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Lopez Island Circumnavigation

We paddle around Lopez via Cattle and Lopez Pass, Ram Island, Spencer Spit and back to Friday Harbor a four  day paddle

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Launch Point Friday Harbor
Max Difficulty: SKIV (Cattle and Lopez Pass, south end of Lopez)
Paddle Length/Time 4 or day (we ended our paddle at Spencer Spit due to winds (10 gusting 25 MPH)
Tide/Current Station (T) Friday Harbor,  Cattle Point, Lopez Pass Upright Head
Destination Friday Harbor (goal is to circumnavigate Lopez Island

Day 1 Friday Harbor to Griffin Bay:  6.3 miles

This should have been an easy paddle, <7 miles and all afternoon to get there.  The paddle out of Friday was easy and we headed for Turn Island.  The tide was going out and by the time we reached Turn Island the pass between Reef and San Island was high and dry so we paddled around the east side of Reef. We start getting a wind out of the southwest and hit it full on passing Danger Rocks.  We have a 15 MPH wind with <1 wind driven waves coming straight at us. We paddle on getting a bit wet as some of waves wash over the bow and we get the occasional wave over the cockpit.  After paddling hard for about an hour we decide we are not making any significant headway and decide to alter our course and quarter the wind, we make a little more headway but its still a slog.  We finally opt to head due west and make land fall so we are sheltered from the wind.  It takes another 30 minutes to reach shore and we take a break.  We been paddling 2+ hours to go 7 miles and were still 1.5 from Griffin.  We follow the shoreline down to Griffin, much easier and arrive.  We are the only ones there.  We make camp.

 Griffin Bay camp site is a little hard to find/see on approach (thank you GPS!).  There is a Water Trails marker that is visible once you get about 100-200 yards off shore.  The campsites where large and grassy and it looked like there were at least 4 sites.  We were the only ones there that evening. Restrooms are 300 meters inland.  The site has a nice view to the east.

Day 2 Griffin Bay to Ram Island:  16 miles

We had a really early get up (5 AM!!)  so that we hit Cattle Pass at slack,  we were on the water at 6:40 and paddling. This is a 16 mile day so there is little time for sightseeing or exploring.  The water was calm crossing the bay, but we did have a tailwind.  We entered Cattle Pass and had some light chop, light wind, and paddled through with no issues passing Deadman's Island and rounding Davis Point.  Once we round Davis Point we encounter wind and wind driven waves, like the day before it's about 10/15 MPH with ,1 ft wind waves and swells.  We paddle across the bay passing Mummy Rocks, Long Island, Hall Island and on to Iceberg Island heading for the beach near Agate Beach County Park.  The beach is protected by Iceberg Island we have a nice break.  After a 30/45 minute break we are off again rounding Iceberg Point we encounter some really rough waters at this point 2-3 ft waves being blown in and rebounding from the rocks.  It becomes a rough ride as we paddle through,  I am thinking that a dry suit in the aft compartment is not doing me any good!!

The rough rides last along most of the southern end of Lopez with a steady parade of swells coming from the southwest.  I suspect that the waters here are always turbulent and you should plan for that, these waters are open all the way to the San Juan Channel and any wind action will whip up swells and waves.   

 Caution: The first part of this leg is very exposed to westerly's, be sure to check wind conditions before paddling this route.  Be prepared when paddling the south end of the San Juan's. 

We paddle for about on and decide to take a break on a nice beach just before Cape St Mary, we need to be in Lopez Pass at 2:30 (slack) and we have about 2 hours to rest up.  The sun comes out and we take a nice nap on the beach and after lunch.  Getting ready to go we find out Bob left his PFD back at Agate Beach!!!!  He is wearing his dry suit... but...  We press on,  the paddle to Lopez Pass slowly gets calmer with the Lopez sheltering us from the breeze.  We reach Lopez at 1:30, and hour prior to slack.  Please note there are quite a few beaches at this end to stop on.  We look into the Pass and it is still flowing out at about 1.5 kts, we stay close in to shore and paddle through the pass.  The water is calm with no turbulence showing at his time.  Our destination is Ram Island just through the Pass.  Bob and Conrad stop on a small beach just across from Ram and I opt to paddle across,  it takes me about 15 minutes paddling against the current and wind.  Not bad.  Ram Island is a private island that is for sale, it was recommended as a potential camp site by one of the kayak shops.  I spend about 45 minutes exploring the island while Conrad and Bob take another nap. The Beach on Ram is on teh Southwest side, it is exposed to the southwest wind.  The camp sites are about 40' behind the "For Sale" sign in the trees.   Conrad and Bob paddle over and we climb to the top of the island, Spencer Spit is about 3 miles north and after some discussion we decide to forge on.  It took us about 45 minutes to reach Spencer, at tis point we are tired and sore.. it ended up being a 21.6 mile day, we were worn out!  Again we were the only campers in the kayak camp site, it was a chore hauling the gear up the hill.  We had a well deserved freeze dried meal and a drink.  A couple of Advil for the body and all was OK... 

Day 3  The rain started after midnight and continued all night into the morning.  We had breakfast in the cooking shelter and pondered  our options.  The wind was again kicking up even more than the day before.  There were lots of white caps on the south side of the Spit.  The forecast was 10 Gusting to 25... we sat and waited hoping for it to calm down.  Bob did some exploring and talked the park rangers into giving us a lift to the ferry so about 1 we opted to head home.  The wind blew for the rest of that day, it was a good decision.  Why spend all day sitting in the chilly wind... ?

We stopped at the Mt Vernon Brew Pub and had an excellent dinner and an unventful drive home.


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Copyright 2015 Chuck Hemphill. All Rights Reserved
Last Updated:  August 21, 2016