The 120 pictures we took have been downloaded and edited, clothing washed and put away, sailing gear stashed away, left-over food tossed in the refrigerator… time to start writing about our adventure of sailing in the Puget Sound on Wave Dancer, a 34-foot Hunter sailboat.
For our first day, Rich charted an aggressive 17 miles. We’d loaded our three bins, four duffle bags, and ice chest onto the boat in advance of the captains’ meeting at 9:30 so we were ready to set sail as soon as the meeting ended and we completed the boat orientation with someone from San Juan Sailing. Since we charted Wave Dancer last year, the orientation was quick with the manager of San Juan Sailing going over the finer points of how to use the navigation, radar and autopilot on the boat.
It was a glorious, sunny day with a strong wind that begged us to unfurl the jib and mainsail. The boat responded beautifully, reaching six knots as it heeled in Bellingham Bay. Then Rich looked up and exclaimed “Oh no.” The tack of the mainsail was flapping in the breeze. We quickly pulled in the jib then gingerly rolled up the mainsail. The thick woven strap (tack) that holds the mainsail to the boom was shredded. “Our vacation is ruined,” exclaimed Rich. I thought otherwise.
We immediately called San Juan Sailing and they told us to sail back to the marina. Within moments of our arriving, a jack-of-all-trades set to working sewing the strap back together using a special needle that was attached to a bobbin of heavy, waxed thread. He initially sewed the two pieces together, knotting each stitch then wrapped the rest of the thread around the strap to create a super strong loop. I took several pictures, but they’re on another camera, which I left in Mount Vernon.
Within an hour, we were back on the “water” and sailing towards Inati Bay on Lummi Island.
Hands down, the most interesting place we visited was Sucia Island, which is now a Marine State Park. In Spanish, sucia means “dirty” or in a nautical sense “foul” because the underwater reefs and rocks, and jagged shore – formed by the folding of the earth’s crust — is dangerous to ships.
The rugged landscape of Sucia proved beneficial to smugglers of illegal Chinese laborers along with illegally imported wool and opium in the 1800’s. During Prohibition it was used by rum-runners and most recently, drug traffickers.
After anchoring Wave Dancer, Rich (dwarfed by the rocks in the pictures to the right and below) and I took the boat’s dinghy ashore and cautiously stepped from boulder-to-boulder, marveling at the geological variations. The cliffs had been worn away by centuries of pounding water, exposing layers of sediment and carving the harder rocks into interesting shapes. In one area, the rock had a “bubbly” appearance.
As we rounded a bend, the rough rocks turned into a pebble-strewn beach. We followed a path to higher ground and walked a few miles to the far end of the island to a sandy beach, which a passing hiker called “the busiest place on the island.” Sure enough there were several dinghies on the beach along with people who were camping, kayaking or boating in the area. There are five coves around the island with mooring balls and docks for boats of all sizes. Plus, there are facilities to camp and picnic along with an underwater scuba park.
What makes Sucia so facinating in the range of landscapes. The western side of the island where the waves are the strongest, the beach consists of slaps of enormous rocks with large appliance-sized boulders. The protected side of the island has pebbly and sandy beaches. The top of Sucia is a thick forest with native plants and wildlife like deer and raccoons.
After a restful night, Rich attached the outboard motor to our dinghy and we embarked on circumnavigating Sucia along with the eleven satellite islands. It was a brisk morning and the island was just starting to wake up. Seals bobbed along the shore then ducked into the water in search of breakfast. Along a particularly rocky sloop, we spied a large light gray seal. We motored closer and from underneath a ledge, a brown otter tottered out to investigate the noise.
On a rocky cliff, we came upon a cormorant rookery (below). Throughout our trip, we saw dozens of these perky birds, often catching a ride on a floating log or thick patch of seaweed and kelp. We also saw numerous blue heron, which can be very vocal; their call described as a “harsh croak.” Because I love blue heron and believe that they bring good luck, my ears are tuned to their call. It’s a thrill to see them in flight with their six-inch wing span, long graceful necks, and long-thin legs stretched out, rather than tucked under their body. By the water edge, they can stand perfectly still, graceful sculptures in shades of gray.
In a dinghy (and even more so in a kayak), you can motor close to the shore and zip between the islands, some of them less than a mile in length and a short walk from side-to-side. Depending on the tide, you can walk across rock bridges to the islands. Although the harsh terrain and unpredictability of the sea can make it dangerous to get too close to the rocky outcrops, surrounding the islands.
Below are more pictures from Sucia. Stay tuned for more pictures and adventures from our sailing trip.