70Forty-eight instead of SEVENTY48

The race my wife, our friend Lara, and I do every year has been canceled (or postponed until 2021, if you prefer). Basically, the race organizers concluded that it wouldn’t be responsible to have people travel to get to a human-powered boat race – or gather at the start & finish lines – even if the race itself is socially distant. But we’ve been training for months and absolutely love participating in this event. So when the race was canceled, we decided to do an equal length paddle and try to finish in under 48 hours. With the current health pandemic making travel and carpooling a bad idea, we chose to stay close to home. We’re apparently not the only ones – check out this message from the race boss for SEVENTY48… we think they picked the perfect photo for the page:

One of the tricky parts of SEVENTY48 is the Port Townsend Canal. If you catch the tide wrong there, you may need to wait it out or portage to the other end to continue on.

Port Townsend Canal.

We wanted to add that kind of timing problem to our route. We didn’t have to look far from home to see that the Tacoma Narrows will fit the bill quite nicely. Well, “fit the bill” if you’re looking for a replacement that is also longer, deeper, wider, and potentially faster than the original, and where any portage option is significantly longer and more difficult than Port Townsend Canal.

The Tacoma Narrows on a foggy morning.

As “close to home” for us means Pierce/King County, we do not know if camping will be open by the race weekend. It’s possible that camping along our planned route will open the week of our challenge. It is also possible that camping will remain closed and our reservation for the first night will be canceled. So our race route has 2 options.

Plan A

If camping is open in time, we will launch on Friday, June 5th (green route) at 9:30 a.m. from the Point Defiance Boat Launch and paddle clockwise around Vashon island until we reach Maury Island Marine Park, where we’ll camp for the night. The next morning (yellow route), we will paddle to Neill Point and then cross to Owen Beach before heading through the Narrows to the Fox Island Pier. From the Pier, we’ll paddle to Penrose Point State Park where we’ll camp in the Cascadia Marine Trail site for the second night. The final morning (red route), we will paddle back across Carr inlet into Hale passage, back through the Narrows and finish where we started, at the boat ramp. Our planning spreadsheet says that this will all take 48 hours and 15 minutes, so we are hoping to make up at least 16 minutes on that last day, to come in under 48 hours.

Plan B

If camping is not open, we will start day one (green route) similarly, but will launch 2 hours earlier, at 7:30 a.m. We’ll head clockwise around Vashon and land back at Point Defiance that evening, where we will pack up and head home. On day 2 (red route), we will launch at 9:30 a.m. from the Fox Island boat ramp and paddle through the Narrows to Owen beach for a break. We’ll then turn around to head back through the Narrows, pause at the Fox Island pier, and then continue on to Eagle Island. From there, we’ll head through Pitt passage and back to the Fox Island boat ramp.

Follow Along

One of the really fun things about the race is knowing that friends and family are tracking the route and cheering us on from home. We purchased a SPOT tracker and named it Fleetwood Mac, since it will allow our friends to follow us as we go our own way. Did you know that the words are, “you can call it another lonely day”? For years I thought they were singing “you can call it thunder any day,” I always thought it was referencing something that I just didn’t get.

Hopefully, you will enjoy following us in the inaugural (and hopefully final) 70Forty-eight.



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