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Category Archives: Cruising

Yes Please with our beautiful Fall Colors.

The color of the leaves turning in Autumn are beautiful in the Pacific Northwest. Our crisp night air temperatures drop down to freezing, but when the sun comes out, the reflection of the fall colors on the water is mesmerizing.

For Halloween weekend, we took advantage of calm conditions to putz out in Yes Please for some quiet time on the water. The fog as we left the dock was thick and wet, which always makes safe navigation a little challenging. Several times during the trip, we would pass close to other vessels out fishing and would see their wakes, but couldn’t see them in the fog, which makes for a great, spooky start!

Running at only 7-8 knots rather than our usual sixteen, meant it took us twice as long to get to our destination, but our timing turned out to perfect, as the sunshine broke through, just as we arrived at the dock. By the end of the afternoon, we were wearing shorts and soaking up the sunshine. What a glorious way to spend a Halloween Weekend!

We have had an exceptionally sunny summer in the Pacific Northwest and on a quick trip up to the San Juan Islands we found the Straits of Juan de Fuca so calm that we took a detour over to the Dungeness Spit to do a little exploring. We were rewarded with the the rare sighting of a large humpback whale, that hung around with us for about twenty minutes while playing with some kelp that was floating on the surface.

Orca Whales in Admiralty Inlet

Heading north from there to Cattle Pass, we spotted several Minke Whales feeding with a pod of dolphins and a colony of very loud and stinky Steller Sealions on Whale Rocks.

We enjoyed several days in Friday Harbor and discovered a hidden gem of a restaurant that is well known to the locals, but far off the beaten path followed by tourists. Possibly the best pizza I have ever tasted and well worth the walk up the hill to Van Go’s Pizza. They open at 4 PM, six days a week and stay open until the freshly made dough runs out. Don’t be late or you’ll miss out!

Humpback Whale Tail near Dungeness Spit

On our way South through Admiralty Inlet, we were rewarded with quite a display put on by two Transient Pods of Orcas that were hunting. I have never seen that many whales in one place in my entire life and my best guess (based on conversations with a couple of whale watching boat captains) is that there were 40-50 killer whales in the combined super-pod. They paralleled our course for about 15 minutes, porpoising at times and presenting us with an “Oh Wow” moment that we will never forget.

Yes Please, Grand Banks Eastbay 39 sx

Yes Please, Grand Banks Eastbay 39 sx

We’re heading into a bit of Heatwave in the Pacific Northwest. Predicted High Temperatures of 106° F were forecast and air conditioning is rare here, so we headed out onto the water to keep things cool!

I also dragged along my sidemount dive gear (Scuba), because, doesn’t everyone want to squeeze themselves into 2″ thick polar fleece and then a 1/4″ neoprene drysuit when it’s 100° outside? What was I thinking???

Once in the water with the 150 lbs. of dive gear on, I wasn’t quite so warm, but I saw a lot of marine growth accumulating on the propellers and rudders. That’s what happens when a boat sits unused too long, and poor Yes Please sat for two months while we were away. Sad to see, but it’s time to pull the boat and get the bottom cleaned up and painted.

The existing bottom paint is still in pretty good shape, but I saw a few patches on the keel that are starting to accumulate growth.

Scott Boyd, enjoying the good life on Yes Please

Once back on the boat, I kept my drysuit on and took the dog swimming. Our boat neighbors were having a good time watching. Yankee would swim just fine when I took him out and let him swim back to shore, but he’s still not crazy about going into water that is deeper than his head. Oh well, maybe his Dad is the crazy one.

Once rinsed off and settled back on the boat is was time for happy hour and to celebrate life. I’d been out of the water (diving) for way too long and I enjoyed the quiet beauty of our underwater world. Life is good.

Have a great summer and get those boats out on the water where they belong.

Kayaking in Woodard Bay

The girls wanted to get the kayaks out, so we piled three of them on Yes Please and headed out for the Woodard Bay Conservation Area near Olympia. The water side of this beautiful area consists of an abandoned (and very long) railroad pier that is a nursery to hundreds of bats and several old log booms that have become a safe haven for Harbor Seals.

Sherri and Lauryn enjoying a stunning day on the water.

We anchored the boat well outside the boundaries of the Conversation Area, dropped the kayaks in the water and were immediately a popular curiosity for dozens of harbor seals. The girls lost track of the large number of young seals that would swim by them as we paddled along and were thrilled at all of the attention. They fondly refer to Harbor Seals as “puppies”.

We spent the day exploring the area and enjoyed sightings of hundreds of Great Blue Herons, Harbor Porpoises and almost no people. My kind of perfect weekend!

Yes Please, Grand Banks Eastbay 39

Yes Please, Grand Banks Eastbay 39

Hope and Squaxin Island

Blue skies, sunshine and no wind were in the marine forecast after months of nothing but rain, so we grabbed a bag of groceries and headed out for the peaceful waters of Puget Sound. We were not disappointed, even arriving at the outstation late Friday evening, just before the sun set.

The dog quickly got back into the swing of life aboard the boat. He hadn’t been aboard much this year, but as soon as the dingy was in the water (actually it wasn’t quite in the water), he jumped aboard and was all wiggles, wanting to head out exploring.

Lots of room, despite the three day weekend.

Lights out was late Friday night (about midnight), but I had my best night’s sleep in years. Why is it that we can relax, let go of life’s stress and sleep like babies when we are out on the boat?

As usual, we ate like kings, discovering that pre-cooked sausage makes for a great breakfast (without the mess) and that searing a couple of Prime Ribeyes for dinner is guaranteed to make everyone on the boat happy. Especially the dog.

Olympia Yacht Club outstation.

Sunday, we cruised slowly back to Olympia and to the mountain of chores that we had left behind. Although after two nights of peace and quiet on the boat, that mountain seems like a much smaller hill.

Tired guests lulled to sleep by purring engines on Yes Please.

Spring finally decided to show up in the Pacific Northwest, which meant we decided to drop whatever chores we were supposed to be doing and head out in Yes Please. The Kirk’s parents were visiting from California, so we loaded up the boat with lots of picnic goodies and the entire family to head north in search of some sunshine.

We cruised up around Harstine Island, which rewarded us with stunning views of Mount Rainier to the east and the snow covered Olympic Mountains to the West. Bumpa and G-Mo were very impressed with the untouched shores of Squaxin Island and the reflection of the snow covered peaks on the calm waters of Peale and Squaxin Passages.

Stopping for lunch at Island Home proved to be a wise choice. We had the island all to ourselves, which allowed CeCe and Isaac to run free and play while the adults enjoyed a picnic table in the sun. We all walked out to the point to admire the natural beauty of Pickering Passage and laughed as we swung on the Rope Swing.

CeCe on the rope swing

When it was time to cruise back, we putzed around Hope Island and headed home just as the sun was setting on another perfect day. Our California guests were tuckered out, but very happy and could not believe the natural beauty we are so fortunate to live in every day.

Yes Please, alone at the Island Home docks.

One of my favorite seasons for cruising in the Pacific Northwest is Winter. Anchorages are deserted, marinas are empty and the short days encourage enjoying the infrequent sunshine while it lasts, then snuggling up during the dark, cold nights. The barbecue still works extremely well for sizzling steaks and the snow flakes drifting down from the gray skies are mesmerizing.

Island Home, Olympia Yacht Club, Winter Cruising.

Our “go to” spot for a winter weekend getaway is the Olympia Yacht Club’s Island Home, located on Pickering Passage, just south of the Harstine Island Bridge (47° 14.13′ North, 122° 56.10′ West). Whenever we see a break in the weather that coincides with a weekend, we slip out of town on Friday night, just as the sun is setting and cruise north to Island Home. We almost always find that we have the place all to ourselves for the entire weekend and it really recharges your mental batteries to spend two nights of blissful peace and quiet aboard the boat before heading back to the rush and bustle of modern civilization.

Three Generations enjoying the serenity of Island Home.

We’ve had a fair amount of snow this winter, but Yes Please is equipped with both Diesel and Electric Heat that keeps us cozy and warm, even when the temperatures dip well below freezing at night. Our very wet snow does have a tendency to freeze our lines solidly to the docks, so we have learned to bring the tail end of the lines back to the boat, which will allow us to depart on frozen mornings without struggling to chip the lines away from the dock!

Yes Please tied up at the Gig Harbor Public Dock

With a New Year on the horizon, we headed up to Gig Harbor to celebrate, despite the freezing temperatures and High Wind warnings. We stopped by Boston Harbor Marina for some fuel and as seems to be the case 3 out of every 4 times, fuel was not available and the fuel dock was blocked by derelict boats. The fuel gauge said we might have just enough fuel to make it to Tacoma, but I had not idea how accurate it was.

The currents were in our favor, so caution was thrown to the wind and we spooled up the big engines and headed for the Tacoma Fuel Docks. We arrived safely about 2 hours later, with the fuel tank reading fumes, and filled up with fuel that was $100 cheaper than what Boston Harbor Marina would have charged. I will be SO glad when Swantown gets their new fuel dock operational this spring.

After filling up with diesel, we headed over to Gig Harbor, just in time to snag the prime spot on the very end of the Public Dock. I was very surprised to find that power was now available on the dock (which is no longer free, but quite reasonable at $0.50/foot/night). We registered at the Kiosk and had some issues with the GFCI tripping on the pedestal, but eventually made it work and settled in for a weekend of fun.

There are lots of good restaurants in the area, so we ate well and were very happy with the many changes to the waterfront that had happened since our last visit a couple of years ago. I also had to chuckle at one of the captains that came by to congratulate me on my docking skills. He said he’d watched while I docked and was very impressed that I had pulled off parking in a tight space without the use of any thrusters. He said he was giving me a 9.9, which made me smile and chuckle when Sherri reminded me, “not to let it get to my head”. 😉

It snowed overnight on our second night, which was beautiful and we headed home through light snow flurries and and made it back to the boathouse before the gale force winds hit. What a great way to start the New Year!

Yes Please heading out for the Christmas Parade.

Yes Please heading out for the Christmas Parade.

The wind was howling out of the Southwest and the freezing rain was biting, but Yes Please and 27 other boats from the Olympia Yacht Club braved the elements to venture out onto Budd Inlet for the 45th annual Lighted Ships Parade.

This was the first time we had participated in this event, the first time we had decorated the boat and the first time we had been out at night in the new boat. It was also the first time we had the Kirk’s aboard as guests with their Baby and Three year old daughter. What a way to be introduced to boating, night time operations in the winter during a storm!

The Christmas Snow Bear on top of Yes Please

The Christmas Snow Bear on top of Yes Please

We had a blast, kept warm and managed to navigate out to Boston Harbor without incident. We had the wind at our back, which made our eight foot tall mascot stand tall and proud. When we made the turn to Cooper Point, we suddenly had the strong winds and waves on our beam, and things got interesting. Our mascot blew over, so I asked Sherri to unplug it. When she pulled the plug, all the decorations died. Can you say, “blackout?”

All of the Christmas lights on the boat made night vision nearly impossible, but I was managing. The complete blackness was pretty eerie, but after a couple of attempts to figure out what had gone wrong (GFCI had tripped due to salt water hitting an extension cord), we got the lights back on and carried on with the rest of the parade.

After about 3.5 hours, we put the boat back, snug into her boat house and decided that next year, we will secure the inflatable much better. And, there will definitely be a next year, the parade was a lot of crazy fun.

Captain Boyd negotiating the shallow entrance to Fisherman Bay, Lopez Island.

Captain Boyd negotiating the shallow entrance to Fisherman Bay, Lopez Island.

I had always avoided entering Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island. Many of my friends described the bay and marinas as “meh” and with less than five feet of water at a zero tide, it was just too shallow for the six foot draft of my previous boat. Added to that were the many horror stories of boaters running aground in the maze-like entrance, then spending days waiting for a higher tide to re-float the boat. Yikes.

With a firm date approaching to pick up Lauryn at Friday Harbor, I noticed a couple of days with very mild tides, so headed to Lopez Island to try my luck at the entrance to Fisherman Bay. Approaching from the NorthWest, rounding the red day marker and the sand spit is pretty easy, even when maneuvering around a departing sailboat. Where most boaters run into trouble is just past the green markers, where a sharp turn to port is required. The entrance opens up to a wide and calm Fisherman Bay, but there is a long, shallow, sand bar blocking the entrance. It extends almost all the way east to the Islands Marine Center dock, so do not turn south until you pass the #8 Red Buoy. This is well charted, but looks confusing when entering for the first time because there are so many boats and mooring buoys covering the entire bay.

The entrance to Fisherman Bay, Lopez Island.

The entrance to Fisherman Bay, Lopez Island.

Once clear of the sand bar, we putzed over to the Lopez Islander Resort and Marina and tied Yes Please up in a slip. The marina has a lot of deferred maintenance and is in need of some TLC. I was surprised by the cost (very high) and lack of services for visiting boaters.

Venturing ashore, we found Lopez Village to be charming and enjoyed bicycling around the island (which is relatively flat). The dog was captivated by the overabundance of bunnies (aka rabbits) that are everywhere and spent most of his time testing my arm strength (and the leash) trying to chase running bunnies. He reports that bunny poop is very tasty and wants to know when we are returning to Lopez.

The Lopez Islander Resort itself is well past its prime. The onsite restaurant, Islander Bar and Grill, advertises itself as “fine dining since 1952”. Our experience is exactly the opposite. Service is glacial (about 45 minutes to get a menu and another hour or so to get served, even on a slow day) and the food was the worst I have ever been served in the San Juan Islands in the 40 years that I have been visiting. The “medium rare” rib-eye steak I was given was pretty much shoe leather, that was nearly impossible to cut with a steak knife, much less chew, with zero seasoning.

We spent two days at the marina, visiting the restaurant several times for breakfast, lunch and dinner and found the food to be universally, very bad. We will be back to Lopez Island, but will skip the Lopez Islander.