Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kayak Trip 2006: Blake Island (Friday)

note: Please start on Thursday, below.

Friday morning, Deane and I ate some PB&J for energy, hit the water at 6:30 and paddled, against current, back to Vashon to collect the rest of our group, who were racing with that particular early-morning drunken-looking shuffle around the muddy shore, mostly packed up. We dropped off some trash and stuffed more food into our empty boats, trying to be careful not to fill them so far that we wouldn’t be able to get everything in for our homeward paddle Sunday (these boats had, after all, already been stuffed full).

Early morning—like, just after sunrise early—is a magical time to be on the water. The winds haven’t started up for the day yet, and the sea is glassy, clear, and the air is cool. Puget Sound is a beautiful color when it’s not churned up by shipping and industry, like thick sheet glass, the kind that looks green from the end. Our paddles sliced through, green-tinted under the surface. Deeper down, wavelets reflected dappled sunlight on barnacle-encrusted boulders, with sea stars and anemones adding splashes of purple, orange and cream to the wavering underwater scene that you are, nevertheless, careful not to peer too closely at over the edge of your boat. I love kayaking—it makes me feel like a different sort of creature. My habitat is water, not land. I love the alive feeling of my back muscles working with my arms, I love gliding across the shining surface of the sea. When fish jump off your bow, they’re jumping to eye level. When waves hit, you really feel them—little multi-directional ripples plipping against your hull, larger roller-coaster rollers swooping you up and down.

Back at camp, Erik prepared a giant brunch of eggs, potatoes and veggie sausages while the newcomers put up tents, and then we settled all the more securely into summer camping mode. Our sites were on a grassy shore just up from the sand, pebble and driftwood beach, at the foot of a short sandstone cliff and in the shade of several madronas and a couple of firs. We faced west over to the Olympic Mountains (as several sunset pictures from each night attest), about a quarter mile from the bathroom, a little closer to the drinking water (which went from being brown to clear to brown again in an irregular pattern, but which always tasted of iodine). Being right on shore is convenient if you’re a guy, and there were a few we never saw make the bathroom trek the entire weekend (although, for their sake, I hope they had to at least once . . .).

Along on the trip were three little blond teenage girls related to Deane’s wife Erika: her sister and their two first cousins. The three girls look like sisters, and played fetch with each other, and slept for hours on a heap with each other, until I started calling them the Puppies. The three happily shared a tent and an air mattress and only two sleeping bags (“Lauren likes to sleep in the middle,” Jessica told me, “because no one can steal your covers.”)

Deane and Mia and I walked to Tillicum Village to buy briquettes and ice . . . and, okay, chocolate and banana (me) and chocolate and strawberry (Deane) milkshakes. I mean, why not take advantage of all the facilities? I’m not sure what Deane and I were thinking, but we took a paddle and two dry bags along with us to carry home the briquettes balanced between us . . . the briquettes that were sold in five pound volumes . . . and five pounds is five pounds and, well, very light for even one person to carry, no matter how you look at it . . . so we carried the paddle back home again, unused.

Late Friday afternoon, a pirate ship pulled into the harbor and tied up on the linear moorage just offshore. We knew the beautiful old black-hulled wood sailboat was a pirate ship because of the Jolly Rogers—not one, but two—flying in the late afternoon breeze. As the evening progressed, we became more and more convinced that pirates are, in fact, frat boys. Certainly, they have no sense of decency or common courtesy. The noise drifting in to shore became louder as the air grew darker, and our conversation around the small briquette fire became punctuated with distant shouts of “NAKED!!!!” and “BEER BONG! BEEEEER BONNNG!!!!!” To our disbelief, at one point when we were checking them out with our binoculars, someone saw a child on board. Indeed, it wasn’t just frat boys—it was a whole family, and some extra young people, and I mean extra-young, like 8 years old.

Quiet hour came and went amidst screeches and loud music, and people from shore started going out in their dinghies, asking the pirates to please be quiet. Erik, who’d brought his slingshot, starting launching ammo out into the dark. We left a message on the ranger’s phone, and called a friend with Coast Guard ties. Finally I remembered that I had earplugs, and I fell exhausted into bed. The Puppies could sleep through anything.

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