2013 Cruise – Florida to the Pacific Northwest

Holidays in the Keys – January 11, 2013

We had a great cruise into our beloved Florida Keys.  We anchored behind Pumpkin Key next to the very exclusive Ocean Reef Club at the north end of Key Largo so we could jump out to the ocean side of the Keys for the rest of the trip to Marathon.  The path to Hawk Channel is through Angelfish Creek which has notoriously shifting shoals at the mouth.  We had to transit it at the top of high tide, and our reward was a beautiful Keys sunrise as we got to the ocean.20121206 003 pumpkin key sunriseWe had a nice cruise down Hawk Channel, though it’s important to keep a sharp watch out for crab pots!  The floats they use here in the Keys are pretty small and they can be hard to see until they are close.  Hawk Channel is fairly shallow – 15-25′ on average.  It runs on the inside of the reef so it has better protection from ocean waves; on the outside of the reef the depths drop off dramatically and the Gulf Stream current often comes very close to the edge.The Keys are about 100 miles long – a chain of islands connected by bridges first built by Henry Flagler for his Overseas Railroad in the early 1900’s.20121206 028 sombrero storm RESIZENo trip to Marathon would be complete without a storm.  We ALWAYS seem to get a little storm just to make things interesting.  This year it was only a series of smaller rain squalls, but they passed very near us and made it a little exciting.     As we approached Sombrero light we could see the closest dark clouds and rain.We dodged the weather and tucked into our usual slip well before sunset.  We have the nicest view of the sun setting into the ocean right from our slip, and sometimes we get lucky enough to see a green flash (if the conditions are right).2012 01 14 marathon sunset wa_01Early December is the usual time for the various holiday boat parades, and we enjoyed the small but enthusiastic parade that passed right by our marina.  2012-12-08 xmas boat parade 3 RESIZE 2012-12-08 xmas boat parade 2 RESIZE 2012-12-08 xmas boat parade 1 RESIZEWe got into the spirit of it all and Jim outlined ADVENTURES in lights, and I put up a lot of our little decorations.2012-12-08 adventures christmas lights RESIZE20130109 cuban boat side view_01We’ve had a bit of excitement around here – some Cuban refugees made landfall by climbing on a neighbor’s boat and then scrambling up onto the dock, and another group abandoned their “chug” in the mangroves nearby.  It’s scary to think about how too many people jammed into a homebuilt boat like this can safely make the 90 mile trip across the Florida Straits.  So many do not succeed, and some are found by the Coast Guard and brought back to Cuba.A good friend had a bad fall off the dock and broke his leg.  And the marina’s general mgr. was arrested for drug smuggling and attempted murder-for-hire.  There’s always something interesting going on around here!

ADVENTURES Next Adventures – April 20, 2013

There are many stories and photos from this winter season in Marathon that we want to catch up on, but…The big news to report is that ADVENTURES has been safely loaded aboard the 450′ Dutch freighter EUROGRACHT in the Port of Palm Beach for her journey through the Panama Canal and up to Victoria, BC, Canada.  This is the ship approaching Lake Worth inlet.20130416 984 Eurogracht approaching inlet horiz_01She’s due to arrive in Victoria around May 9th and we’re driving across country to meet her and to begin some years of cruising in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Preparing our only home for a big ocean journey is a daunting task – we worked for about a week to get everything lashed down, stowed, secured, and ready.On Wednesday afternoon we drove ADVENTURES to the side of the EUROGRACHT and watched the loadmasters bring lots of heavy straps aboard and then position the wide lifting straps from one of the ship’s cranes.20130417 1 straps on bow_0120130417 3 loadmaster at bow_01Divers were in the water to help position the huge lifting straps under the hull and make sure they were clear of the stabilizer fins.  At the last minute we had to lower 6 antennas so they would clear the overhead lifting bar.  Once everything was ready for lifting we boarded a small launch and waited near the ship to watch her get settled on deck.20130417 8 adventures lifting_01We’ve seen our boat hauled out of the water for maintenance periodically, but it’s a different feeling watching our home lifted high out of the water an onto the deck of a ship!20130417 12 adventures on her way up_01On Thursday we were allowed back into the Port and aboard the ship so we could put the antennas back up – the loadmaster told us the antennas would ride better upright.20130418 16 view from fbridge on deck_01 20130418 17 on deck under bow view_01It was very interesting to get aboard and see the deck full of more boats, and the welded cradles and stands, and all the straps holding boats to the deck.  The crew had still not finished installing the spiderweb of straps, but it’s a pretty impressive operation.The EUROGRACHT finally departed around midnight on Thursday, heading for the Panama Canal.  We have a long drive ahead of us, and we’ll use that time to catch up on the blog from our busy winter.  We’ll also be watching the weather to see what the EUROGRACHT and ADVENTURES are experiencing.  Victoria, here we come!

Transiting the Panama CanalApril 24, 2013

One day we hope to transit the Panama Canal on our own bottom, but in the meantime it’s still very cool to see ADVENTURES make the trip one way or another.  As we’re driving across country we’ve been watching for the EUROGRACHT (our ship) on marinetraffic.com.  Here is one more photo of our boat being loaded on the 450′ EUROGRACHT a week ago in sunny Palm Beach, FL – she looks so tiny.20130417 11 eurogracht lifting adventures wide_01The EUROGRACHT popped into range on marinetraffic.com as she approached the Panama Canal yesterday morning, and we kept checking to see when she entered the Canal so we could catch a glimpse of ADVENTURES on the Panama Canal’s web cams. It looked like the ship anchored to wait for the Pilot, and we couldn’t tell how long the wait would be.  The ship’s position didn’t update for many hours, until we finally saw her transiting Gatun Lake (in the middle of the Canal) late last night.  We missed seeing her on the Atlantic-side (Gatun) web cam in daylight, but we stayed up very late to watch her come through the Pacific-side locks at Miraflores.  It was dark and the Canal’s lights made a harsh glare on the web cam, but we could clearly see the EUROGRACHT entering the first of the two Miraflores locks, with a big load of boats on her deck.Panama Canal web cam RESIZEADVENTURES is all the way towards the back of the ship’s superstructure, in the center.  We could barely make her out in some of the web cam shots, but it was still a big thrill to see her one more time before we get to Victoria.  She has made this trip through the Canal once before, aboard a ship, when she was first delivered to Florida after her construction in Taiwan back in 1988.  As the EUROGRACHT was exiting the lock we caught a better (but still pretty bad) view of her.It was about 2:50 in the morning east coast time when the EUROGRACHT cruised out of the locks and into the Pacific Ocean, and now we just have to watch for when she makes port calls in Golfito, Costa Rica and Ensenada, Mexico before we’ll see her in Victoria.It’s hard to wait!

Driving Across the CountryApril 26, 2013

We’re temporarily homeless while ADVENTURES makes her way up the Pacific coast, but we’re trying to make good use of the chance to see some new as well as familiar places as we drive across the US.After spending time with friends in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and Jupiter our next stop was Clearwater, Florida to see Jim’s dad and some other friends.What better way to bid farewell to sunny Florida than to zip around on Segways through Fort DeSoto Park?  We saw lots of birds and enjoyed a picnic lunch by the beach.  Remind me again why we’re leaving the balmy breezes and palm trees and our friends behind? 20130421 1189 segways in fort desoto RESIZEWe have been enjoying the driving – surprised at the pretty forested mountains through western Georgia and into Alabama, then through Mississippi and into Memphis for a short afternoon break.  We took the tram over to Mud Island to see the 1/2 mile long Riverwalk – a living model of the lower Mississippi River.  Did you know that more than 1/3 of the US rivers drain into the Mississippi?  We loved reading about all the history of the region and the ever-changing shape of the River, sometimes swallowing towns and sometimes stranding them inland.  I don’t think we appreciated the Mighty Mississippi as much as we should, but we’re glad we learned a little bit more in our brief visit.  No trip to Memphis would be complete without enjoying the ribs at the Rendezvous Restaurant – thanks to our native Memphis friends for steering us to the best BBQ!20130423 31 memphis jim and the king RESIZEWe continued to zoom through more states, and I regret not having the time to stop and photograph some of the unusual sights along the way, such as the sign advertising the town of “Toad Suck, Arkansas”.  You can’t make this stuff up.  We made miles through Oklahoma and Texas across Route 40, and arrived in Santa Fe to take a day off to play.  The high desert is so stark and beautiful – a real contrast to the verdant scenery we had just a few days ago.  Santa Fe is full of art galleries and art museums, and we enjoyed seeing the work of Georgia O’Keefe as well as other local artists and photographers.  The sky is a brilliant blue which really sets off the adobe construction and desert flora – so beautiful.20130426 1203 santa fe vertical RESIZEOur next adventures will be hiking and exploring some of the unusual landscapes and history in the Four Corners area of the southwest.  But our thoughts are still with our boat aboard the EUROGRACHT, making her port call in Golfito, Costa Rica this morning.

 

New Mexico Badlands – May 4, 2013

We are thoroughly enjoying our adventures as we drive across the country.  We’ve been making good progress and we’re actually in Twin Falls, Idaho this morning, but it will take several entries to catch up on some of the wonderful places that we’ve stopped to explore along the way.  As of this morning, the Eurogracht is off the Baja Peninsula, making her way to Ensenada, Mexico.After enjoying a day of art museums and galleries around Santa Fe, we headed to the badlands of New Mexico to hike in the Bisti Wilderness – a Bureau of Land Management area.  It is not widely known and has few visitors, but we fell in love with the strange colors and utterly surreal landscapes, changing at every turn.There are no trails in the area so you just hike along the vast wash and venture up into the hills and shapes around the edges.  You have to be careful not to get lost if you get into the hills too far, though a high point would give you enough vantage to see where the dirt road is.Some of the mysterious feeling comes from these areas of rocks that look like they were tossed here by some giant hand, though their color is completely different than the surrounding land.20130427 128 bisti wide_01And then we came upon my favorite spot – the “cracked eggs” which look like something out of a science fiction movie.20130427 110 bisti cracked eggs closeup_01And then in the nearby hills the colors turn green and black and yellow, with hills of brick red just next door.  We also found a lot of petrified wood, but only in certain areas.  We would have given anything to have a geologist along with us to explain some of this amazing place!20130427 106 bisti sulphur and red rock_01If you wanted to shoot a science fiction movie, this would be the perfect place.  The scenery was just impossible to believe – the shapes and colors, and combined with the quiet it was an eerie place.  I could spend weeks exploring and discovering what’s behind the next hill.Unfortunately we had to move on down the road, but we decided to swing past the Navajo Nation’s sacred Shiprock to take some photographs.  Shiprock is HUGE, jutting out from the flat plains and dominating the landscape of mesas, buttes, and valleys in the area.  We could see it from quite a distance, but we ventured closer to take advantage of the sun getting low in the sky.  There is a great rock rift that runs south from Shiprock, and that’s what you see in the foreground.  Stunning, and well worth the detour to see it up close.20130427 162 shiprock_01From New Mexico we headed into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park – another amazing place.

 

Mesa Verde National Park – May 7, 2013

As our roadtrip across country continues, we headed from New Mexico into southwestern Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park.  Jim had never been there before, and I was there once with my brother and parents about 27 years ago – with lots of happy memories.Mesa Verde is a vast (81 square mile) wide plateau that sits high above the low desert, rising to about 8400′ in height.  Between 600-1300 A.D. the ancestral Pueblo (sometimes known as the Anasazi) lived and farmed on the mesa and in its valleys, eventually building dwellings in natural alcoves in the cliff faces.20130428 247 mesa verde cliff palace_01Cliff Palace, shown above, is the largest group of dwellings in the park, and is amazingly well preserved despite time and weather.  There are many alcove buildings around the park – some small and ceremonial, some larger.20130428 220 mesa verde spruce tree house_01The reason these people moved on sometime after the year 1300 remains a mystery, though a long drought and difficulty maintaining a strong corn crop is suggested as the likely reason.  It is thought that these Pueblo people are now part of the Hopi and Zuni (as well as other) tribes in the southwest.We really enjoyed hiking around the park and seeing the amazing structures built into the cliffs, trying to imagine what life was like for these people.  They must have been part mountain goat, since we had to do a lot of climbing to see the dwellings up close!20130428 276 mesa verde ladder climb_01We’re enjoying everything about the trip so far – exploring, seeing new and familiar places, learning new things, hiking, and watching the endless changes to the shape and color of the land.From Mesa Verde we headed into southern Utah’s famous Red Rock country near Moab.  We had been there several times before about 20 years ago, but had never driven there from the southeast.  It was amazing watching the land transform from the mesa and forest to the yellow and red desert with weird shapes.20130428 288 utah pillar_01We are headed to one of our favorite places – Arches National Park, full of bizarre rock shapes and strong red color for more hiking and exploring (and photography, of course!)

 

Utah’s Arches National Park – May 8, 2013

300 Million years ago part of the western US was an inland sea, covered in salt water.  We can remember hiking in parts of southern Utah where the ground is littered with small shells as far as the eye can see.  The salt left behind when that inland sea evaporated created salt domes that were eventually covered by dirt and debris from wind and floods, cementing into a cap of rock over the ages.  Between the unstable salt domes and geologic faults, the land collapsed in places and was uplifted in others.  Further shaping was done by water and wind, eroding the sandstone rock into freestanding fins, and some of those fins developed arches and windows.  That is the story of the amazing shapes in Arches National Park in Utah – one of our favorite Parks.Arches is interesting because of the unusual shapes as well as the red color of the Entrada sandstone, on top of the tan Navajo sandstone.  We didn’t have the time to photograph Arches at its finest – when the sun gets low in the sky the warm late-day light makes the red rock look even more red… and then the red rock reflects light onto other red rock between the fins and the result is a deep flaming effect that is truly stunning.  We used to live in Utah and we have seen the beautiful color of the rock many times in the past.We hiked up to our favorite arch – the iconic Delicate Arch, which is a long, steep hike across the slickrock.20130429 343 arches delicate arch side bowl_01Arches has become much more popular in the last 20 years, and we had to hike up early even on a weekday to avoid too many people.  It’s always well worth the climb and we saw a desert cottontail rabbit and a pretty yellow and green collard lizard on the way.20130429 605 arches collared lizard_01Landscape Arch is another famous feature, located in the Devil’s Garden area, and it is the largest with a span of about 300′.  This is as close as we can get since part of the arch collapsed in the last 20 years and the rock is getting thin in spots.20130429 384 arches landscape arch_01Another of my favorite spots is Balanced Rock – and the balanced part of the rock is the size of 3 school buses!  We made the most of our day at Arches hiking a lot of miles, and were rewarded with this view of the huge formation called Park Avenue at the end of a great day.20130429 444 arches park avenue_01The next stop on our road trip was Dead Horse Point State Park on our way up to Salt Lake City – another place with lots of memories.

 

More Utah Adventures – May 9, 2013

There are a number of National Parks in southern Utah, which is a testament to the amazing formations and shapes that can be found across the state: Arches, Canyonlands (with three different entrances and major districts), Bryce Canyon with its colorful “hoodoos”, and Zion with its towering cliffs.  Bryce and Zion are part of the “Grand Staircase” which continues down to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  It is an amazing and magical region well worth extended exploration.Nearly across the road from Arches National Park with its red rock fins and arch formations is the entrance to Canyonlands National Park’s “Island in the Sky” district – a land of pinnacles and buttes cut by the Colorado River.  We didn’t have time to venture into Canyonlands, but we were able to stop at the oddly-named Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, which offers a stunning vista 2000′ above Canyonlands and the Colorado River.  This view looks more southeastward with the snowcapped La Sal mountains in the distance.And this is our favorite view over a horseshoe bend in the Colorado, with miles of dramatic territory begging to be explored.  We are standing at about 6000′ above sea level to get this view, but remember it all used to be an inland sea about 300 million years ago!20130430 465 dead horse point view 2_0120130429 295 arches indian paintbrush_01You may notice that there isn’t a lot of vegetation (an understatement!), because this is the high desert and this area averages about 10″ of rain per year.  But the plant life that does exist is hardy and adaptable to live in this environment.  And it is also beautiful, like this Indian paintbrush flower.Between Colorado and southern Utah we’ve had some great animal sightings – mule deer, elk, buffalo, cottontail rabbit, chipmunks, lizards, as well as a lot of hawks, including peregrine falcons, kestrels, and harriers.After savoring the dramatic view we had to keep making miles and head into Salt Lake City to visit friends.  We lived in Salt Lake for 2 years in the early 90’s to go to grad school at the University of Utah, and we really loved the area and the people there.The beautiful Wasatch Mountains still had a healthy layer of snow, though the ski areas closed recently.  The hard-core people were still hiking up to enjoy a few runs though.We had to drive up the canyon and visit our old favorite ski area – Brighton, and Jim was a good sport about posing on the snow.  And yes, I did throw a snowball at him!20130502 502 slc jim at brighton_01On the way back down the canyon we saw a coyote in the woods – pretty cool!  We had a marvelous time catching up with our friends, and seeing the Olympic cauldron and all the growth in the area.20130502 498 slc jim at u of u_01

 

 

Craters of the Moon National Monument Idaho – May 9, 2013

We have really been enjoying our exploration in the west, and we seem to be most drawn to places with unique landscapes.  Keeping with that theme, we left Salt Lake and drove up into Idaho to hike in Craters of the Moon National Monument.The Snake River plain runs across southern Idaho and is mostly flat terrain in an otherwise mountainous state.  The 52-mile long Great Rift is a series of deep fissures in the earth which are volcanically active.  About 15,000 years ago lava oozed out of the ground (as opposed to erupting from a volcano formation) and created a huge plain of lava that was active as recently as 2000 years ago.  The size of this flow is mind-boggling!The park covers about 750,000 acres and it has examples of a variety of volcanic formations: pahoehoe lava, ah-ah lava, spatter cones, cinder cones, craters, and caves created by lava tubes that have collapsed. Jim is posing near some small spatter cones here, and we hiked to see some larger ones later in the day.20130503 515 craters jim and spatter cones_01Next we hiked up a steep cinder cone that was composed of soft, crunchy dark gray cinders with no other color or vegetation.  When we got tot he top we found some red rocks, small shrubs, a single tree, and a fantastic vista across miles and miles of lava plain. 20130503 533 craters cinder mt panorama_01We hiked the trail around Broken Top cone, scrambling down the rocks to explore Buffalo Cave.  Despite relatively warm temperatures, the cave was quite cold and icicles were hanging from the ceiling.  Continuing on we saw such a varying landscape with different kinds of lava flows, “bombs” (blobs of rock ejected from an eruption), cinders, and the occasional pretty flowers, trees, and shrubs. 20130503 552 craters lava and sparse vegetation_01Despite its inhospitable appearance, Craters is home to a variety of wildlife.  We saw some little pika – similar to a chipmunk but without a tail, and antelope in the territory just outside the park.  We saw evidence of lava all across southern Idaho, in the farmer’s fields as well as the pastureland.We had a great day and really enjoyed the contrasting kind of beautiful scenery.  We’ve been lucky with this trip and we’ve loved seeing and learning about new things.  This land is pretty amazing, and we’re just barely scratching the surface.

 

 

Oregon, Washington, and Victoria – May 10, 2013

We arrived in Blaine, Washington on the US/Canda border on Monday afternoon, and we have been continuing to track the EUROGRACHT’s progress up the coast.  She’s due into Victoria, BC tomorrow (the 11th) and we’re scheduled to be offloaded first on Sunday morning.  We can’t wait!!!To backtrack a bit… after our adventures in Idaho we headed across the north end of Oregon to visit Robin’s cousin Mike and his family in Hood River.  We traversed some big green mountains, crossed through more farmland, and then descended into the Columbia River gorge – wow!  We never realized how beautiful and dramatic the gorge is, and how wide the river runs so far from the sea.  There are a number of locks and dams and hydro power stations along the river’s course, and we saw tugs pushing large barges.The town of Hood River reminded us of some of the Maine coastal towns – picturesque, perched on a hill above the water with interesting shops and cafes.  The tall evergreen trees on the hillsides give way to orchards of apples and pears as the road turns south away from the river gorge.20130505 716 mount hood_01What a gorgeous area!  There are clear views of the snow-covered Mt. Adams to the north, and Mt. Hood to the south.  Robin’s cousin lives on a big piece of property with evergreen trees, wild blackberries, grouse, a pond full of very vocal frogs, red winged blackbirds, and a few pairs of pheasants.  The male pheasants seemed to respond to a neighbor’s roosters, and they put on a show of dancing and singing every morning.  It was wonderful to reconnect with family and to share stories from our childhood – we had a lot of laughs!  The area also boasts some stunning waterfalls, with a nice hiking trail that connects many of the falls, culminating in Multnomah Falls.  This was one of the small ones… wonderful!20130506 793 hood river or stream_01After a brief stop in downtown Seattle to pick up a few more parts for our heating system, we arrived in Blaine.  Actually, we accidentally went to Canada.  Briefly.We were trying to find a grocery store so we could pick up some things for the friends we’ll be visiting with.  Jim searched for “grocery store” in the car’s GPS, and found a nice store 2 miles away… except that he didn’t notice that the store was in Canada.  We jumped back on the highway and found ourselves at the Canadian border gates, with no possibility of a U-turn.  Good thing we had our passports handy.  The border guard was pretty nice about it, and they checked us into Canada and directed us to a U-turn so we could wait in line to go through the US border gates.  A little adventure!We visited with friends we met in Marathon this winter, and waited until today when it was time to head to Victoria to meet our ship, as well as see Jim’s Dad who happens to be making a port call in Victoria on a cruise ship tomorrow.It’s only just beginning to sink in that we’re “here”.  I think it will feel real when we’re back aboard our home on Sunday.

 

 

Safely Unloaded in Victoria, BC! – May 12, 2013

Yesterday was a big day – we watched the EUROGRACHT – the 450′ freighter carrying our boat and only home ADVENTURES arrive in Victoria harbor.  Interestingly, Jim’s dad happened to be on a cruise ship that just happened to be in Victoria for a port call yesterday too!  So all three of us watched the EUROGRACHT dock, and we got to meet the Loadmaster who is handling the offloading process.20130511 821 eurogracht approaching victoria_0120130511 842 adventures aboard eurogracht underway_01Once Customs finished their inspection of the ship we were allowed aboard so Jim could lower 6 antennas.  We needed to do this so the lifting bars clear everything on top of our boat.  It was very exciting to see our boat again, and she looked great except for some grime from the ship.Today was the BIG day – and we were first to be offloaded.  We drove to the port and boarded the EUROGRACHT, met some of the stevedores, reminded the Loadmaster that ADVENTURES is our only home, and then we stood off to the side with our hard hats on to watch the crane and crew work.  It was a relief to see the lift go smoothly and to see our boat set gently back in the water!20130512 918 unloading from the eurogracht_0120130512 926 _01We used the pilot ladder to scramble down the side of the ship and get aboard, and then we spent about 15 minutes turning batteries and systems back on.  The GPS units all took a while to realize that they had traveled a long way, and the engines were cold and cranky, but everything fired up just fine and we yelled “thanks for the ride!” to the EUROGRACHT as we cruised away.Now we’re at a dock right in front of the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria where we will attempt to restore some order – unlashing and un-stowing everything.And then a new chapter of ADVENTURES begins!Thanks to Clara and Bill for giving us our first taste of the Pacific NW – lots of happy memories.

 

Settling In – May 17, 2013

We are finally able to settle into life back aboard our floating home after a great road trip across the country from corner to corner – 14 states, over 4000 miles (we took a few detours for fun), and two trips into Canada (one was accidental and brief).  We are in Sidney, BC for about 2 weeks to un-stow everything, re-provision, and finish the last bit of the diesel heating system installation… and then we will start really cruising here, after years of dreaming.To backtrack just a bit – we took the ferry from Vancouver (on the mainland) to Victoria (on Vancouver Island) a week ago, and that alone was an impressive operation.  The ferry is 560′ long and carries 2100 passengers and 470 vehicles for the 90 minute ride.  The views were gorgeous as we cruised between rocky islands.The next morning we got up early to check on the EUROGRACHT’s progress, and headed to the big breakwater at the entrance to Victoria Harbour to watch her approach.  I confess that I had to wipe a few tears from my eyes when I saw the ship and our boat once again.Two tugs came out to meet the ship to help her turn around and back into the berth.  As she got closer and began to turn we could see ADVENTURES clearly, and she looked great!  Since we were aboard the ship for the offloading we didn’t have a great angle for photos, but what matters is that the process went well and by 0930 we were underway once again.  We took a slip right in downtown Victoria for the first 2 nights, and were right in front of the historic Empress Hotel and the Parliament building – Victoria is the capital of the Province of British Columbia.  Every night Parliament is illuminated by lights – such a pretty sight right from our boat!After enjoying downtown for a bit it was time to move on, and we got the full treatment of how the downtown harbor can be so busy.  20130514 976 victoria seaplane landing_01There is regular seaplane service to Vancouver and the planes share the narrow channel with boats.  There are several ferries from the US – the huge COHO and the smaller, fast VICTORIA EXPRESS, plus the tiny water taxis that buzz around the harbor.  As we came through the narrows we had two seaplanes land right next to us, and one take off.We had an easy cruise up to Sidney, and as we left the harbor we had this view of the cloud and snow-capped Olympic Mountains (on the US side) and a prawn trawler fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.20130514 1002 fishing boat and olympic mtns_01

 

Logs and Bears and Cutting Holes – June 1, 2013

We are almost finished installing the new heating system, and we should be able to start really cruising by the middle of the week.  But if you have to be “stuck” somewhere, the town of Sidney on Vancouver Island is a terrific spot.  There are little shops, restaurants, several bookstores, cafes, a coffee shop on every block, grocery stores and even a West Marine all within easy walking distance of the marina.  Since we’re new to the area and we don’t know anyone, having such a nice town for walking has been a nice diversion when we need a break from working on the boat.20130531 1071 sidney bc breakwater beacon_01The marina is surrounded by a HUGE rock breakwater so we don’t get much of a view until we get up to the street level… and then the view is beautiful with many forested islands and sometimes ships transiting the Haro Strait.20130531 1062 sidney statue with flowers_01Like we saw in France, the people around here love flowers, and there are planters and gardens exploding with color and beauty everywhere we go.  There are also bronze statues of people sitting on some of the benches around town, and sometimes we find fresh flowers in the hands of the statues.The town of Sidney has an aquarium focusing on the local Salish Sea and a little sculpture garden along the waterfront.  Jim was channeling his inner pirate one evening…20130525 1036 sidney jim and pirate statue_01We have been talking to locals on the dock as well as some DeFever friends with a lot of experience in these waters, trying to learn about the hazards as well as must-see cruising spots.  One thing we’ve noticed right away is what’s known as “drift” – logs of all shapes and sizes that are floating in the water… big beasties that can ruin one’s day.  So we’re learning to keep a sharp lookout and now we know why people don’t cruise at night. 20130525 1023 sidney drift_01Another hazard we’ve been warned about are bears, and since we plan to do a lot of hiking we followed a friend’s advice and bought some bear bells and bear repellant. 20130530 1051 bear repellant_01Between the drift, bears, and wicked tidal currents in some narrow cuts, northwest cruising has its challenges!But the scariest thing we’ve encountered so far was when Jim had to cut the big 3 inch hole in the transom of the boat for the heating system’s exhaust.  Yikes! 20130531 1076 webasto exhaust hole 3 inches_01

 

 

Finally Cruising! – June 18, 2013

After weeks of hard work, Jim finally got the new diesel fired heating system finished and working well.  We enjoyed being “stuck” in the lovely town of Sidney, but we were ready to officially start our Pacific Northwest cruising adventures after years of dreaming and months of preparation.  For the next few weeks we are cruising in the Gulf Islands – an area on the SE side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.  Later this summer we’ll move north to Desolation Sound and the Broughtons.We cast the lines off on Friday, headed to the fuel dock to stock up on diesel for the big boat and gas for the dinghy, and then we cruised to South Pender Island, part of the Gulf Islands National Park.  On the way to South Pender we saw two bald eagles harassing a gull, and they eventually drove it down to the water.  It was surprising to see the eagle actually land in the water – it didn’t float  very well, but it was able to take off without too much trouble.  We see bald eagles every day, as well as harbor seals (they’re shy), otters, and various sea birds.20130614 1192 _01We met up with our new friends in South Pender, launched dinghies, and headed ashore for some hiking.  We read that the view from the top of Mt. Norman was worth the climb and we decided to dinghy to the nearby marina for cold beer and some dinner afterwards.20130616 1270 south pender tall trees_01We had a great time, but the hike turned out to be much more challenging than we thought.  The view was definitely worth it though, and we could even see the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca 50 miles to the south.20130614 1209 mt norman view_01On our way down the mountain we had a nice view of the harbor, and we watched a number of seaplanes land and take off.  Seaplanes are a very common way to get around out here, and there is scheduled service to many of the islands throughout the area.The weather has been glorious – bright sunny days and just two short rain showers in the last two weeks.  The thermometer says mid-high 60’s, but if the wind is light we’re comfortable in shorts and t-shirts.  The weather is very changeable though, and we’re learning to just dress in layers.We’re also learning to pay attention to the big tidal swings, since we had to beach our dinghy to get ashore.  Our dink weighs about 550 lbs, so if the tide leaves it high and dry we will have a long wait until the tide comes back to re-float it!  Our planning paid off, and we had no trouble.The next day we headed to Saturna Island and walked up to check out the little winery (decent!), and then moved to another anchorage recommended by friends for some light hiking. 20130625 1492 saturna wine tasting room_01

 

 

A Geography Lesson – June 26, 2013

This summer we’re cruising in British Columbia between Vancouver Island and the mainland.  Here’s a map of Vancouver Island to give you a better idea of where things are.  Vancouver Island is 290 miles long by 50 miles wide at its widest, and it’s biggest city – Victoria – is the capital of British Columbia.  Victoria is about 90 miles as the crow flies from Seattle.Vancouver Island and Puget Sound with circles_01Right now we’re in the area circled in white – Canada’s Gulf Islands, and in about a week we’ll head across the Strait of Georgia to Desolation Sound (circled in red), and then we’ll head north to the Broughtons (circled in orange) in later July and August.
It is very beautiful out here, with temperate weather, mountains, and tons of islands to explore.  The tidal range is about 10 feet in the Gulf Islands, so that means a lot of water is moving through some narrow spaces between islands.  There are some places that you can’t transit unless the current is slack.20130706 2007 dodd narrows_01Logging is still a big industry in coastal BC so there are always logs in the water.  Some are quite large and we always have to keep a sharp lookout.
20130617 1293 spirit of bc ferry_01With so many islands there are two primary means for people to move around – by ferry or by seaplane.  Ferries are everywhere, ranging from the 550′ behemoths that run between Vancouver and Victoria or Nanaimo…or the much smaller ferries that run among the small islands… more things in the water to keep an eye on!20130624 1413 ganges seaplane off bow_01And just to add to the fun, seaplanes take off and land all over the place, especially in harbors with towns.  We had a thrill watching some take off and land right around us yesterday!Wildlife is all around us – so far we’ve seen otters, bald eagles (daily), guillemots (sea birds), and lots of harbor seals like this one, sunning on a rock at low tide.20130623 1297 ganges harbor seal_01We are surrounded by mountains, rocks, and very tall pine trees.  When the air is clear and dry we can see snow-capped mountains on the mainland, and the combination of the sea air and pine smells so good.We’re really enjoying hiking, exploring, and learning about our new cruising grounds.

 

 

 

 

Pacific Northwest HazardsJuly 7, 2013

The Gulf Islands off Vancouver Island are very pretty, and we’ve spent a wonderful three weeks exploring small towns and hiking various parks.20130627 1588 jim and log_01There are a lot of new things we have to get used to out here, such as logs.  There is a lot of logging and log handling along the Inside Passage, and a lot of logs get loose.  They can be quite large and you don’t want to hit one!We’ve seen several towns with some kind of log handling operation – wood pulp or lumber mill or shipping, and large natural bays can be full of corraled floating logs…and long log booms towed by tugs.20130630 1963 tug with log boom_01Another new thing to get used to and to watch out for are seaplanes.  They are everywhere, with scheduled flights to/from small towns as well as frequent visits to many other harbors.  We have learned to keep a sharp eye out for seaplanes landing when we’re out in the dinghy since they are pretty quiet when they land.  Taking off is a noisy affair so we get plenty of warning.  Planes land in the same channels that boats use, and we’ve seen them take off and land fairly close to us or other boats.  It’s just how things are done around here, and everyone seems to deal with it without much fuss.  Some time we’ll take a flight on one – it looks like so much fun!Last week we anchored in Tod Inlet so we could visit the famous Butchart Gardens near Victoria.  They have a nice dinghy dock for boaters to access, and we got a kick out of the sign on the end of the dock…A little something for everyone – how thoughtful!20130628 1935 float plane dink dock sign_01Tod Inlet was a beautiful spot that felt very remote, despite being about 10 km from downtown Victoria.20130628 1592 tod inlet am view_01We had cocktails with some local boaters and they warned us about some troublesome otters in the area.  Just as a precaution we closed the side gate to the boat, and it was a good thing since the otters had a big party on our swim platform and in our dinghy overnight.  We never heard them, but they left fish guts and other smelly messes for us.  We used to think that otters were cute, but after cleaning more fish guts off our swim platform again this morning they are Public Enemy #1!The Butchart Gardens were stunning, and we spent a very long day photographing the incredible variety of flowers around the property.  We’re feeling more like locals now – we bought annual passes for the Gardens since we plan to winter in nearby Victoria.  I’ll post more about Butchart Gardens in the next blog entry.

 

Gardens, Vineyards, and FriendsJuly 14, 2013

Our friend Laurie from grad school came up to visit us, and we had a great time exploring some of the Gulf Islands.  We all enjoy photography so we had to spend a long day at the famous Butchart Gardens near Victoria.  20130628 1908 butchart rose garden_01It’s an amazing place with many different types of gardens, including a stunning rose garden……and a huge sunken garden.  It was a cloudy day – perfect for close-up flower photography, but not the best for wide angle shots of this fantastic place.20130628 1680 cape daisy_0120130628 1862 butchart sunken garden_01We cruised to Saturna Island to visit the little winery again.  20130625 1501 saturna racoon charlie_01Their little bistro was scheduled to open, and we liked the chardonnay grown in the shadow of a huge cliff face – it’s the big expanse of rock heated by the sun that keeps the grapes warm.  We enjoyed the bistro and bought a few more bottles of wine, and noticed that even the locals think the new chef at the bistro has done a good job!We spent some time hiking around Montague Bay where there’s a Provincial Park, and saw a nice sandy beach where the Canadians were actually swimming – the water is about 60 degrees!20130622 1390 montague brave canadian swimmers_01We are acclimating to the cooler temps up here, but will never jump into water that cold without a heavy wet suit or a dry suit on!20130618 1459 ganges_01We strolled the streets of Ganges, a little town on Salt Spring Island known for its artsy community.  We’ve had a nice mix of towns as well as woods and hiking, though I really love the wild places and am looking forward to heading north to Desolation and the Broughtons.

 

 

July 1 is Canada Day, and we anchored off South Pender Island to watch the fireworks.  It wasn’t quite the same as a good old Fourth of July, but we had a great view from the bow of our boat.  We had a great time with Laurie, and the fireworks were a nice finale to her trip.

While we’re savoring the beauty of our new cruising grounds, we think about our friends who are struggling with serious health issues.  We never take a day of any of this for granted, and we try to live as best we can every day since one never knows what will happen tomorrow.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those dealing with difficulty and sadness.

 

 

Skookumchuck Rapids – July 14, 2013

We crossed the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver Island (where the city of Vancouver is NOT) over to the mainland (where Vancouver IS) to explore British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound.  About 50 miles NW of Vancouver (the city, not the island) is one of the areas where a narrow cut causes violent rapids and whirlpools to form when the tidal current is at its strongest.  Friends recommended a little marina where we could tie up and hike to an overlook to watch Skookumchuck Rapids (aka “the Skook”).

But first, we had to head north up Agamemnon Channel towards the area where the Skook occurs, and turning the corner into the channel was just breathtaking.  And of course a bald eagle flew across our path, just to add to the dramatic view.20130709 2055 agamemnon channel_01We were heading into fjord country – with mountains growing steeper the farther we headed north, and water hundreds of feet deep right at the shoreline.  We even had a little problem with our GPS units for a few minutes where they couldn’t see the satellites – they must have been lower than the mountains for a short time.

20130709 2068 skookumchuck ebb_01We were able to link back up with our new friends Linda and Ed on their sailboat ONE FINE DAY (great name) in the town of Egmont, and we all trooped up the hill and through the woods to the overlook for the rapids near the time of maximum ebb current.  WOW!

Pictures just don’t do justice to the roaring, rushing water that was moving at speeds up to 16 knots.  Yet this rapids is as placid as a mill pond at slack current, and boats like ours can make the passage through it easily – though the window for slack is about 15-20 minutes.  Scary!

We made arrangements to take a fast tour boat through the rapids at maximum flood later in the day – just to experience it for ourselves.  On the flood tide the current produces huge standing waves (12-15′ tall) and the local white water kayakers take turns paddling into those monsters and doing spin tricks.  Amazing.20130709 2165 skookumchuck paddling flood_01 It was a high-octane ride in the rapids – thank goodness the small boat we were on had lots of power and a reliable engine!  Rapids are not unusual up in this region, and you just have to pay attention to what the cruising guides recommend and double-check your current and tide tables.

20130709 2089 skookumchuck zooming ed and linda_01We have been having a ball with our new Canadian friends Ed and Linda, and we hope to link up with them again later in the summer.

We enjoyed some nice cold beer watching the mountains change from golden-green to deep blue and purple as the sun set.

 

 

 

 

In the morning this was our view, with ONE FINE DAY just a white speck as we headed to our next destination: Princess Louisa Inlet.20130710 2188 leaving back eddy_01

Princess Louisa InletJuly 24, 2013

Princess Louisa Inlet_01Take a look at Princess Louisa Inlet on Google Earth – it’s up a series of fjords that reach deep into Canada’s Coastal Mountains. Accompanied by ONE FINE DAY, we made the long 50 mile trek up to Princess Louisa – a place only accessible by boat or seaplane – and it was well worth the trip. When I say fjords, I mean mountains that are 4500-7000′ tall that plunge straight down into water that is a thousand or more feet deep.20130710 2220 malibu rapids_01Just before entering Princess Louisa, you have to wiggle through the tight S-curve of Malibu Rapids (at slack current, of course). As Princess Louisa Inlet opens up you almost can’t catch your breath.  Words are woefully inadequate to describe it. At the head is the biggest waterfall, Chatterbox Falls, which sits beneath a huge vertical granite cliff face. The ranger told us that mountain goats raise their kids on that cliff face in the spring.20130710 2229 princess louisa_01You can see how tiny the boats look in the lower right, just to give you some sense of scale, though the photos don’t capture the grandeur. White ribbons of falling water are all around, 60+ waterfalls when the snow melt is at its most active in the spring. We spent a glorious three nights on the park dock there, though you can stay longer and anchor in a few spots near other little waterfalls. The water is very deep so you just drop an anchor and a lot of chain close to shore and stern tie to shore. We definitely plan to return more than once!20130711 2295 princess louisa sealestial looking down inlet_01As you can imagine, there is no cell service or TV signal way up here, but it’s good to savor the beauty without distractions.20130712 2406 princess louisa paddling linda 2_01While Linda and I paddled kayaks, Jim and our friend Ed went on a long hike up to the trapper’s cabin high up the mountainside. Along the way they found some nice huckleberries and wild blueberries……though they were exhausted by the very vertical scramble.20130712 princess louisa scrambling jim_01 20130712 princess louisa berry picking jim_01Such a special place deserved a more formal touch for dinner, so we set a proper table on the park dock with our buddy boat friends. To top it all off, Linda and Ed served crepes with sauce made from the berries for dessert. 20130711 2398 princess louisa dock dinner 2_01We’ll return in the spring when Chatterbox Falls is roaring!

 

 

Desolation SoundJuly 28, 2013

We felt we were really spoiled by Princess Louisa Inlet – how could we top it? We returned to Pender Harbour for a last hurrah with Linda and Ed before they headed south to meet guests, and we headed north to Desolation Sound.We hiked through a nice wooded trail……and ended up on a small road where we met a woman herding her two Labrador retrievers into her truck. A young black bear was about 50′ up her cherry tree and the dogs were going crazy. Evidently this bear likes her tree and will spend much of the day in it – eating and napping. I wasn’t able to get a good photo, but it was interesting to see. We made sure to talk loudly on the hike back through the woods.Pender was pretty, with loons calling in the early morning, hummingbirds, and bald eagles.From Pender we cruised up into Desolation Sound – somewhat of a misnomer since it’s popular with boats from the Seattle and Vancouver areas on vacation.  But it’s a big place with lots of nooks and crannies, and harbors big enough for everyone.20130716 2593 grace harbor bulldozer in woods_01Our first stop was Grace Harbour – a beautiful spot. We hiked up to a fresh water lake, and came upon this old logging bulldozer abandoned in the woods. Nothing beats a walk in the woods… and we love the tall cedars, spruce, fir, and arbutus trees, and the lush ferns in the understory.20130721 2756 starfish clinging to wall_01We’ve also been enjoying exploring by kayak. We see lots of starfish clinging to the rock walls, and they don’t seem to mind being high and dry when the tide goes out.We’re on our own now, still getting used to being new in the area and hoping to make some new friends. We love our new home waters, but miss our family and old friends very much. We had a surprise call from friends last night – a rare treat!  We’re learning to slow down and enjoy cruising after a long winter of working on the boat 7 days a week and then the stress and mess of shipping ADVENTURES. It still feels like a guilty pleasure to be able to just relax, though we both have lots of fun projects to keep us busy. Jim is playing with his GoPro video and editing, and I’m knitting, writing some articles, and working on photos. A number of my photos appear in the latest (July/Aug) issue of PassageMaker magazine to go with an article about DeFever 49s, so that’s pretty cool.

 

More Desolation Sound – July 28, 2013

20130718 2675 prideaux haven adventures in melanie cove_01Our next stop was Prideaux Haven, which has several coves and rock crannies where boats can anchor. We chose Melanie Cove for this visit, but we’ll try other spots on future visits because each has a different view.20130718 2637 black oystercatcher 2_01Our cove had a little babbling brook where I found a nice black oystercatcher hunting in the shallows.It was a terrific place to kayak with so many little corners to explore and beautiful views.Boats were able to anchor in some improbable spots by using a stern tie – a line from the stern of the boat tied to something sturdy on shore. We bought a big reel of line in case we need to stern tie, but we haven’t tried it yet. It’s another Pacific NW custom we’re learning about.

20130717 2613 prideaux haven anchored among rocks_01

20130718 2682 prideaux haven boat at sunset_01The evening light just before sunset was pretty so we took an after-dinner dinghy cruise to enjoy the view. The sun can seem to set quickly because of the tall mountains.Jim chose Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island as our next destination. It has a big protected anchorage with a salt water lake that floods through a narrow rapids at high tide. We had a ball playing in the rapids with our kayaks.20130719 2864 squirrel cove island life_01The outer harbor has a public dock, general store, craft store, and a little restaurant. I always like to read the bulletin boards in different places, and we saw a poster for the annual Cortes Island Music Festival the next day, which looked interesting. We checked the web site and it looked even better, though it was located on the other side of the very hilly island.

We decided to go to the music festival since we have bikes. We knew the island was very hilly, but the exercise is good for us!

It turned out that the hills were much steeper than we expected, and we walked our bikes up the worst ones. But the ride on the road through the deep forest was very beautiful. We arrived a little after the music festival was due to start and found a bunch of hippies making signs and cutting the grass… the stage was set up but it didn’t look like music was going to happen anytime soon. The whole thing was a little creepy so we took a short break to rest, and got back on the hilly road for the 8 km ride/walk. An adventure!

 

Desolation Adventures – August 6, 2013

20130722 2832 gorge pictograph man and fish 2_01We continued our exploration of Cortes Island, moving to Gorge Harbour to see some First Nation pictographs on the granite wall at the entrance.  It took a little time, but we finally saw them – a man with a comet trail or rainbow coming from his head, and a man with a big fish – probably a whale.After that we decided to head back to Prideaux Haven to do a little hiking. The scenery in between various islands continues to amaze and impress us!  The anchorage we wanted was a little crowded in the middle, but there was plenty of space around the perimeter. We decided to try our first stern tie since the conditions were good. To stern tie you first drop the anchor, and then back towards the shore. Close to shore!  We dropped a kayak in the water and I took the line ashore while Jim managed the slack. I had to climb up the rocks on the shore, remembering to tie off the kayak and hang onto the stern tie line. I found a sturdy tree and passed the line around, then scrambled back down to the kayak and paddled the bitter end of the stern line back to Jim on the big boat. Good to work through the process, though it’s wet and messy.Neighbors told us about a “concert” that evening on the back of an 80′ yacht in the outer harbor. Everyone was invited. We took the kayaks and a beverage and were amazed at the crowd – dinghies, small fishing boats, kayaks, and even swim floats. What a treat!20130725 2910 prideaux haven concert_01We liked exploring around Prideaux Haven some more, and we took a hike to one of the nearby lakes. Well, we tried.20130727 3009 prideaux haven hiking_01The woods were very beautiful, but the hike was more steep than we expected. (It’s good for us!)We got to the top of the ridge and hiked down the other side, but we ran into a mosquito infested bog and couldn’t easily find the trail beyond. It was good exercise and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

20130727 3012 prideaux haven hike log man_01We liked this “face” in one of the big stumps along the way. This stump is evidence of logging, and the grooves are where the logger puts his spring board to stand on to fell the tree. Someone stuck some light colored rocks in the slots to make “eyes”.

We have been enjoying Desolation Sound, but we want to head north to the more remote Broughton Islands. The trip north requires us to transit 5 different rapids (yes, RAPIDS) over 2 days, and we can only pass safely during slack current. The safe interval for passage can vary depending on the phase of the moon, so we decided to remain in Desolation a little longer and wait for the quarter moon when the tides would be smaller. These rapids are not to be trifled with in a pokey boat!  More about the rapids in the next post.

 

 

Running the Rapids – August 10, 2013

Weather and the timing of the tide meant we couldn’t run the length of Johnstone Strait to travel north to the Broughton Islands, so we had to take the “back way”. This involves taking one’s boat ON PURPOSE through 5 sets of rapids – yes, RAPIDS. Looking at the chart is no help – it shows overfalls, whirlpools, and rips, along with names like “Devil’s Hole” and current arrows that twist and turn and curve into all manner of evil.  We did 3 of them one day and the remaining 2 the next day.Gillard Passage_01Apparently lots of people in all manner of boats travel through these areas, but those of us with pokey boats have to be pretty careful. The cruising guides explain how to do it safely, and the tide and current book is now our best friend. We delayed the trip north to wait for neap (smaller) tides, since a look at the current tables showed quite a difference between the velocity of the current around the full or new moon versus the quarter moon. The duration of slack can be pretty short in some of these spots, so we definitely wanted the slowest water.There are three rapids that really need to be done in one day – they’re close together. Of course slack current arrived at each of these rapids in the wrong order, so we had to take the first two with some current and turbulence against us in order to transit the third (and worst – Dent Rapids) right at slack.Dent Rapids_01Dent has the Devil’s Hole and a prominent warning on the chart about a huge whirlpool that forms around a submerged rock just past the narrow part of the rapids. As everyone told us, if you plan it right it’s no big deal… and they were right, though I did see some little baby whirlpools start to form as we passed Devil’s Hole. Sort of like hearing those first two notes of the JAWS theme…20130730 3055 logging evidence_01The “back way” was beautiful – curving channels between vertical tree-covered mountains with little/no signs of humans except for logging. Logging is big business up here, and it’s not hard to notice the evidence.  Instead of widespread clear-cutting, the loggers only cut smaller areas and replant afterwards.20130730 3060 logging camp_01This is a logging camp – the large blue dormitory is on a huge barge.There is little or no flat ground near shore to construct buildings, so many of the camps and even the little marina where we stopped for the night are floating – buildings as well as the docks, all on floats chained to the land.20130730 3064 cordero lodge floathouse_01Besides pleasure boats, tugs pulling very long log booms come through the rapids too. We saw two with impossibly long booms from our dock at the Cordero Lodge.
The next day was a fabulous non-event going through the last two rapids, ending with “Whirlpool Rapids” on an ebbing current to pull us through.
The boating out here is very interesting (and fun!). Next stop – Port McNeill.

 

 

North to Port McNeill, British Columbia – August 19, 2013

We are headed to the Broughton Islands, across from the northern end of Vancouver Island, but first we needed to stop for fuel and to pick up some provisions. Port McNeill on Vancouver Island is a good stop for everything we needed, so we left the back channels and entered Johnstone Strait – the main north-south passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland.20130801 3067 johnstone strait fog_01We had our first bit of fog, but it wasn’t too bad, and we’re used to it from our cruises in Maine and Nova Scotia. We saw some minke whales playing in the turbulence where side channels meet Johnstone.The fog lifted as we entered the harbor, and we re-fueled and tied up at the municipal marina. Restaurants and hardware and grocery stores were a short walk, so the cook got a nice night off and we were able to stretch our legs. We were able to visit with DeFever friends who happened to be in port, and we spent a few days exploring the area.20130804 3204 port mcneill largest burl_01The first stop was to see the world largest burl – you just can’t make this stuff up!We took the ferry over to nearby Cormorant Island to visit the First Nations community at Alert Bay. They have a wonderful cultural center, and a show where some of the young people from the town perform traditional dances and explain some of customs and history of various First Nation tribes in the area.20130802 3126 alert bay dancers_01 20130802 3179 alert bay totems_01It was a terrific performance, and we ended up talking with a well-known wood carver we met at the cultural center. Jim is getting back into carving, so it was a nice bit of inspriation for him. The carvers make a lot of different things, but the tall totem poles are the most impressive. A number of them were on display around town.

20130802 3077 alert bay eagle_0120130805 3217 sointula bc ferry_01Another day we took the ferry to a different nearby island, Sointula, where an old Finnish community settled around the turn of the 20th century.  Unfortunately it was a holiday – BC Day – so a lot of things were closed. We visited the little museum, and took a nice long hike through forest, an abandoned farm, a recovering forest fire area, and to see several lakes and a bog. It was really pretty, with a flock of mergansers on the biggest lake.20130805 3273 sointula forest understory_01We had a great day, but arrived back to Port McNeill on the ferry to see the aftermath of a boat explosion near the fuel dock. The boat was an old wood classic, and a propane vapor explosion blew the top and sides right off the cabin. The owner suffered some burns, but his son was thrown in the water to safety. The boat sank within minutes. Pretty scary. Parts of the boat were blown quite a distance, but the local emergency response was very quick and well-organized to contain the spilled gasoline and debris. At low tide they were able to pull the wreckage up on the boat ramp, and as the tide came in through the evening they pulled her higher up the ramp. It’s amazing that more people weren’t hurt, and we pray the injured owner will be okay.

 

Welcome to the Broughtons – August 19, 2013

Broughtons RESIZEThe Broughtons is the name of a group of islands and channels off the BC mainland, across from Port McNeill.  It’s a bit cooler and subject to more changeable weather since it’s exposed to the Pacific Ocean from the northwest, but it is more remote and very interesting and beautiful!  We cruised across through some patchy fog, and were heading across a bay towards our first anchorage when we spotted our first orcas – what a thrill!20130807 3381 orca and snowcapped mtn 2_01It looked like a small family, with the male and his very tall dorsal fin, and a few smaller orcas grouped closer together nearby.20130807 3397 orca spyhopping closeup_0120130807 3337 minke whale fin_01As we were turning towards the orcas, a 30′ minke whale cruised right by our boat – wildlife overload!  We were able to drift and watch the orcas for about 45 minutes.The population of the Broughtons numbered several thousand people around the turn of the 20th century, but is now much smaller.  Logging and fishing are still the primary activities, with tiny little “settlements” – groups of floathouses in a sheltered bay, or tiny little marinas all on log floats.  The little marinas are very social, with nightly appy hours or pot luck dinners and a chance to meet other cruisers.20130813 3842 jennis bay marina_01Sometimes there are logging roads or trails to hike, but we’re always watchful for bears. We carry bear bells, bear spray, and an air horn when we hike… just in case. Mostly the bears don’t like people, so if they hear people noises they will avoid you.  We’ve seen bear scat – pretty fresh, and tracks in the mud at low tide (where they come to dig for clams and turn over rocks looking for crabs)… but we haven’t seen any yet.  It’s sort of a good news/bad news thing.
The anchorages are very quiet and pretty, with maybe one or two other boats in the busy summer season.  We’ve seen bald eagles, kingfishers, ravens, mergansers, red-throated loons, murres, murrelets, and one of my new favorite birds – the rhinocerous auklet. 20130807 3429 rhinocerous auklet closeup_01 They are a very small, chubby seabird, with this wonderful “horn” at the base of their beak.The views are just stunning, the wildlife is abundant, the big salmon are jumping… it’s a very special area that we’re just beginning to explore.  I’ve put a lot of miles on my kayak, enjoying the huge difference between low tide and high tide – about 14′ around here.  The landscape is very different at either end of the tide cycle.  Stay tuned for more…

 

Broughton Stories – August 27, 2013

We found many quiet anchorages to explore, mostly by kayak.  Paddling has been the best way to see a lot of wildlife and get into rocky nooks and crannies.  Seals peek at us from a safe distance, and one day I saw one watching me.  Next to the seal was a little nose sticking out of the water.20130808 3536 mother and baby seal napping_01I slowly meandered closer and closer, and finally came up next to the little nose – it was a baby seal, fast asleep.  I floated there very quietly and he started to move a little… finally opening his eyes and giving me a sleeply look.  Then he woke up all the way, looked at me with surprised wide eyes, and swam off.  The same day I watched a bald eagle attack something right on the surface of the water.  He actually landed in the water and struggled with it, using his wings to “swim” with it to the nearest island where I lost sight of him.  20130808 3514 young white winged scoters_01Paddling around another little island I came upon these two young white winged scoters……and around the next island I woke a pair of seals napping on a rock (they’re very well camouflaged).20130807 3471 seals resting_0120130812 3832 jim at sawmill ruins_01We did some exploring by dinghy one day since we wanted to see some ruins of an old sawmill.  There wasn’t much left except some wood beams, but it was interesting to see.  In another cove we found two flocks of mergansers, and then we went to see the “waterfall” from a lagoon that sits higher than the main waterway, so it floods at high tide and drains partially at low tide, creating a little waterfall.  We took a picnic lunch in the dinghy with us, planning to check out some other anchorages nearby but light rain showers turned into a real downpour… and of course we were miles from the boat.  An adventure!20130810 3573 young bald eagle wings relaxed_01We had the anchorage in the back of Joe Cove all to ourselves, and we watched a young bald eagle hunting every day.  He doesn’t develop the white head and tail until he’s about 3 years old. 

 

 

 

 

The kayaking was great despite some gloomy weather, and at low tide we found basket stars, sea squirts, moon jellyfish, and even a sea angel (hooded nudibranch) – a strange, gelatinous creature about 5 inches long with little wings and cilia around its mouth.20130814 3885 sea angel_01

20130815 3898 pacific white sided dolphin_01Dalls porpoises and harbor porpoise cruise the anchorages and passages, and we saw pods of white-sided dolphin hunting salmon, charging into the dead-end bays en masse to corral the fish.

 

 

In one place people reported seeing about 300 dolphin churning the bay hunting, and a bear was swimming after the fish, among the dolphins – wow.

 

 

More Broughton Adventures – September 4, 2013

We continued our quest to see bears, so we headed into Viner Sound where people reported seeing lots of bears every day. The little bay is about 2 miles long, narrowing to a dead end with a tidal flat and a meadow with a creek running through it. There are two tiny coves before the flats, and we tucked into the northern one up against a huge cliff face pictured below.20130821 4087 viner sound wide angle_01If you look in the lower left corner, you will see ADVENTURES looking very small. What a gorgeous spot!  I found bear tracks in the mud at low tide, and people told us we’d definitely see bears right from the anchorage at low tide when the beach is exposed… but after two days, no joy. On the other hand, it was a marvelous place to explore by kayak, and we paddled as far as we could go on the little creek, through the meadow and into the woods. 20130822 4200 sanderlings on log_01Sandpipers were flocking in the meadow, and we saw baby halibut in the shallows.We also wanted to visit a few of the tiny floathouse marinas in the Broughtons so we could learn more about the area and meet some other cruising boaters. There are just a handful of these places, with floating docks as well as buildings all constructed on top of log floats.These places are very basic, often with no power on the docks, but they are warm and welcoming and they are a great place to meet other boaters at nightly appy hours or pot luck dinners. We met a lot of nice people and collected more recommendations for places to visit.20130820 4069 salmon fillets_01The biggest of these marinas, Pierre’s, had a nice fish cleaning station where there was always a lot of activity.Salmon had to be over 24.5″ long to be legal, and most were much bigger than that.  Crabbing and prawning are also popular pastimes, and small fishing boats and dinghies were always buzzing in and out, checking traps or bringing in fish.20130825 4229 lagoon cove chopping exercise station_01The last of the little marinas we visited was Lagoon Cove, with some nice hiking trails and a funky sense of humor. They had a totem pole made from old outboards and other junk (artfully done), as well as an “exercise circuit” with a station for pushing a manual lawn mower and one for splitting wood.20130825 4251 jim picking blackberries_01On one of our hikes we came across some blackberry bushes that were just full of big fat ripe berries, so we came back later with a container to fill. We kept an eye out for bears since there was fresh bear scat nearby, but nothing bothered us and I really enjoyed those berries with breakfast!
We really loved our time in the Broughtons, but it’s time to start working our way south.

 

Broughton Post Cards – September 13, 2013

I have a few more photos of things we saw in the Broughtons, so I’ll just share them as “post cards”.  These are dedicated to our several friends who are struggling with health problems – nature’s best pales in comparison to the beauty of friendship.

20130826 4263 stellers jay 4_01 20130825 4246 forest mushrooms_01 20130822 4215 sandpiper_01 20130817 3994 pigeon guillemot_01 20130817 3946 kingfisher 2_01 20130820 4074 broughton kayaker sunset_01

 

Johnstone Strait Back to the Gulf Islands – October 4, 2013

I apologize for letting the blog get so far behind reality. Right now we’re actually in US waters, in Port Townsend taking a little cruising pause. I’ll try to catch things up in the next few entries.We were sad to leave the Broughtons – it was our favorite cruising area this summer since it was the most wild and quiet and full of wildlife. There are two major paths to head south – through the several rapids along the “back way” (the path we took northbound), or through the wider Johnstone Strait and Seymour Narrows, where the big ships go. We decided to try the Johnstone route, though we still had to time our passage through Seymour Narrows very carefully. We watched a 110′ commercial fishing boat transit the narrows 2 hours before slack current and we could see him fishtailing in the strong turbulence. We slowed down and made an uneventful passage 75 minutes later, and tucked into the town of Campbell River for a few days.20130829 4455 campbell river fishermans wharf_01Jim needed to see a dentist to patch his cracked tooth, and we wanted to check out the town. Despite a lot of rain, we had a great time exploring, particularly the museum and maritime center.We continued down Discovery Passage to the town of Comox, and we were glad to finally escape the strong winds that made the trip somewhat uncomfortable. Comox was another lovely town and we met a great couple on a 1972 wood Alaskan – a very close cousin to our type of boat. You have to love a town that makes condo balconies out of boats!20130830 4459 comox boat balcony RESIZE 20130830 4460 comox condo balcony boat stern RESIZEWe continued southwards, spotting another male orca just north of Nanaimo, and stopping in Montague Harbor in the Gulf Islands.20130901 4463 montague harbor jim and deer friend_01We were hiking through the woods and found this wonderful driftwood sculpture – someone is very talented!We were able to link up with our good friends Linda and Ed, and we had a very happy reunion with them. They headed off to fish and crab for a few days, but we were able to rendezvous again for one last hurrah at Sidney Spit in the Gulf Islands.

20130902 4466 linda brings her own wine_01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sidney Spit is a neat little island just a few miles from the town of Sidney, with great birding and some nice hiking trails in the woods.

20130907 4472 sidney spit_01We had a lot of fog for two days, and it was spooky hearing the big ferries blowing their foghorns as they passed our anchorage. We heard them, but couldn’t see them.Summer was over and it was time to bid farewell to our dear friends. They were heading to their RV and Mexico for the winter, and we were crossing into the US for the fall.20130908 4300 heron in flight_01

 

Back to the US of A!October 16, 2013

We last left you when we were in Sidney Spit getting ready to cross from Canada back into the US – a whopping 6 miles!  Fortunately we now have NEXUS cards – a Trusted Traveler system that makes going between the US and Canada much easier.  We might still be stopped for a Customs inspection, but it’s much less likely and most of the time we can clear in with a phone call.  Luckily, the phone call is all we needed and we could proceed directly to our chosen anchorage instead of heading to the Customs dock.20130910 4340 stuart island reid harbor_01We decided to check out Reid Harbor on Stuart Island in the northern San Juan Islands for a little hiking. It’s a pretty, long anchorage with some mooring balls and a dock provided by the Washington State Park system. 

 

20130911 4360 stuart island honor system gift shop_01We took a few hikes around the island, and on our long hike out to see the lighthouse we came across this clothes line in the woods…It was a “shopping” display of jackets, t-shirts, hats, and post cards – with the goods in a big wooden chest and an honor system to pay later online.  Pretty cool!  A local family puts it out, and the selection was nice.  We didn’t expect to go shopping in the middle of the woods on a trail, but what the heck.

We continued on to the see the light house at Turn Point – the northernmost point on the island, and the place along the US-Canada border where big ships make a fairly hard turn to head up the Strait of Georgia or down and out the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean.  It’s a pretty spot and the old lighthouse and buildings are very well cared for.  We looked for orcas – they are often spotted here in the strong current, but we didn’t see any this time.20130911 4367 stuart island turn point_01

20130911 4419 stuart island pileated woodpecker on tree_01On the hike back to the dinghy dock we came upon this beautiful pileated woodpecker in the woods.  He didn’t seem to mind us at all, and we were able to follow him as he flitted from tree to tree and jumped around on the ground looking for food.  The woods were pretty dark, but I was able to get a few photos.  What a treat!

 

 

 

 

We were running low on some fresh things like milk and veggies so we decided to explore the town of Friday Harbor next.  It’s a pretty big town on San Juan Island, and we anchored nearby so we could watch all the comings and goings of this busy place.  20130912 4445 friday harbor_01We would get an occasional roll from the ferries that come and go all the time, but it was no big deal.  We really liked the town, and it felt good to walk around.  The Whale Museum was terrific, we got haircuts, a few groceries, and I found a yarn shop – what’s not to like!

 

A Maintenance Pause in Port TownsendOctober 18, 2013

After we left Friday Harbor the weather was not the best to really enjoy the San Juans, and Jim’s broken tooth really needed some attention.  We found a dentist in Bellingham, WA and headed there with the boat.  We’re not used to the typical Washington marinas that are run by the towns – they don’t take reservations, the staff isn’t very helpful, and they have very little/no 50Amp power – which we really like to have so we can run our washer/dryer and electric heating systems.  But the important thing was the dentist, and it turned out that Jim only needs a crown and not an implant – whew!In addition to the dentist, our boat is now 25 years old and our insurance company requires us to have a professional survey done – out of the water.  DeFever friends Jim and Susan recommended their favorite boat yard in Port Townsend, WA, so that was our next stop.  Actually we made the arrangements for the haul-out and survey two months ago, just to make sure everything would be done in time for the insurance renewal.20130920 4504 port townsend sunrise_01Port Townsend is a great town, with old Victorian homes and buildings, great little shops and cafes (which we barely had time to visit), a Maritime Center, and lots of activities and classes at the decommissioned Fort Worden nearby.We didn’t realize that this yard offers services for “regular” boats as well as the behemoths – large commercial fishing boats, float houses, and huge yachts.  When we were in the water our slip had a perfect view of all the activity around the 300 ton travel lift.  20130923 4526 adventures in travel lift side view_01 - CopyOur boat weighs 32 tons and we were hauled by an 80 ton lift seen here (with the operator and his wireless control in the lower left)… 

 

300 Ton Lift

300 Ton Lift

And compare that to the massive 300 ton lift that can pick up a big steel commercial fishing boat like the kind you see on Deadliest Catch…The tires on the big lift are almost 8 feet tall, just to give you some perspective.  The yard was full of old boats, new boats, work boats, pleasure boats, steel, wood, fiberglass… and lots of real craftsmen and women who can do any kind of repair you might need.  What a cool place!

 

 

 

 

Getting hauled out is never fun – it means long hours and lots of boat yard dirt, and climbing a tall ladder to get on and off the boat. And we always hope the travel lift operator blocks our boat level so things stay “normal” inside since we stay aboard.  But we got a lot accomplished, and took the opportunity to replace our main anchor chain, among many other little jobs.  20130924 4475 jim and anchor chains_01 - CopyWe need a longer chain out here in the west since anchorages are deeper, particularly in Alaska.  The morning after we were put back in the water, a boat in the yard caught fire – about 250′ from where our boat was sitting!  Luckily the wind was light and the fire department arrived quickly.  The damage was limited to just three boats, and it could have been much worse.

 

New Places Around Puget SoundNovember 3, 2013

We had a good pause in Port Townsend, taking care of a lot of little maintenance chores and small repairs, but it was more work than fun.  We had a wonderful visit from our friends Bonnie & Walt, and we got to see a little of the town.  We also rented a car to get Jim to the dentist for his crown prep, and we had a big shopping day to re-stock the freezer and to get some new jeans and socks and flannel sheets.
Some of our friends put their boats away for the winter so they could head to warmer places, and we were sad to see them go.  It’s hard to watch friends leave or to hear about our east coast friends migrating south for the winter… not us this year.  Our only consolation is that the winters out here are milder than the winters when we lived aboard in Annapolis.  And we’ll be able to head to Alaska in April for a nice long summer season.  We’re still glad we moved out here, though we occasionally get a pang of regret on chilly, dreary days.  But then we remember the orcas and eagles and whales, and we’re glad we did it.
20131017 4575 poulsbo waterfront moonrise_01 - CopyWe made our escape to explore the town of Poulsbo, WA and to join a local MTOA weekend rendezvous there.  The trees were in full fall color, and the town was just great – friendly, with nice shops (including a yarn shop and a bead store), great restaurants, and a famous bakery (which made Jim very happy).20131019 4769 poulsbo jim at bakery window_01 - CopyWe met a lot of nice people at the MTOA rendezvous, and the dockmaster organized a scavenger hunt for us throughout the town, ending at a micro-brewery.  We all had a ball, and it was great to be out and about in the crisp fall weather.  We got a lot of suggestions for more places to go here in Puget Sound, and an invitation to visit Cathryn and Bob in Gig Harbor.
20131023 4771 naval underwater museum jim with conning tower_01 - CopyWe hated to leave Poulsbo – it was just so nice, but we wanted to check out the Naval Undersea Museum in nearby Keyport.  Keyport has a tiny town dock with cheap dockage and free electric, though it doesn’t have much else.  We absolutely loved the Navy’s museum, spending 4 hours until closing time – we could have stayed longer.  No one had a a dry eye reading about the heroics of some of the submarine commanders and crews.  We found out that our friend Ted, a retired Navy EOD officer, went to diving school in Keyport in 1962, and was responsible for the placement of a mine from the first Gulf War into the museum’s exhibits – very cool!20131023 4773 naval underwater museum jim driving sub_01 - CopyAlong the way, we saw some nice ducks – Barrows goldeneye, surf scoters, and these oldsquaw. 20131022 4591 oldsquaw_01 - Copy (I love my birds.)The temperature has dropped and the fall pattern seems to be well established.  It’s often foggy and overcast in the mornings, but it can turn sunny, bright, and warm in the afternoons… or not.  We never know, so we’ve learned to dress in layers.  It’s actually nice to be cruising in the off season, since it’s quiet on the waterway except for the big ferries that are always running around.20131017 4698 sea lion on buoy_01 - Copy

 

Blake Island and SeattleNovember 11, 2013

20131024 4599 blake island indian big house_01 - CopyJust a short 7 miles from Seattle is Blake Island State Park – a great place to stop for some hiking and walking.  It’s about 5 miles in circumference, heavily wooded, with some mooring balls and a breakwater and docks.  There’s also an Indian Big House that is home to a cultural show and lunch or dinner for tourists who are brought out by boat from Seattle.20131026 4839 blake island indian mask_01 - CopyMid-week in the fall is a nice time to enjoy the park, and the black-tailed deer population seemed to enjoy the quiet. (We did too!)20131024 4748 blake island black tailed deer_01 - Copy

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers

Bird watching continues to be very good, with some surf scoters, loons, and hooded mergansers keeping us company.

 

 

 

 

20131025 4831 blake island forest mushrooms on tree_01 - CopyWe enjoyed hiking through the woods and around the island, trying to erase some of the calories from Jim’s bakery stops in various towns.  I love the smell of the fall leaves and the sound they make when you walk through them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

20131027 4783 seattle bell harbor view near sunset_01 - CopyWe arrived at a marina right in the heart of downtown Seattle on Sunday and met up with long-time friend Steve and his lovely wife Anne – we both knew Steve from our computer security days.  They gave us a grand overview of Seattle, and we particularly liked the Olympic Sculpture Garden and view of Mt. Rainier.  We look forward to seeing them again.20131028 4850 seattle view from space needle mt rainier_01

We had a few days of beautiful weather and clear skies, and we wanted to take advantage of the views so we went up the Space Needle and got the big picture: the mountains and the city and the water – something for everyone!  (Mt. Rainier is in the far distance.)

 

20131028 4867 seattle funky art flowers_01 20131028 4790 seattle funky blue trees_01It was perfect fall weather for exploring – crisp and cool.  We liked the artsy feel of the city, and checked out a few galleries and the Art Museum (great exhibit about Peru).  The Public Library was a great building, with creative touches on every floor and a vivid neon green escalator.  So much of the city  has a funky, artistic feel… what’s not to like?

It was certainly interesting being in a city on Halloween.  People watching is always fun, but on Halloween it was genuinely hard to tell if some people were wearing a costume, or if they normally dressed that way.  We saw a lot of that!  I think living on the water must keep us a bit “sheltered”.20131028 4882 seattle pike place market_01  No visit to Seattle would be complete without checking out the famous Pike Place Market.  We loved seeing the colorful fresh flowers, seafood, spices, and veggies.The view right from our marina was terrific, and we will definitely return to explore more of the city.

 

Tacoma and Art GlassNovember 15, 2013

20131101 4803 tacoma mt rainier and port cranes_01We were always excited when we had a high enough vantage point (and clear skies) in Seattle to get a glimpse of Mt. Rainier.  Heading south to Tacoma we cruised around the point and got a fantastic view of the mountain, with the cranes of Tacoma’s working waterfront in the foreground.  Notice the lens-shaped cloud sitting on the mountain top – it’s a lenticular cloud, and is common around the tall mountains here.Friends recommended the marina in front of the Museum of Glass in downtown Tacoma, near the Bridge of Glass leading to the Art Museum and Washington State History Museum, as well as some shops and good restaurants – very convenient!  Tacoma wasn’t as impressive as Seattle overall, but since it’s the home of the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, it seems to be the center of the universe for art glass.  20131103 5013 tacoma museum of glass reflection bw_01The Museum of Glass is an interesting building, with a huge cone where the glass furnaces and “hot shop” are located and a glass sculpture in the reflecting pool out front.20131102 4975 tacoma glass museum chihuly cylinder_01The weekend we were there, the museum was hosting a special Chihuly project in the hot shop – we had to check that out.  Chihuly himself doesn’t work with glass anymore; he has a team of craftspeople and artists who do all the work, inspired by Dale’s paintings and ideas.  Just watching the artists working with the molten glass was so interesting – art with an element of danger!  There are many chances for ugly things to happen with so many people working in concert.20131102 4979 tacoma glass museum chihuly cylinder closeup_01 

The rest of the Museum of Glass was fabulous – the variety of techniques and styles, colors and shapes from so many different artists – it boggles the mind.  It was our favorite museum of all that we’ve seen.

 

 

 

 

 

20131102 5006 glass bridge 3_01Chihuly is originally from Tacoma, and he has donated quite a lot of his glass works to the city – a collection of fanciful vases for the wall on the Brige of Glass…and the “sea forms” shapes for the overhead part of the bridge.The Art Museum had a room full of other-worldly Chihuly pieces, and the lobby of the old train station, now the Federal Court House, had these great discs in the window.We explored the town on foot a bit, but there wasn’t as much else to see.  We were content with all the art concentrated nearby, especially since we had a  few colder, raw days.  The marinas are pretty quiet this time of the year, but that makes it easier to go to popular places and enjoy things without crowds.

 

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20131103 5017 tacoma bridge of glass sea forms overhead_0120131104 5051 tacoma courthouse jim looking at glass_01

 

Gig Harbor, Port Townsend, and BellinghamNovember 24, 2013

From Tacoma we cruised a short distance to the little fishing town of Gig Harbor to visit new friends Cathryn and Bob.  They treated us to a nice home-cooked dinner in their gorgeous home, right on Colvos Passage.  We had a great time and a lot of laughs, especially when we discovered that we knew some of the same boaters on the east coast!  It is a VERY small world on the water.  We had a grand time with our new friends, and we loved walking around the town of Gig Harbor – great shops, restaurants, scenery, and a nice little museum.20131108 5075 gig harbor_01With another dentist appointment and a date to meet a fuel truck looming, it was time to head back to the north end of Puget Sound.  As we cruised out of Gig Harbor and up Colvos Passage, Bob and Cathryn came out on their deck to wave to us (nice jammies).20131109 5133 bob and cathryn_01We cruised north to Port Townsend, getting a slip at the “downtown” end of town to play tourist.  These small towns have some really lovely shops, and most of them seem to have very creative and beautiful window displays.  The whole region is very artsy, and it manifests itself in many different ways.
We saw a number of river otters playing in the marina (and leaving a lot of fishy, smelly messes on the docks), but they were never around when I had a camera handy!  We were careful to keep our side gate closed to make sure they didn’t come aboard for a visit.  We did see a lot of hooded mergansers – the “hood” on the male is most impressive when he’s surprised or alert.  We were supposed to cruise across to Bellingham on Tuesday to get Jim to the dentist on Wednesday.  The weather forecast looked fine for the crossing, but we woke up on Tuesday morning at 5 AM to howling winds – time for Plan B!  Without any discussion, I pulled up the ferry schedule and Jim called the local car rental place.  That’s life as a cruiser – you have to stay flexible.  It’s an all-day event with the ferry crossing and a long drive each way, but we made it a fun day.
One of the rewards for getting “stuck” in Port Townsend a bit longer was watching a nuclear submarine heading out to sea.  We were in the pilothouse and just happened to look up and see her – wow!20131112 5144 port t submarine closeup_01We had fun poking around town until the weather improved enough for us to get over to Bellingham.  We met a fuel truck on the commercial dock and filled our tanks at a decent price – we hope that’s enough fuel to last us until we get to Ketchikan, Alaska in the spring since fuel is very expensive in Canada.  We took advantage of some rainy days to do a few chores, and now we’re heading into the San Juan Islands for the next 10 days.

 

25 YearsNovember 26, 2013

Today is our 25th Wedding Anniversary – where has the time gone?  weddingThis week also marks 9 years since we moved aboard the boat full-time.  Living in a small space has its own challenges, but we still love it.  It has been a pretty fabulous journey together so far, and we hope and pray that we get to keep having Adventures together for a long time to come.We have a picture in the boat with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery that really says it all:”Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

Thanks a million, Sweetie, for so much happiness and for making my dreams come true.

 

San Juan IslandsNovember 27, 2013

It’s a short hop from Bellingham into the San Juan Islands, which is a good thing since we had some strong northerly wind and choppy conditions to deal with.  We anchored off Lopez Island to hide from the wind, and had the anchorage all to ourselves (where is everybody – it’s not that cold, is it?).  20131120 5154 mt baker from lopez anchorage_01We had a great view of Mt. Baker in the Cascade Mountain range to the east……and we particularly enjoyed its many faces as the light changed. Dawn was my favorite look.20131121 5160 mt baker from lopez anchorage dawn_01The winds settled down and we were due to get a cold snap.  We had to hose the foredeck off with salt water to get rid of the thick layer of frost, and we got a laugh at the bird footprints in the frost on one of the deck boxes.  It’s no fun to run around in the dinghy in the cold, so we decided to head to the marina at Friday Harbor for the two coldest nights.  It was nice – we went to the movies, visited the knitting shop (where I found yarn and a vest pattern that I couldn’t resist), and walked around town.  After two days, as it was starting to warm back up to normal temps (daytime in the mid-high 40’s) we ran around to the NW side of San Juan Island to visit the National Park site called English Camp.20131123 5165 english camp jim_01

This is where the English military established a camp for the 12 years when the ownership of the San Juan Islands was in dispute.  The Americans had a camp on the south end of the island, and the two sides enjoyed each other’s company during the political dispute known as the Pig War.  (The only fatality was a pig.)20131123 5169 english camp_01

We hiked up the mountain above English Camp, and had some fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island.  If you look closely, ADVENTURES is the little dark speck at anchor just to the lower left of center in this photo.20131123 5190 english camp view from young hill_01After a long afternoon hiking and exploring the Camp, we decided to take it easy the next day so we took the dinghy around to Roche Harbor.  Roche is a “resort”, though it was nice and quiet this time of the year.  We strolled around the historic buildings and the old lime kilns, and we checked out the sculpture garden – a little too abstract for our tastes.  We enjoyed a nice lunch there, and then bundled up for the dinghy ride back to the boat.Our next stop will be nearby Orcas Island and Rosario Resort to celebrate Thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving at Rosario ResortNovember 30, 2013

Our friends Bonnie and Walt recommended Rosario Resort on Orcas Island, and we thought it would be a great place to celebrate our anniversary and Thanksgiving – something a little special (though it’s hard to imagine anything more special than the cruising season we’ve been having out here!)20131129 5292 rosario resort in early morning_01The photo isn’t the greatest shot of the mansion – I took it early on an overcast morning.  It’s a lovely spot and the late 1800’s mansion has been beautifully restored.The place had just that kind of special feeling we needed – especially since we were really missing our friends and family for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We took solace in some of the amenities at Rosario – the hot tub and some spa treatments.  We explored the property and admired the grand view looking down Eastsound Bay to the south.20131128 5273 rosario meeting chairs_01  We liked sitting by the marble chip fireplace, and we had scones and hot tea one morning, sitting in this nifty side-by-side chair (a single piece of furniture). 

 

20131128 5269 rosario organ room and piano_01The mansion boasts a pipe organ from the turn of the 20th century, along with a beautiful piano from the same time period.  The resort’s manager is a well-known local pianist (Christopher Peacock), and he gives a little concert and historical talk on Saturday afternoons.We enjoyed the Thanksgiving buffet, though it was hard to see so many families together for the holiday – it reminded us how much we miss ours.

Growing up in NJ, I always went to my godparent’s place for the big family Thanksgiving dinner, which was wonderful.  We never thought anything about it, but my godparents lived in a large apartment above the funeral home that they owned and operated.  When my brother and I were at that age where we were easily bored, Dad would take us downstairs and play hide-and-seek.  We never bothered with any rooms where someone was laid out, but we liked the smell of fresh flowers there.  In later years we enjoyed talking with the “holiday strays” at dinner – friends or people who didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday.  Sometimes they were people who worked at the funeral home…  free-lance embalmers, hair dressers, etc.  Ask me sometime about the car my parents borrowed to take me to college.  You really can’t make this stuff up.

We were planning to do some serious hiking Friday and Saturday, and then enjoy the music and history presentation, but the weather report predicted some very strong fronts.  The only prudent choice was to leave the day after Thanksgiving and head to Victoria, BC – where we’ll spend the winter.  We were sad to leave Rosario, but we’ll be back!20131129 5298 victoria lighthouse_01

 

Victoria and the Holiday SeasonDecember 12, 2013

Vic and Puget Sound map RESIZEWhere are we?  We’re now settled for the winter in Victoria, BC on the south end of Vancouver Island.  You might notice that Vancouver is at the top of the map, on the mainland… not on Vancouver Island.  The yellow line is the US-Canada border, and the group of islands under the “RES” of our boat name are the San Juans.  We traveled as far south as Tacoma, and much farther north than this map shows in this first season of cruising the Pacific NW.20131225 5457 victoria adventures christmas lights_01Here we are at the dock – decorated for Christmas – we even won a prize from the Harbour Authority for our decorations!Victoria is a lovely small city, and it really goes all out for the holidays.  The first big event for us was to go see Tuba Christmas – a 40 year old tradition where musicians of all ages come together to perform.  It’s a very special memory for us since we always went with our friends the Halls to hear Ed play.  We even trooped up to NYC one year to hear him play on the ice at Rockefeller Center!  We loved hearing all the music and getting into the holiday spirit, despite the fact that this year Victoria was in the midst of an unusual cold snap – the temp was 20 degrees.

20131207 5311 victoria tuba christmas_01Imagine holding a big chunk of brass and playing in that!  (Today we’re back in the mid-40s – typical winter temps.)

With frozen toes but a bounce in our step we headed home to watch the boats gather for the evening’s lighted boat parade.

20131207 5322 victoria boat parade arriving in daylight_01

 

 

The sailboat approaching the dock turned out to be the star of the parade.  He had an animated Santa that popped out of a package, with balloons that floated up.

 

 

20131207 5366 victoria boat parade best boat_01We’ve participated in the Annapolis boat parade (cold!) and enjoyed watching them in the balmy Florida Keys.  Despite the bitter cold, Victoria’s parade did not disappoint, and it only started after the amazing lighted truck parade moved through town!20131207 5347 victoria boat parade sailboat_01

There is a lot more to photograph around town – all the pretty lights and decorated store windows.  Now that it’s warmer, it’s much more appealing to go out with my camera after dark.It has been pretty quiet around our dock, and we were hoping to meet more liveaboard neighbors… but there don’t seem to be many, and people aren’t outside as much in the colder weather.  We’re working on finding people and community that we can connect with for the winter months, and I’m sure we will.

 

Christmas at Victoria’s Butchart GardensDecember 20, 2013

Christmas in Victoria wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous Butchart Gardens.  We visited the gardens by boat in early summer, and were astounded at the size and variety: an Italian formal garden, a Japanese garden, an amazing rose garden, and the huge sunken garden.  There are things to see in every season, even in winter when little touches like a small owl totem are easier to notice.  Locals recommended that we get an annual pass so we could visit the gardens as often as we liked, especially around Christmas.20131218 5409 christmas butchart sunken garden unlit_01We had heard about all the lights, but we wanted to see the gardens before it got dark.The sunken garden is a favorite area, with a meandering path, cliff sides, a pond, and a small waterfall all surrounded by tall evergreen trees.  In winter during daylight hours it’s pretty, but without the explosion of color that you would see in the other seasons.  And here is the view of the sunken garden at night…20131218 5448 christmas butchart sunken garden lit up_01The theme throughout all the gardens was the 12 Days of Christmas, which you begin to discover as you walk around.  20131218 5442 christmas butchart 3 french hens_01We saw the tree with sparkly pear ornaments… and there was a partridge sitting in it.  The two turtle doves were in a small cage… but the three French hens had a bit of whimsy…I won’t bore you with the rendering of the entire song, but we almost missed the four calling birds.

 

 

20131218 5410 christmas butchart calling birds_01We saw this little grouping of birds – a cockatoo, parrots, and macaw with cell phones and didn’t make the mental connection until a little later.  We just loved it – lots of creativity, cleverness, and humor.  We were warned that the last element could only be seen as you drive away at the end of the evening… the drummers were animated in lights and there really were 12 of them arching over the driveway.  If you EVER get a chance to visit Butchart Gardens at any time of the year you must do it, but to see it at Christmas is the best.We were dressed warmly, but it still got cold after a while, so we took a break and had some dinner, then went back outside to hear the carolers and the brass quartet playing holiday music.20131218 5456 christmas butchart brass band_01

I think it was most fun watching little children so excited, with their rosy cheeks and smiling faces.  Christmas is about being a kid, no matter how big or how old you are.We wish you all a very Happy Holiday season and a Joyous New Year.

 

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