As seen from our moorage at Cypress Island’s Eagle Harbor, the schooner Zodiac threads its way between the Cone Islands, in the foreground, and Vendovi Island. Mount Baker looms overhead.
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY? This “Jack” was done being a dull boy this week. All that boat tinkering paid off as Barbara and I took WeLike for a getaway night on a buoy at one of our favorite haunts, Cypress Island.
One nice advantage to ditching the office is that we can time our little vacations by the weather, and set out at the start of the week when everybody else is — snicker, snicker — going back to work.
So it was a beautiful sunny day with light winds and uncrowded seas as we cranked up the new Evinrude and buzzed along at 20 knots past Decatur, Frost and Blakely islands, threading through Peavine Pass — one of my favorite San Juan names — before crossing Rosario Strait to Cypress.
Rosario, one of the islands’ wider and wilder waterways, was determined to prove its reputation with a few WeLike-rocking whitecaps caused by a southerly wind countering an ebb tide. That slowed us to 10 knots, which felt glacial until we remembered that we had always been sailboat people, and what the heck did we have to complain about at this speed?
“If we were on the sailboat and going 10 knots, we’d be screaming!” I reminded my first (and only) mate.
Waters calmed as we made the turn inside Towhead Island and soon spied a couple of open mooring buoys at our favorite spot, Pelican Beach, a Department of Natural Resources site near the northeast end of Cypress.
We lassoed a buoy. But it took only five minutes for us to realize this wasn’t the same as being here on our sturdy full-keel sailboat, on which we’d spent many a blissful Pelican Beach night.
While lumbering, 10-ton Sogni d’Oro shrugs off anything but the biggest tidal swells or wakes from passing vessels, WeLike is a prancing, flat-bottomed runabout that reacts to every ripple.
“Well, this is a learning experience,” we soon acknowledged to each other as our wake-tossed little flivver waggled back and forth like a Rock-O-Plane gondola.
We cast off in search of a calmer refuge. We headed a few minutes south to another DNR site, Eagle Harbor, tucked behind a headland and considerably farther off the beaten track from boats navigating Bellingham Channel.
Eagle Harbor as seen from WeLike. About a dozen buoys are available to boaters here courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which owns most of Cypress Island.
We had our pick of half a dozen open buoys here. I chose one a little ways out from the protective headland so we had a prime view of the scenic little Cone Islands and snowy Mount Baker. Adding to the tableau, mammoth ivory sails carried the historical Bellingham-based schooner Zodiac past distant Vendovi Island, the only place in the Northwest I know of that was named for a Fijian chief. Chief Vendovi came through these islands as a prisoner of America’s Wilkes Expedition after they arrested him in Fiji as the leader responsible for the 1833 cannibalism of a U.S. whaling vessel’s crew. In a rather, uh, delicious turnabout, by the time Wilkes arrived here the chief was a well-respected member of the expedition and got an island named for him. (For Vendovi, you might say it was just gravy.)
This moorage was more peaceful. After coffee and a cinnamon roll, we happily settled in for a lazy afternoon of reading books, sipping wine, admiring the scenery, solving crosswords and playing Scrabble. A CD player we’d stowed aboard months earlier let us enjoy Vivaldi and Celtic tunes, played low enough so as not to intrude on neighbors.
We settled into our mooring with coffee and a cinnamon roll from Lopez Island’s Holly B’s Bakery, served on the retro turquoise kitchenware we’ve collected for WeLike.
Months earlier we had also purchased an inflatable kayak to get us ashore from WeLike, but decided to try it out on the next expedition. This time we’d just hang out on the boat, enjoying enforced idleness, which I can highly recommend on occasion.
One of WeLike‘s enchantments is how she is outfitted for boat camping, thanks to her refurbishers of 10 years ago, Fran and Scott McDade of La Conner. In the covered cockpit, a collapsible countertop swings up to hold a Kenyon one-burner butane stove that stows in a cupboard when not in use. For dishwashing and personal ablutions, a tiny stainless-steel sink has a faucet with pressurized water from a 20-gallon tank. Toward the bow, a curtained cuddy cabin with a cozy double berth has twin reading lamps, an electric fan, charming old wooden built-in cupboards, latching drawers and a vintage Formica counter. Fold back a fiberglass dressing seat by a mirror to find a well-hidden porta-potty. All the mod cons.
Still, as our expedition progressed we made a list of things we’d add. Another shelf here, a towel rack there. More cup holders. It pleased us to be making this boat our own.
After dining on tasty Reuben sandwiches as the sunset turned Mount Baker progressively pinker, we climbed into bed shortly after darkness fell.
It was, to put it bluntly, a long night.
“I didn’t realize we’d be bobbing like a cork all night,” my groggy sweetheart mumbled as I prepared coffee in the morning.
While there were few boat wakes at night, we felt incoming swells and ripples from tidal changes and any breeze that arose in the wee hours. WeLike doesn’t like swells. Or ripples.
We had slept in fits and starts. In the future, we’ll seek the most protected buoy in any moorage “and take what views we get,” was the sleep-deprived consensus.
We rose to find pea-soup fog surrounding our harbor, not uncommon for so-called “Fog-ust” around the San Juans. We enjoyed breakfast of a sausage-and-veggie scramble and kicked back with our books to wait out the fog, which often doesn’t lift until noon on these waters. Happily, we had toasty warm feet thanks to a portable propane heater we had seen fit to add to WeLike‘s camping gear.
Morning fog hugs the base of the Cone Islands, as seen from our mooring at Eagle Harbor.
Sure enough, around noon the fog mostly lifted from our view. But no sooner had we cleared the Eagle Harbor headland than we spied a lingering dense river of gray and white, like enormous billows of Burma-Shave, still hugging Rosario Strait.
Just passing Pelican Beach, we again snagged a buoy and decided to have lunch, giving the warming sun a chance to burn away more of that fog bank.
Around 1 p.m., we made our crossing. Thinning fog persisted halfway across the strait, but WeLike‘s tiny Garmin chart plotter led us safely to the mouth of Peavine Pass, where the fog did its famous San Juan Islands disappearing act as if Harry Potter had waved a wand.
We zipped sunnily homeward to The Nuthatch to take good long naps — and make plans for our next boat campout.