Originally posted as part of the Tollyclub May newsletter.
Finally! There in the darkened room I detect the first stirrings of the light of the new day. I’m up! I’ve only been in bed for a couple hours. I tried sleeping, but the sleep would not come. The weath-er has been checked and re-checked. Tides, currents too. The boat has been packed for days. Food stores went on the day before. All’s that’s needed is a new day and a ready skipper.
Engines are warmed, lines tidied up and finally we get to put her nose into the current. We are off!
At first things are familiar, comfortable. A backyard I have known for many years. I pass by Hat Island and say hello to this familiar friend. Next up is Camano head, then Langley as I head north into Saratoga. It’s a common ritual that I’ve played countess times, but a welcome one. There is something fulfilling about familiar stomping grounds. Time flies and soon I’m upon Elger bay. Years ago in one of my first boats I lost an engine there to failing risers and ever since crossing past Elger bay has seemed like some kind of threshold. I feel victorious and crack a smile to myself. A minor but important victory. For me, that’s the place where I settle in and start feeling like I’m away from home. That’s where my new journey really begins. Soon comes Onamac Point (Ever notice that’s Camano spelled backwards?) and a sense of progress. One more point and we get to leave Camano behind. Another threshold crossed.
Rocky point may be the jumping off point to leave Camano behind, but it’s also the point where things change. As its name suggests, the sloughing tall clay hills of Puget Sound are giving way to a rougher, rockier topology. The look and feel of everything changes in a flash. It’s barely two miles from Rocky Point until the dog leg left around the Northern tip of Whidbey, but the changing feeling of the land and water could not be more striking. Thresholds indeed! Gravel beaches, rocky vol-canic cliffs and the first hints of a waterway that is coming to life as we jostle in the tide rips off Strawberry Point. These currents reveal a building tidal force that grows bigger with every mile beneath the keel as we move closer to some un-seen but powerful force ahead. Slowly at first as the Swinomish Slough comes into view, then rapidly as we pass by Hope Island. The water starts to shift, churn.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been through Deception Pass. Fifty? A hundred? I do know that the first glimpse of the bridge in the distance always takes my breath away. A moment of excitement, a little shot of adrenaline and raging twisting whirlpools give way again to another major threshold. The relatively protected waters of Saratoga Passage give way to Rosario and the East entrance to Juan De Fuca. Everything is Volcanic now. Harsh, but beautiful.
There is a feeling of excitement entering more open untamed waters that is indescribable. Even on a calm day it is pal-pable. The boat somehow becomes something akin to being more than just machine. Somehow she seems to be of eager anticipation to put her nose into the light afternoon chop. Diving into a wave and then rising rejoicefully, tossing a little crisp fresh spray over the rail. We anticipate the next wave and secretly hope that the afternoon breeze does not die too early.
Before you know it, Lopez Island and Iceberg Point are behind us. As Cattle Point looms, I look for Porpoises and hope that I may be blessed with a little fun play in my bow wake. There is a feeling of having come so far, but as we labor up the West side of San Juan Island, the points and bays seem to go on forever. Eagle Point, False Bay, Pile Point and on. Finally Lime Kiln. Maybe the orcas are out playing, but it’s getting late so we don’t linger long. Henry Island looms into view, bigger and bigger. Before you know it, were tucked into safety as we wind around in Mosquito pass. Idling along, it always happens. That familiar feeling again. Somehow strangely out of place but unmistakable. It’s the feeling of home just as Roche Harbor comes into view.
It’s rendezvous time!!!!