A few weeks ago Seattle-based sea kayaker Alex Okerman was featured in a post on this blog (read all about it: https://tsunamirangers.com/2011/05/17/sea-kayaker-alex-okerman-paddles-for-youth/). Alex planned to kayak solo around the San Juan Islands to raise money for youth programs through the YMCA. I’m happy to report that the young man fulfilled his quest. Here in his own words, is Alex’s day-by-day account of his journey:
Starting on June 2nd, I began my paddle around the San Juan Islands leaving from Washington Park in Anacortes, Washington. The first day was challenging and exhilarating. There was a small craft advisory warning in the Strait of Juan Fuca predicting West wind speeds of 15 to 25 knots and wind waves of 2-4 feet. I bobbed across and down Rosario Strait, rounded the exposed South end of Lopez Island and was sucked into Cattle Pass. Cattle Pass met up to its notorious reputation. As I was riding down the tongue of the pass close to max flood, a Trawler went cruising past me. The 3 ft. wake collided with the swift water I was on and made the already messy conditions worse. I went over once, rolled up, got knocked around a bit, paddled hard and eventually made it to calmer waters. Thankfully, my campsite was just a few short miles away.
On the second day, I paddled 24 miles to Stuart Island. Conditions were next to perfect as I flew up Haro Straight on the flood. The water was calm, the sun was out and I saw tons of seals, oyster catchers, cormorants, eagles, and porpoises. Wind from the north picked up in the late afternoon and seemed to gently work against me during the most exhausting part of the day-the last 5 miles.
On the third day, I spent most of the morning exploring Stuart Island. I toured the small historic school built in the early 1900’s, spent time watching the ebb rip off of Turn Point and laid in the sun patiently waiting for the large crossing I had to make in the afternoon. Thankfully, the weather held and I was able to make the 13-mile crossing from Stuart Island, grazing Waldron Island and up to Patos Island.
The fourth and final day of my trip was by far the most epic. I woke at sunrise, ate, packed and was on the water by 5:45 am. I rode the ebb south, crossing from one Island to the next. I crossed the 1.25 miles to Sucia Island, 2 miles from Sucia Island to Matia Island, 3 miles from Matia Island to Clark Island, then 6 miles from Clark Island to Sinclair Island. I rounded Guemes, crossed to Fidalgo Head and ended my trip where I had begun in Washington Park at 2:00. Thanks to the huge spring ebb and weather in my favor, I was able to paddle the 27 miles in about 8 hours with a few breaks, and I finished the trip a day early.
The kayaking was great and most importantly, the campaign was another success! Educating the community about the work we do at the YMCA is always exciting and fulfilling. People are often surprised to learn that we’re far more than a work-out facility, that our work is holistic. We help kids in foster care become independent, house young adults experiencing homelessness, intervene and provide counseling for teens in crisis, and provide childcare to low-income families, to name a few of our activities. Through the four-day, 76 mile, solo paddling trip I went on, I was able to raise over $1300 (with money still coming in) that benefits the aforementioned YMCA programs and many more.
To learn more about his voyage and the YMCA campaign contact Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.