It is always fun to go through the locks—a water elevator between the Puget Sound and Lake Union. Going up and going down, fresh to salt water. So far, every time we have had to go through it has been pretty easy, although every time I watch their safety video and go through all the knots and steps to tie up. Although it is not very crowded on a rainy day in April. This time we were visiting CSR Marine to get a fresh coat of bottom paint on Greystar. As usual they did an excellent job.
After a long trip across the straits we arrived in Port Ludlow and rested up as our trip was coming to an end. Overall great marina, nice beach, the hotel is fun to visit for a fancy dinner and there is a nearby pizza place that is always a hit. Sport finally was able to start the motor on the dinghy himself and take it for a spin. The only complaint was that our neighbors partied all night and listened to bad music. I got up twice to ask them nicely to turn it down and felt like the grumpy old man (even though they were older than me)-but it was bad music after all.
Sailing across the straight always brings a bit of apprehension. Weather can turn quick, seas can rise and not seeing land for a few hours makes you question all the navigational devices. Of course we were able to follow along on our phones on apple maps, never out of cell service and our chart plotter and even the compass all work just great. After fueling up in Friday Harbor we set south through cattle pass. We timed the tides just right and ended up with about five other sailboats doing the same thing. The smoke from the fires was still thick, so the fog-like conditions remained. A few hours later we were in the middle of nowhere and then approaching Port Townsend and continued along to Port Ludlow to try and make it closer to home. The weather was changing and some much needed rain came along, finally.
We arrived back in the US at Friday Harbor. Going through customs was easy in Friday Harbor. But they did ask lots of questions. Friday Harbor is a great town, multiple toy stores, great grocery, the deli that is worth stopping at just for the pastrami, and plenty of restaurants and bars to eat and drink at. We saw Hotel Transylvania 3 at the movie theater (which was decent) and played scrabble. The air was still smokey but starting to clear.
Upon leaving Poet’s Cove we headed north to Salt Spring Island and Ganges. The Salt Spring marina was a bit confusing getting in—but taking it slow and checking our books got us right into our slip. Our Navigation system was incomplete in Canada, so charts, books and a depth finder got us there. A good chunk of the Salt Spring Marina was reserved for Seattle Yacht club folk, but the marina itself is a but run-down, however very friendly and in a good location. There just happened to be Moby’s Pub with outdoor seating where we gorged ourselves on good food. I had the Tuna bowl and it was exceptional.
The smoke from the Canadian wildfires was beginning to thicken about, and we were getting weary. So, guess what, there happened to be a nice hotel across the street which we checked into. There was also a car rental place. Showers, TV and bed, plus a nice restaurant/bar were very welcome. All cleaned up and ready to roll it was nice to explore the island by car. We found a goat farm that had an amazing pizza (yes, goat cheese pizza and yes please on the goat cheese ice cream). For dinner we went into Vesuvius by the B.C. ferry dock on the other end of the island and it was fantastic. The next day we returned the car and explored by foot, finding good bars with live music for happy hour, a couple of parks for the kids to run around in, a killer book store, Whiskers pet food store and a decent taco shop in a converted gas station. There was no shortage of things to do and see. We even took the dinghy on a trip and went to a state (provincial?) park and walked the dogs. Speaking of dogs, we had an escapee from the hotel. Raleigh (the caramel colored whippet) had been couped up and when he saw a hint of light from an open door he went nuts and ran up the highway, through a private garden with fountain, over a fence, through the bushes and beyond. I assumed we lost him when he came hauling back down the highway, where he was captured, muddy, wet and all and put back in the hotel.
We did encounter our first mechanical issue with Greystar. The blower fan in the engine compartment had a bearing go haywire and make a screeching noise. Upon investigation we found it to be shot. At the marina there happened to be a mechanic, who basically told us it was non-essential and that we really did not need a blower fan in the engine compartment in a diesel. He said they could order parts and get us on our way in a few days, but I decided to just remove the fan and go without. Everything seems to work just fine, and we may or may not ever replace it. Our next stop is Friday harbor, so a good 4-6 hours hopefully the wildfire smoke will lessen as we head south.
We will definitely be coming back to Salt Spring, it’s a good place
A family friend had mentioned to us that they really enjoyed Poets Cove, so we spent two nights there. A beautiful setting, calm harbor, busy hotel and marina in the summer. We went through customs here also. Just pull up to the dock that's closest to the beach and runs parallel to the hotel. There's a place there with a phone to call customs. The marina was busy, but still fun and charming. The bay offers calm waters for kayaking or dinghy rides. There's a small pool at the hotel for families with children, this is also where the showers are located for the marina guests. Unfortunately we weren't super fond of this set up. It was a bit uncomfortable showering there with all the chaos from the pool. There's an upper pool for adults only, there may be showers there also but we never went there because of our children. Be sure to go walk around the hotel grounds to check out the sweet cottages you can rent. Also I regret not going to the spa. We had a great lunch at Syrens bistro and lounge, they offered some delicious wines from a local winery on Pender. We had a lovely breakfast at the other restaurant Aurora. And were able to stock up on some basics (ice cream and wine) at the Moorings Cafe. The friendly woman working at the Moorings Cafe told us of a great place for pizza on the island that we could dinghy to from the marina. We ventured out one night it took about 20 minutes one way and found this wonderful gem, Penderosa Pizza. This was a gorgeous dinghy ride and with the sun setting around us on our way home, something we will never forget. Not to mention there's a well stocked liquor store next door to Penderosa Pizza. We miss the beautiful views and amazing sunsets, so will definitely return some day.
I'll start off saying we had a great time here as a family, but will probably never return. Blakely Island is a privately owned island and the homeowners there are very weird about having guests (even through the marina has moorage). It is NOT a welcoming place, and in fact people are a quite rude. BUT we did enjoy ourselves and it was a beautiful place to be. We caught a few crab and Sport was able to get some training in driving the dinghy and rowing. If you do end up going watch the approach as it is very shallow at low tide and has strong currents.
Leaving Oak Harbor we went north and into the Swinomish channel. Timing the tides right allowed us depth (although it was tight in areas around 7 feet) and the currents were strong. At one point we were doing about 7kts while barely in gear. The town of La Conner is set-up for tourism for all the tulip seekers in the Skagit Valley. Lots of waterside eateries, ice cream shops and t-shirt places. We found a cool museum up the hill, that had some great Northwest artifacts, and we found a thrift shop and brew pub to boot. The Swinomish Indian Tribal community had a potlatch going on across the channel that went into the wee hours of the night with drums and music. They had boat races and it looked like everyone was camping out, cooking tons of food and having a great time. On our way out we timed the tides again and made it through the thin, yet very beautiful north channel. There were a few moments where we'd look over and see birds standing on a couple inches of water just a few meters from the boat, but the channel is well marked and we made it through with no incidents.
The weather is hot, hot, hot and that calls for a swim. Oak Harbor is a great stop over on the way north located on the east side of Whidbey Island. Home to the Naval Air Station you can see the jets taking off all the time. The town itself is pleasant and clean and we found a great Mexican restaurant, but had to take an uber from the Marina. The outer seawall on the marina also appears to be a seal breeding ground from the noises we heard during the night.
Packing up and heading out for three weeks on the water. Two adults, two kids, two whippets. check. After provisioning through Amazon Fresh and packing up the Vanagon, pumping the head, fueling up and finding a place for everything we set sail. Only about a 2.5 hour trip to one of our family favorites for the first night in Kingston. The weather was hot, and we were able to have dinner at Kingston Ale house, where we competed in the Pub trivia night. We were on a roll with none wrong by the 3rd round-but it was getting late for the kids and we had places to be in the morning!
2 adults, 2 children, 2 Whippets Sailing the Pacific NW seas.