Paddling conditions have not been ideal lately. It’s been rainy and cold, not good weather for kayaking. Finally we got a forecast for clear skies with favorable tides. I knew I had to hit the water. I decided to try another fairly close venue, Padilla Bay.
I was having a cup of coffee before sunrise. The boat was loaded and all I needed to do was hop in and drive to my launch site. As I sipped my brew and looked out over the bay I could see a heavy fog rolling in. Yet, sunlight was streaming through the trees. Conditions were not only perfect for paddling, but great for photography. I grabbed my cameras and headed out.
I missed the best shot. From the higher vantage of the island I could see the Skagit Flats covered in fog. Sadly, I didn’t have a good place to pull over for a shot. I would have been better off if I’d just walked down the street. I decided to see if I could find a better spot.
My first stop was at the intersection of Bayview-Edison Road and D’Arcy Road. The blueberry fields have turned an intense red autumn color. The contrast with the fog was striking.
Bayview-Edison continues up a hill onto Bayview Ridge. From there I had a better view, but it still didn’t replicate what I’d seen from Samish Island.
I drove through the farms in the Flats taking photos along the way. The potato harvesters were already out working. The fog tended to blend seamlessly with the coast line, making it look like the fields and buildings were inundated.
I made my way down to Bayview and my launch point. I had thought about launching from the beach at Bayview State Park but decided to use the public boat ramp instead. The ramp is just next door to the Rozema Boatworks.
The tide was high as I started unloading my boat. Low tide was only about two or three feet lower than high tide today. However, I’ve seen this area when there was nothing but mud flats for yards, with boats sitting high and dry. Even two feet can make a difference. I knew I still had a good amount of time for paddling, but the last thing I wanted was to be trudging through mud to get landed.
As I prepared to launch I realized I’d forgotten a couple of things. I left my Garmin tracker recharging on the night stand. No biggie. I had my regular Garmin GPS. I just wouldn’t be able to track distance paddled on the fly. I also had my iPhone with its tracker app, but I couldn’t find my dry case for the phone this morning. I had to leave the phone tucked into a larger dry bag so it couldn’t be used mid-paddle, either. Perhaps the worst omission was that I had left the mount for my GoPro at home. I had the GoPro with me, but no way to attach it to the boat. I guess I wasn’t as prepared this morning as I had thought and I was too eager to head out the door to catch the fog.
By this time the fog had cleared. I launched into glassy water, not exactly sure which direction I wanted to head. I had the place to myself. Come to think of it, I had never seen kayaks out here. That always gives me pause. If no one else is out here, is this a safe place to paddle? But I continued.
I decided to head north toward Samish Island. I knew I wouldn’t make it as far as the island, but I wanted to see if I could get past Bayview Ridge so that I’d have a view of Mount Baker from the water. As I paddle I could see the steam from the Tesoro Refinery across the bay, still bathed in fog. There were a couple of cars down at Bayview State Park, but no one on the small rocky beach.
Further along I could see the observation tower for the Padilla Bay Preserve. Further north a row of houses dotted the beach, one looking like it was in need of repair. At first I thought it might be abandoned, but on closer inspection I saw that it was being remodeled. At the top of a dead evergreen a bald eagle watched over everything.
The fog started rolling in again from the northwest. Now it was a race. Could I make it to the end of the ridge before the fog obscured the views of Mount Baker? I wasn’t so sure I could win this one. I paddled quickly. The breeze picked up and chilled me. I was glad I had dressed appropriately for the weather.
The fog won. I was only able to catch one misty glimpse of Baker through the trees before the fog engulfed me.
I knew this fog was temporary and would either roll through or burn off quickly. Large patches of blue punched through the gray. The sun was behind me and ahead of me were two arcs of almost-rainbows. These were white patches in the mist that for whatever reason didn’t pick up the rainbow colors. They reminded me of sun dogs in clouds. Quite frankly, this low to the water they were weird looking. I worried that I was paddling into some Stephen King novel.
Eventually the fog rolled on through and I could see Hat Island. I had paddled around it from Anacortes years ago and wondered if I could make it from my current position. At this point I wished I had a rangefinder or something similar to tell me how far away it was. I couldn’t even check the map on my phone because it was tucked away in a dry bag. I paddled out toward it for a ways, but the wind and waves were starting to pick up. Since I was unfamiliar with tides and conditions in this area I decided to play it safe and head back to Bayview.
As I made the turn to head back I noticed another kayak closer to shore. In all the years that I’ve been coming here this was the first time I’d seen a kayak in these waters. The boat kept pace with me. Since I was coming in at an angle it edge ahead. As I turned toward Bayview it headed out and our paths crossed. I didn’t get close enough to wave a greeting, though. I paddled on up to the ramp.
I had paddled 5.2 miles, further than I had thought. I now only need 4.6 miles to make my goal of 201.7 miles for 2017.
I wasn’t done with kayaks for today, though. I had invited Scott Holley to join me for this morning’s paddle. He couldn’t, but he invited me to drop by his place of business a couple of miles away for a tour.
Scott is the president and owner of Eddyline Kayaks. Scott purchased the Mount Vernon company earlier this year and we had recently become friends on Facebook. I was already familiar with the boats. I had paddle one some years ago on that trip from Anacortes. It was like sitting in an easy chair. I also remember it being incredibly efficient and gliding through the water with the easiest paddle. Of course I was going to take Scott up on his offer to drop by.
Scott was very gracious and took time from his busy day to give me a tour of the plant. He showed me how the ABS plastic was heat-formed into the hull and decking and how the finishing touches were added to the boats. He showed me the various models and the work stations where each was constructed. I had to wipe the drool from my chin. It was a great tour, and a great day on the water.