Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To Jones and Stuart Islands with Jim

One of the best parts about living in the San Juan Islands is that everyone finds some excuse to come visit. That is, for people like us who love to have company, this is one of the fringe benefits. If, on the other hand, you were like my mom, this would be hell on earth. Living in a somewhat remote place is made all the more splendid when you can count on all manner of friends and family passing through the door at some point during the year. No one lives anywhere else so nice that it isn't worth a vacation here in the islands.

Another great benefit to having so many guests, besides the guests themselves, is that it gives us an excuse to go sailing! Most everyone is eager to get out on the water and yet feel that discretion requires them not to ask too forcefully. Little do they realize that there is nothing we would rather do than take people out on Aeolus.

The next in the long line of great guests was Amy's uncle Jim. This was his first trip to the islands I believe and so we dialed up a trip to some of our favorite places. Jim is an athletic and adventurous sort and so there were no limitations to what we could do.

The plan worked beautifully. The poor guy arrived on a red eye but we threw him on the boat the same day he arrived and left that afternoon for Jones Island for our first overnight. It was just the boys and I plus Jim, as Amy stayed behind to finish some work. We left and headed up San Juan Channel and even had the chance to sail. I always try to give my guests an early opportunity to take the wheel and experience the thrill of "sailing". A side motivation is that I am eager for them to understand the basic boat controls so that in the event of an emergency I can rely on them to play a role in handling the boat. Jim had a steady hand, unlike most others, and kept the boat on a steady tack without a bunch of weaving around. Faster and more fun that way.

We went to the north side of Jones as SW winds were forecast. After dropping anchor off the NW corner of the state park dock, poor Jim dropped straight to sleep at whatever it was, like 8pm, as he had been up and traveling since 4 am or something like that. Owen went down too. Elliott and I were still spunky and so we dinghied over and hiked around and played on the beach and had a grand old time. Sure enough the lovely south cove was getting some good wind and our stay there would have been bouncy. Good call to stay on the north side.

In the morning, after a deep and wonderful night sleep for all, we went to shore and took Jim on our favorite walk around the West side of Jones. He was as impressed as everyone is with the views and it was a perfect start to a perfect day.

We then went over to Roche Harbor to pick up Amy, where we had arranged to have lunch before heading over to Stuart. We got to sail most of the way there on a nice beam reach before the wind died and the always strong and contrary currents in Spieden channel forced us to rouse the iron horse. As this was a Saturday in summer, all the face dock space at Roche was taken and we dropped anchor as near to there as possible.

Blue sky, hot sun, light breeze. If there is a better place, a better feeling, a deeper good on this earth, I have not yet found it. I've found equal, but not better.

We navigated the garden of mega yachts by rowing (OH MY GOD!) our dinghy like the hoi polloi we are and found Amy on time for a well deserved lunch at the newly expanded cafe. Roche Harbor is such a bizarrely obscene and yet wonderful place. The history is tragic, both ecologically and socially, and the new resort atmosphere wreaks of plasticine wealth, and yet the old hotel and the setting and the happiness that pervades the harbor counteracts all that and leaves you with a pleasant feeling of happy tranquility.

Satisfied, we shuttled our bodies and enough food for fifteen for a week over to Aeolus. No sooner had we raised anchor practically than we were able to raise sail. The wind was a steady 15-20 from the SW and coming right up Haro Straight. We took a tack headed over toward Sidney BC to take advantage of the great wind on a beam reach. After touching our toes into Canada (OH JOY), we headed back to Reid Harbor for our afternoon hike.

We grabbed one of the mooring buoys in Reid because we wanted to be near the State Park dock and between space restrictions and eel grass concerns we don't like to anchor here. We took Jim, who by this time is nearly stupefied with island pleasure, on a hike to a high point on Stuart that is especially sublime. Views all over and a feeling of being on top of the world. On this hike we gain something approximating 1,000 feet and cover a good handful of miles, but little Owen our 4 year old has never known anything different and just motors right up to the top and back with a negligible amount of fussing.

After a BBQ dinner and all the joy of sunset in Reid Harbor, we settled in for another great night sleep in preparation for our trip to the lighthouse at Turn Point the next day.

Having done this walk a great many times by now one would think it might have lost some charm the way familiar things sometimes do. Not in this case. The walk out to Turn Point remains my most favorite walk anywhere in the county and has lost none of the fascination and excitement it held upon my first trip back in 1998 or so.

So we get there, dumbfounded with smug happiness, and while pondering our good fortune Amy spots the whale watching boats nearby. A sure sign whales are in the area. Sure enough, an entire pod of Orcas is headed our way and over the course of the next 30 minutes or so we watched as they passed by doing every trick in the book.

It was hilarious listening to the excited banter between our boys and Amy about the whales. You know you are raising your kids in the islands when conversations sound like:

Elliott: "Hey, Hey, Mom, that was a flipper flap, a flipper flap Mom"
Amy: "Yeah, so cool"
Elliott "Hey, A breach! A breach! That one breached! I saw it breach!"
Amy: "Yeah, it breached, did you see that!"
Elliott "Yeah, so cool, it breached right there! and hey look at that one spy hopping!"

It was stunning to be in that unbelievably picturesque spot, on a blue sky warm sun day, with Orcas passing by and the world to yourself and nothing more to do.

We enjoyed our hike back and enjoyed our dinner and enjoyed our sleep and enjoyed our sail back to Friday Harbor. I've run out of superlatives.

There is nothing more wonderful than sharing great times with great friends, and Jim helped us create another wonderful memory aboard the good ship Aeolus.


Adrian LaRoque said...

Since I can't find an email I need to ask you this question here.
How is the sailing performance of the Gulf 32?
I have mixed opinions, but indeed the best way is to ask someone that own one.


Brian said...

They sail much better than what you may read and think, but will not catch a Jboat. Hull speed is about 6.5 and with the modified full keel, they sail better than a Westsail and point high enough. Bottom line, I think, is that if you want to race don't get one, but if you want to cruise and be happy aboard a boat in ANY weather, they are a great choice. I don't get passed or caught very often, and always get where I'm going in comfort.