2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 1A, Day 1 – Bellingham to Sidney | NW Explorations

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2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 1A, Day 1 – Bellingham to Sidney

Ready, steady, and they’re off!

One by one the participating vessels of our Mother Goose Fleet set off on our annual Alaska Flotilla. We began our 12-day journey to Port McNeill with a scenic route south through Bellingham Bay, cozy in the ambiance of a classic PNW spring morning. It’s a very exciting initiation into our summer season knowing that all the crew who will be traveling with us are going to experience an adventure of a lifetime. Each vessel has been diligently cared for in our winter season and to see them off and ready for the astounding trek through the Inside Passage fills everyone with excitement. These vessels won’t return back to their home ports in Bellingham until early September!

The NW Explorations crew on the dock tosses the final lines and waves goodbye as the crew aboard our lead vessel, Deception, smiles in knowing that what we have been preparing for all winter is finally here. Deception is last vessel to push off and we catch up with our goslings to take the lead, guiding the fleet to fall in formation as we make our way into Rosario Strait.

NW Explorations 2022 Alaska Flotilla navigates through Pole Pass, southwest of Orcas Island, BC.

Weaving among the stunning San Juan Islands, the fleet briefly cruises a narrow passage on the southwest end of Orcas Island, coined Pole Pass. In a single file line navigational expertise is exercised and we make to the other side with grace. Continuing westward the fleet keeps great time towards our end destination for the night, Sidney B.C. With the tide in our favor, we slow down alongside the west coast of Spieden Island for our first unique experience in wildlife viewing.

Spieden has been called the Jurassic Park of the San Juans, though now a privately owned island, it used to be grounds of a trophy hunting operation in 1970’s. A variety of non-native birds and land mammals were imported to the island from around the world. Although retiring from offering the experience of sport hunting 22 years ago, four-legged critters such as Mouflon sheep from Corsica, Fallow deer from Europe, and Sitka deer from Japan have all adapted to calling Spieden home.

Wildlife on Spieden Island

The main curiosity we all have when spotting our fellow residents, is how do they do it? With no natural fresh water sources on Spieden, it’s been discovered that these animals sustain a living on native grasses and freshwater algae that thrive on our plentiful rainwater. One of the best viewings of these animals in their not so natural habitat is witnessing their knack for rock climbing down Spieden’s banks to munch on local seaweed as it washes ashore.

Bidding farewell to our new friends, the fleet cruises the rest of the coastline checking out scattered boulders of granite, visibly standing out from Spieden’s volcanic rich sedimentary rock structures. These deposits are known as glacial erratics, erratic coming from the latin word “errare” meaning “to wander”, as foreign sedimenty is carried from one location to another by means of glacial ice. This granite is presumed to be from the Canadian Coast Mountain Range, being brought down with the recession of the Cordilleran Ice sheet. With Spieden’s southern face being barren, it offers a great look at such a clear example of the San Juan’s rich natural history. As we throttle up, we shake our Sunday sleepys and do the same for a couple of lounging harbor seals, poking their heads up to see us on our way.

Harbor Seals resting

Cruising for another few hours, we exchange glances with harbor porpoise and play eye spy with Bald Eagles, Pigeon Guillemots, Cormorants, and Rhinoceros Auklets. Given we are making way on a full moon, we had an incredible opportunity to peak at some of the marine critters that are not often exposed during a regular tidal flux. Bright purple and orange Ochre Sea Stars pepper the unveiled lower intertidal zone.

A bald eagle looks on as our boat passes by.

Coming into Sidney, we cleared customs and vessel by vessel the fleet was tied up for the night. Once everyone had a chance to repose from the travel, our NW Explorations crew in Sidney invited us all to join them in their marina side office for a social gathering. Snacks, drinks, stories, and laughs were all shared as we began to wind down for the night. Each crew took some time to gather any missing provisions for their vessels and hunkered down for a 7am departure tomorrow morning.

Entering Port Sidney Marina, in Sidney , BC.

It was an incredible first day on the water and to end it on a note of light heartedness and with a sense of fulfillment for the long traverse, made for a good night’s rest. Thank you, Sidney crew, for hosting us and we will look forward to stopping by and visiting with you all again!

Flowers with Port Sidney Marina in the background.

P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. charters@nwexplorations.com 

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