Wednesday, September 14, 2016

And So: the Journey Ends

All good things must come to an end, and our Summer 2016 journey up the Inside Passage to Alaska is no exception. 

Monday morning we pulled the anchor at 6:30 a.m., threaded our way out the unusually shallow channel at Fisherman's Bay on Lopez Island (saw less than a foot of water beneath our hull on the depth sounder, several times, yikes!), and headed south.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca was kind, with light winds and no waves over 3 feet, mostly 1-2 feet. Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound were calm, sunny and beautiful. And then downtown Seattle and majestic Mt. Rainier came into view.

We headed under the Agate Pass bridge, texted friends Rick and Linda on Bainbridge Island that we were about to pass their home, waved to each other, then pulled into our slip at the marina. And it's a wrap.

The Summer 2016 journey up the Inside Passage was everything Summer 2015 was meant to be, and we're so glad we did this trip. Thanks for following along.

It's good to be home.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Last Visitors Aboard

Daughter Adrienne and her husband Justin moved from Denver to Seattle this summer, and we're thrilled they're nearby. After work Friday they drove to Anacortes and walked on a ferry to Friday Harbor to meet us aboard. We sat up talking past our usual bedtimes.

Saturday morning Phoenix moved to Stuart Island, and on the way into the anchorage, Justin dropped a crab pot. Crab season is closed at home, but it's open til September 30 in the San Juan Islands.

Adrienne and Justin dropped the kayaks as soon as we settled at anchor and took off to explore Reid Harbor. They reported finding a family of otters, with 5 babies, playing under a dock. 

No photos of the hike we took to the old Stuart Island schoolhouse which no longer has a teacher or students with a year-round island population of only 24.

We had a favorite meal for dinner, and this is the result. Dungeness.

And all sat in the cockpit talking til long after dark, with a beautiful moon. 

Sunday morning as we left the anchorage, Adrienne and Justin pulled the crab pot. Bingo!

Seven crabs: 3 were female or too small so went back in the water, but 4 were large male "keepers", meaning we each get one more crab feast!

Sunday morning we drove Phoenix down the west side of San Juan Island looking for whales, a common place for the resident Orca Killer Whales to hang out in summer months. Adrienne and Justin set up the hydrophone and dropped it to a depth of 100', marveling at the beautiful sounds of echolocation that could be heard occasionally, telling us whales were somewhere in the vicinity, though not seen. 

And after an hour of drifting with engines off, we were rewarded with a group of Orcas swimming near shore! We were all thrilled, and re-started the engines to head for the ferry terminal. But wait! We spotted a couple whale watching boats a mile north, motored slowly in that direction, and soon were surrounded by a couple dozen Orca whales on all sides of the boat. We could hear their loud "blows" (breaths) as they surfaced, and several came within 100 feet of the boat. Lots of smiles and gasps of wonder aboard Phoenix. 

Adrienne got better pics with her DSLR and telephoto lens than our iPhone, but we don't have any of them yet, so this will do.

Late in the afternoon, we fueled up at Friday Harbor, walked Adrienne and Justin to the ferry, and headed to Fisherman's Bay on Lopez Island to anchor out for what might be the last night of our 3-month summer journey. 

We sure enjoyed all our visitors over the last three weeks!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

The last two days with daughter Mackenzie and son-in-law Matt aboard passed quickly: they had to work, so spent all day on their laptops and phones, and we did boat cleaning and maintenance projects. Wednesday evening we put them on the ferry at Friday Harbor to travel to Seattle for the rest of the week.

Thursday friends Charlene and Darrell on "Rephyl" arrived, a 45' Navigator like our boat. We met them in July and spent a terrific week buddy-boating around Cape Caution, to Hakai/Pruth Bay anchorage on Calvert Island, and Shearwater. They then returned home for their daughter's wedding, so it was wonderful they came to the San Juan islands now to see us before we go home.

We had happy hour on Phoenix and talked non-stop, sharing stories and photos,

and went out for dinner and talked til long after dark, enjoying the moon and stars.

Friday morning we walked around town and visited aboard their boat until they had to return home mid-day.

Last Sunday our dear friend and neighbor George died suddenly. His deeply loved wife Josi is heart-broken of course, and suggested we go to Friday Harbor House for a martini, as that was a place they loved and visited often, and George's favorite drink. So we did, talking about fun things we've done with George and Josi over the past 12 years (buddy boating, many dinners, Spring Training baseball games in Arizona and more), and the friendship, kindness, intelligence and gentlemanliness we'll miss in George.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wescott Bay, San Juan Island

Monday morning we pulled the anchor and made the short trip from Stuart Island to San Juan Island across Haro Strait. Wind and waves were higher than we liked since we were towing the dinghy, but we went "outside" in Haro Strait anyway, hoping to spot some Orca Whales for Mackenzie and Matt. Sadly, no luck. So we turned into Mosquito Pass hoping to anchor in Garrison Bay, but Labor Day crowds were too thick, so continued to Wescott Bay where we found a nice spot.

Daughter Mackenzie and son-in-law Matt took off in the dinghy to drop a crab pot, then Cathryn, Mackenzie and Matt took the dinghy in to Roche Harbor for groceries and wine.  

Four hours later: crabs!

So guess what we had for dinner? Crab feast! A favorite anytime, but especially when boating. 

Reid Harbour, Stuart Island

Sunday morning we crossed the border back into U.S. waters and were able to quickly clear Customs via telephone because all 4 of us have NEXUS/Global Entry cards. Sure is easy, and well worth the $50 fee (every 5 years), in-person interview, finger-printing and criminal background check run by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. 

Stuart Island, in the San Juan islands, has a pretty anchorage on the south side with lots of room for many boats and good holding in thick mud. 

All 4 of us took the 6-mile hike out to Turn Point Lighthouse at the NW corner of the island. 

And went on the self-guided tour of the beautiful home where the Lightkeeper's family used to live, and Docents work still.

Prawns for dinner wrapped up another great day.

Montague Harbour, round 2

We had great fun with Aaron and Julie at Montague Harbour previously, so decided to take daughter Mackenzie and son-in-law Matt there too. 

Mid-day Matt went for a 5-mile island run while Mackenzie and Cathryn hiked the trails and beach around Grays Peninsula, and Bob took care of a few boat chores. Bob got the short end of that stick!

The "kids" enjoyed lounging in the sun on the bow of the boat.

At 6:00 we dinghied to shore and caught the Hummingbird Pub Bus for a 15-minute rollicking ride to the Pub for dinner. The driver hands out "instruments" as each passenger boards and a sing-along, play-along follows.

Blogger won't let me attach a short video clip of the wild bus ride back home, but it's a hoot. Guess you gotta be there.

Clam Bay, Thetis Island

Thursday night we docked at the swanky Galiano Island Oceanfront Resort in Sturdies Bay because it's a 5-minute walk from the B.C. Ferry Terminal where daughter Mackenzie and son-in-law Matt arrived Friday morning, having flown up from LA where they live. We haven't seen them since March, so are thrilled they're able to join us aboard for 6 nights.

We rushed to catch the 11:15 slack tide through Active Pass and headed north to an anchorage in Clam Bay on Thetis Island. After a quick boat tour and briefing, and dropping the anchor, we headed through the shallow inter-island passage in the dinghy to explore Telegraph Harbour and stop for a beer on the dock at Thetis Marina.

Then went for a beach walk.

The weather cooperated for happy hour in the cockpit.

Beginning of the long Labor Day weekend, so lots of boats in the anchorage.

Montague Harbour round 1

We connected with boating buddies Aaron and Julie from back home who are on a 3-week vacation on their lovely boat "Eight Bells". We anchored near each other in Montague Harbour on Galiano Island two nights, went out for dinner one night, Julie cooked for us one night, and we enjoyed a beach and trails walk together. We hadn't seen Aaron and Julie since March, so it was great to catch up! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another New-to-Us Experience

Tuesday morning we left Nanaimo at 8:15 to time our arrival at Dodd Narrows for the 9:10am slack tide. An hour later we texted Aaron and Julie to tell them we'd arrive Montague about noon. 

Wind and waves rose to 16-18 knots and  close to 1 meter, conditions we and Phoenix handle easily. 

Approaching a passage between Tree Island and Pylades Island at the north end of Trincomali Channel, we spotted what looked like a strange log with 2 or 3 large birds on it. 

Getting closer, we realized it was a CANOE with 3 people in it, and closer still, using binoculars, we saw they were waving their arms at us and yelling for help. We slowed to approach within shouting distance, and it was clear they were in trouble: the canoe was half-swamped in the white-caps, their clothes were soaked, and only two of them wore life vests. 

We asked if they wanted to come aboard, they did, and a tense hour ensued. It's hard to explain how difficult it is to bring a canoe to the swim step, which is crashing up and down in the waves, and transfer 3 cold people and all their camping gear into our cockpit, without smashing hands between the canoe and swim step or capsizing the canoe. Fortunately all 3 were young, agile and strong enough.

Turns out they'd canoed across from north of Chemainus (12 miles) the day before and camped overnight on Valdes Island, unaware the weather would get rougher this morning. Eliza (age 24) explained that Joseph (16) and Kenzie (20) -- brother and sister -- both had to be at work at 5pm, so she was trying to get them back. Then we learned a fourth member of their group, Kayla (21) was in a tiny 5-foot "sport" kayak and couldn't manage it in the wind and waves, so Eliza had instructed her to go ashore and look for help. Kayla was alone, they weren't sure where. 

We asked enough questions to ensure everyone was cold but uninjured, wrapped them in dry beach towels and began the search for Kayla.

Bob drove Phoenix as close to shore as safely possible, and Cathryn and Eliza scanned the shoreline with binoculars. We finally located the blue kayak and an orange life vest on shore, then Kayla 300 feet away sitting on a large rock. 

Eliza yelled and motioned Kayla to swim out to our boat, to which Cathryn responded "If she tries that, I'm calling the Coast Guard for help. Tell her to go back to the kayak and paddle to Phoenix." Short version: Kayla made it to Phoenix in the kayak and safely boarded. We tied the canoe in our cockpit, the kayak on the swim step, and headed 12 miles to Chemainus where Eliza had called her Dad and asked that he pick them up. The marina agreed to let us tie up to drop off people and gear.

So for an hour, Bob drove Phoenix, fuming over the abysmal lack of knowledge and preparedness these 4 exhibited (3 life vests for 4 people, no one knew where they were, no whistle, flares, VHF radio, first aid kit, out of food and water, all barefoot with cuts on their feet from rocks with barnacles, and in vessels suitable for small inland lakes, not big bodies of cold salt water with wind and waves) while Cathryn gave them dry clothes, food and water and talked with them. 

They seemed cheerfully oblivious to the dangers and risks they'd faced, despite two of them were shivering uncontrollably and Eliza described Joseph as "not a strong swimmer". Joseph looked like he might be in shock, saying nothing except one-word responses to questions directed to him. Eliza laughed a lot, perhaps out of embarrassment that she'd been the leader of this expedition. Turns out the 3 girls were roommates in Nanaimo. 

So Dad met us on the dock in Chemainus, handed Cathryn a bottle of nice wine as a thank you, all the kids hugged us and thanked us, and off we went. Whew!

Mostly, we know from our own experience of a boating accident with severe injury last summer that anyone can get in trouble on the water anytime. And anyone in a position to help can and should offer assistance. We've been in a position of needing help and know how desperate it can feel. We just think Eliza, Kayla, Kenzie and Justin were lucky we happened along when we did, as no other boats were in sight. We're glad we could help and that all ended well. Aaron and Julie certainly understood why we were several hours late meeting them at Montague.


Monday offered a typical forecast of a calm morning with rising afternoon winds, and we wanted to get across the Strait of Georgia, so left Pender Harbor at 6:30 as soon as it was light enough to see. The view was distinctly different depending which direction you looked as the next 3 photos show, all taken within 2 minutes:

Unlike Sunday in Malaspina Strait, winds never surpassed 10 knots nor waves above 0.5 meters. Four hours later we pulled into Nanaimo, a great provisioning stop: easy walking distance to groceries, liquor store, chandlery, and a hardware store.

Bob was able to get a new propane hose, valve and fitting as the original brass fitting had cracked, jettisoning all our propane and leaving us without use of the stove and oven for 3 days (choice: grill or microwave?)

For some reason they parked us on the "Big Boys' Dock" where Phoenix was dwarfed by the $7.2 million dollar boat "Polar Bear" for sale across from us. 

We got a SPOT satellite message from friends Aaron and Julie on "Eight Bells" showing they were nearby, so we texted back and forth, agreeing to meet at an anchorage in Montague the next day. And we got most of our preparations completed for the next set of visitors arriving Friday morning. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

One of "THOSE" days

Sunset in Lund last night (Saturday) was gorgeous (unfiltered photo) . . .

but the forecast for today was winds 10-15 knots in the morning, rising to 20-25 knots about noon. We wanted to travel 42 miles to Pender Harbour so knew we needed an early start. At 6:25 a.m. we were off the dock, when it was just light enough to see crab pots or deadheads.

Malaspina Strait adjacent to the Strait of Georgia has always been kind to us, but not today. 25 knot winds arrived an hour after we left Lund. There's only one photo from today:

Seas were 4-6 feet the entire 4 1/2 hours, with occasional 8-footers that swamped the bow 3 times and left the windshield awash in green water for 10 seconds before the windshield wipers could clear them. Phoenix performed beautifully, and we were never scared, but we don't like these conditions and can't safely walk around the boat. 

The final insult after we got safely anchored in Garden Bay at Pender Harbour: we heard an unusual noise and figured out the fresh water pump was running continuously. Uh oh; it's not supposed to do that! A quick system check revealed an empty water tank despite Bob having just filled it at Lund. We have a shower caddy that holds shampoo and conditioner, and it turns out the rough seas had knocked the shampoo and conditioner out of the caddy. One or both must have hit the shower handle on the way down as the water was on, and the last water from the tank was dribbling from the shower head. Sigh. 

So anchor up and into a marina we went to refill tanks. I think we'll go out for dinner too.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Prideaux Haven

Bob and I anchored in Prideaux Haven two summers ago and liked it so much we stayed 3 nights, so wanted to bring sister Susan and her husband Bob here. It's a huge anchorage made up of many little islands and coves, but so popular it still gets a bit crowded. The weather turned sunny and hot (80s) which called for a little swimming in the 70+ degree water.

Cannonball off the boat!

We took the dinghy 3 miles across Homfray Channel to East Redonda Island   at low tide to harvest oysters,

and got a 5-gallon bucket with 46 oysters. We could have gotten hundreds, but what would we do with that many? 

Grilled them with a touch of olive oil, butter, garlic and salt; yum!

Susan and Bob dropped and pulled the prawn pot several times, so that meant prawns for dinner another night.

We toured the whole anchorage by dinghy one afternoon,

and sat on the flybridge with a glass of wine at night, long after it was too dark to see anything but anchor lights everywhere.

We still like Prideaux Haven in Desolation Sound.