Sucia, Patos; Humpbacks & Orcas... oh my!

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by jamonte, Sep 25, 2019.

  1. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    This summer, my eldest sister moved from the flatlands to the Wet Coast and ever since, I have been busy showing her around her new home. Sometimes that means a day of practice at Deception Pass or a local river and sometimes that means a multi-day sea kayak trip in her new backyard, the San Juan Islands. This trip was a simple 4-day paddle with camps at Sucia, Patos, and Matia Islands.

    Day 1: North Shore beach access on Orcas Island to Echo Bay, Sucia Island.
    Heavy clouds at launch gave way to a beautiful sunny afternoon. Campsite #42 is unrivaled, at least when no one else is around! (I am still bummed that they closed the campsites at Ewing Cove... those were some of my favorites.)

    Day 2: We awoke to a beautiful sunrise, which soon gave way to thick fog. We paddled around Ewing Cove, over the top of Sucia, then crossed over to Patos with about 100 yards of visibility. This was the first time I relied on my GPS to make a crossing in the fog & current and it worked great. Not sure I would have trusted this device without using it 100+ days last year on hikes and river trips.

    Ten minutes after we landed at Active Cove on Patos Island, a pair of humpbacks surfaced just offshore. In 25 years of paddling the San Juans, this was the first time I've seen humpbacks. Really a treat. It rained for about three hours in the afternoon and then quit at dusk. Just in time for me to get a campfire started!

    Day 3: We crossed back to Sucia Island (amid feeding harbor porpoises) and cruised along the south side of the island before crossing to Matia Island. We hiked the island trails and then, after an early dinner, we circumnavigated the island by kayak.

    Day 4: For breakfast, we hiked over to a small south-facing pocket beach that used to be a homestead site. (Apple and pear trees were heavy with fruit!) Just as we sat down to dine, four orcas (led by one male) cruised up the channel in front of us. Really nice! After breakfast, we made a simple crossing back to our launch site on Orcas Island, then we stopped in East Sound for food & drinks before catching the ferry back to the mainland.

    Here are the pics:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/e4GDM1Yp8MeKBwSAA
     
    Peter-CKM and Astoriadave like this.
  2. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Great photos!
     
  3. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Thanks, Andrew. (And Dave, as well, for your comment in Google.) Unsettled weather often results in dramatic skies, which really helps make your photos pop.

    It was another fun trip. One of many we've had this summer. Next spring, we should have time to work on her surf zone skills at Hobuck Beach, which will open up possible trips on the coast next summer. For now, we are focused on rolling, strokes, and river running skills. I'm not an instructor, but I encourage her to take classes and then we build on what she was taught. (or not taught, as the case may be!)
     
  4. designer

    designer Paddler

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    Thank you for the inspiring report. Wonder if that sea life will stick around until mid-October :)
    Because you didn't mention any difficulty, it sounds like you timed the crossing from Sucia to Patos (and back) to work with the current. Was that timing planned or did you just wing it and hit it right?
     
  5. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Most definitely planned it. First, the whole trip was planned during neap tides, and second, we crossed from Sucia to Patos near slack. I have made the crossing to Patos several times before and know to respect the current off Toe Point. If not for the GPS, there is NO WAY I would have attempted that crossing in a thick fog using just a map and compass. For starters, it is impossible to judge what the current is doing to your course since you can't take a range on anything, and more importantly, you can't "aim off" your target because you are aiming for the end of the island. Miss the island by five degrees on either side and you could paddle right past it. In fact, I started to get nervous when the GPS said we were practically touching the island and I still couldn't see it.
     
  6. designer

    designer Paddler

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    I've gotten wrong twice now. Quite the learning experience. Though usually one "hugs the coastline to avoid strong currents, the only way I could make progress was to move away fromm the shore. On paddling partner was so disoriented that she thought she was making progress on the north side of the island when in fact she was moving backwards towards Sucia.

    Though, from Sucia, Patos looks (when you can see it), "right over there", it's about 3 NM from Fox Cove.

    It's nice that they have that cart to wheel your gear for wheeling your gear to the upper campsites.
     
  7. LAM

    LAM Paddler

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    Those are gorgeous pictures Jamonte. Thanks for sharing your trip report with us.

    Lila