By Bill Porter
The group of seven students and three experienced instructors launched at Washington Park at 11:30 am on Thursday June 23rd with the goal of paddling across Rosario Strait to our first nights planned camp site located at Spencer Spit on Lopez Island. The strong currents and rips around Belle Rock Light and Bird Rocks challenged our plans. We had three swimmers, one lost Werner paddle and some new found rescue experiences for the group. After spending approximately one hour in the churning waters we decided to go with plan B which was to paddle to James Island State Park and camp for the evening. James Island was very pleasant, no hordes of hostile raccoons waiting for us although the skies did open up just as we where setting up our camp, nice to get the dust rinsed off our camping gear. Rain stopped and beautiful rainbow appeared towards Mt. Baker. One of our group members inadvertently dropped gear on a yellow jacket nest and was stung on the face and hand which caused immediate swelling and obvious concern for the entire group. The victim decided it would be fine to spend the night and re-access in the morning.
Friday, the group discussed going up to Thatcher Pass then onto Spenser Spit paddling south along Decatur Island before crossing over to Burrows Island or leaving James Island crossing Rosario with a stop at Washington Park before heading south to Burrows Island which was the planned second nights camp site. We left James and paddled on a calm Rosario strait over to Washington Park. Our bee sting victim left the group at Washington Park. At Washington Park we refilled our water containers as there is no water on Burrows Island. Headed down to Burrows, got to our campsite and had a nice lunch on the beach, set up our tents under the watchful eyes of swarms of blood thirsty mosquitoes. Following lunch we jumped back into our boats for skills training as we journeyed to the Light House. As good luck would have it on our way back to camp the wind picked up and we had an opportunity to work with a strong flood current and 15+knot winds to work thru. We had to wait at the northeast corner of Burrows Island as the flood current was too strong (6+ knots) to get thru. After waiting a good hour the currents speed dropped and the group headed back to camp. Another good lesson learned about flow of water thru restricted passages.
Saturday , we were able to sleep a bit longer, yes we still got up at 6 a.m. but took our time and launched at 10:15 heading back to Washington Park and our cars. We packed our cars, loaded boats and off to Deception Pass Campground we went under bright sunny skies and warm weather. The campground was very busy, lots and lots of visitors. Set up our camp and headed for the hot showers. Drove into Anacortes for dinner and a libation at The Rock Fish and to discuss the days paddling experiences then back to camp for a good night’s rest.
Sunday we launched from Cornet Bay at 9:15, paddled around Ben Ure Island, then over to Strawberry Island and then onto Canoe Pass to play in the 6 knot ebb current. After a hour + in the currents we headed to Bowman Bay to practice rolls, balance exercises and to have lunch in the hot sun! When the ebb subsided to took advantage of back eddies to head back to Strawberry Island then to Cornet Bay arriving at 2:30.
All in all, with the currents and weather we had it was probably the best Advanced Skills Development & Wilderness Camping class I have been in over the 10 years of doing this. The conditions were great for all kinds of challenges and learning experiences for all. We even had an animal come in to camp the first night and take one of my bags and carry it down the slope but I did retreat it and only the empty trash bag from lunch the day before was torn into. Oops hang those bags……