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.
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!
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 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
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.
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.
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!
Thanks for following along!
Fair Winds and Following Seas,
Chris, Tracie and Mollusk