Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mitlenatch Island

Yesterday we finally made a visit to tiny Mitlenatch Island, an uninhabited wildlife sanctuary in the middle of the Georgia Strait. We had poked around the island before, but never found a good anchorage in settled weather where we felt it was safe to leave the boat. Yesterday, the favorable winds brought us close to Mitlenatch, and we persisted until we found a reliable anchorage close to the beach.

We were awed by what we found when we went ashore. The grasses and wildflowers were lush, untrampled by human traffic. We followed barely discernible tracks through waist high growth. Higher on the rocky slopes, the vegetation was like a rock garden. Thousands of Glaucous-Winged Gulls were nesting on the island, so that the rocky slopes were dotted with these handsome birds. The noise was overwhelming, enough so that it seemed unlikely that any normal human would spend more than a few hours with this Alfred Hitchcock soundtrack.

We did discover a shelter where volunteers stay when working here, which was a fine viewing platform from which we spotted Harlequin Ducks, Black Oyster Catchers, Sea Lions and dozens of varieties of wildflowers. We came away full up with the wildness and beauty of this island in an inland sea.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beyond Vancouver

We are now two weeks out of Portland, and find ourselves anchored in the smallest of rocky coves along the BC Coast north of Vancouver. Our anchorage is called Smuggler's Cove, and it looks a little like a bullseye on the radar, since it is about 1/8th of a mile across, and ringed with cliffs. We left Vancouver this morning, after a great weekend celebrating with Portland friends in honor the the graduation of Ayla Harker. Our blogging skills are weak, and my ability to utilize the single side band
radio is rusty. Hang in there, friends - we will improve with time. We believe the position report function is working. Dusk now, and we can see a single great blue heron standing on an underwater rock as if she owns the anchorage. We cede it to her.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chores in Wired Vacationland

We are anchored out at Roche Harbor, at the edge of the genteel resort. The sketch above is of one of the pretty farms along the shore of Westcott Bay. Our purpose here is to troubleshoot a short list of boat systems while we still have our US cell phone coverage, and good high speed internet. So far the Captain has reactivated the watermaker and fine tuned the hoist for the dinghy motor. I have been working on technical issues related to the blog and a improved antenna for access to wireless internet. It’s come to the point where, while in Canada, we can make phone calls at 79 cents a minute on our US cell phones, or about 2 cents a minute using Skype via the internet. In less populated areas now, wireless internet is by far more likely than any kind of cell phone coverage.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Strait of Juan de Fuca

We are traveling east through the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a gray, rainy morning. The sketch above is of the lighthouse at Sheringham Point. We have just crossed over the the northern, Canadian shore of the Strait where the incoming flood tide provides a strong easterly push. The wind is low, and the water calm, with only the barest remainder of the open ocean swell. It seems very placid in comparison to the rolling swells of the open Pacific we traveled Saturday and Sunday; we hardly have to hang on to move around the boat. And those were some of the mildest ocean conditions ever found off the Oregon and Washington coast.

On the other hand, I can clearly remember the first time I got brave enough to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is a big body of water, and the twenty mile crossing seemed daunting. Eventually I agreed with the captain to give it a try. The day we chose was warm and sunny, and as it turned out, the waters of the Strait were as calm and glassy as a lake. With no possibility of sailing, we motored along. It was even a little dull. But it served the purpose of dispelling some of the fear, and served as another notch on the learning curve.






Sunday, May 18, 2008

Neah Bay, near Cape Flattery, Washington
N 48° 22’ 080
W 124° 36’ 659
Tatoosh Island, Neah Bay, Cape Flattery – all places that mean we are at the very far northwestern tip of the continential United States. Cape Flattery is the northwestern corner of Washington state, and marks the U.S. side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Tatoosh Island is a rocky piece of land, just off the tip of the Cape. It is capped by the Cape Flattery light house. We have passed it on three separate occasions, but always in fog. Despite its geographic and navigational importance we have never actually seen it. So we bought this postcard.
We rounded Cape Flattery around eight this morning in fog again, at the end of a twenty-six hour trip from Astoria. We were lucky with the weather, and sailed all of yesterday in sunshine and a brisk southerly wind. Overnight, we motored over a calm sea, our path illuminated by the bright full moon.
We’ve stopped in Neah Bay, which is just around the corner from Cape Flattery. There is a perfect harbor here and a fine marina built by the Makah Tribe, who have gained some notoriety in the past dozen years by resuming their traditional annual hunt for gray whales using open canoes and hand wielded harpoons. Animal rights activists insist that this is cruel. Speaking of cruelty, the marina is inhabited by huge sea lions and many sea gulls. The sea lions catch fish among the boats moored here, then torment the sea gulls. Cruel to the fish, and the gulls, but natural, not unlike the whale hunt.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Osprey on the Columbia

Tongue Point anchorage, near Astoria, Oregon
N46° 111 570
W123° 40' 739
We traveled the eighty miles down the Columbia River from Portland to Astoria over two very gray days. The Columbia is a huge river, with a deep, dredged shipping channel. The channel is marked all along by big buoys, and on this trip, nearly every buoy was home to an osprey nest complete with chicks. The photo above shows a nest with Longview's paper mills in the background.

Osprey are beautiful in flight, with a wingspan of six feet. But, like lots of eagles and hawks, they are scrufty and mean looking close up. This is especially true when you see them "face to face"; they seem to be the meanest of weak-chinned creatures. I like this view of an Osprey in profile on his or her nest - more distinguished.

We are spending a few days at anchor near Astoria, since the weather has turned balmy and sunny.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Leaving Oregon

After several weeks of moving and traveling, we are ready to leave Portland. In late April we moved out of our Portland city apartment, returning furniture and other possessions to storage. Then we traveled to Montana to see family. Tonight we will complete the sale of our car, our last tie to land.
Tomorrow, we will cast off from our winter moorage alongside beautiful, pastoral Sauvie Island, about twenty miles north of Portland. Views of the island like the one above have been part of our lives for many years - I have painted dozens of scenes from various island spots.
We will ride the spring freshet down the Columbia, stopping at Astoria until we have good weather for the open ocean passage up to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.