Puget Sound

With Cindy on her way back to Ottawa, and our (initial!) shipping date not scheduled until May 24th, Mike and I had to decide how to spend our remaining time on the West Coast – more time in the Gulf Islands, or maybe back to the Sunshine Coast? In the end, circumstances decided for us: one of our lithium batteries had been giving us some trouble, and the company offered to replace it for us if we could bring it back to them in Seattle. Final decision: sail to Seattle and explore Puget Sound along the way!

Port Townsend

On May 6th, we ‘sailed’ from Cadboro Bay in Victoria to Port Townsend, Washington. The weather was fabulous, but unfortunately that also meant we had very little wind so had to motor most of the way. We arrived in Port Townsend in late afternoon, and quickly went ashore to explore the town before dinner. Port Townsend has a long boating history, and hosts a Wooden Boat Festival every September. It is also home to the Northwest Maritime Center, and a Wooden Boat Building School. The Center and the School had already closed by the time we arrived, but we definitely spent a good amount of time peeking in the windows to see what we were missing!

The next morning we sailed down Admiralty Inlet and into Puget Sound proper. The weather was grey and wet (big surprise!) and the winds were a little hit and miss. Most our (slow) sailing was in and out of the shipping lanes, which meant we had to pay attention to the AIS to stay clear of any freighters or large ships coming towards us – the last thing you want is to get in the way of a 900-foot long cruise ship moving at 20 knots! Most large vessels (both commercial and pleasure craft) show up on our AIS (Automatic Identification System) tracker on the chart plotter – each connected vessel shows up as a triangle on the screen, and you can tap on it to find out the vessel’s name, size, speed, and it’s distance and time of closest approach to our own boat. It’s super handy for keeping track of freighters, which appear on the horizon as a small dot and are right on top of you only a few minutes later!

At one point, we were happily sailing along when I saw an oddly shaped ‘island’ in the distance. Was it an island, or maybe a large navigational mark? Surely it couldn’t be a boat, since there was nothing showing up on the AIS… fast forward a few minutes and we realised that it was a US Navy Aircraft Carrier!

The USS Nimitz. It apparently holds 90 planes and helicopters, but only one jet was visible on the top deck

The carrier was surrounded by 3 tugs and a few pilot boats, none of which were on the AIS. I’m not sure why not – most of the Canadian Naval ships we pass will be there – but it’s amazing how a 1000-foot boat really can just sneak up on you (especially when it’s travelling at about 18 knots!). I looked it up on google later, and it turns out that this aircraft carrier is only about 100 feet longer than the three cruise ships we passed later in the day – somehow I expected it to be much bigger!

The bridge from Bainbridge to Suquamish

We spent the night anchored in Manzanita Bay, on Bainbridge Island, and then sailed around Bainbridge and across to Seattle on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the winds were just perfect to try out our asymmetric spinnaker for the first time. We bought this last fall, but it took a while to get all the hardware installed to fly it properly.

We went with a light blue spinnaker to match our navy hull

We spent two nights in Seattle, running errands on Monday morning and then spending the rest of the day exploring Pike Place Market and the piers. For all the years I’ve lived in Vancouver, I really haven’t spent much time in Seattle, so it was nice to finally get to play tourist a little.

On the way back from Seattle, we sailed up Possession Sound and Skagit Bay, on the east side of Whidbey Island. Our initial plan was to spend one night at Coupeville, another at Deception Pass Park, and then a few more in the San Juan Islands. This all changed quickly when we received the call that our boat-shipping date was going to be bumped up by a week, and we’d need to be at Shelter Island by May 15th – just 5 days away!

Instead, we spent one night anchored at Coupeville, and then sailed straight to Lopez Island in the San Juans for the following night. Our entertainment for the evening was provided by the local wildlife – an eagle was sitting on the beach eating a dead river otter, while two other eagles and about six turkey vultures looked on. The eagles would periodically trade off on dining (not always pleasantly!), and the turkey vultures did their best to sneak in and eat when the eagles weren’t looking. Eventually, the eagles left and the vultures took over – but even then it seemed like only a few of the vultures were allowed to eat. Its the pecking order at work, I guess…

There was a storm blowing through that night, so after a very bouncy sleep we sailed back to Sidney, BC in 25 to 30 knot winds (and 2 metre waves as we crossed Haro Strait!). From there we started making our way back to Vancouver, arriving at Shelter Island on Sunday night, ready for a (rather unexpected!) 7:30am lift from the water on Monday morning. Two and a half long days later, and Innisfree is now on her way to Ontario. We fly to Toronto tonight, and will meet the boat in Midland, ON on Tuesday. We are looking forward to new adventures in the Great Lakes, but I am definitely going to miss our West Coast eagles and the whales! I just have to reach Tadoussac and I then I can start looking for the Belugas! 😉