Day 5 (Friday, July 4th)
Capt Ralph advised us that his wife could spend the entire day in the Garden, but that around an hour was enough for him. We decided that 2 or 3 hours should be enough for most of us. We docked the dinghy at the Garden dock in time for the opening at 9:00 am. The gardens were spectacular- everything was in peak bloom, the rose gardens were extensive, and many of the other blooms looked positively psychedelic.
I’m not a big garden fan, so I was satiated after an hour or so. In any case, it is now off our bucket list.
Erica made pepperoni, mushroom and pepper pizzas for lunch. Lesson learned: keep frozen pizza crusts and toppings on board – pizza is a great lunch option.
Dennis tried out kayaking, and was instructed in the proper “beached whale” exit technique by Nancy.
After lunch we headed for Sydney Spit – a Canadian State Park with a long spit that is almost covered at high tide. Dennis and Bonnie, Paul and I went ashore and took a long hike. Dennis and Bonnie found an active eagles’ nest with complaining babies. I realized that we had seen the same nest (different babies) two years ago when we were here on the Guillemot.
Dinner was grilled salmon on noodles.
Tonight was July 4. Since we were in Canada, there would not be any fireworks, but we thought we might see them on the horizon from Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. Of course, everyone was asleep by 9:00 pm! I managed to wake up at midnight, and went up on the deck. I heard a few booms, and thought I saw some exploding red balls over a neighboring island, but they turned out to be radio antennas. After fifteen fruitless minutes, I went back to bed.
Day 6 (Saturday, July 5th)
We got up early the next day and headed back to the States. It was Paul and Erica’s last day on the trip, and we wanted to get at least one chance for Paul to use the fishing license he had purchased at the beginning of the trip. We crossed back to Roche Harbor. The harbor was extremely crowded with all manner of boats – large and small, and Nancy had to thread the Gryfalcon through extremely narrow always shifting channels. She did a great job and we tied up at the Customs Dock.
At Roche Harbor, there were plenty of CBP agents. After she had filled out the paperwork, they made us all stand in line on the deck of the Gyrfalcon, while the agent looked at each of our passports, and asked if we had purchased anything while we were in Canada.
Coming into the dock, the dinghy handler got distracted, and the dinghy drifted to the stern side (tie up side) of the boat. In that location, it basically acted like a very large fender. We heard a loud pop at the customs dock as the dinghy got squeezed, and one quarter of the dinghy deflated. We immediately made plans to try to figure out how to repair the dinghy on a holiday weekend. We figured we’d deal with it after we were anchored, as you cannot stay at the customs dock.
After we cleared customs, we maneuvered back through the harbor, and rafted onto the Summer Wind. The Summer Wind is our sister ship, built to identical specifications (although she built in Astoria Oregon, not Seattle, and was launched in 1940). The two sisters used to tie up together all the time while in the Coast Survey, but had not done so since they came out of government service in 1967. The Summer Wind is still based in Seattle, and we knew that the owners, Dave and Tami, were planning to be in Roche Harbor for the holiday. There are not too many boats that are large enough for us to tie up to (they were anchored, and we tied up to their side), so we were pretty excited.
Paul and Peter went to check out the dinghy. It turned out that the pop we had heard was a safety mechanism engaging. The dinghy has several chambers. If one overinflates, a valve between the chamber opens and lets the air flow into the other chambers preventing a rupture. When we opened the check valve between the 2 chambers, they equalized and the problem was solved.
After solving the dinghy problem, we all went to tour another old boat, Teal, who had come over from Friday Harbor for the 4th. We had met her captain, Kit, at the Bell Street Rendezvous, but had never seen the Teal. She is a little shorter than the Gyrfalcon, and has a single engine, but a lot of the renovation work was stunning. We ogled, took lots of pictures and got ideas.
Shortly after that, Teal left for home. We went out in the Zodiac and got some nice pictures of the three old girls side by side. Dennis and Bonnie went in to see the sights and lights of Roche Harbor, and Paul and I went fishing.
We took the dinghy to a small island nearby, and spent about an hour jigging. Paul caught one small cod, which we returned to the deep. Nancy, Paul, and Erica went over to the island later, to see all the baby seals. Erica has started this trip with a score of 0 for 4 for sea mammals of the northwest (orcas, seals, sea lions, and Captain Ralph). She had finally seen seals up close and personal. The baby seals are so much darker than the moms and blend right in with the rocks. Probably a good survival strategy.
When we returned to the Gyr, it was time to take Paul and Erica back to Roche Harbor. Prior commitments allowed them to only cruise for a week, which meant they had to catch a float plane from Roche Harbor back to Seattle, to catch a flight home the next day. After we dropped them off, Nancy and I filled the tank on the GFB (it had been getting a lot of use) at the fuel dock, and then returned to the Gyr.
Dave and Tami had invited us over to the Summer Wind for wine and hors d’oeuvres. We met their guests, and spent several hours swapping lies. I’m sure the two boats spent time catching up as well: “You should see what they did to my galley… That’s nothing, they ripped out all my wiring.” “I don’t even have respectable bulkheads anymore”
Day 7 (Sunday, July 6th)
The next day our diminished group moved on to Sucia Island. There are several long anchorages – we avoided the one called Shallow Bay, and anchored in the largest – Echo Bay. After we anchored, Dennis and Bonnie and I circumnavigated the island in the GFB. There is a small group of islands north of Sucia where we had seen lots of seals on earlier trips. They did not disappoint this time.
We got good photos of the wall to wall seals – both adults and babies. Later in the day, Nancy and I went kayaking around the bay.
Day 8 (Monday, July 7th)
The next morning, Nancy went kayaking and Dennis and Bonnie took the GFB into the next bay (Fossil) and hiked for a while.
After their return, we weighed anchor and headed for Spencer Spit on Lopez Island. There was more provisioning to be done, so, after navigating the passage on the east side of Orcas in the Gyr, we readied the GFB and Dennis, Bonnie and I took the GFB over to the village of Orcas to visit the grocery store. Nancy and Ralph continued on to Spencer Spit in the Gyrfalcon.
We (Peter, Dennis, and Bonnie) were cruising between Orcas and Shaw Islands when we were passed by a CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) Zodiac. We were going around 25 knots in the GFB, and they passed us like we were standing still. Their Zodiac had three 400 hp motors on the back, compared to our single 135 hp Honda. Now that is a real Go-Fast Boat! I figured they must be chasing some real bad guys. When we got to Orcas and tied up at the dock, their super GFB was there. We went into the grocery store, where the agents were buying lunch. So much for as high speed chase.
After grocery shopping, we continued in the GFB to Spencer Spit on the east side of Lopez Island. The spit is long and protects a nice anchorage on the south side. Nancy and Ralph had already arrived in the Gyrfalcon when the rest of us arrived in the GFB. We went aboard, dropped anchor and spent a pleasant afternoon. Dennis decided to go kayaking in the bay on the south side of Spencer Spit. As he was coming back and climbing onto the GFB (our portable float for transitioning from the kayaks to the Gyrfalcon), we heard Bonnie calling, “Quick. Come help Dennis. He’s fallen in!” Well, some of him had fallen in. He was hanging with his butt in the water, his legs over the float on the GFB, and his head and chest on the kayak. I went down and pulled him into the GFB – when you are in that position, you can’t really help yourself much – if you move too quickly, the kayak will take off for points unknown, leaving you hanging in mid-air. In any case, he came out only partially wet on his backside – mostly wounded pride.
We are going to have to figure out a better way to get from the kayaks to the GFB. Nancy had figured out that if you crawl over the float like a beached whale, you can safely get into the GFB. However, it is not elegant. On our list of future improvements is some sort of floating platform that will make kayaking easier.
After Dennis had dried off, Nancy took Dennis and Bonnie in the GFB to Spencer Spit so they could take a hike. After she returned, Nancy and I took the kayaks on a circumnavigation of Frost Island, which is just east of Spencer Spit.
When we returned, I decided to show Nancy (and Dennis) exactly how easy it was to get from the kayak to the GFB. I got my legs over the float, and as I started to get my butt out of the kayak, the kayak shot out from under my upper body. I did not have enough of my body in the GFB, and although I tried valiantly to lift my upper torso, I did not have enough strength, and gravity took over. I did head over heels backflip into the bay. I came up sputtering salt water, with mortally wounded pride. Unfortunately, I had my cell phone in the pocket of my life preserver. Smartphones and salt water do not mix. It was toast. Since then I have had several people suggest that I could have put the phone in a dry bag. But, I didn’t plan to fall in! Maybe it would be a good idea if we came up with some sort of platform…..
Day 9 (Tuesday, July 8th)
We left Spencer Spit bright and early, since we had a long day ahead of us. We headed east, between Blakely and Decatur Islands, across Rosario Strait into the Guemes Channel, north of Anacortes and into Padilla Bay. Then we turned south and took the Swinomish Channel to LaConnor. Captain Ralph was working the phone, calling all of his many relatives along the Channel to let them know that we were passing by.
The channel is dredged, and we went through at low tide. It was a little strange to be in a narrow channel surrounded by extensive mudflats on either side. We saw lots of Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons, all of whom thought the mudflats were perfect.
As we went through LaConnor, we tooted our horn at the Acania, which was undergoing repairs there. Captain Rick Etsell and Jorge were on the boat. Jorge came out and waved, but he told us later he hadn’t recognized us – I guess that even though he had spent hundreds of hours inside the Gyrfalcon, he had never seen her underway.
We continued through the channel into Skagit Bay. There are a few spots at the end of the channel where the charts say the low water is 6 feet. We draw around 8 feet, and it was still near low tide. We squeaked through, but felt a whole lot better when the depth got back into the teens.
We headed down the east coast of Whidbey Island. It has always amazed us that you can be only 50 yards or so off shore along Whidbey, and be in 200 feet of water. It is a reminder that the islands in the NW are drowned mountains. Captain Ralph’s Uncle Phil came down to a park along the shore and took photos of the Gyrfalcon underway.
There was a fair amount of wind during the day. We had originally planned to anchor in Port Susan, but Captain Ralph decided that the wind would die down around sunset, so we anchored off of the small town of Langley. We went ashore and walked through town, trying to decide if we had been there before, or it looked like a generic Whidbey small town. We decided on the latter.
The wind did not die, so we spent the night rocking a little, but nothing that the boat or crew couldn’t handle.
Day 10 (Wednesday, July 9th)
Our last day was a fairly easy straight shot from Langley past Edmonds back to the locks. We went through the large locks. The only excitement was the GFB, which had a little too much line out, so that it kept trying to get tangled in the props. Since Dennis was handling the bow lines, I had to run from the stern line to the dinghy line and back a couple of times before I got it sorted out. Captain Nancy piloted us through without incident. After the locks, we docked at LUBR. There were a few glitches that had popped up during the trip that we wanted the boys at LUBR to check out. Dennis and Bonnie were kind enough to wash down the decks with fresh water while we spent time with LUBR going through our punch list. In a couple of hours, we put Dennis and Bonnie in a taxi for the airport. Captain Ralph left the boat to head back to Alaska for the rest of the season. Our maiden voyage was officially over.