Click for home page
Mouseover the image for a description
 
 
 Home / About  Paddling Locations Gallery  Kayak and Accessory Building  Desktop Wallpaper Files  Community
 
It is currently Sun May 28, 2017 8:37 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 3 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Hammersley Inlet & Hope Is., s. Puget Sound, WA 5–7 May 2017
Unread postPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 8:49 am 
Paddler
Paddler
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:46 am
Posts: 174
Location: Seattle WA
We've been having lovely weather in the Pacific Northwest at last. To take advantage, I took off Friday and brought my dad out kayaking in south Puget Sound. I set up a two-night route into Hammersley Inlet aimed at finding a pod of transient orcas that has been hanging around the last few weeks, and somewhat surprisingly, my plan actually worked, and we found the whales!

Attachment:
File comment: Launch at Boston Harbor, campsites at Walker and Hope Island, location of orca pod sightings
00 Map of campsites and orca sightings.jpg
00 Map of campsites and orca sightings.jpg [ 596.21 KiB | Viewed 241 times ]


Dad and I are planning a long trip into Haida Gwaii this summer, so this trip was in part meant to be shakedown cruise to test out our equipment, attitudes, and strength. But I also wanted to show dad some orcas, because I anticipate that although there will be lots of humpbacks in Haida Gwaii, I don't anticipate any orcas.

I used the Orca Network's sightings page to determine that the usual southern resident whales familiar to the San Juan Islands had not yet arrived from their wintering grounds. But the sightings page was alive with daily reports of a large pod of transient orcas in south Puget Sound over the past two weeks—an unusual event, given that transient orcas normally only visit for a matter of hours or days. I worked out a route from Boston Harbor into Hammersley Inlet that would maximize our chances of finding them. I thought an overnight in the inlet would be our best bet. I timed out the tides to ride the so-called Hammersley Express current into the inlet the first day and out of the inlet the second day.

In the event, there was no need for such elaborate scheming. The orcas arrived within minutes of our launch. In fact, at the very moment they appeared, I was just pointing out to dad the various geographical features of the south sound to orient him for purposes of orca-spotting: "Up ahead is Squaxin Passage, where the orcas transit south of Harstine Island to enter Hammersley Inlet. They had been entering Hammersley on a daily basis for the last two weeks, but lately they've been mostly hanging out in Case Inlet. You can see the mouth of the Case Inlet to our right, so we should look up there to see if any orcas are—holy crap, here they come right now!"

Attachment:
File comment: A pod approaches our kayaks
01 Adult male and juvenile orca Squaxin Passage.jpg
01 Adult male and juvenile orca Squaxin Passage.jpg [ 652.9 KiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: A calf gains a speed boost and protection by following an adult female.
02 Adult female Squaxin Passage.JPG
02 Adult female Squaxin Passage.JPG [ 594.01 KiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
03 Adult male and juvenile spout Squaxin Passage.JPG
03 Adult male and juvenile spout Squaxin Passage.JPG [ 894.72 KiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: The largest male positions himself between us and the rest of his family to screen us off.
04 Adult male screens off kayak.JPG
04 Adult male screens off kayak.JPG [ 1.4 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: This first pod seemed to consist of around eight total whales.
05 Family group Squaxin Passage.JPG
05 Family group Squaxin Passage.JPG [ 1.25 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]


The orcas approached us from the northeast on a beeline toward our kayaks. Dad and I rafted up and stopped paddling to present less of an obstacle and allow the orcas to slip past us more easily in these congested channels. We even lowered our voices to avoid annoying them too much.

The largest male cruised back and forth in front us, blocking the rest of the pod from getting too close. At a distance of around thirty meters, we could hear the poofing and splashing of these immense animals. There seemed to be around eight of them altogether, males, females, and calves. After investigating us for a few minutes, they headed north through Squaxin Passage on their way to Totten and Hammersley Inlets, where we saw them again. In Hammersley, there seemed to be even more orcas: at least eleven by my count, and some of the Orca Network reports for that day say as many as twelve.

Attachment:
File comment: Later, we encountered the same eight whales in the mouth of Totten Inlet during a brief rain shower.
06 Adult female and calf in Totten Inlet.JPG
06 Adult female and calf in Totten Inlet.JPG [ 1.42 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: The tidal currents in Hammersley run at 2 to 4 knots, so it's important to catch them going your way.
07 Dad entering Hammerley Inlet on a flood tide.JPG
07 Dad entering Hammerley Inlet on a flood tide.JPG [ 2.89 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: People were very excited about these orcas. They were lining the shore to watch them pass. Many people asked us kayakers for updates, correctly assuming that we were the best positioned to spot them.
08 Adult male Hammersley Inlet.JPG
08 Adult male Hammersley Inlet.JPG [ 1.6 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]


We camped at Walker County Park in Hammersley Inlet, one of the official Cascadia Marine Trail sites maintained by the Washington Water Trails Association. WWTA's guidebook recommended calling ahead for reservations, and it's a good thing we did. The park is actually closed to overnight camping except by special permission, which they only grant to kayakers who request it in advance. In fact, a few of the locals were giving us the stink-eye as we set up camp right next to one of the "no overnight camping" signs. Luckily, there is a camp host living onsite to resolve any complaints, and we didn't have any problems.

With spare time on our hands, we hiked around some of the country roads near the park. Too fast to get a photograph, a five-inch lizard scurried across the road in front of our feet! Dad and I were completely agog. We'd both seen salamanders in Washington many times over the years, but this was the first time either of us had ever seen a lizard. We hadn't even known there were lizards around here. When we got home, we looked it up in a field guide and found that it was a juvenile northern alligator lizard, the only lizard species present in Washington's coastal regions. What a cool find.

Early the next morning, we caught the ebb Express out of Hammersley and made a glass-smooth crossing to Hope Island State Park. We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking around, birding, and taking naps on the beach. Hope Island is one of my favorite campsites, and I was happy to share it with my dad.

Attachment:
File comment: The sun greets us as we glide effortlessly down the inlet.
09 Six AM on Hammersley Inlet.JPG
09 Six AM on Hammersley Inlet.JPG [ 1.07 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: Friday barraged us with heavy rain showers, but Saturday and Sunday brought high pressure and clear skies.
11 Alex departing Hammersley Inlet.JPG
11 Alex departing Hammersley Inlet.JPG [ 346.89 KiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: There were pigeon guillemots nesting in this cliff face. They seemed to be incubating eggs.
12 At the mouth of Hammersley Inlet.JPG
12 At the mouth of Hammersley Inlet.JPG [ 2.84 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: Puffy white clouds and clear blue skies between Hammersley and Hope. We caught the ebb tide perfectly.
13 Crossing to Hope Island.JPG
13 Crossing to Hope Island.JPG [ 1.95 MiB | Viewed 241 times ]

Attachment:
File comment: Hope Island is covered in these vanilla leaf plants. Only when dried do they actually smell like vanilla. The live green leaves just smell like plant matter.
14 Vanilla leaf on Hope Island.jpg
14 Vanilla leaf on Hope Island.jpg [ 206.04 KiB | Viewed 241 times ]


On Sunday morning, we caught another perfect ebb on a windless morning. We rode the three miles back to Boston Harbor with scarcely any effort at all. A small slick of quicksand at the water's edge provided dad some comic relief as he watched me struggling and sinking my way up the beach. He wisely used the boat ramp to avoid the mud.

South Puget Sound impressed me yet again with its abundance of wildlife. Who knew there would be so many orcas in such a small area? Who knew there was a lizard in these parts? Between the animals, the beach naps, and the beautiful conditions, this trip was one of the finest.

According to the Orca Network's Facebook page, which is updated more often but in a less organized fashion than their main page, the transient pod departed the south sound the day after dad and I left. They swam north through the Tacoma Narrows and were last reported off Port Townsend. I believe they may be heading out to sea. But, as if in consolation, on the very day the transients took off, the resident orcas returned to Haro Strait in the San Juans! It's just non-stop orca action on our inland waters this season. Time to get back out there again.

Alex


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Hammersley Inlet & Hope Is., s. Puget Sound, WA 5–7 May
Unread postPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 8:33 pm 
Paddler
Paddler

Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:45 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Sequim, Wa
Thanks for another great trip report. Nice timing on the Orca connection. Hope Is. is a sweet spot!


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Hammersley Inlet & Hope Is., s. Puget Sound, WA 5–7 May
Unread postPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 4:39 pm 
Paddler
Paddler
User avatar

Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2005 4:00 pm
Posts: 827
Alex,

Thanks for the trip report! I can always count on you to put together the trip that others don't. Paddling IN to Hammersley Inlet rather than OUT and staying at Walker (where I always launch) was brilliant and great utilization of the tidal clock. What a well-earned treat to have the Orca encounters. You did your homework and it paid off. Great pics! Folks who don't paddle the South Sound really miss out.

_________________
Jon
http://3meterswell.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 3 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group