Desolation Sound 2021: Day 13: Chemainus to Friday Harbor | NW Explorations
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Desolation Sound 2021: Day 13: Chemainus to Friday Harbor

Full of shades of both blue and orange, our crossing back into the US welcomed us with a crisp and calm morning that made the trek a serene cruise. We left Chemainus in a golden glow, and made our way back into Stuart Channel, on perfect time to Friday Harbor.

Instead of heading far south through Sansum Narrows, we decided to head a bit north over Salt Spring Island and tuck into Trincomali Channel, leaving us a wider passage for smoother cruising. It was a 3-hour trip that accounted for 38 miles of moving through the wake, already reminiscing on our adventures, and tempted to turn right back around and head into Desolation Sound again.

Arriving in Friday Harbor felt like a breath of fresh air. Every boat cleared customs in a swift manner and once assigned our slips off the ferry dock, we began organizing a group happy hour. Prior to all meeting at the dock of Deception, crew explored the harbor a bit or even started the transition back to life off the boat by packing up and starting the organization process. Friday Harbor resides on San Juan Island, with a population of around 2,500 residents in the town itself, as the entirety of the island has a population around 7,000 which makes it the second most populated island in the San Juans next to Orcas Island. The San Juans themselves are mountain tops that were exposed some 13,000 years ago after the last ice age, giving them their curvatures and fluid-like geological structures. As both the tides and sea levels have risen and sank since their initial creation, it is thought that their present shorelines are over 5,000 years old.

One of the most unique aspects of cruising in the San Juans is watching the fluid dynamics shift with the changing tides. Given the San Juans are creations of massive glaciers and results of plate tectonics, the sub-marine terrain is a major explanation for how the currents gain their momentum before your very eyes. Cruising past reefs and neighboring islands, you can watch the surface currents pick up speed and dwindle in the time it takes you to reach one end of the islands to another. As you adventure around the San Juans, your depth finder can jump from 10s of feet to 100s of feet in a matter of seconds as the bathymetry includes vast sand banks, hidden peaks, and deep crevasses.

One of the most memorable sights of being docked in Friday Harbor is the way the Washington State Ferries glide in and out of the port. This collection of both passenger and auto ferries was founded during the mid-20th century, beginning operations in the 1950s. Yet to keep up with demand of such an up and coming necessary and popular form of transportation, most of the larger ferries we see today came into existence in the early 1980s. Originally built as steamboats holding either no cars, or no more than 40 cars and 400 passengers, the transportation team began constructing boats that could sustain over 200 cars and 2,500 passengers. So as the sun was setting, we would watch the ferries come in, off load, load up and head out all in rhythm, pondering the history and how such a process has dated back so far in Washington’s history.

As crew started to show up on the docks outside of deception, the final cocktail party was enjoyed as a fleet, thankful for the sun on our last day afloat. Throughout the trip, the crew on Deception had worked really hard on taking pictures to capture both a collection of our experiences, sights seen, and moments spent together, putting together a slide show as a memory bank and time capsule to look back on. With that, tonight is the final reveal as to how the creation of such a slideshow came to fruition, alongside a bittersweet last happy hour together as a fleet.

As we wrapped up our showing, crew left the docks for dinners in town and watched the sun set from the shores, letting the extent of our adventures really start to set in. It was a very powerful night as thanks and expressions of gratitude for the entire fleet were shared in these moments together. Tomorrow we will head back into Bellingham and head off our vessels, but until then we will soak up our time throughout tonight and smile back on all we have accomplished.

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