Celebrate

Life on the boat includes celebration.  It isn’t as though every day is a party, but I try to live as if there are noteworthy, important events that might be missed if I were rushing off to work or even just being at home.  We try to enjoy the small things – a bird that comes to visit whether by sea or by air.

There are also the normal big events that are always worthy of celebration.  They come on the calendar like clockwork.  I have come to realize that these times punctuate our lives.  Our forty-fourth anniversary is one date I didn’t want to miss.  We evaluate our life together – the year in review and the year ahead.  The joke is that men need to be reminded of their anniversary.  Woe to them if they forget!  But the reality for me is a sense of fortune.  I want to celebrate our great fortune.  This year was no different.  I had a really great restaurant picked out.  I had to “stack the deck” in my favor because the end of the evening would include a proposal for another year together.  (She said ‘yes’).

This year was different because Beth beat me to the celebration.  A couple of days before my big plan, I woke up to a float plane parked just behind Voyager.  This is not unusual in that float plane travel is common in the islands of British Columbia.  This was a special plane however.

This is a De Haviland DH-2 Beaver.  It is powered by a Pratt Whitney Wasp Junior nine cylinder, 450 hp radial engine.  This may not mean much to you, but Beth knows that it means a great deal to me.  I am a pilot.  I love planes of all varieties, but a Beaver is pretty much at the top of the list.  They are practical, solid; some say iconic.  Even though I have a float plane rating, I had never been in one until Beth said, “You had better get dressed because that is your plane, and it takes off in an hour.”

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Once a pilot, always a pilot
Needless to say, I had a blast.  The scenic tour is usually a shared thing with the company attempting to fill all six seats.  We had the plane to ourselves, with an excellent pilot who treated our time as sort of an instructional check out flight.  Having the boat gives us the opportunity to tour all around the islands, so we didn’t want the usual air tour.  Instead we spent the time with startup, magneto settings (you don’t start a radial with the ignition on at first…), power and flap settings.  How fun is that?

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Another successful anchor set – the best crew ever
Another cause for celebration this summer was a visit from our granddaughter, Fern.  As every grandparent will tell you, their grand kids are the best.  I am no different.  She’s the best!  Since she lives far away, our visits are infrequent and too short.  But this trip was going to be almost two weeks.  Since we’re talking about celebration, I must confess we celebrated her birthday even though it was more than a month away.  Usually one week off the real date is as far that is allowed, but we celebrated anyhow.

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Go ahead, it’s your birthday!
Retirement has given us the opportunity of time.  In our daily routine while working there wasn’t the freedom to go places that were far away or would take too much time to explore.  I made the mistake of thinking that those far away, exotic locations would somehow be more satisfying than the work routine.  What I’m discovering is that a beautiful setting is great, but there is a longing to share this beauty with with family and friends. Place can be important; those who share your life – even more so.  So for us, good cell phone coverage for Face-time with my sister, text messaging with our granddaughter and staying in touch generally is a priority.

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Stay tuned for Chuck’s celebration
Celebration happens regularly on Voyager.  Any excuse at all, whether we just made a good anchor placement, a successful dinghy ride where nobody fell in or got excessively wet, or just the end of the day – life is good; we celebrate.  Gratitude is good for the soul.

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Thankful 

-Mike

 

 

 

Heading North

After taking leave of our friends, we headed north in earnest.  We wanted to check out the area of Desolation Sound, which we had heard is quite beautiful, with lots of anchorages.  In order to get there, we would have to cross the Strait of Georgia, a large body of water susceptible to rough water.  Checking the weather is very important before crossing, because high wind can whip up waves and make for an unpleasant transit.  We were fortunate, and all was calm in the Strait.  We had a long day of travel:  50 miles at 7mph takes time.  Just as we set out, we had the almost mystical pleasure of watching a pair of orcas swimming near us.  They didn’t jump or do any fancy tail flops, but we enjoyed their majestic dorsal fins rising and falling through the water as they swam.

We docked that evening at the charming little town of Lund.  Lund bills itself as the “Gateway to Desolation Sound,” and has the added distinction of being located at “Mile Zero of Highway 101.”  For all you Californians who’ve spent time on that particular highway, if you follow it to its end (or its beginning), you will find Lund.

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The marker for the beginning of Highway 101

We found a great little store in Lund where we were able to purchase charts of the areas we’d be visiting.  Charts are like roadmaps for bodies of water, and most importantly, they tell you where unseen obstructions lie beneath the innocent looking water.  We were happy to have these charts to help us on our journey.  We stopped by a pub and sat in the sun.  Our waitress said we simply must try a Canadian favorite:  Poutine.  She couldn’t believe we had never heard of it.  We are always game to try something new, so we ordered it.  Imagine a pile of French fries, topped with a couple of cheese curds, some pot roast and mushrooms with a thin but tasty gravy.  We enjoyed it, but decided that it couldn’t be a frequent treat.   Poutine isn’t for the health-conscious!

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The village of Lund
The next morning we got underway and headed into Desolation Sound.

A grand view of magnificent mountains awaited us around each turn!  We anchored for the night in Laura Cove, where we had to stern tie.  Stern tying means that after you anchor, you run an additional line from the stern (rear) of the boat, and secure it to shore.  This keeps the boat from swinging around.  Why would this be necessary?  Because the bay was small, and with several boats, there would have been some collisions without a stern tie.  Even though we’d stern tied before, it finally occurred to us to “slip” the line and bring back the end to be tied to the boat. The tidal change is about 16 feet here, so a knot tied on shore might be too high to reach at low water.  Each time we do something, we learn how to do it better and easier the next time.

We stayed at quiet Laura Cove for a couple of nights, and took advantage of the time to do a couple of boat projects:  Mike tightened the gland packing on the engine shaft, and I oiled the teak deck that Mike had spent so much time working on last winter.  It is a great visual improvement over last year.  But boating shouldn’t be all work, so we got in some good kayaking and eagle watching along with mountain gazing.

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It is awe inspiring to be sitting in a kayak at sea level looking up at these peaks!
The next day was another 50-mile day as we explored Toba Inlet.  We called it “waterfall day.”  Every time we turned a corner, there was another waterfall.  “Oooh, look at that one!”  “Ahhh, that’s a beauty!”  Superlatives were in short supply.  There is just so much beauty to behold that words can’t convey.  We ended the day at Roscoe Bay, another stern-tie day.

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We joked that we should just drive under this waterfall to wash off the boat.  But the tremendous force of the water would have capsized us for sure.

Roscoe Bay was a lovely spot to stay.  There were eagles to watch, and we love that.  There were harbor seals, and mother ducks taking their baby ducks on outings past our boat.  We enjoy watching the wildlife, and there have been a few tussles over our one pair of binoculars!  A couple of additional treats at this anchorage, were the wildflowers (foxglove), and a freshwater lake just a short hike away.

 

We’ve written in the past about the learning curve of boating.  Roscoe Bay afforded us one more learning experience:  When anchoring, our division of labor has been for Mike to lower the anchor and let out the appropriate amount of chain, while I operate the engine, backing up the boat, maneuvering into the wind, etc.  As I mentioned, we then secured a stern tie.  There is a flurry of activity at these times, and we have been starting to feel like a well-oiled machine.  A little prematurely.

When we pull up the anchor, we have the same jobs, only in reverse.  The next morning, we prepared to leave.  We released the stern line, and I started up the engine.  At least, I tried to.  “Mike! The engine won’t start!”  This precipitated an electrical track-it-down mission, with amp meters, screwdrivers, trips to the engine room, and general puzzlement.  Finally, Mike decided to hot-wire the engine to start it, planning to head to a less remote area where parts might be available, if needed.  The engine was successfully hot-wired and we were still kind of scratching our heads, when I looked up and saw us headed toward the rocky-cliffed shore.  The engine was in gear!  Yikes!  Major catastrophe averted just in time, and lesson learned:  Unless the transmission is in neutral, the engine won’t start.  But if you hot-wire it, beware, if it’s in gear, it’s going to travel!  You might say “Duh” here, but really, it’s an easy mistake to make.   I provide most of the learning curves we experience, I’m afraid.  I’m not naturally mechanically inclined, but I do learn – usually the hard way.

Since we’re on the topic of anchoring, we did have an unusual experience at Squirrel Cove.  There were a number of boats present already, so we looked for a good anchorage far enough away that we wouldn’t crowd anyone.  We found a perfect spot behind a small island, sheltered from wind and providing a good depth for anchoring.  We let the anchor out and were backing away to “set” it.  All of a sudden, the boat lurched, and just stopped in the water.  Now, that’s unusual, we thought, as we looked at each other.  We investigated, and found that the anchor had snagged on a submerged log of telephone pole proportions, and that somehow the chain had wrapped around it.  Hmmm, what to do?  Mike got in the dinghy, I hauled the log up vertically with the anchor chain, and using a screwdriver, little by little, Mike eased the chain upwards until it slipped over the top of the log, which dropped away – voila!  But we got out of that spot and anchored elsewhere.  You just never know what you’re going to come across in any given day.

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The tip of the dreaded LOG

After Desolation Sound, we explored the Octopus Islands, which were also beautiful, but tricky to navigate.  There are lots of submerged rocks that you have to zig and zag through.  Good practice.

That brings us up to date.  We are still in Canadian waters, but will cross into US territory tomorrow or the next day.  We’re just getting started, but we’ve had adventures already!  We’re loving each day that comes.

 

This is Greg, who belongs to the Lummi tribe of First Nation People.  He paddled his canoe up to our boat and we had a nice conversation before buying one of his carvings which were wrapped up in the towel.  Can you guess which one we chose?

-Beth

Getting There

It has been a month since we left Murphys.  We have had some adventures and experienced new things. The longer I wait to write, the more territory there is to cover.  I’ve waited too long already, so here we go…

We began our trip dreading the long drive to Washington, so we decided to make it a two-day journey this year.  We also chose a different route than the usual Highway 5, fast-as-you-can method.  Just passed Redding, we headed toward Klamath Falls and drove up the East side of the Cascades toward Bend, Oregon.  It was a very different drive, through high desert scenery sprinkled with wildflowers.  We enjoyed the open spaces, the topography reminding us of where we met in Bishop, California.  We passed through many tiny towns, requiring us to slow down a bit as we wondered what types of people lived there and what they did for a living.  People probably wondered the same thing when they passed through the Bishop area.

Upon entering one such town, we were in town before we realized it.  Yours truly was driving, and I was disconcerted to see an Oregon State Trooper behind me with flashing red lights.  I realized that I hadn’t seen the speed limit sign as we entered.  The nice Trooper informed me that I had been going 55mph in a 35mph zone.  “I’m sorry!” I said, reaching for my wallet to pull out my license.

Now, all the ladies reading this will understand:  When you take off to travel for months at a time, it necessitates changing purses.  You don’t want to carry around all the stuff you normally do.  Accordingly, I had downsized not only my purse, but my wallet.  I had placed my drivers license in a safe spot in said wallet, but it was so safe I couldn’t find it with those red lights flashing behind me.  The officer was really nice, and asked if I remembered my license number.  I tried my best!  “I might have left one digit out, I think…”  He went to his patrol car to look up my license, and I turned my wallet over to find my license in the plastic picture portion, right in front.  So, I ran back to the patrol car waving the license, “I found it, I found it!”  Probably not too smart.  Mike, to his great credit, kept silent.  Well, maybe he shook his head a little.  The officer handled it gracefully and I went back to the car.  Pretty soon he reappeared and handed me my license and registration.  “Why are you in such a hurry to get to Washington?” he asked.  “Oh, I’m not in a hurry.  I was just singing along with the radio, and lost track of my speed.”  “That’ll get you every time,” he said, and he let me off with a warning.  What a nice man!  God watches over little old ladies like me.

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We passed through beautiful country on our way to Bend, where we made a dinner stop at Deschutes Brewery, and sampled some beer.  We found a couple we really like, a couple of beers that is.  Afterward, Mike was keen to get further down the road, but we didn’t get very far before the long drive and the beer combined made us decide to look for a room sooner rather than later.  We found a room for…  wait for it…  $65, breakfast included!  We’re not in California any more, Toto.  We slept great.

The next day we drove the rest of the way to our destination of La Conner, Washington.  On the way, we drove through the beautiful Cascades.  We might have spent more time touring them, but low clouds were obscuring the peaks, and a persistent drizzle wasn’t inviting for hiking around, so on we went to the boat.  An odd feeling of home-coming was in the air.

As you may recall from previous posts, Voyager was shrink wrapped at the end of last season.  Consequently, we spent a few days working in a bubble while on board.  We camped out on the boat in the boat yard, and we were highly motivated to move out and get underway!  We finally removed the shrink wrap, a job in itself, and completely washed down our “big girl.”  The mast had been lowered before the wrap job, and Mike and I managed to get it vertical again all by ourselves.  We felt pretty good about it, but even better about replacing the rigging on the mast and boom.  The old lines were worn and pretty nasty.  Now we have fresh new lines. [Lines = ropes, for you landlubbers]

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After
Finally, it was launch day.  The unspoken question:  Do we still remember how to operate this thing?  I’m happy to report that we were successful and safe as we launched, and also as we docked.  We were very fortunate to find a spot to dock nearby on Memorial Day weekend, which we hadn’t been aware of since our heads were in work, work, work-on-boat mode.

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Sunset – Day One.  Many more to come…
And so, we began our summer aboard.  We decided to head north into Canada to explore new territory, before our first visitors were due to visit.  We were joined for the first couple of days by some good friends in their boat.  It was fun spending evenings together.  Then it was time to head north on our own, ready or not.

-Beth

The time of our lives, whether we like it or not…

We’re having the time of our lives, whether we like it or not.

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A friend says, “That’s a sail boat.  Sometimes they anchor that way”
We have enjoyed the beginning of the cruising season in the great Pacific Northwest.

There are always the preparations that seem to go on and on and this startup was no different.  I am continually asking myself, “how important is it?”  I could be in the getting ready mode forever if this inner dialog didn’t occur.  There are many folks in boat yards that actually never leave because they aren’t ready.  How important is it?  Will the boat float without those extra batteries, or the dental floss?  Sure.  Will the engine run if the railings lack the last coat of varnish?  You bet.  Let’s go…

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There is that nagging thought at the last moment when I wonder as the boat is touching the water, “Did I remember to do everything?”  I know that we didn’t do everything, but the boat floats and even starts, so we did the important stuff.  It does feel really great to have done just a few things in the off season that so far have made a tremendous difference.  From last year’s adventure, you might recall our anchoring difficulties with the infamous ‘Chain Biter.’  The windlass would start at any random time due to wet switches.  These have been completely replaced instead of a continuation of last year’s attempted repairs, and the problem is solved.  Thanks, Eric also, for the gear oil recommendation.  Chain Biter chews with his mouth closed and is much quieter.

While exercise is lacking living on a boat, the ‘opportunity’ to get aerobic every time we put the dingy up on the boat deck was a heart racing event.  This year with the addition of a big red Milwaukee drill, we can raise the little boat without hand cranking, just like the big yachts that have cranes.  Just push the button….  (Well, almost like the big yachts – they have ‘staff’ for such duties.)

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Thanks John! What a great, low tech idea.

The aesthetic stuff is satisfying too.  The pilot house doors and the on-going teak deck restoration are looking great too.

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The welcome mat matches.  Cymbre, You’re the best!

There is a lot to be said for living in the moment.  I could get anxious about all the stuff to do on the boat.  The goal is to enjoy the thing.  Right?  Even sanding?   No, I don’t like it…  So, here is the challenge for me and you:  have the time of your life right here and right now.   I know that some times are truly bad, but these are the things, along with the good that make texture in life.   I’ll leave the sanding for now and enjoy the view.  It’s worth it…

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Having the time of our lives whether we even know it or like it…

-mike

The Blog is Back

We haven’t posted for the off season, but some readers may wonder what’s up with Voyager.  While visiting with a friend, who reads our journal of retirement aboard the boat, reminded me that the power of the internet reaches beyond our small circle of close friends who know our lives.  He said, “Is the dream still alive? I want to know.  I think that others might wonder what happened.”   This is the stuff of a new blog entry…

The off-season was a bit of a transition.  When we left the boat back in late September, it seemed to happen quite suddenly.  The leisurely daily pace was interrupted by the boat suddenly out of the water and placed in a busy parking lot.  Our living aboard was coming to an abrupt end.  While having the bottom painted, the guy yelled up to me as I thoughtlessly ran hot coffee down the drain.  He said, “Hey! I am DOWN HERE”.  The water was running out on him.  It was time to leave the boat yard.  It took just a day to load up most of our clothes and some wood projects for the drive back to our home in California.

How good are you at switching gears?  I floundered for some days trying to get my bearings.  You would think that once your legs stop moving to the roll of the boat everything would be back to normal.  It had been such a mental push to learn everything ‘boat’ that once back at home there wasn’t a purpose to my day in, day out living.  Beth simply jumped in where she left off – teaching exercise and volunteering where she could.  When in doubt, do what she does.  I volunteered restoring a 70-year-old stored airplane.  This has kept me off the street and occupied over the winter.

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Andrew at Calaveras Airplane Co. has allowed me to learn a few things on this museum quality C-140A

Back to the Question: Is the dream still alive?  With boats and RVs, there is an initial excitement that fades as the first season comes and goes.  This is true for us too. Probably the biggest downside to cruising in the lack of community.  We are very fortunate to have a loving family and friends that surround us in life.  The boat, on the other hand has a built-in moat that creates nice privacy, but can be somewhat isolating. This sense of connection might be some of the disorienting switch back to our normal life mentioned above.  But the weather is changing and our conversations have turned to the upcoming boating season.  We have an old-fashioned paper calendar that has scribbles to show where we might like to be over the summer season.  We are excited to visit the places we enjoyed so much during the first summer.  These include repeat visits to Butchart Gardens, and Princess Louisa Inlet.  The anticipation of sharing these places with family and friends adds to the motivation to get going.  There are new places like the Broughton Islands and Desolation Sound.  Challenges that include Dent rapids, Seymore Narrows and Johnstone Strait are waiting too.  It is already April.   The planned start for ‘on-the-water’ is the third week of May.

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This must be the source! They grow these here…  It’s spring in the Northwest.

This presents a problem.  We left the boat without doing some of the big projects before the winter.  These include:

  • New inverter/ Charger installation with better instrumentation
  • New helm computer to include better mapping and a new depth transducer
  • Windlass switches (the same problem identified as CHAINBITER last season)
  • New windshield
  • Teak deck refinishing

These projects are difficult to do while using the boat, so I have come back to LaConner, to the boat yard to accomplish these tasks before we begin the season later on, in May.  I’ll post some of the repair photos on the boat page.  As much as I enjoy planning and doing these projects, eleven days solo is long enough.  My compass is pointing South – at least for now.  Stay tuned because more adventure is just around the bend…

Thanks for reading along.

-mike

View Point – It’s Changing

When we started out several months ago (or years if you count dreaming), I had a certain ‘view’ of how our time would be spent.  The summer is really winding down in the Northwest and the season changing.  It has been raining for the past two weeks.  So our enthusiasm for time on the boat is waning.  Perspective is changing too.  We were once excited to just be ‘on the boat’.  With the rain and the diminished outdoor opportunities, the space is small.  We will be working to put our ‘Big Girl’ to bed for the winter starting this coming week.  I’ll update the boat page with some of the details.

We spent the last month in Canada.  I’ll use this as an excuse to mention that it has been a long time since I wrote a post here.  There is the whole internet, communication, cell coverage problem, but really we have just been preoccupied.  I’ll let Beth write about the specific locations.  But to briefly outline the past few weeks, we had some friends spend some cruise time with us.  We also attended a Kady Krogen (the brand of our boat) specific rendezvous in a remote spot north of Vancouver, BC.  The highlight for me was a long run up into the fjord called Princess Louisa Inlet – majestic, beautiful.

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Princess Beth or Princess Louisa? You don’t get to do this just everyday.
at anchor Louisa
A secluded, calm place
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This is the time to kayak

It was at the end of this portion of the journey that I ran into an idea.  It has to do with perspective and how my view point was challenged.  Let me explain: sometimes seemingly random encounters get me thinking.  This occurred while leaving the boat at a small marina in Egmont, British Columbia.   We were out for a walk and this sign was hand written on a chalk board.

art of living quote

I don’t know who L. P. is, but he might be onto something.  I used to think that work was a four letter word.  Oh, I guess it is…  (You know what I mean – something bad – to be avoided.) This blending of voluntary work and REcreation is what retirement has gifted me.  The summary statement above simply rings true.   My work life tended to have sharp distinctions between ‘work and play’, so I guess from the quote I wasn’t much of a “Master in the Art of Living”.  But isn’t this the goal – this art of living?  Since retirement and living on the boat, there is plenty of work to do, but without the sense of compulsion or duty.  I truly love all the jobs involved with being out on the water. (Well, maybe not all the jobs… that can be a story for another time.)  It is a pleasure.

Is it possible to blur the distinction between work and play, labor and leisure, education and recreation?  I think so…  I appreciate all the more those who do ‘work’ because of a sense of duty and sacrifice.  This too is important!

Let me know what you think.

I hope this finds you well.

-mike

Canada

We made it this time!  We carefully timed our departure to safely negotiate the Swinomish Channel, followed by the oft-times treacherous Deception Pass.  Timing is everything, and the passage went without a hitch, until we began crossing Haro Straight, the larger, open channel of water between the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island in Canada.  The timing wasn’t so good for this crossing, as the current was against us.  Our sturdy boat is known for stability, but not for speed.  She is very economical to run, using very little diesel fuel.  Our top speed is about 7 knots.  The current in Haro Straight was running against us at about 6 knots.  If you do the math, that means we were traveling at about 1 knot, just a little faster than a snail.  It felt like we were standing still.  After a couple of hours without making much headway, Captain Mike pushed the engine up a few additional RPMs and we broke out of our doldrums.

Seven hours after leaving La Conner, we pulled up to the Customs dock in Oak Bay, Canada.  We were a little nervous, this being our first experience with Customs on the boat.  Only one person may go to the office.  Anyone else must wait on the boat.  Mike took all our documentation, along with a mental list of the groceries we had on board.  The experience was almost anticlimactic.  The Customs office was not manned.  Checking in just involved picking up a phone and talking to a Customs officer in a remote location.  The questions mainly centered around alcohol, tobacco, and firearms which were not a problem for us, so we passed our first trial with flying colors.  Not bad, eh?

Ready to be off the boat, we went for a walk around the little town of Oak Bay.  We ate dinner at a little French bistro named Vis a Vis.  We highly recommend eating here if you ever are in Oak Bay.  We weren’t really expecting anything great, but the food was fabulous!  We rounded out the day by purchasing some produce at a sidewalk market, and hopping back on the boat.

The next morning, we made our way around to the other side of Vancouver Island.  It would have taken about 30 minutes to transit the width of the island in a car, but remember, we are in a slow boat, and going around the long way.  It took us most of the day to reach our destination, but the trip was well worth it.  We anchored in a beautiful, sheltered spot, Tod Inlet.  There happened to be a huge population of white jellyfish in the water, which was just a magical phenomenon.  We took our kayaks out and gently paddled among them, taking time to just sit and watch their graceful movements.

jellyfish

We also enjoyed watching the Purple Martins, as they flocked to their fanciful birdhouses perched on top of piers in the water.

bird houses

Speaking of birds, these little cuties came to visit on our boat railing.  We call it the “preen and poop” station, because that’s what they did.  We had to call out the bucket and scrub brush brigade afterward.

birds on rail

The reason for our trek to Tod Inlet, was to get to the nearby Butchart Gardens.  This land had once been a lime mine for a cement plant.  Mr. Butchart owned the plant, which was a very profitable enterprise.  When the mine finally closed down, the land had been gouged and scraped, and wasn’t very appealing.  But Mrs. Butchart had a vision to turn it into a paradise of plants.  She left an amazing legacy of beauty.  It is astounding what a vision (and a lot of money!) can do.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

One other highlight of our time at the Garden was attending a high tea in the afternoon.  Mike had promised to fulfill this wish of mine at the Empress Hotel the next time we visited Victoria.  I told him that I would release him from that obligation (which I think he had forgotten about anyway), if he would take me to tea at Butchart.  Being the smart and gallant man that he is, he humored me.  We had a fantastic time sampling the little bites of savory and sweet foods, and we each had our own pot of tea.  This meant that we were up all night, but that’s a story we’ll save for another time.

With company coming to meet us at Anacortes, we journeyed back to the San Juan Islands.  We keep pretty busy in retirement, but it’s a great kind of busy!

Re-entry (the second half of summer)

It has been awhile since we have blogged.  We took a 2 week break from the boating life to fly back to California for our son’s wedding.  It was a wonderful occasion, attended by many family members, so it was a family reunion of sorts.  Busy times, good food, lots of loved ones.  Then came the furious clean up, closing up the house again, and back on the airplane to Washington.

The re-entry, switching gears, took a little while.  We really miss our family.  Particularly our 18-month old grandson, who changes and learns new things daily.  You grandparents out there can relate.  Eventually we got on track again, and started preparing for a new experience:  Company aboard!  We were joined by a couple Mike knew from work.  We pulled into a marina about an hour before we were to meet up, and made a quick run to the store to have enough provisions on hand.  We needn’t have bothered, because our guests arrived bearing gifts of food and drink!  No one went hungry.

We boated out to Eagle Bay, on Cypress Island for our first stop.  The next day we spent some time on the trails, hiking the north end of the island.  Points of interest were Smuggler’s Cove, where we found some sea glass, and where there are remains of an old cabin in the woods.  A single reclusive woman had lived there on her own.  We tried to imagine the life she led.  In the afternoon we pulled off our mooring ball and boated over to Spencer Spit, one of our favorite places to bum around, and a good anchorage.  We spent the night, and after a brief walk on the spit, headed back to Anacortes to drop off our friends.  Our experience with guests taught us that Voyager is well equipped to comfortably house another couple on board.  That’s good news, because for the rest of August, we are hosting a steady stream of visitors.  We look forward to the variety that will bring to our days, and we will enjoy sharing some of our favorite spots with our friends.

We returned to La Conner after dropping off our friends.  I say returned, because La Conner has become our home away from home, at least on land.  We are able to ship parts and purchases to the marina there, and we had a new tool waiting for us.  Then we decided to make a second try to go to Canada before the next round of company arrives.

The checklist before leaving the dock out is WOBBS.  We check the:  coolant Water, Oil levels, Belts, Bilges, Seacocks and Strainers.  If everything looks good, then we fire up the engine, check the gauges, and take off.  This time, one of us, who shall remain nameless, closed the seacock in order to check the strainer, and then forgot to open the seacock again.  The seacock is a hole in the boat that allows seawater in to cool the engine.  With the seacock closed, no water can come in.

With all preparations made, we took off from La Conner, heading down the narrow and winding Swinomish Channel.  It is very important to time arrivals and departures during a “slack tide,” when the current is at its weakest.  In the narrow channel, it is not a good idea to have swift currents pushing you along faster than you can navigate the tricky turns.  We timed it perfectly, and were almost to the narrow winding part when, WEEP! WEEP! WEEP!  An alarm started up, and believe me, we were duly alarmed.  A red button on the control board was lit up, and the engine temperature was climbing!  In a channel you can’t just pull over and “look under the hood.”  We knew we needed to return to the dock to diagnose the problem.  I’m happy to report that our trusty Captain Mike managed to turn Voyager around in the channel, and we retraced our steps, the engine temperature gauge climbing the whole time.  We fastened up to the dock, and discovered the problem – the closed seacock.  The closed valve had caused damage to the impeller, which needed replacement before we could go any further.  Canada would have to wait.  Again.  Fortunately, the previous owner left us a bunch of spare parts, and we had another impeller on board.  Mike, being the mechanical one, replaced the impeller.

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New impeller on the left, old one on the right

The delay was actually fortuitous, because we had a front row seat for some cultural entertainment.   The opposite shore of the channel is Native American reservation land.  The Lummi tribes were having a pow wow.  There was drumming and chanting late into the night.  We had a lot of fun watching the canoe racing.  There were singles, doubles, triples, and then 7-man canoes.  Our favorite though, were the 11-man canoes.  It was impressive to watch the men working in perfect unison, and slicing powerfully through the water, with occasional chanting – HUH!  There were kid races, women’s races, teens races.  We enjoyed them all.

Canoe pic

And so, at last, we head for Canada with our new impeller.  Our destination is Oak Bay for customs.  From there we plan to travel around the coast of Vancouver Island until we reach Brentwood Bay and a beautiful anchorage.  We will anchor Tod Inlet, and visit Butchart Gardens, which we saw on our youthful wanderings 40 years ago.  It’s about time we returned!

starfish
This little guy hitched a ride on our anchor chain, and left his shadow for us to enjoy.  We hope our shadow remains with you, our friends and family.

 

 

 

Paths and the ever present Mount Baker

The title page reads ‘random musing of a couple of newbie retirees’ or something similar.  I have been musing a bit on life’s paths.  These thoughts have been inspired by some beautiful walks we’ve been enjoying.  We don’t have a car, just a boat – so we walk.

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The seldom traveled county road on Stuart Island
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A more narrow path going from one side of Hope Island to the other…
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A very faint trail on Stuart Island
I sometimes wonder, ‘how did I get here?’  We sometimes ask each other this because the wonder or beauty of the moment causes us to be more present and thankful.  Part of this feeling comes from the contrast from my working life and this new life with Beth.  We are very glad to be together, but also out of the office.  It was a quick transition.  So far, retirement is more like a vacation.  I hope it continues…

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There’s the boat, but how do I get there?
What if the way is not clear?  You want to get somewhere, but there isn’t a road.  (Here’s where it gets philosophical.  Just look at the pictures if I get too wordy…)  Just two words: Mount Baker

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Seemingly Ever Present: Mt. Baker
Everywhere we turn, there he is… Beth: ‘What mountain is that?’  Mike: ‘Mount Baker’

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The guy we met here said: ‘Great, I don’t have to die, I already made it to heaven.  This place is heaven!’
Watmough Bay is really nice.  There is only room for the three boats in the harbor, so we rode real bikes (not the circus bikes) about 15 miles to be here.  There wasn’t room for Voyager to anchor, but maybe next time.  That looks like Mt. Baker in the distance.  Yes, it is…  Here is Baker again…

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Obstruction Pass with Mt. Baker presiding
The ancient book of Proverbs says it this way:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”

Our path really hasn’t been ours to choose.  The work journey, the retirement journey, and even the day-to-day paths that stretch out before us, are not our own.  That may sound ridiculous since our culture seems to say that we are ‘captains of our own ships’ – that our choice determines our journey.  Beth and I simply have not found this to be the case.  We have placed our ‘trust’ in Jesus and like the Ever Present Mount Baker, He is the guide.  Sometimes Mount Baker is not visible while cruising the San Juan Islands, but just around the corner, or over the ridge, it is always there.  This is what I have found with the paths that have made up my life: God may not always be visible, but He is always there. 

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Yep, Mt. Baker – from the top of Mt. Constitution – Orcas Island
If you look to the west, you probably won’t see Mt. Baker but you might get to see a really nice sunset…

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Deception Pass State Park
Be sure to check out the new Boat Page…

mike

 

 

LOL

We’ve received several responses to Mike’s last post, referencing his comment about us laughing more.  It’s true, we are a couple of laughing fools lately!  We’ve been finding that laughing is like a tonic.  We feel better, our outlook is more positive, and we share those “you had to be there” understandings.  So, what’s so funny?  Anything and everything, it seems.  But here are a few things that have sent us over the edge:

-There are these birds, you see, whose antics reduce us to hysterics every time.  They are the humble Guillemot, part of the Auk family.   Auk, Auk!  Funny right off the bat, as is our butchered pronunciation of Guillemot.  They are a spiffy looking bird, mostly black with some white on the wing.  They are a bit duck-like in that they have appeared floating behind our boat in nearly every remote location we’ve visited.  What makes them funny is their rather undignified feet.  They are bright red, webbed, and very functional, I’m sure.  These guys can fly ok, usually just inches above the water.  Perhaps the reason for low flight is that they seem to be still perfecting the art of landing.  Here’s their method:  From a full flight, pull up, flap wings wildly, put red feet out in front and turn them this way and that, bracing for impact.  “Wham!  I’m down!”  Now you just can’t watch that without laughing.  The cares of life pale in comparison.

 

Red Footed Landings
Watch out, here we come!

-After our recent restocking stop in Friday Harbor, we felt ready to expand our horizons.  We thought we’d head over to Canada for a few days.  Just before we left, I thought I’d check online to see if we were carrying any restricted items.  Here is an imaginary conversation with the Customs Agent:

“Welcome to Canada!  What items do you have to declare, eh?”

“Oh, nothing.  We just have basic food and supplies for our own use.”

“I see.  So, no eggs or poultry, eh?”

“Uh, two dozen eggs.  But the chicken is frozen.  About 2 pounds of it.”

“Not allowed.  Got potatoes on board, eh?”

“Just a few.  Some of those nice little mini potatoes, and some frozen hash browns.”

“Not allowed.  Got any dairy:  Milk, cheese, butter, eh?”

Silence.

“Well?  Eh?  EH?”

“Um, some of each, but more cheese than anything.  You know, cheese for crackers, string cheese for hiking, cheese for fondue, cheese for…”

Not allowed!  Any alcohol on board, eh?”

“Well, our friends sent us off with bottles of wine and champagne.  We have about 6 bottles.”

“NOT ALLOWED!!!  Go back to America, and plan to buy your groceries here next time, eh?”

We will try Canada again later.

 

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Check out the size of that maple leaf!

-Mike loves cycling.  Those of you who know him are familiar with the beautiful burgundy road bike he refurbished and loves to ride.  And yes, he brought the thing along.  Many times, I’ve given it the term “Albatross” as we move it from place to place on the boat, because face it, it’s a large item.  Our boat actually came equipped with bicycles.  They fold up for storage, and they offer us one more form of entertainment and transportation when we are on land.  Mike of course, prefers his big red bike.  But one day it had a flat tire, so we decided to both ride the fold-ups.  These bikes have 14-inch tires.  They have to go around lots of times to get very far down the road.  Even though the tires are small, we are average sized people, so we extend the seat and handle bars up to a height that is comfortable.  The overall look is a little silly.  I can’t help but hum the Winged Monkeys theme from the Wizard of Oz as my legs pedal their little hearts out to take me one block down the road.  We’ve had some fun on these bikes, but the best fun is laughing at each other.  We showed pictures of our bikes to our daughter-in-law and her comment was, “Have you guys joined the circus?”  What do you think?  Do we have a future under the big top?

-We have reached the age where our hearing isn’t what it used to be.  We have had lots of rip-roaring laughs over, “I thought you said…”  I would share some of those funny things, but unfortunately, we’ve also reached the age of short term memory misplacement.  It’s not lost forever, just temporarily unavailable.

-What do you think of this spit wad plant?  There was a whole field of them, ripe for the harvest.  You know all those wads on the ceiling at your grammar school?  We can confirm that they originated in the great Pacific Northwest.  We’ve seen it with our own eyes, and we believe it.

 

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The little known, and less appreciated Spit Wad Plant

I could go on, and keep you in stitches, I’m sure.  But I am aware that these things lose some of their whimsy in the telling.  You really do have to be there to appreciate that these things are just really funny.

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  He was a witty man, and he had a saying about people who didn’t appreciate his jokes.  He said, “They just have no sense of the ridiculous.”  I guess we’re developing a sense of the ridiculous.  Life in the workaday world, it seems, had become pretty serious for us.  In getting away, we are learning to be more child-like, enjoying simple things and enjoying each other.  And you know what?  It’s fun to laugh!  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

The other day, Mike called to me from somewhere on the boat.  “What?” I called back. “Oh, just your basic eagle flying around.”  Now that’s funny…

Eagle
Happy Birthday, Dad!

-Beth