Almost, but not quite, cruising.
After successfully but not entirely sorting out the generator, dinghy and electronics, we were ready to roll out of Bellingham. Two items remained: calibrating our new electronics bits, and picking up some extensions for the dinghy mounts so the hatch to the upper deck would clear the dinghy tube.
Calibrating the electronics was easy. Both the wind and sea state outside Squalicom Harbor Marina were calm enough for us to pull off the required circles and zig-zags and runs, and the Garmin software gave us the thumbs-up. From that moment on, everything has run flawlessly.
Steve Guyer offered to have the dinghy mount extensions drop-shipped overnight wherever we wanted them. It was Friday; we agreed to be in Friday Harbor on Monday to pick up the parts. That would give us the weekend in the islands, and not have to go far out of our way to grab the package.
So off we went. It turned into a beautiful day as we headed out between Sinclair and Cypress Islands. The gray, breezy morning cleared to bright sunshine, and the wind faded to nothing. On the radio we heard chatter from the whale watch boats talking about sighting Orcas off Towhead, and sure enough, as we scanned ahead, there were the boats, and also a group of Orcas.
We tagged along for an hour or so. Once or twice a whale gave a good show. We were never quick enough with our cameras to catch anything, but it was fun anyway.
A lazy, lovely flybridge meander through Obstruction Pass and up East Sound landed us at Rosario Resort. The marina was just barely open for the season with brand new docks. All very nice and easy to get into — although the dogs didn’t like the dock and ramp surfaces. At. All.
That gave us an excuse to launch and play with the new dinghy, which demonstrated awesome ability to quickly get up on a plane with all four of us on board.
The resort was only partially open and Bruce was still down with the flu, so we had a quiet evening and the dogs and I enjoyed wandering the lovely historic grounds of the estate. What a beautiful spot.
The next morning was Easter Sunday. We left Rosario and headed through Harvey and Wasp Channels, then up to Spieden Channel. There we once again heard chatter on the radio, this time about a very large group of sea lions off Spieden Island. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of them at a full stop, with a Washington State ferry bearing down on us. That was fun! In the end, everyone had plenty of room and the sea lions continued on their merry way.
We proceeded on to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island, which was a lovely stop. One other boat was there with us for the evening, the American Tug 43 I Sea Forever with a charter crew on board. Steve and Shannon came over to have a look at our boat, and it turned out that a 395 is their dreamboat. We hope their dream comes true!
We took advantage of the nice day to enjoy walking around the lovely trails of the state park, explore by dingy, and send the drone up for some photos. It was a beautiful stop – one of our favorites.
Monday rolled around, so after another walk around Stuart Island with the pups, we headed down to Friday Harbor to pick up the dinghy parts. Alas, by early afternoon they weren’t there. By late afternoon we called to see what had happened. Steve Guyer called back to say that the parts in fact had not shipped until that morning and would be at Friday Harbor Wednesday or Thursday. WHAT??? More cruising interruptions. Aargh.
After soothing our disappointment at a local watering hole, we decided to take advantage of the delay — and the lousy forecast (another gale) — by going all the way back to Anacortes to get Pepper his follow-up X-ray for his pneumonia. This wasn’t absolutely necessary, but given the circumstances, it was a good thing to do and would give us piece of mind. So it was back to Anacortes again. We’re getting good at criss-crossing the San Juans.
The visit to Anacortes brought more good food, provisions, and lots of walking all over the place. By rather grand coincidence, we also met the broker and would-be buyer of my parents’ Willard 40, which is currently for sale in Rhode Island. It was good fun getting to know them and we all hope the deal goes through. The Willard might even be making the trip back from the East Coast on the very same truck that will deliver our boat east next month. What are the odds?
After two nights in Anacortes we made the run back to a Friday Harbor for the dinghy parts. They were there this time, thank goodness. Bruce got them installed, and not only does the hatch open and close properly now, but with the dinghy six inches higher off the deck we also have much better visibility aft from the pilot house. Win-win.
By now, we were ready to get beyond the San Juans. We had pretty much eliminated the possibility of getting up to Princess Louisa and back: we simply no longer had enough time, and we wanted to see other things. So we made a snap decision to hop across the border into Cananda to see some of the Gulf Islands.
Because we don’t have Nexus or one of the other frequent traveler passes for border crossing, we had to go to an official clearance port open in April. This meant Sidney. On Friday morning we ran from Friday Harbor across to Sidney. Another flybridge trip: flat water and beautiful sunshine. We ended up clearing in from the dock by phone: Easy-peasy. Then grabbed a slip at the marina.
Sidney was a pristine, upscale little town with loads of shops and restaurants and weekend visitors. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Bistro Suisse, recommended by our slip neighbor.
It was a fun stop, but we wanted to keep moving. The next day the forecast called for a calm morning, but a 25-30 knot southeaster by afternoon. We scooted off to highly-recommended Ganges to get ourselves tucked on before the blow. It wasn’t to be.
After an easy run in under graying skies, we called Ganges Marina for accommodations. We were directed to what turned out to be dilapidated, filthy floats with no working electrical hookups, and were then greeted by a condescending and rude dock attendant. He was belligerent and offensive. And they wanted us to spend our money there? And the docks were virtually empty.
Bruce had an immediate allergic reaction to the place. “We’re leaving.” I agreed. We were so disappointed by the whole affair that, rather than trying to find an alternative spot in Ganges, we headed back to the closest spot we knew of to be comfortable for the night: Roche Harbor in the good old USofA. That may seem extreme, but the Ganges experience was pretty bad. We’ve done some after-the-fact research, and discovered that we are not the only ones treated poorly by Ganges Marina. Too bad, because the town had good reviews as a cruising stop.
And this is where 480 horsepower shines. We had a twenty mile run, and a southeast blow trying to beat us to the punch. As soon as we were free of the no wake zone we put the pedal down. We left Ganges at 11:30 with roughly zero wind, just whispering out of the north. By noon the sea was still flat but the southerly had filled in and was pushing ten to 12 knots. By the time we were five miles out from Roche it was pushing 20 knots and the sea was beginning to kick up. We burned some fuel, but we made it in just in time. The pleasant customs officer met us alongside in the rain, we cleared, and took one of the many large, clean, protected slips beneath the chapel on the hillside. Wonderful stop. Good call.
At Roche we were entertained not only by two wedding parties dodging rain showers, but some large groups of well-dressed party-going youngsters who, it turned out, were celebrating their senior prom. Oh, to be young. (No thanks… I’ll just watch!)
The next morning we still had the itch to see new territory. With a generally benign forecast, we decided to make a run down Haro Strait and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca for Port Townsend, and to explore Puget Sound and points south.
But that is another post.