Jill and Henry Warner departed Bainbridge Island about 8:00 PM on Friday, August 2 under misty skies. We had originally planned on leaving Saturday morning, but the tide was not favorable for rowing out to our mooring buoy until late in the morning, so we opted to leave Friday evening instead. Friday was the first day of rain in the Seattle area in over 31 days, as no measurable rainfall was recorded at Sea-Tac airport during the entire month of July. It rained most of the day and I think many locals were glad to see some rain, as the vegetation was getting dried out and and several wildfires were burning in the area. We spent a pleasant evening in Brownsville, fueled up, then headed north towards Oak Harbor, WA Saturday morning.
The skies began to clear shortly after our departure from Brownsville and by the time we arrived at Oak Harbor, it was a cloudless, blue-sky afternoon. Oak Harbor is on Whidbey Island and is located near the northern end of the island. We approached Oak Harbor via the Saratoga Passage, which in theory provides a calmer route to the San Juan Islands from the Seattle area, as the waters of the Saratoga Passage are protected by Camano Island on the East and Whidbey Island on the west. Sure enough, we encountered relatively tranquil waters for most of the trip. We have learned that it is quite nice to arrive at a mooring and receive a helping hand from people already on the dock. This is particularly true in high wind conditions, where docking can be tricky, especially if the boat is being blown broadside. Despite the fact that the Oak Harbor marina was relatively full when we arrived, there was no one in the immediate vicinity of our berth to throw a line to. As such, I maneuvered the boat to within several feet of the dock against a stiff, broadside wind and I was just getting ready to back up for a second try when Liz decided to jump for the dock. The distance to the dock was greater than a comfortable jump would allow and Liz landed somewhat hard in a spread-eagle position. With this valiant effort on her part, the boat landing was completed in a single attempt. A re-enactment of Liz’s jump and final repose on the dock was conducted for photographic purposes shown here.
We awoke Sunday, August 4 to light fog and low overcast. By the time we ate, fueled and got underway, the fog was gone and the skies were clearing. We motored from Oak Harbor through Deception Pass against an incoming tide. We had hoped to arrive at Deception Pass near the slack current time, but instead arrived early before the tide had changed. Our nominal cruising speed of about 8.0 GPS miles-per-hour dropped to around 4.0 GPS miles-per-hour as we crossed under the Deception Pass bridge and even as I increased the engine RPMs from the nominal cruising level of 2,500 to around 4,000. Even so, we got moved around quite a bit by the oncoming tidal current. We were never in danger of not making it or getting dashed on the rocks, but the force and fury of the tidal current were easy to appreciate.
We arrived in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island under warm, clear-blue skies and settled easily into our G-9 berth, conveniently close to the Port’s dockside service hut. The water was inviting, so one of my first actions was to go for an exploratory tour of the marina by kayak. As it was Happy Hour time, I made sure I was properly equipped for the tour with a couple of Miller Genuine Drafts. And of course, also wearing a Personal Flotation Device.
We have been to Friday Harbor several times in the past, but only once before by boat. I first came to Friday Harbor in a boat in 1996. Lindsay was nine and Christina was seven. We had a brand new 22 foot Four Winns that we took from Seattle to Roche Harbor, then Friday Harbor. I have pictures of the girls catching shrimp with nets from the Friday Harbor dock at night. Sure enough, we saw children still doing the same on this trip, seventeen years later.
When Jill and I first started dating in 2003, one of our first dates was a Saturday afternoon flight to Friday Harbor. I am a licensed pilot and I thought it would be an unusual and impressive date to take my new girl friend on a scenic flight over Puget Sound. Jill is quite adventuresome and it was easy to convince her to go on the flight, although I don’t think she had ever flown in a small plane before. As she settled into the passenger seat, I explained to her that her number one job was to watch out for other aircraft. “What!!??” She exclaimed! “Isn’t someone else doing that for us?” I think she had the impression that this was going to be like a commercial flight where she could recline her seat, read a book and sip some wine. Hah! She soon found out that flying a Cessna 172 under Visual Flight Rules was an active undertaking. We landed at the Friday Harbor airport, which is just a short walk to the downtown marina area. We then had lunch at Downriggers Restaurant on the outside patio. Jill finally got her glass of wine, but since I was piloting us back to Renton that afternoon, there was no drinking for me.
We had spectacular weather the entire week with lots of sunshine and blue sky. On Monday and Tuesday afternoon, I rode my bicycle from Friday Harbor to Roche Harbor. The first ride I took the route out of town along Beaverton Valley Road and West Valley Road. This route takes one past English Camp, which is where a garrison of British soldiers were stationed between 1859 and 1872 while the boundary between the United States and Canada was being negotiated. There was a corresponding American Camp at the south end of the island during the same period. Both camps came about as a result of a dispute between the US and Great Britain over the ownership of the San Juan Islands. While no hostilities ever erupted, the occupation period is referred to as the “Pig War” in that the sole casualty of the disputed islands was a British pig shot by an American.
The next day I rode to Roche Harbor and back via the Roche Harbor Road route. This route is a bit shorter at 9.7 miles (one way) versus 11.3 miles for the Beaverton Valley route and it is also a bit less hilly. This route takes the rider past the San Juan Vineyards winery, with its distinctive chapel alongside the road. I did not stop for any wine, though. We are former members of the wine club, having dropped our membership several years ago. This route to Roche Harbor is a very pleasant ride, with many open fields, forests and several lakes along the route. The road even had a decently wide paved shoulder to ride on so that I did not feel like I was in danger of getting run over by every passing car. I am always thankful for the drivers that swerve wide around a biker or who slow down when passing a bicyclist. On the flip side, I wonder what goes through a driver’s mind (if anything) when he or she speeds past a bicyclist when (sometimes within inches of the rider) there is no shoulder or when getting squeezed by an oncoming car. I think it should be a requirement for every driver to have to ride a bicycle in traffic as part of the driver licensing process in order to make everyone aware of how vulnerable a bicycle rider is and feels when a non-thinking driver speeds by.
Roche Harbor is a lovely setting with a resort, small airfield, nice marina, recreational activities, shops and an inn. I had actually flown to the Roche Harbor airfield several years ago in a Cessna 172. The runway is a bit unusual in that it is not level. So it is great for landings when landing uphill, but not so good for taking off downhill! I bought a sweatshirt and some other items at the gift store. Since I did not have a bicycle carrier/rack or a backpack, I carried my newly purchased items back to Friday Harbor by stuffing the plastic bag under my jersey. I looked like a pregnant rider, but I managed the ride back without any issues.
Joan arrived on Thursday via a Kenmore Air float plane. So at this point we had four on the boat, plus Brillo and Winslow. Joan and Liz took the dinghy out several times to set and check the crab pots. They managed to catch and keep four legal-size male dungeness crabs – one for each of us. On Friday, King’s Market in Friday Harbor flew in a shipment of Maine lobster, so we treated ourselves to a lobster apiece. We closed out the delightful week in Friday Harbor by doing a little mid-afternoon kayaking, then sitting on the boat enjoying Happy Hour. For dinner, we fired up the propane cook top on the boat and we had a lobster and crab feast. After dinner we decided to watch a movie. Since no one but Henry wanted to watch “Captain Ron”, we settled on “Good Will Hunting”. We all commented about how young Matt Damon looked.
On Saturday morning Jill and Henry Warner said goodbye to Friday Harbor and motored to Port Townsend. It was cloudy when we departed, but beautiful sunny skies by the time we arrived. We got into Port Townsend early enough for me to ride my bike to Port Hadlock and back while Jill and Liz cruised the town for shopping bargains. Sunday morning we headed back to Bainbridge with our customary stop in Brownsville to refuel, re-water and pump-out. We arrived home about 4:00 PM, just in time to for a favorable tide to row from the mooring buoy to shore. And thus ended another wonderful trip cruising Puget Sound in the summer!