It is definitely, solidly into autumn now that October has arrived nearly 2016 already fucking the end of January and I have yet to finish writing about our San Juan Islands trip. Yes I’ve edited this draft a few times because I continue to procrastinate on it. Don’t act like you’re surprised.
The long days of summer faded into cold, dark, depressingly long nights and somehow it’s been many months since we parked Small World in her slip at the end of our cruise. Whether or not I’m ready (spoiler alert: I’m not), it’s time to admit that winter is here.
The end of our journey consisted of a bunch of days when the only agenda was to get to the next anchorage. Leaving Rosario, we were still several days away from needing to be home, but traveling at 6 knots does not get you very far, so the trip home was going to take several days. There were several route options to get us back to Shilshole and we opted to head down to Cypress Island, then Lopez Island, through Deception Pass, into Penn Cove on Whidbey Island, and then to Seattle. It took four days to get home from Orcas Island- a trip that only takes a couple hours in a car if you time the ferry and traffic right.
While I’m not complaining about the commute, it was my least favorite part of the trip. Not only was returning to work looming, but we had to rush past some really great places. Our trip to Cypress Island was stressful, not only because some kayakers were clearly trying to commit suicide and/or make me wreck the boat in the middle of Obstruction Pass, but also because there were reports of a weather system that was headed our way. From Rosario Jeff and Brenda headed a different direction to find a safe harbor, and we lied to ourselves convinced each other, “Heading to Cypress is totally fine. We know what we’re doing.”
Well. Let’s just say that even if you know what you’re doing, there are some things you can’t figure out from looking at a chart. The cove that we chose looked super protected on the chart, but the topography of the island allowed all of the wind to funnel over the island and right into the cove. We debated going to check out other coves nearby but didn’t want to lose our mooring ball. So we stayed. And we watched Small World swirl around the mooring ball, pushed by the wind and the current in opposing directions. And we watched other boats do the same thing on their mooring balls. It seemed like no two boats were pointed in the same direction.
Emmy told us about a great hike to the top of the island, but there wasn’t much time to get up there before sunset and we didn’t want to leave the boat unattended in case the wind kicked up more. We did brave the winds and take Zubie to the sandy beach at the top of the cove. Emmy finally got to collect some sea glass and it felt good to stretch our legs.
After a restless night of listening to the mooring ball make out with the bow we headed further south and aimed for Mud Bay on Lopez Island. It was definitely the worst weather we experienced, and Rosario Strait was definitely breezy. At one point, we were sailing at over 8 knots. If you’re not impressed, let me tell you again. We were SAILING. We were sailing at over 8 KNOTS. Are you impressed now? What if I told you I went to the forward head and peed while we were sailing at over 8 knots? Still not impressed? I dare you to try it.
There was a moment of tension when we were tacking across Rosario Strait and one of the jib sheets got stuck in a bad wrap around the winch. With the wind kicked up and the full load of the sail on the bad wrap the adrenaline kicked in for all three of us. I was impressed that no one freaked out. Emmy has always been a calming force on Small World, and I think it finally rubbed off. Craig jumped into action and grabbed a spare line. He tied a rolling hitch on the fouled jib sheet with the spare line and led it to an available winch so that we could take the load off the jib sheet and get things all straightened out. (Plus one for Craig.) We quickly addressed the situation and communicated clearly without yelling. Then we had wine. (That’s a lie, but it would’ve been nice. Who am I kidding? Wine is always nice. I’ll be right back…)
Mud Bay was a welcome sight and a wonderful spot to ride out the weather. Emmy and I played some Skip-Bo (addicts) and Craig made some fresh “bread”. In the end, it was pretty tasty, but I’ve never seen Craig so upset over carbs. He killed the yeast (burned them alive with boiling water) so the bread ended up being a brick about an inch and a half thick. That shit was dense. (Minus one for Craig.)
The next morning was decision day. Do we go through Deception Pass or do we go back along the west side of Whidbey Island? I was nervous about going through the pass, but the time of the tides lined up with our schedule and we made it through just fine looking like total badasses. Obviously.
We should have, however, reviewed the chart for the east side of Whidbey. I had NO IDEA it was that shallow in Skagit Bay. Literally only a couple feet deep outside the channel. Aiming for the middle of the deceptively wide bay was not a good idea. All of a sudden we were in 20 ft of water. That is plenty deep, but you know I get nervous. So I (finally) start looking at the chart and realize that the Skagit River has been dumping a metric shit ton of silt into the bay for hundreds of years and that if I don’t change course, we will run aground. Luckily the navigable channel was marked well and we made it safely through without embarrassing ourselves. Lesson learned.
That night, we snagged a mooring ball in Penn Cove thanks to the wonderful Leahman family. As it turns out, it was the 45th anniversary of some super shitty stuff going down in Penn Cove. (http://us.whales.org/issues/penn-cove-orca-captures)
Our final day of the trip was spent motoring (it’s Craig’s favorite thing) the remainder of the distance back to Shilshole. Pulling into the slip and plugging into shore power felt surreal. Did we really just spend three weeks island hopping in the San Juan Islands? Do we really have to go back to work? Did we seriously not see any g.d. whales?!!