Paddling Gray's Harbor

by Phil Rowe

I don't know about you, but one of the most enjoyable things for me is visiting boat harbors. I just love to walk down on the docks, look at the boats and enjoy the scenery. It's great fun, and sometimes I get to chat with Skippers or crewmen about maritime life.

I also really enjoy touring around those boat harbors in my little sea kayak, a tiny thing compared to ocean-going trawlers, cruisers or tugs. And one of my favorite places is the harbor at Westport, Washington. It's on the south portal to Grays Harbor. Getting there by car is easy, for you just head west from Olympia, Washington. When you get to Hoquiam, turn south and continue on to Westport. It's not far from Grayland, the coastal town where we often camp right next to that magnificent 18-mile long beach.

Anyway, each time I get to that area I am drawn to the harbor at Westport. I typically launch my sea kayak at the boat ramp on the east end of the dock area. There is no charge, especially for little bitty boats like mine. And soon I am afloat and paddling amongst those fascinating big boats.

There are deep ocean trawlers that go after salmon, tuna, and a variety of other commercial fish. So too are there dozens of smaller boats, the crabbers. They sell their wares right at the Crab Fishery docks. The round crab traps are sturdy and interesting structures, each about a meter in diameter and half that in height. Colorful floats mark the lowered traps, each float marked with the skipper's own colors and stripes.

A number of folks typically appear on the various docks and piers jutting out into the harbor. They are fishermen too, only usually just for fun and sport. I've seen many catch good-sized fish, as well as the occasional bottom-feeding crab.

Floating near the murky, oil-stained surface within the harbor, there are often hundreds of pinkish colored jelly fish, some as big around as dinner plates. I don't think I really want to swim amongst those critters.

Though I on occasion do venture outside the protective jetties of the harbor, out into the main waters. I am dissuaded many times by the big waves. Sometimes they are a daunting four to five feet in height. My little kayak readily handles the three-foot waves, but anything higher and I "chicken out". Besides, there's more interesting stuff in the harbor to explore and see.

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