Monday, September 30, 2013


Thunderstorms are rare in the Pacific Northwest and Tribune Bay has a way of letting us know when we've worn out our welcome. Last time we stayed at Tribune we were chased out early in the morning by a 40 knot wind howling up the Strait of Georgia, with crazy waves to match. This year we had a lovely visit as we hiked and explored the beach
through drifting fog. On our planned day of departure we awoke to super thick fog with very low visibility, maybe 10-15 feet. It's an odd feeling to look into the distance and have no idea if you're faced towards the shore or out to sea. I had a funny feeling all morning that we should be leaving but reasoned we should wait for the fog to lighten. Oddly, later on, I learned that Jason had a similar feeling. At noon the engine was on, Jason was at helm, and I was emerging from the boat to raise the anchor. A wide-eyed Jason looked at me and said, "We need to leave. Now." Hearing the urgency in his voice motivated me to raise all 200 feet of anchor with my one arm without a rest. A short distance out of the bay I heard thunder in the distance and realized the reason for the rush. There are a lot of things that scare me about sailing but this struck terror into both of our hearts. In all the other situations my rational brain knows that the boat can handle it...but there's nothing like a thunder storm while on a floating lightning rod in the ocean to make you feel small and helpless. There's really nothing we could do but pray that Thor would treat us kindly. If the boat were to get hit, it could mean anything from loss of electronics to the through-holes being blown out if the bottom of the boat followed by, perhaps fire, maybe an explosion or two and then thankfully the fires will be put out by the boat sinking. I desperately wished to be tied up to a dock with the kids off the boat, so we located the closest port, revved up the engine, put on all of our rain gear, and headed towards Ford Cove. With heavy rain beating down and lightning flashing around us, some within hundreds of yards (funny side note's funny how our instincts think that flinching and ducking will help here), the squall chased us for the next 45 minutes. When we reached Ford's Cove, I pulled, with all of my one-arm might, against the wind, to land the boat in an illegal docking spot. We all hopped off the boat and headed to the shelter of an outdoor porch on the tiny general store where all of the island's soaked inhabitants seemed to be milling about. We waited until the lasts bits of lightning were squeezed out of the storm before we headed back to the boat for hot cocoa to soothe our nerves and gather our courage. We watched the weather radar and when we were sure the storm had passed, we headed north again. Along the way the moody clouds broke up and treated us to spectacular scenery all the way up to Comox where physical therapy and dental appointments awaited us.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Montague to Nanaimo

With Aaron's birthday finished, it was time to make a big push north so we left early the next morning for Nanaimo, six hours away. Our goal was to make it to Dodd Narrows during the fifteen minute window of slack tide. At any other time, the water rages through the narrow gap between cliff bands. We had a nice sail and reached Dodd with time to spare. This passage is not something we feel comfortable sailing through so we prepared to reduce sail by rolling in the jib. To our surprise, a rope jammed and we were stuck with a sail that wouldn't roll back up again. Jason had to run up to the foredeck to work on it, but luckily it was an easy fix and we didn't lose much time. We pulled the main sail in tight so it couldn't blow us around too much in the gusty wind and Jason started the engine to motor us through the narrows. Jason and I looked at each other in dismay as I turned white and declared, "that doesn't sound right." Jason immediately shut it down as he realized why it sounded was no longer cycling cooling water. Gulp. We turned the boat around and I slowly sailed us downwind as Jason opened up the engine. He found that the raw water impeller had exploded, thus no more cooling water. Very luckily, Jason has a couple of extras on the boat so he quickly replaced it and saved the day. We fired her back up and, voila, we had the comforting sploosh, sploosh noise of water pumping out of the back of boat again. Phew! In spite of both of these delays, we still had time to squeak through the narrows before the tidal currents got too crazy. When we squeezed through the passage, rapids were already forming with the changing of the tide. Water swirled and bubbled below as gusts of wind hit us from above. With all the extra excitement my nerves were shot by the time we made it through and I would have been happy to just motor the rest of the way. Jason was intent on sailing so I suggested sailing under main sail alone given my frazzled state. He insisted that a reefed jib would be fine so he rolled it out. We proceeded to tack upwind in 20 knots through a narrow passage hemmed in by floating log booms and logging equipment on one side and cliffs on the other....not exactly what I was hoping for. I grew more and more unhappy as we heeled over hard this way and that through choppy waves as Jason rushed through each short tack to avoid collisions. Aaron was below in tears because his Helms Deep Lego was in pieces after a crash off of the table. When we finally dropped sail I hurried below to help Aaron rebuild his castle as the boat lurched through the waves. A short while later we emerged with tear-stained cheeks and green with sea-sickness but Helms Deep was intact and safely stowed away. While Jason dropped the sails, Isaac took the helm and maneuvered us through a moving obstacle course of sailboats and seaplanes in the busy Nanaimo Harbor where we squeezed onto the dock between other boats and a floating Mexican restaurant.

After a night in the city where Jason dismantled and dug through the engine to find exploded impeller parts, we moved across the harbor to a mooring ball at the much quieter Newcastle Island, a wonderful marine park. During our stay we had sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's. We were all sweaty and hot when we arrived so we put on our bathing suits for a swim in the 69 degree water. The boys swam between the boat and our uber-stable kayak, Banana. I was unable to swim due my injured wrist so I manned Banana as the boys splashed and swam around her. I really wanted a rinse off too so after everyone was done swimming, I had all three boys take turns dumping buckets of water over my head so I could give my hair a wash. As you can imagine, they took much delight in that. Next, we hopped into the kayaks to paddle over to a floating pub for dinner. We sat on the dock watching a sailboat race as the sun set. As we paddled back to the boat we stopped at Newcastle Island to check it out and give Pika some shore-leave. Fellow chihuahua owners were doing the same with their six-month old puppy named Charlie. As you all know, Pika is not a well-socialized dog. Dogs are one of her least favorite things so as Charlie spastically bounced on all of us in the grass, Pika had a barking/growling fit showing off her best rabies impression. When we all stood up Pika no longer had to protect us, was overcome by her waggy-tail urges and succumbed to playing with Charlie....the first dog she has EVER played with. It was so funny to watch. We were all in hysterics. I'm afraid we may be in danger of becoming two adults, two kids and two chihuahuas though we hope to remain a one chihuahua family as long as humanly possible.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy 12th Birthday Aaron!

We spent Aaron's 12th birthday in Montague Bay. Bright and early in the morning, he opened the gifts I had labored to wrap in thick brown mailing paper with one hand in the back of my car in Seattle. A saintly woman witnessed my struggles and stopped to help me with the wrapping. Many thanks. He spent the rest of the day building Legos and playing his new Lord of the Rings game boy game as breakfast, and then lunch, piled up on his plate. No time for eating when there is so much play to be done. Late in the afternoon we coaxed him away from the boat for a hike through forest dotted with old-growth Madrone trees and play on white shell beaches. Happy 12th birthday Aaron!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Cowichan to Montague

We're suckers for good food. So when we read that there was a delicious organic bakery and a gourmet cheese store in Cowitchan, we just couldn't resist making a quick stop. However, we found ourselves in a quandary when trying to choose the marina. One had a five star restaurant on the dock and the other has the bakery, and, they are a good distance from one another. Since we were coming in close to dinner time we opted for the five star restaurant with plans to head to the other marina the next day when the bakery would be open. I know. We have to make tough decisions when out on a sailboat. Now that we have experienced both, here is my piece of advice, skip the restaurant, head straight for the bakery and cheese store. We had perfect bakery/coffee shop, rainy, drizzly weather while we were there. So after eating lunch at the cheese store, we gobbled delectable pastries at the bakery, and then the boys and I hunkered into a coffee shop and played a game of Rummikub. We then found a fresh fish market where we bought salmon mousse, salmon filets, smoked salmon, and sea asparagus to go with our fresh bread for dinner. It was awesome.

So after Cowitchan we headed to Burgoyne Bay where we had plans to hike up the mountain that rises out of the bay. Burgoyne Bay turned out to be the weirdest anchorage we've ever been in. In Canada, you can anchor anywhere and live there for free, forever. Burgoyne Bay is home to quite a few of these people. We saw nice little cottages, a floating greenhouse, and a floating camper lashed to a mostly-sunken sailboat to name some examples. As we sat anchored there, I felt oddly like an outsider looking in at a mental ward in a hospital. First, a man, who didn't seem to have his wits about him, stepped out of his greenhouse boat, boarded his dinghy standing and sang real-loud, real-Bob-Dillon-like, as he slowly rowed to shore. He did not seem fit to operate a row boat, especially standing. Next, another man rowed to shore slowly, sitting at the very bow of his boat with his feet sprawled and dangling over the sides of his bathtub-like vehicle, but somehow all I could see was a man padding down a hospital hallway in his pajamas. It had a weird feeling about it...but maybe having a sunken-sailboat-lashed-to-a-nearly-sinking camper-van as a neighbor (Is the universe trying to tell me something? Is this where we're headed?) colored my mood and interpretations of the bay.

The following day started very foggy and we found ourselves feeling quite lazy so we opted out of the hike to the top of the mountain we couldn't see in the fog, turned on our radar and cruised to Ganges for a little provisioning and then onto Montague Bay. Isaac and Jason quickly put our new crabbing gear to the test. I watched from the cockpit as they lowered it to the seafloor just behind our boat as visions of crab dinner danced in their heads.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sidney Spit & Portland Island

We spent two nights at Sidney Spit, a lovely bar of sand across the harbor from Sidney, where we took an afternoon to explore the mile long sand spit with our sword-fighting boys who romped and played through sand and ocean crossings along the way. We spent the next day checking out the beach of bricks left over from the old brickery that was once on the island and then hiked through the woods where the boys traded their swords in for spears and practiced their aim on unsuspecting trees.

Our next stop was Portland Island where we anchored in Princess Cove. Portland Island was originally home to the First Nations People who left behind huge shell middens which form the white beaches throughout the islands today. In the 1800's it was homesteaded by Hawaiians, but only remnants of their orchards remain. In the 1960's it was designated a marine park and a gift from Princess Margaret. We hiked around the island barefoot from beach to beach with almost tropical colored waters and then cut through the forest on a small path that quickly faded away. We padded barefoot over luxurious carpets of moss through the magical forest until we reached the other side of the island and its ridiculously sharp rocks and beautiful views.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sidney & Victoria

Now Grandpa-less, we crossed the border into Canada. Our destination was Sidney, just a bit northeast of Victoria, where we planned to spend a night or two. As it turned out, we liked it so much that we spent four nights and could have stayed longer. Sidney boasts of itself as a Booktown with its small downtown teeming with seven bookstores which Isaac and Jason found dreamy. The bus system was easy to manage so we found our way to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, courtesy of our hilarious bus driver, who, at one point, pulled over for a blackberry-picking break. At the gardens we settled in for a gluttonous high tea overlooking the Italian garden. You won't believe the amount of treats we consumed until you see the photos. We all left feeling VERY ill. In our defense, we didn't have to eat dinner that night. Feeling a bit vomitus, we high-tailed it through the gardens because Jason wanted to take the boat tour which was, as one might expect, a lot like being on a sailboat. I was a little dubious about paying to go on a boat ride given our primary mode of transportation this trip and my churning insides. A real busman's holiday as our boat driver said, but we learned about the history of the gardens (limestone quarry turned gardens after the quarryman's wife set her mind to beautifying the ravaged land), saw interesting places we could potentially anchor in the future and watched loads of jellyfish blooms. In spots the water turned icy translucent, clouded with thousands and thousands of jellyfish. Afterwards we leisurely strolled through the gardens, stopping to smell the roses along the way before catching a bus back to our marina.

As luck would have it, we had friends from home who were traveling to Vancouver Island for a camping vacation. The stars aligned and they arrived in Sidney on a ferry while we were there so we loosely planned a day in Victoria with them. The stars outdid themselves this time...the bus we caught into Victoria was a double-decker! Delighted, we ran up to the second story and took our seats. When we arrived at our destination, the famous Empress Hotel, I looked out the window of the bus and there were our friends strolling through the garden. One of the youngsters happened to look up and I gave him a frenetic wave. He stared at me on the top level of the bus in disbelief, then pulled on his mom's sleeve to point us out. The timing was impeccable. After a round of big hugs, we grabbed a bite to eat before hunkering into a museum. After several hours of learning about the natives who inhabited the area and Victoria's early history, we took a breather for afternoon tea a couple of blocks away. As we walked through the bustling waterfront, we noticed a classic wooden boat show with none other than Martha, our favorite 1907 racing schooner, tucked in among the ranks. Being wooden boat junkies we briefly parted ways with our friends so we could hit the docks to say hello to the crew from Martha. After a quick catch-up session in Martha's gorgeous wooden salon, we stepped out and crossed the dock to Deer Leap, a 85-foot fan tail motor cruiser from 1929, that we later found out, hosted folks like Bob Hope and the Kennedy family. As we entered the stern deck, a boisterous group greeted us and invited us to sit down and have a beer. A bit confused about the treatment, we first declined and then, on second thought, we realized that we shouldn't pass up an opportunity to relax on such a luxurious and classy boat so we took a seat, cracked open a beer to share, and joined the conversation. After forty-five minutes of entertaining conversation and a few lessons on bar tricks, they began to ask questions about Martha and that's when we realized that they must have thought that we were the owners of that huge, wonderful schooner. The deception was made while watching Jason and I step off her and then made complete by the fact that Jason was coincidentally wearing his Schooner Martha shirt that day. Oh boy, how do we break the news? We thanked them for the lovely afternoon and ambled our way down the docks, enjoying the sunshine and all the beautiful wooden boats before we rejoined our friends in the museum. Isaac and Jason raced through the Arctic exploration, but lingered in the Pacific Northwest exhibit. Aaron saw only the Pacific NW. He just couldn't get enough of hanging out in the room that looks exactly like all of forests and beaches that we sail to. It made me realize how much both of the boys love hanging out in this marine environment and I left feeling happy and satisfied that we can spend so much time here in the Pacific Northwest together. We left the museum hungry and in search of Red Fish Blue Fish, a highly rated fish 'n' chips place on the waterfront. We arrived to find a long line but decided we would stick it out. As all the boys watched sea plane traffic and the sun set over the harbor, the parents stood in line. Luckily we had non-stop entertainment from the inebriated woman behind us in the line who talked and talked and talked. Our assessment of Canadians has been that they are very friendly, outgoing, laid-back people. The experience in line made us wonder if the reason Canadians are so friendly is because, maybe, they are a bit drunk all the time, which made us a little worried about our bus driver....but it's just a theory at this point. After a lovely dinner with delicious food and good friends, on benches overlooking the water, we hugged our good-byes, wished each other well, and set off on our separate adventures. Thanks so much for taking the time and making the effort to meet up with us on Vancouver Island. It was so fun to see you!

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Sunday, September 8, 2013


After a few fun-filled days with Grandpa in Ballard, we set sail for the islands. With me operating with only one arm, Grandpa became an important part of our crew as he helped us through the transition of our shifting roles. He helped us dock, raise sails, anchor, and wash dishes all along the way. Our first stop was Port Townsend before heading north into the San Juan Islands. As we headed up the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Isaac caught a glimpse of an elusive minke whale, a rare sight because the time between their breaths is twenty minutes apart. A short while later I was lucky enough to spot one surface. Jason caught the tail end (literally) of both sightings. We watched porpoises rise around us and one came within ten feet of our boat as it surfed our wake. We anchored in our old favorite, Watmough Bay where we headed to shore for a hike. We watched the sun set over the water, hiked back through the woods where we spotted an owl, and paddled our kayaks back as the full moon rose. We were all excited to see our favorite rowing-opera lady take to the water. We saw her last time we were there and she was back for an encore performance. We watched and listened as she rowed around the anchorage in the fading light, her voice echoing off the high cliff walls. The following morning we hiked to Colville Point in hopes of seeing orcas with, sadly, no luck. In the afternoon we had a nice gentlemanly sail downwind to Griffin Bay. As we relaxed at anchor, we watched hunting seals splash about. On shore, we threw rocks at the beach and hiked to the golden-grass-topped Mount Finlayson with its panoramic views of the islands and across the strait to the Olympic mountains. We made a brief stop in Friday Harbor where we ate delicious Mexican food before moving on. At Stuart Island we anchored in Prevost Harbor for two nights which allowed time for lots of throwing of rocks at the car of doom and several hikes all over the island. We spent our final night with grandpa in Roche Harbor where we logged some serious bocce ball time and showed Grandpa all of our favorite spots. The next day we sadly walked him out on the docks to his seaplane and gave him big hugs good-bye. It was sad to see him go and strange to not have him along anymore. Thanks for joining us Grandpa! We miss you.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

At home in Ballard

After a lovely weekend in the Cascades we settled back into the boat in Ballard. Jason spent the week in the office and, being afraid to drive in Seattle with one arm, the boys and I hung out in Ballard. We spent our time at the park and beach. We frequented our favorite French bakery where we gobbled decadent French treats. We stopped in at our favorite sword store where our questions about Sting from Lord of the Rings were met with an opportunity to hold the coveted sword and to wear its sheath, ready for any attacks by orcs. It was a dream come true for Aaron. We discovered a board game store that became a fast favorite where we demoed games over dinner or coffee in its hip cafe next door. We visited it time and time again. Isaac was in board game geek heaven. On Friday, I visited the orthopedist and had awful-cast-number-two removed as I graduated to a brace. I was in heaven. It was glorious to have blood flow restored to my hand. On Saturday we attended the highly anticipated Viking Days at the Nordic Heritage Museum where Isaac came home to his roots in a good old fashioned Viking battle. Grandpa Sam arrived post battle to join us for the start of our sailing adventure. Sunday we visited Camlin Medieval Village where the kids partook in medieval activities with the highlight, of course, being the sword fighting. We watched a demonstration between two armored knights and then practiced the medieval moves with the hour of instruction that followed. When the lesson was through the knights spent another twenty minutes with the boys and Jason helping them hone their newly-found knightly skills.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

North Cascades

After a chaotic whirlwind of one-armed unpacking, laundry and re-packing, we climbed into my car with Winthrop, WA and the North Cascades NP our destination. I had some complications with my cast along the way which resulted in a stop at urgent care and a 10pm arrival at our hotel. Exhausted, we collapsed into bed only to be awoken by excessive amounts of long rumbling thunder. In the morning Jason coaxed us out of bed when he came across a hot air ballon departing from our hotel. We headed into town for coffee where we discovered that the North Cascades Highway had been closed due to rock and mud slides caused by the epic storm. They (optimistically) hoped to have it open by 2pm so we decided to head up past the road closed signs, to do some hiking, hoping the road would be open when we were done. We stopped at a few empty vista points to soak in our tourist-free views, hiked to Blue Lake and rolled up to the final road closure sign at 2 where a few people were waiting in a pull-out for the road to open. We pulled over and joined them to see what would happen. After enjoying the views for a while, I noticed the others looking and pointing behind us. I turned around and we saw the mountain being enveloped by what appeared to be fog. Then we heard a roar that sounded like a freight train as the "fog" quickly swallowed the mountain. Turns out that it was sheets and sheets of hail. Trying to avoid a severe pummeling, we found shelter under some trees at a trailhead close by and waited it out. When things had cleared a bit we went back to check the status of the road. All the cars but one were gone (apparently washed away) and the road closure sign was on the ground. Obviously the road was open! Heavy clouds of steam rose from the road and obscured our view as we inched along. I strained to see the road through the fog and instead caught a glimpse of a raging river next to us, eating the road away. I had a bit of a freak-out and informed Jason that maybe we should turn around now. Right now please. He had not seen the river at its raging peak and pleaded to go just a bit further.  I was very persuasive and we turned around to escape the potential deathtrap. We returned to the road closure and asked the last guy waiting if he had any info. Apparently he had ridden his bike down to the slide and was there when the hail storm had hit. He watched the road covered with several more slides while he was there. That settled it, it was time to get off this highway before we got boxed in. The storm started back up with a veangence and we drove through the pouring rain as fast as we could safely go, anxiously watching the steep, streaming slopes hoping they wouldn't slide and take us with them. After we safely arrived back in sunshiny Winthrop, we learned that there were 4-5 more slides that afternoon. Take-away lesson: maybe we shouldn't ignore road closed signs in the North Cascades. Or anywhere.

With our path blocked, we changed plans and set out to Leavenworth, an old logging town turned Bavarian village, brilliantly designed to bring in tourist money, nestled beneath the spectacular Bavarian Alps ... er ... Cascade Mountains. We adapted quickly to the Bavarian lifestyle as we settled into Munchen Haus outdoor pub scarfing down sausages, sauerkraut, and beer. The following day we hit the Stuart Lake trail, an old favorite we had last hiked when I was seven months pregnant with Isaac. The views were as gorgeous as I had remembered and it was so fun to share it with the boys. Back in Leavenworth, we repeated the previous night's dinner formula with much satisfaction. 

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