small boat safety in the Sound

Zak

Active Member
I'm getting excited for the warmer weather and would like to get off the beach and into the Sound in my 14' rowing dory for some SRC and salmon fishing and crabbing. I moved out here from New England last summer and am just learning the Sound. I've never had my boat in anything but freshwater lakes, but it is stand-to-cast stable and tracks and rows well (much better with one person than two or three), and has positive flotation. No running lights or motor. Plenty of room for a cooler and gear.

I'm concerned about safety. I see kayakers out there a lot and have spent a bunch of time waist-deep in the areas where I'd go boating (North Puget Sound around Mukilteo), but I've also heard that if I go out in a small boat "You will die."

I'm seeking tips on gear and safety. I have a dry suit, but don't want to wear it if I don't have to. I'd wear a PFD, of course. What gear do you think is essential? A gallon or more of water? GPS? Satellite phone? A long rope to walk my boat back if I need to? Is it stupid to go out on the Sound without a motor? What if I stay close to shore? It's hard to believe that if I'm within a couple hundred yards of shore I couldn't get back to safety. It seems all about the tides, but the stuff moving past me when I'm beach fishing isn't moving nearly as fast as I can row. Advice, horror stories, and rowing/paddling buddies welcome!

Vermont Fishing Dory.jpg
 

Jake

Active Member
WFF Supporter
If you heed NOAA and other weather reports you’ll be fine. I would, however, purchase a two-way marine radio, and get a set of charts since you seem to be new to this area. I also wouldn’t go out alone the first few times. There’s usually cell service everywhere, but one comms device could quickly become none.

As for other gear, water is always a good idea. As is food.

I have lived near and boated on the sound my entire life. I’ve spent countless hours in unpowered small boats (everything from 8’ rowing dinghies, 10’ kayaks, and 12’ sailboats) as well as larger boats both powered and sail.

I’ve kayaked across the Sound everywhere from the San Juans to the southernmost bays without any problems, rain or shine. I don’t know who told you you’d die if you went out alone, but in my opinion they’re uninformed and wrong. The biggest issueS I can think of for a rowing boat, assuming you didn’t go out during a storm or advisory, are physical fitness and shipping lanes. Shipping lanes are fairly easy to identify (they have the ships in them), and you don’t need to get anywhere near them unless you’re going across a channel or the Sound proper, but they run down the middle of the Sound (and Possession Sound, etc) and you should cross at a 90* angle so as to get across as quickly as possible. As for physical fitness, you’re on your own. :)

While it can get squalls and storms, hence checking NOAA reports, and you should always have a healthy respect for the sea, the Sound is mostly an inland waterway. Even in North Sound you’d have to work very hard to get more than a couple of miles from land (say if you were rowing from Edmonds to Kingston). Usually each stroke away from one beach puts you closer to another. In the Mukilteo area, for example, the further you get from Mukilteo’s beach the closer you are to others (Whidbey, Camano, Tulalip Reservation, etc).

Good luck out there and I hope to see trip reports soon.
 

AdrianM

Active Member
Just stick close to shore until you're comfortable and then venture further. During the humpy runs, you're very close to Humpy Hollow up near Mukilteo/Edmonds (assuming we ever get a decent humpy run again). Good luck and have fun!
 
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wetswinger

Active Member
You’ll hear the SRC fisherman talk about wanting some moving current to activate the fish. Some currents, especially in the S. Sound are faster than you can row against. Learning to use the currents to navigate here In a human powered craft is a big deal. The local seakayak industry here has a lot of information on the local conditions and would be a good place to look for advice. There are local current tables available. Pick some spots you would like to try, seek some info. and get out there and have some fun. You learn by doing...

Story: Hiked down from Owen Beach, Tacoma to fish at low tide. Strong current going So. well above the narrows. Two separate rental kayaks and a stand-up go flying by, everyone soo happy. An hour later they’re all carrying there outfits back up the shoreline, slipping and acting not so happy as they can’t come close to paddaling against the current back to their cars.

Paddled my canoe solo up the Nisqually R. from Luhr Beach and thought I’d catch the low tide back. Unfortunately it exposed the mud flats and I had to go way around to get to the boat ramp. Well by then the current coming out of the delta was opposing me and it turned into an epic muscle fest. Churning the paddles and getting nowhere. Eventually got back but vowed never again without better planning...

Watching kayakers paddling across Totten Inlet, going from Hope Island to Arcadia boat ramp. The current out of Hammersley is rocking and those poor kayakers aren’t going anywhere. They end up lining their boats up the shore with great effort to boat ramp..
 
Last edited:

Nick Clayton

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
Just stick close to shore until you're comfortable and then venture further. During the humpy runs, you're very close to Humpy Hollow up near Mukilteo/Edmonds (assuming we ever get a decent humpy run again). Good luck and have fun!

Last summer's pink fishing in the north sound was nothing short of fantastic.


As to the OP, be smart and you'll be fine. I used to take my 10' pram out in the sound frequently. Learn to pay close attention to the weather and the tides, and dont venture outside of your comfort zone, and you'll be fine.
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
WFF Supporter
but I've also heard that if I go out in a small boat "You will die."
What? Me worry? Let me tell you a story. We lived; otherwise I wouldn't be able to tell it. I was camping on Whidbey Island with my friend and his family when we were kids. Surrounded by water, but we were stuck on land. Just didn't seem fair. So we saw this 7' dinghy lashed on top of a fisheries patrol boat and thought that would be perfect for us. We got to talking to a Navy guy who was fishing off the dock who said he knew that the fisheries patrol wouldn't be back until Monday. So we decided to borrow the small boat and get and enjoy Puget Sound. In those days, most things weren't locked up, and we had no problem un-tying the dinghy and putting it in the water. My buddy learned right away that you can't step on the side of such a small craft and not get tipped into the water. After that initial mishap, we got in, set the oars and took turns rowing out into Puget Sound, actually northern Skagit Bay. We were amazed at how fast we could row that little boat. After a while, my friend's dad and uncle came up to us in the uncle's power boat and informed us that the ebb tide was carrying us toward Deception Pass, and that we might die going through there on a strong tide, so we should turn around and row back to the camp ground and return the fishery's boat. So we turned around, and man, let me tell you, that was some slow going and a hell of a workout. Amazing in hindsight, no one gave us much grief about taking the patrol boat dinghy, which we put back just as we found it. (Thanks for the fun, WDF!) The moral of the story is that you can take a boat on Puget Sound, do some dumb stuff and most likely survive. And think of the stories!
 

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
One thing to consider is how much actual time you'll be fishing versus trying to maneuver or keep the boat in position to fish effectively.
One advantage the guys with kayaks that have peddle power is their hands are free.
You'll be dealing with your rod, line management and the oars.
You'll want to fish areas with current for your best opportunities at fishing success. Current can easily take you out of optimal casting position. Now add in some wind and waves.

Let us know how if goes when you get out and be safe out there.
SF
 

Scudley Do Right

Active Member
One thing to note if you go out early around 4am the cruise ships come in 3 deep. They throw a large wake. I would also echo what Jake says about weather and the shipping lanes. Personally I wouldn't go very far from shore in that boat.
 

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
In my 17 foot Swampscott dory:

You will be subject to inspection by Coast Guard and Sheriff's, State Parks Rangers etc., Marine Units on the water. Make sure you have the minimum required safety items. If you do not have the minimum safety equipment you will get an expensive infraction ticket :

There are boating safety education laws in Washington. Be sure that you comply:


A loud air horn and whistle is a good idea. Wear the whistle on a lanyard on your life jacket or around your neck. Keep the horn within reach. All of your safety gear should be stowed in dry bags or lashed with lanyards to the boat.

I keep my VHF handheld radio close at hand. And I clip it to my PFD in rough conditions or while on big water crossings, in deeper or rougher water, etc.

I have the Standard Horizon HX870. it's an excellent marine vhf radio, with GPS and DSC rescue options. I keep it dry and turned off until needed. I keep a fresh spare battery tray in the dry bag too. Don't use a cheap vhf!

I carry an ACR brand 406/122.5 (frequencies) EPIRB. I keep it dry and readily available. I update the NOAA registration every 2 years. Send it in for inspection as required. Test it a few times a year. An EPIRB is your link to a lifesaving rescue. A good one is worth it's weight in gold.

I also carry a handheld GPS. Just for kicks.

I carry marine charts and for any area I am navigating in. The kayakers have come up with some great charts and trip guides of Puget Sound region waters. Perfect for smaller boats too. Use up to date charts!

I carry a handheld waterproof compass. I know how to use it. I also carry a "Rite in the rain" waterproof notebook and waterproof pen for navigation use or trip notes.

https://www.riteintherain.com/

This be handy if you are trying to relay information to the Coast Guard or other marine patrol authority. You can do everything right and witness someone else in a tragedy. With a good VHF you can save a life.

Get the best quality PFD that you can, and WEAR IT!

Having some hand held lights is important. Also a legal requirement. I have a water resistant headlight and handheld light. Once it gets dark I wear the headlight. I don't turn it on unless there are other vessels operating closeby.

I carry some hand held flares and a pack or two of "Skyrocket" pencil flares. I also have a few smoke flares.

Spare lines and a suitable anchor and anchor rode will save you in a pinch.

First aid kit in a dry bag.
Signal mirror.

Fresh drinking water and healthy snacks.

In dangerously cold water you should dress for immersion.

Sunglasses and sun protection. Broad brimmed hat, sunscreen, long sleeved sun shirt and long sun protection pants etc. The summer sun will roast you in a small open boat here.

Practice swamping / capsizing your boat. Do this first in shallow water where you can stand on the bottom. Then get it into deeper water a little at a time. You want to know for a fact if you can self rescue in deeper water.

Have a few different water bailing options; hand pump, pail, soft plastic or canvas bucket, Clorox bottle etc. A big sponge like the ones that stone masons and tile setters use is great for this too. Always secure your bailers to the boat!

Extra warm dry clothing, especially hat and gloves.

Spare oars, oarlocks and or paddles. Also lashed to the boat.

A longer handled landing net will help often. I like the softer molded rubber nets.

Staying close to shore will only be safe if theres no big boat wakes rolling in to the beach. It doesn't take much of a wake to flip you over. And being turned turtle near a rocky beach can be truly catastrophic.

Tide and current charts are great for trip planning, safety, and knowing your waters. And you can find more fish if you know what the tides are doing. This is essential information for a newcomer, for safety and for fishing.

Puget Sound is a fantastic place for small boat camping. Look up the Washington Water Trails program. They oversee a host of special campsites for human powered vessels. https://www.wwta.org/

Know your limits!

Cold water kills. Every year people die here.
Be prepared and be wise.

It's a great adventure.

camera 1 first try 001.JPG
 

Zak

Active Member
In my 17 foot Swampscott dory:

You will be subject to inspection by Coast Guard and Sheriff's, State Parks Rangers etc., Marine Units on the water. Make sure you have the minimum required safety items. If you do not have the minimum safety equipment you will get an expensive infraction ticket :

There are boating safety education laws in Washington. Be sure that you comply:


A loud air horn and whistle is a good idea. Wear the whistle on a lanyard on your life jacket or around your neck. Keep the horn within reach. All of your safety gear should be stowed in dry bags or lashed with lanyards to the boat.

I keep my VHF handheld radio close at hand. And I clip it to my PFD in rough conditions or while on big water crossings, in deeper or rougher water, etc.

I have the Standard Horizon HX870. it's an excellent marine vhf radio, with GPS and DSC rescue options. I keep it dry and turned off until needed. I keep a fresh spare battery tray in the dry bag too. Don't use a cheap vhf!

I carry an ACR brand 406/122.5 (frequencies) EPIRB. I keep it dry and readily available. I update the NOAA registration every 2 years. Send it in for inspection as required. Test it a few times a year. An EPIRB is your link to a lifesaving rescue. A good one is worth it's weight in gold.

I also carry a handheld GPS. Just for kicks.

I carry marine charts and for any area I am navigating in. The kayakers have come up with some great charts and trip guides of Puget Sound region waters. Perfect for smaller boats too. Use up to date charts!

I carry a handheld waterproof compass. I know how to use it. I also carry a "Rite in the rain" waterproof notebook and waterproof pen for navigation use or trip notes.

https://www.riteintherain.com/

This be handy if you are trying to relay information to the Coast Guard or other marine patrol authority. You can do everything right and witness someone else in a tragedy. With a good VHF you can save a life.

Get the best quality PFD that you can, and WEAR IT!

Having some hand held lights is important. Also a legal requirement. I have a water resistant headlight and handheld light. Once it gets dark I wear the headlight. I don't turn it on unless there are other vessels operating closeby.

I carry some hand held flares and a pack or two of "Skyrocket" pencil flares. I also have a few smoke flares.

Spare lines and a suitable anchor and anchor rode will save you in a pinch.

First aid kit in a dry bag.
Signal mirror.

Fresh drinking water and healthy snacks.

In dangerously cold water you should dress for immersion.

Sunglasses and sun protection. Broad brimmed hat, sunscreen, long sleeved sun shirt and long sun protection pants etc. The summer sun will roast you in a small open boat here.

Practice swamping / capsizing your boat. Do this first in shallow water where you can stand on the bottom. Then get it into deeper water a little at a time. You want to know for a fact if you can self rescue in deeper water.

Have a few different water bailing options; hand pump, pail, soft plastic or canvas bucket, Clorox bottle etc. A big sponge like the ones that stone masons and tile setters use is great for this too. Always secure your bailers to the boat!

Extra warm dry clothing, especially hat and gloves.

Spare oars, oarlocks and or paddles. Also lashed to the boat.

A longer handled landing net will help often. I like the softer molded rubber nets.

Staying close to shore will only be safe if theres no big boat wakes rolling in to the beach. It doesn't take much of a wake to flip you over. And being turned turtle near a rocky beach can be truly catastrophic.

Tide and current charts are great for trip planning, safety, and knowing your waters. And you can find more fish if you know what the tides are doing. This is essential information for a newcomer, for safety and for fishing.

Puget Sound is a fantastic place for small boat camping. Look up the Washington Water Trails program. They oversee a host of special campsites for human powered vessels. https://www.wwta.org/

Know your limits!

Cold water kills. Every year people die here.
Be prepared and be wise.

It's a great adventure.

View attachment 226902
Bob, this is great info and very helpful, thank you! And what a beautiful boat!
 

2kayaker

Active Member
Just stick close to shore until you're comfortable and then venture further. During the humpy runs, you're very close to Humpy Hollow up near Mukilteo/Edmonds (assuming we ever get a decent humpy run again). Good luck and have fun!
If the tide current is against you , you may find a counter current right next to shore, but study those current charts and timing for your route. Find out how fast of an opposing current you're willing to row against. Learn the best angle and direction to enter a counter rip flow for your craft. You may be able to rig a traveler to effectively give you a 2nd anchor point off your stern ( kayakers use these for a 2nd anchor ) .
 

Mark Kadoshima

Active Member
I fish the sound a lot in my kayak and take it out at Sekiu on the straight also. Lately I've been doing some lake fishing with it...and the salt is NOTHING like a lake. Lake fishing is sooooo relaxing in comparison, even in the windiest conditions.
I've been in a couple situations, once on the Hood canal fishing for chum and once out of Ollala where the wind and tide worked against me. My pedal kayak can handle just about any tide change. It's when the swells and chop are going broadside to the direction I needed to get to in order to land my kayak that problems arise. It made for a half mile of some serious pucker pedaling.
I wear a dry suit, pfd, marine radio, air horn, dedicated cutaway knife, bright hat, and have practiced self rescue. I really enjoy fishing out of my kayak, but I take the sound very seriously. If the wind and tide are working against you, it can be very hard to enjoy the fishing. There have been a couple days when I had to abort my plans and didn't want to risk it. Having to rely on another boater to save my ass would seem like the ultimate failure in judgement on my part.
There is so much private beach on our sound, you will find that your boat will open up a lot of great water. Enjoy!
 

Jiminsandiego

Active Member
I've spent the last 40 years working on saltwater. The last 3 years in the San Juan area. Lot's of good info posted. Often times tragedy comes from several things going wrong at once. And to be honest, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Muscle cramps can render your boat dead in the water. Current can push you into rocks or too far away from shore. Freighters can put out wakes that will capsize you or slam you into the rocks etc.... I often look at the shoreline and consider being stranded. Steep jagged rocks will prevent you from hiking out and freezing to death seems like a possibility. Of course the danger can be mitigated with due diligence and good common sense, but in my opinion you can never be too cautious or have to much safety gear.
 

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