Monday, August 29, 2011


My second favorite role, following closely behind Cruising Wife to Al Thomason, is that of Grammy.  And yesterday was just a perfect day---ALL of my grandchildren in one place, to celebrate the first birthday of one of them, and I got to meet the youngest one for the first time.  Here are some of my favorite images of the day:

A first peek at Ranger

His mama Lindsay taking her own photos, yes, Ranger is in there.

Troy in action

The water makes Madalyn dance


The two E's. Evan and Emrie

Birthday Boy Milo, who took a tumble the night before

The closest I got to all 7 in one photo--all but Ranger.  Milo next to his mama Casey--that's the SHORTEST he will ever be next to you!

Al and Christine, visiting and observing

Cake time!  

Finishing School

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post called Flying School.  A flock of swallows visited Viking Star on a quiet sunny morning and you could tell that there were young birds and mature birds.

Last Friday on Blind Bay another flock of swallows visited.  All the birds had their bright adult plumage.  They chattered and groomed and seemed quite relaxed in the sunrise.  This time we called it 'Finishing School'.


Al says he figured out how they get so evenly's a wingspan!  Look on the lower left, they are even on the hoops of the anchor platform.

We had a lovely visit with Walt and Marty Crichlow from Brigadoon, the other of our Snake River cohorts, returning from a cruise to the Broughton Islands in Canada.  After breakfast on Friday we headed to Bellingham.  We had excellent calm conditions and made good time.  When we arrived and Al went to pay for the slip, the attendant said he was going to charge us the weekly rate rather than for 4 days, since it was cheaper!  Whoa, we can stay for a week?!  Yes!  So we asked about renting the car for the same period, and it was only $50 more!  Yay!  A couple of extra days to visit!  I put on my Facebook status 'When your life is like a vacation, what do you call it when you take a break from it?' And my daughter said 'Uh, going home!'  

Good answer.

Bellingham sunset, facing east.  I love how the church spire fits in among the masts.  And Mt. Baker peeks out on the right.

And facing west

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Orcas Island

Okay, this first picture is actually Blind Bay on Shaw Island.  We had to take a break from dinner with friends Rob and Becky from Maxine (on their way back from a trip to the Broughton Islands) to take photos of this gorgeous sunset!  Wow!

Yesterday we traveled to East Sound on Orcas Island.  We were anxious to have a look at Rosario, but since the wind and weather was favorable, we peeked at it on the way by and headed all the way up to Eastsound, the town at the head of the sound.  We set anchor, waited to make sure it held, then took the dinghy to the county dock, and did a little exploring and grocery shopping.  

This morning, this is the view Al had of the sunrise. Wow too!  He let me sleep in, then made coffee.

Today we left the boat without breakfast, which turned out to be a mistake, on two counts.  First, because none of the cafes or coffee shops were open (well, one fancy one was, and we weren't feeling fancy).  So we went to the bank to trade big bills for small ones, and then we only had time for coffee before catching the shuttle bus.  That was the second count--we had EXTRA coffee on empty stomachs.

We rode to Rosario and got out to have a look around.  The harbormaster had the day off, so I guess we will have to chat with him another time.  Hey, this is a cool story--double click on the photo to make it bigger for reading...

Here She Is........Miss America!

View from the dining room of the Rosario Resort

A window shade in the second story museum at Rosario

By this time, the caffeine had really kicked in and we were desperate for food!  I got pizza, and Al got fish and chips at the Cascade Grill and Store.  Unfortunately for me, I think the exceptions to the diet for the past day and a half caught up to me, and I got a big stomach ache!  I just wanted to sit in the shade.  Actually I wanted to lay down, but.....

After resting, I felt well enough to catch the shuttle.  We planned to go to Orcas Landing to see it from land, after watching the ferries going by Blind Bay.  There was a cute gift shop that has more espresso---we passed.  We went to the store for some Tums and milk.  After another hour sitting in the shade, I began to feel better.

The return shuttle took us through Deer Harbor and Westsound and back to Eastsound, where we were happy to see Viking Star waiting just where we left her!  Tomorrow we are going to change our plans, and instead of heading to Cypress Island will go back to Blind Bay to catch up with Marti and Walt on Brigadoon as THEY are heading back from Canada.

And Al will have one more chance to set the crab traps before we take a land trip to Portland/Hillsboro for the weekend!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I don't know quite why I am so fascinated with seals on this trip.

Most people show this kind of excitement for the whales up here.  But we haven't seen any Orca yet. (We saw some Minke whales on the ocean out Greys Harbor)  And, whales are HUGE and kind of intimidating.  Seals are playful, and they have such big eyes and cute whiskers.

I have posted pictures of two baby seals resting on beaches.  I wish I could have captured a picture of the seal of Roche Harbor.  I am convinced it was the same one, and he came at about the same time each night we were there.  He liked sailboats.  Al thinks he liked crab pots.  I saw him pulling a buoy down.

Yesterday morning I watched a mother and pup rolling around in the rain. The pup liked to lay on his back.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things that . . . Work: Cetol

Ask anyone who has had their boat out for any length of time what they use on their external bright work and the smart ones will say "Bright work???"  The rest of us will say Cetol.  This is a love / hate position, especially for those with wood boats that have lots of interior woodwork - like us.  See, a proper Varnish job really does look fabulous.  And even if one is a 5-coat type of guy (like me) as opposed to the purest 12+ coater, Varnished wood really does look great.   Cetol is more of a paint, and just does not have that same look and depth to it.

The difference is very easy to see in Viking Star as all the interior cabin work is varnished while all the exterior bright work has Cetol on it.  Sorry, I know, Sell Out for those Classic Wood Boat Guys.  But here it is the bottom line:  External Varnish takes too much work to keep up.  Sure, if you have a Boat House or are one of those folks who make canvas slip-covers to protect all the nice exterior varnished wood, then varnished exterior bright work can be great.  However, if you actually want to SEE the bright work, and you tend to be outside say 365 days a year then Varnish takes a beating.  I am told here in the PNW one needs to do maintenance coats every year with varnish, and in places like Mexico and Florida plan on 4 times a year.  Just to keep it up.

Cetol on the other hand needs a maintenance coat every 2-3 years (my experience), and am told once a year will work in sunnier areas.  Re-coating is easy, just 3M Green Pad it to clean and take the shine off, wipe it down with Acetone and one quick coat of Cetol Clear to make it look nice and fresh again.  So ya  - I am a Cetol Guy.

Today was re-coat day on Viking Star.  A few weeks ago I went around and marked all the dinged areas, sanded them to bare wood, and put on three base coats.  Yesterday I washed all the bright work to remove salt and dirt, this morning 3M padded it, quick wipe down, and put on a new top coat of Cetol Clear!  One side effect: as the cap rail extends all around the decks we are in effect Painted In until this dries.    But that is OK, we made a trip this morning for Coffee and fresh baked doughnuts.  And the Crab Pots do not need to be checked until tomorrow morning.  So we are set for a while.

A few hints on Cetol:  I did not use the original formula (the really ORANGE stuff).  Instead I used 3 coats of Cetol Light, toped with 2 coats of Cetol Clear.  Then a single coat every other year of Clear for maintenance.  The end result does not look that bad!  Today there is a new base coat called Natural Teak which I understand looks even better then the Light.   But in any case, the key here is 3 coats of the base and 2 of the clear.  And make sure to keep up on the re-coats.  Leave even Cetol too long and you will have to wood the finish and start over again.

I use a proper brush (mid-priced one from a Big Box Store), Foam brushes just did not work for me.  When applying the base coats do not put it on too thick.  This will leave a very dramatic orange streak.  Top coats are not as fussy.

One final hint:  The new cans (printed by the new company) calls out the new company's Special Thinner to be used while prepping the surface.  The original manufactures cans just called out acetone.  And the Propane trick works great for this product.  I am still using a can marked 2006 for touching up dings and such.  Things That Work:  Keeping paints etc

Things that . . Not sure it works. . . Honda 2HP Outboard?

Small Outboard Motors.

We looked for a while for a small motor for our dinghy and ended up with a 3.3HP mercury.  The primary selection criteria was weight; at only 28lbs this 2-cycle motor won out.  Finding a lightly used one at a good price sealed the deal.  It is working well for us (except the stumbling at low speeds - which seems to just need a good carb cleaning, see prior post).  Looking at other options if we had been able to locate one of the older 2-cylinder small motors (like a Evinrude 3HP) that would have been interesting, even if they weigh 35lbs or so.

Another motor I was interested in was the 2hp Honda.  Given their reputation (and my experience with Honda) for small engines of all types it seemed like a great  candidate.  Being Air Cooled was kind of a plus, less to go wrong! Same 28lbs, plus a 4-stroke - no oil!   Well, we have seen a few of these motors being used and I have to say I am glad we did not get one.



I am telling you.  We were motoring in with another dinghy the other night about 100 feet from us, and we could only hear THEIR motor over ours!  That Noisy!

I am a bit surprised at this given Honda's reputation.  Myself, I think they missed on this one.


Update Fall of 2016:  I noted a dinghy with a small Honda outboard, and IT WAS QUIET!  Looks like Honda has redesigned their smallest outboard for 2016 and addressed this issue.  Good to know.  (BTW, easy to spot these new outboards, the cover is more rounded in shape, and the gas cap is in the front of the engine)

Things that . . . Work? Cleaning outboard Carburetor.

Last night when returning from a wonderful outdoor Shakespeare Play ( we actually ran the outboard motor out of gas.  This is a 3.3hp 2-stroke made by Tohatsu (or is it Nissan?) and sold under several brands (ours says Mercury on it) and we had noticed that while running at slow speeds it tended to stumble/miss a bit.  Googling this indicated the carb is a bit clogged and a good cleaning would help.   I had this on my To Do List for this winter.   Well, as the gas was getting low last night I applied choke and then more throttle to get additional life out of what was left in the gas tank.  (we ended up doing a very pleasant row most of the way back).

This morning I refilled the outboard with fuel for an early morning run to get fresh doughnuts and coffee.  And guess what - the motor ran MUCH smoother!  As if the carburetor had been magically cleaned over night!

This caused me to remember a boat rafted to us who was having issues with their brand new outboard at idle.  The service desk suggested for them to warm up the motor, turn off the fuel and then as the motor starts to starve apply full choke and rev open the throttle.  Repeating this a few times would often clear out small dirt / clogs in the Carb's idle circuit.   Seems to me that running last night kind of did the same thing.

Has anyone else heard of this?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This evening we returned to shore to attend the Colors ceremony at Roche Harbor Resort.

The Color Guard at attention, and the Announcer on the roof

Full service at the resort stops for the ceremony.  Guests line the rails of the hotel, dinghies  come alongside to watch.

A cannon salute is fired.  

Sunset at Roche Harbor

After the ceremony, Al and I walked the docks a bit.  There is a yacht broker off the main dock....

Nice boat!

Take a closer look at that price tag!

THAT'S where we are!

Heading back to the boat.  Love how the sunsets linger.....

This and That at Roche Harbor

One phone call down, and Al logged an hour and a half anyway, while I worked up an appetite for cheeseburgers and fries.  Having cruised the San Juan's with Jimmy Buffett fans,  we call it Cheeseburgers in Paradise!

The first photo I want to share today, I first saw the shape of a heart, then looked closer and saw a bear face, and look again....maybe two bear faces!  What do you see?  (There was no graffiti in this stall...)

After lunch we grabbed a couple of lattes (we were the only crazy people NOT ordering iced coffees) and took a stroll through the formal gardens in from of the resort.  I think these are called Dinnerplate Dahlias, since they were about that big!!!

This bee was busy!

Don't know what this is......maybe a Hydrangea?

Al found a cool place to enjoy his latte

And then I joined him!  I found my contacts and enjoyed wearing REAL sunglasses today, but  reading was REALLY difficult!

The former McMillan residence is now a restaurant.  The church just behind was built as a Methodist church, but is now  a Catholic chapel, the country's only 'privately owned'.

We might go ashore for the flag ceremony tonight.  It was a bit difficult to hear so far out into the harbor.  Last night we could hear snatches of the national anthems, US and Canada, and Taps, and then had NO difficulty hearing the horns blow.  Al kind of guffawed, yes, and I knew he was itching to blow our Buells! ( and you can click to honk them too)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sculpture Park

We came to Roche Harbor today so that Al will have internet and phone service for his work calls tomorrow.  We also bought a couple of days worth of groceries ($50!) and took a walk through the San Juan Island Museum of Art Sculpture Park:

One of the more natural exhibits

Being a farmer's daughter, this one is for my dad!  It's called 'Not your average beanstalk' and it's simply an auger.  I told Al  'It's already International red....they probably didn't even have to paint it!'

Becoming a part of the art.....a mirror on an easel.

The Wood's Revenge

Nice Horsey

English Camp

Yesterday we returned to English Camp, and discovered it was a bit more than it appeared from the water.

Once THE BIGGEST Big Leaf Maple, this tree is over 340 years old!

The Blockhouse and Formal Garden, from the trail to the site of the Officers' Quarters

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Garrison Bay, San Juan Island

This morning we accomplished what we came to Reid Harbor to do....pump out the holding tank.  There is a 'barge' with no electricity to run pumps, so they are done with 'womanpower' this morning.

I tended lines, and then ran the pump by moving a bar to the left and right.  It was quite a powerful pump, because it got the job done faster than I imagined, but it was quite a workout!  Al handled the most important part of the job--making sure the hose stayed attached and didn't splash!

Then we moved out from Stuart Island and towards Roche Harbor.  We had planned to go down Mosquito Pass to Garrison and Westcott Bays, but it looked calm so we decided that we would go out into Haro Strait and down San Juan Island a bit, coming UP Mosquito Pass instead.  However, the further we went the windier it got and the swells were growing.

At a point, Al said, 'Well, what do you think?  We can keep going, or we can turn right now to Roche Harbor.'  I admitted that I was feeling a bit anxious.  I blamed it on the coffee, but I was also remembering the last time I had been on Haro Strait, and it wasn't particularly a fond memory.  Al said 'Well, I think we were in the mindset for a Sunday Drive, but this isn't going to be a Sunday Drive, is it?'  So we turned and went into Roche Harbor.

We were very disappointed that we were able to receive a T-Mobile signal ONLY when pretty much in line of sight of the resort.  We will have to return to Roche on Tuesday afternoon so that Al can complete his work calls on Wednesday and Thursday.

Oh well, another chance for Cheeseburgers in Paradise.

We moved on to Garrison/Westcott Bays, site of the English Camp during the famous Pig War.  Tomorrow we will go to the site and explore.  It looks like there are only a few buildings and a flag.

Highlight of the day was meeting Clark on his sailboat Itchy Feet.  He had solar panels, and Al has been conducting his own personal survey, so he hollared out as Itchy Feet passed by 'I'd like to chat about your solar panels!'  And Clark hollered back, 'Stop on by!'

So we did!  Clark reminded me of Santa Claus with his round glasses and white beard.  He offered us coffee and biscuits he had just baked, with butter and jam!  He told us all about Rosario resort, where he winters over on board Itchy Feet.  He used to drive a whale-watching boat out of Rosario, and also spent 20 years in the Navy, ending with Vietnam.  We enjoyed his company so much that we invited him to dinner.

All of us completed some chores, he to scrub his dinghy and we to hang the overheads Al made in the aft cabin.  Then we had a fine meal and more conversation together, along with more biscuits (this time with blueberries baked in)!  Sometimes we really miss an oven.  AND breads.

Another for the sunset collection, Garrison Bay

Reid Harbor

Writing on Friday August 12:

We had a leisurely Thursday morning in Fisherman Bay, waiting for the tide to rise.  About noon we pulled anchor and departed, passing Friday Harbor with the traffic there amazing us once again.  Friday Harbor is host to a 'Latitudes and Attitudes' cruise this weekend and sure to be a crowded loud (drunken?) party we (ed.  We?) are anxious to avoid!

We moved on to Reid Harbor instead, site of a pumpout station we know is easy to reach.  On the way we passed Speiden Island.  Al was on course to pass south, but I read a guide book in time to change to passing it on the north instead.  Yes, there were areas of tide rips, but it was SO much smoother than we were experiencing south east of the island.

In doing so, we missed passing Sentinel Island, home to June Burns, writer of a book I read just days earlier at the Lopez Island Library.  She and her husband homesteaded Sentinel Island, and cruised the San Juan Islands in the 1940's when for 100 days she wrote a daily article for a newspaper.  The book I read was a collection of those articles.  She is known for fighting to preserve the San Juan Islands, in particular Jones Island, which is one of our favorites.

We arrived at Reid Harbor in the mid-afternoon, lucky to find an empty buoy near the docks!  This makes for a short ride to shore to register or hike, and means that we have front row seats for what we call 'The Dog Parade'--cruisers taking their dogs to shore for their morning/evening 'walk'.

We took our books and dinghied to shore to register, deciding we would sign up for three nights to avoid San Juan Island this weekend.  (From here we plan to go to English Camp on Garrison Bay, San Juan Island)  Ashore we met a nice lady being walked by her Scottie dog.  She and her husband had anchored across the island in Prevost Harbor, where we had stayed a couple of weeks ago when our friends, the Youngs, were visiting.  It was fun to chat with her and hear of her adventures shipping their sailboat, Sundazzler, from Ft. Lauderdale to Nanaimo.  They have been in the tropics for the past ten years and have 'come back' to the NW for their 'last couple of years' of cruising.  She said it has been 25 years since they have been to Stuart Island.  It would have been fun to chat longer, and meet her husband too--we will look for them when we go to shore again to stretch our legs.

It is a beautiful sunny day!  Here it is quite protected from breezes, so the sun actually warms us up a bit!  After dishes and laundry, I will probably take my book out to the back deck and soak up some of that sunshine!

At anchor in Reid Harbor

Moonrise, Reid Harbor

Writing on Saturday August 13

The sun was fabulous, and today is supposed to be sunny with a high of 72.  Maybe I will take another shot at sunbathing.  It will have to last me....Sunday and Monday forecasts call for rain.

Okay, I am going to bore they guys now by talking about makeup.

I have begun a new behavior, for me.  Since junior high, I have found it difficult to leave the house without, at the VERY least, a coat of mascara.  I have always said that I wear make-up for myself.  It helps me feel better about myself, and I like to always put 'the best foot forward'.  But most days, over the last month, I have worn NO makeup.  Only when we are 'going to town' have I done my makeup routine.

Maybe it's because I no longer have a 'house'.  Maybe it's that the women I run into up here are so casual, even at the Episcopal church on  Lopez.  Even Al noted on one of our trips to the village 'Do you feel like you put on a month's worth of makeup?  (He said fully knowing I usually do not use very much makeup!)  Most women here look like they don't wear any!'  Perhaps any worn is merely covered by sunglasses?

Could the absence of mirrors have anthing to do with it?  Other than the hand mirror in my makeup kit, there is only one mirror on our boat--a poorly lit one on the front of our medicine chest.  The pit toilets we find at most of the places we go to shore certainly have no mirrors!  Has our more natural environment made me more comfortable being 'natural'?

On another note...We have observed small fish jumping in the evening hours.  And one evening a seal and baby, last evening just one seal.  And an addition to the 'sea life' last night?  A pair of young men in wet suits and snorkels.  This morning, we are watching a few sail boards being unloaded from the boat the snorkelers originated from.

Al is changing his clothes to begin some projects today.  He made sourdough pancakes for breakfast.  Yesterday he prepared four boards for overheads in the aft cabin.  Today I think he plans to work on replacing some bung plugs.  I better get to those dishes...

Writing later the same day, as the Beef Burgundy simmers fragrantly on the stove:

What an entertaining day!  The windsurfers turned out to be a brother and sister, beginners having lessons from their parents 'who are experts'.  Their father was out with the dinghy giving advice and encouragement, and a place to rest when needed.  They passed by Viking Star once and he asked if we had any gasoline they could buy--their dinghy was using quite a bit of fuel!  Turns out they were chartering for a week, and today was their last day.  Their son was just entering medical school and their daughter was a high school sophomore.

A helping had from dad

Brother did fine on his own

She had lots of practice doing this!

In the early afternoon the wind really kicked up.  Al had turned on the radio to listen to the weather report, and there were some interesting conversations going on, so I continued to listen for several hours.  Seems there were a couple of sailboats buddy sailing, and apparantly one couple was a bit more inexperienced.  The woman sounded quite anxious to me, so I hope they arrived at their destination okay.  Another woman was exasperated that the men on the boat she was calling had not come in when they said they would.  'Lunch was ready an hour ago, and I am NOT going to re-do it!'  And a man asked once 'Is anyone else out there running into the 'humpies' around Roche?'  Don't know if he meant rough water, or whales!

The easterly wind has been blowing most of the afternoon, swinging  and rocking us around.  Seems Reid Harbor is pretty protected, EXCEPT from an east wind.  Though it WAS a sunny day, the wind made it too cool for sunbathing.

We were down to our last 30% of water in our tank, and plan to spend the next several days in an area where we do not expect to be able to take on water from a dock, so Al fired up our watermaker.  I assisted with the taste test, and I have to say that it tastes better than the last water we picked up!  We generated enough to do another load of laundry, and for three days worth of dishes, cooking and showers.

Both Al and I are in the midst of thick paperbacks and are enjoying plenty of time for reading.

Al mentioned something about our being 'out of touch', so he must be having a bit of anxiety also, as I am.  No phone service, no internet, the only channel we can receive on TV is MeTV, old re-runs.  Has Lindsay had her baby yet?  Al wants to talk to Michael about his plans to come and visit.  How are my facebook friends who have not been feeling well?

It's nice to 'unplug' once in a while, but we are missing 'our people' too.