In spite of our recent of run of smoky weather, this has been a truly wonderful summer, with warm days and evenings, and clear, blue, sunny skies during most days. Plenty of great opportunities to get outside and bike, camp, play pickleball, golf, take in a Mariners game, or do countless other activities.
A few years back, my wife and myself, along with our adult daughter, decided to venture out on the water with stand-up paddle boards. We’re surrounded by water on Bainbridge Island, so the prospect of finding a way on to it – and recreating at some level – is very tempting.
Over the years, we’ve done some sailing and motoring with friends, and once even rented kayaks on a full moon night in October and enjoyed spectacular views of Downtown Seattle from Eagle Harbor. But we’ve never, out and out, owned our own personal water navigation crafts.
Viola. So off to Costco we went a few years ago and purchased two 45-pound paddle boards that are about seven feet long, together with two six foot paddles and adjustable life jackets. We tested them out in the early going, but for the most part they have wasted away in our carport – occasionally sending up telepathic signals saying: “we want to be used, we want to be used!”
They sat there idle for all of last summer and a good portion of this season as well, until about four or five weeks ago, when we decided it was a perfect day, and a perfect time, to take them out.
Paddle boarding doesn’t require a whole lot of skill – mostly guile and an ability to float and/or swim in case the inevitable happens. Our boards are heavy and wide, which provides a certain amount of reassurance, even if you do find yourself in some boat chop or small waves.
However, getting out on the water and actually standing up on the board can be a bit tricky, but by no means impossible. We’ve put in our boards at several locations around the island, but started out at the public dock at Waterfront Park in Downtown Winslow.
It’s best to go paddling during a high tide when the water is usually closest to the shore. At the public dock you can walk your board out on the pier – if need be – and put in while still holding onto the dock. You can also park nearby and walk your boards across the rocky beach and into the water.
Once you’re on the board and floating, it’s best to row for a bit while on your knees to both find your balance and get used to the movement of your floating device. As soon you feel confident enough, put one knee forward, with your foot firmly on the board and pop up.
You’ll likely feel a wee bit wobbly for a few seconds as you adjust to standing on water, but once you start paddling you should be just fine. Typically, I bend my knees slightly and rock ever so gently back and forth as I paddle. If you’re not a sailor, or someone unaccustomed to being on the water like us, it’s kind of mind-blowing to paddle along, looking at the shore, passing motor boats, the ferry yard – with their dormant boats waiting to be worked on – or any number of beautiful sailboats and yachts anchored in the bay.
Eagle Harbor is a fun place to put in and paddle, but it can be pretty busy with boat traffic, and breezy at times – especially heading east towards Seattle. The western portion of the harbor that ends at the “head of the bay” – where shore side, Wyatt Way turns into Eagle Harbor Drive and Blakely Avenue – is usually calmer. It’s neat to check out the beautiful homes that surround the harbor and spy Blue Herons, Eagles, Seagulls, and, if you’re lucky, a seal or two, or maybe a jumping salmon.
One favorite spot we discovered this summer is Little Manzanita Bay. We put in on a City Road End (there are more than a dozen or so scattered around the island) located near the intersection of Manzanita Drive and Bergman Road. The water was a bit choppier than we would have preferred on the day we went, but manageable all the same. We were going to head to the larger bay to the southwest, but decided to play it safe and veer directly south.
It was a good move. The water became calmer and calmer as we paddled further into the bay, passing two harbor seals along the way sunning themselves on a small floating dock. Some of the homes here are magnificent in their style and architecture, and many have kayaks and small boats hanging from the shore or from little docks in front of their properties.
As we paddled inward the bay narrowed considerably and meandered left, then right, and with some overhanging branches from nearby fir and Madrona trees in front us and beside us, plus shallower water underneath us, we felt like we were entering the Bayou as opposed to a Bainbridge Island ravine. Very interesting topography to say the least.
We’ve also sailed on Murden Cove, where on a clear day you can see Seattle, Mount Rainer and the Cascades. As the summer begins to wind down, we’re anxious to keep testing our paddling skills on other island waterways, such as Fletcher Bay, Hidden Cove and Blakely Harbor.
Stand-up paddle boarding is a wonderful way to see the island from a whole different perspective, and much cheaper than owning a sailboat or a motorboat. Check it out, but be sure to wear your life jacket!
*Images and video courtesy of Molly Dwyer Brahmer
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