9 Days, 5 Women, 0 Drama

Generally when too many people are in too small of a space for too long of a time, there will be drama. Something will go wrong for someone and in confined spaces the drama trickle down is inevitable. We had planned a reunion trip to the San Juans for Val and Katy, since our first trip four years ago was only a quick four day spin from Anacortes. Our friend Linnea was going to join us again but her hips weren’t healed up well enough to move on and off the boat, so Kelly and her daughter Allie agreed to fill out the crew. Kelly was Val’s roomie on our recent Cuba trip, so we mostly all knew each other.

We started the trip in Pt Townsend, where Rob & I had left the boat earlier in the week. Val & Katy flew in to Sea-Tac and Rob drove them up. The next morning we pulled out on a beautiful day into Admiralty Inlet on the ebb tide, and had a lovely sail north across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, right up into Cattle Pass between San Juan and Lopez Island just as the flood tide was beginning. Somehow our power cord had been knocked out the night before and we woke up to dead dead dead batteries, so we had to leave the engine in idle as we sailed all day. That was a bummer, but the batteries recharged and we really couldn’t hear the engine much at all. We dropped sails and motored into Blind Bay on Shaw Island and dropped a hook for the night. Kelly and Allie were spending the night in Friday Harbor, taking a night time kayak bioluminescence paddle, and would catch the inter-island ferry to Shaw in the morning and meet us.

The destination for the next two nights was Echo Bay on Sucia Island, which is truly the Jewel of the San Juans. We scored a spot right up against the eastern wall north of Wiggins Reef, between the buoys and a rock wall where no one was going to anchor too close.

It was heavenly. The next day we all went ashore and walked the eastern arm of the island, out to Ewing Cove for a picnic.

I glanced up from lunch, looked across the bay and saw a group of whale watching boats outside the cove, so we knew there were Orcas close by. They stayed outside the cove, but a few of us got a glance at some big dorsal fins (we’ll have more Orca time later).

In the morning we headed south towards Spencer Spit on Lopez for the night. It was time for a Pizza Night, and I managed to take over Rob’s cooking job and turned out five yummy pizzas. The next morning we headed up to Rosario Resort for some spa time. We also needed to take on some water and everyone was looking forward to a nice shower ashore.

Rosario Resort on Orcas Island is a treasure for northwest travelers. They have a small marina and buoys out front for the boating community, and we were happy to tie up for the night. Val and I each got a massage, and everyone got some time stretching their legs and walking the grounds. Unfortunately Rosario is suffering from the same labor shortage as everyone else during covid times, and the resort was only partially open. In other years this is a very special and interesting stop, but this year it had the same subdued feel as everywhere else during pandemic times. We did have a nice dinner in the restaurant after some time for each of us to have a little alone time during the day.

The next morning was a calm, windless and typical August San Juan day, and we were motoring south. I glanced left and there were the whale watching boats again, so we headed over to that vicinity. They were on the west side of Obstruction Island, heading out the south pass into Rosario Strait. I had a suspicion they were hunting along the shoreline, so instead of following the pack, we went into the north pass and stopped the boat and waited. Sure enough, they swam underneath us and we found them along the shoreline east of us. Whale watching in the San Juans is a very delicate balance of giving you and your crew the thrill of seeing these amazing animals, and not harassing them while they’re hunting salmon. Our local southern resident pods are in crisis due to the depleted chinook salmon runs, which is the only food they will eat. I think everyone on the boat got a nice glance (at a distance) and we got to check that box.

Last year Rob and I had discovered this tiny little cove in Lopez Sound, just north of Hunter Bay. We headed down there and happily found once again that while Hunter Bay was crowded with folks getting ready to jump off and head south, this little cove was completely empty.

We didn’t go ashore, but Val had some time out exploring in the dink. The next day was our last in the San Juans, so we took some time hunting for wind and ever so slowly sailing out in Rosario Strait down to Watmaugh Harbor. That is another absolutely beautiful bay on the very southeast end of Lopez.

This was the only time we had an anchoring challenge that week. Our first drop didn’t set and we were dragging, so I pulled up the chain and found the anchor completely balled up in mud and kelp. The second drop was good and we rested well in the calm anchorage. The next morning we headed south back across the Strait of Juan de Fuca again, sailing when we could find wind, motoring when we could not. We entered Admiralty Inlet on a strong flood, watching what looked like rivers of water flowing strong in the middle of the big waterway.

We had a slip reserved again at Point Hudson, where we had begun. Kelly and Allie had a ride waiting to get them back home so we said our goodbyes to them. The next morning we bashed south in a cold southerly wind, which is always what happens when you’re trying to get home in a hurry.

All in all, it was a fabulous cruise. I will make one correction, though, that there was a tiny bit of drama, but it was from the captain. I had hurt my knee Memorial Day, and after my massage at Rosario it just stopped working. Completely stopped. I thought I was going to have to fly Rob in the next day to help get the boat home, but after 24 hours it was back to just being sore again.

There is a very sad ending to this story, however. As we were about to depart, Linnea shared a brief message on our facebook group and said she had a Glio. I immediately knew that was not good news, having lost two friends in recent years to the brain tumor known as a glioblastoma. Rob and I got down to see her after the San Juans trip, and she asked us to take her sailing one last time. We did everything we could to make that happen, but she never had the strength to get back aboard Yohelah. She passed away with her children at her side just six short weeks after that last facebook message. Rest In Peace Linnea, you are missed by so many, but surely sailing happily somewhere new.