Daily Archives: August 2, 2018

Run Aground and the Hermit of Matia Island

With several pieces of ceramic art safely aboard we cast off our mooring and began leaving Orcas Island in our wake. Earlier in the day, we had heard there may be strong winds that night so we were headed to Patos Island Marine State Park (the northernmost of the San Juans) for a safe anchorage for the night. My father handed the helm to Tawny as he went below to listen to the weather report. Wendy and I were already below preparing lunch. It wasn’t but seconds later when Pangaea lurched to a decisive and grinding halt. Below deck, we went sprawling about the cabin. Somehow the three of us simultaneously filled the companionway as we quickly made our way to the cockpit. “What happened? What did we hit”? There was widespread panic and confusion. The feeling of being on a sailboat when you’ve run aground isn’t one you soon forget.

A trip to the bow revealed we had run aground and hit a rock off Point Kimple.

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These were unfamiliar waters and in hindsight, we should have consulted a chart before leaving the harbor. We were stuck, unable to reverse our position. Wendy went to check the bilge and make sure we weren’t taking on water. We weren’t. We were lucky. It was also a flood tide and a rising tide floats all boats, even those on rocks.

Tawny was understandably upset. My father reassured her with a San Juan mariner’s adage: “If you sail in the San Juans you’ve hit a rock. And if you haven’t yet, you will.”

It was about 10 or 15 minutes of rising tide, rocking the boat, and revving the engine in reverse before we were able to set ourselves free. Undoubtedly, the nearly 8,000lb lead keel would have some battle scars, but she’d live to sail another day.

We continued on our way to Patos Island passing a small school of blackfish along the way. I had never been to Patos Island and was looking forward to exploring the trails around the historic lighthouse. Unfortunately, the only decent anchorage on Patos was small and crowded. It was too risky to try and anchor in such a narrow bay with a strong current.

We headed on to nearby Sucia Island, the prized center jewel of the marine state park system. Sucia is the main island and a collection of finger islands and other nearby islands make up the varied anchorages and miles of fossil-laden shoreline to explore. We found a safe haven in Fox Cove for the evening.

Instead of exploring again the familiar shores of Sucia we decided to head to nearby Matia Island, another member of the Washington State Marine Parks and a nature preserve I had yet to explore.

Matia has an interesting history with the story of the Hermit of Matia Island wherein 1892 Elvin Smith squatted on the island hoping he could lay a homesteading claim. He was a sole resident there for some 30 years before he was presumably lost at sea. However, his boat and his body were never found. Some say his ghost still haunts the waters and woods on an around Matia.

Having recently run aground we didn’t want to risk tying to the dock in what looked like shallow waters. Instead, we grabbed a buoy and rowed ashore to explore the old growth cedar forest and pristine coves around the small island.

After our day hike, we departed Matia and flooded with the tide toward Eagle Harbor on Cypress Island for the night. It was a noisy and bouncy anchorage given the boat traffic and banging of the mooring buoy on our hull. But the dinner, drink, and dominoes were fine. We awoke to clouds Wednesday morning as we headed back to the Port of Anacortes where my San Juan Sabbatical came to an end.

 

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Ceramics in the Forest and Forest Ceramics

Monday we ebbed our way towards West Beach Resort to find Orcas Island Pottery. My father Mac and his wife Wendy, although local to the San Juans had never heard of West Beach Resort. So, finding the resort and the location of Orcas Island Pottery was the adventure of the day. We had the tide against us, so we hugged the deep, rugged and remote northwestern shoreline of Orcas to try and catch a back-eddy to compel ourselves forward.

The dock at West Beach Resort was too shallow to accommodate Pangaea, so we moored at a nearby buoy and rowed ourselves ashore. The resort (dating from 1938) was cute and quaint, with little rustic beachfront cabins, boats, and fishing gear for rent, a small store that sold hand-scooped ice cream and beers on tap.

We considered a frosty beverage on a sunny day, but we were on a mission. Instead of a beer, we asked for directions to Orcas Island Pottery. They pointed us in the right direction and we started up the hill out of the small resort in search of Old Pottery Road.

We had been told it was only 1/4 mile, and perhaps it was to the turnoff to Old Pottery Road. But the gravel road was from there was long, winding and grew cool and dark and cloaked us in foreboding shadows, some of which had wings. An unkindness of ravens followed us into the forest. A dozen or more flit and hopped from branch to stump and branch again. Many remaining unseen. Their distinctive caws taunting us in an attempt to drive us from their forest.

Deeper still into the forest, perhaps 3/4 of a mile from where we began, a sign finally read, “Faint Not, The Pottery is Near”. And it was. We stepped through a small gate leaving the conspiracy of ravens behind and into a bright and sunny garden of flowers and pottery displayed outdoors on tables and benches and within outbuilding across the grounds. It was awe inspiring. Magical.

Further still was the magic of an incredible treehouse built on the property that captured the imagination of my inner child. I can only imagine the fun of the children lucky enough to grow up with this in their backyard.

We searched around, and there amongst the picnic tables and studio buildings displaying varied artist, was the work of our daughter’s favorite, Sean Forest Roberts.

We bought several pieces of ceramics by several artists. As we were having them wrapped up we mentioned our daughter’s interest Sean Roberts to the person working in the store and she said, “You know, his studio is just down the road, right next to West Beach Resort.” Given we had bought so many pieces, and considering distance back to the resort, she graciously offered to give us a ride back to the resort.

We walked along the beach past the rustic cabins to the turnoff on Enchanted Forest Road. As we approached the studios of Forest Ceramics on we were greeted by two frisky blurs of black toy poodle puppies and their owners chasing after them. We introduced ourselves to Sean Forrest Roberts and Valeri Aleksandrov who were gracious enough to invite us into their enchanting studio where they shared their processes and techniques and showed us many of their experiments and completed series of art. We were lucky enough to have them sell us several pieces on the spot.

What started as a quest to find a simple pottery store turned into a spontaneous day of collecting art and meeting some of the artists behind them.

We returned to the resort for that cold beer and then rowed ourselves back to Pangaea with many fragile packages in hand.

 

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San Juan Sabbatical

Five years ago, at the start of my third (15-year) sabbatical, I started this blog with a sailing trip in the Sporades Islands of Greece. At the outset of my fourth (20-year) sabbatical is seemed appropriate I update Sabbatikos with another sailing adventure.

We left Cap Sante Marina in the late afternoon of Saturday, July 28th on the good ship Pangaea (in her 40th year) and timed our departure with the 5pm start of the Around Guemes Island sailing race.

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Around Guemes Island Race start

 

We never intended to finish, but the direction of the race down Guemes Channel was the direction we were going and the only planned agenda we had. Pangaea needed simply to start the race so she’d continue to earn points for the Anacortes Yacht Club summer series, of which this race was included. We left the race as the fleet rounded Guemes and kept our heading straight on across Rosario Strait towards Lopez Island. While it was a sunny day, the Strait brought a biting cold wind off the ocean, but we found shelter from it in our night’s anchorage in Swifts Bay.

Sunday morning we pulled anchor and ferried ourselves on towards Orcas Island‘s West Sound. We had no clear itinerary but thought it would be a good place to explore for a few hours. We took advantage of the Orcas Island Yacht Club‘s dock and went ashore for a walk.

 

In West Sound, we noticed a sign for Orcas Island Pottery pointing North, but no indication of how far it was. We thought that might be the gallery associated with an artist our daughter (an accomplished ceramicist herself) really likes. A few months ago we had been in Fairhaven near Bellingham and had happened upon Good Earth Pottery. Upon entering the gallery our daughter exclaimed, “OMG! That’s Sean Roberts work. I follow him on Instagram! He’s my favorite artist! He lives in the San Juan Islands”. We thought perhaps we could go there and find a piece as a gift for her. But how far was it? Tawny did a little sleuthing. She called Good Earth Pottery, confirmed the artist was named Sean Roberts, and then called Orcas Island Pottery to confirm they had his work and their location. They did! Unfortunately, they were a good 5 miles walk from West Sound. They told us if we were traveling by boat we could dock at West Beach Resort and we’d find them within an easy 1/4-mile walk.

While West Beach Resort was only a short 5 miles by road, it was several hours by sailboat and more than we could take on that late in the day that was growing hotter. We decided to spend the steamy afternoon at nearby Massacre Bay and find anchorage behind Skull Island for the night. Yes, you read that right. In 1858 a group of northern Coast Salish tribes wiped out a seasonal Lummi camp at the head of West Sound. The resulting namesakes for the bay and several small islands (including Victim Island) entomb in our memories the bloody event. We escaped the heat by exploring the shoreline by kayak and resting ourselves under the shade of the “African Queen” canopy.

 

As the sun set, we enjoyed dinner, drink, and the warmth of a late July San Juan evening. It was a perfect night and perfectly still. I spent a long hour late in the night sitting on deck wrapped in a warmth of eerie stillness and bathed in the light of a nearly full moon pondering the ghosts of Massacre Bay. Tomorrow would be a new day and a new adventure as we now had a destination and a quest to find the work of Sean Roberts at Orcas Island Pottery.

 

 

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