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.


  1. Hi Bethany,
    Looks like you live in a beautiful place. I like the title of your blog and noticed that you were involved in worship ministries at your church.
    I help teach children's church at mine.
    I write a faith-based column at the Fremont Tribune, NE newspaper. I've recently self-published a book called "Real Spiritual Spinach - Faith for the Journey."
    Hope you check out my Web site at
    Yeah, I know. Shameless self-promotion. I'm just trying to get the word out!
    Take care.

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