Saturday, October 31, 2015

Late Summer Months at Home

We spent two lovely months at home. We fell into a nice routine of all things wonderful about summer: biking around town, going to the weekly farmers market, slack-lining in the park, hiking. Isaac and his fellow homeschool friends started the school year with a bang with a two week Shakespeare intensive led by amazing Shakespeare directors where they delivered a stellar performance of As You Like It. Set in the 1940's West, they performed in an amazing outdoor setting at a local barn. Isaac also started a computer programming course at the local university. I love that homeschooling allows for such cool experiences like attending college courses so young. We also organized a homeschool computer programming class so our friends can learn to program too. Both boys are busy with piano and guitar lessons and soon we start our homeschool physics course as well as writing. We are super thankful for all of the talented people who teach our kids and friends.

Both of our boys celebrated birthdays while we were home. It was the first time in four years that we have been home to celebrate their birthday with friends. Aaron had a Dungeons and Dragons party where uproarious adventures were had. On Isaac's birthday we took a sunset hike with friends. We celebrated with candles and chocolat petits pots de crème on top as colors faded across the sky. Our trip down the trail, in the dark, without flashlights, was both exciting and memorable.

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of camping trips. Our first camping trip turned out more exciting than anticipated. When we checked into the campground we saw a sign saying that a momma bear with her two cubs had been in the campground that day. We shrugged our shoulders and went for a hike. This is Montana after all. When we got back a couple of campsites had weird gadgetry and had been police-taped off. Hmmmmm. After dinner, Jason and I were walking to the garbage can to dispose of our garbage so there were no yummy smells coming from the camper van, when we ran into the camp host. She informed us the bear and her cubs had been there for the past two weeks and the momma bear had put her head into someone's tent that morning. Not good. She said that if we saw someone shooting the bear, not to worry, Fish and Wildlife was in the campground trying to trap her and the bullets would be rubber. Gulp. And we should be aware of our surroundings. At this point the camp host is totally oblivious to the crashing noises that are coming from the wooded hillside above us. I was like, "Ummmmm, you mean like crashing noises? Like the ones up above us?" The camp host whirled around in surprise and started blasting her air horn to scare the bear. Meanwhile, we had left Isaac at the picnic table in the campsite. I had warned him about the bear and told him to get into the camper van if he heard any noises. He rolled his eyes and continued playing his guitar. Jason and I hurried back to the campsite and told Isaac he should get into the camper van because the bear was just above us. Again, he rolls his eyes. No, seriously. The. Bear. Is. Right. Above. Us. Really? As we start to climb into the van, with thoughts of leaving in our brain, the Fish and Wildlife guy shows up so we talked to him for a while. He said the bear was really sweet and had a good disposition. No, he didn't think the bear would eat us if we stayed the night. If we saw him shooting at her, it would only be to try to move her back down to where he had the traps set up. Feeling reassured that we probably wouldn't be eaten, we stayed the night. I can't say I slept very well though.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Mount Rainier Pit Stop

I still can't believe it's done. After three months on Marinero it was finally time to head home. We spent a few days cleaning her up and getting her ready for winter and enjoying favorite places and friends around Seattle.

Aaron is our mountain lover and has been wanting to go to Mount Rainier for years so we decided to make a quick stop on the way home. We bid Marinero a sorrowful good-bye and set our sights on Rainier. We had just enough time to hike (or hobble in my case) to a nice viewpoint. On the way down we stumbled upon huckleberries. We carefully picked them from the paved path. When others saw as hanging over the lines with purple-stained fingers and grins, they cautiously joined us. Clearly, this was the first time that many of these tourists had picked a berry from a bush and eaten it. Maybe we were bad examples but the berries were delicious and it was fun to see people enjoy their first ever berry-picking experience. By the time we left there was a happy, munchy crowd in our wake. As we hiked, Jason and I were shocked at how bare the mountain seemed. The snow-line was dramatically higher than on our previous visits. When I talked to a park ranger about this, he said that the glacier is currently receding at 1 meter every 10 days. The normal rate of recession in the past has been 1 meter every 1 year. Not good.

The following day we pulled into our driveway and began the process of settling back into land life. It's always amazing how easy life in a house feels after spending so much time on a boat. Resources are so easy to come by and seemingly infinite. Its strange not to have to worry about water or electricity consumption, though our good boat habits do carry over into home life. Gathering food and doing laundry are so easy and I can do them any time, though I don't burn nearly as many calories in the process. Cooking at home is never a challenge, I have four burners, a comparatively ginormous stove and so much counter space I don't even know what to do with it all. I can shower or go for a walk any time and I never get seasick, but the house never takes me to amazing places, I can't swim off the back step and it never rocks me to sleep at night. At home I'm just a normal person living a normal life. Sort of.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Coming Full Circle

With a long day down the Strait of Juan de Fuca ahead of us, we woke up bright and early for a 7am departure to cover all of those miles. Our plan was to anchor near Victoria, unless we were making good time, then we would make a mad dash across the Strait to Port Angeles. It was a beautiful, glassy morning with big, slow-rolling swells. In the early-morning light we watched the swells lift fellow sailboats slowly into the air and then drop them so low we couldn't see them anymore. Mid-morning I spotted orcas nearby and as I rallied Aaron out of the boat, Isaac and Jason were treated to a full breach. A little later we saw humpbacks in the distance. In our three months on the water this summer, we had hardly seen any whales and on one of our last days out we were treated to the best whale-watching experience of the trip. Super cool.

The day was warm and calm, not a breath of wind to be found. Though we were bummed to be motoring, we enjoyed lazing about on the foredeck, basking in the sunshine, riding the slow-rolling, glassy swells, watching the gorgeous scenery and reflecting on our last couple of months on the the water mourning that it was almost done and rejoicing that we would soon be back home again with friends, all while Otto took the helm.....a perfect way to spend a down-day for someone with a bum foot. We were making great time so we headed across the strait to Port Angeles. After 12.5 hours and 91.5 miles we were back into the US having spent 2 1/2 months in Canada.

We found an empty spot on the dock and headed to shore to find dinner. We met another couple at the top of the docks and after some confusion we located a dock employee to issue us all dock keys so we could get back to our boats after dinner. We were all starving and when the other couple saw me hobbling on my hurt foot, the woman offered us their ride to the restaurant. Her husband was a little bit incredulous and little bit bummed to be left standing in the parking lot, but his wife was very gracious and insisted. Luckily the restaurant was only five minutes away so they didn't have to wait long. Many thanks for your kindness, random stranger. As we ate wicked delicious Thai food, we marveled at how it felt so strange to be back in the US again. It always feels like home after time in Canada, but it's hard to put a finger on exactly why.

The following morning we set out for Port Townsend where we crossed our old tracks and finished our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. Crazy. We actually, officially did it! We anchored just off of downtown where we spent a pleasant night. The following day we made the final hop, under sail, downwind in perfect conditions all the way to Seattle. That never happens!

It felt so amazingly good to pull back into our marina and tuck Marinero back into her slip after three months away. It felt so good to come full circle. Now it was officially official. We really did it. Happy.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Port Alberni Yacht Club

Our next stop was Port Alberni Yacht Club. Jason had read that the people were friendly and we could all use a shower so it seemed like a good choice. We tied up at the dock and hopped off Marinero to check things out. Happy hour was already in full swing so we grabbed chips, salsa and a beer and joined the other boaters. One of the people there was Coast Guard so the conversation was interesting and lively. He had so many entertaining stories of yahoos getting themselves into ridiculous predicaments. I hope to never be one of those people. Being Canadian, he was extremely well-tempered about it all. It was hilarious to hear how politely he would respond with his Canadian 'anger' when people were really ticking him off, "excuse me sir, I'll just wait here for you while the tide changes." Eventually we parted ways so we could get showered and I could make dinner. Upon mentioning dinner, someone asked what I was making and when I told him curry, his nose wrinkled. After showering, I was walking down the dock, when I heard him yell, "are you sure you REALLY want curry for dinner? I have extra salmon steaks, if you'd like them." How could I say no to that!? Wow! I gratefully accepted and proudly boarded the boat with my catch. Everyone was delighted to be eating fresh salmon for dinner. Port Alberni really does live up to its reputation for being friendly.

The following morning we went for a hike. Again, we were looking for a sea cave we had heard about. Eventually we found it and clambered our way in through a tangle of logs. This cave was much longer and narrower. This time we were only armed with my iPhone for light. When the cave narrowed to a tiny triangular passage just big enough to wiggle through on your knees, the adults were, like, we're done. But Isaac snatched my phone and squeezed through. His delighted exclamations from the other side coaxed us all through. The walls were a glittery gold. Everyone left me alone in the chamber while I was taking photos and when I was scanning the walls with my light, I saw the...Biggest. Ugliest. What-I-thought-was-a-spider. Ever. There was even a pile of tiny bones under where it lurked on the ceiling. I couldn't control my shudders and shudder-related sounds as I imagined them smeared across my back and through my hair from when I squeezed through the tiny opening into the cavern. My heeby-jeeby sounds invoked curiosity from the other side of the opening and everyone squeezed back through to see what the fuss was all about. Everyone else was thrilled to see the creepy-crawly that turned out to be a cave cricket. *shudder*

From Port Alberni, we had an early afternoon departure to crowded Bamfield where we couldn't find any dock space. We anchored in the busy little harbor and climbed into the kayaks. Our goal was to walk over to Brady's Beach, the most-photographed beach on Vancouver Island. When we got to the dock Isaac lost his balance while standing on the tie-up railing. His cat-like reflexes kicked in and he somehow landed on the bow of the wobbly kayak and immediately sprung back up onto the dock. It was incredible, I have never seen anything like it. He looked just like Spider-Man when he lands on all fours and springs from roof-top to roof-top. When I got up onto the dock I realized that I couldn't really walk. While hiking to the sea cave I had rolled my foot. It didn't really give me any trouble on the hike but it had stiffened and walking wasn't really possible for me anymore. I tried my best to hobble to the beach but had to turn around after about 300 yards. Bummer. I hobbled back to Bamfield while the rest of the family continued on to the beach. Sad. They are all the biggest jerks ever.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015


It was a short hop through the Broken Group to Effingham Bay. We sailed slowly under light winds into the little bay and dropped anchor where we spent another roll-y night. The following morning we paddled to shore for a lovely hike (where Pika got stung by a wasp and blamed it on me) through ginormous old-growth to a picturesque beach. We watched the view of the mountains shift as fog rolled across the water. We explored the beach, searching for a sea cave that we had read about. Eventually we found it and ventured into the fern-draped opening with one head lamp and an iPhone. The cave was not very deep so there was not a whole lot to explore but as Isaac scanned the upper section of the cavern with a light he found a pair of reflective eyes staring back at him....super cool and kinda creepy.

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Benson Island

Just around the corner from our anchorage at Clarke Island was lovely Benson Island. Threading the needle of time between two of Jason's work meetings, we paddled around Clark Island against wind and waves to Benson. Just up from the beach was an old First Nations village site and, according to legend, the birthplace of the tribe that inhabited the Broken Group. Still visible, ancient standing posts and long logs on the ground, marked where a long house had once stood. After reading about the history of the tribe we followed a path into, what turned out to be, utterly magical woods. We wandered through widely-spaced trees over soft ground carpeted with moss and low-growing grass. When we reached the other side of the island we found the blow-hole we had come to see. Poor Jason walked around the rocky shore searching for a cell signal so he could take his meeting while the boys and I explored and watched the blow-hole grow bigger as the tide rose. While Jason was in his meeting, the boys and I scrambled to the top of the highest point on the shore where we were surprised by deer. I almost had a heart attack. Thankful that they weren't mountain lions, we watched them bound away as we laughed at ourselves. When Jason's meeting was done, we reunited, watched the blow-hole a while longer and then walked back through the mystical woods to our kayaks.

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