The Lake Debate

In August of 2021 the state released The Capitol Lake Deschutes Estuary Long Term Management Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The purpose of the document is to help inform the decision whether to remove the Capitol Lake dam and return the lake to an intertidal area. It’s an impressive looking 700 plus pages with lots of graphs and data. Unfortunately a previous step was omitted. The study leans heavily toward engineering. Engineering is not science. Science tells us what we need to do. Engineering tells us how to do it.

As a result, the EIS is flawed in its scoping. The study area is defined as including what is now Capitol Lake and West Bay out to the end of the Port Peninsula because this is the area directly impacted by work. It’s what’s defined as the estuary. In estuaries, fresh water flows out on the surface of heavier salt water creating persistent mixing patterns. This “salt wedge” can frequently be observed well north of the Port Peninsula. The waters of East and West bay are part of the same estuarine system.

River estuaries in Puget Sound often have a companion stream that shapes and expands the area – Hylebos for the Puyallup, Medicine Creek for the Nisqually, and Moxie Creek for the Deschutes. Moxlie Creek flows into East Bay which is a significant part of the structure of the Deschutes River estuary. Not including East Bay is a significant omission.

Dioxin contamination in surface sediments is an indication of uncontrolled sources. Chemical analysis informs us that this contamination is in the form of Cascade Pole creosote. Cascade Pole operated on the tip of the Port Peninsula for a number of years, leaving a legacy of contamination. If we don’t identify and control sources of contamination prior to removing the dam, clean soil will enter the bay from the upper watershed to be contaminated by these sources and we’ll have a larger volume of dioxin laced mud.

The EIS states: “The Port of Olympia has been working on cleaning up the Cascade Pole site from creosote contamination for many years”. Actually nothing has been cleaned up. Material has been capped in place in a temporary containment cell and used as fill along the East Bay shoreline. The report continues “The most recent sediment monitoring in 2012 and 2013 showed decreasing dioxin/furan concentrations.” What location does this refer to? In front of the containment cell? Where did the toxins go? Did they degrade or disperse? A critical statement like this needs clarification. If East Bay is included, the numbers don’t show decreasing concentrations.
The State has accumulated enough samples from the bay to have a good picture of the distribution of contamination. Several hotspot in particular have been identified. At this point we should be working to identify the nature and extent of contamination and pinpoint sources which can then be removed or controlled. The Model has instead been flipped. We address sites in the order in which they are developed. Assuming that the assessments are adequate and done according to established protocols, an unwarranted assumption, this leaves neighboring sites unaddressed allowing for recontamination.

If we had followed methods of scientific inquiry, this EIS would read much differently. We would have a clearer idea of what scope and parameters should be included and what advantages and disadvantages are represented in each option. We can’t propose to do half the job. Cleanup must precede restoration.
East Bay versus West Bay

Levels of Dissolved Oxygen
Water Quality Improvement Report, 2012:

East Bay is once again the embayment on the right. Consistently East Bay has the poorest water quality for all parameters. There are low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of PCBs and dioxin. East Bay is a federally degraded water body. We can’t simply write it off.

In a letter dated December 05, 2015, City Manager Steve Hall writes: “Our current environmental restoration efforts in the City are focused on West Bay which has active salmon runs, bird nesting and many other advantages over the Moxlie area. We are in the middle of a habitat study on west bay with the Squaxin Island tribe, the Port and others to improve environmental conditions on West Bay. Any future dollars we invest in restoration are likely to be directed there and not to East Bay. We don’t have the staff or money to also do Moxlie and I would not recommend the City or the Port change course from our West Bay efforts. If you are looking for optimal environmental impact, I’d urge you to follow the West Bay work.”

The logic is that by going after the least damaged places we have more when we finish, the low hanging fruit more bang for your buck argument. In reality, if we think of damage as a continuum, starting lower on the scale offers greater room for improvement. The City is focusing on a 120 year old railroad berm (visible on the left side of the first areal photo on page one). The railroad berm was already used as mitigation for dredging and filling East Bay. It was used as a balancing act for the Smyth Landing development at the mouth of Schneider Creek and now is now being used as a diversion from East Bay development. How many times does the City think they can use this one spot for mitigation banking?

We’re told that modifications to the railroad berm will give us the best results because it’s already regarded as the best habitat in the bay? The questions surround how much of the berm to remove, that is to say, how much mature intertidal habitat to destroy. Features like this, coastal lagoons and dendritic channels, are important natural features in river estuaries. Leveling the berm will reduce the length of intertidal shoreline, the area of salt marsh and it will destroy a benthic community that has been maturing for a hundred years. The City of Olympia is relying mainly on the West Bay Environmental Restoration Assessment Final Report of February 2016 which was created by Coast & Harbor Engineering in association with two other engineering firms. It’s an engineering report. Alternatives the City is debating, at considerable cost, will not only not be an improvement, they will degrade oceanographic and ecological parameters.

Over the past 40 years, the Budd Inlet ecosystem has crashed. On December 22, 1979 Budd inlet, a census taken by Black Hills Audubon members of the port area (east and west bay) totaled 3670 individuals of 35 species of waterbirds. East Bay was still full of life. “Waterbirds are represented by a diversity of species and are numerous throughout the winter months. The productive areas of Olympia Harbor are principally tidelands. East Bay and West Bay tidelands are frequented by bottom feeding birds. East Bay serves as a refuge for waterbirds during winter storms”. Other concerns are wintering, feeding, and sheltered resting habitat.

Species of benthic organisms and fish in East Bay included: Ghost shrimp (Callianassa californiensis), mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis), and the tube-building amphipod (Corophium sp.) were found to be abundant and widely distributed. The mud shrimp, in particular, was found only in East Bay. In Budd Inlet perch, flounder, mussels, clams, shore crabs, amphipodes, worms and barnacles were all abundant.

(The above are contained in the EIS for East Bay Marina pages: H-82, 2-4, 51,52,and F-27 through F-31 which can be found at: //

Twenty years later the number of birds had declined. According to the exhaustive R. W. Morse West Bay Habitat Assessment, as of 2002 there would have still been daily observations of hundreds of waterbirds on the western side of the Port Peninsula, some species seasonally and some year-round. The majority of species of waterbirds had experienced “a dramatic decline in their numbers. These species include: Red-necked, Horned, and Western Grebes, Pelagic Cormorant, Surf Scoter, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded, Common, and Red-breasted Mergansers, Ruddy Duck, Bonaparte’s and Mew and Ring-billed Gulls. Some waterbirds were even not recorded during the survey period although they were prevalent 15 years ago: White-winged and Black Scoters, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Rhinoceros Auklet, and American Coot”. “When an examination is made of comparable dates in December in 2001 versus 1986: in 1986, 812 waterbirds were counted (21 species) versus only 168 birds (16 species) in 2001”. “Thirty to eighty waterbirds were often seen between the Fourth and Fifth Avenue Bridges 15 years ago. Now, only occasionally do we see any birds in this area”.

Today, another twenty years later, we would likely see no waterbirds anywhere in the bay. If one could find a living fish one would be poorly advised to eat it. Forty years of simmering in the current regulatory caldron has transformed Budd Inlet into a jellyfish pond.

The final lap for Budd Inlet began in 1980 when the Port of Olympia decided to build a marina in East Bay. Several options were considered around Budd Inlet that would have required minimal environmental modifications. The East Bay choice involved extensive dredging and filling of neashore areas.

The East Bay EIS states on page 64: “Although marina construction may benefit certain species, the wetland fills reduce estuarine productivity through loss of habitat, algal species, benthic invertebrates,.. This is a complex impact which cannot be easily estimated quantitatively; however, some reduction in populations of birds, fish, shellfish, and other faunal species may be expected to occur. Such reduction cannot be accurately quantified”.

A long statement by USFWS dated July 18, 1979 on pages F-1 through F-21 conveys many simialar concerns. In a letter dated Feb 26, 1980 the USFWS wrote: “In summary, the East Bay tideflats and aquatic areas provide important habitats for high numbers of waterfowl and other waterbirds and to a lesser degree for marine fishes. Construction of the proposed project with cargo storage area would cause an excessive loss of these habitats and resources. Those losses could be significantly reduced with our previously recommended alternative eliminating the cargo storage area and non water-dependent commercial uses and employing open water disposal of any excess dredge materials. Studies and reports of the Corps of Engineers indicate such an alternative would have less adverse environmental impact and also have approximately the same benefit to cost ratio as the proposed project. As stated in a letter of September 7, 1978 to your office, the Fish and Wildlife Service supports the concept of a marina in East Bay, provided that persistent water quality problems would not result and that landfilling can be limited to the extent actually required for physical support of the marina. However, the Service can not support any plan which worsens pi-esent water conditions or does not comply with State and Federal water quality laws or criteria. Information supplied in Corps reports indicate presently poor water conditions will persist even after the construction of the new secondary sewage treatment plant scheduled to begin operation in 1983. It is our contention that the proposed project is not in compliance with Executive Order 11990 since all practicable measures to minimize wetland losses would not be taken. Elimination of the cargo fill area is practicable and would reduce losses by 50 percent.  information recently received from tie Washington Department of Fisheries indicates their firm belief that significant numbers of chinook salmon released from the Percival Cove salmon rearing facility, and possibly large schools of herring and smelt, will be attracted into the marina with the likelihood of increased fish kills due to anticipated dissolved oxygen sags. This presumably would occur under any marina design which entails dredging of East Bay proper. In view of this, we recommend the permit for the project, as proposed, be denied. (page G48)

Concerning water quality, in a letter dated Feb 28, 1980 the EPA wrote: The project “may not be environmentally acceptable due to the potential adverse consequences for water quality and aquatic resources. Our evaluation of the modeling studies for the proposed marina indicates that any marina development within East Bay proper will reduce the water exchange in the Bay. The consequent increase in flushing times for the East Bay basin would probably result in extremely poor water quality conditions. (page H-46 to page H-51)

The EPA wrote on august 29th 1980: “As stated in previous correspondence, our primary concern with this project has been the high potential for a reduction in water quality, particularly dissolved oxygen concentration in the marina basin. With this exception, the project is in general accordance with other environmental factors we use in evaluating marina projects. These factors include consideration for minimizing adverse impacts on wetlands, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wild’iife, and recreation areas. The results of additional water quality model studies conducted jointly by the Corps and EPA have been reviewed and, in our opinion, demonstrate a correlation between a reduction in water exchange and reduced dissolved oxygen levels. Use of an aeralion system within the marina, however, will negate anticipated reductions in dissolved oxygen. Although we continue to support Alternative 4e as a cost effective preferred alternative, selection of Alternative 4a would be acceptable to EPA if it includes a properly designed and maintained aeration system which will maintain Class B water quality standards within the marina. This is the first time we have approved of an aeration system to mitigate reduction in water quality and our approval is specific to the unique circumstances of the East Bay project. As a matter of policy EPA does not generally support the use of an aeration system as a solution to probable water quality problems in marinas, particularly when design modifications or alternative site locations with improved natural tidal exchange would eliminate the need for long-term energy requiring mitigation systems” (page G44). Plate 13 shows the design of the aeration system.

As of September of 2021, despite months of drought and extremely poor water quality, aerators are nowhere to be found. According to locals, they were removed in about 2010.

The above are also contained in the East Bay EIS:  //

These are just a few examples. The EIS is full of questions and criticisms. It’s really a testament to how the system has failed that these concerns were not given more weight. We can now say that water quality has suffered, species have become locally extinct and the concerns repeatedly expressed, particularly by Federal Agencies, were well founded.

Natural marine ecosystems are productive, resilient and maintenance free. Odds are the lake will eventually lose the debate. But what we’ll end up with remains in doubt. So many questions remain. Aren’t Federal laws supposed to prevail? Aren’t these decisions supposed to employ the best available science?

Dioxin and PCBs

The primary chemical of concern in Budd Inlet is dioxin. a legacy of preserving pilings in the past with creosote. Concentrations at the head of East Bay exceed 200 ppt in surface layers and 1000 ppt in subsurface layers. The standard for open water disposal is 3.5 ppt. For MTCA cleanup sites 11 ppt.

Dioxin is probably the most biologically damaging non-radioactive chemical known. Its effects can be quantified in parts per trillion. These include cancer, birth defects and endocrine disorders.

The term dioxin actually refers to a group of chemicals. By definition we’d begin with the simple chemical compound C₄H₄O₂, furans being C₄H₄O. In the toxic forms, polychlorinated dibenzodioxin and polychlorinated dibenzofuran, one or more hydrogen is replaced with chlorine. The EPA calculates toxic equivalency (TEQ) values for each member of this category where the more toxic TCDD is expressed as 1.0 and less toxic as fractions.

Budd Inlet is also contaminated with PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, which also have a chemical structure made up of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine. Chlorine is a halogen, the second from the right column on a periodic table. Other halogens include bromine and fluorine, chemicals we find in fire retardants and fire fighting foam and food packaging.

All of these chemicals are similar in structure and can pose similar risks. They can damage the double helix. They break down very slowly and accumulate in our bodies. They have combined and cumulative effects.

Dioxin is lipophilic, attracted to fats. Human skin is fatty. It’s why we leave fingerprints. Dioxin will tend to adhere to skin and let go of soil. The primary method of testing dioxin toxicity is applying it to the back of a rat. It’s easily absorbed through skin. The public has been reassured that most people are exposed through their food. The reason more people aren’t exposed by wading in contaminated mud is because people rarely do that. The risks however to anyone who does are significant.

Consultants have convinced local governments that surface layers are assessed separately because they are what’s biologically availability. The bioactive zone in Puget Sound is actually between a foot and a meter deep, depending on whether geoducks are present. Sedimentation occurs in layers, the surface layers being the most recently laid down. Surface sediment contamination tells us that dioxin continues to enter Budd Inlet from uncontrolled sources, almost certainly on land.

Dioxin in the marine environment moves up from species to species and concentrates in apex predators. The latest orca death was a male in the prime of life. One suspected cause of death was cancer, one of the potential effects of these chemicals. An international team led by Jean-Pierre Desforges, a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University, determined that several orca populations worldwide are at risk of collapse in coming decades because of the accumulation of PCBs in their body burden.

Olympia’s Shoreline Master Program Needs A Metamorphosis

Regarding the Shoreline Master Program (SMP)

City of Olympia:

The public has become keenly aware of the plight of the Souther Resident Killer Whale and their principal prey Chinook salmon. We’re slowly learning about the plight of Walleye Pollock, Pacific Herring, Pacific Cod, 15 species of rockfish, chum and sockeye salmon, steelhead, various mollusks and birds, insects and invertebrates. As of December 1, 2015, there were 125 species at risk in the Salish Sea and the number continues to grow. Much of the loss has occurred over the past two decades, under current rules, the status quo, the cauldron of ‘mitigation banking’ ‘no net loss,’ and the rest of the regulatory stew.

Allowing a water body to remain physically damaged results in degraded water quality which impacts species composition which degrades water quality which impacts species composition and so on spiraling downward. There is an ongoing net loss caused by existing modifications. A stream in a pipe has no phytoplankton. This is why nitrates travel 18 times farther in a buried pipe than one that sees daylight. And why buried streams are low in dissolved oxygen.

The most critical part of any local watershed is its estuary. Estuaries are those places where fresh water coming from land meets the marine environment. Fresh water being lighter flows out on top of salt water creating persistent circulation patterns. In a pipe circulation is restricted. If we have sunlight we have a mix of phytoplankton and zooplankton and the birth of the food web. Without sunlight we have a septic tank. In the SMP, potential is never a consideration. Restoration potential should be part of every equation. The baseline should be that which existed historically.

The high water mark is the point from which setbacks are measured. The high water mark for the two major streams draining into Budd Inlet lies inside long culverts. The tide flows up a long pipe in both Moxlie and Schneider Creeks. In fact, there are 160 miles of stream-in-a-pipe in Olympia. In regulatory terms they don’t even exist. To contradict this edict represents a “collateral attack” on City Codes. If you appeal before the Hearing Examiner, you’ll also be informed that you lack standing, unless you or your property will be damaged. Birds, fish and marine mammals have no standing.

The most substantive issue brought up by the State in the Shoreline Master Program Periodic Review is the statement “The City’s wetland buffers are not current with the State’s most recent guidance.” The City’s response is that recommendations would result in “little change in the City’s current buffer widths” and amendments would be made to chapter 18:32 of the Olympia Municipal Code (Critical Areas) rather than the SMP itself. But revisions to Olympia code 18:32 make no substantive changes to setbacks. It continues to recommend protecting critical areas, aiming at no net loss and providing mitigation for unavoidable impacts through minimizing, rectifying, reducing and compensating for loss.

Priority Riparian Areas are listed as the eastern shore of Budd Inlet, including and north from Priest Point Park, long stretches of western shore of Budd Inlet including West Bay Waterfront Park and the Port Lagoon and much of the shore of Capitol Lake. The priority areas are essentially parks. The prevailing assumption seems to be that humans must destroy any place we reside.

The most glaring unspoken conclusion is that we should simply give up on East Bay, the half-mile long embayment south of Priest Point Park. It’s been severely modified and has the worst benthic dioxin contamination and the poorest water quality in Budd Inlet. Although this way of thinking is in some cases justified, in this instance it represents a clear violation of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and numerous other State and Federal laws and regulations.

How about some real changes:

(1) Restoration potential should be part of every equation. The potential inherent in a location should never be ignored.

(2) Under City Code once a stream goes into a pipe in Olympia it no longer exists. Likewise if it’s ever day-lighted rules don’t apply. This makes sense where there’s currently a structure but not as justification for new construction. We should change the rule to in such instances recognize the existence of streams.

(4) The best available science should be employed in every study including a clearly stated observation, hypothesis, test and conclusion otherwise the effort can be incomplete, misdirected and conclusions can be buried in data. Sites should be sampled for any contaminants suspected of possibly being at the site, according to established protocols.

(5) We need to take a holistic, ecosystem based approach to our critical areas. The baseline should be that which existed historically. Every effort should be made fo determine how physical parameters like structure impact chemical parameters such as dissolved oxygen and biological parameters such as phytoplankton.

(6) We should provide SRKW orcas with legal standing, consistent with the global Rights of Nature movement.

Waterfront Development Steaming Ahead Full Speed

We are now facing nearshore developments in Budd Inlet of historic proportions. On the West Side, West Bay Development Group wants to develop 478 market-rate apartments and more than 20,000 square feet of commercial space at the old Hardel site.

On the East Side, the Port of Olympia’s Destination Waterfront Vision project, part of the Port Vision 2050 plan, was the result of “an 18-month process that sought input on goals for Port activities through 2050 from key stakeholders and the community at large”. The sector begins at the Hands on Children’s Museum to the south and runs all the way to Hearthfire restaurant to the north. To the south will be administrative offices. Then come mixed use (residential over commercial/retail), parking, restaurants and retail space

This doesn’t include parcel 2 further to the south, just east of the new Westman Mill development adjoining State Ave and Chestnut which is already under contract. Moxlie Creek which drains one of the largest watersheds in Olympia, passes under this parcel in a long culvert.

This scale of development along the shoreline will impede ecological function, reduce opportunities for cleanup of legacy contamination and eliminate restoration potential. Stopping any of these projects is going to be difficult because the City has pulled its own regulatory teeth. Coincidentally, the City’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) is currently under Periodic Review and comments will be accepted.

The SMP is dominated by make believe:

A. Dioxin is present in Budd Inlet sediments in concentrations that exceed every threshold and continues to flow into the bay from undetermined sources stemming from historic pole treatment operations. The Olympia Shoreline Master Program (SMP) barely mentions this most significant problem. In the early 1980s 1.1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments were dredged from in front of Cascade Pole and used as fill along the eastern side of the Port Peninsula, adjoining East Bay. Dredge spoils since have gone into a containment cell with steel sheet piling and slurry walls that will inevitably fail.

Dioxin is probably the most biologically damaging non-radioactive chemical known. It is actually a bunch of similar chemicals. We take the equivalence of what they would add up to and call it dioxin. These are expressed in parts per trillion (PPT).

Dioxin has been described as flat like a frisbee and sharp around the edges. It can cut or lodge in the double helix damaging DNA. If the damaged cell replicates you can have things like cancer and birth defects. Theoretically, a single molecule of dioxin could kill you. There is no totally safe level of exposure. And dioxin can be absorbed through the skin.

The standard for open water disposal is 3.5 ppt. For a MTCA cleanup site 11 ppt. According to the 2008 Budd Inlet Sediment Characterization, there is a dioxin hotspot with 540 ppt in the nearshore bank near the Hands on Children’s Museum and 167 ppt in the neighboring benthic surface and 1000 ppt in the benthic subsurface. Anyone wading into that mud would sink knee deep and be exposed to orders of magnitude beyond what’s considered acceptable risk.

The characterization states: “Additional evaluation is needed at the Hardel Mutual Plywood site and the Moxlie Creek discharge to determine whether these sites are significant sources of dioxin/furan contamination…”(page 54) Has this ever been done? The Budd Inlet Sediment Dioxin Source Study dated March of 2016 does not attempt to locate specific sources or pathways of dioxin hotspots.

B. Dioxin is not the only problem. East Bay has the poorest water quality in Budd Inlet. It fails for virtually every parameter including bacteria, temperature, dissolved oxygen, fine sediment and nutrient loading. These failures are directly related to loss of ecological function through dredging and filling the bay and running its tributaries through long culverts.

One of the stated goals of the SMP is “To ensure, at a minimum, no net loss of shoreline ecological functions and processes and to plan for restoring shorelines that have been impaired or degraded by adopting and fostering the policy contained in RCW 90.58.020,” Where has this ever happened?

The Port’s Destination Waterfront Vision plan suggests four improvements for East Bay:

  1. “Plant 2,300 linear feet of shoreline to create a functional riparian zone”. No mention of what is meant by planting “shoreline”, no mention of species. And no explanation as to how planting shoreline will “create and functional riparian zone” or provide “ecological function”.
  2. “Reconstruct the mouth of Indian/Moxlie Creek and estuary”. No explanation of what this means. I’d hypothesize that Daylighting the estuary out of its half mile long culvert is the only way to do it. Once again, where’s the science?
  3. Plant approximately 1,500 feet of nearshore riparian vegetation along East Bay Drive”.
  4. Plant approximately 4,200 linear feet of riparian vegetation. 1, 3 and 4 all seem to be part of the same effort totaling 8000 linear feet.

Allowed building setbacks are 30 feet from the high water mark. Given that some of this is riprap and other armoring and waterfront trails and other features, the width of planting will likely be less. Riparian buffers composed of vegetation become effective at somewhere between 16ft and 1920 ft of width depending on site characteristics and the nature of contaminants. Given the critical nature of estuarine environments, we might hope for the higher number.

The riparian buffer does not exist in a vacuum. In marine nearshore environments where beaches are fringed with riparian vegetation, the upper intertidal wrack zone accumulates organic debris from algae, seagrass and terrestrial plants and provides food and shelter for many organisms. Armored beaches have substantially less organic matter and ecological connectivity. A narrow riparian planting will do little if placed on top of a pile of rock.

C. No science.

a. There’s no classic scientific inquiry, the clear statement of observation> hypothesis> test> conclusion. This is important because so often a conclusion is buried and not supported.

b. There’s no analysis of primary production and no analysis of the impacts of physical parameters on chemical and biological production. That is, there’s no basic oceanography.

D. And finally, the City’s SMP is ignored in practice where it would count.

Under 2.34 Restoration and Enhancement Policies:

“A. Olympia recognizes the importance of restoration of shoreline ecological functions and processes and encourages cooperative restoration efforts and programs… to address shorelines with impaired ecological functions and processes”. Really?

“B. Restoration actions should restore shoreline ecological functions and processes as well as shoreline features and should be targeted towards meeting the needs of sensitive and/or locally important plant, fish and wildlife species as well as the biologic recovery goals for State and federally listed species and populations” Sounds good. Never happens.

“F. Incorporate restoration and enhancement measures into the design and construction of new uses and development, public infrastructure (e.g., roads, utilities), and public recreation facilities”. Never happens.

“G. Shoreline restoration and enhancement should be considered as an alternative to structural stabilization and protection measures where feasible”. Never happens.

“M. Restoration and enhancement projects may include shoreline modification actions provided the primary purpose of such actions is clearly restoration of the natural character and ecological functions of the shoreline”. A dream.

Under appendix June 12, 2012

“To meet current Shoreline Master Program requirements, at a minimum the Restoration Plan must consider and address the following subjects (WAC 173‐26‐201(2)(f)): Identify degraded areas, impaired ecological functions, and sites with potential for ecological restoration; Establish overall goals and priorities for restoration of degraded areas and impaired ecological functions.. the Restoration Plan is intended to identify shoreline, or areas upland that impact shorelines, that need to be restored to a healthy and functioning condition. The Plan is for the purpose of identifying potential projects and programs that would contribute or achieve restoration for those degraded areas”. Where? When?

“Salmon have been confirmed in Mission, Moxlie, and Schneider Creeks, which all empty into Budd Inlet”. That’s it?

“When prioritizing restoration actions, the City will give highest priority to measures that have the greatest chance of re‐establishing shoreline ecological functions and processes.” This would be restoring estuaries.

“Reconnect Fish Passage to Budd Inlet, and Restore Mouths of Tributary Streams. Expanding available fish habitat and spawning opportunities for fish is a high priority. Perhaps the most frequently encountered fish passage barriers are culverts that are improperly designed, installed, or maintained, and channel alterations that result in impassable conditions (Harry & Konovsky 1999)”. All talk no action.

“Ongoing or recommended restoration projects or programs that would restore and improve fish passage and mouths of tributary streams include”: At this point we might expect to see a list of “restoration projects and programs” but what we see is a list of non-profits and other groups.

“Critical Areas regulations in effect on October 1, 2013, contained in the Olympia Municipal Code (OMC) Chapter 18.32 and 16.70, require “that current and potential ecological functions be identified and understood when evaluating new or expanded uses and developments”, that “adverse impacts to be mitigated in a manner that ensures no net loss of shoreline ecological functions” and that this “shall include avoidance as a first priority” and that there be “incentives to restore shoreline ecological functions where such functions have been degraded by past actions”. Once again it never happens.

“The protection, restoration and enhancement of shoreline ecological functions and system‐wide processes, especially as they pertain to the long‐term health of Budd Inlet, are high priorities of Olympia’s Shoreline Program”. How’s that?

Ecology states:: “In regards to scientific data and ecological functions, protection of the shoreline environment is an essential statewide policy goal, consistent with the other policy goals of the Shoreline Management Act (Act). To satisfy the requirements for the use of scientific and technical information in RCW 90.58.100(l), the Guidelines require local governments to identify and assemble the most curent, accurate, and complete scientific and technical information available, and to base their Master Program provisions on an analysis that incorporates this information. WAC I73-26-201(2)(a) states that local governments should be prepared to identify three things: the scientific information and management recommendations on which the Master Program provisions are based; assumptions made concerning and data gaps in the scientific information; and risks to ecological functions associated with Master Program provisions fthrough the process identified in WAC 113-26-201(3Xd)]….”when determining allowable uses and resolving use conflicts on shorelines”, local governments must apply the following preferences and priorities in the order listed below: Number one (i) Protect and restoring ecological functions…” Olympia is not complying with these provisions.

Conclusion: Environmentally, we could not find a worse place to develop than the nearshore. This is being done solely for economic reasons.

The “Consultant Team” for the Destination Waterfront Vision project contains six names. Two are from Thomas Architects, one is a Seattle architect specializing in nearshore developments, two are engineers and one is a contractor. The push is to develop.

We are now documenting catastrophic declines in marine species from phytoplankton through fish and birds all the way up to the largest marine mammals. One of the causes of this is our destruction of estuaries like Budd Inlet with urban development. If we care at all about the earth on which we live and its ability to sustain life we need to restore the Budd Inlet estuary, not eliminate that possibility forever.

Deschutes TMDL Letter to the EPA

On July 31, 2020 The EPA established Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for nutrients, dissolved oxygen and other factors for Budd Inlet, the Deschutes River and other tributaries in the watershed. The following letter was submitted in response:


A Total Maximum Daily Load is a numerical value representing the highest amount of pollutant a surface water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. The number is not a constant. Different water bodies respond differently to pollutants. Any study should logically, if we’re interested in solving the problem, include how these differences are manifested in a water body.

Oceanographically, this might be expressed as the study of the interrelationships between physical, chemical and biological parameters. Physical parameters would include things like depth, mixing patterns and availability of sunlight. Chemical parameters would include things like dissolved oxygen and nutrients. Biological parameters would include things like phytoplankton and zooplankton up to apex predators like diving ducks. These things do not exist in self-contained vacuums. They effect each other in ways that deserve rigorous analysis.

The report barely mentions tributaries that drain directly to Budd Inlet, principally Ellis, Schneider and Moxlie Creeks. The combined estuaries of these streams historically comprised as great an area as the estuary of the Deschutes River. The only assessments seem to be for E. coli which may be an indication of other problems but itself poses no threat to the marine environment. Even if we do only consider E. coli, most of the fecal coliform bacteria in Budd Inlet – 93% – comes from two sources: Capitol Lake/Deschutes River and Moxlie Creek. What data we have for dissolved oxygen indicates that DO is lowest near Capitol Lake and in East Bay, the estuary of Moxlie Creek.

What about the past? We know what Budd Inlet looked like from old maps, drawings and photos. East Bay, the estuary of Moxlie Creek, was a predominant feature in shaping Budd Inlet. Many rivers have a companion stream, Hylebos for the Puyallup, Medicine Creek for the Nisqually and others. First People lived sustainably in South Puget Sound for thousands of years. We know from accounts by Edwin Tolmie and others that they understood the importance of stream estuaries, each of which was occupied by a band of 50 to 100 people.

What will it look like in the future? In the 1980s, 1.1 million cubic yards of contaminated dredge spoils were used as fill to create 54 acres of uplands, nobody knows exactly where. In the following years, more dredge spoils were dumped on the Cascade Pole site which was turned into a containment cell. Dioxin concentrations inside the cell are said to be comparable to Love Canal. The containment cell has sheet steel walls that will fail in the salt water and we’ll have a mess like at the Wyckoff/Eagle Harbor Superfund Site only worse. That will be the next generation’s problem, not ours.

Flawed efforts:

In 2008, combined governing bodies completed a Sediment Characterization of Budd Inlet at great expense. The next steps were to be to “evaluate potential sources”, That never happened. We’ve decided instead to base the order of cleanup on development preferences and in the process little has been cleaned up. There are sub-tidal sediments in the vicinity of East Bay Waterfront Park with dioxin contamination as high as 1100 parts per trillion. The area should be fenced. This and other studies also found high levels of dioxin contamination in benthic surface sediments indicating uncontrolled sources.

Budd Inlet is an artesian discharge zone. The 100 plus historic wells and springs in downtown Olympia, combined with the prevalence of groundwater seeps, form an additional tributary, one that may be in worse shape than any of the others.

The Budd Inlet Sediment Dioxin Source Study 2016 states: “Moxlie Creek discharges through a large (72 inch) outfall at the south end of the East Bay. Moxlie Creek originates as an artesian spring approximately 1.5 miles south of the East Bay (Anchor QEA 2013). The creek is fully covered prior to discharging into Budd Inlet… Elevated surface sediment concentrations of dioxin/furan congeners were noted in the south end of East Bay during the 2007 Sediment Investigation (SAIC 2008). Subsurface cores collected in 2013 had some of the highest dioxin/furan concentrations measured in Budd Inlet (Anchor QEA 2013). Determining whether the outfall or other historical activities were the source of these dioxins/furans is a key component of this study and is discussed in Section 5.2.” This was never done.

The Forward of the Source Study states that the Port’s consultant’s findings that the source of dioxin is hog fuel burning, mixed urban sources, regional sediment profiles, urban background, sewage and nearby catch basins are off the mark and counters that the serious problem in Budd Inlet is pentachlorophenol (PCP).” The Forward concludes:
“The Department of Ecology, after consultation with regional experts, disagrees with the Port of Olympia’s chemometric analysis for the following reasons: The Port’s interpretation cannot explain the presence of dioxin/furan contamination hot-spots. The primary sources/factors identified by the Port of Olympia’s analysis were only diffuse sources. The Port of Olympia’s source factor profiles are not supported by their own site investigation
data and site history. The Port of Olympia does not address historical dioxin/furan contamination and the dispersion
and mixing pattern of the sediments. As the Department of Ecology moves forward with the cleanup of Budd Inlet sediments we will base all future decisions on the results and interpretation found in the Ecology study” (Budd Inlet Sediment Dioxin Source Study Olympia, WA (Newfields 2015).

Since then, in overseeing nearshore development, Ecology has reversed course again, going with the Port’s consultant, looking for surface contamination from hog fuel burning and mixed urban sources.

Westman Mill, a Case Study:

Westman Mill is an 85 unit complex with ground floor retail currently under constructionon on fill in the center of the historic estuary of Moxie Creek. Olympia Urban Waters League (OUWL) appealed the development’s SEPA checklist, suggesting the assessment for dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) like dioxin laden creosote (PCP) at the site was inadequate. Only near surface samples were taken whereas DNAPLs tend to sink. The assumption was that any contamination would be from plywood manufacturing and hog fuel burning and if there were any problems they would originate from theses activities.

The Sediment Dioxin Source Study 2016 states “All sediment samples in Budd Inlet had a similar dioxin/furan congener profile, or fingerprint that of PCP originating at Cascade Pole. Elevated dioxin/furan concentrations near the Moxlie Creek discharge also showed a congener profile similar to PCP. Additional source and sediment evaluations may be needed at these sites to determine whether they have significant sources of dioxin/furan contamination through the use of PCP. Additional current studies ininner Budd Inlet may also be needed to determine whether circulation patterns could result in the transport and accumulation of dioxins/furans (originating from Cascade Pole sources) to these areas.”

The OUWL appeal also claimed that the development would forever eliminate the restoration option impacting both endangered species of salmon that spawn in the creek and water quality. East Bay and Moxlie Creek, its principal tributary, are both degraded for numerous parameters. Moxlie Creek, which flows into East Bay, is encased in a half-mile-long, underground, concrete pipe. This affects the creek’s ability to assimilate necessary levels of oxygen from both the atmosphere and the workings of phytoplankton. Moxlie Creek needs to be “daylighted.”

Daylighting the creek would entail taking it out of the pipe and allowing it to flow above ground. Allowing any section of the creek to “breathe” would likely improve water quality. If only the mouth of the creek, the estuary, were opened, the exchange between salt and fresh water would happen more as it should.

The Hearing Examiner’s decision was that “The culvert conveying the waters of Moxlie Creek to the outfall into Eastbay is not a “stream” as defined by the City’s Critical Areas Ordinance. “This appeal is in essence a collateral attack on the City’s zoning ordinances, development regulations, and Comprehensive Plan.” In other words the stream does not exist. These regulations might make some sense if they are applying to existing structures. In this and most cases however they apply to new developments in sensitive areas.

Black Lake, a case study:

Black Lake lies at the headwaters of Percival Creek which flows into Capital Lake which flows into Budd Inlet. The Black Lake Special District sprays the lake with glyphosate, diquat and other poisons and recently requested $1.4 million to treat the lake for algae with alum. Prior to doing this we might employ some classical science: 1. We observe that nutrients in the lake contribute to an over-growth of aquatic plant life. (observation) 2. The source of these nutrients is septic tanks (hypothesis1). The source of these nutrients is fertilizers (hypothesis 2). 3. Conduct a chemical analysis of lake water (test 1). Measure geographic nutrient distribution (test 2). 4. Publish the findings and develop a plan to reduce nutrient input into the lake. To immediately employ poisons is not a science based approach.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants and quality standards for surface waters. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the basic national charter for protection of the environment. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection & Restoration Act (CWPPRA) is designed to identify, prepare, and fund construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects.

In the words of Randy Newman, “Who’s in charge here?” That’s not easy to figure out. Here’s a guess. Under the Growth Management Act, nobody. We need to consult the Deschutes River TMDL study from the Feds, The Water Quality Improvement Report (WQIR) published by the Washington Department of Ecology and the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) from the City of Olympia. The Olympia SMP seems to have the inside track. When addressing the City Council, advocates have been advised more than once not to use words like phytoplankton because “nobody knows what that means.” Local jurisdictions who are least equipped to understand the issues and most susceptible to special interests are the ones making the important land use decisions.

East Bay versus West Bay, a case study:

A few years ago local governing bodies embarked on a plan to restore the Port Lagoon, the intertidal area between the railroad berm and West By Drive. Plans included removing sections of the berm. Members of the City Council characterized it as “strongly based in science”. The plan by contrast, like to many others, makes a mockery of the term “best available science” to which we’re supposed to be aspiring.

The berm went in about 100 years ago and represents a mature benthic community. One might hypothesize that removing this benthic community will have a deleterious effect on species richness and abundance and water quality. Or not. Where’s the science – observation>hypothesis>test>conclusion?

In a letter dated December 05, 2015, City Manager Steve Hall writes: “Our current environmental restoration efforts in the City are focused on West Bay which has active salmon runs, bird nesting and many other advantages over the Moxlie area. We are in the middle of a habitat study on west bay with the Squaxin Island tribe, the Port and others to improve environmental conditions on West Bay. Any future dollars we invest in restoration are likely to be directed there and not to East Bay. We don’t have the staff or money to also do Moxlie and I would not recommend the City or the Port change course from our West Bay efforts. If you are looking for optimal environmental impact, I’d urge you to follow the West Bay work.”

The idea that the Port Lagoon has the most restoration potential because it’s the least damaged is illogical. An intact area has no restoration potential. A completely damaged area has 100% restoration potential. Although the lagoon is a part of the estuary of the Deschutes River the same could be said about the entire bay and unlike East Bay the lagoon is not itself an estuary.

The City of Olympia is relying mainly on the West Bay Environmental Restoration Assessment Final Report of February 2016. The report was prepared by: Coast & Harbor Engineering, a Division of Hatch Mott MacDonald who specializes in sediment transport modeling and bulkhead design, in association with JA Brennan Associates GeoEngineers who specialize in landscape architecture and Davido Consulting Group Environmental Science Associates who describe themselves as “excellence in engineering”. All appear to be engineering firms.

Engineering is not science. They are separate, related, disciplines. Scientists explore the natural world. Discovery is the essence of science. Engineers innovate solutions. Engineering without science can be haphazard. Scientific discovery without engineering can be solely academic.

Under Olympia codes once a stream enters a pipe it no longer exists. There may be some logic in this if we’re talking about demolishing existing structures to restore streams. But the rule is more often applied in allowing new construction in what should be considered ecologically important locations. In support we’re supplied with shotgunned data and engineering reports leading us nowhere. Conclusions are buried in the document. There’s no connection between observation and hypothesis: We observe poor water quality in a stream. Might that be because we’ve broken the connection to the hyporheic zone or that we’re denying the stream sunlight?


Total Maximum Daily Load refers to estimation of a water body’s assimilative capacity (i.e., loading capacity). That assimilative capacity needs to be part of the investigation or we are siloing.

The streams, the river and the bay into which they all flow are not separate from each other. Physical, chemical and biological parameters are not separate from each other. Past, present and future are not separate from each other.

Estuaries are important for plankton. There’s been a $40% reduction in plankton world wide. Diatoms, the largest type of phytoplankton, have declined globally more than 1 percent per year between 1998 to 2012, with significant losses occurring in the North Pacific. Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. They’re a major source of atmospheric oxygen. Their cumulative fixation of carbon through primary production is the basis of oceanic food webs. Phytoplankton are the oldest and one of the biggest carbon sinks.

Sea grass and salt marsh hold fifteen times the carbon per acre as the Amazon rain forest. When coastal habitats are lost not only do they no longer capture carbon, carbon captured in the past is released. They turn from carbon sink to carbon emitter.

The Living Planet Index score for freshwater populations of water dwelling animals has plummeted by 83 percent. A report from the World Wildlife Fund affirms a nearly 50% decline in marine life populations between 1970 and 2012.

In Budd Inlet, as of 2002, birds facing local extinction included: Red-necked, Horned and Western Grebes, Pelagic Cormorant, Surf Scoter, Barrows Goldeneye, Hooded, Common and Re-breasted Merganzers, Ruddy Duck, Bonaparte’s Gull and Mew and Red-winged gulls. White Winged and Black Scoters, American Wigeon, Canvasback and Rhinoceros Auklet were already considered locally extinct.. Today, 18 years later, they’re all essentially gone.

The Moxlie creek culvert is intertidal. The tide backs up twice each day. It’s a mix of fresh water and saltwater environments. We’ve lost over 160 acres of tide flats, sea grass and salt marsh to fill in the historic estuary. Olympia sits on 160 miles of culverted surface waters. The City is absolutely opposed to restoring one single inch of any of it. Contaminated surface sediments indicate that dioxin continues to flow into the bay and the sources remain unknown. Water quality fails for dissolved oxygen, nitrates and bacteria. TMDL, the total maximum daily load refers to how much pollution a water body can absorb. It’s not just about the pollution, it’s about the water body.

Budd Inlet is an ecological train wreck. What was once salt marsh, herring, smelt, salmon, diving ducks and other species has become something more akin to a septic tank. Science has been diverted and compartmentalized, geographical areas and watersheds have been chopped up and time has been frozen in the present. The Federal Government is mandated with protecting and restoring clean water and preventing species from becoming extinct and should not abdicate this responsibility.

According to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, species are in a catastrophic decline and the impacts will be broad reaching. The convention has issued what is called the “final report card” on progress against the 20 global biodiversity targets that were agreed to in 2010 with a 2020 deadline. Next year at the UN biodiversity conference, countries are expected to adopt a new framework to put nature on a path to recovery by 2030.

That framework – which has been dubbed a “Paris climate agreement for nature”, will encompass eight major transitions that all 196 nations will be expected to commit to including protecting habitats and reducing the degradation of soil; redesigning the way we farm; eating a more sustainable diet; protecting and restoring marine ecosystems; fishing sustainably; urban greening; and taking a ‘One Health’ approach, managing our environment as a whole.

TMDL analyses by their nature, considering a limited number of chemicals in a limited geographic area at only the present time, are essentially the opposite. This TMDL study is particularly egregious because of the arbitrary dividing of a single watershed into segments; the exclusion of important parameters in tributaries that are directly connected to Budd Inlet; and the absence of a plan to deal with persistent bio-accumulative toxins that continue to flow into Budd Inlet from unidentified sources.

Harry Branch

Read the EPA statement and comment:

Further reading:

Wetland/Riparian Management EPA. “It is important to preserve and restore wetlands and riparian areas because these areas can play a significant role in managing adverse water quality impacts. Wetlands, including depressional wetlands, and riparian areas help decrease the need for costly stormwater and flood protection facilities.”

Guidance for the “protection and restoration of wetlands and riparian areas, as well as the implementation of vegetated treatment systems.”

“The loss of nearshore habitat is the most significant threat to the health of marine waters in Puget Sound and Georgia Basin” (British Columbia/Washington Marine Science Panel, 1994).

Graphic of what’s intended. Parcel 3 has been developed. Moxlie Creek flows under Chestnut and across parcels 1 and 2, three buildings in the lower right center that will be constructed next:

More on Moxlie Creek:

Olympic Coast Sanctuary

Spring of 1995 I was invited to attend a three day planning session in Neah Bay, Washington, in the Northwest corner of the United States. The meeting, was put together by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Sanctuary and Reserve Division to discuss the new Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Five biologists and oceanographers stayed in a home belonging to a member of the Macaw Tribe of Indians for whom Neah Bay is home. I was invited because I had just completed a masters thesis on marine reserves and I was a licensed captain.

The first night, over dinner, people shared what they’d like to accomplish in the way of research — everything from dissolved oxygen to sea otters. My contribution consisted of trying to impress upon everyone how challenging the conditions would be.

One of the scientists presented a bottle of krill sauce that he had acquired in Antarctica of which he was very proud. The sauce made its way around the table. Everyone took a whiff, shrugged and passed it on. When the bottle reached me I held it near my nose, inhaled, and fell into retching convulsions, as it I had inhaled cyanide gas.

Work the first summer was limited. A single wide mobile home was moved onto an ideal setting next to the water at the Coast Guard base. Lieutenant Commander George Galasso ran the operation. George and Ed spent most of their time in Port Angeles seventy miles to the east leaving the mobile home and boat to me.

The boat, Tatoosh, was 40 feet long, aluminum and powered with twin 250 horsepower Volvos that were supercharged up to a thousand rpms when the turbos would kick in. It would go 31 knots on flat water. The boat had large unlocked hatches through which the engine room could be accessed. Unlike a sailboat the boat was not self righting. If she rolled she’d likely stay upside down and sink. A raft on the cabin top would theoretically inflate.

The spring of 1996 began with some minor projects to get things going. Between June 17 and the 21 we did a major oceanographic study, collecting data on chlorophyll and photosynthesis. The group was comprised of George, Ed and myself from NOAA and Carl, Ricardo and Alice from Oregon State University.

We motored out to the Pacific Ocean where we headed south from Cape Flattery, running at 2600 rpms through three foot waves. The autopilot steered while those of us with sea legs stood, knees bent, in a line down the center of the cabin holding onto overhead handrails. Those lacking sea legs, flopped on the deck violently seasick. It was a bone jarring ride but time was money. On this day only myself and Carl were doing well. Carl had circumnavigated the world in a small sailboat.

We stopped south of Destruction Island about 1000 yards off Kalaloch. Carl, using a tethered spectrophotometer, measured chlorophyl. Alice took water samples and stored them in a container of liquid nitrogen for later analysis. Our work was part of a bigger project, looking for correlations between intertidal and offshore biomass, pelagic activity and primary production. A ship, the MacArthur, sampled offshore at the same time and latitude intervals.

Scientists applied for opportunities to pursue research in the sanctuary. They got one shot and we did all we could to facilitate their work. A total of 85 stations, chosen at random, were sampled over the week. In some instances they were located close to shore among rocks, kelp and waves. The Tatoosh being shallow draft and powerful was perfect for this work. Even so some locations could not be safely reached in which case we got as close as we could.

By Wednesday the seas had subsided and fog set in reducing visibility to about five hundred feet. We ran at 3200 rpms making about 28 knots, watching ahead for floats marking crab traps.

The following day, seas were flat in the morning. We ran out between Tatoosh Island and Cape Flattery and south down the Pacific Coast. By late afternoon the wind and seas picked up for the drive home. Running north Tatoosh quartered waves off the stern and yawed heavily requiring that she be steered by hand rather than autopilot. We passed north of Tatoosh Island into the heart of the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we turned east. The wind and waves were now coming directly from astern.

Wind coming from astern at 25 knots and the boat traveling at the same 25 knots meant the apparent wind was zero. A calm, sunny bubble surrounded the boat as it roared dreamlike through whitecaps.

Tatoosh approached a wave from the back side and leapt off weightless and suspended in air, to the lower elevation in front of the wave, making a soft landing in foam. If we had lost power in either engine when coming off a wave the results would have been catastrophic.

On July 8, 1996, we were conducting VIP tours, ferrying federal and state bureaucrats and politicians out to the McArthur lying offshore. Gale warnings had been issued but as of mid-morning winds and seas were still moderate. We arrived alongside the McArthur and were thrown heavy nylon mooring lines, one from the ship’s bow and one from the stern. The lines were as long as possible, allowing Tatoosh to move with the waves. We bounced off soft fenders, measuring 2 1/2 by 4 feet, up against the ship and then away from it, stretching the mooring lines to the near breaking point. We were at one moment abreast of the ship’s deck and the next somewhere down and away.

At day’s end we returned to the McArthur to bring the VIPs back to shore. The wind and seas had picked up making the process even more challenging. As Tatoosh came up to the level of the ship’s deck, a VIP would hop from the ship to the boat. The last one, a State Senator of middle age, refused to jump.

“You have to do it,” the captain of the McArthur told her. “You can’t stay aboard. We need to move on.”

“I can’t,” she replied. “I just can’t”.

The MacArthur’s captain and first mate guided the woman to the edge of the ship and George told me to stand facing him in the center of Tatoosh’s main deck. This was a drill that had been done before. When the decks of the two vessels were next to each other, the woman was essentially tossed from the McArthur to the Tatoosh where she landed half supported by George and myself. She laughed “Oh my God. Well, that wasn’t so bad”.

We did bird counts, following paths that were logged into the Differential GPS, a government version of the civilian GPS that at the time was exceptionally accurate, so accurate that yawing in waves appeared on the screen a half second later. Other groups performed biological and archeological studies. Everyone lived in the single wide mobile home from one to three weeks.

The Sea Otter catch and release project was most resourceful. The work was coordinated by Ron Jameson of Oregon State University. We’d head south to Ozette Island and follow GPS waypoints between rocks to a secure anchorage behind the island where we’d anchor for the day. I mostly lounged around reading. Sometimes I’d help wrangle an otter. In the water they’re cute. But they’re members of the Mustelidae family which includes wolverines and honey badgers and have a bone crushing bite.

Capturing the otters was quite a show. Two highly experienced divers used rebreathers instead of standard compressed air scuba. The rebreathers save exhaled air and treat it and add a little oxygen so that when re-inhaled it will sustain life. The systems require complicated daily maintenance to which the divers would attend every evening. This was all done so the otters wouldn’t smell them approaching behind their electric James Bond underwater scooters.

The divers would sneak up underneath the otters and push off from the bottom giving the scooter full acceleration. The scooter would come flying out of the water with a thrashing otter trapped in a net attached to the front. They’d move to a 20 foot Boston Whaler where the otter and net were stuffed into a plywood box with a sliding lid.

Aboard the Tatoosh, we’d slide the lid open, force the otter down into the box with a rolled up sleeping bag and the veterinarian would knock it out with an injection. They’d tag it if it hadn’t been tagged, weigh it and give it a medical checkup. The vet would give it another shot to wake it up and after a half hour or so the otter would be released overboard.

Occasionally the vet would install a radio transmitter in the otter’s body cavity. Other members of the team working ashore with radio direction finders would track where the otter spent its time. Reassuring bold letters on the side of the radio implants read “not for human implant”.

I sometimes felt that all this bothering of sea otters wasn’t doing them any good. But around the dinner table at night I learned enough to trust the experts. Sea otters had been hunted to the brink of extinction. To recover with such a small gene pool was a long shot. Some otters needed to be moved to create geographically separated local populations as soon a possible. The results were looking encouraging.

The last project I’ll mention is the benthic macroinvertebrate assessment in which divers lay a one meter square metal frame on the bottom and pluck every crustacean, polychaete, chiton and other living thing they can see from within the perimeter of the frame, placing them in a mesh bag. In the evening they’d lay them out on the kitchen table, naming each organism and weighing the total for each square meter. By quantifying the samples they could get a general idea of biomass which could be reassessed over time.

If there ever was a boat I never grew to trust, it would be Tatoosh. She ran fast when she ran right. But she was a dog when things went wrong and such a complicated boat that things often did go wrong. Running on one engine in a following sea, she wallowed and broached in every wave.

On one such occasion we had cell phone service and called the dealer in Seattle. The likely cause was inside a control box. The dealer advised us not to open the box as all we’d find is “kitty litter and tin foil”.

Nonetheless, the work and the coworkers were unexcelled. Astounding beauty abounds at Cape Flattery. Words can’t really describe the place. But I had a budding family in Olympia, a six hour drive south and my patience was wearing thin after being gone for weeks at a time.

One lazy afternoon I was loading waypoints into the GPS at the base in Neah Bay. A Coastie was working on a Rescue 44 across the dock. “Nice boat,” he said.

“It’s OK.”

“Fast. I see you guys out running like, what, about thirty knots?”

“Yeah, about thirty” I replied.

“I can’t do that. That’s great how the deck and the cabin are on the same level.”

“Yeah it’s a handy set up.”

“Uh hum,” he said. “You got a nice boat. Of course, my boat will run upside down.”

I laughed. “I’ll trade you.”

“No thanks.”

I talked a number of times with the visitor, a boatswain named David Bosley who had been repeatedly cited for bravery. He spent most of his time in La Push, a hole in the wall on the outer coast known for nasty weather, huge waves and rocks.

The following year a sailboat was in trouble near La Push. David and three other Coasties headed out in a winter storm to save them. The Rescue 44 was tossed end over end onto the rocks and all save one were lost. The conditions were just too extreme.

It was up to the Brass in Port Angeles to set some kind of threshold for wind and waves beyond which a rescue would not be attempted. Instead they claimed that the deceased David Bosley exercised poor judgment. Since when has a Coast Guard boatswain ever said, “I don’t think I’ll go out today, it’s too rough.” David Bosley was a hero.

Evergreen Sailing Part Two

In the late 1980s Evergreen embarked on an additional project, restoring a 44’ Luders Yawl named the Resolute, which along with a sister ship named Flirt was purchased for a dollar in a government auction. They were part of a fleet of a dozen matching boats that served as training vessels at the Annapolis Naval Academy in the years during and following WWII.

Flirt was re-sold and RScreen Shot 2020-07-18 at 8.58.28 PM.jpegesolute spent a few years under a shed in the maintenance yard at Evergreen having some frames and decking replaced. For the first time an engine was installed, a 30 horsepower Perkins. The work was supervised by Don Fassett, a cantankerous, retired naval engineer and machinist. Don was full of truisms like “don’t hit it harder get a bigger hammer” or “a little putty and little paint will make the old girl what she ain’t” or more succinctly “it says here” which could serve as justification for anything under the sun. The original Kilroy, Don could fix an aircraft carrier at sea.

IMG_8807Don also owned a 40 foot William Garden designed sloop named Swirl II that he added to the fleet. Swirl II was not certified for commercial use so the number of paying passengers was limited to six

The Resolute, certified to carry 13 paying passengers, was launched and joined the fleet in early 1990. With the addition of the Resolute, the total number students for day trips now stood at 31 — 12 for the Seawulff, 13 for the Resolute and 6 for Swirl II.

Summer excursions were now capable of comfortably carrying 18 paying passengers. By charging each passenger $250 for a week long trip we were able to pay captains and boats more than $100 per day each. Don’s cut including Swirl II came to $1200 per week.

Leisure Education paid the full amount to me, the expectation being that I would then donate half back to the Evergreen Foundation which would disburse payments for the boats’ maintenance. For three consecutive years the donation was enough to put me into the President’s Club and buy me a dinner with Joe Olander, the College President. Then someone noticed that not only did I donate nothing, I took half. Henceforth the school’s half was taken up front.

The Resolute came with an impressive pedigree, things like winning the Bermuda Yacht Race. She had been sailed by at least two presidents, JFK and Jimmy Carter. Rumor had it that Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe spent the night aboard in San Diego where the boat was kept for several years.

We entered the Resolute in a couple of races and kept pace with the fastest modern boats. We also scheduled weekend Leisure Ed classes around boat shows and other events in Seattle and Port Townsend where we handed out flyers for the upcoming summer trips.

Whatever else we were doing, we inevitably ended up teaching sailing as well. Having grown up sailing on my father’s boats I remember little of the learning process and am a terrible sailing instructor. I assume people know things they don’t and have little patience.

Don’s approach was simple: “Keep yourself in the boat. Keep the boat in the water. Keep the water out of the boat.” He was quick to remind people of things like the “left handed rule of thumb”. If you hold a line in your left hand so that it’s coming out from under your thumb and coil it with your right hand it will naturally coil clockwise like it should. If you pull the line to an arm’s length each time, each coil will be six feet in length. Counting the number of coils and multiplying by six gives you the total length. And so on. Hopefully some students learned a thing or two. Some people instinctively have a feel for it. Some people can take the wheel and immediately find the groove. And some people would never find it in a million years.

In 1990-91 Fred Tabbutt put together a year long program called Geology and Chemistry of Pollution. We went out once a week, ultimately collecting over 250 benthic samples and analyzing them for lead, cadmium, copper and some organic compounds. It was advanced work for an undergraduate undertaking. Students learned everything from basic chemistry to the operation of a gas chromatograph.

Fred had a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University and was teaching chemistry at Reed College prior to coming to Evergreen as one of the initial faculty. While sailing to or from sampling sites Fred would go through work books solving equations. What’s torture for some is meditation for others.

We did day trips for Upward Bound, a non-profit getting inner city kids out of Tacoma into nature. On one trip the wind was flat when we left the dock. We put the sails up and motored out into Budd Inlet. A high school age girl was sitting on the aft cabin next to me. A very slight wind filled the sails and the boat healed half a degree. I noticed her finger nails dig into the teak as she spoke. “Why’s this muthafucka leanin?'”

I replied “This muthafucka’s supposed to lean”. I went on to explain the basic principals and realized I had everyone’s complete attention. We sailed along in the gentle wind and I told stories all afternoon.

We did overnight trips through Olympia Parks and Recreation. On one of these a young man spent the entire weekend on the bow, watching the bow wake. When departing he stated “This has been the best experience of my life”. We taught a little sailing to those interested in learning. The life changing benefits may have been the invisible ones.

During summers we continued to offer Leisure Ed trips in British Columbia for the general public. A few academic programs also ventured north. On one of these trips we were entering the US through Blaine with three boats and 22 students. I picked up a phone at the head of the dock.

“Hi we’d like to enter the US. I’m skippering the Seawulff on an educational trip for The Evergreen State College.”

“Get back aboard the boat. Don’t allow anyone off. We’re watching you. We’ll be down in a minute.”

Three agents soon appeared at the head of the dock, accompanied by a medium sized black dog. First they had everyone line up on the dock with their personal belongings. The dog sniffed her way down the line. The agents pulled everything out of every cupboard, lifted up all the floorboards and made a general mess of all three boats. The dog went through everything. As they headed up the dock one agent could be overheard. “Must have been a false tip”.

In June of 1992 I got wind of a guest faculty hire named Gerardo Chin Leo. Although hired to teach Spanish, Gerardo had a PhD in oceanography., I found him in his office and talked him into doing an August class in Oceanography. We’d study primary production (Desolation Sound), a fjord (Princess Louisa Inlet), and estuary (the Fraser River) and marine environments (Juan de Fuca). We’d practice and learn chemistry, biology and ecology. We cleared it easily with the deans. I would skipper the Seawulff. Swirl II would be skippered by Don Fassett. The Resolute would be skippered by Sean Bethune, an acquaintance who grew up sailing with his parents and sister in the South Pacific.

On August 1st, 1992 we departed Olympia at 9:15 in zero wind under power. At 10:15 we passed Dofelmeyer Point and made our way through Dana’s Passage. We saw Bonepartes Gulls, a Marbled Murlette and seals. At 12:30 they passed Mcniel Island Penitentiary. At 2:30 we cleared the narrows. At 4:00 we were in Colvos Passage. At 6:00 we were sailing in 10 knot winds off Seattle. At 8:15 they rafted up to swirl, anchored off the north end of Bainbridge Island.

We got underway at 6:16 on August 2nd and spent the morning dodging freighters. We passed Point Wilson at noon under power and began the journey across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There was some question about the identity of a bird we were seeing, either an immature common murre or a marbled murrlette. San Juan Island slowly came into view through the haze ahead. Buff colored grassy slopes.

We passed through a pod of orcas. One passed underneath and surfaced with a loud “woosh” 50 feet away. Two black zodiacs and assorted other boats were pursuing them. We also saw Dalls Porpoises and Harbor Porpoises.

Although a seemingly impossible distance, we had learned how to make the run from Bainbridge Island to Bedwell Harbour Canada in one day. We’d ride the outgoing tide past Point Wilson, cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and ride the incoming tide up Haro Strait. We arrived at Haro Strait at 3:00 PM a little later than we had hoped. By 7:00 the tide had changed and we pulled the Seawulff into Ried Harbor and anchored, Swirl and Resolute rafted alongside.

On August 3rd they departed Ried Harbor at 06:30 AM. At 08:30 we cleared Canadian Customs in Bedwell Harbor. At 9:15 we were underway again. Outside Bedwell Harbour we again saw a couple of Harbor Porpoises and numerous seals. At noon we were motoring through Trincomali Passage. At 15:30 we passed tiny Tree Island to port with its small protected beach, picnic table and shade umbrella. At 17:15 we ran through Dodd Narrows with a strong current.

At 7:00 the three boats rafted together at the public dock in Nanaimo. I pitched my tent on the after deck and crawled in and tried to get warm. I had forgotten my sleeping bag. I spent a miserable night trying to sleep rolled up in a single blanket that I borrowed from Don, Sarah, one of the students and I went to a couple of thrift shops, finding bedding and other things.

On August 4th we moved to the fuel dock and took on fuel. At 11:40 we were underway again sailing in winds of 10 to 15 knots from the southwest. The Resolute in the hands of a master jockey like Sean was marching all over the Straight of Georgia. She ran east toward Vancouver then back west across Seawulff’s stern, passing on a broad reach. They then launched the spinnaker and were gone from sight in no time.

At 7:30 we anchored in Blind Bay in a hole behind Fox Island. At 11:00 some of us were still awake talking in the cockpit. We noticed glowing patterns in the water, around the anchor chain and trailing fish. Gerardo joked. “OK. Everyone overboard to explore the naked truth of bioluminescence.” But it turned out to be no joke. We swam in water warmed by granite during the day, diving and swimming around and under the boats. Our hands, arms and legs left glowing phosphorescent tracers in the water. It was an underwater, surrealistic, psychedelic wonderland.

We pulled anchor at 07:45 and at 08:30 they were silting in Malaspina Strait in 15 to 20 knot winds from the south. At 3:00 they passed Lund to starboard. At 4:00 we passed Sarah Point, named after George Vancouver’s daughter Sarah, because of its stunning beauty. Sarah sat on the bow laughing. It was her birthday. At 5:00 the boats rafted to Swirl II, at anchor in Tenidos. All went ashore to Unwin Lake. Sarah and I bathed in pool at the base of a small waterfall near the outfall of the lake.

It rained hard during the night. On August 6th I awoke at 05:00 in a soaking wet bed. Water had soaked in under the foam mat. At 06:00 I emerged to a dismal scene. The crew had stretched the tarp over the cockpit and made some coffee. Windows and hatches, dry from the summer weather, had all leaked. Misery prevailed.

By noon the rain stopped. The sun peeped out here and there, now and then. We hung bedding, towels and other items throughout the rigging of the three boats where everything readily dried. I went ashore, alone, where I bathed at the base of the little waterfall. At 4:00 PM Gerardo called class.

At 7:50 I was alone, holding down the anchor. I moved to a more protected area behind a small island. The other boats had gone off to conduct night plankton tows targeting bioluminescence. The students also dove and swam through the bioluminescence watching tracers spin away from every movement. They observed phosphorescent tracers outlining fish that ran from the bows of the vessels.

At 11:30 the boats were still out exploring the night sea. There was an ominous whirring in the trees overhead. The wind in the bay was blowing in circles. Lightning was flashing but there was no thunder. The boats finally tied up together at 12:45.

The morning of August 6th I rowed ashore with some of the students for a short hike to a blanket of moss overlooking the boats at anchor. At 11:00 AM we were back aboard observing the previous night’s tows under the dissecting scope. Ceratium bucephalum was present along with impressive dinoflagellates. There were ubiquitous copepods. Peridinium claudicans. They also observed samples under the compound scope and found Thalassiora hyalina. Salinity around Desolation Sound ranged around 25-26% or ppt or parts per thousand. The ocean is typically 32% salinity. Turbidity ranged between 10 and 17 Formazin Turbidity Units, FTUs.

The students noticed opaque swirls in the water’s surface near the mouth of the stream. Gerardo explained it as a blending of fresh and salt water, a mixing zone. The beginning of the food web. The preparation of the water for consumption by phytoplankton. The marine environment was looking more and more complex.

At 1:00 we departed Tenidos. At 14:30 they arrived at Prideaux Haven, peaceful coves surrounded by granite, moss and forest, a place of serene beauty, a world class destination with yachts jammed in like sardines.

The place where tides coming in from the north and the south around Vancouver Island meet is Desolation Sound. As a result, there is little tidal flow. Little exchange of water. The tide just goes up and down. The water is warmed by the sun shining on granite surfaces to an ambient near surface temperature of 70 degrees fahrenheit. In protected bays like Prideaux Haven it goes even higher.

Prideaux Haven is worth seeing but we didn’t stay around. Sean led the way past Melanie Cove and through a shallow rocky channel to Laura Cove. The rocky bottom was visible the whole way. Somehow we made it.

At 6;30 we went shopping at the Squirrel Cove store. At 8:00 we moved out and rafted to the Swirl II anchored in inner Squirrel cove.

On August 8th we departed Squirrel Cove. The wind picked up from the south creating a lee shore situation, where the wind will blow you ashore if you lose headway. The Seawulff’s dinghy came untied but we retrieved it with barely enough water under the keel. In Baker passage we encountered gale winds and progressed under reefed main and staysail.

At 2:00 we encountered treacherous conditions off Sutil Point, steady winds of 35 knots and five foot breaking seas, building the entire length of the Strait of Georgia. There was rain coming sideways and spindrift coming off the water. Visibility was about a mile.
Nearing Sutil Point Swirl II lost steerage and drifted toward the rocks. They were in ten feet of water in breaking waves before they got things fixed. Resolute rounding the point ripped her mainsail completely in two. At 7:00 the three boats anchored separately in Gorge Harbor, each setting their own anchor. Everyone gathered below decks for the evening. As the sun set lightning struck several times nearby, followed shortly afterward by rolling thunder. As the evening progressed the time between flash and sound grew shorter. A bright flash and loud boom hit simultaneously. Lightning had struck within Gorge Harbour, the sound bouncing from wall to wall. We prepared a makeshift cake out of some tortillas with one candle to celebrate Sarah’s birthday. The electrical storm continued well into the night, keeping everyone awake.

At 8:30 we departed George Harbor, damp and dreary. A large immature bald eagle watched from a perch on a tree. At 10:00 we rounded Sutil Point in light rain and wind. Somehow, everyone remained in good humor, joking, reading, napping. One couldn’t ask for a better crew. At 7:00 we anchored in Ballet Bay, which is in Blind Bay. In Blind Bay we bought three coho salmon off a neighboring fishing boat.

We pulled anchor at 8:00 on August 10th. We passed an adult oyster catcher apparently feeding a youngster, a seal leaping from the water and three bald eagles perched in trees. At 10:00 we rounded Captain’s Island into Jervis Inlet. Resolute’s crew were busy on deck sewing a long patch in her mainsail. The weather was perfect. Weather on the 8th seemed like a bad dream.

At 1:00 we rounded Prince of Wales Reach, motoring up close to the cliffs, dotted with zones of lichens, moss and small trees. Fir trees grow out of places so steep they appear inverted. In places the cliffs shoot vertically strait up. Twenty feet away from shore the depth is 270 fathoms or 1620 feet. No anchoring here. In valleys in the distance clear cuts and logging roads are visible.

At 4:00 we arrived at Malibu Rapids and drove through with a five knot current and plenty of rocks, white water, whirlpools and Young Christians on shore watching and betting on the chances of a successful passage. One doesn’t often get to see three big boats running rapids. Patty, one of the crew, attended Malibu as a teenager. She claimed it was a “circus of pot-smoking, screwing and carryings-on of all sorts in the name of Jesus”. We saw some sleek gull-like birds scooping fish off the water’s surface in flight. Mew Gulls?

At 4:30 we tied alongside Swirl II, anchored near the base of Chatterbox Falls European style with a stern line tied to a tree ashore. I had by now anchored in the spot four times and was still dumbfounded by so much beauty. A kingfisher dove next to the boat and flew to a nearby limb with a small fish.

That evening the class gathered around a fire ashore. After a meal of barbecued salmon we sat discussing oceanography.

At 10:00 on the 11th the Seawulff cast off from the other boats to perform sampling. Gerardo expected to find oceanographic parameters of a fjord, that is, sharp delineations going down to colder, saltier, heavier depths. The Seawulff’s cable and winch allowed us to take water samples from 700 feet down. It’s on these thermoclines and haloclines that nutrients and critters tend to reside. it wasn’t easy to get samples along these intervals because the depths were so great.

Gerardo talked frequently throughout the day about the marine environment. How much new organic plant material is being produced. How much of this is available to other organisms. Proteins to make tissue. Carbohydrates for energy. Animals need pre-formed organic matter. Plants use light from the sun for fuel. CO2+H20+Carbon = sugar.
That afternoon a student named Cory and I took the dinghy over to a small stream about a quarter of smile toward Malibu on the north side of the inlet. The stream tumbles down steep granite faces collecting in pools, one above another, perhaps fifteen in total. The sun warms the water to a comfortable temperature. Some of the pools are chest deep. Cory walked ahead, up the steep granite face. We’d stop and soak a while then climb to the next pool.

On August 12th at 09:00 we departed Princess Louisa Inlet and ran once again through Malibu Rapids with the full force of the tide. Underway in Jervis Inlet Gerardo talked at length about oceanographic tools and methods. How we measure the amount of O2 in a light bottle and a dark bottle as a measure of photosynthesis…. that most plants are smaller than 100 microns and how life on earth begins and is regulated at a microscopic level. We sampled at depth intervals where activity was detected on the fathometer. We observed the same sleek gulls we’d seen on the way in and were once again unable to determine what they were. They have a light colored head and bands on the ends of their wings.

At 2:30 we rounded Captains Island and entered Agamemnon Channel. At 5:00 we entered Pender Harbor and anchored first in Gerrands Bay, then in Maderia Bay where we went shopping for food and ultimately the three boats ended up in Garden Bay, rafted together on the Seawulff’s anchor.

The Seawulff had a large CQR or plow anchor and 100 feet of heavy chain and a mechanical windlass. Boats that cruise in BC are all set up like this. In a calm, protected place like Garden Bay, we might put out 60 feet of chain in 30 feet of water. Our radius might be as little as 15 or 20 feet. This can be important in anchorages that are crowded by rocks and other boats. Unlike a traditional or danforth type anchor a plow anchor will reset itself. This is important in places where the current changes direction with the tide. A plow anchor on 100 feet of chain will always hold.

Ashore we found the restaurant and store had become expensive and not particularly friendly. The Seattle and Vancouver Yacht Clubs had purchased the docks. Garden Bay had become a rude, ritzy place compared to only a few years before. Some of the crew took over the bar, got stinking drunk and had a pretty good time throwing up all over the bay and the deck of the Resolute. The poor girl was taking a beating. We decided that henceforth we’d anchor in Madiera Bay with the locals and leave beautiful Garden Bay for the yacht clubbers.

At 6:15 AM on August 13th we departed Pender Harbour. By 8:30 we were in Welcome Passage. At 10:00 the three boats raised their spinnakers in fifteen knots of wind from the north and began a memorable day of sailing. It was Saturday and opera played on radio BBC. Students read and talked quietly. The Resolute ran away like a thoroughbred with the Seawulff not far behind and Swirl II off to the east.

At 2:00 we were approaching Porlier Pass. The plan had been to pass through with the tide but we were well ahead of schedule and would have had to buck an impossible current so we continued on, maintaining radio contact between the three boats. We continued on to Active Pass where we passed through, still bucking a 3 knots current, being so far ahead of schedule. At 7:00 we anchored in Bedwell Harbor, well ahead of where we all went ashore for karaoke night at the local tavern.

On August 14th we departed Bedwell Harbor at 9:00 AM. We encountered Harbor Porpoises and diving ducks. Surf Scoters, White Winged Scoters and Western Grebes were plentiful throughout the trip. A few hours later we cleared US Customs in Friday Harbor and moved over by the University of Washington Marine Lab to anchor. Gerardo lectured about the journals ,encouraging students to take a “systems approach”, to think in terms of three distinct ecosystems and the different dominant processes evident in phytoplankton distribution and growth. Does transect data support the model in Desolation Sound? Is O2 higher in enclosed or open areas? Does salinity increase at depth in Princess Louisa? Top to bottom? Were changes abrupt? Why? And what could we expect to find in the San Juans?

That night all paddled ashore to Friday Harbor where we ended up dancing in a bar.
August 15th we departed Friday Harbor after taking on water. Swirl II put her anchor down at Jones Island, first on the south side, then on the north side and everyone got aboard the Resolute and Seawulff. In West Sound, Orcas Island, we dragged the otter trawl. We had a permit to drag in US waters but not Canadian so this was the first try. The net came up full of an assortment of nektonic fish, crabs, shrimps, algae and other things. We bought a 20 pound King Salmon through Thish’s aunt who lives on Orcas Island.

At 6:00 we were back at Jones Island rafted to Swirl II. Everyone rowed ashore where Don cut the fish in half longitudinally, stuffed it with onions, garlic and parsley, wrapped it in tin foil and slow cooked it over a fire for forty minutes, turning it several times. It was delicious.

The last two days, in San Juan Channel, we were repeatedly hit by wakes from large power cruisers that rolled us violently, often by surprise, sending cameras, microscopes and food and utensils flying. There was a lot of cursing. Now the same boats were anchored at Jones Island. On one cruiser two men and their wives and kids were screaming at each other through the afternoon, drinking beer and eating hot links. Boats vying for a spot at the small dock repeatedly cut each other off. As evening descended, a large Seayray was running its generator. The blue light of a TV screen was visible within. Why would a person spend a quarter million dollars on a boat that burns 25 gallons of fuel per hour to come to a crowded anchorage with too many people with a similar disinterest in what was all around them and watch TV? We moved further out and anchored separately in deeper water. In the morning the cruisers in the bay were tangled up in their anchor rodes.

We got underway at 10:00 on August 16th and performed more otter trawls bringing up flounder, rockfish, crabs, shrimp, seaweed and the ever ubiquitous slime gobs and slime balls. South of Cattle Point we caught a beautiful rat fish. We performed drags in water as shallow as 10 feet and as deep as 100 feet and keyed out all the things we could.
We also performed more plankton tows and found mostly diatoms, Ditylum, Thalassiosira and Chaetoceros.

We had now accomplished all the goals of the class. The three boats headed south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Half way across we encountered a Minke Whale.
The three boats anchored in Port Townsend the evening of the 17th and from there split up and went their separate ways, Resolute taking some students to Seattle, Swirl II heading for Boston Harbor and Seawulff heading back to Olympia. It was an excellent trip but so were many others.

Founding faculty continued to retire and new hires had different ideas. Dean Olsen, a recent hire took an interest in the program. But Dean was an economist and it wasn’t easy finding use for the boats in the study of business and economics. The students didn’t seem to have the same level of interest.

On one occasion I was awakened in the middle of the night by some noise on deck and emerged to find a student in the water. It took all the strength three people to get him aboard. Two empty bottles of vodka on the table, brought aboard in their luggage, told the story.

After unloading the crew in Port Angeles I decided to give the boat a thorough cleaning which is how I came upon a note to the following week’s crew tucked in a pre-arranged spot under a mattress. It read: “Your skipper Harry may seem like a nice guy but if you push him even slightly too far, he’ll turn into the world’s biggest asshole.” I returned the note to its hiding place. The following week’s crew were as timid and cooperative as could be.IMG_8802.jpeg

The College tried high priced day trips on the Resolute and Leisure Ed classes were terminated. A per day lab fee was added for academic programs. Use of the boats dropped along with funds. There were no regular academic offerings. Science fell off the plate.

From its inception the program had its problems. It was the work of men… a waning societal legacy. There were women available. Sarah Peterson, a librarian at Evergreen, was a licensed captain who would have been perfect for the job. Unfortunately, that job never came to be.

Inquisitive minds recognized shortcomings in academia and saw interdisciplinary studies as a way to address these shortcomings. For some the move to a State College was a step down. But the college was a new blank slate. Now, a few decades later, original faculty hires started retiring. Bob Sluss’s departure in particular left a vacuum.

It’s great being away at sea. There are no bills to pay, no phone calls. But these things continue to exist awaiting your return. Extended field trips can be a strain on families and friendships. It takes commitment. A lot of planning goes into a program like Exploration Discovery and Empire. It’s easier to teach the same class year after year and hand out grades.

Perhaps the biggest cause of the program’s demise was a lack of regulatory structure. There was no boating program per se. There was no inherent protection for the boats. Facilities managers for whom the boats were extra work lobbied from the beginning to get rid of them and when opportunity showed itself the end was quick and dirty. Liquidating the boats was a great loss for the college. Truly understanding natural science requires being out in nature.

A particular event punctuated the ending. On one of our earlier trips Don Fassett insisted we go into Port Ludlow. Port Ludlow is a simple bay surrounded by development on all sides. I doubted if there was even any place to anchor but Don insisted. We followed Swirl II past log booms seemingly heading to the mud when Don suddenly veered left into a beautiful bay full of birds, surrounded by overhanging trees on all sides. A serene perfect anchorage, the place became a frequent stopover.

On this last occasion I followed Don Fassett once again into Port Ludlow. Turning left into our favorite anchorage, we discovered the perimeter of the bay lined with new houses. The trees and birds were gone. The serenity of the place wasn’t even a memory. It was like we had pulled into the wrong bay. Our hearts sank.

The summer of 1995 I accepted a job working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, driving a boat out of Neah Bay. NOAA had established the Sanctuaries and Reserves Division to administer Marine Sanctuaries. The Olympia Coast National Marine Sanctuary was just coming into existence. Marine reserves were the subject of my thesis. I could hardly not take the offer.

But what might have been…

Evergreen Sailing Part One

Some of the best ideas end up forgotten. Such was a form of education that flourished at The Evergreen State College (TESC) between its inception in 1970 to its metamorphosis into normalcy in the mid 1990s, sometimes referred to as immersion interdisciplinary studies. Immersion in that a student is placed directly in an environment. Interdisciplinary in that varying fields of study are combined.


The location of the college on the shores of Puget Sound lends itself to the study of marine environments. It was logical that the school build a boat. A program in design was taught by marine architect Robert Perry. The boat then took shape thanks to the efforts of students, faculty and community volunteers and ultimately Hank Long boat works. The Seawulff, a 12-ton cutter rigged sailboat, was launched.

The Seawulff is thirty-eight feet long on deck and made of cedar, oak and fir. The main cabin has a dinette and a galley with a diesel stove. The aft cabin, the laboratory, has counter tops and a sink. Amidships between the two cabins is the cockpit with a two-cylinder 30-horsepower Saab diesel beneath. The Seawulff is a commercial vessel, licensed by the Coast Guard to carry 12 paying passengers, though on overnight trips there’d likely be fewer. There’s sleeping for six in actual bunks, including two coffin-like berths under hinged lids in the lab.

In 1986 I happened to be living on a houseboat and could see the Seawulff from my kitchen window. A teacher at the college named Bob Sluss came by regularly, talking things up. This was the most exciting program and the most beautiful boat ever, anywhere. Bob’s love of the “marvels and mysteries” of nature was contagious. My involvement was inevitable.

I soon learned that at Evergreen, nobody is in charge. In meetings with the Recreation Department and Deans and Joe Olander, the president, all I could see was opportunities. These might be divided between Academic Programs for students who are receiving academic credit and Leisure Education classes which are open to the general public.
January 8, 1987, the first of the Leisure Education workshops left West Bay Marina at 1:30 PM on a cool, sunny, windless day. We practiced working up lines of position and other navigational tricks, returning to the marina at 4:15 PM. We did another class on January 20, and another on January 22.

On January 24, we began the first Leisure Ed overnight trip with six students. Winds departing West Bay were 20-25 knots out of the south. Near Devils Head at the southern end of Key Peninsula we were struck with a 35 knot gust and the Seawulff was knocked over on her side. Plates, pots and pans could be heard flying around the cabin. Two women were under the table screaming in terror. The boat righted itself and we reefed the main and sailed on to Gig Harbor. Amazingly, nothing broke. We returned the following day to Olympia, passing a couple of Harbor Porpoises near Toliva Shoal and arriving home at 9:00 PM.

On January 27, I skippered for an academic program. We left West Bay Marina at 9:00 AM with faculty members Byron Youtz and Bob Sluss and four students in pouring rain.
Byron earned advanced degrees from the California Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley, where he studied radiation. He had been the Vice President of State University New York, Old Westbury and President of Reed College in Portland. Byron was a gentle soul.

Bob on the other hand was rough around the edges. An entomologist and ecologist, he earned advanced degrees through the University of California, financed through the GI Bill. Bob was on the US Army boxing team. Asked how well he did at that he replied “I could hit hard”. His nose had been flattened. Although Byron and Bob were in many ways opposites, they shared many aspirations and held each other in high regard.

This was part of a year-long Interdisciplinary Studies class called Exploration, Discovery and Empire. Other faculty including Tom Rainey, Rudy Martin, Dave Milne and Oscar Soule rotated through teaching biology, botany, oceanography, logic, mathematics and technical writing. The thinking was that everyone benefits from a well rounded education. The specialization characteristic of academic institutions breeds arrogance and reduces potential. Learning should at some level be a humbling experience.

On February 5, we departed at 1:00 PM with Bob Sluss and twelve students from the Exploration program. We did otter trawls – landing and identifying sea cucumbers, slime gobs and slime balls. The Seawulff was equipped with a hydraulic winch capable of lifting 1000 pounds. Nets and other gear could be raised and lowered via a gantry overhanging the stern, like on a fishing boat. The Seawulff could also do sediment and water sampling and plankton tows.

We did Leisure Ed trips over the weekends of January 31-February 1, February 7-8 and February 14-15. We provided beans, rice and oatmeal and any other provisions were up to the individual.

All eight seats on the February 7-8 trip were purchased by the Olympia Police Union. We departed in no wind and temperatures around 35 degrees. We headed north in thickening fog and navigated using the compass and depth sounder, ultimately tying to a buoy at Stretch Island Marine Park. Much of the evening conversation pertained to their work. What if you had to shoot someone? Would you hesitate? How would you deal with the emotional and other consequences of that? We returned the following day making much of the run in light air under spinnaker, arriving at West Bay at 5:00 PM on a summer-like afternoon.

March 1987, back to the Exploration program. The class had split into ten groups of six, some of whom would make a one-week expedition on the Seawulff. The first week we left Olympia with a crew of eight. Students rotated wheel watches while underway. They also rotated all the other duties of running the boat, navigating, keeping the log, cooking, cleaning and reading aloud. On this trip we read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Other weeks we read Moby Dick, The Odyssey, Between Pacific Tides by Ed Ricketts and Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck. The most challenging task was the bio-watch journal, an account of living things we encountered, which underway were mostly birds.

We sailed to the University of Washington Friday Harbor Marine Lab where we tied up to a dock behind Swirl II, a forty-foot William Garden sloop belonging to a fellow named Don Fassett who will come up again. We ferried students to outlying San Juan Islands where they camped. The boats also rafted up frequently while underway doing otter trawls.

A big wind came up in the middle of one particularly nasty night and waves began banging both boats against the dock. Driving the boats upwind away from the dock was going to be a challenge. Swirl II went first under Don’s hand. I backed the Seawulff down on a spring line until her bow swung out and even so barely got her away from the dock. We found good anchorage at the northwest end of the bay.

The following night we anchored in a bay on the north side of Matia Island. In the morning a river otter dragged a large wolf eel onto a rock and killed it in a horrific writhing display and began devouring its innards. A group of students paddled over to the rock, chased the otter off, and returned with the wolf eel minus a few organs. The Seawulff then found space at a small dock at the head of the bay and students went ashore to cook the eel.

Wolf eels, having paired gill slits and pectoral fins, aren’t actually an eel they’re a fish. They can grow to seven feet in length and weigh 40 pounds. They have powerful jaws and big canine teeth. The taste of wolf eel is, well let’s just call it strong. The following morning as we pulled away I looked back to see what appeared to be the head of a monkey sitting on the end of the dock with a cigarette in its mouth. It’s remarkable how much a wolf eel resembles a monkey.

We did Leisure Ed weekend trips on April 18-19, and 25-26 and again on May 2-3, 9-10 and the 16-17. The Seawulff was then hauled out and dry docked. Her steering mechanism was rebuilt, alternator replaced and prop bearings greased. She was painted and oiled and dolled up for the summer.

Our plan was to do week-long Leisure Ed trips as far north as we could go. Patricia Coon (Trish) volunteered her time which as time progressed grew invaluable. She took an active role in planning trips and creating and distributing flyers.

The plan was to make a minimum of $100 per day for the skipper and $100 for the boat or $1400 total for a week. Adding a small cushion the total came to $250 per person, an incomparably low price for a week-long cruise. We wanted to find a new niche, to fill and unfilled demand, rather than competing with established cruise businesses. We hoped to provide opportunities for people in the community to do what was otherwise impossible, perhaps the fulfillment of a life’s dream.

A person may end up sleeping on a couch or on deck. The cost did not include “food, fees and fuel” and provisioning and cooking were the crews responsibility as were all aspects of navigating and boat handling. We figured that by expecting the skipper would do nothing, the skipper might not in actuality be overworked.

Trish held classes in Olympia where students were briefed on what to expect, menus and provisioning lists were drawn up and each student took a required swimming test per Evergreen’s policy.

On July 4, the first of the week-long Leisure Ed trips departed West Bay at 11:11 AM in light rain. Wind was 5 knots from the South. At 2:00 PM we passed Eagle Island. At 3:30 PM we motored under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. At 8:23 PM we passed Alki Beach in Seattle and sailed under staysail into Elliot Bay to watch the Ivar’s Seafood annual fireworks. The wind was 25 knots. It was choppy and some of the crew were a little seasick. We sailed across to Eagle Harbor and at midnight found an open spot at the Winslow City Dock on Bainbridge Island.

We departed Winslow at 9:00 AM on July 5, motoring north in light air. At 11:00 AM we passed Possession Point on the southern end of Whidbey Island, sailing into headwinds of 15 knots. Wind increased to 25 knots with gusts of 30 in two foot waves. There was more seasickness. Too bad, it was beautiful sailing. At 7:30 PM we dropped anchor off Port Townsend. Her looks belie her swiftness. The Seawulff is a good performer. With yankee and staysail set and a single reef in the main, she’ll outrun anything in a blow.

July 6, we motored into Point Hudson to do some provisioning. We bought enough food for eight people for a week, fifty-six meals, three shopping carts overflowing. At 12:30 PM we departed Port Townsend and at 1:00 PM rounded Point Wilson. At 2:00 PM we were mid-way across the Straight of Juan de Fuca. And in an hour, at 3:00 PM we passed Cattle Point on San Juan Island to our port. At 4:00 PM we anchored on the western side of Turn Island, a beautiful little spot covered with madrone, where all went ashore for a short hike.

July 7, we departed Turn Island at 9:30 AM and at 10:15 AM put the crew ashore in Friday Harbor for showers, laundry, shopping and eating. At 1:00 PM we departed Friday Harbor, sailing up San Juan Channel. At 3:00 PM we passed Limestone Point at the north end of San Juan Island. At 4:30 PM we tied up to a mooring buoy in Reid Harbor a bay on the southern end of Stuart Island.

On July 8, we departed Reid Harbor under sail and sailed past the Adventuress, speaking with her skipper Carl. At 11:00 AM we passed through Roach Harbor and Mosquito Pass. At 12:00 PM we sailed down Haro Strait, riding the ebbing tide in light winds. At 3:00 PM we passed thought Baynes Channel and passed Discovery Island, off Victoria, British Columbia. Sailboats in a race were rounding the downwind buoy each dropping their spinnaker as they rounded the mark. One of the students, a woman in her 70’s named Sylvia, observed that they looked like “ladies taking off their party dresses”. We sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 25 knot winds out of the West and arrived at Victoria, British Columbia at 6:00 PM.

July 9, if we could clear Canadian Customs easily, we’d do repeated trips into British Columbia. If not, we’d have to stay in the San Juans.

The Canadian Customs agent looked like an English bulldog. “Are you carrying any guns or pornography?”


“Let’s go have a look”. We walked down to the Seawulff. “Everyone off of the boat. Wait here on the dock.” The agents went aboard with me. “What’s in this cupboard?”
“Mostly canned goods.”

“Let’s have a look.” They emptied the contents of the cupboard and repeated the process for all the bins and cupboards, reducing the boat to a shambles. “I’m going to have my assistant finish up here.” His assistant, a mild mannered young fellow, signed forms and asked a few more questions.

“Is the big guy always so friendly?” I inquired.

“If you have less there’s less to check,” he replied. “It might be easier for you to enter Canada empty and provision here. Bring money not stuff.”

Everyone went ashore and enjoyed Victoria. At 10:00 AM the following morning we departed heading back into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in light winds, riding an incoming tide running three knots, stirring up big whirlpools. I napped on the bow. We were startled by an orca that surfaced and blew a few feet off our beam. We rounded Cattle Point and arrived in Friday Harbor at 6:00 to find Customs closed.

July 10, we cleared US Customs first thing with no problems. At 11:00 AM we passed Middle Channel and Cattle Point at a minus 3.7 foot slack tide. The unusually low tide rendered otherwise safe passages unsafe. Three Mayday calls came over the VHF. “We’ve struck a rock. The water’s about to flood the batteries. We’re abandoning ship and getting in the dinghy.”

We sailed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in light winds and sunny 60 degree weather. At 3:00 PM we passed Smyth Island, a spring tide pulling us along. At 4:30 PM we rounded Point Wilson where an orca was feeding near shore. At 5:00 PM we tied up at Port Townsend Boat Haven, trip’s end.

Trish drove the following week’s sailors from Olympia to Port Townsend in an Evergreen van. Those from the previous week including myself returned in the van with Trish to Olympia.

David Young, a student at the school with a captain’s license would skipper the following week, July 11-18. David’s crew was made up of six single women, all in their early thirties, all school teachers on summer break. He asked “What would you ladies like to do this week?”

“Hit the bars. Meet men.”

So, David drove the Seawulff from port to port during the days and put the crew ashore each evening with a request to “be back by dawn”.

We rendezvoused in Vancouver, British Columbia on Sunday, July 18. David had tied up Saturday night in front of the Westin Hotel where Princess Diana and her cousin Fergie were hanging out partying. The following week’s crew including myself and Trish stayed at the Westin Sunday night. We paid $76 for two night’s moorage which included showers, pools, jacuzzis and saunas for both crews, a total of fifteen people.

The morning of July 19, we departed Vancouver with a crew of six. At 1:00 we entered Howe Sound in 25 knot winds, rounded Bowen Island and headed out into the Straight of Georgia, running in three foot seas under main, yankee and staysail. The Seawulff sailed beautifully, rolling along from beam end to beam end. There was some seasickness but nothing too bad. The compass seemed to be a little off.

At 5:00 PM we passed into Welcome Passage at the north end of the Straight of Georgia in blustery conditions and dropped the hook in Smuggler Cove at 6:00 PM Mediterranean Style, the hook holding the bow away from shore and a line from the stern tied to a tree. We departed the following morning at 9:00 AM. At 10:00 AM we were sailing in Agamemnon Channel under the spinnaker. At 2:00 PM we sailed past Jervis Inlet. Over the next three hours we alternately sailed and motored past Powell River to the east and Texada Island to the west. At 7:30 PM we passed Lund to the east and at 10:30 PM we dropped the hook in a small scenic bay on the eastern side of the Copeland Islands under an extended twilight.

July 21, at 7:00 AM we departed Copeland Islands sailing in a light wind out of the north past Hernando Island to the south and Cortes Island to the north. At 10:00 AM we were tacking into a 15 knot wind out of the west past Sutil Point, the southern tip of Cortes Island, a point known for strong winds and rocks extending far past the point of land.

At 1:00 PM we entered Gorge Harbor through a narrow 2000 foot long passage, carved by the tide through solid rock. We had hoped to buy bread from a bakery there but the bakery had become a restaurant so we ate lunch. At 2:30 PM we pulled anchor and headed out the cut. A sixty foot cruiser named the Lou Ann IV was entering, driving full speed down the center of the channel. We hugged the shore where we were tossed like a cork by the cruiser’s wake.

At 3:00 PM we anchored in an uncomfortably steep, exposed anchorage off Manson’s Landing and all went ashore. We spent some time on Hague Lake with its white sandy beaches, warm water and exotic little crabs and other creatures. I wandered up to a restaurant named the Taka Mika where I ate dinner watching an eagle and some common nighthawks circling in the sunset. They played Marty Robins, my mother’s cousin, the whole time I was there, seemingly everything he ever wrote.

Back aboard an eagle snatched a fish out of the water and flew to a tree overhead. We spent a restless night and departed at 8:00 AM. Rounding Sutil Point, an eagle circled overhead.

At 10:30 AM we were sailing past Twin Islands just south of Cortes Island, reaching in 15 knot winds out of the west. Off Iron Point the compass seemed to be off by 40 or more degrees. I had not trusted the compass on this trip and now something was obviously wrong. “This is crazy. We must be in the Bermuda Triangle.” Then I noticed that someone had placed a hunting knife behind the compass. When removed the compass card spun into correct alignment. Somehow the knife had picked up a magnetic charge. After Twin Islands we tacked into 20 knot winds to Malaspina Inlet which though wide has rocks dispersed throughout and can be treacherous in tidal changes. We anchored in Grace Harbor an arm of Malaspina Inlet at 1:00 PM. We could hear the anchor drag along the granite bottom and moved upwind twice before it seemed to grab.

Desolation Sound, the name for this general area, is a place of incomparable beauty. George Vancouver was hoping to find it to be the entrance to the Northwest passage, hence the paradoxical name. Being the center of the inland passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland, the tide doesn’t flow, it simply goes up and down. As a result waters throughout the area warm to an ambient temperature of 70 plus degrees Fahrenheit. In protected waters it can even reach 80 degrees.

Its greater density makes floating in saltwater easy. We spent a lot of time swimming. Distant stone monoliths loom through the clear air, the sky above intently blue. Rocky islands dot the water, each covered with layers of moss. Evergreen trees scrounge for nutrients in the smooth granite, rows of lichen, barnacles and mussels leading down to the water.

I walked to a nearby lake for a swim and then returned and paddled around in the dinghy talking with folks, among them the owners of the Lou Ann IV who nearly ran us down in Gorge Harbor. They were friendly. Beautiful boat. Portland registry. I wondered how such nice people could drive such a beautiful boat so recklessly.

At 8:45 PM we pulled the hook and left, hoping to catch the ebbing tide and sailed into a deep red sunset. At 11:00 PM we anchored as darkness fell in Copeland Islands and made popcorn.

On July 23, we pulled anchor and made our way over to Lund. At Lund we tied to a floating dock that’s moored offshore and made our way in to shore in the dinghy. We ate breakfast, listening to fishermen complain about the government. The proprietor was Chinese. Some people spoke French. There were some hippies and some local indigenous people. We showered and did some laundry and got underway at 9:30 AM. We motored past Savory Island in light air, sailed under the spinnaker for a while, then motored some more as we passed Harwood Island. At 2:00 PM we were sailing in ideal conditions.
At 3:30 PM we continued on under the spinnaker in winds out of the north ranging from 10 to 15 knots. Stuart Bay, the town of Vananda and large rock quarries are visible off to the right on Texada Island. At 6:00 PM we were bucking a current past the entrance to Jervis Inlet off to the left.

At 7:00 PM we had dinner underway. Chow Mein cooked by crew member Willie. At 8:00 PM we dropped the hook in Garden Bay at the head of Pender Harbour. Garden Bay is a perfect anchorage. The mid-tide depth throughout is an even thirty feet. After passing through an opening, the bay opens into a broad expanse, capable of holding 10 or 15 anchored vessels. Ashore, there was a fuel dock, a good seafood restaurant and showers at the old hospital on the hill.

On July 24, at 5:00 PM, the sun was up and we departed Garden Bay in five knot winds from the south and a favorable tide. By 9:00 AM we were in mirror like water. No wind. We passed Texada and Lasqueti Islands under power in a slack tide.

At 11:30 AM we entered the Strait of Georgia on a close reach in five knot winds from the southwest. The tide ran with us against the wind, kicking up a little chop. By 1:00 PM we were beating into a ten knot wind from the southwest in moderate rain.

The only channel on an AM or FM radio that comes in clearly is Canadian Broadcasting, CBC. On Saturdays they play opera all day… one opera with explanations and translations and interviews and intermissions. On this day they were playing Bellini’s Il Pirata. Given the setting, all agreed it was beautiful.

At 1:30 PM the VHF radio sprang to life. “Fishing vessel lying northeast of Gerald Island, this is the Canadian Coast Guard.” The message repeated again a couple of minutes later. Then a third time. “This is the Canadian Coast Guard. You are in a torpedo testing area and in danger”. A fishing boat had decided to pass through the dreaded Whiskey Gulf area, WG on marine charts.

The vessel eventually replied. “Eh. You guys ought to go play war someplace else. There’s a lot’o people out here these days.”

“You need to move. You’re going to get a big hole in your boat. The torpedoes come up from underneath.”

At 2:30 PM we were beating to windward in a 15 knot breeze, making slow headway. By 6:00 PM we were reaching for Nanaimo, BC in winds blowing 20 knots from the southeast. At 7:30 PM we passed through Dodd Narrows southeast of Nanaimo. The tide was nearly slack but whirlpools and other turbulence persisted. At 9:30 PM we anchored at Ruxton Island part of the Gulf Islands Archipelago.

At 5:00 AM we pulled the anchor. At 6:00 AM we passed through Porlier Pass amid terrific whirlpools… swirling vortexes funneling down to who knows where and boiling back up in undulating bumps of water. At 9:00 AM we were sailing under a reefed main in the Strait of Georgia in a 20 knot wind from the south. At 10:00 AM the wind dropped to 15 knots and we shook out the reef, reaching at seven knots. At 12:00 PM we passed Point Roberts. At 2:00 PM on July 25, we tied up in Blaine, cleared US Customs and turned the Seawulff over to Captain David. In researching how to do these trips we were informed by the Canadians that we can change crews in Canada but each trip must either depart from or return to a US port or we’d need to pay Canadian taxes, “Duty Pay” as they termed it.

On August 1, Trish and I arrived in Horseshoe Bay just north of Vancouver with the next crew: Gary, a high wire lineman; Dr. Len, an ophthalmologist; Dorothy and Dorothy, a couple of retired friends and Noni and Irene, a couple of old New Yorkers who had been part of the Frank Lloyd Wright team. Noni told long stories and did magic tricks with string.

We made the same run as the previous one two weeks prior but once in Desolation Sound we went directly to Cortes Bay on the southern end of Cortes Island where we took on water and fuel and some food and anchored for the night.

On August 5, we moved over to Grace Harbor where we were entertained by eagles and otters. Some of us walked back to a warm lake for a swim and each picked up a leech or two. I attempted to brush one off my arm, like one might a slug or some other sticky creature, but this thing wouldn’t let go. I whacked at it harder. “How do I get the damned thing off?” Trish carefully grabbed the leech, squeezing its head between her nails until in released its grasp.

Noni was fascinated. “I’ve never had a leech on me” he said. So Noni was off heading for the lake. He returned a half hour later covered with leeches. “I rolled in the grass at the perimeter of the lake” he laughed. The crew carefully pulled off the leeches, Noni smiling the whole time.

The trip south was a barn burner. We passed Powell River making six to eight knots under spinnaker, wind 15-20 knots off the stern quarter with two foot waves. We continued the run all the way to Pender Harbour. At 6:30 PM we anchored in Garden Bay.

On August 7, we made an easy run down the Straight of Georgia and anchored off Gibson’s Landing. On August 8, we made our way to Horseshoe Bay where we again turned the boat over to David.

And so the first summer went. On August 13, myself, Trish, David and a tall Hawaiian friend of his named Keith took the Seawulff on one more run. After a quick passage north we spent an evening in Whiskey Slough, across Pender Harbour from Garden Bay. On August 15, we were beating up Malaspina Strait. At 7:30 AM we turned into the quietude of Blind Bay. At 11:00 AM we passed through Telescope Passage into Jervis Inlet and at 3:00 PM Princess Royal Reach. The wind at turns would go flat or blow a gale, always from a different direction. We jibed the reefed main five times. Monolithic granite slabs jutted 6000 feet into the sky on all sides.

At 7:00 PM we passed through Malibu Rapids with the incoming tide riding a six knot current. Young Christians from the Young Life Campaign waved at us from large decks attached to large buildings fronted by a large swimming pool. I recalled a co-worker at Peninsula Lodge telling of her time working here. She recalled being serenaded by John Denver sitting around a camp fire. At 10:00 PM we dropped the anchor near the base of Chatterbox Falls in about sixty feet of water and ran a line from the stern to a tree on shore, a common way of anchoring in British Columbia where the bottom tends to get deep and steep in a hurry.

On August 16, 1987, as usual, I awoke at dawn. Sheer granite, with an occasional hearty tree, jutted vertically up 4000 plus feet to the North. One could look almost strait up out of the hatch and see cliffs, stained and bleached into great streaks. Across the fjord to the South, trees grow up steep slopes broken by vertical granite outcroppings, thousands of feet tall, highlighted by distant waterfalls, seemingly half way to the sky.

It was the Harmonic Convergence. The sun, the moon and planets were lined up on this day in a manner that predicts great change. According to the Aztec Mayan calendar it’s the beginning of a heaven cycle. The last one ended in 1519, the year Cortes landed in Mexico.

Around noon some small cacti materialized. Trish offered to take command of the ship.
After lying around nauseated for a half hour or so, a wonderful euphoria came over our little group. We paddled ashore in the dinghy and began a trek into the woods.

We were miles from the nearest road. Although a Provincial Park, Princess Louisa Inlet is accessible only by boat or float plane. So it was with some surprise that we came upon a group of ten or so children walking in the forest. And these children had antlers. Little fuzzy things somehow attached to the sides of their heads.

“Hey guys!” David said.

“Hello” an adult voice answered. Back among the group a man stepped forward and introduced himself and the children as members of the Royal Order of the Buck Deer or something.

Keith looked troubled. He leaned toward me and whispered “Do these kids have antlers?”

“I think so” I replied. “But I don’t think they’re real.” In hindsight, I’m not sure they weren’t. Perhaps they were shape changers, harmonic convergers.

At 1:00 PM we began the ascent up the southeast corner of the inlet. Much of the 3000 foot scramble was shimmying, crawling, clinging to long tendrils of roots that mingled into elaborate ladders and toeing it up granite slabs. We arrived at the base of a waterfall next to a small old cabin. We bathed in the pool looking out over majestic Princess Louisa Inlet stretching below and above and across and five miles down to Malibu. Rain then came, making the trip back especially treacherous.

A couple of days later we were sailing southwest in light air down San Juan Channel, Jones Island on the port, San Juan Island on the starboard. At least a hundred orca whales approached from astern, the annual gathering of the tribes. A large orca surfaced off our port beam and swam there for a few minutes, then swam slightly ahead and stood on its tail, “spy hopping”. This was an enormous whale, about as big as an orca can get, probably a leader of one of the tribes who had gone ahead clearing the way of any potential problems. The whale remained with its head well out of the water, a mere fifteen feet from the Seawulff as we slowly sailed past, examining each of us in turn. When we had passed the whale swam underneath the boat and on ahead followed by the rest of the pack, some swimming close by, some further off.

The orca could have easily tipped its head to the left and plucked me off the deck for a snack. It could have invited its friend over for a grand buffet. That didn’t happen because our two species have, over the past ten thousand years, come to an understanding. I don’t make a meal out of you and you don’t make a meal out of me.

These orcas are relying on assumptions and agreements by which people today are no longer abiding. They’re holding up their end of the bargain and we’re not. They see our cities. They smell our waste. They know their world is dying. But they don’t know why or what to do. They have no voice in this modern world. There are no agreements to be made.

The trip home was punctuated by a brief stop in Seattle where the Seawulff was supposed to be turned over to John Filmer a faculty member at Evergreen. Trish, David and Kieth departed and John cancelled so I ended up single handling the boat to Olympia. I arrived at West Bay Marina, home, at 8:30 PM on August 23, 1987.

We did more weekend trips in the fall and so ended the first year of Evergreen sailing.

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June 8th, 1986. 10 o’clock PM. Strait of Juan de Fuca, the vast Pacific Ocean ahead. Thalassa, a Truant 33 designed by William Garden, has all the attributes of a good sea boat — tall bow with plenty of flare, rounded midsections, modified full keel and canoe stern. The wheelhouse is a potential weakness but the windows have been reinforced. At 33 feet overall Thalassa is not a large boat. She’s light-footed in the gentle waves.

As we passed Tatoosh Island, we steered a course to the southwest, gradually gaining distance from shore. Don Davidson and myself, both licensed captains, would sail with a local physician named Chris King to San Francisco Bay. Chris owned the boat and knew every inch of it. We were all life-long sailors.

At 2 AM a dim light appeared on the horizon and immediately became the brightest object any of us had seen afloat. A second fuzzy light appeared behind the first and also grew in intensity. As they approached the objects turned into thousands of smaller lights, which slowly took the shape of ships, cruise ships. They passed close by, every deck and cabin light blazing.

We crossed the ships’ wakes continuing offshore to the southwest. The brightness of the departing lights made whatever was ahead complete darkness by contrast. The outline of the shore behind vanished in the mist.

The plan was to head southwest until we were 100 miles offshore, then head south paralleling the coast to central California and angle southeast to San Francisco Bay. This was chosen over option B, hugging the coast, ducking in and out of the most horrendous series of harbor entrances imaginable, in fog and all kinds of weather, while hopefully not getting blown onto the rocks. Going offshore would be more comfortable, or so we figured…

The wind gradually picked up out of the west. By dawn we were beating nicely on a starboard tack. Mid-morning the wind continued to build and came more from the northwest. We changed the roller furling genoa to a heavy duty 110% jib that could be furled smaller as need be. Sea kindly Thalassa threaded her way smoothly through waves as porpoises danced off the bow. We cheered them on, applauding spectacular jumps and stunts.

June 9th. The sky was clear, broken here and there by puffy white clouds. The ocean turned a deeper blue, the blue to which the term “blue water” refers, as opposed to the greenish blue closer to land. Sometimes the line between the two is clearly visible. We were 100 miles from shore, heading due south.

The wind was at our back. The seas were running about eight feet giving us a little push. It was the kind of day sailing is all about. But it was getting chilly and we realized none of us had brought any gloves. Chris managed to find a pair of white wool ladies dress gloves on-board that brought a smile. We cracked open a bottle of wine to toast our good fortune.

Late afternoon the wind picked up suddenly. Chris turned on the VHF radio. After several minutes of static a voice announced “Gale warning! The coast guard cutter (obscured) lying 200 miles off the Oregon Coast reports winds of forty knots, gusting to 55, and seas twenty feet and higher.”

The North Pacific is the biggest, widest body of water on earth. The bigger the water body the bigger the wave. We decided a sea anchor or drogue would hold us back increasing the likelihood that waves would break over the boat. Figuring that Thalassa’s wheelhouse and cabin doors might not stand up to being pounded by waves, we decided that our best chance would be to sail through whatever nature might bring our way. There was a small painting on the foreword bulkhead of Francis Chichester rounding Cape Horn in heavy seas flying only a small jib. It looked like a plan for which Thalassa was well suited. We dropped the mainsail and lashed it firmly to the boom.

By sunset the wind tore across wave tops spreading spindrift down their faces. We furled the jib to the size of a bed sheet. Thalassa’s hydraulic steering worked easily but steering was still tiring and we decided on one hour wheel watches. Turns at the wheel drifted into one another. One hour on, two hours off, turning the wheel from lock to lock, back onto a southerly compass heading, or toward Scorpius visible in the cloudless southern sky.

June 10th the wind and the waves continued to build. We reduced the jib to the size of a hand towel. Preparing for the midnight watch, layered up inside oilskins and a safety harness, I opened the companionway and from the cabin saw a shadow come up over the sky. The tiny boat battled its way backward up the wave. Near the top, the wave struck the stern giving Don a shower. I reached across the cockpit and latched the safety harness to the binnacle and stepped out. Standard practice. We didn’t want to lose anyone overboard.

There are basically two things that can go seriously wrong in a wave. I learned about them years prior. As a teenager I spent a couple of summers in Santa Cruz working in restaurants. My neighbor at the time was Mervyn Cadwallader, who went on to be one of the first deans at Evergreen State College. One day Mervyn invited me to go “big wave body surfing”.

We arrived at a place called Little Wind and Sea with our swim fins. Most waves in Santa Cruz break right. The waves here broke left and they were unusually steep. Mervyn estimated them at 16 feet. We swam out to where he said “This looks good”. A wave approached and he yelled “Swim” which I did. The wave broke on top of me, sending me for a loop. When I swam back out, Mervyn said “That’s what’s called getting sandwiched”. He then got us lined up again and when another wave approached yelled ”Swim” which I did. The wave grew in size and I found myself looking over a cliff. It broke throwing me down onto the water below. I was then drawn up into the wave and tumbled over and over. I made my way back to the surface in time to grab a breath of air and dive under the next wave.

At this point surfing has turned into skin diving. You hug the bottom and let the wave pass overhead. It’s why board surfers don’t surf Little Wind and Sea. There’s no beach, only rocks on all sides. The only way out is the way you came in. I got back to the surface in time to get a few breaths and dive under the next wave, followed by a few more. When I got back to Mervyn he explained “That’s what’s called going over the falls. You want to be somewhere between getting sandwiched and going over the falls. That’s all you need to know.”

As it turns out, there is more to know. The third wave I caught. Per Mervyn’s instructions I held my body strait and rigid like a board, turned toward the open shoulder of the wave and experienced one of life’s greatest thrills. Water rushing over your skin causes friction. Body surfing is a tactile, sensual experience. It became an obsession.

Sailors have different terms for getting sandwiched and going over the falls, the worst kind of wipeout, but the effect is the same. Waves may also push the stern to the left or right causing a broach. The boat may get knocked down on her side. All kinds of things can happen. But generally the drill is to keep the boat heading down the waves unless you find yourself preparing to jump off the top of a mountain in which case you turn away, heading across the top of the wave or over its backside, down into the next valley, wallowing in foam.

Waves as big as mountains dwarfed tiny Thalassa. She stood on her nose and surfed, pegging the knot meter at ten knots in a vertical dive. Sometimes the rushing water would come up close to the level of the foredeck but Thalassa’s tall sea bow always stayed above the rushing water. If the bow had gone under we were at risk of pitchpoling, where the boat rolls stern over bow.

Dining consisted of crawling or sliding the length of the cabin floor forward to the galley and cracking a cupboard door open and grabbing whatever flew out, perhaps a nutrition bar and a bottle of water. Using the toilet was a matter of wedging oneself into place and holding on.

How could we possibly survive? We were dodging bullet after bullet. Which one would have our name on it? I wondered, although it didn’t seem possible, if conditions might possibly get more intense and if so if any vessel of Thalassa’s dimensions would not be smashed to bits.

The wind pressed clothing against our bodies. Thalassa rolled far over to starboard, then hard over to port, standing on her nose speeding down a wave, or rolling on the summit looking out at mountains crawling across the landscape, or standing motionless in a valley looking up at an undulating approaching mass of water.

Although we were heading in a generally southerly direction, navigation per se was dictated by each wave. It was survival sailing. We had only the vaguest idea which direction we were heading or how far we’d come and didn’t really care.

By the storm’s third day exhaustion was complete. Sometime before dawn I passed the wheel to Chris and stumbled into the cabin, removed my rubber boots, vomited in one of them, collapsed in my bunk and lost consciousness.

June 12th. When I awoke, the cabin was bright with sunlight. Adding to my confusion, the engine was running. Outside, the waves were steep and menacing but smaller, perhaps twenty feet, of which perhaps the top couple of feet formed white caps, conditions that posed little threat.

I sat up and looked toward the cockpit. Nobody was there. The wheel turned back and forth, being driven by the auto pilot. I cleaned out my boots and put them on and stepped out. The boat was running directly downwind under power, flying the small jib. I let the jib out partway, took the helm and reduced the throttle.
After a while Chris emerged. “At dawn I was finished” he said. “I started the engine and turned on the autopilot”.

The satellite navigation system had not survived. Chris brought out a sextant and a stack of books. We tried working up sun sights but the bouncing and rolling of the boat made it impossible to come up with anything meaningful. But there were other, simpler options.

Before noon we started passing the sextant around, taking sites every minute or so for nearly an hour. We then threw out the outliers, the obvious errors, and were able to get an average for the sun’s highest point in the sky. Comparing this to declination in the nautical almanac for that day gave us a latitude fix.

Chris had also noted the moment of sunrise. Halfway between this and the moment of sunset would theoretically correspond to the zenith hour angle in the nautical almanac from which we could calculate longitude.

The morning of the 12th began with perfect sailing in rolling seas coming from the stern quarter. Mid morning a ship appeared off our bow. We raised them on the VHF and got a position. We were eight miles due west of where we thought they were. The noon sights for latitude had been exact. Timing sunrise and sunset to get longitude, not as exact but not bad.

Throughout the windstorm the sky had remained clear. By late morning a thin mist limited visibility to a mile or so. By noon we were immersed in heavy fog. We were then navigating by dead reckoning, following the compass and guessing our speed. We still had the depth sounder and the VHF radio though neither was at that time of any use.

Friday the 13th. We continued sailing through thick fog in a southeasterly direction, angling toward the California coastline. Every few minutes someone would check the depth. There was still nothing down there but water. But there was no certainty that the depth sounder was even functioning. To add to our anxiety we kept hearing what sounded like surf off our port side.

Something was surely out there in the fog. We sailed on listening and checking the depth sounder with less frequency as the day progressed. The night passed without incident and the morning of the 14th dawned again in thick fog. By late morning the fog was breaking here and there. We passed a small fishing boat, then another and several more.

Then Chris emerged from the cabin and announced “We have the bottom gentlemen.” Sure enough, a broken line appeared on the screen, eighty fathoms or about 500 feet down. We followed that contour for a while, then it grew shallower which we figured must be the edge of the San Francisco Bar, location of the Potato Patch Shoal. The water then grew deeper again to our relief. We followed depth contours curving around to the east, sailing toward land lying somewhere dead ahead. The readings continued to grow deeper. The Farallon Islands appeared astern. Point Bonita appeared off the port bow. The Golden Gate Bridge appeared overhead.

How big were the waves? Taller than Thalassa’s 45 foot tall mast. According to the Coast Pilot and Sailing Directions, the largest waves on earth, measured in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of North America, can measure over 100 feet.

Vote No on the Plum Street Courthouse

Dear City of Olympia and Thurston County,

The southwest corner of the proposed Plum Street Courthouse is about 100 feet from Moxlie Creek which lies in a long culvert underground. The stream angles away and on the northwest corner is about 250 feet from the proposed site. Depending on specifics, buffers of up to 300 feet are often required.

The specifics include things like degraded waters and endangered species. Moxlie Creek and Budd Inlet into which it flows apply on all counts.

Clean Water Act, Section 303(d), requires states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify waters not meeting state water-quality standards and to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). You may be aware of an ongoing Federal Case pertaining to Budd Inlet and its tributaries including Moxlie Creek not meeting this requirement.

The 1996 Water Resources Development Act, Section 1135, allows for decisions to apply if it is found that an already existing project, such as the Moxlie Creek culvert, has contributed to environmental degradation.

The Endangered Species Act serves as authority to regulate land use in riparian areas that provide essential habitat for threatened or endangered species including salmon. There once were and probably still are such fish in Moxlie Creek and Indian Creek, its chief tributary.

Ideally, Moxlie Creek would be daylighted. The City claims this is somewhere near impossible because:

1. Moxlie Creek and Indian Creek are entirely culverted and modified and as such lost. Actually, according to the City’s Aquatic Habitat Evaluation and Management Study, Indian Creek is 3 miles long, 14% underground and Moxlie Creek is 1.8 miles long, 36% underground. These numbers are not bad compared to most urban streams. There are long stretches of natural beauty, rare for an urban environment.

2. Removing Moxlie Creek from its half mile long culvert would cost $200 million dollars and have to be done all at once. No, It would not have to be done at once it could be done in sections. Much of the cost could be covered by restoration grants.

3. A daylighted stream would have to follow its current pathway requiring the removal of large structures. No, it could follow any pathway it wants to as long as water flows downhill.

The proposed location of this courthouse would be in the historic East Bay estuary. There’s no worse location. We’ve lost over 160 acres of tide flats, sea grass and salt marsh to fill in the historic estuary. Estuaries are important for plankton. There’s been a $40% reduction in plankton world wide. Diatoms, the largest type of phytoplankton, have declined globally more than 1 percent per year between 1998 to 2012, with significant losses occurring in the North Pacific. Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. They’re a major source of atmospheric oxygen. Their cumulative fixation of carbon through primary production is the basis of oceanic food webs. Phytoplankton are the oldest and one of the biggest carbon sinks.

Sea grass and salt marsh hold fifteen times the carbon per acre as the Amazon rain forest. When coastal habitats are lost not only do they no longer capture carbon, carbon captured in the past is released. They turn from carbon sink to carbon emitter.

The Moxlie creek culvert is intertidal. The tide backs up twice each day. It’s a mix of fresh water and saltwater environments. The Living Planet Index score for freshwater populations of water dwelling animals has plummeted by 83 percent. A report from the World Wildlife Fund affirms a nearly 50% decline in marine life populations between 1970 and 2012.

In Budd Inlet, as of 2002, birds facing local extinction included: Red-necked, Horned and Western Grebes, Pelagic Cormorant, Surf Scoter, Barrows Goldeneye, Hooded, Common and Re-breasted Merganzers, Ruddy Duck, Bonaparte’s Gull and Mew and Red-winged gulls. White Winged and Black Scoters, American Wigeon, Canvasback and Rhinoceros Auklet were already considered locally extinct.. Today, 18 years later, they’re essentially gone.

I don’t know if the City and County will prevail or not. If the Westman Mill development serves as a model, some group of citizens will be foolish enough to pay the thousand dollars to appeal. The City, the County and private interests will assemble a legal team – something like six names from three different firms. The Hearing Examiner will rule that according to City Code a stream in a culvert is “not a stream” and that the appeal as such is a “collateral attack on a city ordinance”; that the arguments that the development would limit future restoration of Eastbay and Moxlie Creek are “speculative” and “do not constitute an adverse environmental impact”; and most significantly that appellants fail to demonstrate “evidence of specific and perceptible harm” to themselves or their property, that is, they lack standing. Fish, birds and orcas likewise have no legal standing.

It’s obvious what’s going here. Developers want to build this courthouse. And developers want to redevelop the location of the current courthouse. It’s a win win for them. Truth and compassion are the casualties.

I don’t know how New York got wind of Moxlie Creek. You might find this interesting: