June 19, 2017: Beauty on the beach

At seven o’clock on another charcoal-gray morning, it was time to see if there was anything that could be seen through the aft cabin’s windows. Walt and I were happy that the fog that had delayed our friends’ departures on Sunday morning would not detain us, and after consuming hot oatmeal and joining together in Morning Prayer, we motored, shortly before 9 am, away from the dock below Ft. Flagler’s bluffs, pockmarked by the nests of pigeon guillemots (they are small black birds with white patches on their wings and bight red feet), and headed for James Island, a small dumbell-shaped land form across the water to the west from Anacortes. We traveled under sullen clouds hovering above thick bands of fog, pierced here and there by the snowy summits of the Olympics and Cascades, and had a current running against us for most of the way between the seemingly endless Whidbey Island (58 miles from north to south) to the east and the Kitsap Peninsula to the west. I thought that Whidbey Island’s steep bluffs resembled rows of gigantic beds tilted upward upon which puffy orange-tan quilts of short vegetation had been draped over sandy sheets, with forest-green headboards at their tops and driftwood-decorated foot boards at their bottoms. At one point in our journey, we noticed a squadron of gulls and small black seabirds zooming beside and ahead of us. They landed on a small patch of water where they formed a raucous caucus of feathered partisans, fighting over food of some sort. They scattered as we passed, and immediately reassembled to continue their feeding frenzy and their cacophonous clamoring.

As we approached the anchoring balls (mooring buoys) near the eastern shore of lushly-wooded James Island at about 1 pm, we could see the dorsal fins of four or five sleek, tan Minke whales, but that was all we were able to observe. I maneuvered Braesail next to a buoy, but the boat was moving a bit too swiftly to allow Walt to catch the ring at its top with the boat hook, so I brought the boat around again and skimmed by the target. This time, Walt was able hook the ring, but it was jammed and he couldn’t pull it up in order to thread a deck line through it. He had to lie on his belly and stretch overboard to shove the line through the ring with the boat hook, but he DID accomplish the task and we considered ourselves ARRIVED. Having lunched on left-over lasagna, Walt rowed Coracle to shore to register our presence in the marine park and then settled down for a nap; I enjoyed an hour’s phone conversation with a friend I hadn’t spoken with for a month. I then decided to try rowing the dinghy to the cove’s beautiful beach (this was my first solo outing in Coracle!), and had a delightful time wandering among the smooth, colorful sea stones and delicate shells, the dark, jagged rock formations, and the fantastical drift log creatures that lined the shore.

Driftwood on the beach at James Island
Driftwood on the beach at James Island atop which I placed an oyster shell, a small white spiral shell, and a red heart-shaped sea stone

I climbed the log stairs to the grassy picnic area above the beach, took a few photos, and paused to listen to the calls of the birds and the hushing of the wavelets below me–magical indeed! Back on the beach, I encountered some difficulties in getting Coracle back into the water and acquired damp socks and shoes in the process, but I persevered and rowed along the second “pocket beach” on the eastern side of the island that I remembered from a visit many years ago–the little shore-side cave, containing part of a long drift log that protruded from its shadowed mouth, was still there!

I maneuvered my small boat back to its mother ship, clambered aboard, and tied Coracle to one of Braesail’s deck cleats, and found Chef Walter preparing a supper of chicken-vegetable stew and sourdough bread. While the stew simmered on our propane stove, Walt stepped me through the arduous (for me!) process of attaching lines to Coracle’s front and rear and hauling it up from the water’s surface to the davits that attach the dinghy to the frame from which it hangs above Braesail’s stern. After supper, cabin clean-up, and work on blog posts, we watched the first episode of the third season of the BBC detective series, Grantchester (based on books by the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury that feature a small-village Anglican vicar who helps to solve crimes and has a complicated love/spiritual life) before calling it very good day.

One thought on “June 19, 2017: Beauty on the beach

  1. You always have such a wonderful way with words. Once again we enjoyed catching up on your adventures. We both loved the picture of the driftwood on the beach at James Island. Spectacular !!!
    Cheers, Love and many purrs, Mom and Terri


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