How did we get here - fighting the tide to get back to the island?
When Corinne and I first moved out to the Pacific Northwest in 1994, we decided to take kayaking lessons so that we would feel comfortable kayaking - even in the ocean. We took a course from a kayaking center on the Kitsap Peninsula, which is between the mainland in Washington State and the Olympic Peninsula. It's a fantastic area - lots of fun to drive around in and explore. And of course kayak around and explore. Thursday night was classroom study. We learned about the equipment, safety - and about tides and water currents. Since we both grew up on the east coast near the ocean, we both had a pretty good sense of how tides work.
The next night we spent with kayaks in an indoor Olympic-size pool. The assignment was to fall out of your kayak and try to get back in. This exercise fully convinced me that we should always kayak with a buddy. It is very hard to get back in even with someone else who knows what they are doing holding your kayak. The best method for getting back in by yourself is by jumping up on the back end and straddling the boat with your legs - then work your way up toward the middle. When you get there, you need to get into the kayak without tipping it over. Yeah, right. That wasn't happening for me. (Corinne could do it though.)
On Saturday we went kayaking in and around the harbor. We had a great day practicing and getting the feel of maneuvering. Once you're in, a kayak isn't very tippy at all. It's just getting in and out when it wants to tip. It was a great day and developed our confidence.
The next day we headed out for more of an adventure. We and the kayaks were hauled to a pretty spot called Paradise Cove as I recall. Our instructors led us out, watching our style and continuing to teach us. We spent several hours paddling and exploring down the coastline with our group. The instructor pointed out one area he said was where pirates has hidden from their pursuers back in the day. The weather was beautiful. We explored the coastline, looked at the sand dollars, and practiced our kayaking. We went to a beach mid-day to stretch our legs and have the lunches we had packed. At one point the instructor let me try his very long (and very expensive) racing kayak. Whew, what a cruiser.
By the end of that day we were feeling quite proficient and confident that we could tackle the wilds on our own. And we did just that from then on, having several kayaking outings that summer and over the next years. We did learn that for us individual kayaks is a necessity. Kayaks for two may sound good, but losing the ability to go where you want when you want without worrying about your partner seems contrary to our idea of kayaking.
One year we rented a house for a vacation with friends on an island in the southern end of Puget Sound. The house was on a lake in the middle of the island. We had a great time paddling around the lake exploring. But of course we wanted to kayak in the ocean too.
One day we planned an ocean outing. We carefully plotted the high and low tides, and planned our trip so we would go out on the outbound tide and come in on the incoming. The island is too big to kayak around on a day trip. We made our plan to go north, then follow the coast around to the west as far as we felt we should go, so that we could work our way back and pick up the incoming tide to ride back for the end of the return trip, when we rounded the 'corner' of the island to head back south again.
We saw several fish, terrific driftwood pieces, interesting little coves, pretty woods including a lot of Madrona trees, many types of birds including a couple of eagles and some hawks. It was a great day. We pushed ourselves pretty far along the shore, then stopped, enjoyed walking around and having the food we brought in our waterproof dry bags, and got a little rest. If you haven't done it, you might be surprised at what a full-body workout kayaking is. If you're doing it right you are twisting and working your entire body. Finally we determined to head back.
We made it back to that 'corner' of the island and rounded it - to find that the ocean was very heavy - and pushing straight into us. It wasn't going our way at all. More than that, there were pretty big waves and the water was very choppy as currents were colliding in this area. Oh Oh. Here we were at the end of a pretty long day, feeling tired, and ready to ride the tide back in. It wasn't going to go that way.
We fought our way on, at times feeling that despite our pouring it on as best we could - all we were accomplishing was to hold a position instead of being thrown further back. We couldn't see any option but to keep at it. There was no landing spot on this part of the coast. Even if we did land, we'd just be out in the woods. We encouraged one another, but mostly we just keep on pushin'. We did make some progress, but it came hard. I got a bloody nose just from the exertion (which never happens to me). We were both really getting exhausted.
After a long time Corinne saw some old pilings ahead between us and the shore. Maybe they were left over from a logging operation. She headed that way and got next to the piling so that the tide and waves pushed her kayak against it. I worked my way over and put my kayak next to hers. Finally we could rest. After we got a little rested we pushed on, finally reached another piling so we could rest again. In that way we slowly made our way back. As we gained some distance, the current was still working against us, but at least now the choppiness of the area further north faded.
Well we made it back of course. Here's my idea of why the water didn't go the way we expected it to. There is another island in the sound off to the east of this one. All I can figure is that the tides come in from the ocean and move to the ends of the very large Puget Sound. But apparently all that incoming driving water sets up a pattern that sends one current strongly back out between the two sizable islands. So it comes in around the "outside" of the islands, and pushing back out between them. And that was what Corinne and I met head on.
It's the only theory I could come up with to explain it. What do you think?