Roger Lamb and I launched from a little beach close to the road and paddled out toward Waadah Island by the most direct route. This took us under a pier which turned out to bee a Coast Guard Pier. So the Department of Homeland Security had to come out and yell at us. Actually they were quite friendly about it and told us to stay away next time. I told them I would be sure to go way around next time. Neah Bay has been made into a large calm harbor by connecting Waadah Island to the mainland with a breakwater. We had to go way around the island to get into the Strait of Juan de Fuca before we could start heading west.
The end of Cape Flattery has a convoluted shoreline with rocks and islands and fingers of land pointing out towrds the large Tatoosh Island a half a mile offshore. I started getting excited about the caves and arches we found in the points and Roger told me I hadnít seen anything yet. He has kayaked Cape Flattery before and knew where the really impressive caves were. We stopped in one of the little fjords in this point for lunch on a sandy beach right next to several large caves.
When we launched after lunch and paddled around a point to the next fjord we found a group of kayakers from Azimuth Expeditions launching from a beach there. They had paddled up from Hobuck Beach just for a day paddle. They were going to do a two day camping trip south to La Push starting the next day so we expected to bump into them again. They had just had lunch on the beach that a local kayaker had suggested that we could camp at for the evening. We scoped it out from the water and made plans to come back but continued on. The caves and arches of Cape Flattery were spectacular, as good or better than many areas of the Mendocino coastline. There is a trail for hikers that ends in a platform on the end of a point with views of the surrounding coast and Tatoosh Island across the water. A note on the topographic maps says ďHole-in-the-WallĒ and may be the name of one of the arches here. But we also paddled through a cave that went completely under the viewing platform.
One advantage of making our first day a short paddle was that we had the time to explore several of the fjords of Cape Flattery and poke into most of the caves and arches. The offshore rocks in the Pacific Northwest get enough rainfall that trees are able to grow on these sea stacks! After seeing most of the crenellated shoreline of Cape Flattery up close, we turned to paddle across the channel to explore Tatoosh Island. The tide had been against us on the way out from Neah Bay but it was supposed to be turning already. However we found an incredibly strong current going northeast as if the ebb tide into the Strait of Juan de Fuca was still going strong. It pulled us to the northeast and towards some very noisy water in the middle of the channel. I could vaguely see some rock markers on my chart and figured these were shallow spots with current exploding over them. Roger thought that they were just standing waves in a rip current and considered letting them catch up to us so we could play in them. But he followed me when I changed my ferry angle to miss them and get across to the island.
Tatoosh Island is actually a collection of small islands and rocks that is usually connected by reefs and sand bars, especially at low tide. On the east side of the main island we found a cove with an eddy out of the current. Here Roger tried to paddle across the shallow reef to the north side of the island but found the water too shallow. The current pushing against the island piled water up into the little cove we were in and flowed out in many directions over the reefs. I found a channel of this water going northwest that was deep enough for the kayaks and we followed it around to the north side of the island without having to go the long way around the west tip.
Here we found a couple deep channels going back in towards the center of the cluster of rocks that make up the island. From the Terra Server satellite maps of the island I knew that there was a large gravel berm in the center. I had figured on camping on this berm when I first started planning this trip. However, when we landed there we discovered that it was a sea gull rookery. Sea gulls dived bombed us and dropped bombs on us from above. Baby gulls ran around on the beach to get away from us. The noise and smell of the gulls was overpowering. The berm was large enough that I still believe we could have found a place to set up camp out of view, but the gulls would have made it very uncomfortable. And we really didnít want to disturb the gulls if we had an alternative. We returned to our boats without taking the time to go visit the Coast Guard lighthouse up close. From the north side of Tatoosh Island we could see Vancouver Island in the distance. Iíll want to paddle around that island one day. We continued around this island and found a colony of Stellarís seals on one of the offshore rocks. We also paddled up to the gravel berm from the other side and looked up at the ruins of the old Coast Guard loading crane from below. Then we headed back to Cape Flattery. We were on the opposite side of the shallow area in the channel and in no danger of being washed into them this time. However, the current seemed to have died down and we were not pulled in either direction on this crossing.
The beach that had been recommended to us was a small sandy beach at the end of a fjord very close to the viewing platform at the end of the hiking trail. But the fjord was so deep that no-one would see us in there. The walls of the fjord were vertical stone on three sides around the beach. I joked that the Indians might be able to pour boiling oil down on us but they would be hard pressed to come down and force us off this beach. We had been told that there was just enough room for two tents above the high tide line. Even with the highest tides of the month approaching we felt very safe from the high water and set up our camp. If there had been a storm AND high tides we would not have felt safe here at all.
From our camp we could see northwest to the horizon but we could not see the sunset as it approached. However, there were three caves in the left side of our fjord and we could walk into two of them at low tide. I saw a glimmer of orange light in one of these caves that made me think of firelight. Was someone else camping in there? No! The sunset was shining directly into this cave and reflecting off the ripple of the water! So by walking down to the waterline inside this cave we were just able to catch a glimpse of the sunset after all!