One of the few places on our list in the San Juan’s that we had not yet visited was Doe Bay. We were told months ago about the resort here, with a great restaurant and hot springs to die for. Since we had recently decided to end our 2019 sailing season the following week, we didn’t want to head further away from Bellingham (where Meriwether will spend the winter) and when we were about to leave Fisherman’s Bay with no other place to go, we finally put Doe Bay in the game.
We couldn’t decide where to go after English Camp, ending up choosing a return to Friday Harbor to restock the fridge and firewood. The route would consist of a few miles backtrack and more motoring than sailing. We did get an hour or so of sailing in that day… close hauled, and tacking, of course – but eventually the wind would calm and we finished our voyage by motor. It does signify the only time we have sailed since leaving Bellingham, weeks ago. The wind is too fickle this time of year – it is depressing.
It was a 15 mile travel day, with no wind to speak of… once again. We knew all week that there would be no wind for the weekend, when we could travel. Unless we wanted to stay on Patos Island another week – with no guarantee of wind the following seven days either – we were going to be motoring anyway. And motoring we did, for more than three hours, on our way to Roche Harbor, where we had yet to visit, even by land.
Patos Island is only a few miles away from our last stop. Barely enough time to raise the sails. Not that we had any wind anyway, so the decision was already made for us to motor over. At least the alternator will charge our house battery during the two hours (we cruised it, nice and slow). We even took the long way around the island to avoid some heavier current flows on the other side. We had time, so why not. It wasn’t very exciting – motoring never is – but we made the best of it. Finally, just as we started around the final corner to turn into our cove, something to our starboard caught my eye…
Approaching Halloween in the San Juan Islands means solitude and open waters. During the work week we spent at Sucia (now our third time visiting this island) we did see a couple other boats anchor in Echo Bay, about a kilometer away. No boats joined us in Ewing Cove with it’s mooring balls placed in a narrow body of water embraced by Sucia Island, Ewing Island, and Cluster Islands on three sides. A small quiet beach was less than a quarter mile away for Moose to run a few times a day.
Of course, this has been our luck lately; two days of winds too strong, followed by a day of no wind at all. It was that day – before the start of the work week – that we had to get to our next destination. So once again we motored. This has become the norm since we sailed to the bottom of Hood Canal. That was a great day of sailing, but it also happens to be our last proper day of sailing. Since then we are lucky to get an hour here and there during our weekly move. Motoring is not very fun. It’s damn boring in fact. Like driving down a dead straight Interstate at 45 miles per hour – except we move at 5 MPH, ugh.
After only a single night’s stay we would leave Pleasant Harbor, knowing we would have hours of motoring (and no sailing) in our day. Kerri even got out of bed at a respectable hour so we can get started early in the day – like so many sailors do around here – but the fog would keep us in the harbor. We figured if one could not see the exit channel at all, it is best to stay put. Which we did. For a few hours. Until the fog seemed to be clearing, at which time we made a break for it.
There was only one way to go now – North, back up the Hood Canal. It took us two long days of travel to get all the way down here, and we would have two long ones to make the return voyage. After another stop at Potlatch State Park for a final shower, we were back on the water for a 22 nautical mile back up Hood Canal. At least the wind was not scheduled to blow directly in our face during the trip. In fact, it turned out not to blow much at all, so we motored for seven-plus hours for the day – our longest stretch of motoring to date. We were tempted to raise the main sail once, but it was stacked and packed away again pretty quickly as the wind didn’t justify it up. Good practice in the end. Unfortunately, this long stretch of motoring has put us over 50% of our travel-time on the motor. We really prefer to sail, but we have heard a 50/50 is normal for the Puget Sound where the wind is unable to run free thanks to all the islands and landmasses around.
It has become a normal thing for us to not figure out where we are going next week until the eleventh hour. Following the rendezvous, there we were again, in the same situation. It wasn’t until the very night before our departure, after talking with some locals in the laundry, that the decision was made to go further south – down Hood Canal.
Hood Canal is a natural fjord running about 60 nautical miles, forming the western side of the greater Puget Sound, and nestled at the foot of the great Olympic National Park. We were told that very few boaters – in comparison – make their was down the canal, a good selling point if you ask me. The locals also pointed out a few nice places to anchor, eat, and play along the route. Kerri and I committed to the voyage, setting out at 11 am the following morning (Monday).
Stuart Island is about as far West as we can go before entering Canada and the furthest from mainland Washington as we can get. With the Fourth of July holiday coming we thought an early arrival to the island would ensure we have a place to hunker down for the big weekend. The State Park portion of the island is not all that large. Just 3.5 miles of hiking trails span the area, but it is the two anchorages that make this place so popular. Both are extremely well protected from wind and waves in just about all directions, and as scenic as they come with craggy shorelines and thick forest above the water line, so this was our destination of choice for the upcoming week.