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March 19, 01
Flounder Bay, Near Anacortes, Washington
Goodbye Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Hello U.S.A. We have sailed our temporary home, "Kaimanu", from Victoria to Flounder Bay. With shirtsleeve-weather in Victoria three days before our departure day, I thought spring had arrived. This cold Canadian city was now becoming warm, habitable ... and beautiful. One day it was even possible to sit outside of a cafe and have a cup of coffee. Then, in good Canadian fashion, it snowed 5 inches on a Friday. We had planned to leave the harbor on Saturday; now the forecast was for "gale force winds in Haro Straight and wet snow." Not good, but I also heard a squeak of a new report that said "winds abating in the afternoon." That raised my hopes. At 6:30 AM Saturday we prepared the boat to depart by stowing the teapot, the coffee grinder, the computer, the cookbook, the 4 inch B&W television and all stuff that might fall when the boat heels. I was up top scraping snow from the decks when a shrimp boat captain, moored near us, came over and said he had "a hell-of-a-go coming down Haro Straight yesterday, and he wasn't 'goin out in that stuff today." With three inches of Victoria snow on Kaimanu's cockpit floor, the engine idling and warm, we dressed in our foul weather gear. I cast off the lines, pushed the bow out and climbed aboard. I looked over the stern at the Empress Hotel and the ornate British Columbia Parliament Building as we left the harbor to take a look outside the sea wall at the Straight of Juan de Fuca. I was ready to turn around if things looked very bad. It was now 7AM with drizzly gray skies, and nobody was there to wave goodbye. That usually tells me something.
Outside the harbor ... it wasn't bad at all. Cold? Yes! Gray overcast, drizzle and moderate winds. Except for my feet resting on the snow on the cockpit floor, it was sort of like a typical afternoon sailing on San Francisco Bay with 20 knot winds and choppy little waves. We kept our coats and gloves on, and the winds lightened as we motored through Haro Straight. Horizontal visibility was good under the low clouds; I could easily see out five or six miles. With the engine's noisy grinding sounds wearing on me, I began wishing I could turn off the motor and sail quietly. Then, I suspected that the GPS was not advancing our course lines and giving us course directions as the electronic marvel is supposed to do. We were south of the San Juan Islands heading up Haro Straight, but I reminded myself I have never been in these waters. To be sure, I headed for a nearby buoy for a sure fix. Soon, off the bow, a rusty steel green buoy, lifting then settling in the choppy water, became easy to read with its huge white number . Now, I knew I wasn't where I was supposed to be, and I knew where I was. I also noted a strong current rippling around the buoy's base, and we had been moved south. Of course, I needed to correct for current effect (my error), and the GPS device was "right on" with its course suggestions. Currents around this area can be awesome; Deception Pass records over 8 knots regularly. Bucking that kind of current is a loosing proposition as the boat will go 6.5 knots at best. Now correcting for current, we easily moved past the San Juans, traveled through Rosario Straight, up to Flounder Bay past Burrow's Island. The snow had just about melted from the cockpit floor when I spied an opening in the shoreline rip rap. It was our harbor. We motored in slowly to our berth, made fast to the dock and were just moderately hasseled by US Customs. Trip complete. We now live in Washington State.
Victoria, British Columbia didn't appeal to me. The city's downtown area has panhandlers staked out on virtually every other street corner. Young adults sit, curled up in blankets, leaning against a wall, waiting for coins to fill their hats, which are turned up at their feet. Inside a covered hotel parking area, our car was burglarized. We couldn't shower in the marina's bathrooms because the coin box that regulated the shower water had been jimmied, long ago. Tax rates are high and prices are high, so the favorable exchange rate (CDN to US) is not much of an advantage. Frankly, it feels good to be on U.S. soil, not that it is any safer. We drove the pickup to a Costco in Mt. Vernon, WA. for fresh supplies, came back to Flounder Bay and loaded the boat with good food. No more French labeling on the cans, no grams and kilograms ... pounds and ounces again, apples in sizes larger than plums, huge fresh grapefruit, fresh salmon, cod, halibut, and swordfish. Now I can buy popcorn sold with "62% LESS FAT, 30% FEWER CALORIES" rather than "62% MOINS DE GRAS, 30% MOINS DE CALORIES." A bottle of California's Woodbridge wine that was $32 CDN in Victoria sells here for $9.95 US. Oh yes, in Washington there's no-smoking restaurants. I don't miss the wafting of cigarette smoke during a meal. This is not a blanket indictment of our friends to the north. I will say what little I saw of Canada was, for the most part, very beautiful. The Canadians have custody of some very special land, but when it comes to product, there is no comparison to what is here in the U.S.
Our new boat, Love of Liberty, is being painted and commissioned at the yard here which is near Anacortes. "Midnight Blue" hullsides with a "Hatteras White" waterline and a blue bottom. She IS beautiful. She's been moved out of the paint bay and will be launched in a week. Ellen and I are excited. With the boat still propped up ashore on her keel, we clamor up a shaky ladder to the deck, crawl over to the companionway and step inside our new home. We've measured every cabinet, wall space, niche and cranny for our gear. In seven days we will move our stuff aboard and no longer be "homeless." The marina, where we'll berth until May, is a harbor filled with charter boats. We will be nestled inside a fleet of large power vessels, primarily made of white fiberglass, polished chrome, smoky colored plastic windows and huge twin diesel engines. Some have less than three feet of boat below the waterline and at least 25 feet of boat up to the topside flying bridge. Not unlike having a canoe for a hull and a mobile home atop for living space. Some marine architect designed every one of these boats aiming for the market of wealthy people that fly in from Texas, or Ohio, or New York or somewhere. They then pay from $3000 to $50,000 per week to rent and play with these boats around the San Juan Islands. There's one in the yard right now that's being fitted with a washer, a dryer, a trash compactor, indirect lighting, a wet bar and a dishwasher ... and an electric motor-driven stern platform to lift the dinghy out of the water. The transom has two 6 inch exhaust pipes that port the fire, smoke and thunder of two diesel engines that burn over 30 gallons per hour. She was just purchased for $750,000. That's our neighborhood.
In nearby Anacortes Ellen found a place where we can get online with our trusty Mac. It's yet another cyber cafe, a store front space on Commercial Street called Cafe Dot.com. In the last three years, I've seen alot of these places, and they're all different. The "cyber cafe industry" is new and hasn't standardized. In this one, the owner, a computer type, sits in back with two caged pet gerbils on his desk, an array of wires and computer paraphernalia. This nice friendly guy lets us sign-on a DSL line with our Mac at $6 per hour. There's an overstuffed sofa against the back wall with a large cardboard box on one cushion. The box is full of junk food packages: Doritos, Corn Nuts, Bar-B-Que Corn Nuts, Bacon Rinds, and Ruffles, all for sale and for eating as you compute. With white plaster walls, fluorescent lighting and a high ceiling this place has a different ambiance compared to the "computer section" of the Peacock Billiard Parlor in Victoria where I previously rented computer time. There I was surrounded by soft lighting, green felt covered pool tables, classical background music, eight rentable G3 Power Macs ... and the c-r-a-c-k of the que ball as it hits the rack beginning another game of Eight Ball. And, there was the cyber-room just up the path through the vegetable garden at the back of the farmhouse in Brooklin, Maine
I have rented a garage sized space in the marina and have built a couple of work benches. With my tools in place and a warming infrared heat lamp close by, I've set up a wood shop. One bench is for Ellen's sewing machine, and one bench is for my planes, saws, chisels, files, and vices. Ellen's making rope mats, place mats, a canvas bucket and a nautical duvet cover for our bunk. I'm just about finished planking a mold for a strip-planked dinghy. It'll be an 8 foot sailing pram with varnished wood, and it can be sailed, rowed or powered around with a small outboard. Ellen will sew the sail, of course. I think it'll hang proudly off the stern davits of "Love of Liberty." Ellen thinks we should name it "Sam."
Warm regards to all, Terry and Ellen
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