Before dawn, we woke up and broke camp. We launched in record time. Our abbreviated gear list worked as we’d planned and we felt good about getting going earlier than we’d thought possible. We were on our way north in Colvos Passage by 6:00am and enjoyed the morning’s wonderful conditions.
We took our first break just south of the Southworth ferry dock. This was a good opportunity to adjust some layers, eat some food, and get some hydration. The short night had taken its toll on some of us, and we had to push through some physical discomfort to take advantage of the conditions. We finished our break and were back on the water in time to stay ahead of our planned schedule.
We made a quick stop at Restoration point and caught this photo of the boats with the mountain in the background.
Once we passed Restoration Point, our view was completely filled with sails. Unbeknownst to us, we were sharing the water with Seattle Yacht Club’s Blake Island Race – the third of their Tri-Island Series.
It’s a bit unnerving to be in the midst of so many sailboats. When kayaking, sailboats under sail are some of the only vessels that have the right-of-way (aside from ferry boats and ships in the vessel lanes). It can be unnerving to be in their midst, especially when you’re not sure how they’ll be navigating around exiting barriers. Most of the sailboats that we passed near were really pleasant and chatted a bit as we paddled past them. There were just a couple of times that we paused to see what the sailboat was doing before picking our course forward. Although it wasn’t a difficult challenge, it was certainly more relaxing when we made it through the bulk of the racers and had nearly empty waters again.
Into the Winds
We made it to our next scheduled break at Fay Bainbridge and again ate, hydrated, adjusted layers, and took advantage of the fully plumbed facilities. Our original plans called for a long break here, to allow the tides to finish changing and pull us up the Kitsap Peninsula. But that schedule was made before the forecast called for northerly winds Saturday afternoon and evening. We were working to make it to Hansville Saturday night. We hoped to take advantage of a window of calm in the wee hours of Sunday morning. As soon as we were all rested and fed, we launched into steadily increasing headwinds to cross Port Madison.
Although we were slower than we would have liked, we had recently trained in some significant winds, and that practice was fresh in our minds and muscle memory. We were able to distract ourselves by chatting (though we had to shout a bit to be heard over the winds). And we were able to focus on our technique and make continual forward progress – which hasn’t always been the case when conditions worsen.
As we passed Jefferson Point, we saw some fellow racers that had taken refuge from the wind on the beach. Though rest sounded good, a surf launch onto rocks and driftwood did not sound at all appealing.
Let’s Just Duck into Apple Tree Cove
Although we were making forward progress, the wind was taking its toll. We knew that we would need a break before too long. So we decided to duck into Apple Tree Cove. Our hope was that we would be able to find some calmer waters. We wanted to be able to float for a bit and assess how far we would be able to get before dark. Unfortunately for our plan, the mouth of Apple Tree Cove is a giant funnel. It welcomes the wind and waves right in. The conditions seemed a bit calmer closer to shore, so we decided to hug the shoreline to give ourselves a small reprieve.
We slowly paddled past big surf on beaches where we couldn’t land, looking for respite. Suddenly, a large wave crashed on Travis’ deck with enough force to invert the tunnel of his spray skirt. In the conditions we were in, if we paused our paddling, we would be quickly blown into the surf and towards shore. So we continued on, in search of a landing or calm waters. All the while, his cockpit filled with more water every time a wave broke over his deck. As we rounded the final point into Apple Tree Cove, the wave reflection from bulkhead walls made our already spicy water even more challenging.
At that point, the safest thing was to head to the marina, behind the bulkhead. Even the small waves we encountered were tough to handle with a cockpit filling with water. We got to the boat launch and switched into warm layers to assess our next steps.
- Try to finish. Continue on, in the dark. Try to get far enough north to take advantage of the predicted lull in the winds. Push to cross Hood Canal in the wee hours of the morning.
- Get as much mileage as we can, without finishing. Find a place to camp for the night and get going again in the wee hours. We wouldn’t be able to finish, because we’d miss the weather window that would allow us to cross the canal.
- Call it at Kingston. Get somewhere safe and warm. Start recovering.
We weighed those options. We debated. Ultimately, we wanted to get Travis warm. We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to do that adequately in a poached campsite overnight. This was the earliest we’d pulled out of the race – both in mileage and in hours. And while we never like to end our run, it was the right choice for the circumstances.
So we called the Race Boss to make it official. And we called our families to bring our cars to Kingston. We unpacked the boats and carried our gear and our kayaks up the ramp. We loaded up and headed for warm beds for the night.