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PART 2 - Seattle to Heriot Bay

May 30th - Day 1

I took an uber to the Miami airport. My flight was delayed for three hours, because of heavy afternoon downpours, and would not be in Seattle until the early morning. It was a full flight. I was placed in the middle seat in between two obese fellows who hogging the arm rests on either side. I closed my eyes hoping to catch some sleep  and prayed the fat guy by the window would not need to get out to use the bathroom.

From the Seattle/Tacoma airport I took another uber to Lake Stevens and met with David, got my kayak to finally begin the journey. It was an almost two hour ride even without much traffic.  I did not know  that the Seattle metropolitan area was so big.  

David was waiting for me outside his house. “Welcome to Seattle! I’m excited for your trip! I wish I could be doing that, but I’m afraid I’m getting married in July.”

“Oh, my condolences to you!” I said with a half-deadpanned look. Perhaps this was not the best joke to make with someone you’ve never met before who is giving you an enormous amount of help, but thankfully he cracked with laughter at my dark humor. 

“We’ll go to  my warehouse and get a look at your boat. I didn’t get around to opening any of the bags, so I am curious to see what a three-piece kayak looks like.”

We had a quick drive to the warehouse where, to my great delight, I set eyes on my familiar kayak bags. Everything looked fine. “Here are the things you ordered,” David said as he handed me a box with the new GPS unit and fiberglass repair kit.

I was immediately reminded of the missing GPS unit I had been looking for all over my house.. I opened the Kayak bag with the cockpit section, found the dry bag with the electronics and poured out the contents. The missing GPS unit wasn’t there. 

“I was totally convinced it would be here.” I mumbled. I was confident I’d be  recouping the money and now I felt  like I had just lost $400, again. 

“It is what it is. Where could that GPS unit be?” I never found it.

I started to unpack my other items.

“How are you getting to the water?”

“Oh, I marked a boat ramp on the Snohomish River. It’s about 6 miles from here. I figured that I would make a portage to get there.” I showed David the marker on Google Earth. He looked at the screen on my phone, and his expression was not encouraging. 

“You guys in Miami must not know what a hill is. That ramp is at least a four hour walk with your kayak and is probably not the best place. It will be quite late by the time you launch. Let’s do this, I’ll drive you down to Everett. There’s a big marina there, and the waterfront has several hotels. You can then decide what to do.”

That was wise advice. Having barely slept the night before, my rhythm   had been running on adrenaline fumes for the start of the journey. 

As soon as we loaded the kayak on the roof rack and were on our way I fell asleep in the car. 

“You know David, I think I’ll launch tomorrow. I’m tired, and I haven’t even decided how I’m going to arrange everything I have to fit in the kayak, probably best I don’t rush things on the first day.”

“Yeah, probably better. That’s when bad stuff happens. I’ll drop you off at this really good hotel. It’s where most of the folks at my wedding will be staying. I’ll tell them you’re a friend, and they can probably get you a deal and keep the kayak for the night.”

May 31st - Day 2 - Launch Day

David was right. The front desk lady was extremely  accommodating. She put the kayak in their ballroom and acted though my needs were nothing more complicated than  a request for an extra bathing towel. I had all the space I could ever need  to spread out my gear, and plan how I would pack it all in. 

I slept without stress for most of the afternoon and night, and only woke up  at 4:00am the next day when my bowels told me to get out of bed. . My biological clock was still running three hours ahead.

The first day of any expedition is best used to get the rhythm of things that will need to become routine. My first task was to set up the new GPS. I called Inreach at 5:00am (8am on the east coast), and had the operator run through the activation and syncing process. To my delight there were no issues, and I felt relieved to do this now rather than  the day before. 

The next task was to arrange  all the gear. I had been so busy with work, back home that I had taken on faith that things would work themselves out.  

If there is a saint that looks after kayakers, he must have been watching over me. Everything fit inside just right, and there was even a little bit of room to spare. I put the kayak on the dolly, packed all the gear, and was just about ready to start wheeling things when I noticed that my GPS charging cable was still attached to the computer in the hotel lobby. 

“That could have been a terrible headache.” I thought. 

I quickly packed it with all the other items and gave one last run down of my bedroom and the lobby, to make  sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. 

I pulled  the kayak behind me through the hotel front door and turned down the small road that led to the waterfront boat parking lot, and headed for the boat ramp.

I thought about all the challenges that lay ahead and for the first time had a strange feeling. Barely a weekend had gone by, but my mind felt rested from the daily grind of work as though considerably more time had already passed. I’ve experienced this time dilation effect before. The last time it happened was at the beginning of the Puerto Rico journey. Suddenly, when daily life is no longer on autopilot, your mind becomes present in the moment and aware of every aspect of what you’re doing. Eventually it wears out after a few days, once you are in a new routine, but in the moment things are changing, it feels like drinking a caffeinated drink for the first time. 

“Let’s get on the water and  paddle and see.” I told myself. “And then when tomorrow comes, it comes. I’ll think about tomorrow when it becomes today.”  

I stowed the gear into the kayak hatches (and somehow not quite the same way I had done back in the hotel), put on the dry suit, eased the back of the kayak into the turbid water of the marina, and took the first of what would be at least a hundred thousand more paddle strokes. 

“Oh darn, I have two right-handed gloves,” I noticed as I dressed them on. I must have put both the left hands in the back hatch by accident, well they would be staying there for today, I was not getting out to do  a relaunch. 

After a few minutes, I had to stop paddling. 

“The life jacket is too tight.” I moaned out loud. Obviously, I hadn’t adjusted it to account for the extra bulk of the dry suit. I reached behind my back and released the tension on one of the straps, for a moment of instant gratification. 

Finally, I felt comfortable enough to get in a paddle rhythm. The water was flat like a mirror, and I was gliding like a sharp knife slicing butter. As I paddled along, I noticed a few seals swimming in the water. I had never seen seals in the wild before.

They stopped what they were doing and looked towards me with only their heads poking above the  water. Their dark black eyes focused on me like the periscope of a submarine. 

Their curiosity did not last long, however, and once satisfied that I wasn’t something that would produce any food, they dove into the murky water and were not seen again. I learned from my guidebook that they are Harbor Seals, because they are most often seen around harbors, but I would venture to rename them as Burrito Seals or Chipotle Seals. Their sink color and dapple  spots very much resembles a tortilla, and their body shape is puffy and cylindrical like a Mexican wrap. And for an orca, I am sure they must have a fair amount of juicy meat like a burrito filled with  pulled pork. Perhaps that was the reason they dove away so quickly when I approached; I must have given them a famished wolf kind of stare, that said, “If you come a little closer, I’ll show you that the orcas aren’t the only things that will eat you.”

I paddled a total of seventeen miles.. The headwind picked up considerably soon after my meeting with the seals, every mile after the encounter was earned with considerable effort, but also very satisfying. I slept better in my tent this first night than any other night in the past month  when all I did was work in front of a computer screen all day.

June 1st - Day 3

Last night after I had set up camp, a group of folks at the adjacent campsite offered me beans and tortillas for dinner. I gladly accepted, but I think that when kayaking in cold climates, heavy Mexican food may not be advisable. I farted all day long inside my dry suit, and the couple of times I bled out the air the smell was particularly awful. 

There was almost no wind today. The only waves came from the boats crossing the sound. By midday I was feeling quite hot and overdressed. I decided this would be a good time to practice a few rolls with the loaded kayak. I dipped into the chilly water, and felt immediately refreshed, but after the third roll, I started to get brain chills as though I had swallowed a large amount of ice-cream.  

There were several jet fighters whizzing around in the sky. They always seemed to come in pairs, and their arrival was preceded by a loud thundering rumble. I saw on the map that there’s a military base nearby so that must be where they must have come from, though what they were out to do I do not know.