Circumnavigating Indian Island and Marrowstone Island By Kayak


Just across Admiralty Inlet, a short distance Southeast from Pygmy’s showroom, sit two islands: Indian & Marrowstone Island.  They are part of our daily routine and can be seen on any clear day.  While acknowledged as two separate islands, they are actually attached by a small isthmus on the south end.

Marrowstone Island is a popular destination for paddlers.  Mystery Bay (on the west side of Marrowstone Island) offers protected waters and on a cold winter day paddlers can warm their hands and feet by a wood fire at the popular Nordland General Store.  We Pygmies enjoy paddling there and often go in the winter months.  There is a public boat ramp past the store on the left hand side, but it does require a Discover Pass (Washington State Park Pass).

It was only a matter of time before paddling around the island came to fruition.  Pygmy is closed on Black Friday to allow employees time to spend with their families and get outside.  So, when my husband and I saw the tides (high tide at 12:30) were right for a circumnavigation, we seized the opportunity.  Early Friday morning we listened to the news broadcast interviews with people who had been waiting for 6 hours in lines outside of stores to purchase flat screened televisions.  We sipped our coffee and geared up for the day, which promised to remain fair with temperatures in the 40s (Fahrenheit) and light winds out of the South (no more than 5mph). All of the conditions were perfect.

If fog had rolled in we had a plan B to launch from the public park on the south end of Indian Island, but visibility was good so we launched as originally planned from the dock at Point Hudson (the same place we launch test paddlers).

We decided to paddle clockwise with the tides so if weather picked up, or we just plain ran out of daylight, it would put us on the town side of the islands by afternoon. Griffin chose to paddle the Murrelet 2PD, version 1 and I hopped in the Murrelet 4PD, version 2.  The crossing from Port Townsend to Marrowstone was fairly calm with a little stronger current as we neared the lighthouse at Marrowstone.  This crossing involves checking for ferries going to and from Coupeville as well as the occasional sailboat.  The current picked up significantly as we drew closer so we decided to paddle right on shore.  We were so close my paddle even hit the bottom occasionally as I stroked on the right side of my boat.  Not more than 20 feet off shore a strong rip pulsed.  But on shore we easily picked our way around the lighthouse.  As we traveled South down the East side of Marrowstone, the water glassed off and Sea Lions began to pop up around us.  We could see them tossing huge salmon in their fishing forays. Sea gulls flocked around them hoping for scraps.  I kept a safe distance as their large bodies are intimidating, but it was fun to watch them fish.  Further down the island we saw porpoises surfacing and of course the ever curious seal pup. We stopped for lunch and a bathroom break a little over halfway down the East side of Marrowstone.  There is a little park with public restrooms and picnic tables that we put to good use.

From there we continued along to the southern tip.  It was now perfectly slack high tide.  The shore here is mostly cliffs speckled with homes and the occasional staircase, ladder or rope  to connect it’s inhabitants to the beach below.  Many of these had obviously lived through some waves and storms and often were missing their lower sections.  The occasional tanker threw some surf that was fun to paddle over, or try to catch and we made it a game to guess how long of a delay there would be between their passing and the following swell.

On the Southwest end of Marrowstone there is a lovely Washington Water Trails campsite that I had heard about but never explored.  We paused to check it out.  It would be the perfect place to stay if someone wanted to divide the circumnavigation into two days.  It has 3 tent campsites, a bathroom and a kayak rack above the high tide mark, but no water.  From there we continued on along the south shore.  As we reached the cut between Indian Island and the mainland the tide had begun to ebb so we rode the rising current under the bridge, practicing eddy line crossings as we went.  From the bridge North, Indian Island is a naval base and paddlers must remain a certain distance offshore or risk being reminded to do so by the naval patrol.  I’m a little unclear on what that distance is, and just try to remain far enough that I can’t read their warning signs on shore.  I’m guessing they say something along the lines of, “Warning!  If you can read this you are too close.” I have paddled near there often and have yet to be warned but have heard of others who have been nudged away by the patrol.  There were crab pots closer in than we paddled so I presume someone went closer.

On the North side of Indian Island the sun began to get low in the sky but we knew we had time.  We crossed Admiralty inlet once again checking for ferries and watched as historic downtown Port Townsend came into view.  We landed back at the Point Hudson dock at 3:30 for a total of 19.5 miles in 6.5 hours.  It was the longest day paddle for me and my body felt good.  Well used and hungry, but content.  I would definitely recommend this route, but bear in mind that it does involve open water.  We wore wetsuits with dry tops, spray skirts, pogies (a must in winter paddling for me), bilge pumps, plenty of water and food, and had practiced our rolls and wet re-entries.  The only thing I forgot was batteries for my camera.  So it goes.  Fortunately memories don’t need batteries.


Join us and #OptOutside this Black Friday.

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