A New Home Port

Hello again faithful readers!

Some of you may already know that our adventure has come to an end. We’re safely docked at our new home port, the charming town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island. But how did we get here? There are still a few more days of exciting adventuring to recount!

From Orcas Island, where we last posted, we sailed south out of East Sound and then North to Lummi Island. Our friend David has worked for the past several summers in the reef-netting salmon fishery there and he’d invited us to visit. The sun was shining and we had perfect sailing wind as we crossed Rosario Strait towards Legoe Bay on Lummi Island. As we approached the island, it became clear to us why the area is a hub of commercial salmon fishing. The fish were jumping like crazy! As we got closer to Legoe Bay, we saw the reef netting gear. We gave the fishermen plenty of room and anchored at the other end of the bay. It was amazing how many salmon were running through the bay. They jumped all around our anchored boat non-stop the entire time we were there. After we anchored, we took the dinghy over to David’s gear to check out the fishing operation.

Sunset over the reef netters in Legoe Bay

Sunset over the reef netters in Legoe Bay

Reef netting is a unique form of commercial fishing. An artificial “reef” is created using nets and line strung between two boats and two buoys. The reef acts a funnel which guides salmon into the waiting nets. Spotters stand aloft on the fishing boats, watching for schools of fish entering the reef. When the nets are full of fish, they’re hauled in, the fish are removed, and the nets are reset. David’s crew of fishermen (part of a local co-op) adds a couple additional steps to ensure the highest-quality end product. Once the salmon are loaded into the boat, they’re bled right there onboard and packed in champagne ice.

After watching the commercial fishermen pull in hundreds of fresh salmon, we were jealous. We knew if we were going to catch a salmon at all on our trip, it was going to be here. Unfortunately, we had a slight problem with our fishing gear. A couple of days before, Tracie had been eagerly practicing her casting while we were sailing to Orcas Island. Maybe a little too eagerly, she tried to cast as far as she could. She brought the pole back behind her and let ‘er rip! The top half of the pole went flying into the distance and landed with a splash! So now there we were surrounded by leaping salmon with half of a dinky little casting rod and a buzz bomb lure. We couldn’t let that stop us! Chris deftly casted the buzz bomb from the bow of our anchored boat right where two fish had jumped. Wham! A bite! We were so surprised to have a fish on the line that we didn’t have our net ready. In the confusion, the fish wriggled its way off the hook. Chris casted again. Wham! Another bite! We could see in the water a group of salmon following the one he’d just hooked towards our boat. It looked like they were fighting over the lure! Chris reeled in until the fish was just alongside the boat. Tracie grabbed the net and scooped it up like a pro! It was a decent-sized pink salmon. Not a trophy fish my any means, but we were pretty proud of ourselves for catching dinner on half a broken pole!

Chris cleaned and filleted the fish right there on the boat while Tracie fired up the grill and made fixings for fish tacos. In less than an hour, the salmon went from alive in the water to cleaned, cooked, prepared, and served on our plates. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Catch of the day: Fresh Pink Salmon!

Catch of the day: Fresh Pink Salmon!

David joined us for a leftover taco and after-dinner drinks once the sun went down and the fishermen called it a day. Before he left, he promised to bring more salmon by in the morning. It looked like we’d be having fish for breakfast lunch and dinner!

The next morning was as foggy a day as we’d seen. We were completely socked in until around noon when the fog began to slowly lift. Just as we were getting things packed up and ready to leave, David pulled up in the fishing skiff with a big silver salmon (already cleaned!) and a bucket full of ice. We thanked him profusely and packed it away in our cooler. We weighed anchor, set sail and headed south.

That day, Monday, September 9th was another hot, sunny day with just enough wind to sail. Even with our late start, we were able to sail most of the way to our destination for the night, Saddlebag Island State Park. The island is just north of Anacortes, where we planned on refueling the next day before the long day of motoring through the Swinomish Channel. We were the only boat anchored at the park that night. We had the island to ourselves when we went ashore to explore. We enjoyed the late afternoon sun while Molly sniffed around for dead sea life to roll in.

For dinner that night, Tracie filleted half of the salmon David had given us and made amazing silver salmon sandwiches. The fish tacos we’d had the night before were great, but the flavor of the silver salmon was so much better. We couldn’t help ourselves from eating more than a few bites sashimi-style, raw, cut right off the fish. Even Mollusk got to join in the feast!

The expert sushi chef: Filleting silver salmon.

The expert sushi chef: Filleting silver salmon.

The next morning we gassed up in Anacortes, sailed to the entrance of the Swinomish Channel and then motored though. The day of motoring wasn’t as long as it had been on our way north because we had plenty of wind for sailing on either side. Once we were out the south side of the channel, we set our sails again and had a wonderful breeze that pushed us ever further south. We ate grilled salmon sandwiches for lunch while we sailed in the sunshine. We’d planned on staying the night in Oak Harbor or Penn Cove (both on Whidbey Island) that night, but we’d spent so much time on Whidbey on the way up, we decided to try something different. We continued south to Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island. The park is an old fishing resort. The beach is lined with little cabins that are available for rent. But the best part about Cama Beach is the boathouse and boat rental operation. The boathouse is operated by The Center for Wooden Boats, Chris’s former employer. Chris worked there on several occasions running youth programs. Although we may be just a little biased, Cama Beach truly is one of our favorite spots in Puget Sound. It also looked like a great place to fish that day. The salmon were jumping just a few feet from shore, but we’d had our fill of salmon for awhile

Cama Beach State Park.

Cama Beach State Park.

We anchored just off the beach and that night took advantage of the fire pits on shore to make s’mores. What a treat! We had all the ingredients right there onboard Dahlia! After desert, we got in the dinghy to row back to the boat in the dark. The sky was full of stars and so was the water! Each time we dipped an oar in the water there was a burst of bioluminescent light around it. Below us, we saw schools of little fish darting away from our bow as we moved. They lit up like fireflies each time they flicked their bodies through the water, disturbing the luminescent plankton. It was an indescribable moment. Once, we swore we saw a salmon, a larger orb of light, streaming towards the little ones, just for an instant, and then it was gone. We lingered on the water, absorbing the serenity. In just two days, we’d be back in Seattle where the adventure began.

The next morning was clear and sunny. We lingered at Cama Beach long enough to say hi to the CWB staff and use the showers. We set sail in a light northerly breeze. We raised the spinnaker and lounged in the 80 degree sunshine, savoring a perfect day of sailing. That night we anchored in Port Madison, at the north end of Bainbridge Island. The protected bay was our favorite overnight destination when we lived in Seattle. We had mixed feelings about being back someplace so familiar.

The spinnaker set. Sailing downwind.

The spinnaker set. Sailing downwind.

It was foggy again the next morning, the last day of our adventure, Thursday, September 12th. We waited until noon and then motored across to Shilshole Marina in Seattle. We pulled into a guest slip and stepped off the boat. It was the first time we’d set foot on the mainland (not an island) since August 8th! What a welcome party we had! Tracie’s two long-lost college roommates, Elizabeth and Dani, met us at the dock. Elizabeth had just returned from three years of building playgrounds in Uganda and Dani was visiting from Germany where she is in grad school. There were squeals of glee and bone-crushing hugs all around.  We had lunch at Shilshole and then, with Dani onboard, set sail for Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.

Tracie setting sail.

Tracie setting sail. Photo: Dani King

Around 6:00 pm on Thursday September 12, we pulled into the slip we’d reserved at Winslow Wharf Marina. It was a bittersweet moment. We’d done it. We’d had an incredible summer of adventure! There were a few mishaps, a few stressful moments, but the moments of wonder, excitement, discovery, and bliss far outnumbered them. We’re calling Winslow home for now, but already we’re daydreaming about our next big adventure. What will it be? Who knows! Stay tuned!

Our new neighborhood: Winslow Wharf Marina

Our new neighborhood, Winslow Wharf Marina. Photo: Dani King

Thanks for following along!

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Chris, Tracie and Mollusk

Back in the USA!

Hey everyone!

This blogging thing is harder than it looks! It’s rare that we stay in one place for more than one night, and even more rare that we find reliable internet and the time to post anything. It was especially tough when we were sailing through the Gulf Islands; we didn’t come into contact with civilization all too often. So… because of that it’s been almost two weeks since we’ve posted. Our apologies, dear readers. This post is going to be a big one. There’s a lot of adventure to cover! But stay with us, because so many exciting things have happened. You can go get a cup of coffee if you need one to make it through. It’s okay, we’ll wait for you…

Ready? Okay! Here goes…

We left Nanaimo on Sunday afternoon, August 25th. As we were sailing south towards the Dodd Narrows, crossing the path of a BC ferry, we heard some sea sounds and spotted some big black dorsal fins riding the ferry wake- Orcas! Judging by their dorsal fins, it was a pod of three females and one huge male. They continued surfacing a hundred or so yards away as we took turns using the binoculars and guessing where they’d pop up next. We were overcome with excitement– you have no idea. Orcas are such huge, powerful and elusive creatures. To see them so close in the wild and under silent sail power was a sublime experience. After watching them in awe for 30 minutes or so, they turned and headed north, back the way they’d come and disappeared in the distance.

Orcas just south of Nanaimo

Orcas just south of Nanaimo

We set our anchor that night in Percy Anchorage, just north of the Dodd Narrows, planning to catch the early morning slack tide. We didn’t think the day could get any better after the Orca sighting but, lo and behold, it did! As we were deciding what to make for dinner a funky little yellow plywood powerboat pulled up alongside Dahlia. A smiling old man popped his head out the pilothouse window and said, “You guys want fresh crab for dinner?” Of course we graciously accepted, then tried to offer some chocolate bars in return. He patted to his big ol’ belly and  laughed off our chocolate offer. Guess there is no real fair trade for a fresh Dungeness crab.  He reached into the cooler in the stern of his boat and grabbed a big, live Dungeness crab he’d just pulled up in his crab pot. “I catch way more of these than I can eat, so I either give them away, or throw them back for later,” he explained. He handed us the crab, politely refused any payment or trade and motored off into the sunset. We boiled and picked the crab and had fresh Dungeness pesto pasta for dinner. As an accompaniment, we opened the bottle of Wescott Bay Cider we’d been saving for a special occasion ( from the cider-works in Roche Harbor). The sun set brilliantly for us as we dined. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect meal or a more perfect day.

Friendly crab-delivery stranger in Percy Anchorage

Friendly crab-delivery stranger in Percy Anchorage

Crab pasta feast with Wescott Cider!

Crab pasta feast with Wescott Bay Cider!

Remembering our experience with the currents in Dodd Narrows last time, we motored through the next morning at exactly 7:52 am, when our tide book predicted slack tide. We made it through without incident, but the currents were by no means slack. They were still swirling and intimidating. We felt like something must be wrong with our tide charts. The wrong year? Canadians tell time differently? We couldn’t figure it out. Chris read through the instructions in the front of the book one more time and had all but given up on trusting tide tables when he saw a tiny, faded stamp on the cover page: “These tables must be corrected one hour for Daylight Savings Time”. Oops! So we’d been an hour off with our tides and currents the whole time we were in Canada. We’d been lucky so far that it hadn’t resulted in any serious consequences. Lesson learned: read those tide tables carefully!

We sailed from the narrows to Pirates’ Cove, a neat little protected provincial park in the De Courcy Island group. We anchored the bow with a stern line tied to an iron ring on shore. It was our first experience with “stern tie” anchoring, which is common in the small, popular marine parks in the gulf islands. We went ashore and learned from the park signs the bizarre history of the island. In the 1920s it was home to a cult led by a mysterious wife-stealing character named Brother XII. We met a woman who owned a cabin on the island who told us there were holes all over her yard from people looking for buried gold. Spooky!

Looking for treasure in Pirate's Cove

Looking for treasure in Pirate’s Cove

The next day (Tuesday) we sailed to Chemainus, a little town on Vancouver Island famous for the murals painted on the sides of buildings all over town that told the history of the community. It was a charming little town full of shops and cafes and we hit it on the right day for the farmers market Wednesday morning. We stayed at a mooring buoy managed by the small marina, which also meant we could use the showers (score!). The marina was managed by a super friendly Canadian fellow by the name of Harmen Bootsma (what a name!)

From Chemainus, it was back out to the islands: Princess Cove on Wallace Island was our next destination. Wallace is a long, skinny, rocky island that is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Princess Cove was another narrow, rocky bay where we utilized the stern tie anchors on shore. We were glad our anchors were well set because we ended up staying there two nights in pouring rain and nighttime thunderstorms. We enjoyed ourselves despite the weather and ventured out to hike the trails in the rain. We found a very cool park shelter where visitors and boaters had all left their own distinctive driftwood sign. It was a striking sight and a unique tradition. We made one for Dahlia which we hung in a window, hidden among hundreds of others.

The driftwood sign shelter on Wallace Island, see Dahlia's?

The driftwood sign shelter on Wallace Island. See Dahlia’s?

The rain let up enough on Friday that we decided to continue on our way. We apparently picked the right day and time because as we were sailing past the south end of Wallace Island, we sighted another pod of Orcas! It was hard to tell exactly what they were doing, but they seemed much more active an animated than the ones we’d seen near Nanaimo. At first we thought maybe they were fishing. Then we determined it was just one male and one female and their fins were coming up awfully close together. Mating maybe? Who knows, who cares– it was again an incredible experience to see wild Orcas. They eventually swam on and we sailed on to Ganges on Saltspring Island.

Ganges is the largest town in the Gulf Islands; we’d heard a lot about the fabulous Saturday farmers market which brought people and produce from far and wide. The market really was huge for such a small community. The whole town was bustling with people and activity on that beautiful, sunny Saturday. We re-provisioned at the market and the grocery store and enjoyed walking around the town.

Saturday evening, we decided we needed a change of scenery and some peace and quiet, so we motored the short distance to Glenthorne Passage on Prevost Island. We set our anchor in the middle of the narrow bay; it was peaceful, secluded, and we felt blessed to be one of only a few boats nearby. We an amazing dinner of Portabello mushroom burgers and pan-fried french fries. Yum! (We’ve been eating like royalty for our whole trip– food/recipe blog to come later!) The only slight hiccup with dinner was that our propane tank ran out (oops!). We had to finish cooking the fries over a Jetboil camping stove…good thing we had that on board!

Tasty mushroom burger with fries!

Tasty mushroom burger with fries! (It’s mustard, you guys. Grow up…)

Early the next morning we motored to Winter Cove on Saturna Island for an event we’d been looking forward to ever since we read about it in our cruising guide: the annual Saturna Island Lions Club Dogs and Dogs Show! We’d done our research and found that it coincided precisely with when we were heading that direction. We knew we had to enter Mollusk! It was a hilarious event where all the local dogs and their owners turned out. Mollusk competed in 4 categories: Best Looking Dog, Obedience (awards for best and worst behaved), Obstacle Course and Best Tail Wagger. She performed magnificently in all four events and took home third prize for Best Tail Wagger! I think she has a future as a dog show beauty queen!

Mollusk:  3rd place Best Tail Wagger!!!

Mollusk: 3rd place Best Tail Wagger!!!

Molly competing in the Obstacle Course

Molly competing in the Obstacle Course







From Saturna Island we sailed to Port Browning on Pender Island. There is a small resort and marina there where we took advantage of the shower/laundry facilities and had cold beer in the pub. Such a treat! We then spent another night on the north end of Pender Island in Hope Bay where we were able to refill our propane tank (Yay! Hot food again!) and hiked several small interpretative trails maintained by the Pender Island Parks and Recreation Dept. Pender Island was beautiful and felt a little like an abandoned ghost town because it was so quiet. But it wasn’t spooky. It was like…  a friendly ghost town. Is there such a thing? Apologies to any residents of Pender Island for the ghost town remark. It was truly charming and beautiful and we loved our time there.

Now for some excitement. We timed our departure from Pender Island to coincide with slack tide (the correct, DST adjusted one this time) through Boat Passage which leads from Winter Cove (home of the dog show) out into the Strait of Georgia. On the chart it looks very narrow and shallow with many rocks nearby. In hindsight, it was probably not the best choice of passes to go through, but it looked like there was plenty of depth and we felt confident we could avoid the rocks with our chart and GPS. We were wrong. We timed slack tide perfectly and thought we had made it clear of the rocks when the depth on our sounder shot up abruptly and BOOM! We hit a rock. It was a really gut-wrenching feeling, and although we were quite shaken by it, we acted fast and made it through all the surrounding reefs. It still makes us sick to think about, but it could have been much worse.  Chris confirmed with a masked dive that yes, there was damage to the keel, but it’s not in need of immediate repair (even better, we’ve already done the exact repair from a previous owner’s mishap!). Lesson learned: play it safe and avoid sketchy passages. Needless to say, we don’t recommend navigating Boat Passage, even in ideal conditions.

Though still a little shaken, we made it safely to our destination that night: Cabbage and Tumbo Islands, part of the National Park Reserve. They were rugged and beautiful and lie on the south east corner of the Gulf Islands, exposed to the Straight of Georgia. We were the only boat on a mooring buoy there and the only human beings on Cabbage Island when we went to explore. It was a much-needed, nerve-calming location.

Tracie and the rugged landscape of Cabbage Island

Tracie, Mollusk, and the rugged landscape of Cabbage Island

On Thursday, September 5th, we sailed from Cabbage Island across Boundary Pass, back into the USA. We’d been in Canada almost three weeks, since the 19th of August! We sailed to Roche Harbor, where we cleared customs and spent the night anchored out (sans 90s wedding tunes this time). It was so foggy the next morning we had trouble finding our way to the marina in our dinghy. We took our time and enjoyed coffee and homemade donuts at the Lime Kiln Cafe. By early afternoon the fog had cleared and we motored to Blind Island State Park, near Shaw Island. Blind Island is only three acres, a tiny state park, but we enjoyed our time ashore. There we saw one of the best sunsets of our whole trip. They sky was brilliantly lit up with orange clouds! (In our hurry to get Mollusk to shore, we forgot the camera. Sorry!)

This morning we motored to the town of East Sound on Orcas Island where we’ve spent the day at the farmers market and walking around town. That about brings us up to date. Phew! If you stayed with us through that whole post, cheers to you! Thanks for following along. Hopefully we can post again sooner next time. See you then!


Chris, Tracie and Mollusk

North to Nanaimo

Hey there friends & followers!

We’ve covered a lot of water in the last week. Our last post was from Lopez Island, where we had set anchor to wait for dreary weather to pass. We’re sure you were waiting on the edge of your seats to find out whether or not we ended up staying for The Retreat…well, we didn’t (much to the dismay of our sk8r friends and readers). We got restless and antsy having been in one place for so long, so last Friday evening we hauled up our anchor and set sail for Friday Harbor. We sailed smoothly across the San Juan Channel just as the sun was setting behind some low-lying cumulus clouds. It felt great to be on the water again, but in hindsight it became obvious that we should have given ourselves a little more daylight to get there. We arrived in Friday Harbor just as dusk was setting in. The harbor was crowded with boats, and we couldn’t find a spot to anchor that we felt comfortable with. We tried several spots where our anchor drug or we felt we were too close to other boats. We ended up motoring in the dark to nearby Turn Island State Park to look for a mooring buoy. They were taken (of course), so we cruised around until we found a shallow spot with good holding ground on the southwest side of the island. The currents were strong and swirly, so we readied for a restless night of getting up every hour or so to check our anchor line. Our diligence was worth the peace of mind, and our anchor ended up holding perfectly. In the morning we tried once again to find an anchor spot in Friday Harbor, but after a few uncomfortable attempts we decided to take the hint and skip Friday Harbor altogether. We instead headed to the northwest side of San Juan Island to the less crowded Roche Harbor. Lesson learned: leave plenty of extra daylight for anchoring, and always have an alternate plan!

Beautiful but crowded Friday Harbor
Roche Harbor was a beautiful spot.  It’s pretty much a resort ‘town’ (although not much of a town). There is a large marina, hotel and ritzy resort on shore that occupies most of the town, but we found a lot of cool things to see and do nearby. Just a few minutes after landing the dinghy on shore, we ran into one of Tracie’s Habitat for Humanity coworkers (the one & only Mike Murphy!) while on the hunt for an advertised cider and distillery tour. They were blindly following the same signs that we were, so we all ended up at the Wescott Bay Ciderworks & Spy Hop Gin Distillery. We received a very thorough and informative tasting (at least five different kinds of gin, three ciders and a couple of liqueurs!). We left with a bottle of the very dry cider because it apparently pairs well with seafood (we’re saving it, naively hoping we catch a salmon at some point!) On our second night, we made hot tea and sat on the bow to watch the sun set and stars come out. The moon was nearly full and rose just as the first stars were appearing. It would have been a serene experience if not for the wedding taking place at the resort on shore. The DJ was bumping all the hits from the 80s & 90s, which made for a bizarre stargazing soundtrack. We found it hilarious, but I’m sure many of our neighbors in the harbor did not as the music continued into the wee hours of the night.

The vast & tasty array of Spy Hop Gin (highly recommended!)

Monday morning was gloomy and gray, but we again felt we’d spent too much time in one place. We were anxious to cross Haro Strait into Canada. Predictably, the water was as flat as a mirror so we motored across the border to Sidney, BC, just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. We cleared customs and found Sidney to be a pretty sleepy town, but the Port of Sidney marina was very nice. (Tracie’s analogy was Sidney : Victoria :: Edmonds : Seattle.) We used the opportunity of being tied to a dock to climb the mast and replace our old, fraying main halyard. Tracie bravely scaled to the top of the 40 foot mast to scout out the situation, then Chris headed up with the necessary tools to thread the new halyard through.

Tracie prepping to be hoisted up the mast

Chris’ view from atop the mast

We left Sidney Tuesday late morning and sailed in beautiful wind and sunshine to Fulford Harbor on Saltspring Island. We anchored across the harbor from the ferry terminal and took the dinghy in to the public dock. We hiked up the road to the small Catholic church (built in the 1880s) and picked lots of tasty blackberries. The next morning we had coffee from the Rock Salt Restaurant and lunch at the funky Morningside Bakery before setting sail for Montague Harbor on Galiano Island.

19th Century Catholic Church on Saltspring Island
19th Century Catholic Church on Saltspring Island
Dinghy view of Dahlia in Fulford HarborDinghy view of Dahlia in Fulford Harbor

The wind that afternoon was steady from the northwest, which was exactly where we were headed. We always seem to be sailing into the wind…but that’s alright, better headwind than no wind. We tacked upwind all afternoon and made it to Montague Harbor around five. Montague is a huge, open harbor with room for boats of all sizes. We found the Provincial Park to be a beautiful place to hike and watch the sunset, but the real highlight of our stay was the free, highly entertaining and slightly frightening bus ride to the Hummingbird Pub. Our bus driver (Tom) blasted oldies and played along on various percussion instruments mounted around his head and seat as he drove. Tom wanted to illustrate just how bright the full moon was that night, so naturally he chose to turn the headlights off for a brief stretch of straight road. Despite the risks taken on the way, we made it to the Hummingbird Pub just late enough to miss the tourists filing out and chat with the locals coming in. The beer and fries at the pub were great, and we even met some fellow boater friends from Seattle!

We call this piece 'Canadian Crab Collection'
We call this piece ‘Canadian Crab Collection’
Sunset from Montague Harbor Provincial Marine Park
Sunset from Montague Harbor Provincial Marine Park

From Montague Harbor, we motored and sailed in Thursday’s 75 degree sunshine through the Dodd Narrows and into Mark Bay between Nanaimo and Newcastle Island. The cruising guide strongly recommended going through the narrows as close to slack tide as possible, advice we gratefully heeded. Our tide book said slack was at 4:50 pm; we went through at 4:30. Next time we’ll wait those extra 20 minutes. The current was still ripping through and swirling on the other side. We made it through just fine, but Dahlia definitely got pushed around a little more than we’re used to. We motored the remaining five miles to Nanaimo and hooked a buoy at Newcastle Island Provincial Park, just across the harbor from the Nanaimo (which is the second largest city on Vancouver Island, after Victoria).

Dahlia topped 10 knots through the Dodd Narrows!Dahlia topped 10 knots through the Dodd Narrows!

Safely through the swirly Dodd NarrowsLooking back on the swirling currents

Newcastle Island has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. There are miles of trails through densely-wooded forests, tide pools, remains of a sandstone quarry, a café, dancing hall, and showers… what more could we have asked for? We took advantage of the free day moorage at the Nanaimo Port Authority Marina on both Friday and Sunday morning to check out the farmers’ market and walk around Nanaimo. Of course, we had to have a Nanaimo bar, so we took our friend Stacey’s advice and sat down at a little café for a rich, satisfying, well-deserved treat. We’re positive that it was a much more complete experience, to eat our treat sitting in the sunshine at a café in Nanaimo, than it would anywhere else in the world. We spent three nights near Nanaimo enjoying the park and the town.

Nanaimo bar in Nanaimo!Enjoying a Nanaimo bar in Nanaimo!
Molly's first interaction with Canadian crabsMolly’s first interaction with Canadian crabs
Looking across the Strait of Georgia from Newcastle's Kanaka BayLooking across the Strait of Georgia from Newcastle’s Kanaka Bay

After much deliberation, we’ve made the decision to turn back south and continue gunkholing around the islands at this point. We contemplated crossing the Strait of Georgia and sailing up to Desolation Sound (where the waters are reportedly currently 80 degrees) but the weather for the next week or so sounds gloomy and we could definitely spend more time exploring the Gulf and San Juan Islands. We’ll save the Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound for another adventure.

Stay tuned for more exciting tales of adventures on the high seas…


Chris, Tracie & Mollusk

*Please forgive us for inconsistent & annoying formatting– no time to figure out what’s going on, we’re caught between limited internet & changing tides!

Island Life

It’s been awhile since our last update. We’ve been having too much fun to have time to post!

Let’s see, where were we last? Our last post was from Bainbridge Island over a week ago. We left Eagle Harbor Friday, August 9th and headed up to Langley for a long weekend on Whidbey Island. Tracie lived there for two years while working at the South Whidbey Commons, so we had lots of friends to catch up with. We felt pampered staying on land for a few nights with our friends Rebecca, Stacey and Andy. After spending Saturday sleeping in and wandering through the Bayview Market with friends, we got up at five o’clock Sunday morning to go salmon fishing from the beach near Possession Point. Stacey had been bragging about the three salmon she’d caught there a few days earlier. We weren’t so lucky. All we caught were some ugly ol’ bullheads (4 for Tracie, 1 for Chris). Since the salmon outsmarted us, we decided to try our hand at crabbing. We dropped a pot near the Langley Marina and checked it Sunday evening. Our pot was full of Dungeness crabs, but they were all female so we had to toss ’em back (it’s only legal to keep males). Although we couldn’t contribute to the fresh seafood bounty, we were still invited for the feast  (which included Stacey’s fresh catches), hot showers, and warm beds.

All lady crabs-- not quite worth the excitement on Molly's part.

All lady crabs– not quite worth the excitement on Molly’s part.

On Monday, Andy joined us for the sail from Langley to Oak Harbor, on the north end of the island. We had light winds in the morning, but they soon picked up and we had perfect sailing through Saratoga Passage all the way to Oak Harbor.

Andy at the helm!

Andy at the helm!

Sailing north from Langley to Oak Harbor. (photo: Andy Grenier)

Sailing north to Oak Harbor. (photo: Andy Grenier)








Tuesday morning, we set out on a gorgeous, sunny day with absolutely no wind. Since we weren’t sailing anyway, we decided to motor and take a shortcut to Anacortes through the Swinomish Channel. The channel is about 15 miles of narrow canal connecting Skagit Bay in the south with Padillia Bay to the north, near the town of Anacortes. We ended up motoring for about 5 hours that day at 5 knots to cover the 25ish miles. It was the longest day of motoring we’d done so far, but going through the channel saved us a day of travel time getting up to the San Juan Islands.

In Anacortes we treated ourselves to a large Mediterranean pizza from Village Pizza. Yes, we split a large pizza. With beer. Our life is pretty hard so we figured we deserved it.

It was a short trip from Anacortes over to Lopez Island on Wednesday morning. It was very light winds again, so we motored through Thatcher Pass, around the north end of the island and spent the past last two nights anchored in Fisherman’s Bay. Thursday was a dreary, rainy day, so after sleeping in, we made the short walk from the bay to Lopez Village. We’d gotten the local scoop of things to check out from our friend David Mondello (shout out!) who used to live on in Lopez. The highlight of the day was finding the highly acclaimed Holly B’s Bakery, where we found tasty baked goods and nearby donation-based showers in the Lopez Village Park (score one for us…and everybody else!)

The winds have been light and the weather has been dreary, so we decided to hang out in Lopez for an extra couple of days. Molly is especially enjoying the long walks and extended time on solid ground. On Friday we walked into town to check out the farmers’ market and supported the local economy by buying some delicious crepes. We’ve heard some gossip as we’ve been milling about: apparently the locals have mixed feelings about ‘The Retreat’, a big skate/bmx event, and the “spectacle” it has been preparing for it. Saturday is the big day– there’s going to be a big party, Lopez Skate Park remodel debut, and a…good time. (…Show? Display? …What’s it called when people skate for others to watch? Please don’t shun or shame us for our ignorance, skateboarding friends from past & present.) It sounds like it might be worth sticking around for another day on Lopez, but we’ll see what the weather thinks!

Looking beyond Fisherman's Bay to the San Juan Channel.

Looking beyond Fisherman’s Bay to the San Juan Channel.

Later skaterz,

Chris, Tracie & Mollusk

A Short Detour

It’s going to be just a quick (mostly non-sailing-related) update for everyone this time. We returned to Olympia on the Amtrak from Portland Monday night. We had a great long weekend in Portland and at the Pickathon Music Festival. We stayed Thursday night with Tracie’s friend Jillian. She was a gracious host and showed us all the most important sites in Portland, like Powell’s, the Deschutes Brewpub and Burgerville. On Friday, she got up early to drive us the 30 minutes to the Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon (not far from the less emphatic town of Bored, Oregon).

One weirdo among many, setting up camp at Pickathon

One weirdo among many, setting up camp at Pickathon

Pickathon is a music festival like no other. Even if you don’t think of yourself as the typical music festival demographic, we highly recommend you go at least once. It takes place at the Pendarvis Farm on the border of the Portland suburbs in the shadow of Mt. Hood. About half the land is a forest crisscrossed with well maintained trails. The other half is composed of open fields and dual-purpose buildings (barns serving as both animal shelters and recording spaces). Upon arrival at the farm, most festival goers hike their gear in to set up camp in the woods (car and RV camping is also available). Unlike most multi-day festivals, at Pickathon you’re free to come and go between the music stages, campground, and parking area. It’s also a surprisingly family friendly environment. Admission for kids under 12 is free, so a lot of families travel together and seem to rotate kids’ care. There are roving packs of kids often armed with squirt guns or spray bottles to keep people cool. The music lineup is always great and most bands play at least twice throughout the weekend (so you never miss your favorite bands!). Each of the stages is unique. The Mountain View (main stage) has a view of Mt. Hood on a clear day. The Woods Stage is a structure made from sticks in a natural wooded amphitheater. There are two old barns converted into indoor venues. Perhaps the most striking difference between Pickathon and other festivals is the lack of garbage! Pickathon has done away with all single-use food items, so each time you order food it’s served on a real plate. When you’re done, you turn the plate in to be washed and get a token to use next time. It’s a brilliant working system! Beer is served in a super cool reusable Kleen Kanteen pint glass that makes a great souvenir.

Sharon Van Etten at the Woods Stage

Sharon Van Etten at the Woods Stage

Being the thrifty (and unemployed) travelers that we are, we took advantage of Pickathon’s volunteer program. Two five-hour shifts waving people into the parking lot scored us free tickets for the entire three day weekend.

Hard-working parking volunteers

Hard-working parking volunteers

Pickathon’s lineup consists of mostly smaller acts that tend toward the country and bluegrass end of the genre spectrum, but in no way is it genre-exclusive. We also saw Motown, Zydeco, R&B,  and psychedelic rock groups. The first musical highlight of the weekend was Andrew Bird, an inhumanly talented violinist, songwriter and vocalist. He also might be the only person in the world capable of captivating an audience of a thousand people by standing alone on stage whistling. Seriously, he’s the best whistler ever. Another highlight was Lake Street Dive, a band we discovered at Pickathon last year. They brought the house down in a packed barn on Sunday night. Singer Rachel Price has an unearthly jazz diva voice and their original songs are as infectious as the classic pop songs they cover. Other high-profile acts at the festival were Feist,. Sharon Van Etten and The Divine Fits.

The Divine Fits on the Mountain View stage

The Divine Fits on the Mountain View stage

Now we’re good and tired from stomping our feet all weekend, so it’s back to our sailing adventure. We’re already on the water, headed north. We anchored Tuesday night in Filucy Bay on the Key Penninsula– a beautiful, secluded spot. We’ll likely spend Wednesday night in Gig Harbor and hope to be back in the Seattle Vicinity Thursday night. From there it’s north to Whidbey Island, the San Juans and Canada!


Chris, Tracie & Mollusk

South to Olympia!

The last few days have been a whirlwind of visiting new places we never even knew existed! We’ve cruised all through the Central and South Puget Sound to stop at destinations like Vashon and Anderson Islands, the Key Peninsula, and Budd Inlet. Curious about how we choose our daily destinations? We’ve established a loose routine: each night we pull out the charts, tide book and cruising guide and pick a destination for the next day based on distance, currents/tides, and what cool things a spot has to offer. Up to this point, we’ve had no itinerary except a general southerly direction and the goal of making it to Olympia by Wednesday, July 31st (and we did it!).

Tracie and Molly meeting some friendly goats in Dockton, Vashon Island

Tracie and Molly meeting some friendly goats in Dockton, Vashon Island

Our first stop after leaving Bainbridge Island was Quartermaster Harbor, in between Vashon and Maury Islands. We dropped anchor Friday night near Dockton Park, which our cruising guide said had some shore facilities and trails to explore. There was a well maintained and busy King County Park with a bath house, boat ramp, picnic shelters and fire pits. We also found a trail of interpretive signs giving the history of the rural town of Dockton. Here’s what we learned…

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Dockton was a hub of shipbuilding and maritime industry. Its claim to fame was the West Coast’s largest dry dock (hence the name of the town).  The completion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle and competition from Lake Union Dry Dock (founded in 1919), left Dockton high and dry. The town has since become a semi-rural island suburb (much like other island communities near Seattle). Ferries from Vashon Island serve Tacoma from the south end and Seattle from the north. The central town is gone, but it’s a charming spot and we found the local history lesson fascinating.

Here are ten reasons why we loved Dockton:

  1. Low-lying, well-managed blackberries for picking!
  2. Lots of hobby farms with huge beautiful gardens—some even had goats : )
  3. A genuinely interesting interpretive historic trail
  4. Free, clean, hot showers!
  5. Friendly fellow boaters & dog walkers
  6. Natural spring water for drinking
  7. Safe anchorage for Dahlia
  8. Cool park w/fire pits & grills
  9. Madrona groves to explore
  10. Undisturbed stargazing
Codfish Dock, one of the stops on the Dockton history tour, once home to a commercial fishing dock

Codfish Dock, one of the stops on the Dockton history tour, once home to a commercial fishing dock

On Saturday we sailed/motored from Dockton southwest to Gig Harbor. We had both been to Gig Harbor by land, but entering the bay by boat was a completely different experience. We got there near low tide when the entrance to the harbor was 15 feet deep and couldn’t have been more than 30 feet wide. It was no trouble getting through in Dahlia, but we wouldn’t have wanted to do it in anything bigger. Once through the entrance, the harbor opens up to a protected bay about a mile long and quarter mile wide. The whole bay was packed with boats. There were marinas and private docks lining both sides and boats were anchored everywhere. We found enough room to anchor near the back of the bay and took the dinghy to the public dock downtown.

Gig Harbor was a happening little town. The streets were bustling with pedestrians and in the distance we heard the sound of live music. We followed our ears and discovered a parking lot full of beer-drinking revelers! The Seven Seas Brewery was having their 4th anniversary party. It was such a find! It felt like our stumbling (figuratively) upon the festivities had to have happened for a reason, so we felt obligated to celebrate with the locals. There was cold beer on tap, really great live music, a dunk tank, giant Jenga games and an inflatable boxing ring. We enjoyed the sun and cold beers until Molly couldn’t stand the loud music and we made our way back to Dahlia for dinner.

Mollusk learned to drive a motorboat in Gig Harbor!

Mollusk learned to drive a motorboat in Gig Harbor!

Sunday morning we got up early (6am!) to catch the flood tide going through the Tacoma Narrows. With the current and the engine pushing us, we maxed out at the record-breaking speed of 9 knots! It didn’t take us long to reach the south end of Fox Island, where we set sail and cruised northwest to Penrose Point State Park. We anchored in Von Geldern Cove near the little town of Home, WA. After lunch and a refreshing siesta, we took a long dinghy ride over to the State Park (about a mile away). The park had some great hiking trails to wander through and grass chock full of dead sea life for Molly to roll around in. The next morning we walked around the cute little town of Home and again stocked up on the essentials at the “Home Country Store” (ice, beer, ice cream and jalapeno chips…okay, we bought some fruits and veggies too).

Tracie steering us through the Tacoma Narrows, with Mollusk in her motoring sling

Tracie steering us through the Tacoma Narrows, with Mollusk in her motoring sling

The next day, we sailed southeast from Penrose Point around McNeil Island, past the ol’ State Pen., and spent Monday night in Oro Bay on the south side of Anderson Island, just north of the Nisqually Flats (a recognizable landmark from I-5 for anyone who has driven south to Olympia).

Dahlia safely docked in Olympia (State Capitol in the background)

Dahlia safely docked in Olympia (State Capitol in the background)

On Tuesday we sailed and motored (light winds again) through Dana Passage. As we turned south into Budd Inlet, the dome of the Washington State Capital Building came into view. We made it to Olympia! We anchored Tuesday night in Big Tykle Cove (lots of laughs from the name) and Wednesday morning motored the last three miles to downtown Olympia. We’ll leave Molly with Tracie’s mom and Dahlia in Olympia for the next few days while we take the train to Portland to volunteer at the Pickathon Music Festival. We’ll post again next week to let you know how it goes!





Blake and Bainbridge Islands

Hey friends and followers! It’s super early Friday morning, but we made it a priority to row ashore to keep you posted before setting sail for Vashon Island. (To be entirely honest, we had to drop our friend Jillian off at the ferry.) It’s been a great adventure so far: smooth, sunny sails; plenty of shared food and drink; exploration of small, formerly unknown towns; and entertaining conversations and happenings.

Molly getting acquainted with the sea.

Molly getting acquainted with the sea.

Our first destination was Blake Island, a small State Park just a few miles southwest of Seattle. Joining us on the first leg of of our journey was our friend, Jillian Young, Tracie’s Habitat for Humanity co-worker. It’s a good thing she did too– most of the great pictures on this post are hers. The sail to Blake Island was about as smooth as it gets. We had a light following breeze. It was sunny and warm and beautiful. The highlight of the short sail was two porpoises that surfaced just a few feet from our bow! It took us about four hours to sail to the south side of island where we hooked a State Park mooring buoy for the night ($12 fee).

Our friend and crew Jillian!

Our friend and 1st crew member, the lovely Jillian Young!

We went ashore to explore the hiking trails and give Molly a change to stretch her legs. She appreciated it– she did the whole ‘crazy-playful-dog thing’ where she runs figure eights all around. The hike kept our wildlife count going, too. We saw a bald eagle, a wet raccoon foraging on the shore, and lots black-tailed deer, including some huge bucks that were definitely not fazed by either us or Molly’s frantic barks. She really wanted at ’em, but we were pretty sure she wouldn’t have lasted long against those antlers!


Anchored near Manchester with Mt. Rainier in the background.

In the morning we made eggs-in-a-hole for breakfast and pulled out the charts to decide where to sail to next. Jillian had to be back at work in Seattle Friday morning, so we couldn’t go too far. We decided to head to the little town of Manchester, about two nautical miles away. On the way, we made a list of all the grocery items we’d forgotten. We drifted over to Manchester in almost no wind and anchored just off the boat ramp with a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier. Unfortunately, the”town” of Manchester didn’t offer much. There was a post office, a library and a pub that looked like it catered mostly to the Harley-Davidson crowd. No grocery store. We did, however, find some excellent blackberry picking near the beach!

We still needed a grocery store, so we decided to motor over to Bainbridge Island. The ol’ Atomic 4 gas engine on Dahlia fired right up and pushed us at five and a half knots for the hour and a half cruise over to Eagle Harbor. The highest priority on our shopping list was ice cream to go with the blackberries we’d picked. Cold beer, chocolate and Tim’s jalapeno chips were also on the list (the four single-serving bags we thought we’d ration lasted for about two hours). Once we’d stocked up on all the essentials, we headed back to the boat for blackberry ice cream followed by some tasty burritos.

Wild Blackberry Ice Cream!

Wild blackberries & ice cream! (Even Molly’s lobster-friend partook.)

Friday morning, Jillian caught the ferry back to Seattle and we walked into the town of Winslow for coffee, pastries and internet access. The plan today is to continue sailing south and spend the night in Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island.



Here we are, just one week away from our departure date! We’re planning on setting sail from our home port of Shilshole Bay Marina one week from today on Wednesday morning, July 24th. Chris has been busy getting last minute projects completed. Our new two burner propane stove was installed yesterday; today Chris is working on putting in a transducer for the new GPS/depth sounder. We’re all getting excited for the first leg of our adventure (except Mollusk, she has no idea what she’s in for).

The plan for the first leg of our journey is to sail west from Shilshole to Bainbridge Island. We’ll likely spend a night or two around the northwestern area of the island before heading south. Our goal is to be in Olympia on Wednesday, July 31st. We’ll leave Mollusk there with Tracie’s mom for the weekend and hop on the train to Portland for our volunteer gig at Pickathon Music Festival. After we’re spent from a weekend of dancing around in grassy meadows, we’ll head back to Olympia to reclaim Mollusk and start the journey north to the San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast.

Since we’ll all be traveling together, you should probably see the accommodations. Let’s take a quick tour of Dahlia’s cabin:

Here’s the galley on the port side, looking aft. (Notice the fancy new propane two-burner stove!)


The view from that same spot, looking forward at the port settee.


The dining room table folds down with storage behind.


Here’s the starboard settee and Mollusk’s bed.


Moving forward to port is the door to the head (notice the handy homemade chalkboard, made with love by Chris for Tracie’s habitual listmaking).


All the way forward is the v-berth, our bed, complete with a triangle-shaped quilt, handmade by Karen Barnett.


That’s pretty much it! She’s not much, but she’s our home & adventure-mobile! Stay tuned for next time!

First Sight

First Sight

“Dahlia” as I first laid eyes on her.

Hello Friends! Welcome to Sailing Dahlia: A chronicle of the life and adventures of the crew aboard the S/V Dahlia.

A little back-story: Just over one year ago, in April of 2012, Chris purchased this lovely lady. She’s a Newport 28, a fiberglass sailboat designed by C&C and built by Capital Yachts. She was built in 1977. Shortly after purchasing her, we moved her from Lake Union in Seattle to Shilshole Bay Marina, just west of Ballard on Puget Sound. She’s been our home ever since. Let’s meet the crew!


Chris & Tracie, crew of the “Dahlia”…


…and of course, our deckhand, Mollusk!