The Taking of Seattle

This is a continuation of my last story, A Night in a Canoe, although a different adventure:

Later that summer we had a new canoe trip, this time with Dave and another Bob, Bob M. Between Bremerton and Seattle is Blake Island which is a state park and is only accessible by boat. Our plan was to spend a night there, continue on to Seattle, head back to the west, spend the second night on Bainbridge Island at Fay Bainbridge State Park, and then go all the way around the north end of Bainbridge Island and back home to Bremerton.

After a late start we headed for Echo Passage, which is actually a part of Rich Passage. We passed the lighthouse at the entrance to the passage and Namu’s inlet. This is the point that a ferry from Bremerton to Seattle disappears from sight from someone viewing from my home in Bremerton.

We arrived at Blake Island as the light was beginning to fade. Landing on the northeastern side of the island, we set up camp. It appeared that we were the only ones there so we proceeded to joke around and make lots of noise. Finally we climbed into our sleeping bags and fell asleep.

Blake Island with Mount Rainier behind it

The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and prepared for our departure on the next stage of our journey. As we looked around us we wondered how all those other people got there. Then we loaded up our canoe and snuck away.

Seattle didn’t look very far away as we slowly paddled in its direction. But it took a long time before it actually looked closer. We gradually crept up on Alki Beach on the southern shores of Elliot Bay, which is the harbor of Seattle. Landing on the sandy beach, we got out, stretched, and surveyed the territory. Downtown Seattle was still a pretty long canoe ride away, and going there would make it hard to complete our planned two day adventure.

We opted to cross directly from where we were to the north side of Elliot Bay and from there continue to Bainbridge Island. This was probably the second stupidest thing we ever did. Out in the middle of the Bay we were 3 dummies in a canoe in the territory of tug boats with big waves, ocean liners with big waves and ferry boats with big waves. And all of them were a lot bigger than canoes. But we were intrepid adventurers. We were terrified.


A few hours later we landed on the north shore of the bay which seemed to be a neglected part of the city. There were a few shacks on the beach that looked like they could fall apart, but I think people lived in them. We disembarked briefly to give our buns a rest and stretch our legs, but then it was straight across Puget Sound to Fay Bainbridge State Park. This was another grueling ride that took longer than it looked like it should.

The water was beginning to get a little rough and night was upon us as we approached the park. We took on some water as we landed, and some of our sleeping bags got wet. We got a fire going to cook a meal and to dry out the bags. Dave’s bag got too close to the fire and got a little burned. At this point I believe we may have been getting tired of our adventure, although great adventurers hate to admit to such a thing, and especially that they might want to sleep in their comfortable beds at home. Whatever the reasoning, we got back in the canoe and headed north along the eastern shore of Bainbridge Island. I think it was about 10:00 pm.

I don’t think we realized how far it was around the northern end of the island. If we had, we probably would have slept in our wet sleeping bags. This turned out to be the stupidest thing we ever did.

At the northern end of the island, we paddled along in a fairly narrow passage with calm water. If we shined a flashlight into the water, little fish would jump against the boat. This was the last enjoyable part of the trip.

As we rounded the last point to where we could see our side of Puget Sound (which should have been a very welcome sight) the water became rough. It wasn’t just mildly rough. It was very rough, the kind of rough a small boat shouldn’t be in, especially a canoe. We felt we had no choice but to continue toward home and our warm beds.

I was the in the stern of the ship as the steersman, Dave was in the bow as the scout, and Bob sat on a box in the middle of the boat. Our plan was for me to steer us directly across to the other side, but the storm wouldn’t let me go that way. The waves carried us along more in the direction of home, so we ended up angling our way to the other side. We wanted to take the shortest route to get to safety on the opposite shore, but we ended up being carried more in the direction we needed to go towards home.
The ordeal of crossing Elliot Bay doesn’t compare with this one of being carried by huge waves in the dark of night, well past our bed time, in a narrow canoe with three 18 year old guys, great adventurers who wanted to go home. We wondered if we would get a chance to see home again. Panic tried to set in, but didn’t get a chance. We were too busy fighting the waves.

Probably a half hour or hour later we reached the other side and continued paddling with the current toward home, passing Illahee State Park, and then all the familiar landmarks closer to my house.
We were plenty sore and tired as we reached the end of our adventure at about 4 a.m. Dave said as we pulled the canoe out of the water, “The next time we decide to do something like this, let’s just torture ourselves instead.”

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