Spring in the San Juan Islands

Small Ship Adventure Cruise on the David B - San Juan Islands
Kayaking at Sucia Island's Ewing Cove

We had several great trips in the San Juan Islands over the last couple of weeks and I was again reminded of how peaceful it is to be in the Islands during the quiet of springtime. On our first overnight trip this year we cruised out to Sucia Island. For me the highlight of this 2-day/1-night trip was our kayak paddle in Echo Bay at a really low tide. We found clusters of  purple sea stars and vibrant orange and red-spotted leather sea stars on the algae covered sandstone. Their bright colors seem almost impossible among the drab rockweed and reddish-brown rainbow seaweed. As we paddled close to the shore we floated over shallow rocks with neon orange sea cucumbers filter feeding just under our kayaks, and when we would stop to hover over a spot, we could watch barnacles extending their feathery antennae-like legs through the water to catch plankton that’s invisible to our eyes. Kelp crabs moved slowly and deliberately through the blades of young bull kelp and one crab we watched, tentatively reached out of the water to feel the rocks that were exposed to the air. We continued our paddle along the shoreline of South Finger Island to the end of Echo Bay, and in a snag we watched a Bald Eagle and several harbor seals before turning back to the David B.

Small Ship Cruise on the David B - San Juan Islands
Amber with a Purple Sea Star

On our next trip we had 3-nights and 4-days to show off the San Juan Islands. On the first day Jeffrey led a walk on Vendovi Island and like we were a week earlier, our passengers were impressed with the San Juan Islands Preservation Trust’s new property. If you want to know more about Vendovi see my earlier post – A Day Trip to Vendovi Island.

Once we were underway again we headed for the south end of Lopez Island to do some kayaking in Hunter Bay and around Fortress, Rim, Cayou, and Ram Islands. From our kayaks, Fortress Island was an explosion of blue camas and yellow stonecrop. The wildflowers were picture perfect in the late afternoon light, and as we enjoyed them, we noticed a seal hauled out on the shore. Not wanting to flush it from it’s warm spot in the sun, we paddled around the opposite side of the island.

The next day we cruises over to the other side of Lopez and went for a walk to Iceberg Point. On the way we counted 16 bald eagles and saw groups of pigeon guillemots, common murres, double crested cormorants, and several rhinoceros auklets. As we entered Outer Bay a friend came by with some shrimp they had just caught. While we hiked I dreamed up several possible appetizers I could make with our bucket of shrimp.

The hike to Iceberg Point was my highlight of this trip – even though it did rain. There were tons of wildflowers blooming in the meadows and on the glacially scarred rocks. Sean, a friend and shipwright who had helped us finish the foredeck project this spring, was the first to identify the cream-colored bear grass, that dotted Iceberg Point. We also found camas, Calyipso orchids, chocolate lilies, and stonecrop. One of our guests, Connie, found a bright yellow daisy-like plant which I think is called Oregon Sunshine.

Small Ship Adventure Cruise on the David B - San Juan Islands
Calypso Orchid on Lopez Island

When we returned to the David B we learned that Jeffrey, had been visited by a friend of the woman who brought the David B back to the Puget Sound from Bristol Bay, Alaska in 1981. He had been out shrimping and he also wanted us to have some of shrimp he had caught. We weighed anchor, and decided that a stop in Friday Harbor would be fun and it also gave me a little extra time to figure out what to do with all of our fresh shrimp.

While everyone was touring Friday Harbor, I boiled the shrimp whole in a clam broth, with ginger and white wine. I also saved a few to BBQ as a side dish to the flank steak I had planned to grill for dinner. The shrimp that were left from the appetizer, I saved to make into Potato-Shrimp cakes for breakfast the next day. I served the whole shrimp as we cruised through Mosquito Pass on our way to our anchorage in Garrison Bay. They were delicious.

For the last night, we cruised to Sucia for more kayaking and hiking. Jeffrey, Sean, Gary and Connie went ashore for a walk, and Susan stayed on the boat to relax while I prepared dinner. It’s always a treat to be at anchor at Sucia; seals and river otters are often swimming around the boat and the songs of birds from the nearby forest come though the galley door. It’s not uncommon for me to stop in mid-sentence and ask some one if they heard that raven or eagle that had just caught my attention.

In the early spring, the sounds of nature in the San Juan Islands, are much more clear. The birds that sing, and the breath of the seals as they surface are easier to hear when there are fewer people around. Spring here is like the early morning. You wake up and there’s so much of the day in front you. You can’t wait to see what new adventure might be just around the corner or, out on deck.

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Small Ship Adventure Cruise on the David B - San Juan Islands
Tasty Sweet Shrimp - So Good!

A Day Trip to Vendovi Island

Cruise to Vendovi Island
Cruise to Vendovi Island

Last week Jeffrey and I got the privilege to take a group of people from the San Juan Islands Preservation Trust out to their new acquisition -Vendovi Island. For us, this was an exciting trip to get to go ashore an island that has always been private and unaccessible.

While cruising between Bellingham and Vendovi, we talked with SJPT Executive Director Tim Seifert and Director of Philanthropy Barbara Courtney about the acquisition of the island and why its preservation is so valuable; especially as more and more of the San Juan Islands are developed.

Prior to the San Juan Islands Preservation Trust owning Vendovi, it was owned by the Fluke family. John Fluke Sr. was the inventor or the multi-meter and founder of Fluke Corp. which makes electronic testing tools. The family owned the entire 217 acre island and unlike many of the San Juans, it has not had much development. The Flukes had a small 3-bedroom house, sawmill and a couple other buildings, along with John Fluke’s grave site. Before the Flukes there had been a farm for raising fur animals.

Forest Walk on Vendovi
Forest Walk on Vendovi

We anchored just outside of Vendovi’s small harbor and were met by the islands caretaker and Dean Dougherty, SJPT’s Director of Stewardship. On our tour we learned a little bit about the history of Vendovi Island. To start with, Vendovi got its name from a Fijian chief who was taken into custody in Fiji by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who was in command of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42. Vendovi had been accused of the murder of several Americans working in Fiji and Wilkes was ordered to bring him to the United States. Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick is a good read about the US Exploring Expedition and how Vendovi became an important part of the expedition. As we walked through the trails we were shown many of the diverse plants that grow on Vendovi and learned that there are no deer on the island which makes it a special place where wildflowers thrive.

Our tour of Vendovi Islands gave us an appreciation of what SJPT does for the community and we are hoping that we can help them out in whatever way we can so that they can continue to preserve this jewel of an island for us all to enjoy. In the near future SIPT needs to raise $3.4 million to pay down a bridge loan. If they can achieve this, their plan is that Vendovi will be an island that is open to the public. For more information on  Vendovi and SJPT…

 

Vendovi Beach
Vendovi Beach

Refections from Cruising in Greece

Chartering a sailboat in Greece
Chartering a sailboat in Greece
Christine and I just returned from Greece, where we were the captain and cook on a sailing yacht for a couple of weeks, and the trip made me realize just how good we have it on the David B. There were a lot of small things the yacht didn’t have that really make our usual trips comfortable, and while I wouldn’t trade our time in Greece for anything, I came away with a new appreciation of how well the David B is suited for our guests and our schedule.

The first issue was power. In this day and age, people need a lot of electrical power. Everything we all have now requires a charge. Cell phones, laptops, iPads, iPods, and sleep apnea machines all require charging or plugging in. Even most cameras and video recorders have rechargeable batteries that need some time at the wall plug. Our yacht in Greece, the Keros, didn’t have a good system for all those electrical needs, but the David B does. It has 110V AC (household style) power throughout our vessel, with a convenient outlet located in each passenger stateroom and several in the galley. They are close to the sink in each cabin so an electric shavers or even a hairdryer is ok, and near enough to the bed that it would also work for a sleep apnea breathing machine. Charging up all those electronic devices is really easy too.

Electricity is an issue when cruising on a sailboat
Checking email on Paros
I also had to spend a lot of time thinking about our water consumption. The Keros only carried 600 L (about 157 US gallons) compared to the David B’s 415 gallons. It wasn’t a huge issue, because there was water at about half the islands we went to, but it was always on my mind. On the David B, we make our own water using reverse-osmosis. We take sea water and turn it into wonderful tasting, cool, pure water and we always have lots. It tastes better than the water at most of the ports we go to. We also have an on-demand water heater, which means you can take a shower at any time of day or night and the water’s always nice and hot.

The biggest passenger comfort that seemed hard to find in Greece, however, were calm anchorages. There just aren’t that many really good, protected anchorages in the Cyclades compared to the Inside Passage. There are a few, but we really didn’t want to limit ourselves to the islands with great protection, so quite a few nights we rolled around in a swell, or surged noisily against our dock lines while tied to the dock. The places we got to see, because we were willing to forgo calm and quiet for location, were fabulously beautiful. It just wasn’t like the calm spots we anchor on the David B.

Charting a sailboat in Greece
Charting a sailboat in Greece
Greece is beautiful, and cruising under sail was amazing. I loved taking people to places that none of us had ever seen (or even heard of) before. We felt like true explorers on our own version of The Odyssey. The wind blew against us at every turn (we think it had to do with angering the gods somehow) but we sailed to spots you could never go by any other means. We stopped at deserted island beaches and islands so small they only had a single monastery on them. We went to larger towns and small, and even met some of the locals, and their hundreds of cats. The white washed buildings with blue doors and shutters were just as I pictured they’d be, the locals much friendlier. We’re already planning another trip, and we’d love to take you with us, but on this trip I really realized just how well the David B is suited for what we do.