THERE ARE MORE THAN 200 ITEMS remaining on my checklist and I’m crossing them off one by one: replace the old flares, check the CO2 in the self-inflating life vests, pack PB Blaster solvent, U.S. and Canadian flags, spare anchor, clothes pins, Moleskin, fillet knife, wind gauge, and wing nuts. Re-splice the anchor rode. Bring washers, fuses, Rescue Tape, clam shovel, cameras, sponges, insect repellent, freeze-dried food … and do a shakedown cruise with Julie Burman, who will be my trip partner from Anacortes, Wash. to Port Hardy, B.C.
Julie and I had to get our systems dialed in before setting off on a 400-mile, two-week voyage up the east coast of Vancouver Island (with side trips through Desolation Sound and the Broughton Archipeligo), in a boat with a cabin not much larger than a V.W. camper. It’s a tight space, and I have been known to be impatient with lubberly crew members. Not saying that’s a regular occurrence, but there is potential for crossed wires and strained friendships.
So, in mid-May we loaded kayaks on Osprey’s roof, and set off on a three-day, 103-mile jaunt through the San Juan Islands, with two nights at anchor in Sucia Island State Park’s Shallow Bay.
There were so many things for us to work on, so little time. Julie needed to get familiar with the C-Dory—starting the engines, safety procedures, location of life vests. Plotting a course, steering and adjusting the boat’s trim, emergency communications with other vessels and the Coast Guard via VHF radio and satellite locator beacons. Checking anchoring depths with sonar. Anchoring with at least 4:1 scope (the ratio of deployed anchor line and chain to the depth of the water). Folding the dinette table down into a berth. Stowing supplies, cooking on the Wallas diesel stove. I needed to practice the tricky mechanics of launching and retrieving our kayaks on Osprey’s roof.
Setting out from Cap Sante Marina, in Anacortes, we charted a course south through the Swinomish Waterway, out into Skagit Bay and through Canoe Pass. Julie had the conn. We crossed busy Rosario Strait to Lopez Pass, between Decatur and Lopez Islands, and wound our way north and west through narrow Pole Pass, between Orcas and Crane Islands. And then up President Channel on the east side of Orcas, and across Boundary Pass to Sucia Island.
Shallow Bay has at least eight mooring buoys but we wanted the calmest part of the bay to practice our maneuvers. Fortunately, Osprey’s is very shallow draft—she draws under a foot with the engines raised—and we were able to get in close to the southeast shore and anchor in about five feet of water. Great spot to practice launching and retrieving the kayaks, and for Julie to get the feel of her new 12-foot folding, origami-like Oru.
After landing her Oru on the south shore of Shallow Bay, Julie went for a short hike, iPhone camera in hand. First stop flowers. Of course.
Meanwhile, at the same time we were concentrating on all these little details essential to sea-going harmony, back on Vashon Island Julie’s family—husband Bob, Spanish exchange student Elena, and resident canine Buster—were forlorn. Buster bravely tried to fill the gaping void Julie had left behind her.