It’s been a few days since we returned from our annual boating trip around the Puget Sound and Canadian Gulf Islands on the amazing “Tug Time”, a 29-foot Ranger Tug. Not only did we have extraordinary weather, and Rich expertly plotted the course and itinerary, but we found ourselves in the middle of a super pod of orca whales! It’s taken five years boating in the Northwest to see even one whale. To see dozens within the span of half an hour was unbelievable.
We started our trip very early Saturday morning after spending the night on the boat. We charter from San Juan Sailing in Bellingham, which allows you to attend the safety, orientation, and check-out meetings on Friday afternoon, along with stowing food, clothing, and other stuff on the boat so you’re ready to go in the morning.
Earlier in the day, Rich and I visited our Mount Vernon house to pick produce (piles of zucchini and cucumbers, which we gave to the San Juan Sailing staff), and also collect our boating gear, linen, pillows, and other stuff we’d been accumulating for the trip.
With an hour before the start of the mandatory safety meeting, we visited the Marine Life Center at the Port of Bellingham, where we watched a marine scientist feed a live crab to a hungry Giant Pacific Octopus. The latter quickly wrapped its body and tentacles around the crab, and according to the scientists either drilled a hole in the crab’s shell with its beak and slurped out the meat or crushed the crab, and then picked through the shell for edible morsels.
More pleasant to watch was the delicate shrimp, colorful sea urchins, starfish, and anemone, and humorous crabs. One tiny crab, with long thin legs camouflages itself by “gluing” bits of plant life to his body and legs. It resembled a fragile plant with long stems with puffs of greenery. According to the scientist, once a week, when the tank is refreshed with seawater, the crab re-decorates its body.
It was late at night before we slid into the cozy bed on Tug Time. We had to make an emergency trip to get Haagen Dazs bars… and three boxes of vintage candy. Throughout the trip, we made similar shopping excursions, such as buying giant ice cream cones at the Deer Harbor marine store on Orcas Island.
Because we were able to leave Squalicum Harbor very early in the morning, we were escorted into Bellingham Bay by a herd of seals, who camp out by the fish processing plant at the entrance of the harbor. I barely had time to grab my camera before they dove under the water in search of their breakfast.
Our first stop was the Canadian custom’s dock at Pender Bay, which was over five hours away (32 nautical miles) so there was no dawdling. Thankfully, we only had to wait a few minutes to pull up to the custom’s dock even though several boats were ahead of us. We docked, checked-in, and left within ten minutes. Our records in the Canadian database must say, “Dull, middle-aged, American couple. No need to ask too many questions.”
We had a choice of mooring balls in the Beaumont Marine Park, further into the bay. Using Rich’s new-fangled carabineer/polypropylene contraption, I was able to easily grab the pennant on a ball, tie-off to a cleat, thread in two lines, and then hand the lines to Rich to walk to the bow of the boat. In non-nautical terms, it significantly sped up grabbing and tying off to a mooring ball.
After a quick lunch, we took our dinghy ashore to hike around South Pender Island, and climbed Mount Norman. The highest point on the island at 320 meters (1,050 feet) Mount Norman was worth the effort of putting one foot in front of the other for 4 long, steep miles. The view from the top is spectacular. Check out the pictures!
The next morning, we dilly-dallied before heading to our next destination. As we headed out of Pender Bay, Rich saw a collection of boats in the distance, and on channel 16 (Coast Guard) on the VHF radio, a boater mumbled about seeing an orca whale. I quickly turned to channel 79, which is used by the whale boat operators. Rich meanwhile, gunned Tug Time!
Minutes later, Rich stopped the boat, and I clambered onto the bow with camera in hand. The whales were coming from three different directions, most likely we saw three different pods of whales, converging in what’s known as a super pod. By law you can’t get too close to the whales, and because the whales were coming from several directions, the best plan was to stop, wait, watch, and hope they swim close to your boat.
Ten minutes later, we were rewarded with four or five orcas surfacing within a few hundred feet of Tug Time! You can see how close they got in several of the pictures. Unfortunately, they swim crazy fast, and are above water for only a few seconds.
Last Thursday, Rich and I celebrated our ten year “civil” wedding anniversary. In 2002, we had a “shotgun-like” wedding a week before Rich left for Austin, Texas. Two months later, we had a formal wedding at the Broetje House, in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Prior to leaving for Texas, Rich was getting push-back from IBM about our not yet being married. He feared they won’t my home furnishings unless there was a wedding band on my finger. Hence, three weeks after we’d jointly proposed to each other, in rinky-dink Mexican restaurant in a strip mall, Rich call me at Intel where I managed and wrote the Intel Home Computing website. He was going to pick me up in an hour to get our wedding license, and he’d made arrangements for us to get married the following afternoon at the county courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon.
To this day, I don’t know how he had the correct paperwork, such as my birth certificate. Needless to say, I giggled all the way to the courthouse, and didn’t stop until the clerk handed us the license.
The next day, June 21st, summer solstice, was sticky and unusually hot. After work, with two hapless co-workers in tow, I changed into a sleeveless, green dress with large rust-colored roses, twisted my hair into a chignon, and firmly clutched my grandmother’s wedding ring and my father’s wedding band, which I’d taken out of storage the night before.
Rich wore a pale green, patterned silk shirt with off-white pants. He’d zipped by grocery store on the way to the courthouse to get a bouquet of flowers, sprayed green, and a matching boutonniere. They were tacky and fabulous at the same time.
Having forgotten his camera, Mike Jastad, his friend from IBM, and best man at both of our weddings, purchased a disposable camera.
We were married by Judge Don Letourneau who was gracious and understanding as we fumbled the rings (my grandmother’s was a bit too tight for my finger). Fifteen minutes later, we were husband and wife. Eck!
We thanked the three people who witnessed the wedding, celebrated by having Thai food, rushed back to Rich’s house, put on grungy clothing, and then stayed up until the wee hours, preparing for a yard sale we had the next day. As a married couple, our first order of business, which we achieved, was to sell stuff we didn’t need, including my beloved 12-year old Red Toyota Corolla. It didn’t have air conditioning so we decided sell it and not bring it to Texas.
Ten years later, we’re no less harried.
On Thursday, I’d planned to leave work earlier, but at the last minute had a call with a company who was making me a job offer (stay tuned for the details). After accepting the offer, and squealing in delight, I drove home.
Earlier in the day, I’d stopped at Pinka Bella Cupcakes in Redmond Town Center to purchase ten different cupcakes to celebrate ten years of wedding bliss. Okay, ten years of adventures. Pinka Bella makes the most decadent, delectable, imaginatively decorated cupcakes in the entire Seattle/eastside area.
As I’m approaching our house, my cell phone rang. It was agency I hired to help with my mother. They’d had a home visit that afternoon and wanted to discuss the visit. I pulled into our driveway and started talking. As soon as I hung up, the woman whose been helping with my mother for the past few years called, wanting to report on what took place that afternoon.
Rich, realizing I was in the driveway, jumped into action, pulling my car into the garage and unloading my bags, including the cupcakes, which I had planned to present on the crystal platter that once held our wedding cake. I’d cleverly placed the platter in the back of my car the night before!
Deciphering Rich’s hand signals that we were running late, I said “good-bye” and rushed into the house. Rich then instructed me on what to wear for our celebratory evening. He was pulled clothes off the hanger, as I removed one set and put on another… jeans, two shirts, jacket, Converses…
We then scurried out the door, camera-in-hand, and headed towards downtown Seattle. When we parked near the water, I knew we’d be taking a boat. Sure enough, after scrumptious chowder in a hollowed-out sourdough bowl from Ivar’s, we walked to Pier 54 to take a sunset cruise on the 70-foot Obsession sailboat.
It was a beautiful night so I knew it was going to be a great experience. What I didn’t know is they’d allow Rich to sail the boat… for most of the trip! He had an amazing time, sailing in strong winds, through the Thursday night sailboat races near Shilshole Bay Marina, and then back to Pier 54.
After getting home, we split two cupcakes, raised our forks, and toasted ten years of adventure, accomplishments, and most of all love.