Sea Kayaking the Pacific Northwest

What an end to the summer. The trip started with a two-week trip to Alaska, visiting  my wife’s twin in a cabin on the Kenai), and ended taking the kids sea kayaking in the San Juan islands. With our daughters Brooke, 10, and Casey, 7, Colorado-bred, the chance to visit northern oceans doesn’t come often, and we made the most of it.

We stayed in a friend’s cabin on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, where they doubled-over rods catching decomposed pink salmon, took wood-fired saunas and subsequent plunges into a spring-fed, ice-cold extremity-shrinking creek, and hiked to high alpine lakes (“If you make it all the way, I’ll promise to jump in,” I unfortunately bribed them). Visits to the Iditarod sled dogs in Wasilla, the hand-pulled cable-car crossing over Crow Creek near Girdwood, and yes, chlorine-filled H2Oasis in Anchorage rounded out our journey before we headed south to Seattle.

Next stop: a friend’s house on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island. Following a pair of orcas from our ferry stop in Sidney to Salt Spring, we spent three days sea kayaking, sailing a Walker Bay boat, jumping off overhanging logs into the frigid water and swinging off rope swings, and dining of freshly caught mussels, oysters on the Barbie and crab. It was also they’re first taste of the northern waters’ bio-luminescence, which lit up the waters around the dark every night like the glowsticks given out in the party bag for Casey’s sixth birthday.

From there, a night in Victoria — where we caught the finals of the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, harassed mimes posing as statues and smelled roses at the infamous Bouchart Gardens — saw us catch the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and perfect accommodations at the Earthbox Motel (www.earthboxmotel.com). The next day we toured the local whale museum (our ticket paired us with Bellena, a female member of pod L90 born in 1993) and watched Casey adorn herself with whale costumes before driving to Lime Kiln State Park where, over cheese, crackers and a bottle of Chardonnay from San Juan Wineries (for us, not the kids), we watched orcas breach not 40 yards from our perch on a rocky, limestone point. A log-walking game at Dead Man’s Cove and subsequent dip in the ocean at Eagle Cove then led us fish and chips at the San Juan Brewery, where we fueled up for the next day’s sea kayak outing with San Juan Island Outfitters (www.sanjuanislandoutfitters.com).

“Dad, you should have brought your nostrils!” said Casey as we headed out of Roche Harbor in two tandem kayaks the next morning. She was referring to, of course, binoculars.

“Mom, we’re not stopping for pee breaks,” said Brooke.

With Casey commandeering the bow of my kayak, and Brooke powering the bow of Denise’s, we set out with guide Joe (not “Joey”, he admonished our kids) past Pearl Bay and toward Henry Island. “C’mon, you guys are losing the race!” said Casey.

We touched sea stars, carried along clear, oozy water jelly fish atop our sprayskirts as pets (our kids named our new pets ‘Squirmy” and “Bob”), popped rockweed with our fingers, squeezed Dead Man’s Fingers seaweed until streams of water shot in all directions, cavorted with seals and dined on kelp for our snack. Hours later, we returned in time to catch the 6 p.m. ferry back to Anacortes.

We capped it all with a hike to a lake on Snoqualmie Pass the next day, a visit to a friend’s treefort Bed & Breakfast, and stroll through downtown Seattle to watch vendors catch fish at Pike’s Place Market before flying back home just in time for school to start.

Casey landing a humpie, before slipping in her Crocs and landing in the mud.

Casey landing a humpie, before slipping in her Crocs and landing in the mud.

Casey and a sea star outside Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.

Casey and a sea star outside Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.

Brooke and Casey testing their shades and sprayskirts.

Brooke and Casey testing their shades and sprayskirts.

The Buchanan Clan, taking a break from the seals.

The Buchanan Clan, taking a break from the seals.

Posted in: Fishing, How To, Paddling, Parent Tales, Places

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