Article

 May 11, 2017   Karen Higginson

Active Cove, Patos Island

From the April 2005 issue of 48° North by Raymond A Baetke

Rob, my son and skipper of his 34-foot Catalina, Virginia, came to me last winter suggesting he invite some of his college friends from Illinois for a sailing vacation.  With as many as four guests on the boat at a time, Rob asked that I help him crew the boat.  A cruise in the San Juan Islands would be a great way to show his land-locked friends the maritime beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  The suggestion was too good to pass up and within a week Rob sent inquiries to several of his classmates.

Reid Harbor, Stuart Island

Unfortunately, the people who planned on sailing the first week had to cancel at the last minute.  Rob and I decided to spend the first week sailing together anyway since he had already arranged the vacation time.  The second week’s crew was Rob’s best friend from California, his dad, and a one-time coworker who learned to sail with Rob.  The third week was reserved for Rob’s girlfriend and her two teenage children.

Day 1: Saturday – A quick pump-out of the holding tank, top-off the fuel and water tanks and we were on our way; three weeks among the San Juan Islands and British Columbia’s Gulf Islands.  As we departed Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle, the July weather was sunny and warm, the winds light out of the north and the “SV Virginia” was under diesel power.  By the end of the trip I would recall the irony in the amount of motoring one does on a sailing trip in the Pacific Northwest.

Thirty-four foot Catalina, “Virginia” and crew.

We had hoped to get a mooring buoy at Fort Worden State Park near Port Townsend.  However, being late on a Saturday afternoon the two buoys were already taken.  Since we were close to Mystery Bay Marine State Park on Marrowstone Island we decided to give it a try.  After negotiating the markers around the spit into Kilisut Harbor and the shallow waters to Mystery Bay, we felt fortunate to get the last mooring buoy at Mystery Bay Marine State Park.

Day 2:  Sunday – When your sailboat is surrounded by a variety of other boats gently rocking on the water, the sun is warm and the only sounds are a few sea gulls and the American flag gently flapping on the backstay it is difficult to move on.  In no hurry to leave Mystery Bay, we leisurely perused the charts, reviewed the cruising guides and finally decided to head for Sequim Bay.  After clearing the spit out of Kilisut Harbor we hoisted the sails in 10 to 15 knot winds anticipating a good day’s sailing.  However, shortly after rounding Point Wilson, north of Port Townsend, the winds decreased and were faced with headwinds right down the Straight of Juan de Fuca.  Not caring to spend the rest of the day tacking into gradually declining winds we continued to Sequim Bay under power.

Arriving at Sequim Bay Marine State Park late in the afternoon we had our choice of six mooring buoys.  The seventh buoy was used by a sailboat that we later learned was leasing the space.  After doing some minor clean-up we dinghied ashore and hiked the trails around the park.  Given the time of year and the fabulous weather, we were surprised that most of the picnic areas and campsites were not being used.  There were nearly as few campers ashore as there were boaters “abuoy.”  Back at the dock we had a pleasant conversation with a passing kayaker who noted that this park is an untouched gem.  We had to agree.  If one wants to get away from the crowds, Sequim Bay Marine State Park is a place to consider.

Day 3:  MondayIn many articles, one reads the exciting stories of boaters crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in high winds, turbulent currents, sea swells and big waves.  This is not one of those articles.  The crossing from Sequim Bay to our destination at Barlow Bay on the southern end of Lopez Island was four hours of sitting in the blazing sun listening to the drone of the diesel engine.  Aside from the occasional piece of driftwood, we were the only floating object within sight.  To pass the time, I showed Rob how to splice the ends of two three-strand ropes together.  Duly impressed with my recollection of knot tying skills I proceeded with how to splice a loop into the end of a rope.  While I struggled unsuccessfully for two hours to make a loop, Rob quickly grasped the concept and had his loop spliced within twenty minutes!  Later in the evening as we were enjoying a post-anchoring glass of Chardonnay I spliced a loop in ten minutes.

Barlow Bay in Mackaye Harbor is a very peaceful anchorage.  We set the anchor in fifteen feet of water near the double-masted sailing ship Evergreen.  One of her noteworthy features is a wooden park bench hanging from the stern dinghy davits.  It looked like an interesting place to sit while under a good sail.

Day 4:  Tuesday – We awoke to another day of clear skies and warm sunshine.  After three days on the water Rob commented that he is starting to decompress from the stress and responsibilities of his daily job.  Being on the water is a great way to unwind and to regain one’s perspective on life.

Again with no wind and a day of motoring ahead of us, we decided to use the time as a chart reading exercise skirting the southern end and eastern side of Lopez Island.  Shortly after entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca, however, we noticed several small boats in which everyone was wearing orange life jackets.  It finally dawned on us that they were watching for whales.  For the next thirty-minutes we watched a half-dozen orcas on their eastward journey.

Satisfied with our whale “fix,” we headed back towards Lopez Island and began our chart reading exercise.  For the next several hours we motored in and out of coves and bays and between numerous islands getting familiar with to how the land compares to the representations on a chart.  We agreed that it must be a learned skill to judge distances and to identify the openings of bays and coves from a distance.

After going through Lopez Pass and rounding the northern tip of Decatur Island we headed for James Island Marine State Park to see if there were any mooring buoys available for the night.  This was not a great possibility late in the afternoon but worth a try.  Passing James Island we could see the buoy on the west side was already taken.  But, low and behold the gods of the sea (Neptune and/or Poseidon) were with us.  We got the last of three buoys in the east-side cove.

James Island, like most of the state marine parks we visited, is truly enjoyable.  Boaters in the Pacific Northwest have some great opportunities to visit nature at its best unspoiled by throngs of people.  The south-loop hiking trail is a pleasant walk through thick forests and along the shore looking towards Decatur Head.  The ill-defined trails on the north side of the island were probably made by deer and fun to explore.  Spending time in the woods and being surprised by numerous deer certainly connects one’s soul to a simpler side of life.  That evening as Virgina rocked in the waves from passing ferryboats and a deer walked along the rocky cliffs eating grass, we watched Mt. Baker glow pink on the eastern horizon as the sun set.  Life is good.

Day 5: Wednesday – Today is the reason there are twenty-three days to this trip with twenty-two stops.  We awoke to fog so thick we couldn’t see outside the cove.  No problem.  We just stayed another day relaxing and listening to the ferryboats play their horns as they passed through Thatcher Pass.  A baby sea otter sleeping in the kelp caught up around our mooring buoy provided additional enjoyment throughout the day.

For a change of pace we had a picnic dinner on shore at one of the campsites.  Rob filled a plastic pail with hot dogs, chips, and drinks and we dinghied ashore.  We gathered the few small pieces of driftwood we could find and built a campfire.  What is better than a hot dog cooked on a stick over an open fire at the edge of the woods by the beach?

Day 6:  Thursday – We awoke to clear skies and warm sunshine.  I plotted a course along the east side of Blakely Island, through Peavine Pass and then to Blind Bay on Shaw Island.  During our passage of Peavine Pass I learned a lesson that makes cruising in the San Juan Island a challenge.  With all the straights, passes, passages, and channels around the islands it is important to know which way the tide is ebbing or flowing.  I erroneously thought we were going through Peavine Pass on an ebb tide that would have “flown” us through.  Instead, the tide was flooding and slowed our passage by two knots.  Lesson learned.

The sailboat we followed into Blind Bay took the last of four mooring buoys at Blind Island Marine State Park.  No problem.  We planned on anchoring at the head of Blind Bay anyway.  It took three tries to securely set the anchor and we noticed that other boats had similar problems anchoring.  This seemed odd considering the bottom was supposed to be mud.

After two glasses of wine and a comfortable feeling that the anchor was secure, the gods of the sea presented us with an opportunity. I happened to look toward Blind Island and noticed that the sailboat that took the last buoy just left. Rob and I looked at each other and decided there were no boats within striking distance of the buoy so we decided to take it.  We wondered what the boaters around us thought as we started the engine, pulled the anchor and were on our way to the mooring buoy within minutes.  Sure, it’s not as nautical as being at anchor but we find a certain sense of security on a buoy that lets us sleep through the night.  Best of all, we were now only a short dinghy ride to Blind Island Marine State Park which is a great place to sit and watch the sunset as ferryboats come and go from the Orcas and Shaw Ferry Landings.

Day 7:  Friday – Today’s destination is Parks Bay on the west side of Shaw Island via Wasp Passage.  As a sailboater, Wasp Passage is one of those locations that is best timed so you don’t go against the current.  We scheduled our transit at slack tide and hoped we wouldn’t run into any ferryboats.  The only thing we “ran into” was a swimming deer.

Parks Bay wreck, Shaw Island

We anchored in Parks Bay near an old wreck.  While the anchor “soaked” (a term found in the Waggoner Cruising Guide) we enjoyed a glass of wine.  We often wondered if the time one sits around after anchoring to gain confidence that their anchor is securely set had a name.  We decided to call the ritual “soaking.”  That is – spending sufficient time enjoying one’s favorite beverage and snack after setting the anchor to feel comfortable that it is securely set.

Day 8:  Saturday – Parks Bay was flat as glass as the early morning sun shone in our faces.  In the cockpit we stirred in our sleeping bags not wanting to begin the day.  As we lay there postponing the inevitable my nautical son casually noticed that his red sleeping bag was on the port side seat and my green sleeping bag was on the starboard side seat.  Some people must have boating in their blood.

Today we picked up Rob’s friends in Friday Harbor for their week-long cruise to British Columbia’s Gulf Islands.  Within a few hours of tying up at guest moorage, the oncoming crew had assembled and was raring to go.  Despite everyone’s enthusiasm Rob and I still had work to do.  After loading their gear on Virginia, we sent everyone off to explore Friday Harbor while we took showers, provisioned for the coming week, did last week’s laundry and cleaned the boat.

Day 9:  Sunday – Prior to departure Rob gave a general orientation on the location of the safety equipment, how the head works, how the VHF radio works, what to do if someone falls overboard and the house rules on wearing life jackets.  Because of the potentially emotional nature of our guest’s political predilections, we decided that life jackets would be mandatory during any political discussions above decks.

We departed Friday Harbor bound for Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.  After passing Sentinel Island and Center Reef, we killed the engine and headed out into Haro Strait under sail.  Not only was the sailing superb, but we were joined by a half-dozen Dall’s porpoises.  As the host of a cruise in the San Juan’s, running with porpoises at your bow while under full sail is an experience you dream of sharing with your guests.

Upon entering Reid Harbor we counted nearly 40 boats at anchor, on buoys, or on the state park dock.  There was only one other boat on the linear buoy where there was still room for about seven more boats.  No sooner had we secured ourselves to the linear buoy than a sailboat about halfway between us and the state park dock left its buoy.  As we had previously done in Blind Bay, we started the engine, released our moorings and dashed for the buoy.  With five people onboard it takes two trips in the dinghy to get everyone ashore.  Moving Virginia closer to the dock was, therefore, a good idea.

Stuart Island, like other marine state parks, is a wonderful place.  Even with people from the 40 boats on our side of the island and an unknown number of boats and people in Prevost Harbor on the other side of Stuart Island, we still felt alone hiking the trails.  Only the occasional deer reminded us that the woods were not ours alone.

Day 10: Monday – Today we entered Canadian waters and cleared customs in Sidney.  Nothing we read prepared us for the entrance into the Port Sidney Marina.  If you are unsure about maneuvering in tight spaces and shallow water, think twice and go somewhere else to clear customs.  The entry to Sidney between the two breakwater walls is extremely narrow and boats pass each other closely enough to step onto.  Once inside the breakwater a 180-degree turn puts the customs dock no more than 100 feet in front of you.  It is quite a surprise making this turn and immediately seeing other boats waiting for space at the customs dock or maneuvering to get out of the marina.  One’s nerves, patience and skills are stretched here.

After clearing customs we walked around Sidney looking for ice, “beverages” and a fishing license for Jason.  We found everything within six blocks of the marina.  That’s a long six blocks when carrying four ten-pound bags of ice and an assortment of Canadian brews and groceries.

Beaumont Marine Park, near Bedwell Harbour, South Pender Island, B.C.

With our provisions secured, we set a course for Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island.  The new Poets Cove resort and marina has made Bedwell Harbour a very popular boating destination.  Since we arrived late in the afternoon, none of the mooring buoys at Beaumont Marine Park were available.  Even after “soaking” for several hours the nautical gods did not shine upon us with a late-in-the-day vacant mooring buoy.  We were, however, quite satisfied with our location, the anchor was secure and the crab pot was set.

The one-mile loop trail at the marine park is very pleasant.  The trail goes in and out of the woods passing remote shorelines where kayakers made camp along the beach.

Back at Virginia we were pleasantly surprised to have caught four nice sized crabs.  Fresh crab always tastes better when you catch it from your own boat.  We set the crab pot again thinking we’d have crab omelets for breakfast.

Day 11:  Tuesday – This morning we not only had no crabs but NO CRAB POT!  It mysteriously disappeared overnight.  We hoisted Jason up the mast in the bosun’s chair to search the area.  Nothing.  Its whereabouts remains a mystery.

This morning the guest crew determined the day’s destination.  After consulting the guidebooks and charts they selected Clam Bay between Thetis and Kuper Islands; an easy twenty-five miles away.  For most of the trip we had steady 15 to 20 knot winds and wonderful sailing.

Clam Bay is a very pleasant anchorage.  With a densely wooded shoreline and only a half-dozen other boats in the bay, this anchorage is comparatively quite private.  To amuse ourselves in the early evening hours we hooked the bosun’s chair to the main halyard and used it as a swing.  If you push off from the stern hard enough you can swing out along the side of the boat and land on the bow.  If done incorrectly you bang yourself against the hull and have to struggle back onto the deck.  Quite entertaining.

Day 12:  Wednesday – Our morning routine is generally pretty loose.  People get up when they feel like it and we proceeded to the next destination without concern for our arrival time.  Today, however, is different.  On our way to Nanaimo we have a date with the Dodd Narrows at 11:30.  Our plan is to be at the “Narrows” just as the slack tide turns to flood easing us through.

By eleven o’clock we could see several boats already making their way through the Narrows.  At first we decided to hold back another thirty minutes for the full effect of the turning tide.  However, since the other boats were already making their passage and two tugboats were starting to move their log booms into position we decided to make the passage early.

Half way through the “Narrows” we realized the difference thirty minutes makes.  We were still motoring against a two-knot current.  Making the passage even more interesting was a sailboat and two motor cruisers that entered the “Narrows” from the opposite direction just ahead of us.  For a brief moment the second cruiser got caught in the current turning broadside.  Quickly regaining control, we passed port-to-port close enough to shake hands.

Adding a dollar to the wall at the Dinghy Dock Pub in Nanaimo, B.C.

With the adrenaline working overtime and the Dodd Narrows behind us we continued to Nanaimo.  We planned on anchoring in Nanaino Harbour and rowing over to the Dinghy Dock Pub for dinner.  However, the 15 to 20 knot winds and crowded harbour quickly convinced us to take up moorage at the Nanaimo Port Authority inner basin facilities.

Nanaimo is a very clean, friendly city.  The two and a half mile walk along the Harbourside Walkway past the marina, shops and several waterfront parks should not be missed.  And, if you haven’t been there, don’t come home and tell your friends that you went to Nanaimo but didn’t go to the Dinghy Dock Pub.  One arrives by boat (I suppose your dinghy at one time) and is immediately engulfed in an environment of nautical paraphernalia and surrounded by groups making “boat talk.”  Keeping with pub tradition, our crew stapled a US dollar bill to the wall with SV Virginia and the crew’s names written on it.

Day 13: Thursday – Time to begin our cruise back to Friday Harbor.  We rounded Gabriola Island under full sail and proceeded down the Straight of Georgia with 15 to 20 knot winds at our backs.  Aside from the BC Ferries and a sighting of orca whales the day was pretty routine.  At one point I took the helm while the rest of the crew settled down for an afternoon nap.  In a strange way the quietness on the boat with people sleeping seemed more silent than when everyone is simply sitting around quietly reading.  I let my mind wander and could almost imagine the solitude of what it might be like to single-hand a boat on a deep-water passage.

By the time we got to Active Pass the currents were not favorable for a comfortable transit to the inside of the islands.  We continued farther down the coast of  Mayne Island and anchored in Campbell Bay for the night.  This turned out to be a super gunkhole as there were no other boats in the bay and that night the only light came from the first half of the new moon and numerous stars.

Spaghetti with meat sauce was the dinner fare.  I asked if anyone knew how to tell when spaghetti noodles are cooked enough.  “Mac” thought that if you throw a strand at the bulkhead and it sticks, the spaghetti needs to cook longer.  Rob said if the spaghetti sticks, the bulkhead needs more teak oil.  Such was the sophistication of our cooking.

Day 14: Friday – Enroute to Portland Island from the Straight of Georgia we went through Active Pass.  In many ways Active Pass reminds me of Rich Passage in Puget Sound.  Both are narrow, turning channels with swift currents and must be shared with closely passing ferryboats.  The BC Ferries add an interesting variable to cruising in the Gulf Islands; especially when you are not paying attention and they sneak up behind you.

We anchored in Princess Bay on the south end of Portland Island.  As far as we can determine, Virginia is the only American boat of the nineteen in the crowded bay.  After “soaking” for an hour in the hot sun we dinghied ashore to explore the island.  On a hot day, Portland Island’s dense forest is a great place to cool off and enjoy the serenity of the woods.

As the afternoon got progressively hotter we decided it was time for some water sports.  We devised a rope swing by tying the wooden fish bonker to the end of the main halyard. With a good run across the foredeck one can swing out over the water and drop about twenty feet from the boat.  It was great fun and the boaters around us seemed entertained.  In all our anchorages we have never seen anyone else as creative with their rigging.

Day 15: Saturday – Today’s destination is Friday Harbor back on San Juan Island.  While our guests spent much of the morning packing up their gear, Rob and I scrubbed down the boat in preparation for the next week’s cruise.  After clearing US customs we said good-bye to Jason, Ray and “Mac” and welcomed Rob’s girlfriend Virginia (the boat’s namesake) and her two teenage children; Travis and Becca.  After a well needed shower, we spent the rest of the day catching our breath, shopping and doing the laundry.

Day 16: Sunday – After a late start from Friday Harbor we set out for Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island.  As we entered the harbor we counted thirty-five boats anchored or buoyed.  After a week of anchoring in Canadian waters, the nautical gods were again watching over us.  A sailboat was just casting off leaving the only available mooring buoy in the harbor.  We were tied to it within minutes.

With Virginia secure the five of us took a daypack with drinks and snacks and headed for the Turn Point Lighthouse.  Along the way we visited the eight-sided schoolhouse that is still used for grades K-8 and reportedly had only two students attending at the time of our visit.

Something we found special to Stuart Island is the Treasure Chest.  It is a large wooden chest-like box full of decorated T-shirts depicting Stuart Island.  What is unique about the Treasure Chest is that purchases are made on the honor system.  You select the items you want and take them with you.  When you get home, send a check to the address provided.  It’s nice to see that in this small way some people still operate a business on a level of trust.  Another friendly touch was the bottled water and cups that were provided for the thirsty hiker.  Small bowls were even provided for those who brought their dogs.  While we didn’t meet or even see any of the local people, we had a sense that they cared for and trusted the visitors to their island.

We finally reached the Turn Point Lighthouse and relaxed in the warm afternoon sun on the porch of the lightkeeper’s house.  What a great view overlooking Boundary Pass and the Haro Straight  to the Canadian islands beyond.

Day 17: Monday – As we headed north for the entrance to Active Cove on Patos Island we noticed another sailboat heading east apparently for the same cove.  Our research indicated that there were only two mooring buoys in Active Cove.  Since the time was just before noon we thought the odds of two buoys being open were pretty good.  However, since we couldn’t be sure we reved up the engine another couple hundred rpms to ensure we were first into the cove.  The nautical gods were with us.  There were no boats in Active Cove and only one mooring buoy was installed.  Go figure!

After lunch Travis and I hiked to Alden Point to see the lighthouse.  The sweeping views from the barren tip of Alden Point are spectacular.  To the north and east is the US mainland.  To the west, Saturna Island in Canada.  To the south, the San Juan Islands of Waldron and Orcas.  And in between everything – lots of water.  Immediately off Alden Point the currents from Georgia Straight and Boundary Pass collided in a caldron of boiling white caps right in front of us as waves crashed on both sides of the point.  At a place like this one gets a renewed appreciation for the power and beauty of the medium upon which we boaters enjoy spending our time.

After dinner we dinghied ashore and gathered driftwood for a marshmallow roast and to watch the sunset.  This was not only a treat for the kids but reminded us adults of a simpler life when we too were kids.

Day 18: Tuesday – We planned to get up late, have a leisurely breakfast then make our way to Sucia Island.  At five o’clock in the morning, however, our plans changed.  Four hours before when I was up for a nature call the wind was calm, the cove was glass smooth and all seemed right with the world.  Now in the pre-dawn twilight things didn’t look quite right.

Virginia was bobbing up and down in waves on the verge of turning to white caps.  Most alarming though, the rock wall on the west side of the cove seemed ominously close.  I flipped the navigation switch on and checked the depth.  We were bouncing between eight and ten feet of water.  I roused the skipper for a consultation.  We tried to convince ourselves that the buoy had not moved overnight and the perceived closeness to the rocks was the usual illusion that all objects look closer when on the water.  The depth gauge, however, was telling another story.  With an average reading of nine feet, a draft of almost six feet and a tide that was still going out for several more hours we decided the prudent thing to do was move on.  We hated to admit it but in our haste to grab the buoy yesterday we failed to double check our depth and the consequences of the outgoing tide.

By seven o’clock we were at Sucia Island.  As we motored into Echo Bay we counted at lease thirty-five boats either on individual buoys or at anchor.  Near the head of Echo Bay we spotted two bright-as-the-yellow-sun linear mooring buoys.  Only three boats were tied to the “linears” which could have accommodated at least a dozen more boats.  We wondered if people avoided using them.  Taking space on a linear buoy, we waited for an individual buoy.  We didn’t wait long.

After lunch everyone but the Skipper headed for shore to do some hiking.  First we walked across Sucia Island to Fossil Bay and Fox Cove.  Being smaller and with fewer boats we found these two anchorages much more appealing than Echo Bay.  Even from the shore the area just seemed to have a cozy, less crowded feeling to it.

Returning to Echo Bay we continued an additional two miles around Echo Bay to Ewing Cove.  This was a most enjoyable walk alternately going through the woods and along cliffs above the shores of Echo Bay.

Day 19: Wednesday – After four days on the water it was again time to find a marina where we could buy ice, get water, and most importantly – take showers.  The Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island became our destination.

We hadn’t been off Virginia more than twenty minutes when I had a sense that this moorage was somehow different.  It took awhile to put my finger on it but I soon realized that Deer Harbor has a small-town, you-don’t-have-to-move-so-fast atmosphere.  There was a certain casualness in the air.  Dogs were sleeping on finger piers next to their boats, several people were busy working on bright work, various people near the store were sitting around tables eating ice cream cones and drinking beer, and a group of children were playing on the sandy beach throwing sticks into the water for their dogs to retrieve.  Deer Harbor is a comfortable, enjoyable place to visit.

Spencer Spit, Lopez Island

Day 20: Thursday – Today was a day of changing plans.  The destination as suggested last night was Spencer Spit on Lopez Island.  As we were leaving Deer Harbor I suggested that since we were so close to Jones Island we should go there to see the deer.  Even though we had gone ashore everyday and spent many hours hiking the wooded trails, five days is a long time for teenagers to be confined to the relatively small space of a sailboat.  Interacting with the deer might be a unique enough experience to keep Becca’s and Travis’ enthusiasm up for a few more days.  But the nautical gods were not with us.  Nobody in either the South or the North cove was leaving their mooring buoy.  We reactivated the Spencer Spit plan.

After going through Wasp Passage I remembered the enjoyable time we had two weeks ago at Blind Island and suggested we spend the night there.  That was agreed to and as fate would have it we got the last of four mooring buoys.

I’m not sure how or when the subject came up but somebody put two and two together and suggested that from Blind Island it was only a short dinghy ride to either the Orcas or the Shaw Ferry Landing and from there another short ferry ride to “civilization.”  The short story is that Rob dinghied to the Shaw Ferry Landing where Becca and Travis caught the next ferry back to Anacortes and their awaiting dad.

Day 21: Friday – It’s a quick one-hour “motor” from Blind Island to Spencer Spit Marine State Park.  Upon arrival we assumed that the nautical gods would provide us another mooring buoy; and it was so – one buoy left.

After relaxing for a couple hours we dinghied ashore to register at the pay station and walk along the beach.  Walking along Spencer Spit with its mounds of driftwood made me realize the unique character that driftwood (especially the small pieces) adds to a beach.  I recalled with some dismay the small pieces of driftwood we were allowed to burn at other marine state parks for the pleasure of cooking hot dogs and roasting marshmallows and thinking how plain those beaches looked without the variety in sizes of driftwood.  It may not be a popular idea but I would consider a ban on burning any driftwood so the beaches could retain their full natural beauty.

Day 22: Saturday – We awoke to fog so thick you could not see Spencer Spit from the boat.  I asked Rob if we were going to wait out the fog.  Without hesitation he said the waypoints had already been programmed into the GPS for our passage to Port Townsend and all that was left to do was connect the radar.  On our trip to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island last year we had become familiar with using the radar and GPS and felt comfortable using it today.  The fog just meant that our trip would continue with extreme caution.

Our initial concern was sharing Thatcher Pass in the fog with the ferryboats.  As luck (the nautical gods?) would have it, the fog lifted as we motored through Thatcher Pass.  Once through the pass the fog closed in again all the way to the Point Wilson Lighthouse just north of Port Townsend.

During this passage we were able to visually sight two of the boats we tracked on radar.  Approaching nearly head-on, we saw them about a hundred yards abeam.  The other boats we tracked remained comfortable distances away.

As we approached Point Wilson we could hear its fog horn in the distance.  It is quite satisfying cruising “blind” relying totally on your electronics to get where you want to go; like playing a real-life video game.

After passing the Point Wilson Lighthouse we broke out of the fog.  Instantly we emerged from the damp, gray gloom of the fog into the sunny, warm blue skies around Port Townsend.

Our port of call today is the Port Hudson Resort & Marina.  We have stayed at Port Hudson before and find it a pleasant moorage as well as conveniently located near downtown.  After tying up we used the shower facilities then headed into town for some Mexican food.

Day 23: Sunday – We left the Port Hudson Marina one hour before the -1.0 tide.  As we slowly passed between the pilings defining the entrance to Port Hudson we could clearly see the sandy bottom eight feet below us!

The trip back to Seattle was long, boring, and filled with the constant droning of the diesel engine.  There was no wind to sail on and only the incoming tide helped speed our journey home.

After twenty-three days on the water we arrived back at Shilshole Marina with mixed feelings.  It was a wonderful trip with great guests, great friends, great scenery, great weather, and even some great sailing.  We now had to get our land-legs back into shape and rejoin the real world.  It was time to start thinking about next year’s adventure.

Originally printed in April 2055 48°N