With the sun gently rising, I poked my head out of Yahtzee’s companionway to watch orange and purple hues spread over glassy Mystery Bay. Down below, the smell of hot coffee wafted through the cabin and while the boys played and read books, preparations for a hearty breakfast were well underway.
It was the start of a leisurely day at Mystery Bay with our friends Ryan and Autumn aboard Velella, and typical of us, we were going to make it up as we went along.
The day prior we’d each enjoyed a fast and fun ride up Puget Sound on a strong southerly and chose the bay to spend a relaxing last few days of 2016. We’d visited Mystery Bay once before, but it was merely a quick anchorage for the night and then we were out. This time we were going to explore what the bay had to offer. Continue reading Discovering Marrowstone Island’s Mystery Bay
This is the first in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as anchorages, breweries, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, pubs, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests”, but rather of things we’ve enjoyed while cruising in the Pacific Northwest.
In this first installment, and in no particular order, I’ll take you to my five favorite anchorages that we visited aboard Yahtzee while rounding Vancouver Island from mid-May to mid-August. During our circumnavigation of the island we spent 62 nights at anchor, which provides me with many potential spots to choose from. Picking just five was extremely difficult and while we enjoyed all the places we visited for one reason or another, these stuck out as favorites.
As big, frothing green and white waves passed under and behind Yahtzee, we’d pause and then surf down them with a hoot and holler from the crew. “10.9 knots on that one!” Jill gushed with a smile from the helm. Followed by a shout from Porter, “Mommy, you’re surfing!”
We were about an hour out of Port Townsend and a forecasted gale was delivering on the promise of a stellar sleigh ride northward across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And from beginning to end, the trip brought a lot of positives for our crew.
Jill and I watched as Porter climbed up on the seat of the nav station and flipped on the anchor light. It’s a job that he takes seriously and is one that he’s become used to doing on a near daily basis. The only problem with that night was that we were at a dock. We explained that to him, but after five days straight at anchor, he’d just grown used to completing his evening task.
This time of year, five consecutive days of anchoring out seems to be our sweet spot before stopping for a night or two at a dock to complete any combination of showers, laundry, provisioning and topping up Yahtzee’s fuel, water and batteries. As the days get longer and warmer, that number will increase, but right now it’s working well. Continue reading Finding our winter cruising groove
It’s no wonder someone (Ann Vipond and William Kelly) wrote a cruising guide entitled “Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage”, because you can basically collect them like trophies as you travel up and down the passage’s watery corridor from Olympia to Skagway. And while we have a treasure trove of “bests” stashed away, there’s always room for more, and we’re more than willing to find them.
So what are the latest anchorages to be hoisted into our trophy case? Russell Island and Winter Cove.
Situated at the mouth of Salt Spring Island’s Fulford Harbour, we’ve wanted to drop the hook and explore Russell Island since passing by last spring. After clearing customs in Sidney last week we made the short jaunt north in a dying breeze and just before rounding the western corner of the island I spotted what looked to be a wake from a boat. Curiously, there were no other boats around, so I kept an eye on the water and to my excitement, two orca broke the surface soon after. I called to Jill and the boys and we sat in the cockpit watching as the pair slowly made their way behind us. That sight never gets old.
“Why not go down to Deception Pass?” my buddy Mike asked as I took a drink from a pint of cold IPA. We were bellied up to the bar at the Brown Lantern in Anacortes on Sunday night after Round the County talking about what else, but sailing, and he was right. “Why not?”
For a multitude of reasons — none of which were good — we’d never been to Deception Pass before and as the beer-induced cruising plan grew legs I added a trip up the Swinomish Channel to LaConner into the mix before bringing it full circle back to Anacortes. “What a plan. It’ll be a circumnavigation of Fidalgo Island!” I half-jokingly enthused. And that was all it took.
I picked my mother-in-law Donna up from the airport on Wednesday evening during a calm before the storm and the drive back up I-5 to Anacortes was painless. But the agony of knowing that we probably wouldn’t shove off the dock until after a good kicking by a classic fall storm swirled in the back of my mind.
Sure enough, we got walloped on Thursday, but by Friday morning the wind had abated. As soon as it did, Yahtzee’s engine was fired up and the docklines were set free for our trip around H-shaped Fidalgo Island. Continue reading A circumnavigation of Fidalgo Island
All of Yahtzee’s fenders were deployed on the port side to protect her white hull from the dock as wind, waves and rain violently streamed in from the southeast. Every hour or so Jill or I would climb into foul weather gear and head up on deck to check the fender placement and inspect lines to make sure they weren’t chaffing through.
Though I knew the storm was approaching, I’d wanted to leave the harbor; wanted to get out before it came to find a better place to hide. I generally don’t mind being at anchor in heavy weather if we’re protected, but the kind of protection required for this intense fall storm, which saw gusts in the 50s and sustained winds in the 30s, wasn’t close enough for comfort. So there was no point to rush and get us into a bad spot.
When the wind came in earnest, Yahtzee rode the dock like a cowboy riding a bull at the rodeo. During the height of the blow, being down below was anything but comfortable. It wasn’t unbearable, though, and we’d been here before, so we took it in stride. Continue reading Riders on the storm
A deer grazed near the old windmill by the caretaker’s small, brown house and raccoons glanced at us from under a walnut tree as Porter ran ahead into the orchard. With an hour left before sunset we’d come ashore at Hope Island State Park to burn off some pre-dinner energy, and the island’s other inhabitants paid us little attention as they went about enjoying their evening meals.
Just as we’d remembered from our previous visits to the park, there was no one else around — the caretaker was off island, no other boats swung on the park’s moorings and the campsites lay empty. The solitude was palpable, yet we were just a few miles from quaint Boston Harbor and bustling Olympia.
Porter sat on the stern seat of our dinghy counting to 10 with the rhythm of the oars going in and out of the water as we rowed back from the beach. The rays of a beautiful fall sunset lit up Mt. Rainier to the east and bathed Yahtzee in an orange glow. It was a moment that I wanted to last forever; one of many during yet another great cruise to the South Puget Sound.
This was our third trip to the South Sound in the past three years. Each year we’d explored numerous parks, visited Olympia and stopped in at quirky, quaint Boston Harbor.
But we always cherish a stop in Washington’s capital city because we get a chance to spend time with our Aunt Kate who lives just minutes from the marina. This year, though, there was an added level of anticipation as my Uncle Eric and Aunt Jenny were coming out to the Pacific Northwest from Atlanta and we’d all planned to meet up for a weekend in Olympia. Continue reading South Sound three: A truly family affair
On August 30, 2014 we casted off our dock lines at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle for the last time as permanent residents and pointed the bow north. Our plan was simple: live and cruise aboard in the Pacific Northwest full-time.
The decision to embark on a full-time cruising lifestyle in the PNW grew from the realization that we didn’t have to sail thousands of miles down coasts or across oceans to “go cruising.” Many may think you do, but you don’t.
When we first bought Yahtzee, we thought we did. Getting swept up in the excitement of owning an offshore quality boat that was well outfitted for long distance sailing got the better of us. We thought we’d leave in two years, turn left and head south. How wrong we were … thankfully.
During our two years living at Shilshole, we took every opportunity we could to get out cruising and racing. Our rule was that Yahtzee had to be kept ready to sail in 15-minutes or less at all times. Whether it was a simple overnight, a long weekend, or a 10-day trip, we’d go, rain or shine. But it wasn’t enough. The more we were out exploring the Pacific Northwest, the more we wanted to be out and the farther we wanted to go. So that’s what we did.
What we learned during that time was though we dream of sailing far and wide someday, we want to sail the Inside Passage just as much. Ultimately, we figured that with one of the world’s most amazing cruising destinations right in our own backyard — one that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of — why leave? Why not get out and discover everything it has to offer before going farther?
At the time of our departure from Seattle our philosophy was, lets get out and try year-round cruising in the PNW and see how it goes. If we love it we’ll keep doing it, if we don’t, we’ll reassess and move forward. Fortunately, we’ve absolutely loved our year of full-time cruising in the Salish Sea and are excited to keep going. Here’s a look at how we make it work and a glance forward towards the horizon. Continue reading Reflecting on a year of full-time cruising in the Pacific Northwest
We were just a couple miles across the Canadian border when I noticed a few powerboats milling about in mid-channel. Taking a closer look with the binoculars, I could tell they were looking at something — orcas. Shortly after spotting them, I saw the small pod of whales they were watching. The unmistakable spout and tall black dorsal fins emerged off our port side, and then the small group disappeared.
Seeing orcas in the wild is an experience that never gets old, and a few minutes later, one of the whales appeared again and swam parallel to us for a few hundred yards; seemingly escorting us into Canada. When she went on her way, I got us back on our course and noticed very quickly that an official looking black and gray powerboat was speeding our way. Continue reading A Canadian welcoming committee — cops & whales