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!

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