Four days in the San Juan Islands
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.
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
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.
Kayaking at Sucia
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?
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.
Jeffrey’s Got Us Organized
Having an eighty-plus year-old wooden boat is a lot of work, and it is sometimes hard to decide which projects are the most important to tackle. For instance, do we re-do the pilothouse, or install a new heating system? When should we start work on the engine? Do we buy a new keel cooler or grind the valves on the engine and generator? These are all on the To-do list and not long ago, as we wrestled with these questions, Jeffrey came up with an idea for how to best organize our list and make our decisions for how to tackle our project list.
To read how Jeffrey got us organized, hop on over to the David B’s blog on Yachting Magazine for the answer.
As we work on making the David B beautiful during the winter months, we look forward to having a great summer of cruising in the San Juan Islands and Inside Passage.
A Stroll on Jones Island
[pix_dropcap]W[/pix_dropcap]ashington State is lucky to have an incredible system of marine parks. Several in the San Juan Islands. One that I particularly enjoy is Jones Island, a hundred and eighty-eight acre park that has a network of trails running along it’s perimeter and across the island. One of the many things that’s attractive about Jones Island is that it is only accessible by boat.
Once ashore, I always savor the walk through the forest to the other side of the island. Occasionally I’ve spotted a pileated woodpecker flying from tree to tree. Douglas Fir, Western red cedar, hemlock and big leaf maple make up most of the forest. There are also many mosses, lichens and fungi and I sometimes get to spend a half hour or longer with my guide books as we wander the paths. The walk opens up to a grassy area where black-tailed deer graze. They are quite friendly and will often let us come close enough to get a good picture. My favorite part of the walk is where the trail begins to skirt the edge of the island. Here, I’ve learned where to find a native prickly pear cactus. Yes, it’s true wet western Washington does have native cactus growing thanks to the rain shadow from the Olympic mountains. Another interesting native plant is the Garry Oak. There aren’t too many of these left in the San Juan Islands and the ones on Jones Islands are fenced off to encourage their renewal.
River otters and harbor seals are also regular visitors to Jones Island. Those of us who live and work near the saltwater can easily forget how interesting and fun these regularly seen animals are to watch. When we spot one it’s the highlight of the day. This summer we had a private charter with three generations of women who walked Jones Island with me. We were sitting on some rocks along the trail watching two deer, when two hikers came by and told us about four river otters who were feeding just around the corner. I got up and walked ahead of the group until I noticed a small boil in the water just below a rocky outcrop. The sun made the dried grass atop the outcrop warm and welcoming. I sat down to take some photos. A couple seconds later an otter popped up with crab in it’s mouth. The three other otters soon followed. My group caught up to me, and it was heartwarming to watch the excitement about the river otters. We talked for a while about the difference between river otters and sea otters, which we don’t see in the San Juan Islands.
I kept up with the otters until they came to a low spot. Cautiously they came onto the island. They stayed close to each other, rubbing their bodies together in braid-like motion. They made warning chirps as they tested the side of the trail. With trepidation they attempted to cross, but a bird flew past them and they retreated. I stood still with my camera. Again they emerged. They wanted to get to the forest and the underbrush of thick-leaved salal. I waited for the otters to make their move. It took several more tries. There was lots of head bobbing and back-leg kicking before they made their break. They scurried across the dirt and root trail; their forepaws low, and their hips high reminded me vaguely of an inchworm. They soon disappeared into the forest. I stood up to listen to them before turning around.
Back at the boat, Jeffrey was almost finished with lunch preparations. I took out my journal and quickly noted all the things we had seen. I’ve been to Jones Island many times and what I like about it is that there are many things that seem to remain the same, but with each stroll, there’s always something new. I’m looking forward to our next walk on Jones.