Sunday, June 27, 2021


San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico anchorage

Olympia is a beautiful place with beautiful people, a nice place with a diverse population.  But the winters suck.  For at least six months of the year it is 40 degrees and drizzling.  When we remember the glorious winters we spent in Mexico aboard Traveler and compare that to our Olympia winters we thought, "What are we thinking?  We should be in Mexico."  But how can we be in Mexico in the winter on our limited budget?  We are enjoying having Traveler here in Olympia and she's finally paying for her keep for once with our summer sailboat charter income. Can't take her all the way to Mexico and back each year.  Hmmm, maybe if we had a second boat in Mexico.  That's the ticket!  But how?

1.  We could partner with another couple and split the costs:   It would have to be a strong relationship to survive all the unknowns.  And who would be in charge?  Na... Forget that one.

2.  We could take out a loan:  No way.  That's playing into the hands of the MAN and the insurance companies.

3.  We could search for a bargain boat and settle for something a little less than S/V Traveler:  Good idea.

I sat in our little, dreary mini-kitchen and started a boat search Craigslist and Yacht World:

-Year:  1975 to 1990

-Length: 35 to 45 ft. 

-Price $15k to $30K

- Location:  Washington, Oregon, California, Mexico

What other prerequisites?  Well, it has to have standing headroom and sleeping room for me, at 6 ft 2 inches.  And it has to be a solid, well built boat that we can be proud of in a traditional sense.  

It took me two months to compile a list of boats that fit our requirements and I include that list here:
Scott's Sailboat List 

I talked to someone with a Downeaster 38 that sounded promising.  At the time it was too far away and "Covid" was keeping us from traveling.

There was a Hunter Cherubini in California and an Islander Freeport 36 in Texas.  There was the occasional Morgan Out Island 41,but if priced right, it was a mess. Pearsons galore but I wasn't sure about those as to the standing headroom.  Union Polaris, Hans Christian, Mariner Polaris, Tayana, all very similar but usually too pricey for me. And a ton of Yankee Clippers, CTs, Formosa, Sea Wolf 41s, all the same mold but usually a little long in the tooth and a major refit project. 

And then, while perusing the "What's Up, San Carlos" online magazine, I found a Pan Oceanic 38 for sale by owner.  "What's Up, San Carlos" is a local online magazine for the ex-patriot little town a day's drive south of Nogales, Arizona.  It's a retirement and boating community full of gringos from the US and Canada.  A couple from BC, Canada had this boat up for sale with a few pictures and a short description.  I began an online search to find out more about this boat.  

It was designed by Ted Brewer. Ted designed the Aloha, Brewer, Cape North, Goderich, Mariner, Morgan, Oceanic, Three Seas, and Whidby sailboat lines to name a few.  He's known for designing heavy built, ocean cruising vessels.  His Pan Oceanic 46s number about 50 hulls shipped, and about 15 of the Pan Oceanic 43s and only 6 to 10 of the Pan Oceanic 38s.   What we had there in San Carlos was a limited version of an ocean crossing designed vessel that had been shortened to 38 feet.  That pedigree was enough to make us want to go see the boat.

Sadly, we were in the depths of a pandemic.  But fortunately, I was able to score an early vaccine treatment. ( My young wife, unfortunately, could not...) I contacted the owners and made a tentative offer pursuant to inspection.  Then, I got online and started searching for airline deals to get me from Seatac to San Carlos.  By pushing the calendar a month out, I found a cheap flight and booked it along with a rental car and an Air BnB.  All masked up and nervous I boarded a crowded American Airlines flight at Seatac. Thank goodness I upgraded to a seat at the emergency exit so I had some legroom and space away from all the other passengers. 

No social distancing here

At Phoenix the crowd stormed the door and I sat waiting behind my mask as everyone mobbed their way off the plane.  I caught a second AA flight to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.  There, in the airport, everyone was very polite and went to great extremes to socially distance and be safe.  My little rental car was waiting and I drove south down highway 15 towards San Carlos, 139 KM of straight, flat, Sonoran desert road.  I bought a Bohemia beer at the OXXO and rocketed south with the mariachi  music blaring.  
On the road

In San Carlos I found my "romantic" Palapa AirBnB and did the self-check in.  Later at the Super LEY I bought provisions for my three day, two night stay.  The next morning I met a friend of the owner at the San Carlos Marina Seca.  Marina Seca means Dry Marina.   Charles and I got through the gate at the storage yard and found the Pan Oeanic 38 named Nepenthe.

Nepenthe:  A fictional drug described in Homer's Odyssey as banishing grief or trouble from a person's mind.

Kind of a strange name, but whatever...

One thing that struck me was the high freeboard.  Freeboard:  The distance between the waterline and the main deck. 

 She towered overhead, with a huge hull, rudder, and keel and from below she looked like a 38 foot, short, fat, round stern bathtub. I was in love.  This was not your sleek, fleet of foot, cruiser/racer.  This was a sturdy, stumpy force to be reckoned with; Galaxy Class star ship, capable of crossing oceans and protecting its mariners from every source of calamity.

Normally, when a boat is sold, she is moved from the protected storage yard to the work yard where the prospective owner can have her surveyed and test out all the systems, hook up the batteries and even run the engine, using a water hose to provide cooling water.  Then she is moved to the water for sea trials.  We were skipping all that and thus saving all the money spent on a surveyor and yard charges for moving the boat from storage to the yard to the water and back.  Those costs could mount up to $1500 to be paid out of my pocket.  I foolishly chose to do my own inspection and forgo the sea trial.  Smart eh? (fingers crossed)

Anyhow, she seems like a sturdy craft.  Her teak decks look great.  All the teak topsides have Cetol coating on the wood, not the most beautiful finish, but one that protects the wood.   The original owner back in 1987 bought her in the Philippines and sailed her to Turkey and had teak decks installed, glueing them down instead of using screws.  This is a bonus.  Most teak decks are screwed down and have hundreds of little screw holes in the fiberglass that eventually start to leak. This deck has no reason to leak, nor did I see any signs of leakage below.  The engine (a 50 HP Isuzu) had been rebuilt recently by our Mexico friend Omar who installed our Beta engine in Traveler a few years ago.  I called Omar and he vouched for the reliability of the engine.   

We found two 8-D batteries with quite enough capacity to power the systems and their voltage checked out, so I think they will last the summer heat until we get there to recharge them. The refrigerator compressor looks good but time will tell.  

The boat has a smallish cockpit with steering pedestal. Forward of that is a pilot house with a second wheel and instruments so you can drive from inside. Then down a few steps is the galley, head, settee area and a vee berth.  For a 38 foot boat, there is a lot of livable space.  The galley has a big refrigerator and gimbaled stove.  I measured the berths and headroom to make sure that I fit and, sure enough, I do.

The sails are packed into their bags and stowed away but their fabric looks good and there is a lot of gear stowed in the many cabinets and lockers.  She's built like a brick shxt house with room to store tons of provisions and many cases of wine.... and accordions and ukuleles.

Outside, the hull looks solid with some new thru-hull fittings.  The cutaway fin keel is much like the one on Traveler with a skeg hung rudder just aft of the propeller. Just forward of the pilot house is a huge flush deck running to the bow with room to lounge about and stow a dinghy on passages.  Forward is an electric windlass with a heavy CQR anchor and lots of rusty chain. 

I spent another night in my romantic palapa and sent lots of pictures to Connie back in Olympia.  We decided to make the deal.  The next day I found a doctor to give me a 'Covid' test so I could get back into the US, and another doctor to prescribe some antibiotics I'd been having a problem getting in Olympia.  For some reason the antibiotic I take for my skin problem (Rosacea) costs $125 in Olympia but $25 in Mexico.  

I then bought some tacos carnitas at a stand, drove back to Hermosillo, and rented a room at the IBIS hotel.  Everything  was locked down because of the Coronavirus, but I finally found a place to buy a sandwich.So far I had avoided any restaurants and had masked myself whenever in public. 

Returning the rental car, I caught a Volaris flight to Guadalajara where I had a long layover before finding my Volaris flight to Seattle.  I noted that when the Volaris flights arrived at the airport, the passengers waited patiently in their seats for the flight attendants to release everyone five rows at a time. It was all orderly and seemed like the safe thing to do to maintain the little distancing available on a full flight.  And again, on this flight, I scored the emergency exit seat so as to have space and leg room. 

Connie met me at the airport with a jar of wine and a dinner snack and we talked excitedly about our upcoming purchase of a Pan Oceanic 38.

Asking price: $29,900.  I made an offer of $26,000. They countered at $28,000. I accepted.  We are so jazzed!

We own the boat now.  It sits in the San Carlos Marina Seca waiting for us to show up in October.  In the meantime we are preparing a load of boat supplies to bring along. We've got hoses, clamps, tools, wiring, rope, instruments, and all sorts of stuff.   There is a new Achilles LEX-96 hypalon dinghy and an ePropulsion Spirit 1 Plus 1KW electric outboard ready to load in the pickup truck.  We have two new Tower Yachtsman paddleboards ready to go.  

This weekend during the "heat dome" emergency I'll be spending time ordering stainless steel tubing and fittings to take to Mexico to make a bimini stand that will hold two new solar panels that will connect with a new solar converter.  I'm shopping for an inverter to bring along to provide 110 volt power for cell phones and the laptop. 

It is our hope to leave here in October to make our way south with a few stops, bringing the little Scamp trailer along with the truck full of parts and provisions.  In San Carlos we'll meet up with our friend Leo who has an AirBnB reserved where we can enjoy the comforts of a home while working on the new boat getting the refit done. He is excited about joining us on our next big adventure costal cruising!  We hope to splash in November and head south down the Sea of Cortez to many lovely anchorages where we have good memories of clear warm water, sandy beaches and good friends. Ain't life grand?

Wanna come visit?

My romantic palapa







Friday, June 11, 2021

Deferred Maintenance on Traveler

On a wet, chilly day in January, I visited the boat and got a vibe from her that it was about time she got some TLC.  There were multiple deferred maintenance projects that had been put on the back burner.  Time to get to work!                                           --- Warning: This article is full of boat tech stuff ------


A few years ago I had Jason from Aloft Marine aboard to install a new windlass. He saw some of the wiring in the battery compartment and said, "You really should do something about that." A few months ago I had Meredith Anderson, our diesel mechanic, aboard to check my Beta / Kubota diesel and she saw a corroded bus bar and covered her eyes. "I don't want to see that!"

After that abuse, I decided to take action.

In February I pulled up the floorboards, got out my yellow legal pad and set about drawing how the batteries connect to the starter and the alternator.  I traced the shore charging circuit and the solar array charging circuit.  I found multiple buss bars for both positive and negative with a shunt to track amps in and out.  There are also the big power users, the windlass and the refrigerator.  Measuring the wires with my digital calipers, I found that most of the large power wires are 1 or 1/0 AWG.  After measuring all the runs and figuring out what size terminals they needed I went online and ordered all the parts. Of course, being me, a computer nerd, I used a spreadsheet to track the 40 connectors on 20 fat wires, with varying wire thicknesses and connector hole sizes.  Once I got the deliveries, it was really fun making new cables with my new heavy duty crimper then shrinking insulation on the connections.  

After installing the big stuff, I did some rearranging of the system and tracked down a couple of circuits in the ceiling where lights and fans were starting to get a little frisky.  Those small wires are much easier to deal with than the big stuff, but still require quality connectors and crimping tools.  By the time all the electric work was half done, the boat was totally torn apart with ceiling panels out, floorboards up, cabinet doors removed and all manner of tools, parts and junk littering every available flat surface.  90 days later it was all back together and all working like it is supposed to work, all except that one ceiling light switch that suddenly went on the fritz. 

While removing ceiling panels we restarted our "replace the headliner fabric" project.  Getting fabric swatches from Seattle Fabric we found a match and ordered a few yards, then used contact cement to put the new marine vinyl on the ceiling panels. 

Diesel Tank Replacement:

During this same period we decided to replace our diesel tanks...again.  Years ago, when we first tried to cross the Pacific Ocean, the port side black iron diesel tank split and we were forced to return to port at San Jose del Cabo.  That year, in Guaymas Mexico, I had two new tanks built of plastic and those worked well the next year as we completed our Pacific crossings.  However, last year, one of those plastic tanks split a seam and spilled diesel into the bilge.  That story is not for the faint of heart, nor shall I address the details here.  I figured that it was about time to do the job right.

We spent a few days hauling out all the gear stowed in the two cockpit lockers and the lazerette.  Somehow, every time we had a full dock cart the tide was out and the ramp was at a 30 degree angle.  Puuuuush....  I rearranged the shop at home to make room for loads of rope, anchors, buckets, and storage containers.  Dropping down into the various lockers, screw gun and socket set in hand, I disassembled the wood partitions, exposing the two 60 gallon plastic tanks that sit directly under the cockpit sole.

Next, I disconnected the fuel line in the engine compartment, just downstream of the little electric pump that I put in a few years ago to make priming the system easier.  It took four diesel fuel jugs to hold the fuel from the starboard tank.  The port tank, I'd already emptied last year.  Of course, the tide was out when I tried to push a cart with 70 pounds of diesel up the ramp.  Of course, I spilled a little into the cart, and on my clothes.  After washing the cart I brought up another 70 pounds of fuel.  

Disconnecting the supply, return, fill, and vent hoses, I set about removing the frames that hold the tanks in place. Connie arrived in her dungarees and we set about scooting the starboard tank up and away from the center line, tying it to starboard with some line. I had to drill some holes in the tank to pass through some small line so as to get handholds in the right places.  We also plugged the threaded holes in the top of the tank so as not to spill any leftover fuel. 

We freed the port tank and passed it through the special door into the aft cabin.  See how this was done in a  post from December 2015: .  And again, I thank Stan Huntingford, the designer of our boat, for making it possible to remove the fuel tanks without having to destroy any bulkheads or woodwork.  

Up the steep ramp we pushed our way to the pickup truck, then returned for the starboard tank and finagled it out of the vessel.  Of course, in the process of getting the tanks out, we spilled a little diesel on ourselves, the cart, and the pickup truck. And again, I had a dock cart to clean.   I must say, in my defense, not one drop of diesel fuel went into the waters of Budd Inlet.  

Back at the slip, our dear traveler looked sad with her stern in the air, a full four inches above the waterline. I set about cleaning the bilge and inside the hull throughout the rear lockers, everything aft of the cabin.  Simple green and diesel smell... yum.  Using a small vacuum, I removed multiple gallons of stinky bilge water and brought it home.  Then I rinsed again, and again.  

When I called the work yard and asked about how to dispose of bilge water that had a slight smell of diesel residue they had no good answer.  Once at home, I laid a diesel fuel absorbent pad on the surface to draw off any sheen then started wandering around my yard trying to figure out where to dump my five gallons of tainted water.  

"Get out of here with those stinky clothes!"  Connie banished me from the house.  I reeked from diesel smell.  Leaving my clothing on the door stoop, I jumped into the shower to try to get the smell off my body, out of my hair, and from under the fingernails.  After washing my clothing twice and accomplishing nothing other than stinking up the washer, I finally just chucked my work clothes into the trash can.

After removing the tanks from the pickup truck and power washing the pickup truck bed, we measured the tanks and I started calling around to find someone to replicate them in aluminum.  Back at the boat, I donned a respirator and painted the entire inside of the back of the boat from deck to bilge with a oil based enamel.  Shiny!  From there on out, instead of getting smacked with a strong diesel smell, you got smacked with a strong enamel paint smell when stepping aboard.  I'm reminded of the story in The Cat in a Hat Comes Back where they can't get rid of the pink ring in the bathtub.  That's how the diesel smell was to me.

Back at home, in the shop, I cleaned up all the partition boards that I'd removed from the lockers and put a few coats of enamel on those as well.  

Meanwhile, the two new aluminum fuel tanks took five weeks for Coastline to weld up for me.  The tanks look great and have the necessary pressure testing procedures done.  All in all, I'm pleased with the quality of work at Coastline.  However, the fittings are not what I asked for, and they put in two floats for fuel gauges that I didn't ask for.  In addition, nobody I dealt with there ever wore a mask when meeting with me.  ( note: future readers, this is in the time of Covid. ) 

Back in Olympia, we threw the two plastic tanks into the marina dumpster and brought the new tanks down the steep ramp to Traveler.  They went into the boat almost as easy as they came out and soon I was siphoning my 140 pounds (20 gallons) of diesel back into the tanks. Getting the hoses onto the new bibs was difficult as the rubber had hardened and didn't want to stretch.  The heat gun helped. New hose clamps all around, 20 in all, gave me the confidence to keep that pink ring out of the bathtub. It took a good ten minutes for the electric priming fuel pump to clear the lines of air but soon, the engine started and we were ready to go on to the next project.  


Our autopilot head had gone on the fritz two years ago and I never got around to replacing it.  In the meantime the company who made the Alpha 4404 closed their doors so the option of just buying a new Alpha head was gone.  I researched a few other models and found that Scanmar has a line of Pelagic autopilots that would work with my existing linear drive and clutch.  It was pretty straightforward mounting the control head in the cockpit and the brain in the cockpit locker and doing the wiring connections.  Now we have a new autopilot to figure out.  On our first outing, she yawed back and forth so I think I'll need to do some fine tuning.


Since the cabin top varnishing job of last summer went so well, Connie decided she'd varnish all the teak in the cockpit.  Wash, strip, sand, varnish.   Then sand and varnish again.  Seven coats took an entire month.  But now it looks wonderful, just in time for our charter season to get cranking.


This one was a surprise.  After changing out the transmission fluid we took a spin around Budd Inlet.  When engaging the forward gear, the transmission jerked a couple of times when we accelerated the engine from idle speed.  This happened twice and we began to worry about the transmission going out on us mid-charter.  After some consults, I decided I would remove the tranny and have someone look at it.  The go-to marine transmission shop is Harbor Marine in Everett.  In a call to them, I found that my little ZF 15M was not something they were interested in rebuilding.  "Just buy a new one."

I jumped into the truck and drove two hours to Everett to dump two thousand dollars on a new ZF 15M.  Back on Traveler, I set out trying to remove the old unit, disconnecting and removing the control cable and bracket and loosening the six bolts on the forward side of the tranny and the four bolts on the prop shaft coupling.  After that knuckle busting, back aching, lie on the floor with my hands in the bilge, effort I realized that I was not up to the physical effort of pulling that tranny out by myself.   Miraculously, I found a mechanic ( In high season!) to come aboard. I cannot reveal the identity of this person because all marine mechanics have a huge backlog of work right now at the beginning of the season.  Sneaking me to the front of the line could hurt some feelings.  We wouldn't want to do that now would we? Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, kind mechanic person.

Getting ready for the professional to come work on my boat, I felt like I do before visiting the dentist.  I usually spend a couple of days vigorously brushing and flossing so as not to look like a slacker.  Likewise, I looked around the engine compartment and cleaned up loose ends and replaced a dozen rusty hose clamps on the verge of failure.

My guy/gal/they arrived and went to work.  He/she/they loosened the dripless collar and shoved the prop shaft aft, then re-secured the collar to stop the volumes of water rushing into the bilge. The bilge pump clicked on just like it is supposed to and I'm proud that there was no oil sheen on the water outside.  Pulling the shaft back gave us about six inches of clearance to pull the tranny off the engine.  BAM! She was out.  Thank you, person with strong arms and hands, ( who asked to remain anonymous.)

Soon we had the new tranny ready and while the mechanic positioned the unit in place, I was able to lie on top of the engine and sighting down the gap between engine and transmission, guide the spline into the plate on the flywheel. Lots of grunting and then it slid into place.  An hour later, we were operational. What a sigh of relief.  All in all, we only lost five days on the project and cancelled just one charter. 

Denouement:   noun    The final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.

With the pandemic coming to some sort of resolution, people are starting to call and make reservations for us to take them out on the water. We've got quite a few on the books for June, July, and August and it's starting to look like we'll have a record summer.  That's good.  We need the money because..... we just pulled the trigger and bought another boat.

I am not kidding.  

This one is in San Carlos, Mexico.  She's a sweetheart and a sweet deal.  The question is.... what's the catch?  Stay tuned. 



Friday, December 11, 2020

Groundhog Day

What gets us through the day, and into the next?  Why, we've got things to do!  That's what.  For instance, today  Connie and I went to the outbuilding and took turns sanding 24 inch fir flooring boards.  Each layer of the pile has ten boards.  Each board has to be stripped of the old varnish and then sanded smooth.  Ten boards takes about an hour.  We need 300 boards for the new floor of the music studio.  That goal provides a purpose to our day. 

After sleeping in late, we have breakfast, then I head to the shed and do my floor boards while Connie practices her music.  I come back inside for lunch then she heads to the shed to do her trick at the sander.  Later, after dinner, Connie  turns to her task of constructing a new chequere, a large beaded gourd.  Her goal for the evening is to add another row of beads.  There are 40 beads per row, all needed to be tied, Macramé style. I busy myself at the computer.  We might watch a movie or show on the laptop, read and go to sleep.  Like the movie Groundhog Day, we get up and do the exact same thing the next day.  It seems like we've been doing this forever. We don't see friends. We don't go anywhere. We construct our day so as to get it done.

Our days have been like this for about nine months.  To keep from going crazy, we've been conjuring up plans of action, marking up the steps involved and proceeding with it.   In the spring and throughout the summer it was us hacking a big garden out of an overgrown plot of land behind the house.  Then later, scrounging canning jars and putting all that produce away for the winter.  Alongside that task was the building of a small structure that is to be a music studio.  We can't just build a shed, or an outbuilding. It has to be a full blown mini-house, built to standards with insulation, electricity, studs and beams, tongue and groove paneling, and soon, a clear fir floor salvaged from a 40 year old addition.  Who knows, someday we might have to live in that little space.

Last year we gutted the back third of our house that had housed a garage and loft bedroom and created a small apartment for ourselves.  In that process we removed a lot of material, mostly wood product, which we saved and now are using for the music studio. While buying new material for the project would certainly save time, cleaning up the old material not only saves us money but gives us something to do during these long Covid days.  We must stay busy.

We were lucky to have bought this old house just before the Covid hit.  And we were fortunate to have remodeled and rented out our main house in time to weather the pandemic without going broke.  We're thinking that this is a time to retrench, economize, and make plans for the future.  This is a time to go it alone, keep friends at a distance, to stash cash and canned goods. Under the house, in a cold concrete half-height cellar we built shelves and filled them with the bounty from the garden and other purchased items that would get us through an extended time of need.  

This pandemic has us thinking like preppers, survivalists, those people who stock up in anticipation of hard times. I think this pandemic has brought out the best in people and the worst in people.  It's been a wake up call reminding us of the extreme levels of kindness and cruelty that we are capable of. 

Connie's sketch of Scott

When I was younger, I thought the population explosion was going to bring our society down.  After that, I thought the concept of Peak Oil was going to be the death knell of our society.  Now it seems like both of those have spawned a larger threat that is climate change.  Even while we see that train wreck approaching, the people in power do next to nothing to slow it down, and others deny that there is anything to be concerned about. This pandemic gives us a taste of our future and tells us that we cannot depend on anyone else to do the right thing.  

And so we continue our Groundhog days.  I toss shelled peanuts out the door for the squirrels and watch them run off and hide them in the dirt.  They watch me building away, adding another structure, planning an acquisition, and stashing food and booze in the cellar.  We're getting back to basics, fortifying for our future, waiting out the pandemic.     



Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Much Needed Nautical Break


Since Traveler was raring to get out on the water, we decided to pack her with 21 days of food and beverage and bug out of Olympia. The day before we left, Connie gathered up twenty pounds of greens and beans, tomatoes and carrots to carry along with us on our journey.  We loaded up the refrigerator on the boat as well as two big coolers, thinking that it would be best to provision for the full three weeks so that we could avoid stores in Seattle, Sequim, and the San Juan Islands.

Rumor was that boating destinations were getting swamped with vacationers desperate to get out of the house and on the water.  Our thoughts were to avoid towns, avoid people, and avoid crowded anchorages.  We armed ourselves with a state park mooring pass, our South Sound Sailing Society reciprocal membership, and three cases of wine.  By the way, we stored the wine on the port side of the boat and that helped keep her on her lines.  Otherwise she has a slight list to the starboard.

August 4th we cruised out to Penrose Point and found a mooring buoy for the night.  The next day we caught a bid ebb tide that swept us through the Tacoma Narrows, and into Colvos Passage.  There, in 300 feet of water I spotted a crab buoy swimming its way north up the channel.  It was clear to me that someone’s trap had fallen into deep water and was lost.  I know that you are not supposed to pull up a crab trap that you don’t own, but when a trap with 100 feet of line is in 300 feet of water it’s in no one’s interest to have it bounce along until it hits bottom again.  And then, the lost trap could continue to catch crab for months, crab who would not survive that small prison. We spun around, scooped it up and got the name and address of the owner written on the float.  I phoned the owner in Tacoma and told her that her crab trap will be spending its vacation with us in the San Juans until we returned back south in a couple of weeks.  She was delighted.

The big ebb pushed us all the way north past Blake Island (crowded), through Rich Passage to the park dock at Illahee, a nice long run for one day. We watched the kids jumping into the water over and over all afternoon. I had a bee fly into my shirt and got stung twice for a nice surprise “hello” from nature. The next day we shot through Agate Pass in a driving rain, to arrive later in the day at Port Ludlow and a quiet anchorage. 

Island Spirit and Traveler at Sequim Bay Park


Day four we rode the next strong ebb through Admiralty Inlet and around the corner to the entrance to Sequim Bay where we soaked a crab trap and caught our dinner.  We reset the traps and continued on into the bay to find dock space at the state park float.   Our friends Rick and Ada were there on their new boat Island Spirit.


Day five was my birthday; sixty seven is the magic number now.  Rick and I took his dinghy out through  the bay entrance spit and found my two crab traps chock full.  We sorted out the little ones and the females and still came back with a big haul.  As the wind was building and the chop getting high, we brought the traps back into the bay where it is calmer.  Don’t want those traps taking a hike on us!  At the dock I had the pleasure of showing Rick how to murder crabs and rip their bodies apart.  I don’t think he enjoyed it ever so much.  Ada, on the other hand, couldn’t keep her fingers out of the steamed crab picking dish that evening.

We had crab out our ears on my birthday and for subsequent days after that.  Three days at Sequim Bay and it was time to push north.  Our crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was a little bouncy and the wind was not quite strong enough to keep the sails full so we ended up running the motor the second half of the crossing then found pretty Aleck Bay on the south side of Lopez Island for a calm night at anchor.  From Aleck, we sailed around the corner to Spencer Spit.  I spied fourteen boats on buoys and anchors on the south side of the spit, quite a crowd.  Just as we were headed toward the north side to count all those boats, a mooring buoy opened up and we had the good luck to snag it.  If you see it, take it.


We rowed ashore and met Jane and Richard, our friends who live on Lopez, and had a nice social distanced chat amid swarming bees.  One of the bees got into my beer and I got bit on the lip when I spit it out.  Connie sucked the venom out and I was fine, but shaken.  That’s when Connie told us the story about when her daughter Tesla got stung on the buttocks as a small child.  Connie’s friend told her to suck that venom out.  She did and soon Tesla was back at play.  Connie has lots of interesting talents, I have found.


From Spencer Spit we sailed through Peavine Pass out into Rosario Strait and made our way to Clark Island for a hike and a paddle and a bumpy night on a mooring ball.  We re-learned the rule that you do not leave kayaks or a dinghy in the water where a confused tidal situation exists.  Traveler was swept down current but was pointing the wrong way, trying to chase her tail.  The dinghy was trying to move to the front of the boat and the two plastic kayaks played an endless drum solo going all night.  The mooring buoy tried to keep the beat on the nose of the boat.  I awoke sleepy eyed and tired.  Always bring the kayaks on deck.  Always secure the dinghy so it can’t dance against the hull.  Always bridle the mooring buoy so it cannot bump the bow. How many times have I got to tell you?

Clark Island

From Clark we motored over to Matia and found a quiet spot on the southeast corner in a small cove full of puffins.  We hiked the beautiful island amazed at the old growth trees preserved there.  The shoreline rises steep on both sides with wonderful scooped out ovals and caves in what appears to be sandstone.

Across the water at Sucia Island we saw dozens of boats anchored in Echo and Fossil Bays so we decided to stay a second night at Matia.  Connie had a chance to put the fourth coat of varnish on the top deck and I was able to drop a couple of crab traps at the cove entrance in about 70 feet of water.  
Check traps, no crab, means chicken sausages for dinner.  I placed two traps, two sets in different places, and still no crab.  That evening at twilight we watched three sleek otters snacking their way down the cove.  I bet they know where the crab are.

On that second night in the southeast cove of Matia, we welcomed in a small boat with two women aboard and an Irish setter. The setting sun at the head of the cove blinded them as they cautiously made their entrance. “Come on in, there is plenty of room.” I said. They glided on into the cove and dropped the hook in twelve feet of water.  The moon rose but we couldn’t see it, it was a new moon.  The next morning we had a ten foot drop to a minus one foot tide and they were aground. Oops.  We considered ourselves lucky to have three feet under the keel.  We all know that new moon and full moon means big tides.



That morning we watched that little sailboat go from full tilt to floating then we headed out into deeper water, motoring and sailing around the north end of Sucia Island.  Echo Bay is the largest anchorage.  I counted ninety boats there, an amazing amount.  All around us were recreational fishing boats, crab floats, shrimp floats, paddle boarders, and kayakers.  It was a piloting nightmare. Evidently Sucia is very popular, especially in a Covid summer.


We decided to give Sucia a pass and headed around the north end of Patos, running through tide rips at the tip of the island with its scenic lighthouse.  We found Active Cove with its two buoys taken plus a few more boats anchored leaving a small space for us to squeeze in and drop our hook.  Going ashore in the dinghy, we avoided the people camping (no masks) and took a nice walk out to the lighthouse and back.  Normally Patos is a quiet place. Not that day.  Anticipating another minus tide, and having an uncertain amount of swing room, we pulled up our anchor (in twelve feet of depth) and ventured out into deeper water, sailing then motoring over to Waldron Island.  Waldron is not a destination Island. There are no facilities, no parks to speak of, no mooring balls and no protected anchorages.  On the positive side, there were no visiting boaters.  With light winds from the north, we were clearly in a period of hot, calm days so we felt comfortable anchoring on the unprotected south side in Cowlitz Bay.  We had the place to ourselves and a wonderful evening with a bright sunset and dinner in the cockpit.  How well it pays to get off the beaten track.


With spotty cell service, we finally confirmed with Connie’s son Ezrah that he would be flying into Friday Harbor at 3:25 so we sailed south past Flattop, Jones, and Yellow islands.  As we approached Friday Harbor the boat traffic got heavier and we had some close calls with power boats as we entered the harbor.  Everyone seemed to be in a big hurry.   Sea planes were landing.  Ferry boats were embarking and debarking.  Dogs were barking.  Music was blaring.  The guest dock was full and the area near the docks was crowded with boats at anchor.  Dropping the anchor in 50 feet, we mounted the outboard on the dinghy and headed to town.

 The Friday Harbor market has a huge wine and beer section – clerks were stocking nonstop and customers were loading libations into shopping carts.  We grabbed two dozen eggs, fruit, and some double AA batteries and checked out of there.  The cashier said the real estate market on San Juan Island was booming as city dwellers were suddenly seeing the upside to living on a quiet island.

Ezrah joined us fresh off a 30 minute seaplane flight from Kenmore (his first!) and we headed off around the east side of Shaw Island, crossing through Peavine Pass to Pelican Beach recreation area on the NE side of Cypress Island.  The mooring balls were all occupied and another half dozen boats were anchored.  We tried three times to get an anchor to set in the rocky bottom before giving up and motoring over to Guemes Island where I found a shallow flat area between Guemes and Jack Island that gave us a nice safe anchoring spot in 25 feet of water, 300 yards from shore.  Again, we found a place with no facilities but wonderful anchoring and we had the place to ourselves.

The morning of Day 15 Connie saw some boats headed east and surmised that some of those boats on Cypress were heading out.  We brought up the anchor and motored back over to Pelican Beach on Cypress where we found an open mooring ball to hook onto.  Taking a kayak and the dinghy ashore, we skirted the group of old guys who were camped on the beach with their fleet of little Pelican sailboats.  A Pelican rendezvous!   The trail from the beach climbs to Eagle Cliff above Foss Cove where we had wonderful views of the Islands all around.  Back aboard, we set out crab traps and caught two rock crabs.  This was Ezrah’s first time crabbing and first time murdering a crab.  Yum.


Day 16 Ezrah realized that he had to be home early so we made a group decision to make a run for Puget Sound, leaving at 06:30 and motoring south with the stiff current and straight into a strong south wind.  A small craft warning was in effect in the eastern entrance to the Strait, set to expire at 08:00 so we figured we’d catch the tail end of that event.  Sure enough, down near Deception Pass the going got pretty rough as the current against wind brought up rollers and chop. Luckily, we were able to get some breakfast down before we hit the bumpy seas.  Going into the galley to cook would be a bad idea at that point.  We’ve learned that lesson.



We had water over the bow and water running down the decks and all manner of things crashing down below. But still we were keeping up a good five knots of headway.  Having had enough of the rough treatment, we turned to port to get closer to land where the going was somewhat smoother as the wind didn’t have as much fetch, being blocked by the land and the Whidbey Island Air Station.   I realized that we were in a cautionary zone for the Air Station but…. Oh well, what could we do now? We kept a watch out for marines coming to run us out of their restricted waters.  It took us six hours that morning to get into Port Townsend and a couple more to wind our way into Mystery Bay between Marrowstone and Indian Islands. Our lowest depth in that winding channel was 9.5 feet.  We draw 6.5.   By that time the sun was shining, the seas were calm, and the beleaguered crew was able to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.  That meant that the captain got to take a nap.  I love napping.


Consulting the charts and the tide and current tables we planned our next day’s run to Edmonds.  Along with the rules about bringing kayaks and dinghies aboard at night is the rule that says to never enter shallow passages on a falling tide.  If you run aground, you are stuck as the water retreats around you.  We set our departure time to 2:00 PM just an hour after a minus 1.5 foot low tide, still pretty low but if we struck, we’d soon float off.  

Calling ahead that morning I found an open slip at the Kingston Marina.  Now that we had a reservation, we knew there would be a place for us when we arrived after the office closed.  We’d been away from services now for 17 days and were looking forward to washing down the boat and getting ready for the predicted rain showers coming in with a low pressure system from the south.  

On the way out of the bay we spied two sailboats, both stuck in the mud.  They had tried and failed to negotiate the shifting channel earlier that morning.  However, as we made our exit, both boats started floating.  Rounding the north end of Indian Island we watched the submarine pen and found an actual submarine inside with a crane loading something.  The young sailors in the patrol vessel saw us looking through the binoculars and started coming our way.  I checked the chart and it appeared we were in legal waters so….let them come!  I notched up the throttle and got the heck out of there.  Ezrah took the helm and brought us through the narrow Port Townsend canal and out into Admiralty Inlet where we caught the significant current that sweeps down towards Hood Canal.  Being that we were crossing a large flow, our boat was crabbing sideways and forward at seven knots.  Rounding Point No Point we flew south, letting the wind vane self-steering do the work.  Eventually the wind disappeared and we finished the day’s run under engine power.  At Kingston we took our reserved moorage slip but then moved over to a reciprocal slip that happened to be open.  Ezrah left the boat and took the ferry across to Edmonds.  The almost free slip at Kingston was nice to have as we were able to wash the salt off the boat, top off the water tank, grab a head of lettuce and catch up on a bunch of email.  We spent two nights at Kingston.

 The following day we sailed into a southerly predicted to be 10 to 15 knots.  After getting the main hoisted the wind increased so we put out about half the genoa.  The wind built and so did the seas until it felt like 25 knots directly from the south with four foot wind waves.  Now we were stuck with a strong southerly and a full main that we’d have to fight to get furled.  Crossing over to an indentation in the shoreline just north of Shilshole bay, we were able to get in close enough to blanket the wind a little so the main could come down without incident.  Arriving at Shilshole marina around 3 PM, our friends Scott and Karen took our lines and we settled into a nice afternoon catching up with them.  Their Catalina 42 was there right across the dock.  Drinks. Dinner. Dessert.

Trains rumbled through the night, waking us up.  After being in quiet anchorages for three weeks, the city seemed overly loud to us, and felt very busy.  That next day we crept out into the sound and hoisted the geniker in the light winds, ghosting along at 2 knots for a while, then increasing to 3 knots off Blake Island.  At Vashon we were at 4 knots building to a screaming 7 knots by the time we made Three Tree Point.  As we made the turn around the south side of Vashon Island the wind came on the beam and Traveler tilted over sharply.  And now here we were again, over canvassed… but having a great time.  Right at the entrance to Quartermaster Harbor is Piner Point with a good sized vertical wind block.  We took advantage of the lull to pull the geniker into the sock.  Motoring into the harbor we found anchorage at Dockton in 30 feet of water.

The following day we caught two crabs then sailed south and west to Gig Harbor where we anchored in 40 feet of water along with a crowd of boats and crab pots.  I got two more big rock crabs that ended up as fried crab cakes for dinner.  In the morning I caught two more in the morning and reloaded the traps with the remaining stinky bait. On the way out of Gig Harbor we pulled up the traps with one good sized rock crab and we headed south, steaming, picking, then freezing the crab harvest. Now that we were in the southern waters all we found were rock crab.  Up north we caught Dungeness Crab which are larger, easier to crack, and have a lot more meat.  


After passing under the Tacoma Bridge we were in the south Puget Sound fishing area where the crab season is closed so our crab fest was over… at least for this year.  Oro Bay is just north of the Nisqually Delta. We found anchorage there in 20 feet and a quiet night with few sounds and fewer boats around us.  Back in familiar waters, we found our slip at Swantown Marina the next day and made multiple runs with the dock cart, emptying the boat of provisions.  After buttoning up the boat I gave her a last look and noticed a slight list to the starboard.  

Thank you Traveler. Thank you for getting our minds off the issues of the day and setting our minds at ease for a much needed recreation.  And thank you, dear reader, for staying with us through a very long blog post.