Several years ago, Rich and I spent an enchanting day at Rosario Resort and Marina. I was looking forward to an equally memorable experience this trip, but I didn’t take into consideration the unpredictability of the weather.

As we motored to Rosario, the sky cleared and the wind picked up. Perfect sailing weather if you have a functional sail. Something we didn’t have!

Before we left Friday Harbor, Rich made a reservation at Rosario. Luckily, we got a slip in spite of most of the slips having been reserved weeks before by a local boating club.

As we approached the marina, we readied our lines and bumpers. Rich was concerned it was too windy to dock. I was confident we wouldn’t have a problem. As we pulled into the slip, several men were on hand to help. I threw the bow line, which was easily caught. I then rushed to the back of the boat to coil and throw the stern line. Usually, this line is stretched out so Rich can throw it from inside the cockpit after I’ve stepped onto the dock.Rosario

There was no way; however, I could have stepped off the boat because it was drifting the opposite direction… right into another sailboat. I frantically coiled the line and threw it, missing the dock by a few inches.

Meanwhile, Rich raced to the opposite side of the boat while I grabbed a loose bumper and tried to place it between our boat and the other sailboat. Too late; the two boats tapped together. Fortunately, they were about the same height and the man on the other sailboat, Rich and myself were able to push our boats apart and created enough momentum to direct our boat back towards the dock.

I quickly coiled and threw the stern line again. Success! Two men on the dock were able to pull our boat against the dock. We tied off the lines as I seethed, embarrassed at such a horrific docking and the shock of having hit another boat (there was no damage because we “tapped” rather than “smacked”).

Overcome with shame, I dashed into the galley, stripped off my sailing gear, grabbed my purse, and Sputnik, and jumped out of the boat… raced down the dock, across the resort and up the main road. I’m not sure where I was going. I wondering if I could walk across the entire island to the ferry terminal, hop on a ferry to Anacortes, and then somehow make it to the Amtrak station in Mount Vernon to take a train back to Seattle.

I was actually hoping to find a place to sit down, have a latte, and write my feelings on Sputnik. But, Orcas Island is small and has little commerce, aside from the Rosario Resort and the stores by the ferry terminal. The latter was miles away.

Rosario marina

After walking seemingly for hours, straight up a hill, I decided to head back towards the marina. A sign on a side street pointed towards a camping area. I’d walked a short distance, coming to a tall concrete wall with a large pipe jutting out. Having read about the Moran Mansion at Rosario, I knew that Robert Moran had directed water from “somewhere” to run the turbines, which provided electricity for his mansion and the surrounding houses and support buildings.

The sign on the concrete wall said “Danger,” which only provoked my desire to clamber to the top. The wall was shaped like a gentle “U” with the now closed, pipe towards the bottom. The top of the wall was a short hike up a path. Not very dangerous!

And on the other side was a small lake with a well-worn trail, hugging the shore. I started walked, lugging my purse and Sputnik, and wondering what possessed me to take my netbook. Did I really expect to find a wireless connection on a remote island in the Puget Sound?

Happily, as I walked, the lake grew larger, and larger, and larger! It was a huge lake! Most likely Robert Moran had directed a river or several streams to create the lake. The concrete wall created a dam and when necessary, the pipe could be opened, allowing the water to gush down the hill and power the turbines. Lake on Orcas

It was soothing walking around the lake; I wished Rich was by my side to enjoy the site. Having a camera would have been nice too!

After circling the lake, now fully calmed down and quite exhausted from walking and having eaten little since breakfast, I headed down the main road to the marina. As I got on the boat, however, my legs gave away and I landed smack into the cockpit. Rich rushed up from the galley, deeply concerned that I’d hurt myself.

While I was away, Rich had been helping the harbormaster bring boats into the marina. The wind had made it exceptionally difficult to dock in the narrow marina. As Rich explained, we weren’t the only boaters with docking challenges. And we certainly weren’t the worse. Rich and Julie on Eagle Ridge

While I was gone, a large powerboat tried to enter the marina. According to Rich, it was going fairly fast. Several men were at the dock, ready to grab the lines; however, instead of turning to port, it sharply turned to starboard toward the shore and a large outcrop of rock. Rich said he must have “stained his drawers because we [men on the dock] nearly did.”

Miraculously the man was able to avoid colliding with the rocks before heading back out to open water. He then decided to tie up to the seaplane dock, which is a rickety wharf at the end of a short pier. For the most part, seaplanes land on the water, glide up to wharf, tied off to a cleat, passengers get on-and-off, and the plane is airborne within thirty minutes. The dock and attached wharf are absolutely not sturdy enough to hold a large powerboat!

The owner of the powerboat felt he could drive up to the seaplane dock, have his wife swing a line with a hook on the end, snag the wharf, and then hold the line until the boat could be properly tied to a cleat.

Houses along waterThe harbormaster and several men on the dock were yelling at the powerboat driver not to try to maneuver because if they hooked the wharf and weren’t able to slow the boat, they can detach it from the dock. Not good.

Nevertheless, the powerboat approached the seaplane dock at considerable speed, his wife was able to hook the wharf, but there was no way she could hold onto the line. The powerboat had to be quickly turned to starboard to avoid smashing into the boat in the marina. Later that night, they recovered the hook and line, using their dinghy.

Evidentially, the powerboat has two engines, one engine could be throttled down, and the other was stuck. I missed the excitement of the seaplane non-docking maneuver, but was able to watch the powerboat attempt to anchor in open water. He kept going round-and-round, perhaps because he couldn’t shut off the malfunctioning engine. Who knows? With little light left, they were finally anchored.

The couple then went ashore in their dinghy to have dinner at the resort. When they returned, their dinghy wouldn’t start! They had to get a room at the resort. The next morning, we saw their dinghy being pulled behind another dingy! We hastily left before they started up the engine(s) on their powerboat.

The lesson is boating can be very challenging; to stay sane, realize not everything you do will have the desired outcome from docking to trimming a sail.

While at Rosario, Swim

Complementing the beauty and laid-back atmosphere of Rosario are the amenities at the resort. With your slip fee comes the use of four pools! One of the two outdoor pools is by the marina. The other outdoor pool is behind the Moran Mansion and overlooks the Puget Sound. We went in this pool several years ago when the weather was warmer. It was memorable swimming in the pool while watching sailboats tack back-and-forth in the Sound.

The indoor pool is part of the Spa at Rosario with mosaic tile floors leading to the pool and old world elegance with arched ceiling, antique lights, and soft music. The pool is very warm and transports you to simpler times when people were less rushed and enjoyed being outdoors without the distraction of radios and other electronics.

In a softly lit room is a large hot tub, which could easily accommodate a dozen people. Thankfully, Rich and I were the only ones in the spa so we could relax and not worry about making conversation. Afterwards, we took steamy showers in the spacious bathrooms, complete with smelly soap and soft towels.

You can also use the resort’s sauna, workout in the exercise room, take fitness classes (for a small fee) or enjoy spa services, such as a massage, facial, waxing, manicure, pedicure, and other relaxation treatment.

After soaking the angst from our bones, we walked back to our boat to make dinner. Along the way, I pet a couple of deer, which are more like giant dogs than deer. If you bring them a carrot or apple, they’d probably roll over and beg. Deer on Orcas

The next morning brought clear weather so I talked Rich into climbing up to the lake. This time, the walk seemed shorter and the lake more magnificent. If it had been warmer, I would have been tempting to take off my shoes and wade into the water.

Memorable View Where Eagles Soar

The weather remained clear and temperate all day as we motored to Pelican Beach on Cypress Island. After securing the boat, we went ashore with the intent of hiking up Eagle Rock. It’s short, not overly strenuous hike, considering it goes from sea level to 752 feet in about a mile. The view from the top is spectacular, enabling you to see islands, passages, and mountain ranges, including the North Cascades, Coast Range of British Columbia, and the Olympics. Eagle ridge

It being warm and sunny, we sat on the rocks, sipping water and nibbling on the dried fruit and nuts we’d brought. We watched a large barge being towed below and quite a few power boats zipped across the Sound. We tried to takes pictures of the panoramic view, but it was hazy and with the sun setting in a few hours, there were deep shadows. Here’s an amazing panorama of the view.

The only wildlife we saw were swarming bugs, but had read about eagles, raptors, deer, and other wildlife on the island. To protect nesting raptors and other wildlife with young, the trial is closed between February 1st and July 15th. Eagle Ridge_2

While admiring the view, Rich looked down at his shoe and noticed a tarnished penny (see the picture of Rich’s shoe below). He picked it up. It was an 1899 Indian head penny! We wondered how long it’d been up there and who’d dropped it. The US Geological Survey marker had been placed on the rock in the early 1900’s so the penny was older than the marker!

Before returning to our boat, we chatted with four kayakers who’d paddled over from Anacortes. Cypress Island is a popular destination for sea kayakers because of its proximity to more populated island and amenities, including pit toilets.

Eagel Ridge_3The next morning, we hoped for good weather. We were out of luck. The visibility was so poor that half an hour after leaving Cypress Island, we had to stop and wait until the fog lifted. With little improvement after an hour, we hung a radar detector on the mast and both sat behind the wheel, our eyes glued to the radar for other boats or obstacles in the area as we motored precariously through the Sound.

This was the last day of our charter and we’d planned on spending our last night at Sucia Island or Chuckanut Bay, and then return the boat the next morning. As we neared Sucia, however, we made a decision to simply return the boat that night. Rock on Eagle Ridge

There was no point spending another night on the boat, bundled up to stay warm only to get up early the next morning and motor a few hours back to Bellingham. With the light of day quickly diminishing, we packed our bags, cleaning out the boat’s refrigerator, wiped down the cabin, and carried our bags back to our car. Two hours later, we were heading to Mount Vernon and the end of our annual Puget Sound sailing adventure.