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Spring Island Hopping

June 28, 2019

When you last heard from us on Ditch the Dog, we were returning from a fall cruise in Canada’s Southern Gulf Islands, preparing to tuck the Blue Mule away for the winter. I tucked this blog away as well, focusing on Twice as Tasty—which just completed its third year—while George focused on acquiring several new instructor certifications through the American Sailing Association (ASA).

We were so busy leading up to our spring trip that I took a break from blogging while we were on the water. Now that we’ve returned and finally sorted through photos, we have so much to share.

Eight Bells at anchor in Matia’s Rolf Cove

This spring, we were lucky enough to take out a boat that was already on the coast for our opening cruise of the season. Eight Bells, a Santa Cruz 33 owned by friends in Montana, has her berth in Port Townsend, WA, and was just waiting for someone to take her out of the slip. We spent the first 2 weeks of June doing just that.

Sunset from Matia’s Rolf Cove

Our 2-week trip was wrapped around George’s latest project: teaching for San Juan Sailing out of Bellingham. He spent the winter and spring adding to his ASA certifications and is now teaching everything from basic sailing to bareboat charter certification and coastal navigation.

So we stayed within the San Juan Islands this trip, zigzagging through the inner channels on calm days and looping around the outer straits on windy ones. We hit many of our favorite stops, including Sucia’s Echo Bay and San Juan’s Westcott Bay (with a delicious stop at the oyster farm). But we also explored new anchorages on previously visited islands, choosing the opposing bays on Stuart, Jones, and James Islands. New favorite locations that we’ll surely be visiting in the future include Matia’s Rolfe Cove, Sucia’s Ewing Cove, Shaw’s Parks Bay, and Decatur’s Kimball Preserve.

As usual, we found plenty of wildlife to keep us entertained. Herons dominated this trip—it seemed one was fishing on every beach. But the big find was whales! After a brief glimpse of a humpback in the Strait of Georgia, we finally found orcas in the swirling waters of Cattle Pass between San Juan and Lopez Islands. We followed this transient pod—featuring a big poppa, a young calf, and several females—for about 3 hours, trailing them straight into our planned anchorage for the night in Garrison Bay.

We had large tide swings this trip, which kept us a little wary of pulling too close to shore with a fixed keel but revealed plenty of opportunities for exploring tidepools and coves with the Sea Goat. Minus tides brought out not just herons but playful otters, parenting geese, mating guillemots, fishing eagles and racoons, and sunbathing harbor seals.

Now we’re back in the Flathead, busy cruising and racing aboard the Blue Mule and other sailboats. We plan to return for more coastal adventures this fall. George is teaching in Montana all summer through Flathead Lake Sailing School and will be certifying sailors in the San Juan Islands for bareboat charter in September, so get in touch if he can help you make a dream reality.

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