Saturday, March 31, 2007

2006 Spring Cruise, Part 2

The conditions in Filucy Bay remained chilly and gray, but we decided to head out anyway. "Juniata" and "Sail La Vie" were going back to the park dock at Penrose Point. We elected to continue on into Horsehead Bay, where we hoped to hide out from the even stronger SE winds that were forecast. The guide book said that large, expensive homes lined the shore. We immediately thought, "Wi-fi!" It was time we checked TurboTax to see if our e-filed forms had been accepted. I couldn't relax until we were assured they went through okay. Clark steered "Rikki-tikki" as far toward the head of the bay as we felt comfortable and went forward to drop the anchor. As soon as it set, I turned on the iBook's Airport and, wonder of all wonders, we immediately picked up an open network! Yes! We'd come to the right spot. We could relax and enjoy the evening. The winds did pick up but the small bay was well sheltered, as were we.

As we exited Horsehead Bay the next day, we saw "Juniata" had already made a good distance down Carr Inlet ahead of us. It was bumpy and the wind was nearly on our nose, but the gusts soon calmed as we turned to go into Tacoma Narrows. Back in Gig Harbor at the City Dock, thunderstorms and heavy rain squalls made our walking tours "interesting". We ducked into little shops to wait out each sudden downpour. Way down the street, toward the head of the harbor, we found a little marine store where we bought a curious folding, lightweight grapnel anchor for Darzee. When Dave saw it, he immediately asked Larry to buy him one- "Sail La Vie" was staying another day or two.

On April 17, we motored 27 nautical miles back to Port Madison where, as we had expected, the wi-fi network there now required a password. Email would have to wait until we got back to Port Ludlow. After another four hours of travel next day, we anchored in our very favorite hideaway, the Inner Harbor. Dave and Marcia would go on into Canada, while we decided to see if we could offload our bicycles before heading to BC. We emailed Dick and Sharon to inquire if they had room. They replied in the affirmative, so we decided to go into La Conner, where our friends could meet us with their pickup truck. 

Leaving Port Ludlow on the 20th, we enjoyed calm conditions all the way across the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The current runs very swiftly in Deception Pass, between Fidalgo Island and Whidby Island. Everyone respects its narrow fairway and turbulent waters. We arrived shortly before slack and found a pair of tugs along the north shore with their log boom waiting to go through. They pulled out in front of us as the time neared. We hailed them several times on the VHF but they failed to respond, so we throttled up and pulled around them before there was no time left to do so. Passing under the bridge at low tide, one is impressed with the narrowness of the water, the size and frighteningly jagged rocks that line the shore cliffs. We wished someone had been on the bridge to photograph "Rikki-tikki" going under for his first time. "Serendipity" must've passed under dozens of times in her ten years of cruising these northern waters.

Two tugs with their log boom headed for Deception Pass.

The Swinomish Channel is fraught with strong currents, which even locals don't seem to quite understand which direction they will run on which state of the tide. We decided to deal with whatever current there was. The channel is clearly marked. We entered the south end, which is very narrow between mud flats with no water. The current was running against us and a big power yacht came astern wanting to get by. We pulled as far over to the right as possible. As they passed, a man came out onto the swim step and mouthed, "Sorry about the wake," and stepped back inside leaving us to rock back and forth. At far end is a steep-sided channel with an S-curve shape that blocks any view of traffic approaching. With our wide beam, we hoped not to meet any other boat, while we nervously took quick glances overhead to marvel at the homes perched on the edges of the cliffs.

There is another bridge at the south end of La Conner and the chart assured us we would enjoy ample clearance but, as we approached, we spied a cable hanging much lower than the bridge span. We were almost afraid to continue into town! Slowing to a creep, we edged our way toward the higher side of the cable and crossed our fingers that our mast top would not snag. If it touched, we were prepared to back away immediately. This time we didn't even breathe. "Rikki" went under without catching the cable, but we were sure that this clearance was not what was stated on the chart! With relief, we tied "Rikki-tikki" to a City Float, and put our $20 check into the fee box.

A metal sculpture of a salmon graces this ramp at one of the La Conner City Floats.

It turned out to be Tulip Days in La Conner. Discovering this, we were amazed that there was room along the city waterfront for us. The attractive little town was crowded with people, hundreds of cars, and motorcycles. A bank parking lot sparkled with an amazing array of shiny, expensive sportscars.

A steam-powered launch gives tours up and down the waterfront at La Conner.

Designed for speed, these sporty vehicles dazzled the eyes.

The main street of La Conner was congested with weekend visitors.

Dick and Sharon came down to the dock, loaded up the bikes, then took us to their home in Mount Vernon for dinner. On the way out of town, Dick slowed the car so I could grab a shot of the last of the tulips left in the field. The remaining acres of flowers had all been snipped off, leaving only stems and leaves! The tulips are grown for their bulbs not their blooms. We just missed what must've been a truly awesome landscape just days before.

No stopping. No Cars. Just grab a quick photo!

Our dismay at missing the La Conner fields was soon forgotten. As soon as we checked into Canada Customs on April 26th at Tsehum Harbour, we made a beeline for Tod Inlet, where we would tour The Butchart Gardens. They are renowned worldwide for their floral displays and we would not be disappointed. We spent two days taking photos and wandering through the amazing combinations of colorful foliage and bright spring blossoms.

Clark overlooks The Butchart's Sunken Garden.

Here are just a couple of the hundreds of photos I captured.

The beds are layered with swaths of blooms.

Nature creates some eye-popping shapes and hues.

The tulips are artfully integrated with contrasting or harmonizing companions.

When we emerged from our last day at The Butchart Gardens, Juniata was waiting for us in the anchorage. The following day was drizzly but we didn't care. Ira (You remember Small Fry?) met Clark and I at the end of the trail where the lane ends, loaded us into his pickup, and drove us into Victoria/Langford for grocery shopping. We enjoyed his wonderful stories along the way. After a personal tour of this beautiful area, he took us to his home, where we finally met his wife, Betty. Thanks, Ira. Our visit was much too short!

All stocked up with groceries, we followed "Juniata" out of Tod Inlet and northeast toward Pirates Cove, a popular Marine Provincial Park on De Courcy Island. The weather was threatening to worsen but conditions were benign for the six and a half-hour trip. Arriving at Pirates Cove in late afternoon, we anchored as close to the east shore as we could and rowed out a line to shore. "Juniata" anchored out in the middle, just ahead of a raft of six powerboats with music blaring and we both hunkered down to await the coming storm.

Clark & Nina


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