Monday, October 3rd, 2016
Kayaking to Sucia for Lunch with Sea Lions

From Basecamp Bellingham, WA, you have many choices for outdoor recreation opportunities. Trail Running, Mountain Biking, Road Rides, Snow Sports and yes, Paddling on the Salish Sea!! My landlubber friend from Utah (a landlocked state for those geographically illiterate) has wanted to go on a “boat ride” since we met a couple of years ago at the Bellingham 5 Point Film Festival. It took a while to pull it together, yet we did it. This is our adventure – sea kayaking to two San Juan islands from the mainland.

Spoiler ALERT: We had an epic adventure and immersion into nature (and you can too).


As we launched from the beach at the Lummi Ferry, a kind gentleman was gracious enough to take our sendoff photo- our version of American Gothic. We launched from the beach at Gooseberry Point and headed out into Hale Passage. We left¬† at a leisurely 2:00 pm- to time the tides. Consulting the Waggoner Tables Current Atlas, we’re able to judge the flow as they ebb and rise throughout the Salish Sea. GO WITH THE FLOW!

The crossing from the northern end of Lummi Island at Point Migley to Matia Island is roughly (fortunately in our case, calmly) 5 nautical miles. It seemed as if, we got there in no time at all. My friend, Farmer Paula from Utah was awe-struck at the power of the tides and our ability to time and catch the currents as if to have a downhill ride to our destination.

As we pulled into the small cove on Matia Island, the dock drew us in. This would be our base for the night. Picnic dinner, candlelight vigil and launch for our midnight bioluminescence paddle- this was the place where memories would be made.


When we woke up in the morning, the dense fog had rolled in and prevented visibility down to the dock. This raised some relative concern, yet we were prepared to make the crossing to Sucia Island for our picnic lunch. As I went down to the dock, with my cup-o-joe in hand, the craftsmanship of the arachnid caught my eye and sent me back to the camp to get the camera to capture the artist at work.


We eventually got our gear down on the shore and loaded the boats. While loading our cargo, a Sea Lion circled the cove. Launching into the dispersing fog, our sights were set on Sucia for lunch.

Looking back over our shoulders at Matia, the combination of clouds created a cacophony of colors to collude the cranium! OK, my daughter is learning about alliteration and it was top of mind.  Simply said, it was a sensational sendoff to Sucia.


The crossing from Matia to Sucia was quick and easy. Yes easy- because we had timed it with the currents to ease our efforts. I wish we could share photos from the journey, but our hands were full! As we approached Sucia, the ritualistic sounds of Sea Lions calling out from the reef off of Ewing Island, piqued our interest. After investigation, we sought shelter in the small protected cove.


We enjoyed some hot homemade chowder on the beach and waited for the tides to turn, so the currents would be working in our favor. The views around the island gave great perspective on our position. From our beach, we could see Bellingham’s backyard volcano, Komo Kulshan- aka Mount Baker, rising from the horizon.


To stretch our legs, we went for a walk on the island. The 2 mile trail leads you into the heart of Echo Bay, affording southern views of neighboring islands and open passages into the Salish Sea.


We made it into the group camp and witnessed the rise of these funky oil dripping mushrooms. Madrone trees hovering in the background.


We set out for our return to the mainland. Sea Lions sat atop a submerged rock on Clements Reef with spectacular views of Mt. Baker, the Twin Sisters and the North Cascades.


The Sea Lions had been quite vocal while and it seemed that the Bulls were involved in some mating ritual when we first pulled in. By the time we were on our return trip, there were only a handful left on the rock. The others were frolicking in the water and grabbing a snack with the incoming tide.


We cruised through their domain as we headed out into the Straight of Georgia to catch incoming currents. We swung out into the open shipping channels and caught the ride flowing into Rosario Straight. With Mt. Baker as our point of reference, we surged through the water. Dark rain clouds hovered to the north over visible Vancouver and lower British Columbia.


With the sun setting behind us, it was hard to keep our eyes on the destination ahead. The spectacular colors are difficult to capture. So don’t take my word for it. Get out there and try it for yourself.


If you need some helpful resources check out the Paddling section of Basecamp Bellingham. Be SAFE & Have FUN!


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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at