Finally back in the swing of things here in Bellingham and enjoying a fast start to fall. We were treated to a very unusual (as in never before) summer windstorm that produced winds over 70mph, toppled trees and made for very big, testing conditions. It got our local paddlers fired up and provoked a lot of healthy discussion around safety in big water.
A few brave souls managed to sneak out for a downwind run in Bellingham Bay before the show got fully ramped up. There was some debate as to the wisdom of this, but to their credit they did it right. Small, experienced group, with good planning and the right gear with a clear course of action if things didn't go well. Personally I am a fan of pushing it when the time is right as a learning experience. Not many times will a paddler be afforded the opportunity to paddle in such wind with warmish water and a clear line of drift into the shore. You can't choose your emergencies, but you can choose your training. They learned a lot, namely that the standard logic around rafting up for a remount assist in that much wind isn't even remotely feasible, and that not all leashes are created equal. In particular there was a sentiment that the cockpit mounted leashes were a liability because the ski broaches in the wind and requires a beam remount. The general consensus is that it's better to go with a well designed stern leash attached to a waist-belt so the ski points downwind. Personally I prefer remounting beam because once upwind of the ski, I can time my reentry to the waves a little bit better, but I haven't tried to do so in that much wind.
Wish I could have joined in the fun, but my daughter and I headed instead to meet my folks on their sailboat in the San Juan Islands as they weathered the big storm. We had a great ferry ride through the romping waters and raging wind. A Hybrid Prius loaded at the front of the ferry did not fare so well after being dowsed by the waves smashing the bow of the ferry.