WE GOT OFF OUR ROCK and sampled an island in the south seas this week. Well, an island south of us. In Puget Sound.
It was good to be back on the strong and steady old Westsail 32, Sogni d’Oro, for a two-night outing with our daughter, Lillian, who now makes it her home. For once we weren’t heading in the direction the wind didn’t want to help with, so we even hoisted the sails and cherished the silent sounds of the Sound (with the engine off). Mind you, it was a sunny morning in July and there wasn’t much wind, so it took well over an hour before we got up close and on a first-name basis with Bainbridge Island, the first land west of the sailboat’s moorage at Seattle’s Shilshole Bay.
But we were in no hurry. Our planned landfall was no more than 11 miles away at Blake Island, the popular marine state park just south of Bainbridge.
We were taking a gamble on getting a mooring buoy at Blake, where depths can make anchoring dicey, during one of the hottest and sunniest weeks of the summer so far. It’s a mighty magnet for Seattle boaters looking to cool off and ditch the sizzling city.
For those of us who’ve lived on a boat at Shilshole and almost always headed north to the San Juans and beyond when we left the dock, one treat to heading south was the full-on Seattle skyline view we got as soon as we rounded Magnolia Bluff.
That panorama from the water is really the only time you get the full visual impact of downtown’s alarming upward growth. Happily, pretty Smith Tower, which was THE skyscraper when Barbara and I were little, still stands off to the side and hasn’t been swallowed up by the tangle of urban architecture just to its north. Smith Tower and the Space Needle still bookend the urban core.
Another treat was our timing. We had guessed that Tuesday would be a good day to go in hope of snagging a buoy. (Our backup plan, if there was no comfortable place to moor at Blake, was to chug around the corner through Rich Passage and drop the hook in Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay.)
As soon as we were out on the wide-open Sound, however, we noticed a happy and rare occurrence. We were out there pretty much alone. No streams of big powerboats to dodge. Not a freighter or cruise ship in sight. Only a rare tug or two and the usual scheduled Washington State Ferries. That boded well for these new retirees: Everyone else was at work, ha, ha.
And sure enough, when we finally rounded the point to peek at the west side of Blake, we spied at least six open buoys just off the pretty sandy beach. Blue sky above. Gentle, cooling breezes, a view of ferries scuttling in and out of Southworth and Bremerton, and a wooded island with miles of trails to explore.
The next morning, Lil and I tried out a new inflatable kayak and went on an early-morning paddle along the shore, watching raccoons digging for clams on the beach. “Isn’t it nice to see them eating natural foods rather than dumpster diving, for a change?” we agreed.
We went for a hike, we played board games in the cockpit, we grilled our dinner and sipped rum coolers as the sun set behind the Olympics.
Thursday, we fired up the engine and motored back to Shilshole on calm waters in two easy hours. It was nice to be on the old boat again.
But you know what? After the long homeward slog up the freeway, Barbara and I are really glad to be back on our island. It’s another beautiful day in paradise. “Let’s never leave again,” she said.
Hmmm, for today anyway, that idea feels kind of good.