Posts Tagged With: Sailing

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.


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.


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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San Juan 4th of July Getaway

We set sail from Anacortes and left Fidalgo Island in our wake as we sliced through calm cold waters of the San Juan Islands upon the good ship Pangaea.  We adjusted our sailes and pointed our compass towards Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. It was July 3rd, 2017 and we had heard fireworks would come early to Deer Harbor. Since it was our anniversary we thought it a fun way to celebrate the occasion.

By midafternoon we had dropped anchor in Deer Harbor on a beautifully sunny and unexpectedly warm Pacific Northwest day and with ample time to row ashore and explore the small marina, parks, and businesses nearby.

The evening sun ushered in dinner aboard, with ample wine, and evening games played as we awaited darkness enough to enjoy the fireworks. Sure enough, that evening produced a good old-fashioned small town fireworks display from a barge in the harbor that didn’t disappoint.

Having celebrated ‘Merican Independence a day early, we considered perhaps the best way to celebrate our independence on the 4th would be to head to the decidedly independent (and quiet) Stuart Island. Stuart Island sits at the footsteps of Canada, just across Boundary Pass and the Haro Strait and has a long tradition of independently minded characters who have populated it.

We sailed into Prevost Harbor and were lucky enough to find a space at the Stuart Island Marine State Park dock. This gave us the convenience of being able to easily disembark to explore Prevost Harbor by kayak before exploring Stuart Island by foot. In doing so, we quickly discovered the treasure chests of Stuart Island where for a small contribution we secured ourselves some pirate’s booty.

Near the first chest and atop the hill at the end of Reid Harbor Road is the original one-room schoolhouse (now the Teacherage Museum) and the current schoolhouse which still functions as the only school for the few young residents of Stuart Island.

Follow the signs as you continue upon Reid Harbor Road another half mile or so and you’ll come to Turn Point Road where yet another half mile will bring you to Turn Point Lighthouse.

We brought a picnic lunch with us and ate at a small table outside the historic 1893 home of lighthouse keeper Edward Durgan before touring the building. After the tour, we visited the small museum in the lighthouse itself whereupon we learned the history of nearby Suicide Bluff before spotting a majestic pod of Orcas rippling by.

We hiked back to our boat and upon the way had a random chance encounter with a colleague from California who just happened to be kayaking the San Juans for holiday. Drinks and dinner ensued. It was a perfect moment of synchronicity to punctuate an otherwise already perfect day.

The next day we sailed to Lopez Island and Spencer’s Spit State Park where we knew some friends would be camping for the holiday weekend. We hoped to catch up with them. We were lucky to see several seals and seals as well as favorable winds enough to set a spinnaker on our way.

We dropped anchor just north of the spit between Frost Island and Lopez. As we rowed ashore we saw our friends camped along the beach. They sent hoards of teens out to greet us and we sent libations and snacks ashore with them. The result was a fun-filled evening of a campfire, camaraderie, Jiffy Pop and so much S’more.


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Return to Skiathos Town

On Friday we spent our last day on the boat swimming and sunning ourselves on the beach of Troulos Bay before heading back to Skiathos Town to return our boat. It was a short trip but gave us time to think about all the great experiences we’ve had over the past two weeks sailing in the Sporades.

We had one last nice meal at a great little seafood restaurant in Skiathos Town and walked the streets on the solstice until late into the night.


















To the people of the Sporades thank you for taking care of us on our trip. And to all the stray cats – even the surly ones – we hope you all find loving homes, and if not, may you find a little piece of fish or squid passed to you under the table by sympathetic tourists.

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Koukounaries Beach and Trolous Bay

We anchored at famous Koukounaries Bay. Its said to be the nicest beach in Greece, but also voted one of the top 7 beaches in the world. The sand is like gold flecked talcum powder – very fine sand but with flecks that sparkle gold in the sun. Its a shallow gradual beach so the water is warm. It fronts a lagoon with a wildlife sanctuary behind it.
We went ashore and although we were early in the season the beach was still pretty busy. Tawny, Clara and I bought an umbrella and 3 chairs to rent in front of Kahlua Taverna and sat in the sun, swam, read, drank beers, ate lunch, relaxed, and enjoyed the people watching. Unlike the rest of the Sporades reachable by boat filled with French and Germans, this beach reached by plane and ferry seemed to have been populated by Russian tour packages.






In the afternoon tour boats from Skiathos Town started coming in and the beach filled in by the hundreds. Although we were enjoying the people watching others wanted to head to a little bay around the corner for the night. So we went back to the boat and navigated the dangerous shoal Vrak Marines to Troulos Beach and found ourselves the only boats (except for 1 Greek fishing boat) in the bay. We could still see the mega-yacht Al Mirqab. It was our warmest swimming area yet. Clara went ashore and tried a paddle board (but it was really an unstable surf board so the very nice beach rental people refused to take payment for it.)








We went ashore that night for dinner at Troulos Taverna. Food was good and we had breem (a delicate white fish) for the first time. The taverna had a cute little kitten that Clara was very smitten with. As the evening wore on and the wine and ouzo was poured it deteriorated into dancing with the wait staff. A fine evening.











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Mega-Yacht Al Mirqab

Thursday, about 5 am, the wind starting blowing hard and shifted direction blowing us into the rocks. The anchors were holding but our stern ties became useless. We worried that our anchors may get tangled since we were rafted together and had 3 anchors out. By 6am we were looking for an exit strategy. We got the boats and shore lines untangled and by 7am or so we were headed to Skiathos and famous Koukounaries Bay. Its been said this is the nicest beach in Greece, but also voted one of the top 7 beaches in the world. The sand is said to be like gold flecked talcum powder.
As we approached I thought I saw a ship in the area we were heading. I bet it was a luxury private yacht and was right. It was the ship Al Mirqab the 10th largest private ship in the world owned by the Prime Minister of Qatar. It has its own Wikipedia entry. Its a beautiful looking yacht if you can get past the enormous wealth it represents. It cost some 700 Million British Pounds (that’s just over $1 Billion!)
Unbelievable amount of toys they put out for their guests (ski boat, parasail, water polo floating court, 6 skidoos (in the water and more inside the yacht, kyaks, etc.) The back of the yacht included 2 escalators to bring you back up to the lido deck from the waterline. It dominated the space but provided an interesting discussion for us.











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Return to Panormous

Wednesday we had a lazy morning of reading, swimming and generally lounging around in Stafolos. We were in no hurry to leave or arrive at a new destination. Relaxation is the order of things for the next few days. We eventually left for Panormous where we had previously anchored on Skopelos. We rafted all 3 boats together in an area of the bay where we could optimize 270 degrees that evening. Tawny, Clara and I went ashore to BLO taverna and had lunch of souvlaki, spaghetti carbonara, cool sherbet and spent our day swimming on beach, reading books, and relaxing. Its an interesting gravel beach with a very gradual but deep slope into the bay making for an excellent swimming area. We had happy hour on boats and then Judy, Tawny, and I went back to BLO to get their excellent bacon wrapped souvlaki and bring it back to the boat for dinner aboard. The sunset was spectacular.











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Stafylos Bay

It took us a little over 7 hours to reach very pretty Stafylos Bay from Skyros. Stafylos Bay features crystal clear waters of a protected bay surrounded by rugged and red cliffs with a sandy swimming beach and beach taverna in the center. Its fronted by a large headland (Stafylos Cape I believe) upon which a King (Minoan I believe) had established his castle and a city here at one time. There’s a huge cave under the headland in the entrance to the bay. There was also a later tomb found on the headland complete with treasures such as a gold hilted sword from the 15th century which now sits in the national antiquities museum in Athens. Here we had our best snorkeling and a nice meal at the cliff taverna with perhaps the sweetest feral cat we’d ever met.
















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Skiros & Linaria & George

Sunday (Father’s Day) we headed for the Skyros about 20-30nm away. We got an early start. Again there was no wind so we had to motor to Skyros instead of sail. It was still several hours before the island began to take shape before us. We decided to use the Valaxa Strait which would remove 6nm from our trip. Valaxa Strait is a very shallow and narrow passageway between Valaxa Island and Skyros that opens into Kalamitsa Gulf and Linaria Bay (the fishing town we’d spend the next few days). Much of the depths in the Valaxa Strait are only around 3 meters (we draw a little of 2 meters with our keel). But there is a sweet spot in the middle of about 5m deep. We posted watches on the bow and the water being so clear it was easier than anticipated to maneuver the boat through.



Linaria is a pretty little town with white washed cubist homes on the hill and a white and blue church on the point of the bay that welcomed us. The port is very small but very nice as they recently upgraded to lazy lines (pre-set anchor lines) so we had no need to drop an anchor for stern tie Mediterranean moorage style. There is also a port manager (George) who took care to help moor our boat and took care of all our needs; “You need shower? I have shower for you. Free internet, free water, free electric hookup, my boys will find bike and ride bike and swim with your daughter. You want to see Skyrian horse? I have friend. I call taxi for you. I rent you motorcycle. Eat here, best place in town. Your daughter like dog? We have English Sheep Dog. Anything you need, you find me, I’m always here”.










George told us about a place to get a drink up on the hill that looks back on Linaria. “Favorite place in all of Aegean”. And he was right. Great place to watch the sun set and get a drink. So we did. George was great. He delivered on all his promises and our petty demands. He and his wife were very sweet and really tried hard to make Clara feel at home. Then later that night we invited George and his wife Angela to have a glass of wine with us and thanked them for their help. We loved Linaria and Skyros. We’ll certainly be back again.





George, Angela, Linaria! Cheers! Stin Iyia Sas!

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