Time Travel on Orcas Island: Olga Village.

Our Annual Visit to Olga Village on Orcas Island.

Orcas Island  We have been going to the tiny village of Olga on Orcas Island for over thirty years.  It has not changed much, and in many ways our annual visit is like taking a trip back in time to a more simple, safer, calmer era.  No crowds, no rushing about, no noise, and no hassle.  Its nice to be reminded what all the San Juan Islands once were like.Olga, Orcas Island, WA

The tiny village is located on Orcas Island, a short distance north of Obstruction Pass and a short distance south of Rosario Resort.  From the hill above the community dock, Spencer Spit Marine Park on Lopez Island is visible in the distance.

Buck Bay is close by, but its far to shallow for anchoring and its also the location of the Buck Bay Shellfish Farm.  There are numerous buoys that have proliferated in the last 10 years and they fill the anchorage area but most are never occupied by boats.

The Olga Community DWelcome to OlgaOlga Community dockock provides dockage for 4-6 boats (depending upon size) at 5o cents per foot per night, three nights maximum.  Few visitors stay overnight and very few ever stay for the maximum time.  That’s because there is very little to do in Olga and that’s what makes it such a perfect place to relax and enjoy the ambiance and serenity.  There is a small beach with public access, there is great crabbing outside of Buck Bay, and if you have a bike, you can ride to the shellfish farm, to Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, to Cascade Lake in Moran State Park, or to Obstruction Pass State Park.  If you don’t have a bicycle, then walking is a nice alternative but allow several hours.

The Orca Island Artworks Cooperative Gallery is a very short walk away and has reopened after a devastating fire a couple years ago.  Beautiful creations by local artists are available and the small restaurant has re-opened for breakfast and lunch.  A two hour free stay at the Community Dock provides ample time to visit the Gallery and enjoy the food.

 

Olga Community Dock rules   The Dock is managed by volunteers and kept in good shape for visiting boats.  Fresh water is available but there is no power.  Payment is by the honor system, with a small payment box and envelopes provided.  To make room for others, its best to tie with the bow to the south (and the occasional wind and waves) extending beyond the end of the float, keeping space between boats as small as is safe.

 

The tiny Village is mostly unchanged from the 1980’s except that homes have been remodeled and upgraded.  The Olga Store is closed again and for sale again.  It has been for sale off and on many times since the 1980’s.  Perhaps we will be able to purchase Olga Store-For Sale againice cream, coffee, post cards and supplies again but unfortunately the Store is gradually slipping into perpetual disrepair and sadness.

Across the street is the Post Olga Post OfficeOffice, again harkening back to a time well past for most American communities.  Step inside for a glimpse of what was once common but is now rare.

The bike ride to Cascade Lake is a moderate ride uphill for about 3 miles but the scenery and ice cream (and swimming if you want) makes it worth the effort.  The downhill ride back is a lot of fun.

Don’t go to Olga if you want to buy trinkets, T-shirts, caps, groceries or supplies or if you are addicted to island hustle and bustle.  Your cell phone won’t get good reception (or any reception most of the time) and you can’t buy fuel or plug in to shore power.  But if you want to relax, kick back, enjoy a good book and a peaceful walk and some excellent food, then this just might be a place to visit.  We think its great.

ice cream at Moran State Park campground

 

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Our Caribbean Adventure: Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D.

OUR CARIBBEAN ADVENTURE: CHANGING PLANS.

Plan A - Fajardo to St. Martin via Vieques and St. CroixEvery sailor knows that when we go cruising, we don’t really have “plans”. Rather, we have “intentions” that we call plans. Boat repairs, weather, medical conditions, mechanical failures, and a host of other uncontrolled circumstances inevitably alter our firmest intentions.  In February 2015 we started our 3 month Caribbean cruise from Puerto Rico to Grenada with that in mind.

We left Sun Bay Marina in Fajardo in the morning on Feb. 22, 2015 with partly sunny weather and light winds. Our destinations, over the next week, were Vieques, St. Croix, and St. Martin.  Our yacht was ready and we were ready.  We embarked on “Plan A”.

The short term weather forecast was promising but the longer term forecast (out to 7 days) was challenging.  We left on the tail of 2 weeks of heavy rain and squalls, with unsettled weather forecast for the foreseeable future.  (For weather forecasts, the “foreseeable future” is about 12 hours.)  On the day we left Fajardo the northeast winds built to 10 – 15 knots, normally no problem for our 46′ Amel ketch.  Our course south put our beam to the weather until we reached the west end of Vieques.  I hoped for flatter seas as we entered the lee of that island but instead we found stronger winds and bigger waves on our nose as we bent our course due east.  The wind waves and ocean swells from the east built to an unpleasant steep chop in the shallow waters. We remarked how much it was like the Strait of Georgia in Washington State on a bad day with wind against the current, except that instead of short steep 4′ seas we had short steep 6′ seas and occasionally larger swells.

Several squalls brought heavy rain and a few exciting moments.  However, the Esperanza and Sun Bay anchoragesoverall distance along Vieques was not great.  We considered anchoring in a small bay close in to the west shore but decided to press on to our destination, Esperanza.  So we motor sailed into the slop with partly rolled genoa and mainsail and and we arrived at Esperanza at about 4:30 pm. We anchored in 15′ and put out 150′ of chain to hold us in place in the gusty 15 knot winds. Secure for the night with 1′ wind waves and low swells we went to bed early and rolled around among several other boats. We felt lucky that the wind had a northerly component and that the swell was tolerable. If the wind changed to E – SE we would  need either a stern anchor or another location.

Sun Bay beachWe woke early to clearer skies and sun. We took the opportunity to move the short distance to nearby Sun Bay and anchor on the east side of the harbor, the most protected area. It was a very nice day in a beautiful spot, with just two other boats in the big bay and a huge white sand beach backed by low trees, with a short walk to the town and shops. This was a great opportunity to try out our new Highfield aluminum RIB inflatable with the 15hp Yamaha outboard. Wheeee!! We sped over the waves faster than ever before. Mary and our friend Kathleen (our crew for 10 days and the prospective overnight passage to St. Martin) went to town to spend some cash while I slept on the beach. A good start for our 3 month cruise.

My new Motorola smartphone and the VHF brought us updated weather and wind Esperanza shopanalysis but the news was not good. Continued E-NE winds (15 – 20 knots), changing to East in the afternoons, with waves and swells 8′ or more.  Plan A was to sail to St. Croix, spend two nights there, and then make the overnight trip with a full moon to St. Martin, from which Kathleen would fly home.  This meant a 45 nautical mile beat to St. Croix and then an unpleasant longer passage (90+ nautical miles) beating again into the wind to reach St. Martin.  We might even get stuck in St. Croix waiting for a weather window of more moderate winds and seas.  We did not want to be stuck in St. Croix for days on end so we had to make a decision.

Plan A was untenable. Strong winds and high seas from the east would reduce our normal 6.5 knot speed to about 5 knots and the 8′ swells would make it a punishing passage. (One thing I should pass along here. In the tropics, dawn is about 5:40 am and it’s dark by 7:00 pm.  A slow 90 nautical mile passage entails sailing before daybreak or after dusk.)

Here’s a photo of how our plan changed. Instead of going southeast from Plan B - Fajardo to Saint ThomasVieques to St. Croix, we decided to head northeast to St. Thomas, hoping for an easier course slightly off the wind to get to St. Martin.

We switched to Plan B and after two comfortable nights we left Sun Bay at 7:00 am and bounced and bumped along the south shore of Vieques. When we turned N.E. the wind turned also, veering from due East to N.E. and staying directly on our nose. The 8′ + swells broke over the bow and green water flowed across the foredeck until it met our hard dodger and the windshield protecting the center cockpit. We quickly came to love the protected, dry, safe center cockpit. But it was not a pleasant passage. We pushed our way toward St. Thomas, using the engine and partly rolled genoa and mainsail to point as high as we could, making between 4.5 – 5.5 knots over the bottom.  At one point we considered falling off and heading to Culebra (a large island further east) but we decided the 15+ nautical miles remaining to reach St. Thomas was feasible.  By lunch, we were nearly to the island.

We caught the west end of St. Thomas, right at the end of the runway for the international airport.  That put us under the protection of the island and we were able to relax a bit and sail east with just a couple tacks.  We arrived at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas at about 1:30 pm, dropped anchor in the spacious bay, and all of us napped until 4:00 pm. It was a nice anchorage, a bit windy but free of swell and roll. We all got a good night’s rest and enjoyed seeing the lights of the city and the many other cruising sailboats anchored around us. The big 73 lb. Rocna anchor held like a champ in the hard sand bottom.

The next morning, we listened to the NOAA weather reports and predictions. Some sailors say NOAA stands for “Not Often Accurate Analysis” and 30+ years of Pacific N.W.Plan C - Charlotte Amelie to Christmas Cove cruising has taught us to take weather prognostications with a healthy skepticism.  But all the various weather sources agreed on one thing. Winds were going to shift to E. S.E. and maintain the velocity of  15 – 20 knots. So, instead of a sail off the wind to St. Martin, we would still  be beating our way against the weather. Oops.

Time for Plan C.

I calmly told my skeptical crew that I had an alternative (Plan C) in mind, previously devised, pondered, and researched. Mary and Kathleen listened dubiously, but perked up quite nicely when I announced that Plan C would entail a short passage to a nice place called “Christmas Cove” with good protection, free mooring buoys, and excellent snorkeling in the 80+ degree water. “Bring out the bikinis”, I said. “IMG_3201It’s time for some R & R.”

Again, we motor sailed into 20 knot winds and 6′ seas to reach our next destination.  But our arrival at Christmas Cove lowered the stress level a lot and put everyone in a very good mood.  We settled into “Cruising Mode”.  (This being the relaxed state of mind that comes from 80+ degree water for swimming, sun, a white sand beach, a good book, and fun for all.)  We were still in position for the run to St. Martin but with the onset of full scale cruising mode, the time arrived to contemplate “Plan D”.

This entailed a bit more discussion, since Plan D required abandoning the immediate passage to St. Martin, a change in Kathleen’s plane reservations to a flight from St. Thomas (instead of departure from St. Martin) and additional laying around in the tropical sunshine, with swimming, snorkeling, red wine, scrabble, and no pounding or splashing through rough seas. Not surprisingly, my crew signed on to Plan D without argument. Kathleen took care of changing her plane flight.IMG_3252

We stayed two nights nestled comfortably in the lee of the island.  With the  passage to St. Martin now delayed until further notice we headed to  St. John Island and its beautiful Virgin Island National Park bays and anchorages. We all got our fill of extreme relaxation at Francis Bay and then we headed to the village of Red Hook on St. Thomas and the IGY Marina. Kathleen caught her flight from St. Thomas airport and Mary and I proceeded further with Plan D and eventual passage to St. Martin.

We have always followed a simple maxim in our cruising adventures. Stay flexible, never blindly follow a forced schedule, and above all, have fun. Cruising and sailing should not be a struggle session against the forces of nature. Yes, we made it to St. Martin (without any serious trouble or angst) several weeks later but in the meantime we had a couple lovely IMG_3266weeks enjoying our second trip through the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

 

Next installment: Getting to St. Martin.

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Our Caribbean Adventure: Part Two. Finding a Marina

Sun Bay Marina Our Caribbean Adventure: Part 2. Finding a Marina.

Sun Bay Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

 

Starting in December 2015 we docked our boat at Sun Bay Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, after determining that it is probably the best marina in Puerto Rico and also one of the best in all the Caribbean.   But we had to do our research and find a place right for us and Languedoc before we moved to Sun Bay.DSCN5217

This is a subject that will probably sound unusual to folks from the Unites States and particularly to folks from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. “What”, they will ask, “is so difficult about finding a Marina for your boat? Just go online, find a good location, look at the photos, check on the rates, and call to see what space is available”.

Not so fast and easy in the Caribbean.

First, you must consider security. In the Caribbean, theft is rampant and common. Dinghys and engines routinely disappear in the night. It is important to find a marina with 24 hour guards at the entry and 24 hour patrols of the docks.

Second, you must consider cost. Marina rates vary from around $12.00 per foot per month to over $20.00 per foot per month. Many charge large amounts for power. Fuel and water are also expensive at some places, yet others charge nothing for water and include the power in the monthly rate. The price difference can be hundreds of dollars per month.

Sun Bay Marina and condosThird, you must consider location carefully. Some places look good until you realize that there are no stores nearby or that the surrounding neighborhood is dangerous after dark. Public transportation is usually non-existent and riding a taxi to pick up groceries can be expensive. Repair shops and facilities may be unavailable or unreliable.

Finally, you need to consider the marina management. Many places never answer e-mail inquiries even though their websites say “Contact Us”. Calling on the phone can also be difficult because voice mail and answering machines are not always present and phones may go unanswered for hours or days. Additionally, mistakes on your bill are common. (Interestingly, although we found frequent errors we were never undercharged.)

When we arrived in Fajardo, Puerto Rico we first chose to stay at Puerto Del Rey Marina. It is the largest marina in the Caribbean and it is huge. They offer free golf cart transportation from your slip because the walk may be so far and dock carts are scarce. Puerto Del Rey also has land storage with hurricane ties downs and a reliable and fair boatyard. So we choose to stay there for 9 months in 2014. But in November, 2014 we wanted to be in a slip at someplace smaller and less expensive. Dockage for our boat at Puerto Del Rey was quoted to us at almost $1,000 per month.

We did our research and concluded that Sun Bay Marina in Fajardo was the place to be. They advertise as “One ofsun bay office and staff the Best Marinas” but that may be saying too little. While we were asking around we never heard any negative comments.

Sun Bay Marina is newer than most, and was finished in December 2006. It was designed and built by Engineer Jose O Perez Miranda (deceased in 2014) and his widow Olga is still the Manager and Operator. There are 286 slips and diesel fuel is available at the slips on docks B – E. The price is very reasonable (currently $15.00 per foot) with a discount if you are a member of the Seven Seas Cruising Assoc. (SSCA). Olga is also an SSCA member and an SSCA port captain.

The dockage price includes power and water so you won’t get an unexpected charge added to your bill. Plus, there is 24 channel cable TV at each slip and reliable free Wi-Fi.

sun bay rest roomThe facility is clean and tidy, and very well kept. Maintenance and upkeep is constant. The rest rooms are always exceptionally clean.  The showers are free (but the water is only about 85 degrees).  There is a meeting room with tables and chairs which is also available if you have a sewing project or something else that needs more space than a Salon table in your boat.sum bay meeting room

The entrance is gated with a 24 hour guard and there are guards walking the docks all night. Plus, the U.S. Government has Customs and Border Protection offices at Sun Bay and both the CPB and DEA keep their boats in slips. This means there are also armed U.S. officers on patrol. Olga lives in a penthouse condo above the Marina and keeps watch over everything even after hours. Theft and trespassing are not a problem.

If you send an e-mail to Sun Bay Marina, you will get a quick response. If you call the office, it’s likely Olga will answer the phone, and you will always get very friendly and helpful service. If you need to order parts or supplies, Amazon.com will ship for free to Puerto Rico and Sun Bay will receive your orders or pick them up at the Sun Bay P.O. Box, and securely store your packages for you to receive. This is a very valuable service. Items delivered by Amazon or other online sellers may be far cheaper than offered in the local stores.

A large West Marine store is about 10 minutes away by car and there is a “Skippers” marine supply store within walking distance. There are also good restaurants within safe walking distance. The ferries to Culebra and Vieques are also within walking distance but the walk route passes through a less desirable neighborhood so driving is a better idea. A beautiful public swimming beachbeach with good swimming is about a 10 minute drive. If you need a rental car, Thrifty, Alamo, and Enterprise will deliver a rental car to the marina and drive you back after your return of the car to one of the nearby offices.

You will want a rental car if you are going to be staying for very long because Costco, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, various auto parts stores, a good hardware store, and several large supermarkets are a short drive away. The drive to San Juan is about 40 minutes and along the way there are other big box stores like Home Depot.

Fajardo and Sun Bay MarinaFajardo is a great spot to start a Caribbean cruise and in February, 2015 that is what we will do. Until then, we know our boat is safe and secure and before we leave we will be able to provision our boat with everything we need for several months, at reasonable prices.

Coming Next: Our big Caribbean cruise down the chain of Islands.

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Our Caribbean Adventure: Part One.

Our Caribbean Adventure: Part One.

In 2012 we decided to sell our 37′ Gozzard Cutter (Ravenclaw) and buy a larger boat in a warmer locale. After much research and consideration we settled on a French built ketch, an Amel. We decided on the 46′ Amel Maramu model built in the 1980’s.

We searched for an acceptable Maramu while waiting for the right buyer for our Gozzard. We hoped to find an Amel in Mexico or Central America but we found the right boat for sale in the British Virgin Islands, on the island of Tortola. With the help of a broker in California we determined that the boat (Languedoc) was an excellent candidate for us. We flew to Tortola for a detailed inspection, survey and sea trial.

Thus began our Caribbean Adventure.

I will keep this short. The boat was near perfect. New engine, new electronics, new rigging, refurbished genset, etc., and a very conscientious owner who was also a marine mechanic and electrician. She had some cosmetic blemishes but Languedoc was fully ready for extended blue water cruising. The Seller was not able to follow through on his plans. His loss, our gain.

The Survey came though with no only minor suggestions for changes. The sea trial went great. We closed on the purchase a few weeks later.

We quickly learned the Caribbean is a very expensive place. The summer storage on land at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola was three times the cost of our 44′ foot slip in Semiahmoo, Washington. Parts and labor are usually double the cost we were used to. Plus, we discovered the reality of “3rd World Service, 1st World Prices”.

We were warned not to have any unsupervised boat work done so we hired a “manager” recommended by the Tortola broker. We needed minor work. (A little repair to remove some rust along the keel to hull joint and new bottom paint.) But after delaying the work for 2 months the manager and boat yard got it done just one day before our scheduled launch in November. They did such a poor job that large patches of rust appeared on the iron keel just days after launch. It turned out that the contractor removed the epoxy coating from the iron keel, let it sit exposed to the salt air keel-port sideover night, and then painted on one coat of rust preventive paint, immediately followed by Micron 66. All in all, a terrible job. Fortunately, we had not yet paid for the work when we discovered the problems. After much frustration and angst we decided to do our cruising and then figure out how to fix the problem afterwards.

We enjoyed 4 weeks of hanging out and cruising in the Virgin Islands. We hit the highlights of the BVI’s, and St. John and St. Thomas. We swam, snorkeled, ate meals at restaurants on the beaches, shopped for tourist souvenirs, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Our new boat turned out to be far more complicated than I knew and much of my time the first few days was spent figuring out the computer controlled electronics, the genset, the wind generator, the single sideband radio, and other features new to us. Finally, black point parkafter much trial and error I relaxed into a mindset consisting of resignation and new understanding. Some things I figured out, and other things I simply left for later.

We discovered that staying in most marinas in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands is prohibitively expensive (often around $130.00 per night) so we usually stayed at public buoys or anchored. The buoys usually cost $30.00 per night. Some were free. The bays, harbors, and parks (especially St. John) were wonderful. The normal Virgin Island crowds were non-existent in November and December. It was warm all the time.

We decided to go to Puerto Rico and so we headed west. Once we arrived at Culebra, Puerto Rico, we anchored in the large, semi-protected harbor and began to enjoy that delightful island. But we were pressed to get on to Fajardo, Puerto Rico so we ended up leaving one day before we wanted to. We broke a long established rule (NEVER SAIL ON A SCHEDULE) and ended up in the remains of a 4 day storm. The 25 miles to Fajardo were nasty. When we left, it was too rough and windy in the anchorage to muscle our 190 pound dinghy onto the foredeck so we towed it with a securely attached bridle. But the 10′-12′ seas eventually ripped it free and it was lost at sea. We made it to Puerto Del Rey Marina and got safely tied to the dock in a secure slip. We selected that Marina because the boatyard there came highly recommended to re-do the bottom work and fix the mess left over from Nanny Cay. That turned out to be true and the work done by Island Marine, Inc. was excellent. Curt & I in Puerto Rico, last day Dec 2013In late December we flew home with Languedoc safely stored out of the water in the huge land storage area.

In the meantime, life intervened so it was spring before we could return. We went to Puerto Rico in May, 2014 to supervise the hull repair work, to do various repairs and improvements ourselves, and to put Languedoc into hurricane storage for 2014. We combined a vacation in Puerto Rico with work on our boat. As it turned out, at Island Marine there was no need for me to supervise every detail (as I should have done on Tortola). The boat yard owner carefully oversaw all the work and it was done right this time. We had a nice vacation, toured the Island of Puerto Rico and secured Languedoc for the summer.

Preparing a sailboat for hurricane storage is another unique aspect of Caribbean cruising. Many people leave their boats in the water, using chains and heavy lines to tie to sturdy dock cleats on concrete docks, while paying exorbitant insurance premiums and praying for no “Named Storms”. We choose to pay the price of haul and launch for cheaper rates on land storage (half the price of Tortola) and less expensive insurance. Of course, land storage prevents any summer use of your boat but since we live in Washington State day trips and weekend cruises are impossible for us so land storage is acceptable.

Hurricane preparation involves removing anything that might break loose or tear loose from the topside of your boat. This means all sails come off, all halyards are double secured, all canvas is removed, etc. It takes a couple days. Some owners opt to have masts removed as well. The boats are stored tightly packed together, with large, heavy duty nylon straps winched to steel pipe embedded in concrete on the ground. Boat owners are responsible for all the storage prep and strapping to the ground. A properly secured boat is safe for category 1, category 2, and maybe category 3 hurricanes but anything over that and its going to be a mess. At Puerto Del Rey, the hurricane storage area is well ashore, behind a large mangrove swamp. Storm surge is not much of a risk so high winds are the major consideration.

We strapped Languedoc with 4 big straps port and starboard. I tied down for summerdisconnected all the batteries, shut down all the systems, drained all the water, locked all the hatches, tied and double tied anything that could blow around (like the main boom and the mizzen boom) and hoped for the best. Then, I arranged for some additional work by Island Marine during the summer so that someone would periodically be onboard and could notice if anything needed attention. Some owners hire someone to come aboard weekly and personally inspect inside and out but we chose not to do that based upon our unsatisfactory experience with our “manager” on Tortola and the advice of other cruisers who told us it was not necessary. Security is good at Puerto Del Rey, with continuous patrols day and night and a helpful staff in the Land Storage office.

Languedoc survived the summer with no problems except for two small kittens who move aboard in the fall (staying in our cockpit under the hard dodger). Nothing leaked and upon our return in November, 2013 there were no problems (except for some bones from birds the kittens ate). Not even any mold or mildew below. Our new dinghy davits were expertly installed by Island Marine personnel and Languedoc was sitting happily and safely. We came back to Fajardo to launch Languedoc and really get to know our boat, top to bottom, and to fix the cosmetic problems I mentioned above.

Coming Next: Finding a safe, secure, and affordable marina for Languedoc.

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Meeting Nice Folks at Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island

Spencer Spit State Park aerial photoOne of the joys of cruising is meeting new people at the places we love to visit.

This year during our annual San Juan Islands cruise we spent our final night at Spencer Spit State Park.  This Park is one of our perennial favorites.  We have been visiting and staying here for over 30 years (not counting my childhood years).  During the late 70’s Mary and I drove our little Datsun down to the beach campsites (that was still permitted back then, before the park was expanded).  We car camped right by the beach.  Now, we anchor out or tie to a buoy and come ashore in the dinghy.dinghy with Mary & TJ

But it doesn’t matter how you get to Spencer Spit, its still a great place.  There’s a huge sandy beach, trails in the woods, and great crabbing (usually early in the season).  Plus, Spencer Spit is a great spot for cruisers with pets like T.J. our dog and every time we visit we meet nice people.  It’s amazing how often your dog will create the perfect opportunity to meet other cruisers and campers.

This year was no exception.  In the morning we were walking the beach and our dog T.J. was walking in the water looking for fish (his new favorite pass time) when he got a bit far away.  I called him back and of course, he came running.  I noticed a women kneel down in the sand as she took his picture sprinting toward me.  Then she came over, showed us the photo on her digital camera, and offered to e-mail it to me.  Her name is Cindy Coker and she and her husband Tom were biking on Lopez Island with their two dogs in tow in little trailers behind their bikes.  Very Cool!

Here’s the photo we received. TJ running on Spencer Spit beach 2014 If it looks professional, that’s because it is.  Cindy Coker has a website and a business taking animal and pet photos and she creates custom portfolios.  Here’s the link.  http://www.cindycokerphotography.com/  Check it out.  She has many beautiful animal shots.

We got a chance to talk about our dogs with Cindy and Tom there on the beach at Spencer Spit and share a few stories and sure enough, a week later the great picture of T.J. arrived in my e-mail.

Aug Sept Ander's boat trip 2007 044

 

All of us who travel around the Pacific N.W. on our boats know about the great people we meet and get to know.  This is just one more example and the gift we received at Spencer Spit really made our day.  (Of course, we kind of think our dog TJ is sort of special but what else is new?)

 

 

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Family Friendly Stuart Island

Stuart Island Marine Park is another of our favorites in the San Juan Islands. The park encompasses two excellent harbors (Reid Harbor to the south and Prevost Harbor to the north) and 85 acres of land between the harbors. There are numerous buoys in each harbor and room to anchor. Each harbor has a dock for small boats and for landing your dinghy.

Stuart Island with labels

Stuart Island satisfies all five of our “family friendly” criteria.

1. Not accessible by ferries, shuttles, or cars.
2. Easily and safely reached in a small boat.
3. Safe for anchoring or for tying to a buoy or dock.
4. Multiple opportunities for fun activities for everyone.
5. Preserves the natural setting while making it possible for thousands of people  to   enjoy the natural beauty.

 

Stuart Island is located north of San Juan Island at the north end of Haro Strait. The weather is typical for the San Juan Islands, with prevailing summer winds from the N.W.. The most popular times to visit are July and August. Before Memorial Day and after Labor Day the crowds drop off and in May and September there will be empty buoys and room at the docks, Reid Harbor dockespecially on week-days. Entry and exit into the harbors is easy but there are charted reefs and rocks near each entry so take care and watch your location. (Do not enter or exit Prevost Harbor at the east end.)

There are numerous activities for families. Crabbing is good in both harbors and there’s good clamming in Reid Harbor when the season is open. The harbors are perfect for kayaking and on warm summer days the kids can go swimming. (It’s best at high tide after the water has come up over the warm gravel.)stuart island with Turn Point The trails are great and the walk to Turn Point sometimes ends up being the high point of a San Juan Islands trip. (We have spent hours watching Orca pods swim by in the Haro Strait currents on their way to Goergia Strait and Point Roberts.)

Between Prevost Harbor and Reid Harbor there are campsites, fresh water spigots, and composting toilets in outhouses. The loop trails around the campsites have nice views of each harbor. One trail goes west through the woods and intersects with the road at the schoolhouse. It is a shortcut to the Turn Point turn point lighthouseLighthouse that eliminates walking down the stairs to the Reid Harbor beach and then back up the hill on the county.

Reid Harbor is larger than Prevost Harbor and has several small floating docks detached from the shore. However, the floats may not be suitable for deep draft vessels at low tide. There is a floating pump out station in the harbor. Reid Harbor also has a large public beach with good clamming when the season is open. There is a campground next to the beach and a county road ends at the beach and leads to the small schoolhouse, the cemetery, and all the way to the Turn Point Lighthouse. Its a very nice walk.

Prevost Harbor is very scenic with fewer buoys and less protected anchoring. The current runs though the harbor and can view of entry to Prevost Harborcause anchored boats to swing erratically. There is a county dock at the west end of the harbor. The county road that runs from there to Turn Point. (The walk to Turn Point is considerably shorter if you land your dinghy on the shore near the county dock.) There are nice campsites in the woods that overlook Prevost Harbor.

Stuart Island Marine Park is a Washington State Park and is well maintained and Reid harbor Trailan excellent place for families.

 

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Family Friendly Sucia Island State Park

Every year thousands of people go to one of the most beautiful places on earth, the San Juan Islands. Some are chartering a boat for the first time. Others are world travelers returning from the South Pacific. They come to visit the crown jewels of the Pacific Northwest, the marine parks that encompass entire islands Some seek challenging passages or secluded anchorages and others are looking for a one or two week family adventure with fun for everyone.

This article is the first in a series to discuss our favorite family friendly places in the San Juan Islands. These are places that are not accessible by ferries, shuttles, or cars. There are places set aside for recreational boaters, easily reached in a small boat, safe for anchoring or tying to a buoy or dock, and full of fun activities for everyone. Many now have bigger docks, more campsites, fancier tables, new composting toilets, and modern log shelters. But they have retained the rustic, magical ambiance that allows families to create memories for a lifetime. Here you will find nature at its finest, with sea creatures, wildlife on shore, and lots of fun for everyone, young and old.

Sucia IslandsSucia Island State park is my favorite family friendly marine park.. It’s north of Orcas Island at the southern end of Georgia Strait. Access is by boat only, about 16 NM from Blaine, about 20 NM from Bellingham, 22 NM from Anacortes, and 16 NM from Friday Harbor. Its also a short distance from three other islands that are State Parks, Patos Island, Matia Island, and Clark Island. To visit Sucia there are tides, currents, and moderate winds to consider but it is a safe and short trip to a wonderful place.
If you are leaving from Blaine you must consider winds and currents in Georgia Strait. From Bellingham you may encounter rough water at the north end of Rosario Strait and from Anacortes you will encounter currents in Rosario Strait along with winds from the north or south. From Friday Harbor, the main concern will be currents in San Juan Channel and Presidents Channel then a short patch of possible rough water at the north end of Presidents Channel. During the summer months the weather is mostly benign and predicable. But before you go listen to the weather reports on VHF radio and the local AM and FM radio channels. Study your nautical chart, check the tides and plan your route to accommodate the currents. The rough conditions will be worst when winds blow against the currents, causing short, steep waves. But even when that happens the distances are short and planning is easy.

The best time to visit is July or August when the weather is usually warm and the chance of rainy days is minimal. It will be a bit less crowded in June and September but mid-summer is the best time of the year for Pacific NW boating.

Sucia Island State Park has multiple sheltered bays and coves. You can pay by the night to use a dock or a buoy or buy an annual park pass before you leave. http://www.parks.wa.gov/boating/moorage/?subject=permit. If you arrive between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm you are almost assured of finding a vacant buoy.

Fossil Bay and Fox Cove CampgoundsFossil Bay has buoys, two docks, and space to anchor. Fox Cove and Ewing Cove have only a few buoys and are not suitable for anchoring due to strong currents. Shallow Bay has buoys and room to anchor. Use caution to avoid the shallow areas. Echo Bay has numerous buoys, a linear moorage system (heavy ropes strung between permanent buoys), and ample anchorage area. Fossil Bay, Fox Cove, Shallow Bay, and Echo Bay all have very nice campsites with composting toilets in clean outhouses.

Sucia Island is place with lots of things to do and room to roam. Plan to stay for at least three nights. Bring your flashlights for evening walks in the forest, your binoculars for watching eagles soar overhead, a good cooler and a gas stove or bar-b-que for picnics or dinners onshore on or on the dock. Bring an attitude to relax, slow down, kick back, or run wild. Leave your “smart” phone behind or turn it off. (The cell service is poor a.) Don’t bring a TV or computer. You don’t need it.

The docks in Fossil Bay have picnic tables for family meals or gatherings. There are numerous campsites with more tables, room for multiple tents, fire pits, and water spigots. (Some may be turned off during dry summers.) The campsites are perfect for kids to set up tents for sleeping ashore and enjoying some time away from the adults. There are Park Rangers to answer your questions and help in emergencies.

Fossil Bay dock

Snoring Bay, Shallow Bay, and Ewing Cove have pebble beaches that yield agates to diligent seekers. The bluffs on the south facing beaches near Fossil Bay are littered with tiny fossils and the reefs exposed at minus tides are wonderful places to explore the tide pools. Bring a book that identifies marina life so the kids can have a miniature biology lesson. You just might start a child on a lifetime career as a marine biologist or fisheries expert. Expect to see multi-colored starfish, baby fish, small crabs, sea urchins, mussels, huge barnacles, sea cucumbers, and other assorted marine life in the tide-pools. Watch for harbor seals as they float offshore. If you see a baby seal on the beach, don’t worry and don’t approach. Mama just left him there for the day while she hunts for fish. Trust me, she will return. Marine mammals are very diligent parents.

There are numerous trails for walking and small forest roads used by the Park Rangers that are great for bikes. The loop trail along the north side has great views of Georgia Strait, the Gulf Islands and the ocean freighters headed north to Vancouver or South-west to the Pacific Ocean. If you look up you will likely see bald eagles high in the trees looking for fish or other prey. There is a nice trail all the way to Ewing Cove, the site of Native American camps from days long past. We have found ancient arrow heads on the beach there. If you find one you must leave it but the fun of finding an old arrow head from the distant past surpasses the urge to take it home.

Early in crabbing season the waters of Fossil Bay and Echo Bay yield tasty dungeness crabs. Fishing is good (when the season is open) along the north side of the Island inside Clements reef. When the weather is calm if you have a good sized dinghy with a reliable engine a trip to Patos Island is a real treat. Patos Island has an old (restored) lighthouse very nice trails, and great beachcombing. , You can also go to Matia Island, tie to the dock or land on the beach and walk the nature trail through the old growth forest. Little Sucia Island adjacent to Fox Cove is a very short distance and you can explore the exposed reef and tide pools on its west side.

Kid in a tree on Sucia IslandThe rocky hillsides above the beaches in Shallow Bay are great for kids to climb (carefully). There is just enough danger to make it interesting. (Be sure you have a good first aid kit to treat the scrapes and bruises that may result.) During the summer months it’s also a good idea to have some insect repellant to ward off the mosquitoes in the evenings, especially on the beaches at Shallow Bay. (If you get bit, find a dried fern with the brown seed spots on the underside of the fronds. Rub a bit of the brown seed on the bite with a drop of water and the itch will stop.)

On hot days the water in Fossil Bay, Fox Cove, Shallow Bay, and Echo Bay will be refreshingly brisk but warm enough for brave swimmers. It’s not the tropics but on a hot day when the incoming tide covers the warm rocks swimming is an option. Bring along an air mattress or an inner tube so the kids can paddle around. Let them launch a log big enough to ride and paddle but be sure to drag it back up the beach when they finish so it does not become a hazard to boats.Mushroom rock in Fox Cove

In Echo Bay expect to see harbor seals floating placidly and slapping their tails on the surface after dusk. If you have a kayak or dinghy with oars take a tour of the rocks along the north side of Echo Bay and keep a sharp eye out for sea otters poking around in the tiny coves. Canadian geese will beg for handouts. If you feed them many more will come. But don’t feed the sea gulls unless you fancy cleaning up the deck of your boat the next morning.

In the summer when the sky is clear the sunset views from Shallow Bay (and Matia Island) are spectacular. Sit on the beach or on a bench above the bay and watch the sun disappear over the horizon. You won’t be disappointed.

There is a reason why people who started visiting Sucia Island 50 years ago still return each summer. If you schedule three or more days for a visit you will discover why. But be sure to bring your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Its that kind of place.

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Boating and alcohol update.

Operation Dry Water.

Washington State law enforcement agencies will participate in “Operation Dry Water” on June 27 – June 29th.

Marine patrols will contact boaters and warn operators about the legal consequences of boating under the influence (BUI). Contacts may also include equipment and safety inspections. In 2013, “Operation Dry Water” resulted in 3,908 boater contacts. According to Washington State Parks there were 1,364 boating safety warnings, 6 BUI citations and 219 citations for other violations.

Boating Under the Influence is a serious crime with serious consequences.  Violation of the BUI law is a gross misdemeanor in the State of Washington.   The maximum time in jail is 90 days and the maximum fine is $1000 dollars. RCW 9.92.030.  But if the arrest is made by the United States Coast Guard a larger fine can be imposed for violations depending on the circumstances. Additionally, a vessel operator under the influence of drugs or alcohol that causes death or serious injury can face a Class B and Class A felony. RCW 79A.60.050 and RCW 79A.60.060.

In addition to the legal penalties boaters should be aware of long range consequences. Insurance costs for your boat, and your car, may increase as a result of a BUI citation. Additionally, because a BUI is a criminal infraction, travel to your favorite cruising grounds in Canada (the Gulf Islands, the Sunshinc Coast, Desolation Sound, the Broughton Islands, Barkley Sound) may all be off limits. Canada routinely prohibits entry to persons with alcohol driving infractions.  It is not clear yet how Canadian authorities may handle BUI infractions since the Washington BUI penalties are different from DUI but you must consider this potential consequence.

Visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/inadmissibility/who.asp for more information about inadmissability to Canada resulting from DUI convictions.

It is very important to understand that the definition of a “vessel” under the Washington BUI law is very broad.  Despite what you might think or what you might have been told,  “Both the state law and federal BUI regulations apply to all vessels, regardless of how small or however powered. In other words, the laws apply even to canoes, row boats and small inflatable boats.”  http://www.nwmaritimelaw.com/2011/07/washington-state-boating-under-the-influence-bui-laws/

 

 

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Washington State BUI Statute

Washington State’s New “Drunk Boating” Statute is Now in Effect.  Big Changes are Now if Effect.

 

 The Washington Legislature enacted new boating safety laws in 2013.  Included in the enactment are amendments to RCW 79A.60 (Regulation of Recreational Vessels) The new amendments place new restrictions and penalties governing alcohol consumption while operating a vessel.  The new law went into effect on July 28, 2013.

 

A vessel is defined as, follows: “Vessel” includes every description of watercraft on the water, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. However, it does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

 

 A “vessel” includes your dinghy, kayak, rowboat, canoe, etc.  Rowing in your dinghy back to your boat at anchor or at a buoy after a few drinks with friends at the dock or at a bar is governed by the new law.

 

 It is now categorically “unlawful to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or and drug”. 

 

 A person is considered to be under the influence if within 2 hours of operating a vessel a “person has an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506”.   

 

That is the same blood alcohol level that constitutes drunk driving in Washington.  But as with drunk driving, you can be found guilty even if your blood alcohol level is less than .08, if you are “under the influence or affected by intoxicating alcohol…”

 

This is an important distinction.  Your ability to operate a vessel may be “affected” after just one or two cans of beer or glasses of wine.

 

 The following charts show approximations for how much alcohol you can drink before reaching the prohibited .08 level.  THESE ARE ONLY APPROXIMATE NUMBERS.  Every person metabolizes alcohol a bit differently and other factors (such as an empty stomach) can have a substantial effect.

 

 

Men

Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe Driving Limit

1

.04

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

.02

.02

Impairment Begins

2

.08

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

.03

.03

Driving Skills Affected

Possible Criminal Penalties

3

.11

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

.05

.05

4

.15

.12

.11

.09

.08

.08

.07

.06

5

.19

.16

.13

.12

.11

.09

.09

.08

6

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

7

.26

.22

.19

.16

.15

.13

.12

.11

Legally Intoxicated

8

.30

.25

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

.13

9

.34

.28

.24

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

Criminal Penalties

10

.38

.31

.27

.23

.21

.19

.17

.16

Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.

 

 

Women

Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

90

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe Driving Limit

1

.05

.05

.04

.03

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

Impairment Begins

2

.10

.09

.08

.07

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

Driving Skills Affected

Possible Criminal Penalties

3

.15

.14

.11

.10

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

4

.20

.18

.15

.13

.11

.10

.09

.08

.08

5

.25

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

6

.30

.27

.23

.19

.17

.15

.14

.12

.11

7

.35

.32

.27

.23

.20

.18

.16

.14

.13

Legally Intoxicated

8

.40

.36

.30

.26

.23

.20

.18

.17

.15

9

.45

.41

.34

.29

.26

.23

.20

.19

.17

Criminal Penalties

10

.51

.45

.38

.32

.28

.25

.23

.21

.19

Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.

 

 Although the above charts are approximate values only it is important to realize that impairment begins at very low blood alcohol levels.

 

 The new law also creates “implied consent” to a breath test or blood test.  “Any person wo operates a vessel within this State is deemed ot have given consent…to a test or tests of the person’s breath or blood”  to determine alcohol (or THC from marijuana) content.  Field sobriety tests may also be used to establish whether a person is under the influence.  Refusal to submit to the breath test or blood test will result in a citation for a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120.  The specified penalty is a fine up to $1,000.00.   However RCW 3.62.090 (the public safety and education assessment) adds 105 percent to the penalty, so the total fine could be up to $2,050.

 

 Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or any drug is a gross misdemeanor.  If you are found guilty, the maximum penalty is up to a $5,000 fine and/or 364 days in jail.

 

 However, the fine and jail sentence is not the end of the story.  Your insurance cost for your boat your will be dramatically affected.  You will have more difficulty getting insurance.  Your auto insurance costs may also be affected.   Additionally, your permission to travel to other countries (particularly Canada) may be revoked.  It is common for British Columbia to refuse travel into Canada to persons convicted of driving under the influence.  It remains to be seen whether the same restriction will apply to persons convicted of boating under the influence.  If so, it will mean being cut off from enjoying some of the best cruising destinations in the world.

 

 Think about that for a minute.

 

 Although the new restrictions have been well reported in newspapers and on-line, it appears the full implications of the new law have not fully set in.  It is still legal to consume alcohol while operating a vessel (unlike an automobile) but if you drink just a little too much and get caught the consequences may be severe.  Many, many people routinely have a drink, or two, or three, or four in the afternoon while relaxing ashore, or while at anchor, or after dinner, before returning to the launch ramp or marina.  But under this new law, doing so in view of a Park Ranger or any other person with law enforcement authority, or even another nearby boater, will put you at risk of substantial penalties, including time in jail.

 

You should expect to see attorney advertising in your favorite boating magazine in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Barber: Lagoon Cove Marina, British Columbia.

A friend to all cruisers passes on.

Most all of us who have visited the Broughton Island Archipelago stayed at Lagoon Cove Marina and enjoyed the company of Bill Barber and Jean Barber.  They went the extra mile to provide a safe, fun, and helpful place for cruising boats to stay and enjoy.  We stopped there many times, sometimes twice in one trip.  It’s that kind of spot.

On April 6, 2013 Bill passed away.  He will be missed greatly.

The last time we stopped at Lagoon Cove it was on a rainy day in June, 2011.  We radioed ahead on the VHF and got    confirmation for an available space.  It was our first stop after arriving via Johnstone Strait and Cracroft Channel.  We had not been to Lagoon Cove for three years. 

We arrived at the dock and sure enough, there was Bill standing ready to grab our stern line.  I motored carefully alongside and Mary tossed him the line and stepped off to secure the bow.  I shut down the engine and jumped to the dock.  Bill handed me the line, looked me in the eye and said, “Good to see you Curt, how have you been?  Thanks for stopping by.”  It was as if we had been there just the day before.  Either he remembered our boat and our names from our past visits (among the hundreds of boats that come by each year) or he took the time to look us up after we called in by VHF.  Either way, that simple gesture immediately made us feel welcome and at home.   

That’s the Bill we all knew.

We stayed two nights, catching up on Bill’s bear stories and eating the free prawns he provided at the evening pot luck dinners.  All the cruisers brought their favorite dishes. We ate like kings and enjoyed the warmth of the big shop that gave us respite from the cold drizzle.

 We left Lagoon Cove and stopped at Potts Lagoon for one night then we carefully transited Beware Passage to Crease Island.  The wind came up from the unprotected east and we rocked and bounced the night away on our big anchor with lots of scope.

The next morning we woke to the sun peaking through the clouds and a hint of warmth in the air.  Without thinking about it I suggested we return to Lagoon Cove to relax among friends for another night.  It just seemed like the right thing to do and it surely was.  The sun came out that day and we got the opportunity to enjoy Bill’s company one last time.  We left the next day with a happy shout of “See you again, Bill” and off we went to enjoy four weeks in the Broughtons.

Sadly, we will not get to see Bill again.   But I have him firmly pictured in my mind as he waved us goodbye from an all time favorite place.

Lagoon Cove will continue the tradition of great service and a happy atmosphere under the management of Pat Kukuruz and Bob Ness, two of the friendliest people at any marina anywhere.  Be sure to stop by on your way to or from a trip north.

Lagoon Cove Marina is a special place and always will be. Bill will no longer be there in person but he will surely be there in spirit.  Just look closely to the end of the dock to see his big smile as he waves goodbye when you leave.

God bless you Bill.  Fair winds.

For those of you who have never visted Lagoon Cove Marina, click here for more information:  http://lagooncovemarina.com/

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