Roy Walker of Port Townsend stays close to shore as he launches his kayak from North Beach County Park on Wednesday morning. Hugging the shore and staying mindful of wind and weather changes are crucial, emergency responders say. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Roy Walker of Port Townsend stays close to shore as he launches his kayak from North Beach County Park on Wednesday morning. Hugging the shore and staying mindful of wind and weather changes are crucial, emergency responders say. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Summer’s heat brings its own weather-related predicaments

Fire chief: Keep an eye on conditions

MARROWSTONE ISLAND — Last Sunday morning, all Jeanette Polk could see was the white hull of a kayak, overturned in the waves.

She’d been about to turn around and head back to the beach near Mystery Bay — the wind and water had turned rough — when she noticed the capsized boat. Paddling as hard as she could, she then saw a man who’d been thrown into the water.

Jeanette’s sister Rita Polk wasn’t far behind when they saw the man’s companion, a woman paddling toward him.

“A wave hit her, and she went into the water too,” Jeanette recalled, adding the kayakers were about 50 yards from shore.

Jeanette helped the man and woman grab onto the stern of her kayak; they in turn held onto one of their kayaks as she towed them to land. They made it back in a matter of minutes, she said.

“After I got them to the beach, I paddled out to get the other [kayak]. It wasn’t that big of a deal,” said Jeanette; “it was coming in with the tide so I just had to push it to the beach.”

Rita, meanwhile, paddled to shore and climbed up the bank and Griffith Point Road to call 9-1-1. Emergency responders from Naval Magazine Indian Island arrived in about 10 minutes; an East Jefferson Fire and Rescue ambulance had also been dispatched, EJFR Chief Bret Black said, but it was canceled since no further response was needed.

Jeanette said the people she rescued are a husband and wife who live in Port Townsend; they could not be reached for comment.

That Sunday morning, back on land, the couple was cold, tired and grateful. They wanted to take Jeanette and Rita to dinner, but the sisters said no, if they run into each other sometime at Port Townsend Brewing Co., maybe they can buy them beverages.

“I’m just glad I was there,” said Jeanette, 64, who lives in Port Angeles.

Another thing she’s glad of: that Tim and Denise were wearing life jackets.

“They’re experienced paddlers,” she added, who got caught in a strong wind.

Less than a week later, Black’s EJFR team was called to help two more kayakers in distress off Marrowstone Island. At 4:51 p.m. Thursday, the agency’s rescue boat, along with emergency responders from the Navy’s Indian Island post and EJFR’s volunteer responders, were dispatched to find two paddlers who had called for help from off Fort Flagler State Park.

“They were about a mile and a half out there,” said Black, between Marrowstone and Whidbey islands — vulnerable in the shipping lane. The volunteers, from Fort Flagler’s parade grounds, helped spot them, and the rescue boat reached the kayakers quickly.

With the two people on board and their kayaks in tow, the powerful vessel returned to shore — while it had to fight the strong current and winds, Black said, adding it was 6 p.m. when they made it back to the fort lighthouse.

The early summer of 2021 is already busy, the chief said, with a variety of weather-related predicaments. There’s the historic heat wave, for one: a time to stay attentive to conditions, within and without.

Drink water sooner rather than later, and drink more than usual; if you normally can hike a couple of miles, “plan out your breaks, and don’t overdo it,” Black advised.

“If you have any yard work or outside activities, do them in the morning,” or let them go for after the heat wave.

Heat stroke is life-threatening, Black added, and EJFR has already seen an increase in heat-related emergencies.

Headache, dizziness, a fast pulse, a fever of 103 degrees or higher, hot, red, dry or damp skin, nausea, confusion and fainting are among the signs of heat-related illness.

These warrant calling 9-1-1. The victim should be moved to a cool place and given cool cloths or a cool bath while awaiting first responders.

Black also warned kayakers and other boaters about venturing out too far, even when the water and weather seem calm.

Mobile apps can provide boating conditions, he added, and it’s a good idea to have someone on land, watching out for you.

“When you’re in a boat with no motor, stay close to shore, and be mindful, when the wind’s blowing,” he said.

“Things can change really quickly in the Salish Sea.”


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsula

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