Skagit Bay Boat Camping!
WA State Parks and Rec. will let you park your car in several places around the Salish sea. We were just S. of Anacortes, by Deception Pass. Parking was 10$ at Launch spot by Coronet Bay N.48.40176 W.122.62245 We camped on the SW shore of Hope Island. No real surf to worry about in the Skagit Bay, but tidal currents get pretty weird. Even loaded down with 100lbs. of camping gear, the mild sea was tossing our tiny 12′ skin on frame boat a bit. I’m amazed at how well the hull design worked. I had thought of seawaves in the design, and put in a nice splashdeck over the bluff end, and a more modest one on the sharper bow. Both stayed dry, however. So far, my splashdecks have only deflected spilled drinks. Loaded down with nearly 430lbs. total, the boat gets kinda slow, but very stable. Rollers higher than our gunwales didn’t change the modest amount of freeboard much, and moved gracefully under us without upset. We didn’t even lose much speed to wave action, which is incredible, because the boat doesn’t have enough weight to preserve any momentum. The reason for this is in the mysteries of hull shape dynamics that I rant about incessantly. Largest planes below the waterline run parralell to direction of travel. We averaged 2kts when we weren’t riding boatwakes or wicked currents. Oh, and did I mention the hull weathercocks when you balance forward? MIGHTY FINE BOAT!
I’ll admit that I had a few fears when we put 100 lbs. of camping gear and my very pregnant wife in this tiny canoe and head out into the ocean. We both pretended not to be nervous, each for the benefit of the other. Together, our slightly dishonest kindnesses made us incredibly brave. It was laborday weekend, and there was some motorboat traffic, but no more than the local lakes I’m used to, and the serious shipping chanels were all closer to Bellingham. We stayed close enough to the coast as we rouded Hoypus Point, to avoid motorboats, but far enough that big waves couldn’t throw us into rocks. Long sea whips of kelp showed the tidal direction clearly, and as Wonderwoman pointed out, these kelp only grow where the current stays light, so they helped us avoid the weirder hard currents as well. Between Coronet Bay and Ala Spit, there was a 2-3kt current pushing us along, and my little boat (probably has a max hullspeed around 4.5 knots) was flying along the beach at around 8kts. This made me worry a little about getting back, but tides change. We stopped at the AlaSpit to dig out binoculars and wait for motorboat traffic to break. Our parks Dept. map made it look like we had gone about 3 statute miles, but our gps indicated around 10 nautical miles… does that inclue ups and downs of wave action? The Western Shore of Hope Isle has a beaco on it with the number 16 and a blue light. If you are in an open paddleboat, stay North of this point. Currets around these rocks weren’t especially dangerous when we were there, but they were strong enough to make navigation impossible. The Northwest corner of Hope Island has many pretty beaches, some have broken shells for sand. Most of these beaches go away at high tide and are seperated from the mainland by cliffs. Tidepools and starfish aren’t hard to find here. We hiked to a nice spot by the Western side of the Island. N. 48.39804, W. 122.58481 It had a beautiful view of Southern Skagit Bay, and just enough wind to discourage mosquitos. The weather was dryer here than I expected, and fires weren’t allowed. When I was guerilla camping in the past, I often went without fires so the parkrangers wouldn’t catch me. It seems funny that I’m now one of the few ppl who follows burn ban rules in State Parks. It’s good to have a tarp, water, shitshovel, sleepin bag, vittles, flashlight, and pfd with you, but I wouldn’t bother with a tent, folding chairs, beer, sleepmat, or cooking gear. We ate some smoky lox on bagels because it tastes Northwesty. We thought we were the only large animals on the Island at first, but later we scouted the beautiful oldgrowth woods, moved the boat to an easier beach (Wonderwoman is hardcore, but I didn’t want to make a pregnant girl climb rocks.) and found bones of a small deer. Later still, we found a large beach on the NE coast with access to the interior. This must have been the official camping spot, because there were peole there. There were maintained trails and a ropeswing. Sailboats and motorboats were tied to Provided anchorage boueys. Someone was playing The Village People’s YMCA at an insanely high volume; as part of a global conspiracy to make us hate homosexuals. I was continually surprised at the absence of paddleboats. When I read about the Skagit Bay and island camping, it sounded like it was tailormade for inexperienced kayakers who wanted a reasonably safe adventure, but the only kayaks we saw were carried to the island on bigger boats. Closer to the Fidalgo side, nice sea kayaks paddled around the shores they left from. The nice sea kayaks we saw could have easily made more distance faster through rougher waters than my amazing new little boat could but we didn’t see ayone go anywhere. The smallest craft we saw ayone camp from were like Zodiacs. These motor rafts are faster than they look like they should be. Late at night, Wonderwoman saw a small orca checking out the beach below our campspot. The sunrise from the Island was epic. We tried to circle the island the next morning, Wonderwoman paddled most the way. A beach nearly 2 miles long runs along the SE side of the Island. We didn’t see any easy interior access from it (just more pretty cliffs with nice old-growth on top), but there was a lot of clams and dungeness crabs. On the previously mentioned SW peninsula, the currents spun us like a top and shot us out into the bay at high speed. This boat tracks incredibly well, so the spinning was actually due to spinnig currents. I thought I saw Wilfred Brimley off our starboard quarter but it was a sealion. If you haven’t seen sealions in the wild, you should. You don’t see long seamammal bodies doing things like you would at a park, or on a nature show. In the wild, you usually just see a very human, upright head appear without warning, very close. Their facial expressions are comical, confusing, amazing, and strange. If dogs looked more like people, they might have faces like this. I’ve never seen one be threatening on the water, they know we don’t swim too well; if you see one on land though, give’m as much room as you would a bear. The Hope Island point with the warning beacon may attract sealions. They like to play or hunt near these crazy currents. They usually look like bored observers but this one seemed genuinely curious and/or concerned. We saw him again on our way back, or one that looked very similar. We could’t get around that crazy point, so we went back around to the NW beaches and hiked back to our campspot. I love the Northwest woods because you can just fall down and sleep anywhere and nothing eats you. I totally passed out in the woods. When the tides changed around 1pm, we headed back towards Deception Pass. We had to paddle against some currents, but it wasn’t too bad. Motorboat traffic tried to be polite and gave us room.
Waves got higher than I liked, but this boat behaved fantasticly. We were very happily impressed at the grace and ease with which this tiny boat behaved in rollers and wind. The amount of freeboard catching wind was far smaller than the surfaces below the waterline, and the hull is softly rounded, with a 2.5″ keelson. At no point are the wales perpendicular to the water. Bouancy is designed to increase with displacement AND/OR heel. The ideas of high, straight sides on a canoe or “tumblehome” have more to do with “looking stable” than being stable I think.
We got a little sun, I got a little dehydrated, 3 days on land, and I no longer feel the waves. Overall, the trip was a fantastic success. All the unusual design choices in my boat have proven themselves as even better than I expected. Wonderwoman is also amazing. I’m very happy that I found someone who enjoys this sort of thing. ❤