Curious about foraging in the Salish Sea, I recently set out on a tasting adventure by sea kayak off Lummi Island.
We met our guide, Kristi with Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures, at the world famous Willows Inn on Lummi Island. There were two couples and myself who had signed up for the Wild Foraging Educational Tour sea kayaking off of Lummi Island. Moondance created this adventure to “take more time to explore “sea food.” Guests learn sustainable harvesting methods, rules and regulations as well as receive a Wild Foraging Educational packet, developed by Jennifer Hahn, author of Pacific Feast: “A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging”. ” Hahn is the local author of Spirited Waters: Soloing South Through the Inside Passage.
As Moondance Kayak describes Lummi Island: “This slow-paced magical little island will inspire you to relax and enjoy the rhythms of island life. Arriving at a quaint little Ferry landing on the edge of Gooseberry Point, you will catch a short 6 minute ferry ride to beautiful Lummi Island, population 964. Intimate and removed from big town stress, enjoy paddling the rugged shoreline on the west side of Lummi Island. Earning your lunch, stretch out on the rocks and take pleasure in your locally sourced meal prepared by your guide. Look up and Marvel in the cliffs on the southern end of the island – look out to the northern San Juan Archipelago – this is a view not many people experience. Be careful, you may never want to leave. Enjoy the San Juan Islands without the hassle of long ferry or big crowds.”
Our group connection was immediate. (L-R) Myself, Jacob and Grace took the opportunity for a quick selfie. We were excited to share it with our now mutual friend Tony, owner and brewer whom they had met the night before at the Stones Throw Brewery. They had a private tour of his brewery in Fairhaven and stayed in the adjacent B-n-B. In Bellingham, we live with two degrees of separation of each other.
We loaded up in the clean van and started our adventure. Kristi started fresh out of the gate, helping the guests orient themselves with their surroundings as we rolled along the narrow island road. Looking out the windows we could see a dominant Orcas Island and Mt. Constitution rising above the smaller islands of Clark and Barnes in the foreground and Matia and Sucia islands in the distance.
As we rounded Village Point, she pointed out the reefnet fishing boats anchored in Legoe Bay. Kristi explained how the boats worked the nets to catch yummy fresh salmon. The boats are managed by Lummi Island Wild driven by a mission to “To promote the respectful and responsible harvesting of wild salmon and to protect the environment for future generations of fish and people.”
This historical salmon fishing method was “once practiced throughout the Salish Sea by its many indigenous peoples, reefnet fishing now exists only off Lummi Island, three of the other San Juan Islands, and as of 2016 off of Cherry Point through a cooperative effort between Lummi Nation tribal members and Lummi Island Wild.” ~ Lummi Island Wild
Fun FACT: The salmon is so good that it is the source for Patagonia Provisions. Check out the fishermen in action: Patagonia Provisions Wild Pink Salmon Reefnet Fishing from Patagonia Provisions on Vimeo.
We arrived at our put in spot and Kristi started out with an overview of “Turkish Towel“. She explained how it can be made into pudding or used as a dish towel while kayak camping. We’d get to sample some pudding at lunch! With that to look forward to, we got ready to get out there!
Next, we received instructions for our Lummi Island Tour in sea kayaks. We also had the fortune of launching from a private beach in Legoe Bay, that Moondance has granted access for their trips.
We were out on the water in no time. Kristi was a reassuring guide and helped us all feel comfortable, safe and informed as we headed out into the expanse of water in the Salish Sea.
You can see Village Point in the background as we came out of Legoe Bay on the northwestern side of Lummi Island. Pictured above and below are nice couple from Puyallup, Kelly and Mark, who were up for the weekend celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. They obviously knew how to work together. This was a first time for them and as you can see they were in sync in no time! Well done you two. Looking great!!
We had the excitement of paddling in the swift currents that run through the wide channel between Lummi and Orcas Islands. After a beach landing and a delightful lunch, it was back to class! Kristi helped us identify and learn the different uses of the “edible seaweed” that is available on shore. As the natives used to say, when the tide is out, the table is set.
One common plant is the Fucus. The variety of uses for Fucus, with the mucus, includes using it like aloe on your skin! You can also make tea or “sea cheetos” with the dried wrack bubbles. For bigger bubbles we looked at Bull kelp. Filled with gas so the bulbs float, these are another common sight along our shores. Below, Jacob the “Birthday Boy”, holds up a small sample as Kristi explains some of the science behind the kelp.
We learned that Jacques Cousteau referred to these as the “Sequoias of the Sea” and that you can eat “Spicy picked bull kelp”. Yes, it’s a thing. Below is a close up of the anchors of these eloquently described “dancing ninety-foot long skeins of copper leaves and stems” (Jennifer Hahn, Spirited Waters).
Next, it was time to try the pudding that Kristi had brought along. Kelly got the creative award for using a clam shell as a small spoon to give it a taste.
Lummi Island is a magical place with resident bald eagles and their juveniles flying overhead. Just as we finish lunch and eagle flew overhead as if on cue and we applauded Kristi on her full package, bringing it all together. Below is (L-R) Grace, Jacob and Kristi as we head back. Yes, you may notice that Grace was the one paddling in the tandem- it was Jacob’s birthday, after all! Yes, I gave him a hard time- but he didn’t seem to mind and Grace was a strong lead!
I was enjoying playing around in the water and popping a bit ahead to look back at where we’d been and hopefully capture the moment while the guests enjoyed their time on the water.
We made our way, safe and sound, back to our launch point. Right on time too! We got the gear put away and got back in the cool van and headed back to the Willows Inn where all the guests were looking forward to a quick nap before the dinner that they had to look forward to that evening.
Willows Inn Sample Tasting Menu
Toasted kale leaves, sidestripe and rhubarb ceviche, pink singing scallops, blue clams, fermented green garlic, savory doughnut, native oysters and wildcress, chilled hakurei turnip soup, bok choy and nasturtium, grilled geoduck, spot prawns, reefnet caught smoked sockeye, charred cod fins, aged venison leg, herb tostada, bread from heirloom wheat and crab brain, rockfish and currant leaves, toasted birch branches, quince and candied rosemary, nootka rose petals, grilled strawberries and elderflowers, black walnuts, flax seeds. Seriously. source: Willows Inn menu.
What a spectacular day, paddling with a competent guide and perfect strangers. Adventures outdoors with people is a great way to connect and learn from each other. Kristi provides a safe setting and a trusting environment for her groups. I was highly impressed and give her 5 stars.
Book your 1/2 day, full day or multi-day trips at Moondance Kayak Tours.
Our Trip- Wild Foraging Educational Tour
Price: $120.00 per person + WA State sales tax
Includes: Stable fiberglass tandem sea kayaks, paddles, pfd’s, spray skirts, professionally trained kayak guide, wild foraging educational packet and a catered sea side lunch.
Does Not Include: Personal clothing, footwear, sunglasses, ferry pass, harvesting license, etc. Please refer to our gear list on what to bring. More information will be sent to upon booking!
*Note- This trip is meant to educate and inspire you to pursue and further your own sustainable seaweed harvesting, due to laws and regulations we will not actually harvest on our trips. Unless otherwise arranged with Moondance staff as well as providing proof of your seaweed harvesting license.