2022 / #13 Back to Shilshole

by | May 7, 2023 | 2022 Posts

Monday, September 26

Last night we had a spectacular sunset with wide open views to the west and northwest followed by wonderful phosphorescence in the water, the best of the trip.  Sidney Spit definitely had its high points.

The boat traffic, and consequently the rolling, started early.  We were forced to get out of bed in self defense well before our usual 8:00.  So after breakfast we got underway for Bedwell Harbour.

Bedwell is only 10 miles away from Sidney.  For many US boaters it is the first place they go to in Canada because there is a Canadian Customs Port of Entry there.  We like to go there for the Marine Park, which includes 16 mooring buoys and plenty of room to anchor, which we did.  The Park also includes a nice, sometimes steep, hiking trail to the top of Mount Norman, which overlooks Bedwell Harbour.

After lunch we dressed for hiking and were ready to go just as the wind picked up to 13 knots.  The forecast was for light winds so we were a bit surprised but our anchor was well set so we went anyway.  It must have been a momentary blip because it was totally calm on the summit of Mount Norman and calm in the anchorage when we returned.  The hike is unusual in one respect.  It climbs steeply through a gap in a cliffy ridge then descends a ways before climbing to the summit on old logging roads.  Once there the views of the surrounding US and Canadian islands extend all the way to Mount Baker and the Olympic range – on a clear day.  We even saw Mischief riding quietly on her anchor. Amazingly, we had the summit to ourselves and only met other hikers as we went down.  Altogether, a most satisfying day.


Tuesday, September 27

The morning excitement was a seal that was devouring a sizable salmon right in front of the boat.   It took him awhile and there weren’t many scraps for the waiting gulls.

Big day today – we re-entered the US.  We used the CBP ROAM app and after recovering from various operator errors, with help from a Customs Officer on the phone, we finally got to the point where you establish a video conference … and nothing happened.  Again the Officer helped and we finally decided my cell connection (1 bar Telus Canadian) didn’t have enough bandwidth to support video conferencing.  At that point he approved us anyway and gave us our clearance number.  I guess that makes us officially “almost home”.

Since we skipped it on the way North we decided to go to Garrison Bay.  Other than the resident boats we are the only boat here.  We have never seen that before.  We decided to go on our usual hike: over Young Hill and down the backside to Briggs Lake for lunch then loop around back over Young Hill again and then to English Camp and home.  It’s a 5.2 mile loop and includes great views and a pristine lake.  And the hiking is over good trails.

We are definitely in winding down mode – looking forward to coming home but at the same time lamenting the end of our trip.


Wednesday, September 28

It was gray skies when we woke up followed not long after by one of the forecast “occasional showers”.  As much as we enjoy Garrison Bay we definitely feel the need to move on.

When traveling east-west through the middle of the San Juan Islands the current is usually a mixed blessing, no matter if its flooding or ebbing.  In this case it was ebbing so for the first half of the trip we had the current against us and for the second half the current was with us.  I suppose it all comes out in the end.  And we had pretty much forgotten about other boat traffic in our journey through Canada, especially dodging the ferries.  They aren’t dangerous from a collision point of view because they are easy to dodge and they try hard to stay away from pleasure boats.  But they do make a large wake and Mischief rolls like crazy when they pass close by – anything not secured is liable to end up on the floor.

Our destination for the night was Hunter Bay and on the way we passed by the 112 foot schooner “Zodiac” just raising its sails and weighing anchor at Spencer Spit.  It is used as a sail training vessel, primarily for teenagers and is beautiful to see underway.

When we got to Hunter Bay there was a large mothership at anchor just launching a swarm of kayaks.  It was the 98 foot “Sea Wolf” and I suppose you could call it a wilderness adventure cruising ship.  After they recovered their kayaks they left in mid afternoon for some other destination, no doubt to repeat the scenario.  Kind of like what we do but with 15 or 20 of your closest friends and someone else doing the driving.

That left us almost alone in the large bay, one sailboat a quarter mile away our only company.  The weather continued cloudy, cool, showers with patches of blue peaking through from time to time.  We had placed ourselves in a good position to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca the next day, if the weather cooperates, especially the wind.


Thursday, September 29

Another calm night and beautiful morning.  And a great day to celebrate our anniversary- married 8 years today.  Still newlyweds.

The wind was light and the current favorable so we decided to cross the Strait today.  Until you’re actually out there you never really know what it’s going to be like but today it was even better than the forecast – no wind and slight swells.  We made it almost all the way across in good time and then the outgoing current from Puget Sound made itself felt and we slowed right down.  It was a good time to run up the engine RPMs and clean out the carbon so we put on our ear plugs and did that for awhile.  And just like the start of our trip we had to contend with (i.e. stay out of the way of) a number of deep draft vessels, cargo ships and tugs.  They generally stay in the traffic lanes but we had to cross the lanes several times over the course of the trip. At least it wasn’t foggy this time so we could actually see them.

We continued on to Port Ludlow, our destination for the night.  There is a marina there but also plenty of places to anchor, including a shallow cove behind two islands called “The Twins”.  When we first came here 20 years this cove was surrounded by tree-covered hills; now it’s tree- and house-covered hills.  It’s still more intimate than the outer bay, as well as less windy, so we decided to anchor there.  No other boats in the cove.  You, the reader of this blog, may have detected a pattern in our choices for a place to drop the hook. It’s my fault and I plead guilty. Now the celebration.


Friday, September 30

During the night the fog rolled in and when we got out of bed we could see it cloaking the hills about 50 feet above the water.  So after breakfast we brought up the anchor and started for home.  Luckily the visibility at water level continued fine, only the sun was obscured.

As often seems to be the case, the wind and chop in Puget Sound were among the worst of the whole trip, as it was when we left Seattle on August 10th.  That, together with the large numbers of boats, reminded us why we like to get away.  We stopped at Kingston on the way home to buy fuel.  It’s cheaper there and can make a real difference when buying a large amount, as we were, since we like to leave the tanks full over the winter.  After Kingston it was off to our home slip and when we docked we found the other space in our slip empty.  This wasn’t completely unexpected since we know our neighbors of the last 10 years were hoping to leave in August on their “get away from it all” voyage to Mexico then the South Seas.  As usual, Karen brought Mischief in perfectly.  We’re home.

It was a good trip.  Including our 5 day shakedown we were out for 57 days of which we stayed at docks 4 times and a buoy once.  For the other 52 days we anchored in some beautiful bay or cove.  In almost half of those days we were the only boat and 70% of the time there were no more than 3 other boats sharing our anchorage.  You really can get away from it all in the Pacific Northwest, especially if you go to the more popular areas in September.  Our journey covered 1239 nautical miles and consumed 467 gallons of diesel fuel.  But we got off the boat, too.  We went on 28 hikes covering 109 miles.  And that doesn’t include all the walking around the boat or the rowing adventures.  Despite eating often and well we came back weighing what we did when we started, or even a bit less.  Finally, we managed to do our Radio Calisthenics every day but one.  I think both we and Mischief are ready to do this all again.

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