Monday, July 4, 2016

Wonderful circuit of the San Juans with Orcas and Dungeness

Amy and I have some time without the boys and so took advantage of the 4th of July weekend for a four day sailing trip into some new places.

We left Anacortes on Friday and went down the Swinomish Channel to catch Dungeness on the opening day. It's interesting that when you look online for information on the channel it is filled with dire warnings and cautionary tales. I've gone through several times and it seems to me no more or less hazardous than any place I go, and much less troubling than many. Anyway, once through the channel uneventfully we did some crabbing on our way to Cornet Bay. We caught a few keepers before arriving, and found good crabbing right in the Bay itself.

It can be a bit rolly in Cornet Bay because the zippy power boats launch right there and pay no attention to you being anchored. But the views are stunning, and it quiets down at dark.

The next day we had an incredible journey with the ebb and flood. We transited Deception Pass with the last of the ebb, and that is always a highlight of any trip. Riding this waning ebb toward south Lopez, we caught the start of the flood right up Haro Strait to our destination at D'Arcy Island across the border into Canada. South Lopez is among the prettiest spots in all the San Juans. It is most like the islands much further north in Canada and makes you feel farther away than you are. Jagged rocks and crashing coves. We had to flip on the radar near Cattle Pass as some fog rolled in, and there were many fishing boats.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Replaced old compass with RAM mount for iPhone

Our old compass at the inside steering station was clouded and rather useless. As I have come to enjoy my Navionics navigation app on my iPhone as a reliable back up to my chartplotter, I decided to mount a RAM system in the same place.

It looks fine, and works perfectly. Now, when I am steering from inside, I don't have to look back at my chartplotter through the companionway doors. I can rely on the phone app which has the same functionality.
Works great! Will probably replace the wooden disc with teak when I am next around a source for it.

Memorial Day the Tumbo Way!

For Memorial Day we, well, went to Tumbo again! Our first night was actually at Jones Island as there were strong SE winds and getting from Anacortes to Tumbo right up Rosario Strait and then across Boundary Pass in those conditions is pretty rough going. But Sunday morning we hopped over to Tumbo and had the usual fantastic time.

Time stands still in places like Tumbo Island. It is timeless in the way the ecology is deeply rooted to ancient cycles, and though change is constant, it blends together to form a consistency that is palpable.

The reality of being out on the boat is so far removed from the humdrum facsimiles of urban and domestic machinations.

View from Cabbage south toward Tumbo. This spit of land is exposed at low tides, and gives the name to Tumbo as a distortion of Tumbolo.      

Friday, May 27, 2016


After all these years of going on trips across the Salish Sea, you might think they would lose their edge the way so many other things do. Become known. But they don't. We are leaving tonight for another three day weekend trip up into BC, and my stomach has the same excitement I used to feel thousands of ocean miles ago.

I think this speaks to the wilderness that is the ocean. Part of the allure is the fact that the sea, even inside the Straits with our more benign conditions, is an uncontrollable place. There are so many variables. When heading out on a backpacking trip, the variables are fewer, and more easily controlled. With sailing, if the wind kicks up to 30 knots, no matter how well prepared you are, you are in for a rough ride. If you lose a major system on your boat, especially sails or motors, then you are perhaps adrift on a conveyor belt of water that heads toward every rock. Put another way, the consequence of error when sailing are literally life and death. Or at least great suffering.

So we are packing and preparing like so many times before. With so much experience, we do it now without thinking. And we will soon head off to the unknown that is a voyage on the sea. Forecasts call for SE 15-25 tomorrow, but will that happen? Will we get to sail north? Or will it rub against an ebb too hard and kick up a nasty sea?

No way to know, despite a pile of experience. In this way, going sailing is a journey into the unknown. And that is delightful. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Spencer Spit escape

Last weekend the pressure in our adventure tanks had risen too high and was in danger of blowing, so we headed up to Aeolus and out for the weekend. It turned out to be an utterly gorgeous and calm series of days, with only one short chance to sail. Spencer Spit on Lopez island is a wonderful and close hop away from Anacortes. About 2.5 hours, depending on the always contrary currents in Guemes Channel.

With the whole family aboard, we motored our way through water and wove our way among seabirds over through Thatcher Pass and around Frost Island to the northern side of Spencer Spit. We anchored in about 20' of water and were soon ashore for the fun that follows. Both boys love scaling and sliding back down the sandy cliffs just north of the campground.
Elliott in the hammock and blissing out

Generally speaking my wife and I are quick to tell our boys about reducing erosion and staying on trails and all that. Lessons from careers in outdoor education stay with you. But in the case of these sand cliffs, it is all open access. There is a serious problem around the Salish Sea with people using bulkheads and walls to prevent shore erosion and cliff crumbling. Sounds good, for the house owners, but that erosion and sand deposition is essential to maintaining healthy habitats for feeder fish, the small ones that feed everything else. That's why those sandy bluffs are called "Feeder" bluffs. They feed the sand that nourishes the beaches that supports the marine life.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Day trip to Clark Island with friends

On a wonderfully sunny and warm April day this weekend I took some friends out for a trip to Clark Island. Most of them are not sailors and it was a novel experience for them to be on the salish sea in this way. It was dead calm, so we were reduced to motoring the two hours each way, but the scenery and wildlife make up for the noise.
The wild side of Lummi Island

The calm conditions allowed us to see quite a few birds, including long-tailed ducks, rhino auklets, pigeon G's, common murres, bald eagles, great blues, and numerous gull species. Harbor porpoises, harbor seals and a few sea lions represented the mammals.

There is nothing quite so great as messing about in boats, and this was a fine day for it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Winter week in San Juan and Gulf Islands-A grand tour

We are just back from the most wonderful week of cruising around the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. The boys had the week off school, and I from work. We had every single anchorage to ourselves...Where were you?
Dramatic light on Russell Island, British Columbia

Where were all the boats from Puget Sound and Canada? The marinas are full, the people haven't died of the plague yet, so why did everyone stay home on both weekends and week between? Why have I seen it this way every winter for over a decade now?

We had Shallow Bay on Sucia Island all to ourselves. And Echo Bay was empty.

We had Reid Harbor all to ourselves, where in summer I routinely count 100 boats.

We had Russell Island near Salt Spring all to ourselves, where I have shared it with 30 other boats in July.

We had Winter Cove on Saturna Island all to ourselves, and it routinely fills with 30 boats in summer.

We had Reef Harbor on Tumbo and Cabbage Islands all to ourselves for two whole days and nights, and in the summer every one of 14 balls is taken and a dozen others anchored nearby.