Seattle to Olympia

I plan on taking a few days to paddle from Seattle to Olympia. I was wondering if anyone has done this trip before and if so, what are the best routes to take, best times, and if there are any historic currents to worry about paddling against. I have a general gameplan, just looking for any tips to those have spent a lot of time in the Puget Sound.

historic currents?
Should be currents twice a day against your route, and twice a day with you - called the tides. Been going on for all of history.

tacoma narrows.
The tacoma narrows is the big one you will have to plan for. Wind opposing tide in the narrows can make for big conditions. 4’ standing waves are not uncommon in the right conditions. Lots of swirly currents and whirlpools around the narrows bridge towers.Tons of fun if you know what you’re doing. Other than that there is not much, 1-2 kts at most. Most can be avoided by looking for eddies on the chart. If I recall, the west side of Vashon only flows south or not at all. Fair weather brings 15kts northerlies most afternoons. Fronts bring 15-25kt southerlies.

I assume you are going to use the WWTA camp sites. Blake island is close to seattle 10 mi from Golden gardens beach or 3 miles from Alki point beach.

The main thing is ships and ferries. Ferries move at 15 kts and will be crossing your path in several locations. Container ships do 18 kts put out a 4-6’ wake and will be turning into the ports of seattle and tacoma.

Have VTS(Vessel traffic) programmed on your VHF and check before crossing shipping lanes.

Olympia water is
shallow, warmer. Haven’t paddled there. When I come over the hill going north or traveling south from the colder climes, I stop n check the weather. Times there are thunderstorm formations similar to Florida. They should move the state capital there.

Dana passage near olympia
Dana passage between henderson and budd inlets is another place with significant current. Standing waves form off of Harstene island but are easily avoided by hugging the south side of the passage. I’ve been caught 2x in Dana passage in a thunderstorm/squall.

The difficult part of this trip is usually timing the currents. A neap tide is best. I’ve had a few friends do this in a day but taking a few days will make a bit less of a slog.

Done it south to north…
…during the Winter from Nisqually Reach to Alki.


P sound
As others have mentioned salt water paddling is not as easy as it sounds. Get a tide table, learn to read it and plan on only paddling at certain times during the day. It is a chess game with Ma Nature. Watch out for ship traffic, ferries, tugs with barges and 55 degree water. It would be best to go in a group with people that know the Sound. Dress for immersion, practice self rescue, wear PFD at all times. Good luck.

It’s complicated,
and considering the questions you’re asking, I’d say don’t do it. You’re not ready.

I am new to saltwater paddling and I was able to do this in one day. I appreciate all of the advice and enjoyed the smart remarks by you pessimists. Thanks again everyone

I beg to differ. Nobody said you would die if you did this. Nobody said it would even be difficult. What they did was, properly, raise some safety issues which you, it seems, promptly ignored.

This is one of the inherent problems with paddling. Novices go out one day, make a paddle, say, “this is easy,” and then make it a practice to out on the water with little or no preparation or planning.

Sure, we’ve all done this ourselves and survived because, most of the time, conditions are not all that challenging. All it takes is a bit of wind, a bad pass with a large vessel, or a failure of equipment and what was an easy paddle becomes a life/death situation.

When someone with considerably more experience than yourself makes a recommendation that you consider the situation more deeply, it is probably reasonable to assume they know their stuff and take appropriate steps to learn why this advice is, or is not, applicable.

After all my years paddling, swimming, working in, on, and around the water, I’m am still amazed at how few knowledgeable people actually have to be rescued.


Why bother asking
If you intend to ignore the advice given?

Nobody discounted the role of good luck, which apparently you had. That doesn’t mean repeated spins of the roulette will turn out the same.

"and considering the questions you’re asking, I’d say don’t do it. You’re not ready."

The above comment seemed a little too pessimistic. Maybe he had this statement in his mind when he said the feedback was too pessimistic.

I have not done the whole trip, but done some paddling in the area. After he asked the questions (which he did) and did some research (which he said he did), I don’t think this trip is that bad for a skilled paddler. Even if the conditions got bad I don’t think it would be that big of a deal for a skilled paddler. This is not the Washington coast.

Some people will have difficulty floating in their bathtub. Other people can paddle across the Pacific Ocean. Just depends on the paddler.


– Last Updated: May-14-15 8:14 PM EST –

I really, REALLY, doubt you pulled this off in one day. That's over 50 miles total distance, over 5 miles just to get out of Budd Inlet.

Even if you kept an even pace of 3 knot/hour, you would have likely taken near 10 hours to complete the trip \, without stopping. There would have been one and a half tide cycles in that time.

SO either you're lying or you're magic.

Puget Sound
If you don’t want to hear the answers, don’t ask the questions.

Washburne covers
the water ?

The route is not Deception Pass or does it ?

that was possibly the best reply with helpful specific information that I’ve ever read on pnet!

Not unless they moved Seattle, or a very circuitous route is chosen.