Departure Port: Roche Harbor Marina; Departure Time: 8:30am; Destination: Lopez Island Resort; Arrival Time: 11:30am; Distance Cruised Today: 14 miles; Total Distance for the Trip: 1,044 miles; Conditions: mostly clear, wind S 15-20 in morning, seas 1-2 foot chop; air temp: 68 degrees; water temp: 57 degrees
Our day begins with a hearty breakfast at the Lime Kiln Cafe. We delay departure until 8:30am, because of the anticipated current pattern on San Juan Channel. By the time we pull out, Roche Harbor is already coming to life, with float planes both arriving and leaving, and cruising boats doing much the same. We turn into Speiden Channel and find ourselves bucking a strong ebb current. I steer near to shore and catch a few eddies, however, when we round the pointand nose into San Juan Channel, we’re forced to bounce our way through a moderate rip. The choppy water bounces all over the place, as if it can’t decide what to do. We finally push through the confused seas and cruise southward, down San Juan Channel. A stiff 15 to 20 knot wind is directly on our nose, and as the current begins to flow toward the south, very bouncy seas give us a rough ride, with occasional spray reaching back to the cockpit. These conditions are brief, though, and by the time we pass the approach to Friday Harbor, things are settling out. I raise the jib once we’re past the west end of Shaw Island, and we’re able to motor sail toward Lopez Island. A check of the tide reveals that we’ll be entering Fisherman Bay channel at very near dead low tide, and it’s a minus 2 foot tide. The entrance channel to Fisherman Bay is notoriously shallow, and many boats have grounded on their way in or out. At low tide the channel can be as shallow as 3 or 4 feet. I know I can motor in 2.5 feet, so I decide to head on in. The approach looks worse than it actually is, for our boat, that is. The shallowest reading I get on the depth finder is 4 feet, and most of the time I’m in considerably deeper water. The approach to the marina is made difficult by shallow water on the inside, as well as a stiff cross wind. A bit of confusion with the dock hands delays our approach to the slip, but it finally gets straightened out and we tie up without incident. It’s great to be in and secure.
After lunch we walk over to the pool and hot tub for a good swim and soak. The pool is quite warm, and enclosed by wind breaking glass panels. After we return to the boat I give our friend Lorrie a call and we set the time for her to drive over to pick us up. We are to be dinner guests at Duane and Lorrie’s remarkable home, which sits dramatically atop Upright Head, 275 feet above the water. Lorrie picks us up at 6:30pm and drives us up to the house. Duane is still finishing up on his day’s work. He’s in the midst of replacing the roof on the house, in addition to building a major addition and remodel of the existing structure. He’s doing the work on his own, and it’s a really major project. For him to stop work amidst this project and welcome us for dinner is a remarkable gift of hospitality.
We are simply captivated by the view from their deck and living room window. The house looks right out onto the major crossroads of the San Juans, between Lopez, San Juan and Shaw Islands. At times you can see 3 ferries traveling on their runs at the same time. In the distance, Vancouver Island is visible. Duane says that, if you were to step off the deck you’d fall 90 feet before your first bounce, and on your second bounce you’d hit water. I believe him, but don’t intend to try. He explains that divers have found a great number of giant Pacific octopus in the waters right below their house, and some of them can weigh up to 2000 lbs. They serve us a delicious salmon dinner, and the evening passes quickly, with stories about our trip, their project, and what life’s like in this remarkable place. As we sit and chat, we hear the occasional rumble of the ferry boats as they make their way up, down, and across the channels. All too soon it’s time to return to the boat, marking the end of yet another memorable day.