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  • Radford Bean

Summer Journey to the Strait of Juan de Fuca – Day 3

I did not sleep well last night, waking up at two in the morning with a sore back and anxiety of the drive home later today and all the clean-up that was to follow. Perhaps the anxiety stemmed from the reality that this was my third trip to the Olympic Peninsula this summer. I had gone to bed early enough last night because I was exhausted, so I should have slept like a baby. Whatever the cause of my restlessness, I simply could not fall back asleep.

I wasn’t very hungry, so I chose to simply settle for a breakfast of grapes before loading up my paddling equipment for this morning’s paddle around Protection Island.

Most of the trips I led this weekend were ones any level of paddler could do. The trip out and around Protection Island and back would be the exception and technically the most challenging.

Protection Island sits a mile off of Diamond Point in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s exposed to winds from all directions, with long fetches of open water north, east, and west. Bordering the west, north, and east sides of Protection Island is the Dallas Bank, an area of shallow water that can turn very rough in strong winds or heavy shipping traffic when tides are low. I didn’t anticipate a low tide today being an issue because last night was a new moon, so the tidal range wasn’t very large. Still, I had no way of knowing what ship traffic might be like, and winds were expected to pick up in the afternoon to 15 knots.

We arrived at the small community of Diamond Point and set out to make the crossing to the island. Whales are known to pass between the mainland and the island, so I hoped we would be fortunate enough to have an encounter, though I knew the chances of that actually happening were slim. Whales are very unpredictable creatures, and the Strait is so very wide.

Though I had brought my good camera with me, it was doubtful I would take any pictures. Smoke from forest fires burning on Vancouver Island had drifted south into the Strait overnight, affecting the air quality around Protection Island. The morning sun was a bright red orb, and visibility wasn’t the greatest. The photo above was from a trip I made to the island earlier this summer.

The water between Diamond Point and the island was like glass. I kept a lookout for any signs of whales of porpoises. Nothing. We had to settle for pigeon guillemots and seagulls.

We made it across to the island in thirty minutes. Not bad. After assessing the water conditions around the western spit and ensuring we could make it safely over the sandbar off of the spit, I led the group around the spit and into the region of the Dallas Bank. Protection Island is triangular in shape, so there’s no real west, north, or east side.

We spotted many bald eagles on the beaches and along the cliffs. Unfortunately, the brown haze from the smoke ruined any opportunities of photographing the eagles and harbor seal pups on the beaches. Protection Island is a wildlife refuge that serves as the nesting ground for tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets. It’s for that reason that bald eagles congregate on the island—to pick off the chicks and weakened adult birds.

To my surprise, we spotted some deer on the island. I doubt they were transported there, which means they had to swim a mile out to the island. Deer are incredibly good swimmers, but a mile in open water is still a long distance.

The entire trip covered almost eight miles—a good way to end a safe and successful paddling weekend.

View video of the entire paddle trip.

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