Voyage to Neah Bay: Part 1

Lake Washington to Port Townsend – Recap


In 2011, Kimokeo Kapahulehua of the Hawaiian Outrigger Voyaging Society visited Seattle and gave a talk at St Marks cathedral at a community event called a Water Circle, where we discussed how to be stewards of the ocean. At this meeting Kimokeo inspired us to begin voyaging, starting in the Puget Sound, then expanding along the coast of Washington to Oregon or to Canada and Alaska, and eventually when ready, from Seattle to Hawaii. Around that same time, Jono Saunders and his father, John Guzzwell, began building a wooden outrigger canoe from their own design for local waters. The canoe’s hull is strip planked with old growth Sitka spruce from the Kaigani Haida area in the Queen Charlotte islands, the canoe is named Kaigani in honor of the forest and the tribe of canoe voyagers. These two events set in motion the inspiration to begin this voyage.

A little over a month ago to date, a group of paddlers from Seattle and Hawaii came together to enter a crew in the Na Pali Challenge race in Kauai. Jono Saunders and I joined the crew, and as we all started training together, the idea developed that this might be the right time to attempt the first leg of our voyage, since the Na Pali race involves 12 paddlers (6 women, 6 men, changing every 30 minutes over 40 miles), which would be the ideal setup for a voyage with land changes. I contacted Kimokeo and also discovered that he is joining the Makah tribe for their Tribal Journeys and will paddle from Neah Bay to Quinault on July 25th. This was confirmation that the timing was right. We started by organizing a date for the first leg, June 15th, and everything began to come together.


Friday evening, June 14th, we started by paddling from Sail Sand Point Outrigger in Lake Washington to the Shilshole marina on the Puget Sound. We had some delay going through the locks that separate the fresh water from the Sound and at different elevations, which set us about an hour and a half behind schedule, but this turned out to be our only real glitch in the journey. We had a short and sincere pule that night that was given to us by Uncle Kimokeo:

Pule for Pacific Northwest Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society

E Kou Makou Makua Ika Lani
E honana ia kou inoa
Mahalo ia oe lokoloko makai
E olu olu maikai
Mahalo ke Akua Mahalo Na amakua Mahalo Na kupuna na ko honua
Mahalo ia oe No Kupuna no Pacific Northwest
Mahalo ia oe na Ohana Pacific Northwest Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society
Mahalo ia oe Na Opio no kane no wahine
E ama mama ua noa
Me Kealohapumehana

Thank you guardians, honu, whale, orca, eagle, tree and all our natural elements, tide, current, wave, wind, stars and moon.
Mahalo Kupuna, our elders before and now for wisdom.
Mahalo each one of you for this undertaking and speaking, and living with all the natural elements come with and before you.
Mahalo the indigenous nations of Pacific Northwest.
Mahalo Kane, god of fresh water never to thirst.
Mahalo Ku, God of Power know who are what you are what you doing, and where you going mana, power within
Mahalo Lono, god of food not to starve wherever food will be available in your journey to feed you spiritually and physical
Mahalo Kanaloa, God of the Sea he will always keep ohana safe and being us home.
Have a great journey and welcome to the International Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society

Saturday morning at 6:30am we gathered at Shilshole to prepare for the main leg of the journey to Port Townsend. The tide would ebb at 9:00am, so the plan was to get a head start on the tide. One of the things we couldn’t plan for was the wind. We hoped for no wind or for a south wind, but lo and behold, makani like blow from north, at about 12 knots and gusting up to 20.

This email came in Saturday from Uncle Kimokeo, at the exact time we were all making our way to Shilshole, with building anticipation and preparing our mind and body for the journey ahead:

Its 300am Maui time, my thoughts are with each of you. I know in my PUUWAI how it is to be with nature with the waa. Each of you will transcend from a physical body to spiritual flight.

All of you are special in connecting with all the natural elements given to all as a gift from heaven. Once you have attain this within your selves you reached the celestial AND terrestrial ocean.

Malama ia oe na OHANA
Me Kealohapumehana

Kimokeo Kapahulehua

The men started the first leg, about 8 miles to Kingston. The water was rough with plenty chop, the tide was not in our favor, and we had a stiff headwind, but we arrived in Kingston glad to be on the Olympic peninsula which would eventually lead to the open ocean. The women then picked up the next leg to Eglon, and we continued on with land changes every 5-7 miles until we arrived at Port Ludlow, a little over halfway there. The head wind did not let up, but we hugged the coastline when possible and had a nice push from the tide after about 9:00am, and were able to move forward averaging about 6 knots.


After Port Ludlow, there wouldn’t be easy road access to conduct a land change for another 12 miles, so we had three relief paddlers jump in the escort boat for possible water changes. This was the next variable we had to test – how to safely conduct a water change without getting wet. With water temperatures at 40 degrees, we wanted to avoid submersion. We were able to pull it off without a problem, even in the wind and chop, thanks to excellent skippers and teamwork.

This was not a race; however, we were all aware that we needed to get through the Indian Island canal before 2:35pm, as at that precise time the tide would turn against us and the canal would be near impossible to pass. With the strong headwind, it was a concern that we might not make it there in time. But thankfully we did, at 2pm! After that, we made one more land change at Port Hadlock, then another water change about 4 miles later, continuing on with the cheerful voices of the kids on the escort boat encouraging us on to the finish.

You can see the exact map coordinates for our route and change locations here.

We arrived safe and sound at Port Townsend at 3:30pm, after 50.6 miles of paddling. The canoe is now resting and on display at the Wooden Boat Foundation. We will return in 2-3 weeks for the next leg of the voyage, from Port Townsend to Neah Bay.


All of us felt a great sense of camaraderie as we united to make this happen, but most importantly, we connected with the understanding of a much larger effort and a global community of voyagers and caretakers of the ocean, and we are all inspired to continue on this journey, wherever it may take us.

Across the sound we safely paddle
Through the wake of Chief Seattle
Who took a small canoe to see his friend,
Doc Maynard, at his lifelong end.
Sacred water swirls and dances
As waves wash up in sunlit glances.
I feel a spirit spin within
Around and through my very skin,
To be in contact with pure being.
More than touching, More than seeing.
Electric life in wave and air
Gives energy for all to share.
We paddle on and test our hearts,
Our minds, our lungs and all our parts.
A voyage that has just begun
Blessed by Spirit, Love and Sun.
– Will Stiles, Voyager

In 2 weeks we start the next leg of 100 miles to Neah Bay. Join our mailing list to stay informed and contact us if you would like to be part of this voyage as a paddler, land or water support crew.

Aloha and malama pono,

Joe Ferguson

Photos of the canoe build and blessing: