Monday, September 22, 2008

World's Longest Post Ever (Gulf Islands!)

Any boat trip that starts with a Small Craft Advisory in effect is going to be good, right?

We left the dock Friday afternoon with the intent of getting a head start and making Kingston, so that our trip up to the San Juans the next day wouldn't be quite so long. Once through the locks, though, it immediately became apparent that that wouldn't be the smartest thing we'd ever done, so we ducked into Shilshole marina for the night. On the plus side, we had a very nice dinner at Ray's to start our trip. On the minus side, we didn't get very far.

So; up bright and early the next morning to set off on our great adventure. Slack tide at Deception Pass was at 4:26pm, so we had most of the day to make our way up the east side of Whidbey Island. Andy, Genevieve, and Jeremy on Cinnamon Girl would catch up to us at some point, their boat being much faster than Swietenia. Under the bridge we went, timing it perfectly. That's Cinnamon Girl there in front of us.

We headed for Fisherman's Bay on Lopez Island for the night. Unbeknownst to us, Fisherman's Bay is served by the world's craziest seaplane pilots ever. Looking maybe twenty feet up to pontoons as it (barely) cleared the VHF antenna was, um, interesting?

The next day we cleared customs in Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island; this involved Mark going up to the little customs hut, calling on the phone, telling them we had less than $10,000 cash, no fruits or vegetables, and very little alcohol (ha!), and receiving a number in return. Not too stressful. We spent the night there, anchored in the bay. It's directly adjacent to a provincial park, so we spent some time onshore walking the trails, and Mark bravely captured the wild Madrona branch and persuaded it to stay on the top of our boat (this would later be the occasion for a locks-watcher-tourist to shout down to us "Nice branch!" - gotta keep the tourists amused...)
So by Monday, if you're keeping track, we felt the need for a shower. It was decided to visit hippytown, a.k.a. Ganges, on Saltspring Island. Andy radioed ahead and secured slips for both boats, and after a short cruise (a couple of hours - as all cruising should be, so as to facilitate onshore exploring) we arrived. Showers were taken advantage of, Genevieve and I met a lovely eccentric artist, and the grocery store was raided for fresh fruit and veggies. Over dinner we began the arduous task of deciding where to go next. Charts came out, discussions were had, Jeremy ate a lot of ketchup and very few french fries. The consensus reached was Wallace Island; Conover Cove to be exact. Wallace Island sits in the middle of Trincomali Channel, and is long and narrow. The entire island is a provincial park, and Conover Cove is a very protected tiny little anchorage with a small park dock and lots of trails. We totally lucked out and got space on the dock for both boats, therefore inaugurating the first annual Wallace Island wooden boat festival. Because if more than one old boat arrives at the same place, it must be a boat show! Or we must be going to a boat show, or coming from a boat show....plastic boaters have a hard time with the fact that we cruise for pleasure just like they do (well, maybe with a bit more class).
We had great time spectating as other boats came in and anchored, or tried to. The bottom, while pretty good holding, was apparently somewhat difficult to grab.

Wallace Island was so nice we spent three nights! Several crab were caught and eaten,

shells and rocks were gathered, starfish were observed and occasionally molested,

and Mark started his own sealife zoo (are you seeing a pattern here yet?).

Wallace Island was home to some of the most spectacular Madrones we've seen in a long while. This one was all the way out at the southernmost tip of the island, and you can tell I liked it.

About this time our dry ice evaporated completely and the 'regular' ice was going fast, so Genevieve and I sent the men on an ice-hunting expedition. The intrepid explorers returned from Thetis Island with copious amounts of the cold stuff.

For our next destination, we decided to head vaguely south, since Mark and I had to start to think about making our way back home. Cinnamon Girl had the full two weeks, lucky dogs. Again, after three days without, we felt like a shower, so a commercial marina was the plan. Andy and Genevieve had been to Genoa Bay, on Vancouver Island, in the past, so we headed that direction. A tiny little town with a cafe and an abundance of art, not to mention brand new washroom facilities, it was well worth the stop. This was our last night with the Carlsons, as they were headed back north, and we were sadly headed for home. We didn't need to be back to work until Wednesday, but it's always nice to have a day at home to clean/wash the boat, unpack, do laundry, and bond with your poor dog who hasn't missed you at all. So Saturday we cruised down to Sidney Spit, a provincial park just off Vancouver Island, across from the town of, you guessed it, Sidney. The spit in question is a mile long, and is mirrored by one almost as long, forming a wonderful sheltered harbor (as long as the wind isn't from the northwest) with many mooring buoys and wonderful beach. We took a walk through the woods, sadly denuded by the island's deer population. They close the park for several months in the fall to allow the First Nations to come in and cull the herd - I think they need to step it up a bit. Then we walked the length of the spit - the first barefoot-worthy sand beach of the trip. Mark collected lots of big shells, which we later put to use as a performance art project:


The weather report wasn't too promising for Sunday, so we looked up the tides at Deception Pass and 'went on the inside' of Whidbey Island. Slack at 3:45. OK, we can get there by then. Up at 7 (ack! so early!) and over to Roche Harbor to check in with US Customs. On this side there was a real person, but the actual check-in was just as easy. I guess slow old wood boats just don't make customs officials think of smuggling. We fueled up - just $4.75/gal - and started wending our way through the San Juans, crossing Rosario Strait a bit early for slack tide. So we grabbed a buoy in Bowman Bay, had lunch, and then made our way through a tiny bit early. Mark insisted we could do this. Argh. We made it, but at one point we were making VERY little headway against the current. Was the 15 minutes really worth it? No comment.

Rather than spend the night at the state park just through the pass, we decided to head for Coupeville, about halfway down the east side of Whidbey Island. Coupeville is cool! They have an historic old wharf with a public dock and several mooring buoys, a history museum, and some great old victorians. We spent an exceedingly peaceful night knowing that one more day would see us home. A boat that had followed us all the way from Deception Pass took the buoy next to us, and took some great shots of Swietenia, as well.

Headed home.......

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