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Trip Report: Grey Whales sighted off Hat Island

Published on 4/7/2014

Trip Leader; Dave Ortland

Trip Participants; Dori Glykis, Bonnie-Lynn Robertson and Doug Herbig

This trip report might start out using the theme of Gilligan’s lsland.   I will let the participants and the readers pick out which character is Gilligan, the skipper too, the millionaire or his wife, the movie star or the professor or Mary Ann.    

Four of us met that fateful day at the Mukilteo lighthouse and our Leader Dave told me right off the bat that the “Knot” was not at the beginning of the trip, it was the reward when we washed ashore after we landed….  Successfully…….   The initial plan was to launch from the lighthouse area, paddle north to Hat Island, then to Whidbey Island and cross back to the mainland leaving Whidbey Island just south of the Whidbey ferry landing.    The weather started getting rough……   Wait, I get ahead of myself.   Before we launched I noticed Dave with his finger in the air pondering all matter of wind direction, tides, weather, happy hour and grey whale sighting prediction.   I said to myself – wow.   He either has gas or is truly a leader of us all.   (Still deciding but I am leading towards the latter).   Dave also had several back up plans in place.   Backup plan “A” was happy hour at the Knot, Backup Plan “B” was to ride the drift to Camano Island/Deception Pass and hitch-hike back to the cars, Back-up Plan “C” was to get as far as the ferry and beg a ride back.   It turns out we needed none of the backup plans but I learned another valuable lesson from our President, if I remember what it was I will include it later.   Back to the actual paddle.   We launched and headed north towards Hat Island with a SE wind (which then switched to E and then to S again) with the hopes of spotting a Grey Whale or two.   The ladies mentioned that with Dave with us we might be jinxed as there seems to be history of no whales with Dave as a participant.   I was optimistic. (really I was a newbie and said “ok” when asked anything – kind of like a new puppy).   As we neared Hat Island we heard the distinctive blow of a Grey.  Dave said “what was that?”.   We stopped and watched the whale a couple of hundred yards away surfacing about every minute or so.   Trip was no longer Jinxed!   “Yay” said the girls, “Yay” said Doug and “Yay” said Dave.  Weather was starting to kick up so we turned our boats West towards Whidbey Island.   About halfway to Whidbey we heard the blow of another Grey.   Wow.   Pretty cool but then I thought back on my younger days, growing up in Montana, Dry Fly fishing. Hmmmm…. And here I am on top of the water……. Hmmmmm.   Drive that out of your mind Doug and back to paddling.   Made it to the Whidbey Island Ferry docks where we tested our land legs one more time and had a bite to eat before the final crossing.   I look up and saw Dave, once more in that pose with his finger in the air.  What other great things was he pondering I thought to myself?   Plan “A”?   Plan “C”?   A more devious Plan “D” that had gone unspoken to the group up till now?   What more was I to learn today?  How could it get any better?   Re-launch into the east.   Halfway through what Dave told me at the time was Class 4 trip waters, Dave says “Hey everybody, lets surf!”.   So, with the Mukilteo light house in sight once again, we lethargically turned our boats North and rode some pretty fun swell.   I lasted about 5 minutes.   It was, sure enough, fun, but…….   I was getting pooped.   Next time.   As we were 50 foot off the landing spot we looked over and saw Dave in the water.   I think he said something like – I meant to do that and I think I found a leak in my suit.  Great Paddle with some pretty good paddlers.   And the reward at the end – beer at the Knot with some clams and munchies.   As we approached the entrance I heard Dave say “well, we cheated death one more time guys”.

Photos here:


Respectfully reported

Doug Herbig

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