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Anacortes to Friday Harbor

More kayaking! Over the weekend I went to a 3-day kayaking ‘jamboree’ at Deception Pass where we had instruction and spent the rest of the time learning about camping, knots, and going on multiple paddles (one of which I led)

But now it’s time for the real adventure. I’ve been wanting to do this paddle since last year but I’m not ready to do it alone and it’s only scheduled so often. So here it is: Washington Park in Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island going south around the tip of Lopez Island. It’s 24 miles and goes through Cattle Pass which can get ‘spicy’.

Of course an early start is necessary. Here’s my adventure-van.

This was unexpected (to me) given how clear it was on the drive over, but on the water there was heavy fog. We thought the sun might burn it off quickly but no – we made the whole crossing in heavy fog. With a strong south current pulling us if we’d been navigating entirely without GPS there was a chance we might have missed Lopez island entire. Here our trip leader is calling Seattle Marine Traffic on the radio to confirm there are no large ships before we cross the shipping lane.

The fog broke just before lunch at Iceberg point on the south end of Lopez and then we quickly got into Cattle Pass before it reached max flood (which was about 6 knots). Even though we went through early we still reached a max speed of 10.5mph at one point. It felt like it took no time at all to reach Turn Island.

No photos of the excitement of Cattle Pass (a relatively calm day, I’m told) because I was busy not falling out of my boat.

Friday Harbor! I always feel very fancy when I get to arrive at dock, climb out and go get food. Which is what we did! We left our kayaks in front of the ferry terminal and went across the street for an early dinner. We landed at 3pm but wound up having to wait for the 6:30pm ferry, which was then late. But Friday Harbor is always enjoyable so we walked around and spoke to the caretaker at their community garden.

Finally on the ferry heading home with all our boats loaded in the front. We brought wheels to roll on and returned to our cars back in Anacortes.

Here’s the summary: 24 miles, just over 5 hours moving time and an average of 4.5 mph. I’d do it again, and I’m feeling less intimidated by Cattle Pass (even though I know we got it on an easy day and nobody was sucked into a whirlpool).

A quick edit – I thought I should include this planning map we made to outline the potential hazards in Cattle Pass. See if you can spot my special additions!

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I had to cancel a trip I was leading earlier in the month but was invited along on this little 3 day as a make-up paddle. The trip was planned to Sucia which I was excited about because my only previous trip to Sucia had to be cut short due to weather.

We launched from the small beach area next to the Lummi island ferry. Total of 8 paddlers and we knew we might need to change plans due to some predicted high winds. The original plan was Day 1 Sucia, Day 2 Patos, Day 3 return. Instead we did Day 1 Sucia, Day 2 Clark, and Day 3 return. Moving to Clark placed us much farther south so the wind would blow us in the correct direction on day 3.

On our way we stopped at Matia Island and despite a lot of discussion on the topic I’m still not sure how to pronounce it. It had a beautiful forest loop, a large boat dock, and limited forested camping.

The loop trail on Matia

Sucia was lovely again. Soon after landing we made camp, hung our gear to dry and set out exploring. First we explored the shell fossils along the beach but I mentioned to Steve that there was a really nice fish fossil on the other side of the island and we decided to go see it. It’s a small island, how far could it be? It had seemed pretty close when I paddled over there before.

It was 3 miles each way. So we got a good hike in. Still worth it.

The next day we checked the weather forecast and our trip leader decided the best option was to wind up on Clark Island to the south so that the following day the winds would be blowing us toward our destination and not into Canada. That meant Day 2 was a much longer day than originally planned.

First we headed over to Patos Island where we met some other paddlers we knew, scoped out the campsites, and met the docent at the lighthouse who opened it up a few minutes early so we could have a tour. See those two solar panels? They replaced an entire room full of machinery that the lighthouse used to need to function. The light is now LED and only about 5 inches high.

Patos Lighthouse

Steve’s favorite madrone tree on Patos

We then turned back east, paddling along the north side of Sucia and stopping for lunch so everyone could check out the fish fossil (without a 6 mile hike). We passed by Matia toward Clark, making a 6 or 7 mile crossing. Here’s where I found out I was getting too much sun or not enough water or something: I got a migraine that did not go away with medication. A few miles in and I was struggling – everyone could tell and offered to help out with a tow. We set the lines up and while I never quite stopped paddling, several people traded out giving me an assist so we got where we were going. So when you see our slower time for that day – this is why.

As soon as I was able to sit down in some shade for a decent amount of time I felt better.

Clark Island

This time we were able to snag some of the beach sites out of the wind. They were not as private and the toilet was farther away, but building a fire on the beach was pretty cool. We had a firelog along, this time courtesy of Susan. And we had an excellent view of Baker.

The next morning was windy but not as exciting as we had feared. The whitecaps settled down while we made our crossing toward Lummi and we made it back to our launch site a little early.

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Kayak Camping

I’ve been asked about how to prep for kayak camping trips, started writing it all out, and decided instead to make it a post.

In general, kayak camping is very much like packing for backpacking except you have a lot more space, sometimes have to carry ALL your water, and the weight isn’t too important. It can be like luxury backpacking. But if your kayak is on the smallish side having backpacking-worthy gear is very helpful.


Here’s my very official camping list that I used to prepare for one particular trip. The colors represent the colors of the actual drybags I was using so I would remember where I put things. It’s better to use more small dry bags than a few large ones. It’s easier to fill all the spaces in the hatch with small bags rather than having one large bag that blocks access and leaves a big air space. Your hatch seals might be good, but you should expect water to get in. Don’t leave anything loose in the hatch that can’t get wet.

Sleeping system: tent, camp pad, sleeping pad, ground cloth

Food & cooking: titanium pot, fuel can, tiny stove, insulated camping cup & SPORK. Bear canister. Folding gallon water containers. Bring 1 gallon water per day

Camp bag: contains my daily medications, toothbrush, washing up supplies, personal grooming, & my toilet kit.

Day hatch goodies: camera, small water, sunglasses, bug spray, sunscreen, chapstick, snacks.

Don’t lose: (highly waterproof bag) – phone, keys, wallet, charging cable & extra battery.

Clothing: extra socks, fleece, long underwear, warm jacket, OR shorts & t-shirt for warm weather. Spare undies. Camp shoes.

First aid kit: has my epipens, bandages & less used medication

Kayak specific equipment: dry suit, pfd, spare paddle (main paddle too, of course), marine radio, rope to secure boats.

Not pictured: tow rope kit, clothes I will be wearing: 1-2 layers of fleece to wear under the drysuit, wool socks. HAT

In the top right I have drawn something called ‘insulation’ – sometimes I bring a big pad of insulation to put under my sleeping pad for extra warmth. Sometimes I bring a piece of yoga mat or a ‘hello fresh’ bag to use as a sit pad and as a ground cloth for the inside of my tent vestibule.

Chairs: If there’s space I will bring one, but I frequently sit on the insulated bag, or at picnic tables, or on my bear canister.


Some people prep elaborate, healthy meals and are there grilling up steaks or salmon. I am not one of those people. I won’t bring anything that can’t be eaten by, at most, pouring hot water over it and waiting 5 minutes. Meet your new best friend:

These only need some hot water and you’re good to go; Add instant gravy, or rehydrate some peas, or add it to whatever else you’ve been cooking. They are also useful if you are rehydrating something savory and accidentally use too much water.

In my opinion noodles, except angel hair, take too long to cook. Instant rice or dehydrated, cooked rice is good, but I’m not going to use the fuel to cook raw rice. I tend to enjoy spicy things so taking some spicy dehydrated rice & beans worked well (it might help to mash up the beans before dehydrating or else they take too long to rehydrate). Lots of veggies like zucchini and peppers dehydrate well and can be added to other meals. If I’m feeling fancy I’ll bring a few fresh green onions or green peppers and add them to the meal to make it look like I cooked.

For breakfast I usually stick with (quick) oatmeal with sugar, cinnamon, and either raisins or other fruit like dried mango. On the water I usually stick to dried fruit, almonds, summer sausage. For lunch packet tuna salad with a tortilla is typical but I like to bring a salad on day 1 as a farewell to healthy eating.

I bring very minimal cooking equipment: a titanium pot with a lid for boiling water, a camp mug, and a titanium spork. If I need a bowl I tend to use the container I brought salad in for day 1 and rinse it out. My stove is a cheap one I bought on Amazon for something like $12. My first one lasted 5 years and at that rate I can just keep replacing them as needed. It’s tiny.


Here’s an early ‘what I packed’ example for a 1-night trip. This boat is my old 14 foot Delta – I’ve since upgraded to a 16 foot but it doesn’t hold any more gear (it’s just sleeker and faster).

I now carry extra water (and sometimes a fire log) in the rear hatch directly behind the seat. The bear canister always goes behind that because that’s the only place it will fit.

I want to distribute weight evenly so I don’t cause problems with my boat weathercocking or leecocking in wind. Since this photo was taken I’ve also switched to a much, much smaller camping pad.

The ikea bags are important! I can load and unload my gear into them first and it keeps everything from getting full of sand, plus I can use them as a rough way to judge if I’m putting equal weight in each hatch.

This is also a little out of date. I now keep my waterproof camera clipped to my PFD and leave my phone, keys, charging cables, and power supply in a separate drybag in the back hatch.

My small dayhatch contains sunglasses, sunscreen, trail mix/snacks, a water bottle, and frequently a hat or hair tie, chapstick, and the nose clips I want to keep handy if I think I want to practice rolling.

Not pictured: when I’m packing the hatches I put a long string on two very small drybags and put those all the way up in the nose and stern first. When I go to unload I can pull the string and pull the small bag (and anything blocking it) into easy reach without having to stretch around trying to reach things that are too far away.

If I need to, I can pack lighter and still fit my wheels inside the hatch. If that’s not an issue I can splurge a bit and bring a camp chair or a hammock. Last time I brought our camping french press and a little Bailey’s to go in my coffee. I don’t like to leave things on the deck but I’ve paddled with a crowded deck and it didn’t seem to affect the performance of the kayak much at all, even in some wind. I find I don’t often need a chair because most campsites have picnic tables and I can sit on the bear can if needed.

I’m always making minor adjustments to my gear or how I pack it, but this covers the basics pretty well.

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Clark Island Overnight

This summer I really want to explore the San Juan Islands by kayak – as much as possible! And if I’m able to do it without getting onto a ferry, even better. Yesterday I left for a 1-night (Sat-Sun) trip from Anacortes to Clark Island. Clark is located just off Orcas Island and isn’t far from Sucia (where I need to get back to).

Our route as mapped on Gaia. Anacortes to Clark (orange), 15.2 miles in 2 hrs 57 min. Average moving speed was 5.4mph with a max speed of 7.9 mph. As you might guess we had a substantial current pushing us along.

Return trip (red) 15.36 miles in 3 hours 43 minutes. Average moving speed 4.4mph and max speed 6.8 mph. We still had the current with us but had a substantial headwind until we were close to Cypress Island. We also stopped for lunch at Cypress Head.

Setting sun catching the madrone trees on Clark Island.

We launched at 2pm to take advantage of the current assist. There was no rain or wind but it was overcast the whole way. We passed by a spectacular view of Eagle’s Cliff at the north end of Cypress and I hope to go back to hike it soon. North, near Lawrence point the currents were confused – first pushing left, then right, then left again, but it was slow enough that it was hard to see which direction they were going before they caught you. I’m told that it can be MUCH more exciting than what we experienced. We arrived a little after 5pm and found, to our surprise, that the entire beach area was filled up!

There were many empty sites, though, up the little hill in the forest and I picked one that had a view of the rocks to the east and south to Orcas.

View from in front of our campsite

It rained overnight which meant it was kind of gross to pack up, but it didn’t rain ON us, at least. THere was a pretty brisk wind from the SSE (but less than 10 kts).

Dave and Jeff, north of Cypress
Fred, Susan, and Terri

I was a little cold when we started, but, as usual, working hard warmed me up. By the time we reached Cypress the wind had died down and we could see some sun start to break through. We stopped for lunch at Cypress Head, paddled through some confused currents to the east of it, and then rode the last of the ebb back to Anacortes. We only had to dodge one ferry (and it was quite far away). By the time we returned to the launch it was warm and sunny.

This felt like a pretty ambitious trip to me, and we got quite far into the San Juans. It makes me confident that I can do a lot of exploring without always having to take a ferry. I guess the trick is the weather and timing the currents.

No photos of these, but we saw porpoises, lots of seals, and two sea lions who came very close to the boats.

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Kayak Surfing!

On April 18-19 I took an “Introduction to Surf Zone” kayaking class with Fidalgo Paddle Sports. There were only 3 students plus the instructor and we met at Crescent Beach, west of Port Angeles.

I had some misgivings about this – I can do some distance but I’m not a very technical paddler – and the closer we got to the date the more concerned I was about the weather. First – it’s mid April and I was worried I’d be too cold to camp, or that I’d get too cold falling in the water and then never warm up at night, and second, I checked the surf forecast for this beach and it was predict 4-6 foot waves when I thought maybe half that would still be a challenge for me. But I spoke to the instructor and he was still enthusiastic so in I went!

I’d never been to this beach before and it was beautiful, even with the clouds and the snow line only a hundred feet or so above sea level. More importantly, when I got there Tuesday morning (after taking the 5:35 ferry!) the waves were small. No more than 1-3 feet and I was very grateful for that. We could see whitecaps out in the straight, but the beach was sheltered from the worst of the wind and waves.

Crescent beach looking much less scary than predicted. This photo was taken during a relative lull, we had more than this but it never got really big.

The other two students were Audrey and Erik, a couple, but she lives in Canada and is a kayaking guide on Vancouver Island, while he is currently still working in Seattle. They (and Jesse, the instructor) were all great to work with.

All 3 students at once!

Our first task was to practice paddling parallel to the beach in the soup/wash zone where we had to learn how to do an effective low brace or get rolled over. I was pretty successful with this (not that I was able to keep it up once things got bigger, but I started well). Having a wave break right next to you and shove the whole kayak sideways was actually pretty fun.

Things I learned:
I habitually edge to the wrong side when I’m ruddering – I think it just never mattered when I’m going slow, but it absolutely matters when I was trying to keep myself straight down a wave.
Three foot waves are still a bit scary and much more likely to turn & roll me.
I don’t drop my paddle when I get rolled! (yay! I was worried I might)
I do, however, see that I’m about to roll and dive out of the boat completely. (Probably not terrible but not really great either)
Getting dumped and having to drag the boat around, empty it, and launch again got tiring quickly.
Falling out isn’t as scary as I was worried it would be – which is good because I fell out a lot.
Paddling OUT through the surf, even when it was 3 feet, was a blast.
Even though my drysuit is nearing the end of its life and I was getting a bit damp, I wasn’t cold.
I need to start edging a lot more aggressively – I think I may need to add padding to snug up the fit in my kayak to be able to do this effectively.

Not my biggest ride, but a successful one! Also – this wave FELT bigger when it was behind me and I couldn’t see it.

Our campsite was right across the road from the beach and there was very little traffic on the road – at least in April. The weather was much better than expected but it still hailed on us a little. I brought two sleeping bags and still slept warm – so that concern was also mitigated.

I had to get up from supper to take a picture of these amazing clouds.

I would absolutely do this again and it did a tremendous amount for my confidence in what I might face while touring.

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Oil Sketches

Going even smaller than a study, I have some Arches oil paper and I tried making very small (less than 4″ paintings on it to test colors or techniques.

I think the winter scene needs a bit more of a focal point. The kelp & fish: I brushed my hand over it while it was wet and blurred the lower left corner. Violet tree: I like it. I’m not sure if I’ll have trouble adding detail if I make it bigger, but probably not. Lower right: not happy with this at all, but that’s why it’s a sketchbook.

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Still Life

I’ve been sketching out some more horses, I have several photos that I’m inspired by, but I haven’t got a good composition yet. I’m also in the process of rounding up skulls and props to set up my own still lifes but for now i’m using some free online images.

6×8 oil on panel
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Pitcher Plants

Last year I bought a sundew plant to help with fungus gnats and fruit flies – and it worked great. I felt inspired by some of their photos (my house is already filling up with plants, but I still want more.) In any case, Predatory Perennials gave me permission to use some of their photos as reference.

This is a 6×8 oil on panel. Hopefully there will be more soon.

Pitcher Plants
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Still Painting

I’ve been spending a lot of time doing quick sketches and practicing monsters. Monday I’m going to swoop through the thrift store to look for oil paintings that look like they need to have monsters added to them, failing that I’ll look for inexpensive frames to use for other paintings. These are all very small. they still take me longer than just one day, but I’m working on it.

Maribel – the Fjord Horse. 6×6 oil on board
Glass cup. 6×6 oil on board
value study: for a future oil painting
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More attempts at ‘daily painting’ although this took me more than 1 day. I tried it because I think of flowers as being very difficult and I guess I wasn’t wrong, this gave me some trouble.

8×10 oil on panel

I got my brother in law to spend a couple hours cutting down new panels into tiny sizes and I hope this will encourage me to paint more often without worrying so much about ‘what if I botch it?’. Wish me luck.