Friday, September 30, 2011

More Matia

We enjoyed our last whole day on Matia yesterday. We took a long walk again, reversing our direction this time, so things looked new.  The large cove had three boats anchored in it, and two groups of people dinghied back from shore.  We sat for a time while I made the 'Matia' post, and Al checked emails.  Then we moved on.  Our dockmate had said there was a side path that would take you out to a point, and we hadn't noticed one before.  We found it this time, and enjoyed another hour basking in the sun.  This time I got my Facebook fix, and Al even caught a few winks.

Another view of Viking Star at the dock in Rolfe Cove

I just can't get enough of the sunlight on these big leaf maples

A BIG fir

A BIG cedar

Me getting my facebook fix. Notice my jacket is OFF and I am sitting in the shade!

I call these 'snowberries', but I don't know if that's what they actually are.  They look like yummy marshmallows, but I think they are poisonous.

Back at the boat, Al calls these the 'crocodile eyes', but it is kelp.

We have enjoyed chatting with 85-year-old dockmate Elwin, here with his boat El's Belle.  He has taken this boat to Alaska 7 times!  These are his last few days of this year's boating season.  He was going to go home today, but it was SO gorgeous he decided to stay one more.

Reporting to you while underway to Cypress Island...

Thursday, September 29, 2011


We are still struggling with the pronunciation of this island.  The first people we cruised the San Juan Islands with (who had made 20+ trips) called it MAH-tee-ah. Our guide book says that 'matia' means 'no protection' in Spanish.  Would the normal Spanish pronunciation be mah-TEE-ah then?  Al keeps wanting to add an 'r' and call it mah-trah. Well, he does tend to meditate in peaceful surroundings, but I've never heard him use a mantra. Then the other day we hear someone on the radio say he was heading to MAY-sha.


Small and charming, and quite peaceful until the winds turned to the northwest when we began the too familiar rocking side to side.  Several deep sighs emerged from my lips, while even Al shouted to the waves 'That's enough!'

Today our plan is to pack some sandwiches and go to the big cove on the southeast part of the island. Pictures on a later post.  These are from previous days...

Viking Star at the dock in Rolfe Cove

The little cove that has been our 'office'.  Internet and phones don't work at  the boat.

Al at work

The 'face' of Matia....can you see it?  Makes me think of Easter Island, almost...

The little island that helps form Rolfe Cove, I can find no name for it on any of our charts.

Last night's sunset, with a sailboat turning in to take a mooring buoy for the night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Closer Look at Matia

Tuesday Sept 27

After two days of bumping and bouncing in Echo Bay, the flat calm this morning was sure nice!  We took time for a big hot breakfast and long steamy showers.  Then we set out for Matia Island.  We have been trying all summer to stop at Matia, but Rolfe Cove is quite small and it was fully occupied every time we went by!

There is a small fisher boat in the spot that was our first choice, so we rig for the other side and back to the dock. The wind is supposed to veer around to the northwest, but no more than 15-20.  We should handle that easily with our bow into the wind.

Al was scheduled to have a work phone call within an hour of our arrival, so he quickly moves onto the island to verify that we can get adequate signal.  It will take a short walk away from the boat, but YES. He returns and I pack a few snack items, the computer, both phones, and our books.

Al actually has two calls, and by the time he finishes up, it has cooled off tremendously and a shower is approaching.  Should we continue on what the sign said was a 1-mile loop, or go directly back to the boat?  Al leaves it to me, and though I am cold I think the activity will keep me warm and we will count on the rain just being a shower.  We do get a bit of a rainwater rinse in our hair.

There is some really pretty scenery here and we plan to spend three days on the island, so there is plenty of time to share the big pictures.  These photos are are just a few things we looked at a little closer.

The BIGGEST starfish we have ever seen
Look what the storm washed ashore

Through the portal to Orcas


Kelp always reminds me of 'sea snakes' and I think of Grandson Troy

Al's Godmother Dorothy loved to use 'China Caps' in her seashell projects

We found a pear tree! But no partridges...

Big Leaf Maple, a first sign of Fall

A humongous fungus

When I saw these two I thought they were going the same way, and I was going to take a photo of the 'race'.  Al said 'They are on a collision course!  Do you think they know the 'Rules of the Road'?

The sign said the trail would take us through 'old growth' which Al took to mean that this island had not been logged, but this is evidence that is has.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stormy Weather, Take Two

Though we expected the winds to howl up to 40-50 over night, the storm kindly let us sleep.  We both woke for a time at 4AM, but we slept again until 7.

Blowing 20 when I got up, I started a pot of coffee, and by the time it was through brewing the winds were sustained 30, with a gust to 35.  I pour the thermos full and take it and two cups back to bed where our breakfast is gingersnap cookies.

It is nearly noon before we come up to the main cabin.  Just in time for the weather to really kick it up a notch.  The afternoon is quite uncomfortable with winds sustained for some time at 35 and a gust to 49.  We do still experience a lot of side-to-side motion even being on the linear moorage, but we think it is not as bad as it would be on the mooring buoy.

Yes, it got higher than this

Al calls this an 'Oh Sh*t Guage.  I couldn't get the timing right , but we were swinging  10 to 10.  FEELS worse than it sounds

The other boat in the bay has a dog on board.  In yesterday's rough weather we saw them take a couple of dinghy trips to shore, but not today.  Poor doggy!

Wow.  We are able to get a data connection, but NOT make calls.  I log onto facebook briefly, but looking at the screen on a wildly moving boat is not good for the stomach.  I retreat once again to the aft cabin.  My side of the bed lies on the midline of the boat, so the side-to-side is more tolerable.

Al is feeling better and stays in the main cabin picking up the flashlight that falls, closing the drawers that open, adjusting the items in the sink.

At the height, Al sees a TUG coming into the bay!  It is the LIndsey Foss, a tractor tug designed as an escort for tanker ships. He hangs for an hour or so, then departs.

Finally about 6 PM the winds begin to abate.  The gale warning has just expired--good timing! Though waves are smaller, we still are getting alot of side-to-side action.  Al warms some chili, our first hot food of the day. The Advil I took for a slight sore throat has worked.

I am trying the internet again.

What time is it?

Guess now that we are settled in for today's blow I can catch up on a few Blog Topics.

Perhaps 20 years ago (Awk, really, 20 years ago!  Man, I am getting old) I stopped wearing a watch.  It was at the beginning of one a rather nice long (3 weeks I remember) vacation.  I took it off to 'help disconnect'.  Upon returning I wanted to extend the Vacation Glow as much as I could, so I left my watch off.  In those days it was a bit of extra work to go Watch Less.  I soon found where the wall clocks were, and even was able to set pop-up alarms in my desk-top computer.  Hey, not wearing a watch was symbolic, however I still needed to function!

Over time as Cell Phones became common the cell soon replaced any need for watches, and wall clocks for the matter.  (Do offices still have wall clocks?)  And I have to say the novelty of not wearing a watch is a bit stale.  It seems most folks do not wear watches these days, except perhaps joggers.  Just check the cell!

It is always fun to see how new technology gets integrated into life.

So as Kristi and I march back into the Dark Ages and continue our unplugging effort, we suddenly found a dilemma.  There were times, even DAYS where our cell phones were of no use.  They did not work or still worse, up towards the border they would deviously ROAM onto a Canadian provider who was more than happy to route any messages or calls (at a much higher rate mind you).

So we at times found ourselves turning off our cell phones.

And subsequently at times wondering what time it was!

We have pulled out the watch I use for taking celestial sights.  Been carrying that around for a while now.

Almost seems like we are marching backwards through time :-)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...

Sunday Sept 25

I had woken with the rolls a couple of times already, but this time I could hear the wind howling, and feel the boat shuddering with the gusts.  I was wide awake, I might as well get up, since it is such an effort to actually STAY in bed.  It seemed light enough -- I was hoping it was at least 4:00, but the clock said 2:09.  Sigh.  It's gonna be a really long night.

Al gets up a few minutes later.  We check the wind guage which holds steady at 15-18.  The waves seem to be building, along with the wind.  We are on a mooring buoy not far from shore on Sucia Island.  (We had hoped to be on the dock at Matia, but the dock and both mooring buoys there were taken when we came by yesterday afternoon.)

Viking  Star has a tendency to 'hunt' in the wind when at anchor or on a buoy.  This means that we turn in the wind until the waves push us back, which means we often get sideways to the wave.....NOT comfortable in a boat that we acknowledge tends to roll.

Winds are now gusting to 37.  The waves are 3-4 feet in what we thought would be a rather sheltered location.  It is the side-to-side rocking that throws things around on the boat.  Even though I have by now stowed things as we do when preparing for a passage, the medicine chest comes open and spills it's guts, the kids' pictures jump from the shelf and a few of my books join them.

I am feeling quite anxious and my stomach is rolling with the waves too.  Al wants to talk, and he points out the boats nearby on the linear moorage, but I can't watch them because they are too bouncy, which doesn't help my stomach.  I turn the other way, but my neck is getting stiff from looking that way, and I am sure being tense doesn't help.

We see that a sailboat appears to have moved, and soon that is confirmed as their running lights come on and they begin doing circles.

Al starts the engines, which startles me, but I know he is trying to hold the boat nose into the waves.  We ride this way for maybe 45 minutes to an hour and begin to notice an improvement.  I am exhausted and think I might be able to sleep some more now.  It is after 4:30.  Al needs to read for a bit to wind down, but I don't think I can manage that.  It takes awhile, but I DO fall asleep.

When I awake again, it is 8:16 and the sun is out.  I get up and make coffee and Al joins me.  He makes breakfast and the calmer waves and wind that have allowed us to sleep a bit pick up again, with a vengeance.  Though the waves don't seem quite as bad as they were in the night, we have gusts to 42 now.

The clouds look like snakeskin in the sky

We turn on the weather radio.  It is expected to calm to 10-15 later in the day, but tonight there is a gale warning with winds to be 40-50 knots.  Boats have been leaving the bay all day.  We call on the radio for 'any craft in Fossil Bay' and Commotion answers.  When we ask if there is room for us at the dock there, she says a fishing boat just came in and took the last space.  We decide we will move to the linear moorage, closer to shore, and vacated now.

We are at the one closer to shore, but this gives you a good view

This is a new experience for us, and we discuss what we want to do and how to do it.  We are not certain if there is sufficient room for us between the posts, so I stand on the back of the boat while all steers near and brings the bow to the point he wants, and I say yes, we have room!  Then I move forward and capture a hoop and run a line.  In no time now we have I think 5 lines attaching us.  Though there are small 'cushions' on the line, the rope does rub on the hull, which makes a hum that sounds like a bass fiddle.  Not unpleasant, but we want to prevent chafe on Al's new paint job, so we add fenders.

Being on the linear moorage keeps us pointed in one direction.  We will not be turning tonight, and though it does not eliminate sideways rolling, it will be much improved, we hope, over last night.

Off the point of the island, we can see big rollers 'out there'

From the chart you can see that Sucia somewhat looks like a hand.  (Two skinny islands are even called  Fingers) We are located on the palm of the hand, at the red dots.

There were 20 or so boats in Echo Bay last night.  By 3PM this afternoon, all but we and one other are gone. Al say's 'I think we figured out how to get a bay to ourselves.'  I said 'I don't like it.  I'd rather have company' (than suffer the bad weather).

One big disappointment.  We had come to Sucia because we thought cell phone coverage would be adequate for Al's work calls on Monday and Tuesday.  But it was spotty at our location last night, and at our new safer location it is no better.  Sometimes it is better if the phone is on the top deck of the boat.  Conditions may not allow that tomorrow, probably not.  Texting seems to work better than phone calls, so Al has communicated with his boss about the situation.

Presently, we are experiencing the calm before the storm, the next storm.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I wake up at 5:30.  I have woken several times through the night with the bouncing waves from the howling wind.  There are even white caps IN the marina.  I find Al in the main cabin---he's been looking at the weather websites and says 'You aren't gonna like it, but we need to get out of here today!'

I check the wind guage.  It is holding at 18 (we still don't know if that MPH or knots, which is faster).  Nope.  I don't like this news.

Al returns to bed, but once I'm up, I'm usually up.  I check the websites he has left open and confirm.  Yup, doesn't look any better for tomorrow, and a stronger system due Monday.  Probably SHOULD move on today.

It is surprisingly warm!  We actually took a blanket from the bed last night.  As the sun rises, I open windows as much as I can without creating a vortex.  8:00 arrives and Al has still not emerged from the aft cabin.  I am getting anxious.  I start stowing things in preparation for a bumpy ride.  It works, Al appears.

While he showers I strip the bed.  [How often do YOU change the sheets?  I have to say, I can't remember for sure the last time I did. Ewww.  And if you know Al and what a sweaty guy he can be you are saying EEEWWWW!]  It takes me 30-45 minutes of wrestling to strip the bed and remake it.  I am SO thankful that we have a 'walk-around' bed rather than the 'tucked-under' beds you find on so many boats.  But with my fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel issues I don't have a lot of strength in my hands and arms.  Our memory foam mattress is thick and heavy and fits nicely in it's frame, but makes my chore difficult.

When I emerge from MY shower to a breakfast Al has prepared, he makes my day when he says 'You know, tomorrow isn't supposed to be any worse than today, how about we stay one more night?  We can make it a boat day'  He has some shopping to do for a couple of projects, and I can clean.  Sounds like a deal to me!

We figure we have walked 3-4 miles today to visit two marine stores, even stopping for coffee and lunch.  Now back at the boat, Al has begun his projects, and it's time for me to begin mine!  Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sucia Hike

Yesterday after Al completed his work for the day, we set out to explore a bit more of this island than we have seen on our many previous visits.  Our favorite has been Fossil Bay, but after our hike, we will perhaps try Echo Bay, or Shallow Bay, the next time we visit.  Echo Bay is much larger, so perhaps less protective, but it offers a much better view of Mt. Baker, and perhaps our cell phone access will be stronger facing Bellingham.

Echo  Bay facing SE to the 'fingers' of the 'hand' that is Sucia

Our side-by-side shadows

Hey Tim and Marla!  We found the China Caves!

Al rescued three princesses last night--my Hero!

It appears to have had a balloon ladybug attached as well

This morning, a champagne toast .  Al says 'Welcome to the Club', the  Half-Centurians!

I Am 50

I awake this morning having entered into a new decade.

For a couple of years Al was saying he was 'almost 50' before finally actually turning 50 in January.  Perhaps the difference is being a woman; I was adamant that I was 'still in my 40's', even through the last day!  But today, the calendar says I am 50.

I will never forget a doctor visit during my pregnancy with Micah (who reaches the milestone 21 next month) where I was told 'Welcome to Middle Age!'  I was shocked that she would say such a thing to someone who had barely entered her 30's!

But, today, I consider my ancestors.  My grandparents died at ages 68, 72, 83 and 94.  My parents are both still living, thankfully, at age 86. Even with modern science extending life expectancies, I have more than likely already PASSED my mid-life.

Is this a crisis?

My life so far has been filled with the and friends, school and work, homes and travel....that has brought me to an extraordinary point of wonder and gratitude.

So today I am not in crisis. I am counting my blessings.  Parents, children and grandchildren.  A loving husband. Friends. Health.  Nature. That 'things' matter less and less. And that my appreciation grows. Thousands and thousands of blessings, seeming without end, with every moment that passes.  Even the moment that sends me into a new year, a new decade, a new half-century.

Yes, NEW.  The body may be older, but my spirit is re-new, every decade, every day, every moment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Another in the fabulous sunrise/sunset collection.......last night's sunset here at Fossil Bay, Sucia.

A nicely balanced photo......but my eye keeps going to that one lonely tall tree, so...

I bring him closer, to stand gazing toward the light himself.

My plan for today?  To fully enjoy the last day of my 40's.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Day at the Office

It's Monday morning, and Al is all set up for his phone call!  His phone is tethered, and you can barely see my computer alongside so I can Facebook and blog.

The view in front of is a beautiful day on Sucia!

Body Mind Soul

Yesterday I stepped off the boat for the first time in four days!

From Roche Harbor we went to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.  We docked to a float which also had a pay station, so we didn't HAVE to go to shore.  When we arrived, we intended to only stay one night, but Al began working on a project (YAY!  He's nearly got the second head ready to work!)

Here are two photos taken one month apart at Reid Harbor:

Every buoy taken, rafting at the dock, anchorages all the way to the mouth of the harbor.  August 13

A handful of boats.  Sept 15

We planned to move to Sucia on Sunday afternoon.  We knew we could get a phone signal there, and Al would be set up for his work phone calls for Monday and Tuesday.  However, the weather called for a system to move in on Sunday, 15-25 knot winds whipping up the seas.  I do not like bumpy water and was not looking forward to the trip.  Al was not happy dealing with an apprehensive wife, and feeling a bit pressured by NEEDING to move.

So when we awoke early Sunday morning to find the winds calm, we debated a bit, then set off with the hope that condition would hold for the next 2-3 hours.  Al had wanted to go around Turn Point and up Boundary Pass, where whale sightings are more likely.  But with the forecast I was reluctant to travel the bigger water.  What Al finds merely uncomfortable, I can find to be rather frightening, and he knows it, so he allowed us to travel where I was more comfortable.

Sucia is beautiful and I have been feeding my mind, body and soul.

To feed my mind, I am reading a third book this summer set during World War II.  The first was Ken Follett's 'Jackdaws' where a British woman is leading resistance in France.  The second was 'The Postmistress' by Sarah Blake. Excellent book.  All should read it. I am presently reading 'Simon's Family' by Marianne Fredriksson, a Swedish writer, so this story takes place in Sweden with Simon growing up while WWII goes on.

I continue to feed my body healthy food, and I continue to lose weight.  'I have a new number!' I told Al yesterday.  I have now lost 28 pounds since May 15.  Al's weight loss has stalled.  He has not lost any in the past month, but I guess the good news is that he has not gained either!  I think the trick for him is to keep busy.  He tends to snack, alot, when he is 'bored'.

Feeding the soul.  I had a conversation with a friend earlier this week and she said that I appeared so happy, rested, peaceful and content.  I responded 'It's quite the lifestyle!'  And another friend asked via Facebook 'Did you find a church today?'  She didn't specify a building, or refer to an earlier post 'Congregations' where I noted gatherings of various kinds.  But I DID find a church, if a church is somewhere that you can be quiet with your thoughts and thank God for your blessings.

While my husband rests on a log, I walk the shore where stones have their sharp edges rubbed away by each other, water and time.  The waves and stones are speaking to each other,  'Shush......shush..........shush.'  And it is a comfort, and I can feel MY sharp edges smoothing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I did it! I did it!

Some of you may be surprised to hear that I have not run the dinghy before.

I have paddled a canoe. I have rowed a boat. I have steered a sailboat by tiller. But I have never run a small boat by motor.

 Several weeks ago, Al once again read my mind.  I was watching him start the motor and thinking 'I should really practice that!' when he turned to me and said 'We should have YOU do this sometime. You probably already could, just from watching me, right?'  And I had him tell me all the steps.

This morning we wanted to go to shore for donuts/breakfast and coffee.  We have learned that Tues/Wed is the slow time in Roche Harbor, and that a month has made a BIG difference in traffic density in the bay and marina. As we loaded to go I said 'Maybe today would be a good time for me to try the dinghy.'

I fumbled a bit, and made sure to narrate what I was planning to do, so that Al could correct me if needed.  He didn't.  As I set off for the docks I told him he may need to take over once we got in close, but he didn't. And as we climbed out I told Al I felt like granddaughter Madalyn crying 'I did it! I did it!'

After our outing, when we returned to the dinghy, Al asked if I would like to drive again, and I said sure!  I was a little more nervous starting out from close quarters--and there were more people around to observe--but the most difficult thing was pulling the starter cord.  With my fibromyalgia, I could feel that I had made this effort several times already this morning!

The nice thing about an inflatable is that it pretty much bounces off things that you hit without damage, especially if you are going slow.  Approaching Viking Star, I wasn't able to find the gear shift in time and we bumped a little before I got it into Neutral.

In a couple of weeks Al will be once again travelling for his work. I will be on my own for several days. And though we have called the marina for a slip, there is a small chance there won't be one available and we will have to anchor out.  Today's accomplishment with the dinghy will be my insurance that I won't be confined to the boat if we do end up having to anchor.

I am proud of myself.

Monday, September 12, 2011



Ten years later, like most Americans old enough to remember that day, I remember where I was and what I was doing.  I was at work and did not have access to TV, but did have a radio.  I remember calling my children at home, teenagers and younger getting ready to go to school that day and saying 'America is under attack.  This is an act of war.  Our world is changing!'

We are at Roche Harbor for the next few days, so that Al has a speedy internet connection for the work phone calls he has scheduled.  We found the flag, alone and at half-mast.  The colors ceremony was poignant and abbreviated.

Coincidentally, on our way to Roche Harbor, we noted that our engine hour meter recorded 911 on 9-11!  It was July 2 when we noted 777.  We have counted 134 hours under power in the last 2+ months, an average of about 2 hours per day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More Swallows

But first, another fabulous sunrise.  East from Blind Bay, Mt. Baker tucked into the notch.  It has me wondering though, about that rhyme....Red sky in morning, sailors take warning?

Another Sunday morning visit by a flock of swallows.  First we had Flying School at Fisherman's Bay, then Finishing School her on Blind Bay.  By now I believe these birds are friends of Viking Star, because they are not at all shy this morning!  We can move about the cabin and clang breakfast dishes and they do not startle away.  They leave periodically, darting and hovering over the water, having their own breakfast, and return to sip the dew on the deck.  

Orcas Village across the channel

We did take the ferry to Friday Harbor yesterday.  Attended the Farmer's Market, and had pizza for lunch at the Rumor Mill.  Stopped at the store for a few non-perishable items, and a quick visit to the bookstore.  All in time to catch the 2:15 ferry back around.  We completed the loop by riding along to Lopez before coming back to Shaw.  

This morning, we head to Roche.  We received an email from our fellow blogging boater on Shatoosh.  We seem to just be following her around the islands.  She has been at Roche for the past few days for a reunion of Albin owners. We DO hope to run across her again before she heads back to her homeport.