We were being allowed to load and provision the boat right after the Skipper’s Meeting, and then spend the night aboard for an early am take-off.
Rick & Roger took plenty of time to explain to the charter groups what to wactch out for. The Pacific North West is not an easy place to cruise, but it is about as beautiful as anyplace I have ever sailed.
The introduction was well handled in a meeting in which everyone who was taking out a boat sat thru a 2 hour briefing that covered how to avoid rocks, and most of all, how to work with the tides. They have a diurnal tide that can reach 10-12 feet, so passes can get extremely dangerous.
I have to admit, it was the longest and most detailed briefing I have ever been to, and it was the best. Nothing was left unanswered.
It was kinda funny for our “crew.” You see, the skippers on our boats each had more than 30 years of boating experience as captans. Capt. Jeff & Marie Inshaw, who would be piloting the second boat, has been a proffessional skipper for over 30 years, including the most recent gig captaining a 67’ catamaran in the Caribbean for the last 5 years. On our boat, I was skipper, with 35 years living board and over 100,000 miles on boats, and my “second” was Captain Mike Stinson, who skippered dozens of boats, the most recent of which was a 110’ Ocean Alexander.
We were qualified.
We were also told that we would be the most endangered, as experienced skippers could tend to be over-confident.
That evening we did the boat checkout, and the “provisioning crew” hit the local Costco. They returned about 7PM, and time to load up.
Since the charter didn’t officially start until Saturday morning we spent the night aboard, and took off 7:30 the next morning for the 15 mile sail to Cap Sante Marina, in Anacortes, where the 17th Annual Cruiser’s Weekend was underway.
We had to be in by noon, as there would be a a memorial for Capt John Aydelotte who recently passed away, and was one of the original fiunders of the Lats&Atts Cruiser’s Gathering in the Pacific NW.
We were up with two exceptionlly nice Bavaria 41’s. “Fresh Air” and “Wind Song.”
The crew on Fresh Air consisted of Captain Jeff & Marie Inshaw, better known to many show-goers as “Ken & Barbie”, with Jeff & Debbie Kolod from Maine, and Steve & Pam Bowden, owners of Sea-Tech Systems from Texas.
On Wind Song, I was skipper, and Mike Stinson was our “NSO” officer. That’s kinda funny, as he spent 30 years as a skipper of boats from 40’ up to my friend Dave Parkers 110 Ocean Alexander. Jody and Mikes wife Caro (no, that is not misspelled) handled the galley and rope handeling, and Mikes friend Bill Lockhart joined us from So Cal.
Our third boat was Darren & Lisa O’Brien and their daughter Arrianna aboard “Traveler.” A 47’ trawler they live aboard full time in the San Juans. Lisa is Cruising Outposts Sdvertising Director, and Darren was the producer of Latitudes & Attitudes TV, and is Marketing director at Cruising Outpost. They were our guides for the week.
We were also joined by three other boats from the area, including Jeff Reiner from Olympia, and others who joined us along the way.
We were pretty lucky, and it only took 2.5 hours to get to our first anchorage. The bad news? It was right into the wind! And as we know, when you are cruising there is either too much wind, or not enough, but it’s ALWAYS on the nose.
We got in early enough to wander the docks and meet with some of the 600-700 people who had shown up.
I opened the service for John, then family and friends came to the mike with their best “Captain John” story.
Captain John was larger than life and was always the ”spirit” of the Pacific Northwest Cruiser’s event. He could always be counted on to be the first one to volunteer for whatever tasks had to be done, and he always had a great smile on his face. There is little doubt that Captain John Aydellotte was the true spirit of the Pacififc Northwest gathering.
The Captain John stories went on for quite awhile, and we could all feel his spirit there on the docks.
After the ceremony there was a spread laid out for lunch with Hamburgers, sausage, and a lot of pot-luck goodies. No one walked away hungry.
For the rest of the afternoon boaters wandered the docks, where there were beer kegs stationed so no one went thirsty!
The party started about 6:30, and at 7:00 we had the best costume judgung. This is always a toughie, as everone shows up in pirate gear! We ended up with two winners.
Then it was time for the raffle. We had about $5000 worth of prizes, with the grand prize being a Katadyne emergance Watermaker and a PureWater+ system from Forespar,
It seems like just about everyone who bought a ticket was a winner! The proceeds from this go toi the Educational Tallship Foundation and the Call of The Sea.
Then the band Deception Connection started to play, and there was dancing and a whole lot of “pirate fun.”
The commeraderie on the docks that night was like one big happy family.
In the morning the crews on the Share The Sail boats departed for Eagle Bay on Cypress Island. The original plans were to head to Wambaugh at the ottom of Lopez Island, but the weather turned during the night. and there were reported 35 knots of wind that would be directly on our nose, but it was a downwind run to Eagle. Other than our dinghy flipping over twice, it was fairly uneventful.
As we pulled in 3 or 4 other boats from the party sailed in to join us. That evening “Wind Song”, which was the boat we were on, held it’s capacity of boaters as we hosted an imprompteau gathering aboard to talk story, which is what all pirate-cruiser’s do. Usually with an iron grip on a cold beverege! Before we knew it the clock struck 11, and as we all know, cruiser’s hit the bunks early, to be early to rise.
Captain Mike decided he wanted to set out a crab trap to catch us some good eating crabs. A few of the locals were a little befuddled when they saw him place some perfectly good Dunginess crab into the pot for bait.
As we all know, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray, and as the morning dawned Mike watched in dismay as a boat passed by to wave goodby, and then promptly ran right over the crab pot’s float. We figured it was lost forever, as we watched the boat that wrapped it start to drift into the rocks of the narrow entrance.
But a few minutes later the float popped to the surface, and all was well with the world again. Except of course for the crab-trap, which was twisted tighter than a pretzel. Mike ended up buying a new one for the boat at the next port!
By late morning the winds had died, and we headed out to try and do some whale watching, as we sailed south the the Rosario Straights and around the bottom of Lopez Island. It was a beautiful day, and the scenery in the San Juan Islands is unsurpassed. The day was spent watching out for killer whales, and enjiying a great day at sea.
No, we never did see one!
By early afternoon we’d rounded the bottom of Lopez and headed up the Harow Straight into Mesquito Pass, which is almost like a river, and very dog-leg shaped, so we did get a little adrenalin coarsing thru our veins as we made the snake-like path thru the narrow pass, and into Roach Harbor.
Roach Harbor was packed with boats from 8’ mini cruiser’s to 100’ powerboats. By the time we were settled into a slip for the evening about 7 boats from the PNW Party had sailed in with us, and we once again hosted a dozen or so cruiser’s aboard Wind Song, our 41’ Bavaria we’d chartered at San Juan Sailing Center.
That evening we ate at the hotel dinning room thanks to Bill, who “sponsored” our meal, and ran into dozens of our readers, so it was a fun evevning.
One of the traditions at Roach Harbor is the lowering of the flags at Sunset. It is a long tradition and it was very well choriographed presentation with music and pomp AND circumstance. A dozen children played on the lawn in front of the flag pole, and at 8:08PM, exactly at sunset, the ceremony began.
After that we wandered back to the boat, stopping along the dock to talk to people about their boats, their voyages, and especially theiur animlas, who seemed to be on every boat. Mostly dogs, but even a few cats.
Across from us was afamily with two Malamutes that were unbelievably beautiful. The most interesting thing was, one was 11 years old, and th other 1 year old, and they looked like sisters!
That night everybody gathered on th Bob Boat and the sea-tales begin. I don’t think there is anything more enjoyable than sitting in the aft cockpit of a boat, tied 6o a dock with hyundreds of other like-minded people, and telling sea-tales. As they say, in a case like that, the first liar doesn’t stand a chance!
One of the reasons so many people liike to cruise the San Juan Islands is the abundance of Orca Whales. There are supposed to be hundreds of them in the channell between the San Juans and Canadian Waters. So the next day we headed out in search of the White Whale. Er, no, sorry, that was another story. We went out in search of black & white whales!
Sorry to say, we never did spot one, but the search was a lot of fun.
Sailing in the San Juans is difficult at best. Not that there is not enough wind, but it is always on the nose. Honestly (and I hate to amit it) we never did get the sails up. Every passage had the wind right on our nose!
We motored into Reed Harbor on Stewart Island. Talk about a well protected harbor! We were tucked back into the furthers reaches of the bay, and it was smoother than if we were in a slip. Not a ripple!
It was here that Jody decided she needed a little excercise, ao she gathered up the troops, and headed out on a “Jody Walk.”
Anyone who has ever been on one of our Share The Sail events is aware of a “Jody Walk.” They usually are very thorough, and never seem to last less than 3-4 hours. This one was the 3.5 hour type, and wandered over the sialnd to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the lighhouse/museum didn’t open until 11, and they arrived at about 10 AM. So no joy for the troops.
But the walk was beautiful, so it was defenitely not a waste of their energies.
The “sail” to Friday Harbor was as beautiful as the it could be. Passing tree-covered islands and trying to pick out which house was the biggest, or the most beautiful.
We motored slowly past Spieden Island, looking for Afican wildlife.
Yes, that’s what I said. You see many years ago, someone had the wild idea to stock the island with wild game. Antelope, African deer and more. Then he sold the right to hunt them to his friends.
Well, a lot of people got up in arms about that, and soon he was “forced” to stop hunting them.
Now, as you pass the island you can see the animals on the slopes of the island.
The San Juan Islands have to be one of the best cruising grounds, as there are so many islands, it seems you are always passing beautiful forrests reaching right down to the shoreline.
We arrved in Friday Harbor and found slips waiting for us that had been arranged for by Darren. We had about 4 other boats that had joined us after the Cruiser’s Party in Anacortes.
That evening we had about 14 people aboard, as we were stern-tied to the slip, so it was easy access.
You see, the Bavaria 41 has a most engenius stern system. The whole stern lowered to become a boarding platform. It was perfect!
That evening we had a pizza party at a new pizza resteraunt named Van Go’s. About 20 people, in a open patio, with more pizza than people should eat. It was great!
We wandered down to the docks after dinner, and found a great ice-cream parlor. The weather was perfect, and once again, it was a talk-story time, as each sailor tried to out-do the other with tales of seas-crossings and fun events!
Now here I have to digress. In the 17 years I have been sailing the San Juan’s, my favorite island is Sucia. It’s where Crazy Mike created the first Pacififc Northest Cruiser’s Party. It is one of the nicest anchorages in the San Juans. There is a picnic area on the island between the two harbors, one on each side of the island.
Our trip from Friday Harbor to Sucia was, once again, directly into the wind.
Now I know there are those of you out there saying “You could tack there,” and you would be right. But by motoring into it we would get in early and get a mooring, so we did.
At one point I hit something with my elbow that caused it to bleed. I couldn’t see it (sometimes try to look at your elbow without using a mirror) so I reached around with my hand and felt a small scab. I picked at it with my left hand, and threw it over the side.
But as I did my dolphin ring slipped off my finger and went right into the water with it.
Now I know. You shouldn’t wear jewelery while sailing. I know it, I have written it, and I have preached it. But for some reason I had mine on.
The ring splashed into 29 feet of water. It was a gold ring that weighted a little over an ounce, and had an Australian opal, with a dolphin jumping over it, and a small diamond in his eye.
As it sank, my heart sank. Sucia island is for all intense and purposes uninhabited. Our charter boat didn’t have any wet-suites or dive gear, and the water was very cool. We radioed Darren & Lisa and Tarveler, and they had a wetsuit, but no SCUBA Tanks.
For about an hour we hit every boat in the anchorage looking for SCUBA gear. There was none to be found.
We finally contacted someone in Friday Harbor, about an hour away.
When we were in Friday Harbor the night before I’d run into someone we met while cruising over 20 years ago, who now did marine repair in the town. We got ahold of him, and he found someone who would come out for a lot less, but couldn’t come until the morning.
Problem being, we had to leave no later than 9AM so we could get the boats back to Bellingham by noon.
All is well that ends well, and as we pulled into Bellinghm to return the boats to San Juan Sailing, I got a text from Lisa on Traveler. She was holding my ring!
Rick helped us check the boats in, and soon the crews from the Share The Sail were heading out. Another Share The Sail was behind us.
Now, let’s see… French Polynesia in June?
Why not? Want to join us? Go to www.cruisingoutpost.com/sharethesail.
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