Posted by Ken Campbell May 25, 2010 0 Comment 1061 views

I’ve seen drift cards before, but I’d never found one myself. Drift cards are small rectangles of plywood or particle board, usually painted a fairly bright color and marked with specific information about how to get in touch with the person or group that sent it out. They are usually released in a group, dozens (perhaps hundreds), at a time. The idea is that, as they disperse on the currents and eventually wash up on shore, they will provide data on how the currents work, where the water goes and how fast it moves.

I found my first card last weekend at Spencer Spit. Number 1128, released by students from Lincoln High in Port Angeles. The contact name on the card was Deb Volturno, a name I recognized instantly. I know her as an outstanding kayaker and instructor; I didn’t realize that she also taught high school.

When I called to report the finding, Deb told me that my card had been part of a group that had been released in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on May 11, about 4 miles out from shore. I don’t know how long it had been sitting on the beach at Spencer Spit, but even if it just arrived on the high tide previous to my finding it, the card had covered some distance in a short time. To get to its final resting place, its most direct route would have been around the south end of Lopez Island, through the narrow pass between Lopez and Decatur, and then north up Lopez Sound until it hit the spit.

That’s a pretty good pace for a drifter. Deb said that other cards from the same drop have been reported up nearer Anacortes as well as down into Puget Sound. If nothing else, it’s a reminder to paddlers to check their current atlases… that water is moving and it’s moving fast.

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