In addition to our challenge to circumnavigate the islands of Puget Sound, we were also training for the 2020 Seventy48. One thing we had learned from competing in Seventy48 two years in a row was that longer mileage paddles were key to our conditioning for the race. So we planned a paddle to rack up some mileage and also cross a few islands off our list.
Checking off Eagle, McNeil, and Pitt
We launched from the Fox Island boat ramp, heading through Hale Passage toward the southeast end of Fox Island. We took a break at the beach under the Fox Island Fishing Pier as we usually do when Circumnavigating Fox Island. Our next stop was Eagle Island, which is situated between McNeil and Anderson Islands. After a snack, we continued along the shore until we could see a bit of land peeking out from behind the bluffs that make up Gibson Point on the southern-most tip of Fox Island. We assumed we must be looking at McNeil, since it sits between Fox and Anderson Islands. As we continued along the shoreline, McNeil emerge from behind the bluff and we realized we had been looking at Cole Point with the southern tip of Anderson Island in the distance behind it. Our destination was closer than we originally thought.
Eagle Island: Before we Even Knew
As we crossed the mouth of Carr Inlet, the sun emerged from the morning cloud cover that had been overhead all morning. We paused mid-crossing to apply sunscreen and to switch from wool hats to sun hats. Even with those adjustments, by the time Eagle Island was in our sights, we were more than ready to hop out of our kayaks and strip off some of our extra layers. We had originally planned to circumnavigate Eagle, stop for lunch, and then continue on towards Pitt, but the promise of cooler layers was too much to pass up.
Paddling year-round in Puget Sound, we always dress for the water temperature in case of cold-water immersion. We have done extensive swim-tests of our gear, and know what layers make sense in what conditions. On a cold, cloudy, breezy day like that morning, that means wool base layers under either a dry suit or a layer of neoprene and a layer of splash gear. On a bright, sunny, still day (like the day had turned into), the base layer may be either lighter wool or even light-weight poly and the splash gear isn’t necessary over the neoprene.
So we made our costume adjustments and hopped back into our boats to complete our circumnavigation before lunch. We had previously seen Eagle Island on a map and knew that it was not large. If we had known just how quickly our paddle around it would go, we might have been able to suffer through the heavier gear for just a bit longer. The incoming current swept us around the southern tip of the island almost before we had gotten ourselves settled in our seats. With minimal effort, we completed our trip back to our landing spot in around ten minutes.
After lunch, we continued on a course around McNeil Island to Pitt Island where we did a quick loop around the tiny island to check that one off as well. That late spring day, the sun turned the glass-still waters of Carr Inlet shades of silver and lavender as we paddled back towards Fox Island with Mount Rainier over our right shoulders. All told, we racked up a total of almost 18 nautical miles and circumnavigated four islands that day: Eagle, Pitt, McNeil, and Fox.