North from Ilwaco to Thetis Island
48°37.10'N 123°02.80'W – August 17th 2015
We (Craig, Barbara, Ray and Alicia) left Ilwaco on Thursday morning and headed out past the Columbia River bar, which was a complete non-event. We had been hoping for south wind, which actually was in the forecast for awhile, but which had disappeared by the time we actually left. The trip up the Washington coast was uneventful - no big seas, almost no wind, almost no boats to be seen, a brief sighting of dolphins.
We arrived in Port Angeles Friday night in light winds, so there were no scary close encounters with fast-approaching docks. We ordered Thai food from that excellent restaurant up the hill. Craig and Ray hiked up the hill to retrieve it. We ate dinner in the boat's cockpit, and enjoyed the beautiful sunset which followed. Saturday morning we headed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, uneventful, and checked in to Canadian customs at Bedwell Harbor. As we arrived at Bedwell, there was a wedding going on at the very fancy resort. We were not tempted to stay there -- it's a nice facility but the rates are exorbitant.
We continued north another couple of hours and stopped for the night at Montague Harbor. We tied on to one of the provincial park buoys, and a most cordial park person came out in a dinghy to collect our $12 mooring fee. We had failed to acquire any Canadian money, but she gladly took US dollars (evidently worth somewhat more than Canadian dollars these days).
Our crew are Ray McCracken and Alicia Watkins, members of our yacht club. They brought a most excellent variety of add-ons to our basic supplies, and we had an excellent dinner that evening consisting just of hors d'oeuvres, many of which were brought by Alicia.
The weather thus far had been only so-so -- mostly cloudy skies, fog, mist, and a few lonely sun breaks. But that evening at Montague Harbor, the clouds went away, and have stayed away since. The night sky was full of stars, and the view across the Harbor (Ray counted about 70 boats anchored there) with all the twinkling masthead lights reflected in the water, was spectacular.
The next morning (yesterday) the sun was out in full glory. We inflated the dinghy and motored around the harbor, checking out the other boats, saying hello to the people. A majority of the boats were from B.C., and most of the rest (maybe all of the rest) from Washington State. We stopped at the commercial marina, had a delicious lunch, and checked out the stores with impressive prices (one lime=$1.49). Craig discovered that fishing licenses are no longer something you purchase at every resort and marina. Instead you buy them on the internet. The marina had wi-fi, and we were given access along with our lunch. So Craig spent a very frustrating 45 minutes navigating the webpage by smartphone, dealing with secret questions, passwords and "continue" buttons that seemed to be completely missing. He had a look at the thick book of areas closed to fishing, and finally determined that there was a spot near one of our favorite anchorages at Thetis Island, where there actually was a fishing area that was not closed. So we said goodbye to Montague Harbor, and headed north to Thetis Island.
As soon as we arrived and had the anchor down, Craig and Ray headed out in the dinghy, while Alicia and I thought about swimming (no, too cold, only 67 degrees, even though the church camp kids over on shore were swimming and whooping it up)and then thought about dinner -- what if they catch a fish, what if they don't...? Alicia has been hoping to catch sight of a whale,and had seen some spouts here at Thetis Island, as we approached the anchorage. Nothing more came of that, but while the guys were gone, we heard big engines. We headed up, and found that there were three whale-watching boats not too far away. Their megaphone announcements came across the water, and it was obvious they were observing a pod of orcas. We watched, and began to see spouts and fins. This went on for maybe 45 minutes, and finally the whale-watch boats left. We kept watching the whales; Alicia with binoculars, and soon she was saying "Oh, my gosh, they're coming our way!" Sure enough, we counted six orcas, and they came within about 100 feet of our boat, presumably checking us out. They stayed 3-4 minutes, and then left us for something more interesting.
At that very moment, Craig and Ray were heading back, and I have photos of whales interspersed with photos of the approaching dinghy, Ray holding up his rockfish for us to see. It turns out they had had a close encounter with the whales as well, taking in their fishing lines so the whales wouldn't have to deal with them.
Very exciting times. Craig then baptized his new fish-cleaning station, coming up with two fillets of rockfish just the right size for dinner. We had mojitos (mint from our garden), guacamole (tomato from our garden and garlic from the Puget Island farmers market), sauteed rockfish fillets (parsley from our garden), salad (tomato and cucumbers from our garden) and a quinoa/brown rice mix (thank you Costco!) We enjoyed another gorgeous sunset and then finished the evening with a viewing of "A Beautiful Mind", a Russell Crow movie that none of had ever seen. We went above decks to check out the stars, and we treated to a great deal of splashing and commotion not too far away. Perhaps the whales are back, cavorting in the dark?
Today we head for Nanaimo where we hope to actually have some internet access, not to mention laundry, grocery store (garden vegetables and fruit are running out) etc. We'll say good-bye to Ray and Alicia there, and they'll head back home by bus, ferry and car.