This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cruising the San Juans

My next few blog entries will more than likely be related to cruises Leslie and I have taken this summer around our "backyard." We live in an amazing place! Literally, we are a 10 minute drive to the local marina where our boat, the Key of Sea, is berthed and from there, only 5 minutes to the breakwater that lets us enter the wonders of the Salish Sea. Hundreds of islands, most of which are
The San Juan Islands with Mt. Baker in the background.
We live here!
only accessible to those with a boat (only a very few have Washington state ferry service to them).

Small bays and coves are tucked into out of the way places where it is possible to drop your anchor and be the solitary occupants of a view of old growth forests, tidal pools teeming with critters, seals, otters, perhaps a small isolated beach all to yourself where you can collect shells or agates.  It isn't at all uncommon to find yourself suddenly amongst a pod of Orcas or the audience for the antics of Humpback or Grey whales.

I will also spend time talking about the summer projects to either improve or maintain the Key of Sea. The bright work is my big project this summer. I have already spent some time talking about what I intend to do. I am now
A view of the hatch cover below the Command Bridge after
the 2nd coat of varnish. Only 4 more to go!
actually doing it! My flag staff is re-finished, reunited with the stern of the boat and proudly displaying my new flag (photos coming).

In my garage right now I am refinishing the trim around the access hatch normally found under the command bridge (fly bridge) helm. It is a bit more complicated than the flag staff but it is coming along nicely. As the trim isn't removable, I have had to carefully sand so as not to scuff up the non-wood portion of the hatch. That completed, I have puttied up holes, lightly sanded those and the second coat of varnish has now been applied. Only 3-4 more and the hatch will be ready to re-install.

As to our most recent cruise, we were invited to some friend's family cabin on Lopez Island. We've been before but took the state ferry last time. This time they invited us to tie to a mooring ball in the little cove near their cabin. It belongs to a neighbor but they'd got permission for us to borrow it for a night.

This cabin is situated on Flat Point on the northwest tip of Lopez Island. Back in the 50's a family member was offered a parcel of land and though the price at the time seems cheap by today's standards, it was a lot to bite off on a teacher's salary then. They took on a second job to pay it off and eventually built a modest cabin on the land. It is worth, well, a lot today! With a 270 degree view onto the water, state ferries run past all day long as well as dozens of pleasure craft. It is a stunning place.
Mooring balls come in all shapes and sizes, basically they are
just a floating ball, anchored to the bottom with a ring on top.

We headed out on the 3 1/2 hour cruise with no problems along the way except that we had some odd currents pushing against us making the cruise 4 hours instead.

As we approached their cabin we called them on the cell phone and they came out to point to the mooring ball we were to attach to. We scooted up to it carefully. We've only used mooring balls a couple of times and struggled with getting attached both times. We just didn't have the maneuver worked out right. So, you might imagine our nervousness. We approached the ball down our port side. I was able to pretty quickly pull up to within inches of the ring on the top and Leslie ran a line through it. She tied off both ends of the line and called out to me. I walked back to check on things and was happily surprised to see she had us tied off.  I untied the
line and walked both ends out to the bow where we tied it off to cleats on either side of the bow. This creates a bridle that allows and easy retrieval.  Simply let go one end of the line and slip it back through the ring and on to the boat. The line doesn't even get wet. 

With our bridle in place we shut down all unnecessary electrical and mechanical systems aboard and began readying the dinghy for the trip to shore. Our dinghy is an 11' inflatable with a 2 hp Honda outboard. We lowered the dinghy away and I mounted the outboard to it. After stepping into the dinghy, Leslie got in and we released from the davits severing our connection to the mother ship.

We dinghied in to shore where our hosts greeted us. It was necessary to drag the dinghy up on the beach so it didn't drift away when the tide came back in. 

We had a great day catching up with them, meeting their new born daughter, BBQing and just relaxing with that amazing view.

About sunset (10:00ish this time of year in this latitude) we said our goodbyes and headed back out to the Key of Sea, which sat quietly in the harbor. After putting away the dinghy for the night, we headed off to bed exhausted from our day.

The 5:00 am ferry heading for Victoria, BC awakened us. Then things settled down for another hour before the second ferry of the day came by. We were able to sleep a little longer despite the heavy wake action from the ferries, but by 7 the bright sunshine and the sound of recreational boaters going by made for a pleasant alarm clock.  A cup of coffee and breakfast up on the fly bridge was a great start to the day, but it was time to make preparations to head home.

The bridle worked exactly as we'd hoped and we were free to head out of the cove toward home.  We got about 20 minutes from our anchorage before we rounded Upright Head and came face to face with not one but two state ferries. I guessed correctly that the larger and closer of the two was headed for the Lopez Island ferry landing which we were just then cruising past. We came a little closer to the ferry's bow than I would have liked but it all worked out fine. The other ferry stood off waiting its turn to go to the landing so it was no threat. We scooted on across the channel at about 9 knots (not fast enough for me under the circumstances) and into Peavine Pass, a narrow passage that at flood or ebb tides can be a bit bumpy. We had entered it at slack tide and so the water was flat calm.

On we went. We'd thought about tucking into Vendovi Island for a visit on the way home so we turned a bit south east and headed for the breakwater. We pulled in just as the caretakers of the island arrived.

Vendovi is a special place. Privately owned up until just a few years ago, no one other than the owners and their guests were allowed ashore. Recently though, a local conservation group was able to purchase it saving it from probable subdivision into lots for wealthy folks to build their dream island getaway. Instead, it is now a
sanctuary open 10-6 during part of the year and accessible only by those with a boat or kayak. No anchoring is allowed and no overnighting. Other than the very nice young caretaker couple, we had the entire island to ourselves for the duration of our 90 minute visit. We will be back though as it is a wonderful picnic spot and it has lots of hiking opportunities.

Next we headed north into Bellingham Bay and the hour long cruise across the bay to our home slip.  We arrived pretty exhausted but managed to wash down the boat, empty and clean the holding tank and top off the fresh water supply--ready for our next cruise in a week's time!

This was a great practice run for the upcoming cruise to the out islands of Sucia, Matia and Patos, all north of Orcas Island before then heading northeast to Blaine harbor for the annual SeaSkills North event sponsored by our sail and power squadron group.

More later!