Tribal crew rescued on way to Paddle event


SEQUIM — The tribal canoes emerged from a dense fog into the mud of a low tide at Jamestown Beach, Monday’s scheduled stop on this summer’s “Paddle to Quinault” Canoe Journey.

Pullers were exhausted by the morning’s trip from Port Townsend — and they were sobered by an incident in which nine members of one canoe were flipped into the waters north of Port Townsend and rescued by the Coast Guard.

Those canoeists were motored to John Wayne Marina on Sequim Bay and treated by paramedics for mild hypothermia before rejoining the others.

One 22-year-old puller was taken to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles because his body temperature had dropped below 92 degrees, a fire district spokesperson said.

“I heard they’re all right, but it sure makes you count your blessings,” said Howard Moses, a member of the Muckleshoot tribe who pulled in a Squaxin canoe.

The nine pullers on a First Nations canoe from Vancouver Island were tossed into the water about 5 miles north of Port Townsend shortly after 7 a.m. Monday.

A cargo vessel transiting the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca alerted the Coast Guard that it had spotted an overturned canoe with people in the water waving their arms.

The Coast Guard sent a 25-foot small response boat based in Port Angeles and a 45-foot medium response boat out of Bellingham.

The medium-sized boat rescued the pullers and rushed them to Sequim’s John Wayne Marina, where they were treated fby emergency medical technicians of Clallam County Fire District No. 3.

The 25-foot response boat followed, towing the canoe to the Sequim Bay marina.

Dozens of canoes carrying members of Western Washington and British Columbia tribes are traveling the Strait of Juan de Fuca this week on their way to the Paddle to Quinault celebration Aug. 1-6 at Point Grenville, just south of Taholah.

Monday’s trip from Port Townsend to Jamestown Beach northeast of Sequim took a flotilla of up to 30 canoes through a thick layer of fog, which made the trip more difficult.

“It was foggy as hell out there,” said Curtis Sansom, a member of the Queets tribe, after pulling up at Jamestown. “It got kind of eerie out there.”

With the tide out, canoe crews had to walk across tidal mud to get to Jamestown Beach, where they received permission to come ashore and were greeted with songs, including “The Arrival Song” sung by the Jamestown Children’s Program, and fresh frybread.

“It’s really good after that trip,” Tony Bravo, a puller in a Queets canoe, said of his jam-covered, deep-fried treat.

Marilyn Bard landed in an intertribal canoe that carried members of the Queets, Quinault and Duwamish tribes.

Her father, Raymond Oliver, had been one of the founders of the 1989 Paddle to Seattle that kicked off the now-annual Canoe Journey of the modern era.

“It’s really gratifying that we are still a part of this and that we all keep this together,” Bard said. “This is a wonderful tradition.”

Tents were set up at Jamestown, where the canoe crews were set to spend the night before heading back into the Strait for Port Angeles this morning.

On Monday night, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe had scheduled a dinner and tribal dance at the Sequim High School cafeteria.

Port Angeles is next

Canoes were then set to leave Jamestown Beach today for their next stop: Port Angeles’ Hollywood Beach and a two-day stay hosted by the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.

There are elaborate landing formalities — permission to land is requested (by a canoe’s pullers) and granted (by the Lower Elwha).

Bard said the flotilla plans to meet up with several First Nations canoes that will be paddled across the Strait from Vancouver Island.

“This is something,” Queets member Jesse Kowosh said. “But wait until we pick up those other canoes.

“We’re going to be packed at LaPush (for the Quileute-hosted gathering starting Sunday).

“It’s going to be crazy.”

After leaving Port Angeles on Thursday, the canoes will spend Thursday night at Pillar Point and land at Neah Bay on Friday.

From there, they enter the Pacific Ocean.