Friday, October 30, 2009

The saga continues...

We spent night 3 in Port Townsend Bay after squeezing through Port Townsend Canal for the first time. It cut several miles off the end of our long day and we enjoyed snagging a mooring off the beach at Old Fort Townsend.

In the morning, we motored over to Port Townsend to run some errands--breakfast, groceries, fuel, pump-out, crabbing license, and new snorkels--all the necessities for a week in the islands. We had planned to cross the strait with the morning tide, but as always when on a boat, plans changed. The state licensing system was down, so after waiting as long as we could to buy a crab license, we gave up and started researching locations to pick one up in the SanJuans. That night we anchored at the foot of the cliffs in Watmough Bay (which, in our family at least, must be pronounced "Wah-mough" If you say it with the full glottal stop, you'll sound like a bad rap artist. Try it. You'll never go back!)

On our first trip to the San Juans, Bryan and I had anchored in this steep-sided bay and we were glad for a chance to come back with the girls. That first time, we were enchanted by the beauty of the place and the stranger whose hauntingly lovely singing echoed off the cliffs as she rowed a skiff around the circumference of the bay. This time, it was we who broke the stillness of the evening and our giggles and yells were anything but hauntingly lovely.

The next morning, we rowed ashore to explore the scrap of a beach at the intersection of the cliffs and the paths through the cracked boulders at its edge.

It didn't take much convincing to get the girls to strip to their swimsuits and snorkels, but neither one braved a full plunge into the water.

Finally we gave up and took them out in the dinghy where they tested its stability by leaning over the stern, faces in the water, hollering through snorkel-clenched teeth about ocean floor discoveries.

After lunch, we sailed around the south side of Lopez Island and up through Cattle Pass to Friday Harbor. And that's when we discovered that the crabbing season in the San Juans had been delayed until we would already have crossed into Canada. Bryan and the girls had enjoyed crabbing so much the year before, we were all a bit disappointed, especially considering the extent of our quest. But we placated ourselves with ice cream cones and a frolic with Popeye, the one-eyed seal who serves as Friday Harbor's unofficial mascot and welcoming committee from her usual haunt by the dockside seafood market.

We decided to forgo the marina fees and busy Friday Harbor anchorage in favor of Jones Island, a favorite San Juan destination of ours, only an hour or so north.

We were all pretty hungry so I went below to start making clam chowder, hoping for a relaxing dinner after our arrival.  As we neared the south end of the island, the engine coughed and died. We got it started again, but it wasn't purring the usual puttputtputt. The north side of the island has better protection and shore access, so we decided to continue and hope for the best. We eased up the west side of Jones, fiddling with the throttle and willing the engine to keep running for just...ten...more...minutes.

It didn't work.

As we rounded the northwest corner of the island and turned to head on into the bay, the motor gave up for good. You may be thinking, "Isn't that why you have a sail boat? So you don't need an engine?" But if that's what you're thinking, you've never sailed in the San Juans. The winds are notoriously flaky and that night, we had nothing but an occasional whisper. We raised the sails and I did my best to use every breath of wind to steer us away from the rocks yet toward the bay. Bryan rummaged in the engine compartment muttering imprecations and attempting manly magic.

We were grateful for the long summer evening as what was supposed to be an one-hour, easy evening sail turned into 3 hours of frustration. Looking back, I know we were never in any danger; all we needed to do was drift close enough to shore to drop our anchor and admit defeat. But my travel-weary body conspired with thwarted expectations and low blood sugar to produce an internal perfect storm. Finally, Bryan abandoned the engine and rigged a tow harness to the dinghy. In deep twilight, he pulled us in the last few feet to a safe anchorage. We heaved our worries over the side for the night, knowing they would still be there in the light of a new day. When we woke, to this...

...the problems remained, but had shrunk overnight somehow. What did it matter if we had to stay here an extra day or two? With an anchorage full of fellow boaters and a marine mechanic just a short ride away, surely we would be able to conquer this latest hurdle. be continued.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Sunday, Bryan and I gave a presentation about our sailing dreams to some from our church community. Many of our friends showed some interest in this long-neglected blog and, as I'd been intending (for several months now) to write up some stories from our latest trip, I figured I shouldn't ignore this motivation.

Last you heard, we'd launched the new dinghy (see below for pics if you're just arriving). We'd struggled to figure out how to best orchestrate our trip, (from Olympia up to Canada and down the coast of Washington to the Columbia) so that we didn't end up with our boat in St. Helens and our car still in Olympia. We love riding the train, so one-way tickets to Olympia were an easy choice, but we had more gear to load than we could take on the train (including the new dinghy!) Bryan took Split Pea and all our gear to LiLo, remembered (barely!) that he needed to bring back the old dinghy and spent the next few hours problem solving. Li'l Lo, our old dinghy, was so heavy that the 4 of us could barely carry it a few yards down the beach and somehow he needed to get it, by himself, up the ramp at low tide. He rowed around to the public dock in Olympia, which sports a more gently sloped ramp than our marina, heaved it up onto the ramp rails and pushedlikecrazy to get it up to the top, where some onlookers finally took pity on him and helped balance Li'l Lo in a dock cart all the way to the truck in the neighboring parking lot.

He returned to join the rest of us at my parents' for the Canby General Days July 4 celebration (back by popular demand...and yes, I mean demand. We were on the boat one year for the Fourth and I don't think they girls will ever let us forget it.) It's all about the parade-candy collecting!

 The next morning, Mom and Dad took us up to the Oregon City train "station" (what a cute little whistle stop!) and saw us off.

We enjoyed breakfast in the bistro car and general relaxing and goofiness

until our arrival in Lacey.

We gathered up all of our stuff, caught the bus to Olympia, walked the 8 or so blocks to the boat where we realized the fatal flaw in our heretofore perfectly executed plan.

Now every time we go to the boat, we make one last run for gas and groceries before we leave town. We can't get gas until we're there, obviously, because the fuel tanks are on the boat. And it's usually easier to pick up our cold foods there then pack them all the way up I-5 in a cooler. Except this time, we'd gone to great lengths to get to Olympia without a car, forgetting that when we got there, we, well, wouldn't have a car.

Bryan bummed a ride to the gas station from friendly dock neighbors while I put away what we'd brought and calculated meals from pantry items...yes, plenty to make it to Port Townsend, where the grocery store is more conveniently located for forgetful boaters like us.

Finally on our way, we pushed out into Budd Inlet in unusually strong winds. We often have to motor in the South Puget Sound, but today was a pleasant surprise, sailing in 15-20 kts. The sea took the vacation's only casualty though, my favorite red hat from last year's Stuart Island stop. (Please don't mention it; I'm still in mourning and kicking myself.)

We spent the first two nights at old favorites, Joemma Beach State Park and Blake Island, trying to enjoy our time without thinking ahead to the trip too much. It's easy to turn the first and last few days of any trip into a push to get there, get there, get there and forget to enjoy every moment along the journey. I'm getting better at this, but I admit it was a bit hard to simultaneously look forward to the San Juans and Canada, fight off end-of-trip-ocean-going fears, and savor what may be our last trip for many years in these familiar waters.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A friend of mine often posts series pictures and it's fun to see things change--or stay the same--over the years. When I saw these pictures from this year's trip to Friday Harbor pop up in my camera, I couldn't help but see the possibilities. With childhood's perfect memory (perfect, that is, about "my turn" and "last time" and "but Mom, you said." Not so perfect when it comes to "what did you ask me to do again?"), the girls requested portraits on the opposite totem from last year's trip. Here's a fun comparison--Enjoy!


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Launch!

I'm beginning to go through photos from our latest trip (those of you who do this immediately upon your arrival at home--or better yet, while still on vacation--can feel quite superior to me at this point) and don't want to miss the chance to tell you about an exciting event that occurred the day before we left.

Bryan had decided to take our gear and the new dinghy to LiLo and then drive back to meet us at my parent's house. The plan was to celebrate July 4 with them and then take the train back to Olympia so we didn't end up with a stray car there at the end of the trip when we brought LiLo to the Columbia. But before we took the dinghy up, we had to launch and christen her!

The girls always wear their lifejackets on the docks so we had brought theirs home, but Bryan and I had left ours on the boat. As we were trying to figure out who might have some we could borrow, we had to laugh at ourselves. "Let's see...who would be the most likely people we know to have lifejackets?" "Um, that would" But N&A came to our rescue and we picked up their pfds and drove out to Hagg Lake.

We put the dinghy together by the truck and then carried her about 50 yards down to the water. This would have been an impossible distance to carry our old dinghy; already we were in love with the new one! We posed for the obligatory pictures and slid her down the bank into the water.

Everybody got a turn to row around a bit...

...and then we made up our own christening ceremony. She is now officially Split Pea!

We got a few funny looks when Bryan took her apart in the water to see how well that worked (very, as it turned out.) Don't forget to tie off both halves before trying this trick!

More to come from the some point.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mystery Watercolor Memories

You may have noticed that I am a photograppreciator, not an actual photographer like some people I could name. Over the years, this has resulted in a rather careless attitude toward cameras and the many gaps in camera ownership (and my complete inability to get film developed) have caused a back-up of disposable cameras and old film in our junk drawer. This week, I finally gathered up six rolls of something-or-other and took them in. "All I want is the negatives and the CD," I told the lady at the counter; I wasn't paying for prints of mystery pictures. "We'll be back in an hour."

While we waited, we went to the Farmer's Market and walked over to the library. When we thought we had whiled away enough time, we hopped back in the car and headed back to pick up the pictures. I flipped on the radio and was more than a little surprised to hear words like "severe thunderstorms" and "tornado." I had noticed the wind picking up, but thought we could manage to get our pics before heading home. As we were standing in line, the lights flickered through dim to dark and the very efficient--and shoplifting-aware--store employees quickly herded all the customers (many waving lit cell phones like lonely concert-goers) to the front of the store where they peremptorily booted us out into the growing storm. My brave girls were beginning to crumble in the face of so many strange events and the crazy "car-wash" rain. We were all relieved to pull out of the traffic into Lafayette and home where we spent a candlelit evening counting lightning/thunder seconds, singing the obligatory "Raindrops on Roses," and cuddling (my personal favorite when it comes to power-outage activities).

The power came on sometime in the night and, before I completely lost all momentum and left the photos languishing at the store forever, I ran back to pick them up. Some of the pictures are so old and so...just plain BAD, that we can't even tell who is pictured. (Anyone have a baby with this head shape?)

Using carbon dating methods (and adjacent pictures), we determined the approximate decade of each roll--oh my, there's baby Hannah! Some of the pictures make us wonder what we were thinking,

but others are real gems, bringing back many good memories of adventures long (LONG) past.

This roll, including the picture from the top of the post, are from our first year of sailing. Bryan and I brought Nissa into Portland for the weekend for our 9th anniversary (this summer will be 13!). There are many pictures of bridges, since we had to sail under each one, and a few pictures of relationship landmarks--mostly restaurants we can no longer afford. I remember the exhilaration of figuring out how to call for a bridge lift (the Steel Bridge's pedestrian span is too low for our mast) and the wonder of seeing a familiar city from a new perspective. Flush with freshly-minted boat ownership, I wanted to wear my fluorescent life jacket everywhere. We walked to Saturday Market (a first-date memory) and all the way over to Powells, where we bought too many books to carry back comfortably and a Portland Bridge T-shirt because it may be the only time we can ever truthfully say that we have "been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt." On the way back to our marina in St. Helens, we stopped a Cathedral Park to savor the last hours of vacation and the amazing architecture of the St. Johns Bridge (seen above).

Not all the pictures were ancient and I'll likely be posting some more (of both vintages) soon, but thanks for indulging me this meander down proverbial memory lane.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

While riffling through old blog post drafts, I found these pictures from last year's San Juan trip. They are mostly from our visit to the Westcott Bay Sculpture Park at Roche Harbor (19 acres of verdant meadow, forest, and wetland dotted with sculptures of all varieties), but a few are from the next day on our way to Stuart Island. On the way there, our camera that was that. I'm posting these primarily for my own memory's sake; please feel free to ignore them.

This little fellow served as welcoming committee and curator.

These are not sculptures, but I love to look at them anyway. I think their Artist is amazing.

I loved these flashing birds, twirling in the breeze...

...and this abstract whirligig.

The gong was a family fave.

And I savored the wonder as I strolled down this slope to view the front of this piece of art. What could possibly be more beautiful than the freshly baled hay in the field behind it? When I finally reached the piece, I smiled. On the easel, the artist had simply placed a mirror.

These are the last two pictures our poor camera took (we now have a waterproof, shockproof, drop-proof model). I used to think that boats with line snaking everywhere and gear lashed to every stanchion were, well, just a bit unkempt. Now I just remind myself of the best compliment our well-loved boat ever got--"There's a boat that looks like she goes places!" It's true what they say, that you see the same sights no matter how fancy or humble your boat. I wished so hard our camera had held on for just one more shot, because as we rounded this point, Mt. Baker leapt out at us, bold and dazzling against the blue sea, blue sky. We may not always have proof, but we have seen some spectacular sights from this messy vessel of ours.