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Why “Rat Island”?

Why “Rat Island”?

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Across the bay from the peace and love capital of Port Townsend lies Indian Island – a major U.S. Naval munitions facility.  Both are part of the historic Triangle of Fire that once guarded the entrance to Puget Sound from 1897-1953.

An aerial view of Indian and Marrowstone Island shows a sandy spit that appears to have broken into a small rat-shaped island. Navigational charts still call this land mass Buggy Spit, but locals more properly refer to it as Rat Island.

The effect was man-made during World War II when landing craft were dragged across the spit during military exercises. The spit was breached and never recovered.

It’s still an island – shaped like a rat.

Thanks to the Navy’s giant sand sculpture, rowers and paddlers are able to circumnavigate Rat Island except at low tide, which makes for some interesting game changers during the annual Rat Island Regatta.

1999 Steve Chapin writes
Planning for the race this year didn’t include a look in the tide book; the 9:20 AM start was just 16 minutes before the -0.8 ft. low tide. This made for a unique situation in Sound Rowers and Paddlers history, where many of the racers had to portage at the cut around Rat Island. This probably had the biggest effect on the race. By the time the fleet reached Point Hudson it was almost a single file line as it paraded across Port Townsend bay. At the cut everything changed. The relatively fixed order of the racers that had developed over the first 30 to 40 minutes of the race changed markedly, as most racers got out of their boats and carried or pushed them through, while some where able to bump along without resorting to auxiliary propulsion. Rob O’Brien took the lead this way, but at the cost of a significant portion of his skeg.

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rat island