFDs (personal flotation devices), and pulling on shoes appropriate to being in the water.  We got the 4 kayaks pulled off the top of Tim’s Jeep Grand Cherokee (yes – you can get 4 kayaks up there if you are an engineer) and sorted out paddles and spray skirts.  Last we got a quick lesson on getting into the boats and maneuvering around, and we were off; headed out of the marina and out towards the mill. 

As we headed north, we stayed along the waterfront hoping for a glimpse of a sea lion or two, but at this point they proved elusive.  As we floated along and navigated between the pylons, we were treated to huge nests of osprey and we could see them swooping back and forth over the water with fish in their greedy claws.    We cruised on, getting tips on how to push the paddle vs. pulling the paddle during the stroke, how to put the bow into the wave when the rollers came through, and how to keep you head up and watch for the boats before trying to cross the channel.  We were pleasantly surprised that the little Pygmy Cohos  were very stable and reasonably light.  Not scary at all! We weren’t out in the whitecaps but we did have a fair amount of boat-traffic induced rollers and the kayaks handled it all with ease.

We continued north and saw 10 or more herons as well as a zillion seagulls on more logs that had been jammed up along the shore.  We were headed towards rows of pylons to the rotting and sunken barges that had been beached to stabilize the sandbars of the Snohomish River.  It was really an experience to navigate between the pylons and between two huge barges.  The barges had been there so long they had vegetation and trees growing out of them, probably not a safe stop, but looked like a really a cool place to take a rest. 

We were getting close to our destination, a long row of pylons that were close together just before the mouth of the Snohomish River.  It was a nesting ground for the double breasted cormorant.   

There were hundreds (it seemed) of the birds all along the row of pylons, sitting in nests, making noisy sounds that were not bird-like at all.   After watching and listening for a while, we turned and headed back towards the barges and over to Jetty Island to stretch our legs.  We crossed through and beached up some grassy dunes and jumped out to on wobbly sea legs. “Jumped out” really was a cross between yoga and contortionist movements – paddle behind the back to stabilize, lean back and swing both leg over each side of the kayak and lean forward to stand up.  Got a little wet but not a full dump over, whew!

We stayed on the northern tip of Jetty Island so we didn’t see many birds, but they say that the island is home to 45+ species of birds and it’s a destination for area birdwatchers.  Some of the common birds are the caspian tern, spotted sandpiper and black-bellied plover.  At this point I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which is which, but now I’m curious enough to maybe find a small book so I can tell them apart.   

After a stretch and a quick snack and one kayak change, we were ready to head out.  Jose was feeling a little cramped in the Pygmy Coho so Janet swapped out so he could try her Perception Carolina It has a bigger cockpit and a little more room so he can move his legs around a little. It is a little heavier though and not quite as easy to manuever.  After that swap we headed around on the east side headed back towards the marina.  We stayed close along the edge and were treated to some sea lions with their babies (finally!!) lounging in the sun on the log jams.   Jose and I were a little ways back and we saw a curious sea lion pop up close to the rest of the group and trail along with them for a while. 

As we neared the Jetty Ferry dock we could also see a large number of kites in the air on the far side of the island.  In addition to the day trippers just looking for a place to stick their toes in the sand, the kiteboarders head out to Jetty Island to play in the bay on the west side of the island. 

We finished up our time on the water by crossing over to the marina and pulling out where we had gone in.  After loading back up and getting dried off, we headed over to the Scuttlebutt Brewery  for a pint and some food for our empty bellies.  Another bonus point for the 10th Street Boat Launch is the easy access to Scuttlebutt – just heading out towards the exit but turn right past the old boat they are preserving.  The brewery is just a few hundred yards down and has a decent sized patio to enjoy a late afternoon sunset. 

We had a great time and the experience was so much better having been able to go out with some knowledgeable folks that were willing to loan us gear and show us the ropes.   We definitely learned something about the difference between wood, plastic, and fiberglass kayaks, what to look for in a cockpit, as well as some other details that we need to consider.  This could be something we want to take up and we’ve already hit REI to see what their options are as well as been combing Craigslist to see if we can find something reasonable.   

Huge thanks to Tim, Sandy and Janet. 

We had a great day and are already looking forward to the next round, as well as figuring out what friends we might drag along for another adventure!

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