September 23, 2017: A dinghy trip in the afternoon and a ship trip in the evening

Although Walt had left Braesail’s bathing platform open overnight, we didn’t find any evidence of nocturnal visitors on Saturday morning! Walt made us a bacon and pancake breakfast, and we both worked on reading and writing projects, Walt in the cockpit “sun room,” and I in the saloon; I read about our anchorage–spacious, tree-rimmed Garrison Bay–and the English Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park, on its eastern shore, remembering the visit that Walt and I made several years ago (you can learn about the area here: https://www.nps.gov/sajh/learn/historyculture/the-pig-war.htm). I happily recalled the friendly deer eating apples in an abandoned orchard, the three reconstructed English Camp military buildings, the formal gardens, the terraced bluff where the English officers’ houses once stood, and the huge maple tree, said to be among the largest in the world.

By about 12:30 pm we were ready to motor over to nearby Westcott Bay’s far shore in Coracle, whose interior was nice and clean after Friday night’s bath. The sun was warm but the breeze was “bracing” and I was glad I’d donned my windbreaker! We passed many crab and shrimp trap marker buoys and a number of anchoring balls, upon the tops of nearly all of which were sitting sleek black cormorants, keeping an eye on us and then flying off as we approached. We had to climb out of Coracle and step into the chilly, shallow water and wade onto the sandy beach, hauling her up onto the shore between us; with the outboard motor, she probably weighs at least 100 lbs., and I got a good upper-body work-out. We left her well away from the water’s edge, clambered over some spongy beach weed and then a good deal of drift wood, picked our way through a wide expanse of marsh grass, and found the edge of the road up which we walked

Garrison bay view from shore
View toward Westcott and Garrison bays from the road to the San Juan Island Distillery and Ciderworks

to the wonderful San Juan Island Distillery and Ciderworks, at which Martin wanted us to buy a particular gin for him. The family-owned operation is very small, but they make 12 different apple-based gins (they grow their own apples) flavored with a fascinating variety of local ingredients, several delicious liqueurs and flavored brandies, and a premium award-winning Normandy-style apple brandy. We enjoyed the tour of their facilities, the free tastings of their products at bars whose tops were made of sections of tree limbs enclosed in a transparent casing of casting plastic, and the edifying explanations of their processes, and bought some outstanding beverages–the gin Martin wanted, and some others for us to enjoy over the long term.

We carried our purchases back down the road,

Garrison Bay view toward Mosquito Pass
View over Mosquito Pass from the road back to Westcott Bay

through the grass, over the drift logs, and along the beach–if only I could have lingered to explore the expanse of soft sand littered with small stones, clam and scallop shells, and some larger barnacle-covered rocks. We placed our beverage bag in Coracle’s bottom and dragged her to the edge of the water (huff-and-puff!). I climbed aboard and moved from the stern to the bow and back again as Walt waded into the water and pushed, pulled, and shoved the dinghy into water just deep enough for floating the boat and starting the outboard motor. We were back on board Braesail shortly after 3 pm, having been careful to clean sand and mud off our shoes as best we could before climbing into the cockpit (I splashed the bottoms of my hiking shoes in the ocean while on the bathing platform and then rinsed them in the sink and laid them out in the cockpit to dry). Poor Coracle’s interior was now quite muddy, and would have to be cleaned another time.

Off we motored, at about 3:30 pm, after storing our purchases, raising the anchor, hoping to spend the night in either Blind Bay on Shaw Island or in Fishing Bay near the village of Eastsound at the northern end of East Sound on Orcas Island, where Walt had served as supply clergy at Emmanuel Episcopal Church for a number of summer Sundays several years ago. As usual, we had little wind, but we DID have the benefit, once again, of several knots of current flowing in the direction in which we wished to travel, and we made good time, moving at a little over 8 kts. now and then. I took the helm while Walt provided us with a late lunch of sandwiches, corn chips, and apples at about 4 pm, and had a fine time looking at the shapes and textures of the various islands, spotting pocket beaches lined with driftwood that would be great to visit, noticing particularly shapely arbutus trees on rocky points of land, and wondering at the huge houses built sometimes very near the islands’ shores and at other times on the bluffs very high above them. We passed charming Orcas Village, the famous Rosario Resort Marina, and the small community of Olga, all of which we’d visited and enjoyed greatly in years past. We didn’t glimpse any whales on this trip, but we saw a number of seals, sometimes just their heads, and sometimes their shiny backs and flippers too as they swam and rolled gracefully among the wavelets. Motoring in warm evening light on the second full day of autumn was quite a magical experience, and we arrived at Fishing Bay, with Eastsound bordering it at its head, a little before 7 pm as the sun was just sneaking off to hide behind a high wooded hill.

Supper was a lovely tuna/broccoli Alfredo, and KP duties didn’t take long to complete. Once things were in order I set to work on this post, and should finish it on Sunday. It’s been a “different sort of day,” and bed now beckons!

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