Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Kayakers on Northport beach after completing group
paddle across Death's Door Sunday morning.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The 2011 Washington Island Canoe and Kayak Event was a success once again, in that the various activities weren't blown out or rained out, and the quality of each activity appeared to be of a high level.  Participants, for these reasons, appeared well satisfied with the offering of challenges and paddling camaraderie.

Saturday's Around-the-Island Marathon Race of 23.2 miles had 22 participants, and all but two paddlers completed the course.  The first six paddlers to finish were bunched quite closely after more than three hours of racing, and in the flatter Detroit Harbor waters they closed on the finish line with an extra kick.  The open water race course conditions ranged from 15 mph headwinds and 2-3 ft. seas, to a rather light West Side downwind leg from Bowyer's Bluff (where paddlers had encountered a nasty chop from rebounding NNE seas) to Detroit Harbor and the Gislason Beach finish line near the Red Barn.

Marathon race winner Kevin LeRoy, Madison, finished with a time of 3:29:32.  The next three paddlers finished close behind:   John Sandborn;  Greg Green;  and last year's winner, John Abrahams.

Coast Guard Auxiliary members Russ Hoganson and John Davies confer with
race course observer Scott Sonic as the Marathon Race began at Gislason Beach.
Coast Guard Auxiliary craft monitored the entire race course, and Sonic's boat
anchored in Washington Harbor was a mandatory race mark.
A half-marathon event of approximately 12 miles ran within Detroit Harbor concurrently with the full marathon.   Half marathon participants raced around buoys set along the harbor's shallow perimeter.  First place finisher was John Harrington with a time of 1:40:12.

Saturday evening at the Trueblood Performing Arts Center (TPAC), Roy and Charlotte Lukes, Egg Harbor,  narrated a selection of their nature photos.  Roy Lukes is considered foremost among Door County naturalists, and Charlotte is an expert on Door County mushrooms, having identified over 550 different species.  Each is eager to teach and inspire others, passing along their respect and passion for nature.  Roy's slides ranged from close-ups of flowers, mushrooms, birds and mammals to aerials of Door County's shoreline, including the Rock and Washington Island shorelines.

The Lukes presentation drew approximately 75 audience members, and the evening marked the first official event held in the TPAC since the facility was recently awarded State of Wisconsin public building certification.   The interior looked and smelled clean and fresh, owing to much scrubbing and fresh paint on interior wall surfaces.  

Sunday morning's Expedition Across Death's Door went forward as planned when a large rain cell passed  east of Washington Island prior to the 9:30 am launch time.  The winds were NE, 10-15 mph, and the crossing was a piece of cake until paddlers met larger lake swells in Death's Door, south of Plum Island's Rear Range light.

This Expedition, just over four miles in length, is considered open and exposed waters, but it is open to paddlers with a range of skill levels.  As such, Tim Pfleiger and his associates from Team Leadership Center of Door County closely monitored the group.   Pfleiger teaches kayak skills (which he did most of Saturday during the Kayak Symposium based at Gislason Beach), and the abilities of these leaders were put to good use during the Sunday morning crossing.  One participant rolled his kayak in the Door, but chose to continue, rather than boarding one of the safety boats.  With the assistance of Pfleiger and one of his associates,  this paddler reentered his kayak in short order and resumed paddling across Death's Door, fulfilling a personal goal.

Paddlers stop briefly near the old
Plum Island fog signal before setting
course across the Door to Northport.
Plans are already underway to refine and improve upon, where possible, the various events of WICKE 2011.

Mother nature, wind and temperature, are always key factors, and the range of weather conditions encountered during this past WICKE weekend is probably close to the average for mid-June.

The safety and satisfaction of paddling participants (and observers) is a major goal of the WICKE weekend.  A secondary goal is highlighting the economic importance to Washington Island, achieved through the purchase of goods and services over the 2-3 day period, and establishing this area as an inviting place to enjoy water sports.  We know that a number of paddlers chose to stay beyond the weekend, and our expectations are that many  will return for canoeing or kayaking later this summer.
  -  Dick Purinton

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