Outer Island Expedition

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Aug 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Rose Cottage

Flag of United States  , Washington
Friday, August 12, 2011

We got up at 7:15, had breakfast, and left for the North Shore at 8:20. We had plenty of time but that was good because we got stuck behind a house being moved down the road.  It took up the whole road in some places.  It was about as big as a double wide trailer.  There was a lady behind us who was taking pictures the whole way.  We figured it was her house.  When we got to Eastsound it went straight and we cut through town to get around it.  It worked.  We got to Outer Island Expeditions at Smuggler's Cove in plenty of time.

Chelsea, our guide, got stuck behind the house too.  Her fiancÚ, Troy, was our boat driver.  Our boat was The Hobbit.  We were the only ones going on this expedition.  Chelsea outfitted us with life preservers, paddles and a dry sack.  Then we got on The Hobbit and headed for Sucia Island which is a state park.  It took us about 20 minutes to get to Fossil Bay where Troy dropped us off.  Herndon Island  was in the Bay, privately owned, and for sale for only $250,000 but not water or electric.  We walked straight across a small piece of land to Fox Cove where we got our kayaks.  Derek and Erin shared a kayak, with Larry and I in the other one.  We got our water shoes on and rolled up our pants legs.  The tide was about 2 feet lower than usual so we had to walk way out in muck and seaweed before we could launch.  It was about 10:00 when we got started.  The water was smooth as glass and we started paddling.

Chelsea had reminded us to push with the opposite hand rather than trying to pull each stroke.  You get less tired that way.  We paddled out of Fox Cove and around the corner.  We say Pigeon Guillemots, the same kind Erin and I saw so many of in Ireland.  We saw a seal for a brief moment before it dove.  We paddled into Shallow Bay next, where a lot of sailboats were anchored.  Chelsea told us how this bay was used in the past for human trafficking of Chinese.  The island is mostly sandstone with layers of conglomerate that make for lots of caves and crevices to hide people.  Later these same caves were used for smuggling drugs.  When the state took it over as a state park all of those activities ceased because the area was now protected.  We continued out of Shallow Bay and paddled along sandstone cliffs that have eroded into fantastic shapes and patterns.  Since it was partly sunny there were some places where we could see the water reflecting on the rocks.

The most amazing sight of the day was of a Bald Eagle swimming!  We watched it swim about 100 yards to shore.  It used its wings like oars to propel itself through the water.  When it got to shore which was pretty steep it used its wings to help it gain purchase on the rocky shore.  It was then that we could see it had a fish in its right talon.  It rested for a moment or two and then hopped/flew to a large flat rock.  Shortly after it got up there we saw an otter at the base of the rock.  It was totally unaware of the eagle above it.  We hoped the eagle would not see the otter before it dove again and it didn’t.  As we observed the eagle it seemed to be exhausted.  We could hear another eagle in a pine tree on the bluff above.  From the sound we figured it was a juvenile begging for a piece of the prize.  We finally spotted it as a dark shape moving in the tree.  The eagle with the fish flapped its wings and shook its body like a dog that has been swimming.  We figured it had to wait to fly until its wings were dryer.  It probably went deeper in the water to get the fish and then couldn’t fly because it was too wet.  Eagle’s feathers don’t have the oily coating water birds have to keep their feathers flight worthy.  We watched the eagle for some time and since the tide was coming in we were pushed quite close but it never took off.  Finally we left hoping the juvenile would soon be fed.

Our next sighting was of a group of mother and baby seals, less than 10 in number.  Chelsea at first guided us in between some rocks but changed her mind when she saw more mother seals around the corner.  So we went out around the rocks so as to avoid protective mother seals.  When we rounded the point where the seals were the water got a lot more agitated with larger waves.  It was still beautiful and the sky was getting clearer and clearer and my arms were getting more and more tired.  Before long we took passage between some rocks and came into beautiful Ewing Bay.  We beached our kayaks and got out for a long lunch.  There was a composting toilet at the bay which was very welcome.  We sat on driftwood logs for our lunch of sandwiches, apples and water.  Then we went exploring the rocks and shallows in the bay.  We saw little crabs and little fish that looked like baby rock fish.  We watched two Great Blue Herons fighting it out over a rocky outcrop where there were lots of little crabs.  One chased the other off and came back to feed.

The tide had come in considerably while we were exploring, so it was easier to push our kayaks out into the bay.  We cut through another passage which brought out onto another bay which we went straight across.  There were boats anchored in this bay as well.  On the other side of the bay we passed between the Finger Islands in the middle of the big U shape of Sucia Island.  These islands are not part of the state park.  One has two houses on it and the other has one.  One of the houses has a cart track built down to the beach to get supplies up to the house.  One had an elaborate dock that must have cost a pretty penny. 

When we came out from between the finger islands and rounded the next point we saw another Bald Eagle in a tree but he flew off before we got close.  Soon we were cutting across Fossil Bay to round our final corner heading for Fox Cove.  It was hard to believe that we had paddled all the way around the island.  Of course, as I type this, my shoulders are a little sore.  When we got to the Cove the tide was in and it was right up to the beach.  I got out to pull Larry in and when I pulled the boat in I hit a soft mucky spot and ended up on my butt.  Luckily, I wasn’t hurt, just muddy.  We got back about 2:30 and had an hour until Troy came to pick us up.  We went fossil hunting on the beach (Fossil Bay) and found several nice ones.  Of course, since it is a state park we left them there for others to find and enjoy.  Troy was right on time and we got back by 4:00.  We decided to sign up for a Whale Watch tour tomorrow afternoon with them.

We headed straight back to Rose Cottage and had a snack, the rest of the cake and some ice cream.  We each had a little liquid refreshment too.  We went to the gift shop across the road from us and Derek got a t-shirt and sweatshirt.  Larry got Black Raspberry Honey for our cat sitters.  I bought turtles made of rocks for my Wyoming Wild Women friends.  We relaxed for awhile before I made supper.  We had Chowderwitches: a toasted bun, with baked white fish, covered in clam chowder and corn and topped with grated cheddar cheese.  Easy and delicious.  After supper dishes were done we played Euchre until bedtime.  The guys beat the girls, all three games. 
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