Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Portland Island is magnificent, and Stuart too!

Sailed all the way from FH to Portland on one tack!
The boys and I are just back from our three day get away and as always I wish I could stay out there. On Saturday morning we slept in and then headed north. In our new era of Nexus cards I had already called ahead and acquired my Canadian clearance number from the nice people in Ontario. They have absolutely no local knowledge and so when you say you are going to Portland Island they don't even have that in their system. You are required to tell them the name of the nearest reporting station, which in this case happens to be Sidney.

The forecast SE winds were indeed what was happening. We had the most magnificent sail from the entrance to Friday Harbor, on one tack, doing 5-6 knots, broad reaching, all the way across the border and to Portland Island! That's about 18 miles through the twists and turns of the islands.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Portland Island here we come! Spring trip across stormy waters.

I've been quite busy with work these days and so finding less time to post here about our various trips, but have one coming up this weekend I am excited about. I'm taking the boys on a three day trip without Amy because she has to work Monday and I have some time off coming. We're planning to go up into BC because if you have 3 days that is enough time to justify leaving Friday Harbor and crossing the border. And now that we have Nexus cards, it is made quite easy.

So this weekend I think we will head back up to Portland Island, where we haven't been in some time. The forecast is for 20-30 knot SE winds on Saturday, and crossing Haro Strait in those strong SE winds can be quite bouncy. Depending on the current, it can be mildly bouncy to downright nasty.

So as my grandmother always said: Off we go, into the wild blue yonder...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tumbo/Cabbage never disappoint

We did indeed head back to Tumbo for the long weekend and it met all our needs once again. One of the highlights was that we were able to use our Nexus cards for the first time, which makes a tremendous difference when you are going from Friday Harbor to the East as you don't have to go to Sidney in the Winter, or South Pender in the Summer. In the off season, our favorite time, going to Sidney is a deal breaker because it is so far out of the way when going back toward Saturna. Even in the summer, stopping at South Pender takes another hour or two. And coming back is even nicer! We called in once we had reception around Waldron and didn't have to go through the interrogation at the Friday Harbor docks.
Aeolus has Reef Harbor to itself

Remarkably, once we got to Tumbo we found we were the only boat present. I realize it is winter, and that many people are fair weather boaters, but it was a perfectly benign and wonderful weekend and no one was there! All the better for us...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tumbo Island here we come...

It has been a long dry land spell for us water loving folks, and it feels great to know we are soon to return to our lovely island away from home. Tumbo has become our go to island of preference if we have a three day weekend, and with MLK day coming up, that's where we will be. We will have to check the forecasts to make sure there aren't any strong NW winds expected, but that is fairly unusual for the winter time. More likely is the typical southern winds, which Tumbo is well protected from.

It will be fantastic to smell the sea again, from just feet away. To feel the sway and nudge of the boat beneath my feet. To see the splendor of islands dotted amidst a dreamscape canvas of sky and water. To see the wild life of birds and seals and maybe whales doing all their birdy, sealy and whaly things in a natural, wild place. To run free in an undomesticated place, to risk life and limb just enough to know that you have a life, and limbs. To watch the boys be feral creatures unbound by the conventions of domestic comforts.

We are already excited, and this excitement will build in the days ahead.

And we are already planning our next big sailing trip. We think our next big voyage will be to Haida Gwai. This summer we only have time to make it back to the Desolation Sound area. But maybe the summer after that, or the one after that, we need to head further north and visit the truly wild and historical vastness of Haida Gwai.

For now, we will return to little Tumbo, and be as free as can be with only the salty sea and quiet islands to remind us that we are bound to earth. For in most ways, our trips to these wild little places transcend the merely manifest natural world into other more distant, and less concrete, spaces.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Clear November days at Jones

It is remarkable to get clear sunny weather in November here in the PNW. November is our stormiest month, with both the highest winds and heaviest rain. It has to do with the airflow off the Pacific this time of year. Later than November and the storms shift south to Oregon and California. So for us to have an extended period of clear, sunny weather is quite a gift.
Sunset from South Cove of Jones

We took advantage and headed up to the islands for a get away to our home away from home. It had been a few months since we were last at Jones Island, and so that's where we headed. It has the added benefit of only being 45 minutes from Friday Harbor and so allows a quick turn around. We headed up late on Friday night, which always feels like a push after work and all, but by Saturday morning when we wake up on Aeolus it is as though we have been there for several days already. It is something we have learned about the strange nature of being human that wherever you wake up is where you are all day, no matter where you might go. Sleeping resets our consciousness, or some more ethereal aspect of our selves, and for 100,000 years plus of human history we could never wake up very far one day from where we went to sleep the the day before!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fogmageddon at Stuart and Jones

I like the phrasing I saw today from Cliff Mass about our current fog status here in the Salish Sea. We got away this weekend to our favorite places in the San Juans and while we hoped for some afternoon sun, we never got so much as a glimmer of blue. But nevertheless it was still fantastic.
Elliott on a previous trip to Stuart, when the sun was shining!

We went first to Stuart and on the way there were speculating about how many other boats might be present. My guess was two others, and Amy thought more. turned out there were about four other boats in Reid Harbor, which is still a far cry from the 75-100 that you can find there in July! The wind was calm and the waters were smooth for our journey north from Friday Harbor, and other than bucking some ebb current we had a mellow and quick journey.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fantastic Labor Day at Tumbo Island

Tumbo Island is in the Canadian National Park system and lies just east of Saturna Island in the Straits of Georgia. It's not unknown, but it's not Salt Spring either. It has become our new favorite place to go for a long US weekend because it has a perfect assortment of the things we love: a good sail to get there, incredible views, great hiking, great birds and critters, great beaches, wilderness feel, and fewer people than the US islands over the holiday weekends.

Being just north of the border you might expect it to be popular, and yet it is quite remote because it lies a good distance from either the main US or Canadian towns. It's a long haul from Bellingham and a long haul from Sidney or Victoria or such. As a result, and despite the magnificence of the place, it is often fairly deserted. It turned out that the Labor Day weekend for Canadians overlaps with that for the US, and so instead of the Canadians disappearing on Sunday afternoon as we see at Memorial Day, they all stayed around with the few Americans for another day of bliss in this amazing spot.
The eastern shore of Tumbo at low tide

At 6 knots it takes about 5 hours of travel from Friday Harbor to Bedwell for customs, and then east to Tumbo. That time will soon be cut almost in half for us when the whole family has their Nexus cards, but for this trip we made an almost sentimental return to Bedwell for clearance through. It is 18 miles direct from Tumbo to Friday Harbor and with the ebb on our stern we averaged 7.5 knots on the way back and did it in less than 3 hours.Having the current with you is not a mere convenience for this trip, as it passes through some of the strongest tidal areas in the Salish Sea and you don't want that against you, or against a strong contrary wind. That is, unless you are in the mood for challenge, which we sometimes are.