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For the past six years, we’ve chartered a boat from San Juan Sailing/Yachting. This year, like the previous two years, we chartered Tug Time, a luxurious 29-foot Ranger Tug, with everything we could possibly want for the week. Familiar with the boat, we are able to thoroughly relax, not having to wonder how to use the instruments, light the stove and oven, flip the switches on the electrical panels, best way to grab a mooring ball or anchor, and myriad of other “things” one needs to know to go from point A to point B in a boat.

This trip, however, we were bogged down with worry.

In June, Rich was laid-off from IBM, less than two years before his retirement. Happily, he was given six months of severance and other benefits. Nevertheless, it hasn’t eased the challenge of getting another job. His focus at IBM was Linux device drivers for IBM servers, which is the opposite of what employers are seeking. Windows and software (versus hardware) development is the overwhelming focus in the Seattle area.

Meanwhile, I was working gangbusters as a freelancer on Microsoft short-term projects through June. With the start of Microsoft’s fiscal year in July, and announcement of re-organizations a few weeks later, the work dried up. And even though the agency I’d been contracting through kept saying they were going to be busy, no work came my way.

Adding to our stress, we’ve been juggling my mother’s care, listing for sale and then selling our Anacortes lot (yeah!!!), leasing our Coupeville house (we had three potential renters within a day!!), leasing my mother’s house in Sherwood, Oregon, refinancing Rich’s brother’s house to lower the payments (he’s quadriplegic and Rich oversees his finances), and keeping up our Kirkland (primary residence) and Mount Vernon (where my mother now lives) houses. I dream of the day when we have one house!

Shimmering Moon Over Cypress

Our last full day on Tug Time was a reflection of our present lives.

The night before, we had a magical evening anchored off Shaw Island. It was a quiet bay that we shared with several other boats, many of which probably belong to the residents of the island. As the sun started setting, I pulled out my binoculars, and watched a blue heron methodically walk on a floating dock, slowly lifting each leg, bending its knees backwards, and then carefully placing its foot a few inches forward, it’s long, graceful toe flexing, and then spreading out as he easing his weight from one foot to the other. The entire time, it surveyed the water, hoping to find an unsuspecting fish, which it could quickly snatch in its bill, and then swallow in a single gulp.

As the sun set, the ferries that chauffeured passengers and vehicles from island to island turn on their lights. In the dark of night, they look like sparkling fairylands gliding across the shimmering water. We never tire of watching them coming into view and then disappearing. But as the hour grows later, and the day’s activities catch up with us, fatigue takes over and we crawl between the flannel sheets, several warm comforters on top, falling asleep as Tug Time gently rocks in the water, and slowly swings as the wind changes direction.

After our customary breakfast of coffee, frosted mini wheat, milk, and a piece of fruit, we pulled up anchor, and headed to Cypress Island. We’ve been to Cypress Island many times to gaze at the view from Eagles Cliff. Two years ago, when we were admiring the panorama, Rich looked down at this foot, and saw an old coin. When he dusted it off, he realized it was an Indian head penny from 1890.

With clear skies and light breezes, our drive over to Cypress Island was uneventful until an alarm sounded. It took us several minutes to figure out it was the carbon monoxide detectors. The LEDs on the alarms indicted there was no power.

Rich checked the voltage of all of the batteries and realized the starter engine battery was dead. Having reset the inverter switch several time throughout our recent trip, Rich went to the back of the boat and noticed one of the four battery switches was off, so he turned it on. The issue was instantly solved. However, to make sure he was supposed to turn on this switch, Rich contacted San Juan Yachting. They concurred he’d taken the correct action.

We continued to Cypress Island where we easily grabbed and tied up to a mooring ball. We changed into shorts, and then took our dingy ashore. It was low tide, which holds the promises of finding interesting treasures along the waterline. A quick walk up and down the pebbly shore yielded several pieces of rusty metal, including a rat tail file (which I thought was a metal chopstick until Rich pointed out the threading), railroad tie, and several large nails.

Having arrived at Cypress before noon, we had lots of time to walk around the island and see places we hadn’t been before. Although, to be brutally honest, there isn’t a heck of a lot to see besides the Puget Sound and boats zipping between the islands.

Less than 50 people live on the island, which is around 5,500 acres in size. The only people I’ve ever seen are boaters and kayakers.

Having our fill of evergreen trees and picking pebbles off the beach, we returned to Tug Time for our customary afternoon cheese, salmon spread, crackers, white wine, reading or day dreaming. With several other boats in the cove, Rich couldn’t resist breaking out the binoculars to spy on them and comment on their mooring techniques.

With our trip nearing an end, it was hard not to lament that was probably our last charter on Tug Time. In the past, we’d immediately reserve the boat for the following year, but with Rich and I both searching for jobs, we’ll have to “wait and see.”

Adding to our angst is the responsibility of caring for family, wondering what we’re going to do about health insurance if we can’t secure jobs in the coming months, and the uncertainty of the economy with the lunacy of the Republicans.

Nevertheless, we were determined to enjoy our last few hours on the boat… assembling giant burritos from the last of our lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, refried beans, spicy chicken, and roasted green salsa. We then read until dark, admiring the full moon glowing on the still water. It was one of those perfect evenings where everything aligns perfectly like a Photoshopped picture.

After saying good-bye to the full moon, we crawled into bed, and flipped on the TV/DVD player in the forward cabin. We surfed the TV channels from Canada, and then watched the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis. We’d brought a stack of DVDs to watch on the boat when we weren’t reading. Most of the movies we brought weren’t memorable except The Queen with Helen Mirren. We’d had this DVD for weeks, but put off watching it, thinking it would be boring. However, it proved to be fast-moving, engaging, and well-acted. We enjoyed it more than Lincoln.

Before we turned off the lights, Rich started up the engine to make sure everything was charged.

Battery that Couldn’t

We planned on getting up at 6 a.m. the next morning to pack, and motor back to Bellingham before the rush of other charter guests at the fuel and pump-out docks. However, Rich couldn’t get the boat started! The battery for the starter engine was dead.

He located a pair of jumper cable, and thought he could use the charge from another battery to jump the starter battery, but no luck. The switch he’d turned on the day before connected all of the batteries so overnight, they must have ALL discharged. It didn’t make much sense because the other batteries were all charged the day before, and it was only the starter battery that was dead when the carbon monoxide detectors went off.

The only option was to call San Juan Yachting and ask them to send a boat, which could give us a jump. Because they were concerned there was a major issue with the boat, and may have to tow it, they sent a 48-foot Grand Banks, which looked small on the water, but huge next to the 29-foot Tug Time.

Once the two boats were rafted (tied) together, they jumped the batteries. We started up the engine, and were ready to return to Bellingham. We followed the Grand Banks for a while, and then told them we were okay and they should go ahead.

Back in Bellingham, we got 63 gallons of diesel at the fuel dock. Over the course of our 7-day trip, we went over 158 nautical miles from Deception Pass off Anacortes and Whidbey Islands to Victoria and Sydney, British Columbia to Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Shaw Island, and several other Puget Sound islands.

Because we’d one most of the packing and cleaning of Tug Time while waiting to be rescued at Cypress Island it took us barely an hour to unload and clean the boat when we got back to Bellingham and San Juan Yachting.

Stay tuned for more highlights of our trip.