Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making Tracks

After several days in Seattle where we made many exceptions to our diet (pastries and lattes and burgers, oh my!), we decided to take advantage of the dry weather today to walk around Blake Island, literally.  It is 4 miles to walk the perimeter.

We had rather heavy rain for many hours yesterday, so the ground was pretty squishy.  We saw lots of deer tracks.

The beach revealed a variety of creatures passing by.....

Gulls?  Ducks?  Geese?

Ours were the only human tracks we saw.


We saw some other cool stuff too.  We walked for probably a couple of miles on the beach, nearly half way around the island...

Clam shells on waves of sand

beach grass

Al wondered why there were pine needles sticking up from the sand, but a closer look revealed they were rooted.  NOT pine needles, but we don't know what.


Al dubbed this 'Barnacle Beach'

Just above the beach, there was a sedimentary stone shelf.  Here, a small  waterfall was trickling.

Aren't they cute?  I started picking them up, collecting 7 to send to the grandkids, when Al say's 'There's an animal in that one -- it's alive!'  Ha, I dropped it immediately.  Well, I couldn't bear to kill something, even for my grandkids, so I settled for a picture.  I thought they were periwinkles, but my book does not say periwinkles are orange.  We saw white ones and brown ones also.  Maybe dogwinkles?  But the book doesn't say they are orange either.  

Back to Blake

Weather was predicted to pick up at 7 AM, and get nasty at 10 AM.  So we decided to 'get up and get going' as soon as we awoke, and it worked!  We were out of the marina before 7:00 and we even had coffee in hand, though I used the wide-bottomed, non-skid cup rather than my usual one.

Our timing was great!  We scooted across Elliot Bay as quickly as we could, keeping out of the way of ferries arriving and departing.  Two tugs also met a container ship and were bringing it in to port.  As we rounded Alki Point, a cargo ship was in the northbound traffic lane.  We passed behind him and barely noticed his wake.

We had expected a much rougher crossing.  We arrived at Blake Island at 8:30, and I set up to make breakfast -- no earlier OR later than we normally eat.

The rain arrived in early afternoon, but the wind only reached 20 knots at any time.  Points north registered much higher, and there is still a gale warning in effect for those areas today.  We are pretty calm and quiet today.

Can I bore you with more bird pictures?

Sorry this is so dark, but he WAS fishing at night, one of our last nights at Bell Harbor Marina in Seattle.  And he was very intent.  He didn't shy away when I opened the cabin door, OR use the flash! (which didn't improve the photo at all)  He was very successful, I saw him catch at least 5 fish.  I love that fringe on his chest.

This guy perched in this tree for a couple of hours, during the heaviest rain , yesterday afternoon.

This morning, he shared breakfast with his love in the same  spot.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I think I inherited an interest in bird watching from my mom.  And it is encouraged by my older brother.  Mom is 86 now, and still fills numerous feeders to encourage birds to her window.  (I think Mom gets as much entertainment from the cat watching these birds too.)

While on our Snake River trip over a year ago now, we were wishing for a bird / wildlife / plant  identification book.  So on a final trip to Powell's Books in Portland, we picked up National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest.  We thought it would offer a good overview and be what we were looking for.

However, over the past year, we found we were mainly using it for bird identifications, and it just wasn't very complete.  So last fall, on recommendation from fellow cruisers we met in Friday Harbor, we purchased The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.  I am appreciating this book more with use.  Though the Audubon book had beautiful photos, often it was only one view of a bird.  The Sibley book has numerous color drawings of both male and female, juvenile, and often different postures, or birds in flight.

Still, many of the birds we have seen have been camera shy.  I like to photograph the birds, zoomed in as much as possible, and compare to what I see in the books.

Today in Seattle, there is a small flock of diving ducks.  They know exactly where I am, and continually move away from me. If you look through ALL of the photos I have taken since 2001 when we began using Picasa, you will see LOTS of pictures of bird butts. The secret of photography, especially since digital came along, is take LOTS of pictures and hope for a good one.

The best of six shots
Mainly because I knew scaup were black and white, this was my first guess as to what these ducks were.  But definitely not after consulting the book.  Scaup have no cheek patches.  Seeing that their eyes are a bright yellow, and knowing there is a breed called Goldeneye, I turn to that page.  Bingo!  But there's a Common Goldeneye and a Barrow's Goldeneye listed.  By comparing my photo to the drawings in the book, I determine these are Barrow's Goldeneye, due to the cheek patch of the male being a crescent rather than round, and the bill of the female on the left being mostly yellow.

Yay!  I feel like I am getting better at this.  Key for me is getting a photo, so I don't have to rely on memory.  I am still wishing I could have gotten closer and better shots of the ducks I saw on Oct. 31.
But I am still convinced they were Canvasbacks.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“Man Overboard” vs. ”Oh Shit, She is in the Water!”

Anyone who lives and/or works on the water much has had opportunities to fish someone out of the drink.  Today we came to #4.  This case was typical, someone lost their balance while undocking and slipped in.  It has been my observation that the last (or 1st) 5’ of any cruise is the riskiest when it comes to slipping in.  And it has been this pulling to the dock or pulling away from the dock events that has provided each of our opportunity to assist someone who slipped in.  It is also why Kristi and I tend to ALWAYS wear our inflatable life jackets, even when coming in during calm water to a protected moorage, and even with Viking Stars nice high rails.  It is that 5’ gap that will get ya.

And don’t even ask what happens to the poor soul who makes the Cardinal Mistake of ‘Jumping’ from my boat!  (Right Red?)

Today turned out fine.  The person quickly grabbed a hold of the dock while the one left on the boat was able to secure it a few feet away.  With two of us helping we easily assisted the person out of the water.  He was unhurt, change into dry cloths, and all was well.

Which brings me to the Title of this post.

The 1st time I had an opportunity to see someone slip into the water I yelled out ‘Oh Shit, She is in the Water’ – while jumping up and grabbing a boat pole.  Those who I was with at first just looked at me like ‘Ok, Al has been in the Sun a bit too much’.  (Right Red?)  Only after seeing me dash down the dock and  approaching the person in the water did they realize what was happening and were able to jump into action.  In the end this case turned out OK as well, but looking back a lot of time was lost by those around me to realize what was going on.

And there was an opportunity to learn.  From an early age everyone knows what Man Overboard means.  No question about it.  ‘Oh Shit, She is in the water’ does not quite have that same impact.  Today when I raced out of the cabin (you see, Trawlers have lots of big Windows, was easy for us to see what was going on) I yelled ‘Man Overboard’.  Felt a little silly doing it, but Kristi reported it had the desired effect –  as almost instantly several heads popped up from the nice center cockpit sailboat next to us – like ground Hogs.  Soon a couple of other folks were on the way to assist.  No question what the issue was, no lost time.

In USPS we teach to yell ‘Man Overboard’, while pointing at the person – never losing sight of them.    Both things are key (though in this case, the person was not going anywhere as he was holding onto the dock tightly, he just could not climb out of the water unassisted).  And by yelling Man Overboard I was able to alert all around us to the situation.

Clearly and concisely.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Feeling Lazy

I can't think of a cute title for this update, and there is no apparent 'theme' to it either.  And since it is a blustery rainy day that I think I will mostly spend reading, 'Feeling Lazy' seems most appropriate.

We made it to Seattle safely and enjoyed two days and nights at Bell Harbor Marina with their February Special  of $20 a night, plus $5 for power.

We visited all our favorite places and Al once again notes that most of our activities are centered around FOOD.  Typical Americans, typical cruisers.  We made sure to hit Starbucks a couple of times, Pike Place Market, for mini donuts and Uli's sausages, The Corner for produce, other provisions from the IGA, Anthony's for happy hour, and then we found a great Thai place for something new.

Mojo the Coho lives at Anthony's Restaurant.  I took these pictures especially for my son Micah.

This is the sunset the first night we spent in Seattle, from Pier 66, where cruise ships arrive and depart from (notice the cleat).  Double click on the picture to get a better look at the snow on the Olympic mountains behind Bainbridge Island.

 As the February special only runs from Sunday through Thursday nights, we departed Bell Harbor on Friday morning and moved across the Puget Sound to Blake Island.  It is a stormy weekend with blustery winds and lots of rain -- 'good weather for ducks' -- or grebes, or mergansers.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Pleasure

It was a pleasure to be at the helm today.

Usually, Al pilots the boat.  He is just so darn good at it.  And I am frankly afraid to do damage.

BUT I want to be comfortable doing more.  Today was a perfect day to try.  We wanted to move on down to Everett, but Al had a work call scheduled for the afternoon.  I offered to pilot during the call.

However, the call was cancelled.  I told Al I had been looking forward to being in charge for a couple of hours, and he said 'Go for it!'  He brought up all the instruments and reviewed procedures for starting the engine.  Then he went up front to release us from the mooring buoy on Hope Island, and away we went!

There was a bit of excitement when, driving into the sun, I drove directly over a crab pot.  Al went to the back to check it out, and there was a buoy behind the boat, with a line leading to below our boat.  Dang!  Neither of us was quite sure what to do, but when Al went back again with the pole, we had already freed.

That should have shaken my confidence, but the day was just too beautiful.  The further I went, the more I wanted to take us the whole way!  The water became glossy.  There was very little traffic.  In five hours, we saw one other pleasure boat, a log tow, and as we approached Everett there was a Coast Guard ship and one small boat heading in.

I had thought we would arrive around 5 PM, but the sun went down as we passed Gedney Island (locally called Hat Island).  I brought us in to the harbor, but as we approached the dock at Jetty Island, it was just TOO dark.  My cataracts have been bothering my night vision for some time now, and I just did not feel comfortable.

Al agreed that it was very difficult, even for him, which made me feel a little better.

I am disappointed.  It would have been a perfect time to practice docking!  Somewhere we have been a few times, so it is familiar.  It was low tide, so current would be minimized.  And there would likely NOT be many others around to observe.

Other than that, it was a great day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Deception Pass

We checked the weather and determined that today would be the best day for a hike.  There is a bigger chance of rain tomorrow, AND Al has a work call.

So we packed snacks and set out.  We planned to visit the bridge and explore some of the trails in the park.  We figured to walk 5 or 6 miles today.

Here is the view west from the bridge, out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  This also shows the eddies pretty well as the current flows west.  The current CAN reach speeds of 12 knots, so boats transitting need to plan carefully.

Here I am, the chicken.  I cannot go past where the trees keep me company.  As much as the heights, it is the traffic passing so closely and bouncing the bridge that makes me leery of going any further!

Here is MY view of the bridge.  There were a FEW of us 'trolls' hanging around waiting for brave photographers making the trip across the bridge.

We had seen this log tow hanging out waiting for slack tide.  Here he is making his move!

Al stepped out again to watch from above.  HEY!  Come back here and get the camera!

Thanks Al!  This is a good action shot!  You can see the wake where the little worker tug zipped around to his next position.

This was the first real hike (other than city streets) since my fall into the engine compartment and twisting my ankle in November.  I can feel it!  I have still noticed some aches, and stiffness when going down steps, but this hike has been a real test.  I was careful, and then took some Advil when we got back to the boat.  Now, beef burgundy is on the stove, scenting the air and whetting the appetite.

Friday, February 10, 2012

La Conner WA

The trip from Friday Harbor to Anacortes was pretty uneventful, just the way I like it.  The winds were predicted to be 15-25, and they were pretty steady at 25.  We had one gust that funneled between two islands that tilted us over for a bit of thrill, and hitting 47 knots on our gauge.

We were the only boat at Eagle Harbor on Cypress Island, a first for us.  And yes, we did see an eagle.

We arrived in Anacortes before noon and went directly to the fuel dock.  This was our main purpose for coming to Anacortes, in addition to visiting Starbucks.  It took nearly two hours to put on 320 gallons and write the check for $1200.  By the time we had also pumped out the holding tank, it was going on 3:00 and we still had not provisioned.  We decided to be leisurely at Starbucks and read the paper, then get our two bags of groceries, and stop at the marina office and give them $35 to let us just stay for the night.

This kingfisher was adjacent to the fuel dock.  That is the longest I have seen one of these guys sit still in one place, and he was quiet too!  They have an alarming call, and usually very flittery flight.

Since we had  power, a load of laundry was done before bed, and a second started this morning before a trip up to Safeway for more Starbucks and a couple of donuts.  And we were away around 10 AM.  Near the twin bridges on the Swinomish Channel, we saw two different eagles, and a dead duck in the water.  That was kind of sad.  I thought 'perhaps' it had some oil on it?  We WERE near a refinery.  But then we also wondered, where DO dead ducks go?  We saw what looked like a duck blind on shore....maybe he was shot and not recovered?

We have been down the channel a couple of times, and had noticed the ramp with the 'salmon' on it.  Al was excited to see if the public dock there would be open, and it was!

"Some days you eat the fish   /   Some days the fish eats you"

There was a walking tour of sculpture art throughout town.  This was  Al's favorite.  He plucked at a leaf, and the whole works trembled!

We had fun strolling the streets of this cute little town and ended with an early dinner at a pub.  Tomorrow, Deception State Park.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I Left My Heart....

I often use music to relate my feelings.  Songs in my mind the last couple of weeks were "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", and "Piece of My Heart".  But yesterday as we pulled out of Friday Harbor I sang for Al...."So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, adieu..."

Now, I DO love San Francisco.  It is one of my favorite cities, and I have returned seven times to visit that piece of my heart.  Drive down Lombard, take the elevator to the top of Coit Tower, take a roller-coaster cable car ride, eat Chinese food and Ghirardelli chocolate, stroll Fisherman's Wharf and say hello to the sea lions, and visit Pip at the Golden Gate Hotel.

Last summer we truly adopted the cruising lifestyle.  We live on our boat, and move from place to place.  I do enjoy seeing new places, and meeting new people.  But after doing it for an extended period of time, another feeling sneaks up on you.

It hit me first on our Snake River trip.  We stopped at Lyons Ferry on the way up river and we were taken care of very well by the staff of the marina.  But when we stopped again on the way back down,  we were recognized with a shout, "You're back!"  Someone knew who I was.

I think that may be one of the things I miss the most about the cruising lifestyle -- the ongoing relationships that are built when you stay in one place for awhile.

Which brings us to Friday Harbor - We LOVE Friday Harbor.

There are so many things to love about it.  We were first welcomed by the Power Squadron, and the Yacht Club.  The first day, and the last day, we were offered a car on loan.  We did take an offer from a fellow boater we met at church.  We were fed at potlucks, community dinners, and coffee shops.  We got excellent care at medical, dental, and optical facilities.  We attended plays, listened to great music, and went to the movie theater. We shopped new and used book stores. We watched ferries come and go, and we rode the waves at the breakwater.  We used the Give-n-Take shelter.  We met Popeye.  We saw eagles.

And the longer we stayed, the more we liked it.  I even indulged in the fantasy of finding the perfect waterfront cottage  and staying forever.

We recently met a couple on the dock, who HAD sailed around the world, and said "The best boating in the world is right here.  Why would you ever want to leave?"  

And I wonder.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Day in Pictures

We thank our friend Samantha for loaning us a vehicle!  We drove with her to her house last evening where we wined, dined on her fresh-made salsa, and gazed at the view of Port Angeles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then drove home her pick-up.

Today we were off the boat even before the sun peeked over the ridge!  Why so early?  We were going to Roche Harbor for donuts!

 On the way, we stopped to say Good Morning to Mona

After a snuffle and a pat......

She went back to her frosty breakfast

Driving on, Cow and Pig encourage us to vote

 There is a lot of sculpture art in, around, and near Roche harbor.  This heron may have been in the blog once before, and I still like his silhouette.

The sun spotlights the flag at the hotel

After our own breakfast, and leisurely reading the Seattle Times and USA Today, we make our way to the McMillan family mausoleum.  Al says he has not been here before, but I remember coming on a previous chartered sailboat trip.

The family is arranged as though at a dinner party

We drove back to the marina, standing on the dock for a long while, watching an eagle soaring in the sun.  Then we made it back to the boat, where I worked for an hour, and Al used to check out a couple of houses we saw on our drive through town.

Then we packed up celery sticks, cheese, apples and cold chicken from Thursday night's potluck at the Power Squadron meeting, and headed to the Lime Kiln State Park, stopping at the lighthouse for sunset.

The building was closed, so Al had to peek in all the windows.  He learned bits about recent whale sightings.  This is a favorite point to observe the Orcas in J Pod.  I MAY have seen a spout, but no dorsal fins, so it could just as likely have been the wind on the waves.

After the sun set and we prepared to leave, the house was 'lit'.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cost to Cruise - January

Here they are, costs for January.  Overall  we did a bit better, as there are some 'extra' costs that we will not get each month:

  1. Rental car for our trip to Portland during the Holidays in the Transportation row.
  2. Licences (FCC) and Licences (Washington State) are in the Misc column.  FCC is good for 10 years, Washington State - only one
(If table is cut off, click on it  to open just it and see the whole table)

Maintenance is a bit higher as I completed the installation of the aft Hydronic heating loop, and purchased some items to try out adding a separate power cord for electric heat.  This might come in handy if we winter over in places with fixed utilities.

Speaking of heating.  When we take off next week we will go to Anacortes and fuel up, but it is looking like we may have used upwards of 80 gallons / month of Diesel to run the  Dickinson stove.  Though we love the Dickinson one of its limitations is it is on 7/24.  Even though we have it turned down just about as low as it will go the diesel adds up.  (Hence looking into an extra 30A shore power cord).  Will know more when we top off the tanks.

On the positive side:  we managed to stay away from the Seattle Boat show!  (MUCH worst than being in the City, but did miss not seeing friends there).  And with heading out next week we will see a dropping of the moorage.  In fact, we will get a lot of our deposit refunded!