From Tacoma to Port Townsend
A Seventy Mile Race Along a Stretch of Unrivaled Beauty
A Seventy Mile Race Along a Stretch of Unrivaled Beauty
When I asked SEVENTY48 if they would allow a late entry, they politely tell me they can’t. But they suggest, “Go rogue. Who will ever know?
I reach out to NCKayaks, my kayak manufacturer, to see if they can help me find a 17’2” NC Quest. The company’s owner, Travis Goldman, offers to see what he can do. He delivers!
Since then I have paddled many Minnesota rivers and lakes, crossed Great Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior, the Straits of Mackinac, and now raced on Puget Sound from Tacoma to Port Townsend. The 3,022 miles paddled is equivalent to my paddling from the Twin Cities to; beyond Alaska and into Russia, well north of Greenland, nearly to the west shores of Ireland, into South America as far as the northwest border of Brazil.
NCKayaks has been with me all along the way. I can’t imagine there being another more supportive and genuinely interested in my personal pursuits. They’re prideful of their fine product and understand the value of customer service.
After resetting the footpegs of my borrowed bright green kayak and delivering all four to water’s edge, Travis and I visit as if we’re old friends. He offers additional insights about the race, then wish each other the best of luck and a safe enjoyable race.
Racers from all across the country and Canada begin arriving at a more rapid pace.
The arena and waterway is beginning to fill up with self propelled vessels of all types and sizes; kayaks, sculls, SUPs, canoes, catamarans, tri-hulls, and custom creations of all kinds. Propulsion methods vary from oars, paddles, pedals, and even just hands. The energy is undeniably high.
As I walk around, complimenting others about their vessel and wanting to learn a little about each, no one seems annoyed by the inquisitive rogue racer. Each shares a little about themselves, where they’re from, and why they’ve come to compete. It is an amazing fraternity of passionate, skilled and genuinely supportive members.
I seek a spot behind the group of elite competitive racers. You can tell which ones they are by the make of their vessels, their matching team shirts and hats displaying their sponsors’ logos. They’re also much younger and leaner, with deep tans burned into their skin. I will watch them take off with no pretense of being able to keep up.
I take a mental inventory of my foodstuff and drinks. I have apples, bananas, beef jerky, granola and protein bar. All is good, I think. Then I realize my purchase of 6-20 oz. bottles of Gatorade is woefully too few.
As I spill out of my water filled kayak and gather my balance and thoughts, I look at the group of elite paddlers on shore watching my pathetic performance. All I can say is, “Now that was a gracious exit.” Everyone laughs and one says, “That only happens when there is a large group of people around.”
With the help of others we pull my kayak up on shore. I open both hatches and begin searching through my dry bags for warm weather clothes to change in. My layers of shirts are soaked from my first five and half hours of paddling.
Everyone near shore is hurrying to secure their kayaks, gear, and footing. Those that can, rush to give aid to the women. As quickly as the waves came in, they’re gone.
I later learn that the source of the rogue waves was from a passing freighter, out in the distant shipping lanes.
The women take inventory of their health, belongings and condition of their scull. It’s not good. One of the women reports there is a crack in the rowing shell and their race is over. Another tells of their personal belongings thought to be missing in Puget Sound.
I’m surprised and thankful no one got seriously injured.
I continue to study my map with land always in sight on my left, and compass in front positioned between two bottles of Gatorade. It’s just not making sense. My compass is giving me a N-NW reading, and the land is on my left which I am sure is East.
I am reminded of the advice of others, never doubt your compass. But, something is wrong and I am just too tired to make sense of it. I’ll just continue on keeping the land on my left in sight.
I look around to take everything in.
It is an incredible race and journey. The occasional sighting of a Pacific Harbor Seal and passing pod of porpoises, the sound of Puget Sound lapping against the bow of my kayak, smell of the fresh ocean air, crossing paths of the many brightly lit ferries, the camaraderie among the racers, the serenity, all mixed with the excitement of something new.
With his back toward Puget Sound he hasn’t noticed the fully loaded transpacific freighter having just passed by. I just felt the larger rollers make their way under my kayak and I know they’re headed his way. Too far off shore to alert him of what's coming, I fear this may be a repeat of what happened to the all female crew back on Blake Island.
Out of the corner of my eye I catch the rollers that had just passed underneath crashing on shore. The first wave lifts the yellow sea kayak well above the racer’s chins, the next wave pushes it much higher and above his waist. I can tell he is fighting to remain upright while trying to maintain control of his kayak. If he loses hold of his kayak, it will crash freely and far on the rocky shore and risk irreparable damage.
After searching through my dry bags for warm weather gear and taking inventory of remaining Gatorade, I walk toward the grassy shore about 20 yards away. As I cross paths with the other racer we exchange pleasantries and wish each other good luck with the rest of the race.
I believe this park along Puget Sound’s west shore is called Norwegian Point County Park. I walk toward the structures to the right of the parking lot to learn neither building is for changing, nor did I find any fresh running water to wash my face or quench my thirst. Aargh!
I decided to pause. I watched as he certainly picked up his speed and it seemed as if he had his aim on me. He was looking right at me while purposely creating the biggest wake possible.
That would be an embarrassment, having just crossed Lake Michigan to spill in front of the large crowds gathered on Ludington’s pier and sandy beach.
Despite his looking straight at me he didn't change course nor his expression. I watched as he passed in front by no more than 20’ - 30.’ I prepared for the onslaught of his large wake and plowed through with surprising ease. Those on the pier let out a cheer, knowing that I had just averted certain disaster.
As I looked to my right, the sole captain looked back to see if he took me down.
Sorry, not this time… jerk!
As I go wide right and run my kayak up on the sandy beach I am greeted by eager and helpful event volunteers. They attempt to direct me to the proper finish line for my proper recognition. When I sheepishly explain that I am a rogue racer they respond, “That’s O.K. We welcome everyone. Congratulations and let us help you.”
That is the spirit of SEVENTY48. Event staff and their team of volunteers are incredibly gracious, generous, supportive, and encouraging hosts. Event racers are elite, passionate, genuinely interested in the others, and eager to assist when help is needed.
Paddling our Major Tributaries
• Rum River 2017
• Rum River 2019
• Cannon River
• Superior Bay
• Upper St. Croix
• Headwaters of the Mississippi
• Namekagon River
• Kalamazoo River
Top Stops and Events
• Lower St. Croix - Taylors Falls, MN
• Lake Pepin and Lake City, MN
• Lake Hamlin, MI
• St. Paul, MN and Raspberry Island
• Stillwater, MN
• Tall Ships Duluth Festival
Objects of Interest
• Great Lakes Lighthouses
• Bridges of Stillwater
• Wisconsin Central Bridge Ruins
• Soo Line High Bridge
• Vertical Lift Bridges
• Railroad Bridges
• Tugs and Barges
• Locks and Dams
• Business and Industry
Subjects of Interest
• The Joy of the Journey
• Overhanging Branches
• Best of All It's Fall
• Get Off the River!
• Michigan's Prized Grand River
• Crossing Lake Huron
• Straits of Mackinac
• Crossing Lake Michigan #1 - 2016
• Crossing Lake Michigan #2 - 7.24.20
• Crossing Lake Michigan #3 - 6.11.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #4 - 6.27.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #5 - 7.13.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #6 - 6.07-22
• Crossing Lake Michigan #7 - 7.15.23
• Crossing Lake Superior - 2017
• Campus to Coast - A 150 Mile Race
• Paddling the Pere Marquette
• ABC NEWS: Avid Kayaker Brushes Death
• The Whole Story
• A Narrow Escape
• A Wonderful Journey
• More about Mike Stout
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