By David Ortland
On May 16th 16 WKC paddlers set paddle around Lummi Island. For a special treat, Sterling Donaldson dropped off Five of his beautiful kayaks for us to try out that day. Many paddlers swapped boats to give multiple test drives. Such a long paddle is the perfect way to determine if a boat is right for you. The five models we tried were the Illusion, Ice Cap, Reflection, Progression, and Grand Illusion. I paddled the Reflection for the whole day. I noticed that whoever was paddling the Ice Cap (suitable for smaller paddlers) was typically out in front of the pack.
I always plan this trip for the spring tide currents. Under these tide conditions, an ebb takes you south in the morning and a big afternoon flood takes you north through Rosario Strait after lunch. The current ride makes the 18 miles go by quickly.
After launch from Goosebury Point near the Lummi ferry terminal, a 1-2 knot current took us south to the DNR camp site, near the south tip of the island, in about an hour. The DNR camp site is one of the nicest and most scenic in the San Juans. As we have found on prior trips, stiff south winds are funneled by the high ridge of the island along the south east side, producing 1-2 foot waves to make for a nice bouncy ride. Sterling paddlers found that their boats handle stiff winds well in any direction, with very little weather-cocking.
After a short break we then headed around the island to Lummi Rocks, the traditional lunch stop. Here the views really open up, Orcas is spectacular, and there is big open water to the north into Grorgia Strait. If there is time, a side trip to Viti rocks is worthwhile, but this time we gave it a pass. Very fast currents are typically found around Lummi Rocks, and this time moderate tide rips that I have never seen before were formed just to the west. Several paddlers took advantage and played in the rips for an hour. In these conditions I discovered that the Reflection really excelled as a play boat. It handles very well in rough water, feels secure, easy to maneuver.
The currents were close to 3 knots after lunch and sped us to Village Point in less than an hour. On a previous trip this is where we encountered the Lummi fishing fleet. This time we found 3-4 foot standing waves set up by currents heading west from the point meeting the main current. Once again the Reflection gave me some thrills while discovering how well it can surf.
The trip around Pt Migley usually becomes slow but the shore line scenery and geology makes the end of the trip interesting. Once rounding the point the currents are against you, but easy progress can be made by eddy hopping. Lummi Point deflects the main current. Once past Lummi Point one then must set up for a ferry glide back to Gooseberry Point. It requires a good burst of energy after a long day’s paddle.
Everyone was very happy with their Sterling demo boats, except for one for whom the seat was not a good fit. We were able to remove the foam seat (which is custom made for each paddler) and use some thermarest padding to make them comfortable for the rest of the trip. I found the Refection to be as fine a boat as any I that have paddled, light and beautiful. Sterling boats are great for day trips and reknown for playing or surfing in rougher water. I suspect the Reflection or Grand Illusion would also make for superior expedition boats in oceanic conditions.
Photos by Jose Reyes