Back on our rock after coasting down Oregon’s gorgeous seashore

P1280237.JPGYou never know who you’ll run into on an RV trip down the Oregon Coast. Here, T-Rex confronts Barbara outside Prehistoric Gardens, a roadside attraction near Humbug Mountain.

IMG_7955ABSENCE MAKES THE ROCK GROW FONDER. Or makes us fonder of our rock. Or something…

We’re glad to be back on Center Island after a week in a rented 25-foot motorhome roving the Oregon Coast, cats and all. This was a reprise of a trip we did almost 10 years ago for a Seattle Times story, sampling the pleasures of the “shoulder season” when rental costs were lower, an RV let us care not about occasional rain, and crowd-free campgrounds made a coastal tour a carefree treat.

That all remained true except for the “crowd-free” part. In the ensuing decade, lots of new folks have moved to the Northwest and many retiring Baby Boomers have added to the ranks of RVers, along with a friendly new crowd of techno-geek younger folks pulling self-contained, solar-powered pod trailers that resemble tiny spacecraft on wheels. This time, reserved campsites were advisable.

Nonetheless, our week of rolling down the coast was fun and adventurous, and bringing the whiskered friends — ill-advised as it might have seemed to anyone familiar with the term “herding cats” — turned out a fine idea. They were good travelers, fuzzy bed-warmers on cold nights, and cozy company. Happily, the rental outfit we used, CruiseAmerica, welcomes pets at no extra cost.

 

P1280510.JPGGalley Cat perches in one of her favorite viewpoints, on the dashboard of our rental motorhome, at Oregon’s South Beach State Park campground, at Newport.

We spent several hours most days driving from one campground to another along the beautiful coast highway, except for one treasured layover day at our favorite Oregon park, Beachside State Recreation Site, where we snagged a campsite with an in-your-face view of ocean waves framed by a few windblown spruces. As much as we have been true-blue tent campers most of our lives, we had to admit it was pretty nice to sit in our cozy dinette on a cold October morning looking out our RV’s big window at the Pacific surf.

P1280393.JPGSea stacks like gigantic shark fins dot the Oregon Coast along Highway 101 south of Port Orford.

We stretched this coastal trip from wild Cape Lookout, west of Tillamook, southward to Harris Beach, not far from the California border, where the sand is jumbled with chiseled, house-high rocks resembling a bunch of toys left scattered by unruly giant children.

Barbara added nicely to her lifetime quota of beach walks, her all-time favorite leisure activity, and I took a lot of photos and interviewed other campers for an upcoming piece for Journey, the glossy magazine published by AAA of Washington. (My dear wife generously recognizes that I’m constitutionally incapable of traveling without writing about it.)

P1280443.JPGBarbara looks out from a viewing deck at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, south of Florence.

Driving a gas-guzzling RV was a guilty pleasure that we really enjoyed for a week. Now we’re very happy to stay home for a good while in our cozy cabin in the San Juans. With our new electric-powered ductless heat pump, installed last spring, we rely less on firewood for heating on these cool autumn days. So these guilty pleasure-lovers feel a little less guilty about our carbon footprints in the sand.

Meanwhile, with winds and rain, autumn is getting serious here. My next trip to the city will be for my sister-in-law’s annual Halloween party. We’re working on our costumes, with a planned trip to the Take It or Leave It recycled-clothing warehouse at the Lopez Dump this weekend. Ah, the fine traditions of October. 1-anchor

P1280186.JPGCape Blanco Lighthouse, built in 1870, was one of our Oregon Coast stops, where we enjoyed a tour led by volunteer docents.

Looking for larches, we found an awesome autumn

P1270367.JPGThese golden larches were lonely near the top of Maple Pass last weekend, as most of the iconic deciduous conifers of the North Cascades were barely starting their change of color. Wintry weather this weekend could speed up the process.

IMG_7955WELCOME TO A NEW SEASON. My loyal reader might remember when daughter Lillian and I hiked Maple Pass last year just before Labor Day. This year we repeated the epic day-hike to the top of the North Cascades, this time on the brink of the autumn solstice in a quest to see larch trees turning golden to greet the fall.

We lucked into a gloriously sunny late September day, in a season when snow can often frost this 6,000-foot-plus alpine catwalk.

We didn’t luck into a lot of golden larches. We found a few, but we were a week or two early for eyepopping hillsides of them.

P1270297.JPGMountain huckleberry and other colorful foliage dapple a hillside above jewel-like Lake Ann, as seen from the Maple Pass Trail in the North Cascades.

But we did glory in the colors of burgundy-leafed mountain huckleberry and flame-red wild sumac, all spiced by the freshest air this side of Cape Flattery.

We camped again at delightful Klipchuck Campground, a few miles west of Mazama, and then spent a night in a cabin at Pearrygin Lake State Park, just outside of Winthrop.

P1270493.JPGA ground squirrel looks for a trail-mix handout.

It was Lillian’s first visit to the Methow Valley’s Western-themed Winthrop, where we enjoyed the treats at Rocking Horse Bakery (with its eye-catching logo of a wild bronc playing a Fender Stratocaster), the Chewuch River views and tasty IPAs at Old Schoolhouse Brewery, and the well-done exhibits on gold mining and pioneer life at Shafer Museum. At the artists cooperative, we bought a gift of a ceramic serving plate painted with autumn aspens to take home to Barbara.P1270426.JPGYour humble correspondent atop Maple Pass, elevation 6,650 feet.

While Maple Pass was a jawdropper, attracting us and hundreds of other hikers on the sunny Saturday, Lillian and I found special delight in marking the solstice with a quiet Monday-morning hike under clouds and occasional raindrops to pretty Cedar Falls before we headed back over the pass toward home.

P1270532.JPGLillian at Cedar Falls, celebrating the autumn solstice.

Lusting for larches yourself? The deciduous conifers that poke like birthday candles from atop autumn mountaintops should be turning golden quickly as temperatures atop Maple Pass are forecast to plunge into the 20s by this weekend. But if you’re tempted to make the hike, be warned: Several inches of snow are in the Maple Pass forecast as well, with four inches possible Friday night.

It’s a season of surprises. 1-anchor

P1270411Seen from atop Maple Pass, 10,541-foot Glacier Peak peeks through clouds from 30 miles to the south.

Got a love affair with Puget Sound? Here’s a new book to fuel your passion

IMG_3015.JPG“We are Puget Sound” is new from Braided River, the conservation-advocacy imprint of Seattle-based Mountaineers Books.

IMG_7955IT’S SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION TIME.

If you’ve just been dying to know what Brian did with a lot of his time in the months after he left The Seattle Times, take a look at “We are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea,” which hits bookstores this month.

This is a handsome new photo-lush softcover from Braided River, the conservation-advocacy imprint of Seattle-based Mountaineers Books, publisher of all those hiking guides I grew up with. Their “100 Hikes” guides by Northwest mountaineering icons such as Harvey Manning and Ira Spring launched me and many another Washington teenager on to the trails of the Cascade Mountains in the 1960s and beyond.

Taking a fresh look at the inland sea we know and love, and the people who are helping to preserve it, this new book seeks to remind us all of our long ago and unfulfilled commitment to clean up Puget Sound. David Workman is the primary author, along with fellow writers Mindy Roberts and Leonard Forsman. My contribution was the chapter on recreation, spotlighting more than 30 of my favorite places to visit, hike, camp and sail around Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, along with 25 of my photographs. Many other photos are the work of Brian Walsh, who was one of my housemates from college days in Olympia.

“We are Puget Sound” would make a dandy gift for any Washingtonian who loves the water.

Just saying. 1-anchor

P1200929.JPGFishing from the rocks at Deception Pass State Park: This is one of my photos featured in the book.

Sweet sights and sounds of a stealthily changing season

P1270203.JPGHand-hewn signs from a previous visitor mark the split-rail fence above a beach at James Island, a marine state park four miles from our Center Island dock.

IMG_7955IT’S A DELICIOUS PHENOMENON that I can sit outside, laptop in my lap, in the old mahogany-stained Adirondack chair that my brother built, and tap out random notes about what I’m seeing and hearing.

I love this about our new life.

It’s the Friday after Labor Day and it’s as if someone clicked a Woolly Mammoth-sized switch that has stanched the flow of summer visitors to our island.

It’s delightfully quiet, but that doesn’t mean silent. As I lounge here on the deck outside Nuthatch cabin, I hear the murmur of waves on Lopez Sound, which on this sun-dappled September afternoon sparkles crazily through the trees before me. A breeze with a cool promise of autumn ripples the leaves of our big Canadian maple with a sound like playing cards gently shuffled. The migratory birds have heard a summons and embarked on their long haul, so the flippity-flippity of visitors to our feeders is less frantic. The wild currant bush clinging to our little cliff is plainer without the procession of regal purple finches or the goldfinches’ buttery schmear.

Still present and accounted for: the beloved nasal honk of nuthatches who, in cunning bandit masks, raid the endless supply of Amazon-delivered sunflower seeds that chips away at our bank balance. (We think they’re worth it.)

In the salal bushes, a spotted towhee whinges like a second-grader forced back to school.

I don’t even need to look up when I hear a haunting “wooo, wooo, wooo” that I know is the signature flap of a raven’s plus-size wings as it passes overhead, throwing a fleeting shadow across the sun.

There’s the occasional buzz of small airplanes, which come and go a lot to these islands (like the seaplane that carried our daughter home on Tuesday from a lovely Labor Day Weekend visit). Once in a while I hear the whoosh of a boat heading for Lopez Pass and homeward to Seattle. Up high, the faint and far-off roar of a passenger jet brings travelers home from Europe. (We once excitedly spied Center Island from a homeward flight on Icelandair.)P1270161.JPGDaughter Lillian boards a 10-passenger de Havilland Otter seaplane operated by Kenmore Air as she departs Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island after a Labor Day visit to Center Island.

I still have busy days when I work in my writing hut, do repairs to the cabin or fixes on the boat. But today Barbara and I packed a lunch, hopped in WeLike and buzzed over to little James Island, a marine state park 15 minutes away. In all our years of cruising the San Juans we had never stopped there. We found a picnic table with a splendid view of Mount Baker and passing ferries. This Friday after Labor Day we had the island’s craggy firs and red-bark-peeling madronas all to ourselves.

P1270233.JPGWeLike sits all alone at the James Island dock on this peaceful Friday after Labor Day.

And when we got home, I sat down outside in my brother’s old chair, read a book, sipped a beer, snacked on Thai Lime & Chili almonds (a Trader Joe’s bit of wonderfulness), and turned on my laptop for these few minutes.

I hope the stealthily approaching autumn sneaks some good things in to your life. For this week, that’s all the news from Center Island.1-anchor

 

Center Island a la cart

IMG_2997-1.JPGMaster builder, with freshly painted cart (soon to have wheels added). It’s a key cog in the Center Island transportation network.

IMG_7955LIVING ON OUR 176-ACRE ISLAND, our world has shrunk. No worries about gridlock. No horrible Seattle traffic. But we have our own transportation issues.

Center Island’s covenants prohibit use of privately owned internal-combustion vehicles on island roads, so most people scoot around on electric golf carts or something akin to that. One homeowner had a cool, funky old mini electric truck formerly used in a big warehouse somewhere, but it wasn’t designed to go up hills (we have one called “Cardiac Hill,” named by people who walk up it) so his tiny truck didn’t get him everywhere in quick fashion. It had a tendency to stall halfway up hills. (You might say it had cardiacs on Cardiac.)

Recently, our board of directors revisited the rules because more and more electric vehicles are coming into reality, and our narrow gravel lanes just aren’t suited to a Tesla or a Leaf. One thing we’ve learned on this island: “If you allow it, it will come.” (Big boats, big houses…what can I say, it’s the U.S.A.)

So to preserve our island’s character the board redefined what was allowed, in terms of size and horsepower, so full-size cars (other than our few community-owned pickups) won’t be zooming around here anytime soon. They also restated the island speed limit: 10 mph.

It’s not relevant to Barbara and me. So far we’ve resisted the golf-cart thing. We’ve never golfed, and we know walking is good for us on a small island where getting enough exercise can be a challenge. From The Nuthatch cabin to the community dock is .7 mile, just enough to stretch our legs.

But an exciting new item in our lives — and this shows you how living on a tiny island really changes your perspective on what’s exciting — is our dock cart.

There was an island-wide yard sale recently and we shelled out $10 for an old dock cart. The frame was pretty rusty and the plywood a bit rotting, but the wheels and axle were solid and heavy duty. It was just the thing to tote groceries or supplies across the island without having to bother with a pickup truck.

After a month I decided I’d spruce up our cart and brought home some fresh plywood and some Rustoleum paint. The problem was that as soon as I started disassembling the rusty frame I realized that, uh oh, the rust was all that was holding it together. The metal frame just fell apart.

I basically ended up building a whole new cart from spare lumber I had in our shed and a bunch of nuts and bolts my dad had collected over the decades. I knew I’d find a use for them someday! I reused the old cart’s handle and wheels.

Barbara convinced me the cart needed to be the same color as our 1957 runabout, so I got some turquoise spray paint and now it’s all done and looks spiffy.

One wag of a neighbor who occasionally sees me pushing my cart suggested I should paint flames on the side. I’m not sure. We only just got away from living life in the fast lane.

But if I find some orange paint, you never know. cropped-1-anchor.jpg

Brian Cantwell’s Deer Ranch

P1270031.JPGWhen I was a kid in Alabama and my family took road trips to Florida, we stopped at a corny 1960s roadside attraction called Tommy Bartlett’s Deer Ranch. There were lots of tame deer that would eat out of your hand if you bought the little packet of Tommy Bartlett’s Deer Food. I was reminded of it this morning when Barbara and I looked out from our front window to see this doe and her spotted fawn cuddled among the long grass, salal and Nootka roses below our front deck at The Nuthatch. We kind of like having our own deer ranch. cropped-1-anchor.jpg

Livin’ the dream (with a few bumps in the night)

P1260955.JPGAs 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.

IMG_7955ALL 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.

P1260967.JPGEagle 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.

P1260964.JPGWe 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.

P1270016.JPGMorning 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. 1-anchor

My life’s work has become ‘messing about with boats’

P1260882.JPGYour loyal correspondent, left, and daughter pause to model our moonsuits as we roll fresh bottom paint on the ark-like hull of our dear old Westsail 32.

IMG_7955YOU’VE HEARD A LOT, DEAR READER, about WeLike, our restored 1957 Skagit Express Cruiser. But I’ve neglected to update you about my nautical first love, Sogni d’Oro, the Westsail 32 sailboat that’s been a big part of my family’s life — including, often, our home — for 30 years.

Yes, I’m a two-boat skipper — and painter, scrubber, polisher, oil-changer and general fix-it man. It’s probably one of the first tests for insanity.

Sogni d’Oro (the name is the Italian version of “sweet dreams”) is the full-keeled, ocean-steady cutter that we acquired in 1989, raised our daughter on, and took to Mexico and back in the mid-1990s. She was the vessel aboard which, every summer for 20 years, we obsessively explored the San Juan Islands, where we now make our home.

When we moved to the islands last year, our 27-year-old daughter, Lillian, moved back aboard the sailboat at Seattle’s Shilshole Marina and made it her cozy home again.

This past week, Lil and I bonded again in one of the more intense physical and psychological tests of boat stewardship: the boatyard haulout.

P1260880.JPGLillian aboard Sogni d’Oro as we transited the Ballard Locks on the way to our haulout. For a few minutes, you and your boat get to be a tourist attraction.

For Sogni d’Oro, it’s been an every-three-years event, honed to a busy four days. After guiding the boat through the Ballard Locks and causing two bridges to rise with toots from my shiny brass cornet (“That’s awesome,” a passing skipper shouted, rather gratifyingly), we watched with hearts in our throat as the boat was hoisted out of the water on a Travelift, a square-framed contraption with heavy canvas slings in which our 10-ton ark gently swung like one of those pirate-ship rides at the Puyallup Fair. But the folks at Canal Boatyard once again took good care of us.

Then it was a marathon of power-washing, scraping barnacles, sanding, rolling on two new coats of marine bottom paint, and any other chores we could manage to cross off our wish list. As long as I’ve owned boats, I’ve done the work myself when possible. This was the first time Lillian has stepped in as chief helper. She was an eager and willing trouper.

P1260892.JPGAmong our company on the Lake Washington Ship Canal this past week: the state ferry Elwha passes through the Ballard Bridge on the way to Lake Union for maintenance.

Lil gets special kudos for taking on one of those wish-list items, singlehandedly sanding and repainting the wide green stripe that runs the length of the boat just beneath the teak caprails. One tough decision we faced: the choice of a new paint, since the “medium green” Z-Spar enamel we’d used for years was no longer available. We settled on the forest green color from Bainbridge Island-based Marshall’s Cove Paints. The stripe now gleams with the color of the Northwest woods.

P1260903.JPGAll freshly painted and polished, Sogni d’Oro rides the Travelift back toward the water on Monday.

Big thanks to my sister-in-law, Lillian’s Auntie Julie, who welcomed us sweaty, paint-flecked guests into her home when it came time to collapse (after a hot shower) at each day’s end.

Monday afternoon, Sogni d’Oro splashed back into the Lake Washington Ship Canal and we made our way back through the locks and tied up to her home slip on M Dock at Shilshole once again, with our sweet dream of a boat looking all clean and shiny once again.

I may be crazy, but I think that’s worth blowing my horn. 1-anchor

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing — about — in — boats… or with boats.”

— The Water Rat to the Mole, in Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows”

 

All revved up on Center Island: When a new boat motor is more than just a prop

P1260709.JPGAwaiting her new motor, WeLike sits at the West Sound Marina guest dock on Orcas Island as a Kenmore Air seaplane painted like an orca taxis in to pick up passengers headed for Seattle.

IMG_7955HALLELUJAH, we are islanders empowered.

In the past year, we’ve learned that a few needs are pretty basic when you live on a remote little island in the San Juans. Near the top of that list: a boat you can depend on.

We love (not just like) our restored 1957 Skagit Express Cruiser, WeLike, a handsome little runabout built in La Conner, where Barbara once worked as the town librarian.

WeLike has served us pretty well so far. But WeLike’s motor, a 90-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC outboard dating to 2007, has performed spottily, with enough hiccups and a continuing series of repairs that added up until we’ve finally thrown in the shop towel. Tuesday, we got a brand-new motor mounted on the boat at West Sound Marina on Orcas Island.

As is often the case when you live on a remote island, acquiring the new outboard was no small feat. It wasn’t at all like buying a new car, where the sales folks are masters at nabbing any warm body that wanders in to the showroom and sending them home with a stunned look on their face while driving a shiny new latest model.

No, this acquisition took weeks of palavering, a score of phone calls, dozens of emails and a rather large wire transfer.

P1260819.JPGIn the slings of a giant Travelift, little WeLike resembles a spider-trapped-fly as she’s plucked from the water for repowering.

First I have to tell you that, despite accusations of insanity from some of my island friends, we replaced our motor with the same make and model, despite my occasional choice curses directed at Mr. Evinrude as I performed repairs in recent months and encountered inaccessible bolts, illogically engineered parts and other foibles.

My explanation: (A) This is the devil I know, and all outboard makers have their critics; (B) This time I can baby my new engine and give it proper maintenance from Day 1 instead of struggling with inherited problems; and (C) I like the fact that this motor still uses two-stroke technology, modernized to be more efficient and eco-friendly. Two-stroke engines have fewer moving parts than four-stroke engines, so they are less complicated, smaller and lighter. The latter makes a significant difference when you’re hanging an outboard on a little boat sized by 1950s standards, before the advent of Large Americans Who Drive Monster Pickups.

Making this long story shorter: Buying a new 2019 engine from the local Evinrude dealer on Orcas Island would have run well more than $10,000. But trolling the internet, I found a new 2018 model sitting on a showroom floor near San Diego priced more than $2,000 less. Even paying to truck it here, we saved plenty. That counts when you’re old retired people. And even with the 2018 model, we qualified for a spring special that gave us two extra years of warranty coverage and a $300 rebate.

West Sound Marina agreed to mount the new motor for us, even though we didn’t buy it there. But as carpetbaggers who had sent our cash to California, we had to wait a few weeks until after the Fourth of July boating rush, when they found time in their yard schedule.

P1260780.JPG
Bald eagles perch atop a fir on Picnic Island.

My engine repairs held true enough that we zipped the 12 miles over to West Sound on Monday. We tied up to the marina’s guest dock with a lovely view of eagles and other bird life on rocky little Picnic Island, just off the Orcas Island shore. We spent the night aboard WeLike, our first time sleeping on her. The little cuddy cabin was cozy, with new turquoise curtains Barbara had installed. The one-burner butane stove cooked up a tasty dinner, and we were blessed with a flat-calm night and a sky full of dazzling stars.

 

Installation Day was long and tedious and need not be relived here. The bottom line: By shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday we were finally zooming homeward to Center Island, with our new motor purring behind us like a lion full of prime wildebeest.

P1260848.JPGThe helpful yardman at West Sound Marina lowered the new motor into place.

Now we can wander these islands at will, boat camping when the spirit moves us this summer. We live in orca country, so we bear the responsibility of careful boating, gearing down whenever whales are sighted and keeping our distance per new restrictions. But now we can enjoy the Salish Sea with new confidence. Frankly, it’s a whale of a relief. 1-anchor