by Christian P. Sarason
Here are some impressionistic notes I jotted down a few days after paddling the inaugural Seventy48 human powered watercraft race from Tacoma to Seattle on June 10th.
30 minutes out of the Foss Waterway, we’re paddling in the sunshine and feeling great. Hordes of every type of human propelled craft are around us. And then the #paddleton arrives — 5-6 stand up paddlers drafting in a a line, who proceed to give me a clinic on just why I decided to paddle the Seventy48 in a tandem kayak instead of on my paddleboard. Up. Down. Up. Down. The #paddleton cranks like a freight train headed across the mirage-like jewel of Commencement Bay.
Out by Pt. Defiance, getting high on second hand smoke coming out of a passing boat. Sticking with my current theory that it would be better to get out into the main stream of the Narrows ebb…and hoping we didn’standing up wt just add miles we didn’t need to. Worth it after all after spotting a harbor porpoise working a strong tidal front as we caught a nice pull from the moon.
Paddling up past Lisabuela, seeing Team 8oars setting up camp (and, in my mind, mixing up some lovely evening cocktails to watch the sunset…I eat another bar and take a swig of water)
making the call to camp at Anderson Point while we still had light. We agreed to get an early start (on the water by 0330!) but figured it would give us the longest tidal push and avoid the wind for the longest possible period. Matt is a camping machine! I realize that although I have a good light source, it isn’t a headlamp. Noob.
Wakey wakey at 0230 A scream of anguish when Matt realizes he didn’t pack any coffee, but we enjoy a nice hot breakfast and start breaking down our camp. I’m much slower than Matt, but we get on the water just around 0400.
Coming up past Blake and realizing that everyone we imagined we might catch there had already shoved off by the time we make it. Currents a bit choppy, but we make it to the south end of Bainbridge for a pee break. Lots of company now, I watch the standup board with amas toodle on by us and think, “wow. Just wow.”
Wind starting to pick up past Eagle Harbor and then weather clears and wind dies a bit as we pull in to Fay Bainbridge. Another potty break (these are really slowing us down, but when you gotta go, you gotta go)
Paddle across to Pt. Jefferson pretty uneventful, but the wind is picking up and slowing us down. Navigating in/among the shallows of Pt. Jefferson was surprising, I would have thought it all to be scoured out….but there is an indent in the point that was quite shallow when we hit it.
Another potty break just after Kingston and all the various points are starting to meld together in my mind. I have a map in front of me, but my mental picture of the Sound dominates, even as I paddle along with Matt. We’re clearly making pretty slow time, an now starting to think that it might be tough to hit the tidal gate at Marrowstone Island. Wind on the nose, not tons (8-10mph) but plenty enough to really slow us down. The tide isn’t helping anymore at that point, but at least the chop lay down a bit.
Paddling up along the east side of the Kitsap Peninsula north of Kingston is a hoot. Wind is still there, but we’re cranking along an hit Pt. No Point by about 4pm. Mentally I’m thinking, “sweet, almost there”. Then I realize we still have about 10 miles to the tidal gate (closing soon!) and then another 7 miles (?) after that. We’re low on water, so Matt goes looking and I pee (again). Alex surprises us on the beach to say hi, and that made everything brighter and shiny. Overall, this pit stop has me feeling pretty great and we get ready for the final push.
We discover why Pt. No Point got it’s name. It seems like you’re rounding the bend, so we set off directly toward Marrowstone and into the teeth of Admiralty Inlet on a flood tide. Paddled nowhere (so fast!) for about 20 minutes before realizing we needed to get inshore an out of the main stream. After that we sped up considerably and plugged along.
We made it to Foulweather Bluff in pretty good spirits and set off on our crossing toward Marrowstone. At this point Hood Canal was ebbing out, so we started getting a decent lift in the direction we wanted, but boy, it seemed like we paddled…and paddled..and paddled. It seemed like Foulweather Bluff and Marrowstone stayed in the same place! A few quick peeks by Matt at the GPS said we were making 3 knots north, so we just kept going, waiting to get sucked into Port Townsend canal. Wheeeeee!
Getting sucked into the Canal was awesome When you finally see the land moving faster than you feel you’re paddling it is a very good feeling. Some cheering from the shore and a nice push North lifted my spirits, so much so that I almost pushed through my last and final pee break. Matt reminded me how much more pleasant I am when after a short break, so we pulled over, got some relief and pounded some sour patch skittles.
we landed at the dock at 2200, 18 hours after we started and a whole lot better for it. Although it was definitely physically challenging, Matt’s advice on the food and hydration plan (about 200cal bar every hour, plus water) was right on, and I feel like we did a good job taking maximum advantage of the currents. Seeing Puget Sound in such an intimate way is something I am incredibly grateful for, and am so glad that Matt decided to throw in with me. Hard to imagine that he set off only about 36 hours later in the first leg of his R2AK journey after slogging with me for 70 miles as his appetizer. Epic.