July 7, 2006
Orcas Island is the shape of saddle, and we sailed up the middle through a mile-wide finger of water called East Sound (not to be confused with the small town of Eastsound situated at the top of the saddle). This took half a day from Friday Harbor. We dropped anchor just a few yards off shore from the little Eastsound municipal dock. The perfect anchorage is like this: empty, quiet, calm and a no more than a brief row to shore in the dinghy. Extra points if the shore has a carless expanse of loveliness where Nisa can play and run. We chose Eastsound for a mail and passenger pickup, arriving with no time to spare before the post office closed for the weekend. Ashore, we verified the direction of town with a man who then offered us a ride. Racing the clock, we accepted and hopped in. Our guidebook says the village is a 15-minute walk from the dock. About two minutes and four very short blocks later, we arrived at the post office. [*Learning Moment*: We discovered the guidebook’s “15 minutes” usually means five, a “mile” typically translates to a matter of blocks and a “strenuous hike” is never that!] That afternoon, Michael’s friend Darin arrived at the little Eastsound airport, just a short walk from town. I’d been looking forward to having him on Bluewater, knowing that a guest aboard for 10 days would force us to keep a tidier space.
We love little artsy Eastsound. The town sits in the middle of Tourist Central without being the primary destination for most visitors to this island, who instead flock to the ferry-serviced town of Orcas Landing, miles away. With only a dinghy dock, Eastsound effectively limits boater traffic to vessels that must anchor and that don’t require shore power or water. In town, we found fabulous food, great shops, helpful people, a large artist community and a small farmer’s market.
Nisa and I especially loved to roam the trails and race through the bright fuchsia sweetpea meadows of Madrona Point, a preserved ancient burial ground of early residents. It was only after our last walk that I saw the “No Dogs” sign…oops (sorry, Madrona Point, but Nisa loves you anyway). We left Eastsound the next day. Our stay was short but memorable–yet another one of those places we visited and said “oh yeah, we could live here.”
Our destination, Crescent Bay, is a short jaunt halfway down East Sound. We could have been there in an hour, but used the luxury of time and gorgeous weather to practice man-overboard drills. We tossed a buoy into the water and retrieved it with a few different approaches. Not so difficult on a beautiful, sunny day with little wind. But still good to practice. May we never need to use these skills in earnest.
July 8 & 9
I’d recommend Rosario Resort to anyone. Built originally as a family mansion, the resort today is much like one might imagine a leisurely family resort in the Catskills in the 1950s (I have this image in mind a la Dirty Dancing). Badminton, croquet and horseshoes beckon from the sprawling lawns that surround a long reflecting pool, a large outdoor swimming pool and a cafe, all connected by flat gravel paths. Deer wander the grass at all hours. Crescent Bay itself is privately owned by the resort, so by simply being there boaters must pay the moorage fee, whether or not you pick up one of their mooring balls (if you come ashore, they’ll charge for anchoring as well). We generally prefer to anchor so as to avoid any fees at all, but such places deserve an exception because of what moorage gets you. For $25, our crew of three accessed the amenities of the resort. This includes all the aforementioned perks as well as the spa inside the mansion building: a big Jacuzzi tub, an even bigger hot pool, a sauna, showers and all the clean fluffy towels you’ll ever need. We spent two nights lounging around and wandering the grounds.
It was here, too, that we first tested Nisa’s ability to stay alone on the boat without being shut inside. She’s not a swimmer, but we still worried about her jumping off the boat in order to follow us as we rowed away in the dinghy. Once she could no longer see us, however, she went to her spot on the bow and sniffed at the world around her, obviously glad to be outside. This made us very happy, because now we could trust her alone and outside for short periods. In busy areas we don’t risk it for fear someone might like her a little too much and try to take her–not something we really believe will happen, but we’d rather not take any chances.
The nice people at Rosario Resort agreed to accept a UPS package for us, so here is where we received our package from Shred Alert, a hat company that aims to warm the lids of adventurers. They enthusiastically sponsored us with a large selection of hats that should warm us well through an Alaska winter.
So much to explore on Orcas Island, yet so much EVERYWHERE. We continued on to Sucia Island, one of the jewels of the San Juan Islands, extra special because it is inaccessible to the general public. One must arrive by boat or private seaplane. We anchored with about a dozen other boats in Echo Bay just in time for a gorgeous pink sky above Mt. Baker on the mainland.
Nisa and I went for a long walk on shore, following one of the many trails that criss-cross the island. Wandering together through the woods made us nostalgic for home. We so enjoy the times we can really roam with Nisa, and this was one of those. She loves to chase squirrels and birds, and they love to taunt her. It’s a win-win arrangement. The trail winds through trees and berry bushes around the perimeter of one side of Sucia, pops out at little beach strewn with driftwood and shells and continues on to the far eastern shore of the island where we could see across the busy shipping lanes of the Strait of Georgia toward Bellingham.
Echo Bay is where we began experiencing what we call “dinghy envy.” Bluewater came with her own inflatable dinghy, well loved with several patches and a thwart (cross-piece) with a slow leak. It didn’t row particularly well, and we didn’t dare test its capacity with more than two adults and Nisa. In Echo Bay we met a man zooming around the anchorage in a beautiful little hard sailing dinghy and we wanted our own. As with any major purchase, we weighed the pros and cons and put off any action for later. In the meantime, our dinghy works just fine. The guys named it Stubby, Jr., as a nod to a particular boat they both remember from their days together as raft guides. Darin spent a good deal of time in it because, try as he might to use his visit as an opportunity to quit smoking, he failed. Every time the urge hit, rain or shine, he climbed into the dinghy, rowed a good distance away from the boat, and smoked to his heart’s content often under an umbrella.
Darin slept in Nisa’s bed, aka the settee and the spot where, offshore, one of us sleeps with a lee cloth holding us snug in place. On a day-to-day basis, this spot is our “couch” and Nisa’s preferred sleeping place. Nisa was relegated to her only two other options: the cabin sole (floor) or on the bed with us. She seems not to mind much, as with that change also came another pair of hands for petting.
The following day we sailed up and around the top and west side of Orcas Island–timing our morning with the speediest of currents and topping 10 knots over the ground–and back to San Juan Island to introduce Darin to the fabulous mussels we’d found in Westcott Bay.
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