We left our boat in an early pre-dawn (too dark for a picture, but here's one I took on another morning) and quietly rowed the dinghy across Fisherman Bay. Even the animals were still asleep at that hour. There were dark shadows of a flock of some fifty Canadian geese spread out in front of us that either slowly paddled out of the way, or took flight with an irritated squawk at such a rude intrusion into their space.
A few minutes later, we heard the familiar sound of a harbor seal coming up for a breath of air, who was curious enough to follow us all the way across from about two feet away. A wonderful escort as we headed toward the twinkling lights on shore, across water that was "smooth as glass." I will miss this island even for the few weeks we will be away.
Three states in three weeks. Twice a year the Captain and I head out from wherever we happen to be to take care of a little business and catch up with family members along the way. This time, it's to welcome our daughter home to Oklahoma from a deployment in Afghanistan (thank you, Lord, for keeping her safe!), and to take in a writer's retreat in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia (where I happen to be writing this post from, today). Then we will finish up with a road trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara in California, before finally heading back to the GLORY B and resume our big adventure.
Today, I am incredibly thankful for mountain vistas that roll into the distance in various shades of blue to merge with the sky. I have done a lot of research on this area for one of my novels, and always wanted to see it for myself. What a bonus that the changing leaves are starting to flutter and swirl down with the slightest breath of this amazingly fresh air. I can see how locals might get "thirsty" for it whenever they travel away. Such a lovely place to work.
Now, we'll see if I can actually get something done!
GLORY B update: The engine heads are dropped off at a shop near Seattle, to be picked up good-as-new when we get back. There is also a new (to us) propane stove in the back of our car that will replace the old kerosene model which had to be removed before we left. Lots of work waiting, but enough to finally get us "under way," again. Glory Be!
I have always said the Captain gets most of his love of boats from his Scandinavian ancestors. So, what a surprise it was to discover that one of the first settlers of this island was a man with the same last name and origin as his very own family. Which didn't excite him as much as it did me because he said a lot of people could have that name. But I tend to believe everything, so I'm going to look into it.
At any rate, this ancestor, who went to sea at the age of sixteen and traveled the world, said the "wickedest shark he ever saw" was right here off the coast of this island. So, when I noticed a place on the map marked Shark Reef, I wanted to go see it. It's out on the southwest tip of the island, facing the "big water" at one of the most volatile confluences of current, ocean swell, and winds. Which is probably why it is such an abundant feeding ground for all manner of sea creatures.
Not that I expected to see a shark from some rugged point of land, but you never know. So, I took the camera and we threaded our way through a lovely forest path for about fifteen minutes just to get there. What an amazing scene!
A great rocky reef spread out like a thin crescent moon along the shore, covered by sea lions basking and barking, and even arguing over the best spots. Some were fishing in the fast-moving currents, and seagulls kept swooping down to catch a quick bite whenever one came up with a fish. In less than a minute, we even saw a family of dolphins swim by.
I snatched up the camera, and we began an immediate (rather emphatic) "discussion" about whether you could, or couldn't, capture anything decent while shooting into the light. I admit I'm still new enough at this filming stuff that I get somewhat beside myself at the prospect of an exciting subject. So, we both decided to have a turn (to try things our own way), and Puh-leeze do not take any shot of me other than the back of my hat.
Which was why it was a bit embarrassing to round the corner afterward, and find several groups of people (that had been only steps away) spread out along the rocks being absolutely QUIET. So as not to disturb such a pristine wildlife observation area. All of a sudden, I felt like I had talked out loud in a movie while trying to find my seat.
Still, it was a fantastic afternoon, even though we never glimpsed so much as one shark fin cutting through the water below. And considering the fact the place was also referred to as Shark Reef Sanctuary, I thought I better check some facts before writing this post.
I found out that if I would have seen a shark in the water out there, I probably would have been written up in the local newspaper. Because there are no sharks out there, anymore. What hasn't been commercially fished to extinction for a popular recipe called "Shark Fin Soup" has been done away by enthusiasts who enjoy hunting large, predatory animals. And should any "strangers" happen through from other territories, they are rather immediately dispatched by local killer whale pods.
So, even though such a sanctuary has been set aside to try and make matters right for these creatures that once had their own place in the cycles of ocean life around here, only one species has managed to thrive. That is the bluntnose sixgill shark that lives between 300 and 3000 feet off the bottom, and rarely makes an appearance into the light. Much less near Shark Reef.
All of which left me feeling a bit sad. Along with a major determination to capture as much wildlife on video that I could, out here, in case the same thing happens to anyone else who lives in these amazing waters. Mostly because trying to start a "be nice to sharks campaign" would be a really hard sell.
Maybe even as hard as selling books.
The Good News…
Lopez Island is the most beautiful island we have ever stayed on. Truly. Mostly rural, with a few commercial cattle ranches and sheep farms in the interior, it is bordered by lovely forests, amazing beaches, and a picturesque waterfront town you can walk through completely in about, um… fifteen minutes.
From the dinghy dock (where we paddle in from the GLORY B), the road to Lopez Village (as well as countless other places) is lined with wild blackberry bushes. That still have ripe, perfectly delicious berries on them. So, we've been picking some every time we come and go, and I'm turning them into jam. Such fun!
The people are friendly, and we have been meeting quite a lot of them. They even issued us temporary library cards (first time in all our years of travel), and I have already found a lovely little tucked away corner (with a view!) in the quiet reading room. Ah, bliss…
The Bad News…
The closest island, with the larger town of Friday Harbor, is less than an hour across the San Juan Channel. Just right for an afternoon outing, or an overnight anchorage in the cove we enjoyed so much at the beginning of the summer. Which is where we were headed on Labor Day afternoon. We didn't get very far.
|Entrance to Fisherman Bay. Our|
anchorage is behind the clump
of trees in the middle.
Halfway through (thank the good Lord it wasn't halfway through the ferry lane out in the middle of the channel), there was a terrible clanking sound that forced us to pull over and drop anchor. At high tide that spot was only twelve feet deep (we draw six) but we knew we had a safe couple of hours before we would be bouncing off the bottom when the tide changed.
This time, it was serious. A major rebuild is in order--and no-- we could not turn the engine on, again, even to limp back to where we had been anchored in the first place. I don't know what a tow might cost in a place like this. But considering a pound of good hamburger can be close to eight dollars, it didn't look good for us just then.
But we've changed a bit since we started our great adventure. Because it has worked out considerably better for us if we pray FIRST, in situations like this, rather than as a last resort. A lot can happen between those two time periods that one tends to be ashamed of, later on.
And MoreGood News…
|I had a better picture of rowing back|
to the GLORY B, but the Captain is still
disturbed at the prospect of rebuilding
the engine, so I didn't post it.
Not long afterward, a wonderful couple in a smaller sailboat passed by and agreed to tow us back (Hello, Yvonne, from Ventura, California!). It was nip and tuck for a bit, as they only had a ten horsepower outboard engine, but we made it! Without mishap. And considering the fact that I grew up in Ventura county, myself, I felt like we had been rescued by family.
Which is how it always seems to be when you are trying your best to stay right in the center of God's hand instead of leaping off so often. At least that's how it seemed right then. And two days later…
I'm still inclined to agree.
After nearly three weeks in a rough anchorage, waiting for yet another repair, our suspicions were confirmed by experts (our son who works in the Coast Guard). The fall weather is sneaking in early this year. We had a feeling that was true, since most days we woke up enveloped in a thick fog. What's more, the wind rushed in every afternoon, and stirred up an even choppier sea that lasted well into the night.
Twice we slipped our anchor and dragged it, scudding backwards out into the bay, miraculously threading through boats we are still shocked we didn't crash into. Needless to say, it got hard to settle down at night when we had to keep popping our heads up out of the hatch to make sure nothing like that happened, again.
Not to mention all that rocking and bobbing was making it almost impossible to walk a straight line on dry ground. It has something to do with balance and your "inner ear," neither of which was working very well for me to begin with. I know this isn't just an illusion because a man in the grocery store (who I thought was following me) explained he had tried several times to pass but I kept swerving. I think he thought I had been… oh, but nevermind about that.
The Captain and I both wanted to high-tail it back to a calmer harbor in the San Juans. But neither of us wanted to get caught in fog or a rough sea trying to cross a major shipping lane on the "big water." Not to mention the leaky shaft was still leaking while we waited for replacement parts. We weren't ready to quit, though. Other than dreaming about houses every night, I still wanted to continue on.
However, there is sometimes a fine line between faith and stupidity, and at this point, I wasn't sure which side was which. So, I said a little prayer there would be some sort of sign to let me know. The first was finding out the Captain and I were having the same thoughts but neither of us mentioned them until the morning after I prayed.
The second was when the weather channel gave a forecast that the following afternoon would be clear, seventy-five degrees, with a steady wind out of the right direction for us to ACTUALLY SAIL. Up until then, we had consistently been "beating into it" at anywhere from three to five knots. How fast is that? Let's just say if we were on dry ground, you could pass us up running.
However, our "weather window" was only going to last one day, and it was at least a nine hour trip. After that, there was a storm front coming in that would arrive in full force by the end of the week. But who knew how long before another opportunity like this would come around? So, the Captain wrapped some plastic bags and duck tape around the leaky shaft, and decided to go for it.
We raised the sails and practically flew across that big water! At a whopping eight knots (OK, seven point eight). The minute we got to the islands, the wind dropped back down to nothing. There were a couple lingering patches of fog, but we just had to nose our way along some ghosty outline of land to keep out of the way of ferries and such.
Not long after that, all was as clear as the forecast had promised, and we finally slipped into the wonderful stillness of Lopez Sound for the first peaceful night we'd had in weeks. Then up early for a beautiful cruise around to well-protected Fisherman's Bay. By afternoon, we were anchored in the sunny San Juan Islands, again.
Oh, yes, and what a surprise to find this place less expensive than where we were on the mainland. There is even a boatyard for when we're ready to make those repairs. On Friday, that storm did come in. But from here it wasn't much more than a stiff breeze under a beautiful blue sky. So, thank you God…
One does not have to be in an entirely unpopulated place to be in a wilderness. Or be lost, either. I'm actually beginning to think a large part of being in a wilderness is a state of mind. Since we began our journey north on June first, we haven't gone very far as miles go. Yet, we have gone miles and miles.
There are eighty islands in the San Juans, most of which look fairly much the same. In fact, if you didn't have charts to refer to, it would be easy to get turned around. Or even lost. Not to mention tides that can change twenty feet, or more, in a single turning and leave you high and dry if you're not watchful. Sometimes, the fog rolls in so thick you can't see the front of your own boat, much less what might be in the ocean nearby.
Then there are the currents.
It's like a maze in and around those islands, and the narrower the channel, the swifter the current. Sometimes, we've had to skirt around little whirlpools formed by the collision of a low tide, strong current, and narrow channel all at the same time. You also have to watch out for areas that are open to the sea. The "doorways to the world" I call them. Here you get a taste of the underlying swells of "big water" that seems to be the constant heartbeat of the ocean.
|Photo by Todd Stahlecker|
If ever a wind comes up (especially off a cape) and frosts these swells with a choppy sea, it can be a very rough and scary ride. More so if you've been reading about all the sunken ships there are on the outward coasts of those islands. All of which make the phrase "If you can sail the San Juans, you can sail anywhere in the world," seem true. Because surely we have come across every condition and situation possible, in and around these waters.
Which doesn't include the many mechanical failures we've added to the ordinary hazards of sailing and navigation. So much to learn! And so much we were entirely unaware of until it happened to us. But I must report that we have survived all our accidents and misjudgments. And that God has been gracious to rescue us out of the rest "by divine appointment" that we blundered into out of sheer ignorance. Those things that should have, by logic, gone very bad.
Which is probably why I have a first hand idea of what the children of Israel must have felt when they discovered they had been wandering forty years in an area they could have crossed in forty days. The thought that God Himself had been leading them with "a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night" makes one wonder how they could still go on trusting Him after all that. Even though they saw a lot of miracles along the way.
|Rowing to town in a fog|
Having some of the same experiences on this adventure of ours, I can understand why He might have done that. It was because where they were headed for was a lot bigger and more difficult than they realized. And they weren't ready for it. So, the training grounds of wilderness places. Along with all those experiences that strengthened the body and sharpened the wits along the way.
Today, we are sitting "on the hook" (at anchor) in Port Townsend, waiting for repairs. Again. It's only eight hours -- a mere forty-five minutes by car--away from Liberty Bay, where we first started out. That's a long way from Alaska, where we had figured to be there and back by now. Instead, we have meandered in and out of the San Juan Islands, and ventured only as far as the border of Canada before we had to turn south, again.
We haven't quit. But we're not sure how long it will take to actually get there, anymore. One thing we do know, though. We're on "His clock" with this journey, and there are miracles and divine appointments raining down all around us, wherever we go. So, we've decided to let go, let God… and hang on for the ride.
Because it's going to be a good one.
It's hard to break away from one thing and start doing another. For a long time, I thought this was some quirk in my own personality: that I was a person who didn't like change. But I do. Or I wouldn't want to go adventuring all the time.
Then I thought it came from being too intense, or tenacious, or not wanting to quit a thing until it's finished. Which could be true, but that's not limited to certain personality types, either. Never was this more obvious to me than when we went camping with the "littles," last week.
First of all, no one wanted to go camping. They had bikes to ride, TV to watch, and friends to play with. They were too busy. So, we decided on one day at the beach, and if no one liked it, we would come right back. Agreed.
To make a long story short, no one wanted to come back. We stayed for days, digging, playing, building campfires, eating s'mores… all the typical stuff. Even the youngest (3) said he wanted to stay there forever. Which leads me to the conclusion that being outside, in some kind of natural surroundings, does something to people. No matter how little they are.
And it's a good thing, too, because it is always accompanied by a certain result. Everyone calms down. Without even being told. Then after awhile, an incredible contentment envelops them. I like to think of it as a "hug from God." Something that seems to happen to anyone who ventures into that wonderful "territory" He made especially for us. Maybe it's left over from that garden He walked often with Adam in.
Which is probably why I like living on the water so much. And why I could never criticize the "littles" for not wanting to go home. Because if you would ask me the same question--right now-- as I sit here at anchor in a beautiful bay on a rainy afternoon, waiting for my bread to come out of the oven--I feel like I could stay here forever. Then, again, I've been saying that about everywhere, lately.
So, let the adventuring continue… it's great to be back on the GLORY B!
With the GLORY B anchored safely in a quiet cove, we are spending two weeks ashore for a family vacation. A trip with "the Littles" (our youngest grandchildren) always narrows my perspective. Plots and plans fade into the background, temporarily making way for more important things.
Like trying to get a three-year-old to blow into a kleenex for five minutes before realizing the "booger" he couldn't get off was some defect on the plastic nose of his Mickey Mouse toy. Or playing Monopoly all the way through until someone actually wins, while the repetitious hum of preschool TV inches up louder and louder from the next room.
This year, we are planning an expedition to the Olympic Rainforest. A very small one. Where the trail leading to the beach is point three miles rather than three point something. Where just digging is far more satisfying than digging for gold. And our wildlife observations will be limited to such exciting things as Giant Banana Slugs, or Flying Squirrels.
We will eat lots of things we don't approve of and bring far too many treats. At night, we will sleep as if we had been training for a marathon rather than playing all day. Finally we'll drag home thinking what a wonderful place it is and how blessed we are to have such a special family to share these good times with. So that when the Captain and I row back out to the GLORY B, next week, to continue our adventures through the last six weeks of summer… we will be refreshed.