This post is available on audio. Listen to my Cantwell’s Reef podcast.
EVEN ON A REMOTE LITTLE ISLAND, with no job to go to and no stores to shop at, weeks can get busy. Which is why I’m only just now writing about the training cruise my fellow voyagers and I took 10 days ago aboard Osprey, the charter vessel we will point toward Alaska six weeks from now.
The four of us who will be on the first leg of the cruise are all seasoned sailors, which is one reason we needed a shakedown outing. The bulk of our many sea miles has been aboard sailboats, some of it long ago. So it was a smart idea to spend a weekend with a training skipper to help us learn the ropes (and the anchor, the engine, the modern navigation instruments…) of our 37-foot Nordic Tug trawler.
It was just an overnight out of the boat’s Bellingham base. We had hoped to get out to Sucia Island in the San Juans, but like the conscientious sailors we are, we took a close look at the weather forecast. Or I should say that Carol Hasse, our shipmate from Port Townsend, looked at the weather forecast, using SailFlow, a weather app she checks multiple times a day, a habit formed while sailing Lorraine, her no-frills 25-foot Nordic Folkboat sloop, built in Denmark in 1959.
(I should say that “Hasse,” as her friends often call her, is something of a legend in the Northwest boating community, having operated her own highly respected sail loft for many years. Aboard Osprey, her encyclopedic knowledge of everything nautical has already earned her the nickname “Sea Goddess.”)
Monitoring SailFlow, Hasse reported that a spring storm with gale-force winds would be visiting our corner of the Salish Sea about the time we headed home Sunday. So rather than fight the weather for so many miles on our homeward leg we stayed closer to the home dock, crossing Bellingham Bay to put in for the night at pretty little Inati Bay on the eastern shore of Lummi Island. For practice, we anchored with a tie to a log on shore, keeping our stern facing a waterfall that chattered onto the narrow beach. We had the quiet cove to ourselves for the night. Nice.
Training skipper Tim Hoving gave us a thorough grounding (in a good way, not the hitting-a-rock way) in becoming Ospreyites. Before leaving the marina, we took a detailed tour of the engine room. Then we each took the helm to back-and-fill the boat for a 180-degree turn in close quarters, and took turns docking, both at the helm and working the mooring lines. Once anchored at Inati, we staged a man-overboard rescue, using the trawler’s topside boom and tackle to hoist the “victim” back on to the boat. (We weren’t so heartless as to make the victim dive in to that frigid water; Osprey’s dinghy was our rescue platform.)
After Barbara Marrett’s delicious dinner of shrimp pasta, our day on the water ended perfectly with a DVD viewing in the boat’s salon of — what else? — “Captain Ron.”
The Sunday morning return to dock involved, as predicted, plenty of rocking and rolling. With Bill Watson at the helm through the worst of it, the boat proved itself reliable and stout. One hiccup: The china cupboard in the galley popped open more than once on a bumpy swell, sending coffee cups shattering on the counter. Tim added “stronger cupboard latch” to a short list of fixes needed before the boat heads north Memorial Day weekend.
My past week was pleasantly filled with a visit from daughter Lillian, who arrived on my birthday and prepared a tasty dinner attended by my favorite next-door neighbors, The Mad Birder and his wife, Carol. The menu included toothsome jack-fruit tacos laced with pickled peppers and oven-toasted broccoli bits followed by a sugar-free birthday cake, tangily tasty with orange zest and topped by chocolate frosting. Keto ice cream gilded that lily.
Another highlight of last week: The tiny magenta Calpyso orchids, wildflowers affectionately known as Fairy Slippers, bloomed on my rocky knoll. Buttercups and pink Sea Blush are coming on quickly.
This week, my brother Doug visits from Santa Fe. Plans are to barbecue salmon one night and grill vegan burgers another. Maybe take WeLike for a spin on Lopez Sound. The fun rarely stops when you live on a small island nobody’s heard of.