Kayaking Puget Sound

Rob Casey ’91

The Mountaineers Books


Fellow obsessives can relate to owning a catalog or guidebook that is transformed from the occasional reference to a well-thumbed springboard for the imagination. The Sears catalog fit that bill for rural America a century ago, as did the REI catalog for so many pre-Internet Northwest adventurers.

Rob Casey ’91 had a similar feeling toward Randel Washburne’s classic Kayaking Puget Sound, the San Juans, and Gulf Islands: 50 Trips on the Northwest’s Inland Waters. “I carried one copy of the guidebook in my car and left another copy by my bedside at home,” he writes in the introduction to his revised and updated edition. “I spent countless hours studying each trip.”

Now he’s offering an update with more trips and one of the most practical and inspirational armchair looks possible at the waters between Olympia and Canada’s Gulf Islands.

As visitors to exotic waters know, it pays to bone up. You want plenty of advance warning about cold water, currents, and shipping routes, and few things are as daunting as searching for a campsite in fading light. A little local knowledge of, say, the winds channeled by Orcas Island’s East Sound, can go a long way. Casey covers the basics and then some, laying out more than 50 pages of advice before the first route.

It also pays to fantasize. Casey provides the impetus, with maps, alluring historical, cultural, and scenic details, and a quick-trip reference to winnow down choices based on location, challenge, how long you want to go, and whether camping is available. This edition, the third, has 15 brand new trips, including several Canadian outings, and includes information for stand-up paddlers, a specialty of Casey’s. The logistical discussions are detailed, making this a thorough guide for the small-craft life aquatic. Just add water.