HENRY ISLAND CIRCUMNAVIGATION AND OTHER SAN JUAN PARK KAYAK ROUTES
The standard kayak route from Smallpox Bay at San Juan County Park onto Haro Strait leads south paddling close to San Juan Islandís bluffs to Lime Kiln State Park and Deadmanís Bay, a 5 mile round trip.
At 8 miles total, a Lime Kiln trip extended to Bailer Hill point, at sea level below the road vista and county parking area south of Lime Kiln State Park, paddles over two salmon fish trap eddies to the Bailer Hill tide rip. San Juan Islandís SW shore is in view off Bailer Hill point. At low tide, floating 1/4 mile off Bailer Hill for an incoming tide, the distant waterfall roar of sea tide against Fraser River flow grows louder roughing Bailer Hillís slack into a substantial rip for a fast ride back to Smallpox Bay.
Looking down onto Juan de Fucaís Pacific swells from the bluff south of American Camp National Park leads to speculation for continuing on outgoing tides from Bailer Hill into the beckoning distance, into a slack or incoming tides with Pacific breeze at the stern for kayak surfing down to and around the Cattle Point lighthouse to the beach camp at Griffin Bay: 18 miles one way.
American Camp is down Little Road. Little is on the left 400 yards before the downhill right into San Juanís valley on Bailer Hill Road. Turn right when Little joins Cattle Point Road. Visit American Camp or San Juan Island National Historical Park for Pickettís Monument then drive further on Cattle Point to the vista bluff for Juan de Fuca, then down the hill to the parking lot at San Juan Channelís southern entrance.
Tides to Cattle Point may be found during June and July. August tides favor salmon runs with morning incoming tides at daybreak from Tatoosh Islandís gauge to Turn Point gauge on Stuart Island north of Henry. Locally, Hanbury Point,Roche Harbor and Kanaka Bay are gauged.
Trips into Roche Harbor and circumnavigation of Henry Island are one day trips in the opposite direction. On the tide from Smallpox at 10 AM, a late lunch at Posey Island waiting for the outgoing tide brings your party back to Smallpox for dinner.
Wind direction should be considered. SW winds are common. Below a 10-12 knot wind, the Fraserís flow is greater carrying a kayak south down the main channel from Roche at 4.5 mph over regular 2í waves or over quiet water near shore. West winds across Haro Strait bring rough seas in the main channel 1/4-1/2 mile off. Paddling thru down the channel powered by the Fraserís flow, maneuvering to each wave with ample setup time, requires intermediate skills in west wind, rough water conditions.
Coming in from the north in a strong west wind, Smallpox entry is on a series of surf swells if approached downwind from the west. The rip past Low island may hold one deep trough seen as a breaking wave. A 90 degree approach thru this rip to the surf swells is intermediate water. I was surprised by the trough, my near 18í kayak lying at its bottom while I surveyed the surrounding green water.
Not dangerous, the Strait near Smallpox Bay does change surface constantly.
Paddling north on the incoming tide in calm winds on the channel runs over 2 rips at and north of Low Island off the county park run with a low trailing brace on a 4 mph current flow.
Paddle north along the shoreline eddy in wind conditions on incoming and outgoing tides if the channel is too rough. Trips north along the shoreline are good beginnerís water.
On arriving at the bay openings to the east or right and well south east of the bare bluff 1.5 miles to the NW, compass bearings of 4-7 degrees passing the last land point from Smallpox will set course to Roche Harbor channel.
After turning to Roche, the second bay opening to the east and then bearing south following entry, leads to English Camp National Park.
Paddling around Henry Islandís west side to Posey Island then back to Smallpox Bay over Roche Harborís channel to Haro Strait on Henry Islandís east side was paddled on a calm day late on the incoming tide. After 2.5 hours paddling, we arrived at Posey Island before slack.
Paddling was done in the Haro Strait channel, off the mouths of Roche Harbor channel as we crossed toward Kellet Bluff, the bare cliff northward.
Henry Islandís Kellet Bluff holds a quiet eddy beneath the south face slope entered well off the bayís mouth to its east, Open Bay: a scenic eddy for lunch and turning point for a shorter trip. A low level intermediate would consider the trip back to Smallpox down the channel from Kellet a learning experience if paddling first open crossing of 3-4.5 miles.
Tide rips in the Haro channel begin before Kellet with breaking rip on the tide ripsís south east side. We enjoyed slaloming and eddy hopping over the tide rips turning west over a fast current with 1-2 foot waves then looking toward Kellet for swift and flat current flows east into eddy as channel current carried us toward passing Henry Island, following the eddy then out again into the tide rips, pointing the kayak toward the farthest reach of fast and choppy water.
On the incoming tide, current carries along Henryís west side on billowing swell, thru one tide rip, to Henryís north point at McKracken Pointís two flags. Stay west off the calm eddy water along Henryís shore.
August Sea Kayaker, download available online, holds instructions on accessing NOAA marine charts (maps). The depth topo-contours are invaluable for judging distance from shore well before arrival. Routing along the deepest contour off the east shores on Haro charts generally gives fast, effortless cruising with tide flow and regular wave motion.
NOAA offers online current tables with slack times for local channels and crossings.
Google Books holds ďBRITISH COLUMBIA PILOT VOL. 1Ē explaining these navigations on Haro Strait, download available in Adobe.
At Henryís northern end on Speiden Channel, paddling ľ-1/2 mile off Henry before nearing Battleship Island then turning directly to McKracken Point gives fast cruising.
Posey Island is now to the east. Barren Island seen ahead is a good turning point for floating lunch.
First arrival on Speiden, at high tide slack, was a pleasant surprise. Haro was windy and rough, Speiden a warm summerís afternoon for basking with lunch and cool drink.
The material I read on Speiden cruising prepared me for howling winds, giant sea snakes and rabid 17 foot bats.
On returning to Smallpox, I asked the old fisherman about basking on Speiden. He replied with head shaking and reflections about howling winds, giant sea snakes and rabid 30 foot bats.
Again follow the main channel going south on Henryís east side past Roche Harbor to Pole. Pole is the narrows to the right of a large lawn and lodge ahead. A stop at Pole may be interesting if you arrive before the outgoing tide gets moving. Water beyond Pole, piles up against Haro strait, building a definite hump outside the two harbors to the east.
Following the channel on the west, a red buoy ahead, into Haro brings 2 choices: angle east to the shore point or go out west over a bar into swell at confluence between Haro current speed and height and Rocheís.
Smallpox is now an hour southward.
San Juan County Park is on 12 acres with an upper and lower camping areas. I recommend the lower area for water access and security. When driving down the last turn to the ferry look to the left for Madam Reader beginning your security adventure, continuing on the ferry. The Park takes reservations 90 days in advance: reserve at 8:02. Summer weekend ferry reservations are necessary.http://www.co.san-juan.wa.us/Parks/sanjuan.aspx
The comments were written after interviewing a kayaking majority who were not paddling north.