Our Social Distancing Summer

Who would have thunk that there would be a pandemic when we planned for our nomadic lifestyle. The buzz words “social distancing” had never been uttered, the concept of staying 6 feet away from other people and wearing a mask – utterly silly. Fast forward to the hell year known as 2020…never imagined our nomadic lifestyle would actually become the envy of people who found themselves locked in there homes, afraid to travel or venture out of their safe bubble. Ironically, RV’s and boats have sold at record pace this year as many people sought a way to stay safe while getting out and seeing the US. It’s not like the rest of the world is welcoming US travelers …okay, and with good reason. But I won’t digress into a political rant at this point!!!

We easily transition onto the boat from the coach, continuing our newly learned social distancing skills and honestly had a great summer in the San Juan Islands. This year we used our marina in Anacortes as base camp so no big provisioning like prior years. Anacortes felt super safe…all summer events (no stupid Sturgis like events were allowed to happen) were cancelled so tourism was much lower than normal. People in Anacortes were diligent about wearing masks and we frequented several restaurants that had outdoor dining. 

Our first outing of the season was buddy boating with our friends Kristen and John. We had great weather and had fun showing them some of our favorite anchorages and marinas in the San Juans.

Our big boat project this year was the flybridge remodel, which I must say turned out great. All new seating, a second helm chair, new carpet and vinyl covers for all the storage areas. The biggest chore was getting the old, heavy wood based furniture off the flybridge. This was made way easier by hiring two young, energetic dudes to assist Wally who mainly just had to oversee them. Anymore, we write checks for anything that will require us to go to the chiropractor more than once!

Of course there were the unexpected repairs …it’s a boat! Luckily, none of them cost a boat unit this time, just a bit of frustration and sweat equity. Yep, that is one of our macerator toilets in the picture below …on the dock … getting a huge clog removed. This may be way too much information but never flush a macerator toilet when your water pump is turned off – oops poops!!! We also had a window break mysteriously in the galley but luckily we were not underway.

Staying in the San Juans (not by choice) meant we could host more guests and spend more time with local boating friends. Not sure if it is our age or ??? but our friends have been uber careful as well and we all felt comfortable spending time together.  

Oysters and clams at the Wescott Bay Shell Fish Farm.
Big crab feed with friends Darryl and Randy from Manzanita Oregon.

Out on the water we had several floating happy hours with friends. Sometimes rafted to the back of our boat and some days rafted to other friends boats – how’s that for proper distancing! The San Juans are full of great places to hike and with the kayaks we could get plenty of exercise. Despite the exercise,  I am pretty sure I still may have consumed more calories at happy hour than I expended on shore. 

Wally tried paddle boarding for the first time…we may need to add a new toy to the
Beach House!

June was a bit gloomy but in July the weather turned 100% San Juan Summer. We had a great time boating with a group of friends from Anacortes and crabbing with long-time boating friends from Portland. I added some serious amounts of sea glass to my collection from Sucia and Patos Islands. I also added a new favorite cocktail to the rotation – (thanks Ted and Marsha).

Kraken rum and ginger beer… ridiculously delicious.

We had a staycation with our friends Steve and Donna who came up from Portland in August. The gale force winds kept us in port for most of their stay but we had a great time anyway. Before the windstorm descended, we got in a day cruise around Lummi Island and lunched on the hook at Eagle Harbor. A big drama unfolded as we all took a walk, in the wind, from our marina over to the point by the port marina, Cap Sante. What we saw, were huge waves tossing boats like corks in Fildalgo Bay and two boats washed up on the breakwater rocks.

We were all mesmerized so we stopped back later in the day to see how the rescues were going. That was when we met the owner of the partially submerged powerboat…His boat was a total loss and was signed over to a salvage company who eventually got it off the rocks outside the break water entrance of Cap Sante Marina. He was devastated as he loved that boat and had worked so hard to buy it. Luckily, the sailboat (which ironically, was his father-in-laws boat) was rescued. I think the keel saved it from sinking as it got lodged into the breakwater rock wall, keeping it mostly upright.

The calm after the storm…

Stuart island has been a long time favorite and this year we spent several days with friends Howard and Susan who own a home on the island. The Beach House was tied up to their mooring buoy in the bay which is just below their house. The views are stunning from both their deck and from the water. We enjoyed dinner al fresco on their deck one evening and had a huge crab feed on the boat one night – no surprise right!! But the real treat was the “mule” tour of their end of the island. We piled into the mule – aka an ATV and Howard motored us all around on the rustic roads. Stuart Island is only assessable by private boat or small airplane so it was great fun to actually see the island from land. There are no stores, no electricity (homes have solar and/or generator power) and all water is via a private well.

Our last big hurrah was a week long buddy boat cruise in the smoke/fog/smog with friends Caety and Frank from Wyoming. Our mutual friend Jane was onboard the Beach House and it happened to be her birthday trip – can you say Jell-O shots!!!. Caety and Frank brought loads of food from their ranch and garden so boy, did we eat well. It was a bit of a surreal week as smoke from the Washington and Oregon wildfires blew into the islands. The combination of marine fog and smoke had us running the boats on radar when were were cruising from island to island. It did not stop us from crabbing and the guys dropped some lines for salmon too. The girls did a day trip in our boston whaler to Roche Harbor where we toured the sculpture garden.

The pets had a pretty darn good summer too. Crab is Sucia’s favorite food and she was always the first one at the table for a crab feed. She’s gotten to be such a PIA that we have had to lock her in our stateroom during dinner when we have friends onboard and are serving crab. Bad kitty….

Yep, she’s waiting…

Our 4 months in Anacortes flew by, in late September we had the Beach House hauled out for maintenance and we moved onto the Road House. Our last two weeks in Anacortes were spend closing up the boat for the winter, getting the coach ready to roll, doing routine doctors visits and yes, some happy hours and dinners with friends. We also got in a bit of local crabbing too before we pulled the boston whaler out for the winter. 

Despite COVID, summer 2020 was pretty darn enjoyable!!! Sedona, here we come…

Okay, a few more of my favorite pictures…

Buddy Boating….

Wally and I have cruised solo to some very isolated areas. We have enjoyed every minute of exploring these new areas and the peaceful, quiet anchorages. #our38ftliferocks, #our38ftlife

Beach House anchored near Greenway Sound in the Broughton Islands.

We also really enjoy cruising with friends and “buddy boating”. Our first cruise of the summer was with friends, Kristen and John who chartered a 36 foot motor yacht out of Anacortes. They had never operated a boat that large so we were totally up for the challenge of helping John learn how to handle a big boat and showing them the San Juan Islands.

The Scaparre

To charter a boat with out a licensed captain means that you need to have experience in a similar boat, understand the rules of the road, navigation and how to operate a big, heavy floating object with no brakes! Yep, there is a test and basically you have to be able to get the boat out of the slip, out of the marina and back in again, then dock the boat back in the slip. Ideally you don’t hit anything…yep, that will get you a big F. Sounds pretty straight forward right??? Well, toss in winds and currents and things can get hinky really fast.

John did great on his two training cruises with us on the Beach House. Wally ran him thru the paces, did some docking at a nearby marina with big open slips and took him to the marina that the charter boat was moored at. Once there he practiced maneuvering in and out of their breakwater.

Anacortes Marina…the breakwater exit (Gar left corner) is a tricky 90 degree turn. Remember, no brakes, wind and current…HINKY!!!

Ready, set, go…Saturday was D Day! I was a nervous wreck, hoping the wind didn’t pick up, hoping our training sessions were enough, hoping everything went well during the check out cruise. Like proud parents, we knew he would do just fine (but I was still a nervous wreck) and of course he aced his check out test. Now it was a mad rush for them to load the boat and get out on the water. We had plans to meet them outside our marina which is on the other side of Anacortes.

It was so exciting to get their text that they were underway and to see them out on the Guemes Channel headed our way. The sky was dark and a bit foreboding but that certainly didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to hit the marine highway.

Part of the fun of buddy boating is sharing meals and trip planning. Kristen and I planned menus and divided dinners, then shopped together to provision both boats. Since we live aboard all summer, our floating pantry is usually pretty well stocked which makes buddy boating easier too. Forgot something? Good chances are one of your buddy boats will have it.

I had put together a loose itinerary which included some of our favorite anchorages and a marina stop.

Our cruise route around the islands…

Weather and wind sometime dictate where we go and on this trip we mostly had ideal weather. We did make a few adjustments…especially when I found out our favorite seafood farm wasn’t open until Tuesday. I know, tough life right!!! But hey, fresh oysters, mussels and clams were part of the menu plan.

Our first night was spent anchored in Hunter Bay which is on the south end of Lopez Island. The Beach House was the anchored boat with Scaparre rafted to us. Rafting is essentially when one boat ties off the other. Typically, the heaviest boat anchors and in our case that was true plus we have years of experience anchoring. Anchoring can be tricky and is definitely a learned skill.

We had a relaxing evening In Hunter Bay after a stressful but exciting day. There was definitely some wine consumed and an easy dinner of pulled pork tacos, black beans and slaw on the Beach House was enjoyed by by all.

After a slow, relaxed morning we pulled anchor Sunday and cruised about 2.5 hours to Stuart Island where we found a great anchorage in Reid Harbor. Stuart Island Marine State Park is one of our favorites, with two great harbors for boaters, docks, mooring buoys and hiking. The rest of this 2.8 sq mi island which is only assessable by private boat or private plane is home to two communities of full and part-time residents, a state park, a one-room schoolhouse, and two airstrips. At the northern end is a beautifully restored light house which is 6.2 mile hike from the marine park.

The highlight of our two night stay there was watching a pair of Osprey’s fledge their chick. Those parents weren’t messing around either….despite juniors squawking and numerous attempts to get back in the nest, they had him flying like a champ by the end of the day.

Not only did we see ospreys, there were numerous eagle sightings, otters, kingfishers and we even saw a seal thermoregulating right near us for hours.

Beach House and Scaparre on the floating dock in Reid Harbor.

Our second day in Reid Harbor, we left the Beach House tied to a floating dock and took the Scaparre for a day cruise around Stuart Island. We anchored the boat in Prevost Harbor and had lunch, then continued the cruise around the island. It seemed fitting to have John cruise through John’s passage!

On Tuesday it was time to move on to Garrison Bay which is just a short 35 minute cruise from Reid Harbor

Garrison Bay has loads of history, some great hiking trails and the Wescott Bay Shellfish Company is just around the corner. Not only did we enjoy a great oyster happy hour there, freshly harvested mussels, clams and more oysters came back to the Beach House.

Seafood Paella anyone???

Our big excitement while we were anchored in Garrison Bay was seeing two Orca whales swim into the mouth of the bay. Hell yes, we stopped our happy hour on the flybridge of the Scarparre, jumped in our dingy and flew out there to check it out. We got close enough to see them surface a few times and head out through narrow Mosquito Pass. Orca sightings are very common on the southern side of San Juan Island but we have never seen Orcas come into Garrison Bay…what a thrill!!!

After two beautiful days in Garrison Bay it was time for a “city” fix! Roche Harbor Marina is the premier marina in the San Juan Islands and no cruise is complete without a stop-over there. Normally, Roche would be bustling with summer travelers but with Covid-19, the resort and marina were unusually quiet.

During our two day visit the resort and marina were operating at 50% occupancy as part of Washington’s phase 2 reopening plan. Even at that, we found plenty to keep us busy plus we had a birthday to celebrate.

We toured the sculpture garden, took a hike out to the creepy but historical mausoleum, had lunch at the outdoor cafe, checked out the historical Haro Hotel and its beautiful gardens, had a fun BD Happy Hour on the outdoor deck at the restaurant.

Happy Birthday Wally!!! John grilled some beautiful ribeye steaks which were served with a chimichurri sauce, baked potato and grilled asparagus. Kristen made the BD Boy a meyer lemon pie for dessert.

After two days in the big city we were ready to get back to the quiet outer islands. Sucia Island was our final destination and we found a unique way to raft/tie up there. The forecast was calling for a bit of wind that would blow into the bay so instead of anchoring we decided to use the mooring cans.

Tied on the mooring cans stern to stern so we could step back and forth between the boats.

So far Captain John had conquered rafting on an anchored boat (with and without wind), tying to a floating dock, docking the boat in a busy marina, navigating Mosquito Pass, anchoring the boat for a picnic lunch and now tying to the mooring cans.

We spent our last two days at the Sucia Island State Marine Park. This 814-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline, abundant camping and moorage is a boaters dream. The main island and several smaller islands comprise the “Sucia group.” There are no services on this island and no ferry service but loads of camping areas, hiking trails and hidden coves to explore. Despite only being assessable via private boat Sucia is always busy during the summer.

We like Sucia Island so much we named our cat after our favorite play ground.
Sucia at Sucia Island June 2017.

From Sucia Island we cruised back to Anacortes. John and Kristen got to experience a “lumpy” crossing on the top side of Rosario Strait, the wind and tides were causing the lumpiness (2-3 ft standing waves) from the eastern tip of Orcas Island to Sinclair Island. That toughens up all new boaters for sure!!!

We had a fabulous 10 days with our Buddy Boat Scaparre and the crew, John, Kristen and Duchess. Looking forward to our next adventure!!!