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In the Heart of the Storm

Sunset ClearningI thought about this story the other day and about its parallels with our current situation:

A little story about a Wild Wind Storm

We have a little saying about the weather forecasts along the border that the Canadians always seem to predict too much wind and the Americans are always late. Sadly it doesn’t fit into a nice rhyme like “red skies at night… “ but if the American forecast is for windy by lunch, you better be ready by breakfast.

We were on our way through the San Juan Islands on our way to Victoria, Canada on a September trip a few years ago. Our guests were a family that has done multiple trips with us over the years. We anchored at Orcas Island for the night, then planned to go on to Victoria the next day. The forecast: drizzle and calm overnight, then clearing and windy the following late afternoon.

“Perfect,” I thought. “We’d be into Vic by noon and tied up before it blows.”

We got up early. Still drizzle and low clouds and still the same forecast from both countries. We weighed anchor and headed west, still in the calm. I started to wonder if the forecasts were going to be wrong. The Canadians had predicted a gale for the afternoon, but everything was still glassy. The Americans had said “late afternoon.” Then it began to clear and that’s when the wind came up.

“It’s just barely 09:00” I remember thinking, “this wasn’t supposed to happen until late afternoon.”

It was behind us at a steady 30 with higher gusts and building. The white caps were getting blown off the tops of the waves. I remember thinking how I always love the look of the sea on brilliantly blue really windy days like this, even as it gets more and more uncomfortable.

Victoria wasn’t looking like such a good idea. If San Juan Channel already had this much wind, the Straits of Juan de Fuca where it’s much more open and exposed would be way worse. We tucked into Roche Harbor. As we turned into the harbor we came face to face with the wind, now easily well over 40 with higher gusts. We tried to anchor, but with the gusty winds, we couldn’t get the anchor to set. We finally had better luck in an out of the way shallow corner of the harbor. It was easily blowing 50 and it wasn’t even 10:00.

Then the fun began. As we sat safely anchored, we listened to the VHF radio while call after call was made to the Coast Guard for help. A barge broke loose from its towboat, a dock came loose from its pilings complete with all the boats tied to it and washed ashore, windsurfers were unaccounted for, and more, so much so that the Coast Guard radio operator even sounded at one point like he might break down and cry. It was pretty-much continuous mayhem until dinnertime, but like most fall weather in the San Juans, it only lasted that day, and the next morning we left on a bright, sunny, calm ride to Victoria.

We were tied up by noon.

With gratitude,
Jeffrey

Drone footage of the David B docking in Bellingham

On our last day of the season, our boat neighbor had his drone out and got some nice footage of the David B coming home.

Trip #293 Recap – April 27-30, 2017 – San Juan Islands

Trip #294 – San Juan Islands Trip Recap

Ever wonder what happens on one of our 4-day San Juan Islands escapes? Now you know what scenic anchorages we took, what amazing food Christine made and what incredible sights we saw along the way with a day-by-day breakdown.

Day 1) 26 April – Bellingham to Sucia Island – Echo Bay anchorage

  • Nature hike to Fossil Bay with Christine
  • Saw Bald Eagles, Camus in bloom, Banana Slugs, Pigeon Guillemots, Harlequin Ducks, Saskatoon Berries in Bloom
  • Baked Sockeye salmon with a honey balsamic finishing sauce for dinner with homemade ice cream for dessert
pigeon guillemots
Day 2) 27 April – Kayaking after a leisurely breakfast, then Echo Bay to Garrison Bay
  • Lots of Eagles, pigeon guillemots and geese
  • Creamy Scallop Risotto with Carnaroli Rice, over a bed of spinach, with oyster and shiitake mushrooms and brownies with ice cream for dessert
Day 3) 28 April – Left Garrison after lunch with anchorage in Blind Bay on Shaw Island.
  • A leisurely morning, spent reading and chatting on the boat and in the new Saloon
  • Then Hiking at Bell Point and English Camp
  • Pork tenderloin with black truffle and mushroom pan sauce.
 green point sea lions
Day 4) 29 April – Blind Bay to Rosario Resort, then a return to Bellingham
  • Christine’s amazing Croissants and Pain au Chocolat
  • Exploring Rosario Historical Museum in the main mansion.
  • Whisky crab soup for lunch
  • Disembarking and fond farewells

Experience the San Juan Islands in person! We still have plenty of spots available once the David B returns from Alaska in August. Just look at our Schedule and then email Sarah@northwestnavigation.com to reserve your spot today!

2017 Season Begins!

David B 2017 Season Begins
Christine waves as the David B leaves Squalicum Harbor.

From Jeffrey & Christine,

We are super excited to begin our 2017 Northwest Navigation season April 27th! We will be taking a family of seven to the San Juan Islands.

Plus next week we’re going to start sending out trip recaps so you can enjoy all our adventures as they happen!

Four days in the San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands Wildflowers Cruise
Sea blush and a fossil at Sucia Island.

Early spring is one of my favorite times in the Pacific Northwest. It a time where the wildflowers brighten up the landscape in the already beautiful San Juan Islands, and of course the David B is back out on the water. Our first cruise in 2016 was a 4-day trip that started on April 28th. Within a couple of hours of being underway we came a cross a small pod of killer whales near Point Lawrence on Orcas Island. We stopped and watched the whales for a short while. There were no other boats around and we knew it was a rare treat to get to watch these endangered animals without their usual compliment of boats. Since the whales were going the opposite direction from us we didn’t watch them for long, but it felt nice to stop, admire them, and then leave them to continue on their way.

We anchored at Sucia Island and spent the rest of the afternoon on a walk to Fossil Bay. It’s one of my favorite spots in the San Juan Islands. I love the trail and looking for fossils. In early spring the icing on the cake is getting to see the wildflowers. My favorites are the Sea Blush which paint the rocky slopes and bluffs of the San Juan Islands a beautiful pink. Later, when we returned to the boat, I made a salmon dinner with pearl couscous, green beans and some sautéed mushrooms for our first night’s dinner.

Gourmet meals on a small cruise ship
Salmon dinner for our first night.

The next morning while I made coffee, I listened to the  lovely dawn chorus of songbirds. After breakfast, we kayaked across Echo Bay to Ewing Cove. A couple of seals cautiously followed us. I like to think that seals have sense of timing when it comes to having their pictures taken. Just when you get your camera ready, they lift their noses to the sky, close their nostrils and slip silently under water.

Later, we raised the anchor and made way for Garrison Bay. In Spieden Channel we got to watch a big Stellers sea lion fishing. When we anchored, I stayed on the boat to make fresh pasta and a creamy spinach pesto for dinner, while everyone else when ashore to tour English Camp.

On the third day of the cruise, we hauled up the anchor and went the short distance to Roche Harbor. We spent a couple hours there, and then got back underway and cruised to Hunter Bay at Lopez Island. We had some pretty amazing weather. It was easily in the mid-70s with lots of sunshine. We anchored in the early evening and had happy hour on deck. I made Butter-Lime Halibut for dinner.

I always try to make the last day of every trip special and part of that is to make my favorite pastries — croissants and pain au chocolat. In the early morning I watched the sunrise from my galley window while I rolled out the croissant dough, and felth the warmth of the wood cookstove take the chill out of the morning air. I shaped

Sunrise in the San Juan Islands
Sunrise at Lopez Island

each croissant, and thought about them baking in the oven as I brushed them with milk and cream. I thought about pulling them out of the oven when they are just the right dark golden color. Then I thought about how much each croissant or pain au chocolat would be enjoyed by our guests as they come up from their cabins, one-by-one for a cup of French press coffee and a warm buttery croissant.

To work off the croissants we ate for breakfast, we went for a nice walk on Lopez Island. There wasn’t really a destination– just strolling conversation, but we did end up at a small general store. We poked around and read the bulletin board of fliers showing the services, concerts, and goings-on on Lopez before we headed back to the boat.

Just before lunch we got underway and headed back to Bellingham. It was four beautiful days in the islands and a truly wonderful way to begin a new season.

-Christine

I heart the David B

David B at Wood Spit on an Alaska Small Ship Cruise
Sand drawings at Wood Spit on an Alaska cruise

Our guests love the David B! Since we only take six guests on the boat per cruise, we work hard to make sure your time onboard the David B is unique, authentic, and special. I think that’s what makes our cruises in Alaska, the Inside Passage, and the San Juan Islands, so different from small ships that carry 50 or 60 passengers is that we get the time to know you as a person. On the David B, you are not just another passenger on another trip. We really do care about you and we really do hope you’ll join us!

-Christine

The Best Hike on Cypress Island – Eagle Cliff

This story was originally published at CruisingNW.com and can be read there in its entirety. 

Where the skiff meets the beach the sound of hundreds, if not thousands of small-flat weathered rocks clatter and scrape against each other as if in protest of having to move out of the way. I feel the same protest from under my Xtra-Tuf boots as I hop out of the boat and onto Pelican Beach at Cypress Island. The shore, as far as I can tell, is made up entirely of skipping stones, accented by a few large weathered logs. Once again, I think, no pelicans, and to the best of my knowledge few, if any have ever visited here. Maybe someone, some day will tell me the story of how Pelican Beach got its name.

It’s always tempting to sit down on a log and mindlessly sort through rocks, or spend the day watching the changing moods of Mount Baker while boats cruise though Bellingham Channel. The reason I continue up the beach is the 1.3 mile hike to the top of Eagle Cliff. It’s a moderately strenuous hike, but the effort is rewarded with one of the best views in the San Juan Islands.

Cypress Island is unusual in the San Juan Islands. It’s heavily forested and virtually unpopulated. As the fifth largest island in this highly developed archipelago it’s remarkable that 91% of the 5500 acres of land on the island is public. Cypress Island is managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and most of the land operated as a Natural Resources Conservation Area that’s reserved for outdoor recreation like the hike to Eagle Cliff, and the rest is protected as a Natural Area Preserve.

Rough skinned newt at Cypress Island in Washington State

The hike to Eagle Cliff is through a predominantly Douglas fir forest, but there are also Western red cedars, Western hemlocks, and big leaf maples. I look forward to whatever I might find in the forest. My favorite two animals on Cypress are the poisonous rough skinned newt and the banana slug. As I walk the trail…Continue Reading at CruisingNW.Com.

Four Great Days in the San Juan Islands

Kayaking from the m/v David B at Sucia Island in the San Juan Islands
Kayaking at Sucia Island

We just got back from our first trip of the 2014 season. It was a lovely 4-day cruise with wonderful family of six on board. We left Bellingham and motored to Stuart Island. Along the way we found a bunch of Steller’s sea lions lazing on Spieden Island’s Green Point. They made a few guttural grunts, but otherwise they took little notice of us.

When we arrived at Stuart Island’s Reid Harbor, our guests went ashore for a walk to the Stuart Island School House. While they were away, I spent the early evening making a Coq au Vin for dinner and a fresh berry parfait for dessert. While I cooked, I listened to the calls of a family of osprey that nest in the harbor.

The next day we went kayaking and slowly paddled along the shoreline to look for sea stars, crabs, and anything else that we could find. While we paddled, two bald eagles came flying in pursuit of an osprey. It was a little like those World War II dog-fights. The osprey eventually gave the eagles the slip and soon returned to its nest. The eagles flew off to the other side of the island.

After we returned from kayaking, we raised anchor and cruised over to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. Our guests went for a walk to the McMillian Mausoleum. Jeffrey went up the dock with them and I stayed on board to prepare a special Mother’s Day dinner. I noticed that it was taking Jeffrey a long time to return to the boat and I wondered what happened to him. When he returned, I discovered that he joined our guests for an ice cream treat from the Roche Harbor General Store.

Sunrise at Garrison Bay at San Juan Island
Sunrise at Garrison Bay at San Juan Island

Later that night we anchored in Garrison Bay. The highlight for me was watching a bald eagle swoop down from a tree and catch a fish. It then took the fish to the beach and was joined by two patient crows who waited from the eagle’s scraps.

On the third day of the trip, we motored back to Roche Harbor. Our guests had arranged for a special side-trip to Zip San Juan  for a zip line adventure. The zip line folks met our guests in Roche Harbor. They were gone for about three hours and when they retured, they raved about how much fun it was to fly through the woods.

We left Roche Harbor and cruised up President Channel to Sucia Island. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. Once we were anchored, Jeffrey took everyone ashore for some beach combing. When they got back, they reported that they’d seen a family of river otters.

Sometime after I went to bed, the wind picked up a bit. From my cabin below deck, I could hear the wind in the trees and the lapping of tiny wind waves on the hull. I loved the sound and tried to stay awake longer, but soon I fell asleep.

In the morning the wind was still blowing, but I didn’t think about it too much because it was Croissant Day. I love making pastries, but I really, really love making croissants and pain au chocolat. After they were out of the oven, they (the croissants) didn’t last long.

Once breakfast was finished, we took the kayaks out once more. There were tons of purple sea stars and leather stars. We paddled for almost two hours before returning to the David B.

Sea lions in the San Juan Islands
Steller’s sea lions in the San Juan Island

On our way back to Bellingham one of our guests, an eleven-year old steered the boat with me and Jeffrey. I think he spent most of the way back at the wheel. I enjoyed watching him and answering his questions. It was a fun way to start a new year on the David B.

-Christine

Kayaking at Sucia

David B Cruises - kayaking in the san Juan Islands
Kayaking at Sucia Island is a great way to find low tide creatures

Low tide is one of the best times to kayak at Sucia Island. One sunshine-y fall day I took several of our guests for a paddle along the wind-and-wave-sculpted sandstone that makes up Sucia. My guests were agreeable to a slow paddle where we could inspect the sea life that lives just below the surface. The easiest animals to find were sea stars:  giant pink stars, purple sea stars, sunflower stars, and leather stars. A few of the purple sea stars and leather stars were exposed on the rocks giving us the opportunity to reach out and feel the difference between the two species.

Below our kayaks we watched several types of small fish including a school of bay pipefish that  look like a straightened sea horse. There must of been many other fish in deeper water even though we couldn’t see them, since we spotted several seals hunting.

We glided along, talking about the creatures hidden in the rocks and seaweed. We discovered many of them by focusing on the slightest movements or a differences in color. We found chitons, sea urchins, sea anemones, crabs, and two kinds of sea cucumbers — the California sea cucumber and  the orange sea cucumber. We could have spent all day looking and watching the intertidal world and not see it all.

Our paddle lasted about two hours. I was a little reluctant to end our time at Sucia, but it was nearing lunchtime and time to return to the David B. Besides we had other adventures awaiting us.

Where’s the Salish Sea?

Salish Sea Map
Map of the Salish Sea & Surrounding Basin, Stefan Freelan, WWU, 2009

Most of the time when I talk about cruising on the David B, I say that we’re cruising the San Juan Islands, or Gulf Islands, but it turns out that we spend most our time cruising the Salish Sea. Find out where the Salish Sea is by visiting my blog over at Yachting Magazine.

http://www.yachtingmagazine.com/blog-post/cruising-chartering/yachting-life/just-where-is-the-salish-sea