As the fleet awakes well rested after their first night aboard their vessels, we all share excitement to get underway and enjoy our coffee with a sunrise dusted in pinks and oranges. One by one we toss each gosling their lines and they make their way off our docks here in Squalicum Harbor, heading into the calm and welcoming waters of Bellingham Bay. Our lead crew will be aboard the vessel Deception, and as we left the marina into Bellingham Bay ourselves, the last Mother Goose Flotilla of our 2022 season officially started!
Headed south through the bay, we gazed back at the crisp vantage point of Mount Baker as she grew into frame the further we cruised away from Bellingham’s city limits. Mount Baker was a name coined by Captain Vancouver in April of 1792, however this peak has been known for thousands of years prior by native peoples of the Lummi Nation as Kwelsán, or Kulshan, in an English pronunciation. This word translates back to a variation of the native Nooksack language for, “the shooting place”, possibly referencing the use of that region for hunting or perhaps the way the mountain has lost its cap to a historic eruption.
With Lummi Island on our starboard side, we cruised into Rosario Strait and entered the San Juan Islands. Acknowledging the native lands of the Coast Salish people, we discussed how their communities have utilized the island’s many plentiful native resources for over 10,000 years. After the continental ice sheet receded, ancestors of today’s Coast Salish people started creating homes and seasonal village sites in this region. Yet, there is a misunderstanding around their presence, “only being here seasonally” as certain resources fluxed with the seasons, but these lands have unmistakably been their homes for countless generations.
Scanning the nearby coastlines, we were able to get spectacular looks at everyone’s favorite marine mammal, the Harbor Seal! Okay, maybe they’re just mine…but these little water dogs are hard not to adore as they haul out on exposed rocks at low tides and peacefully sun themselves. It doesn’t look like too bad of a gig on these beautiful fall days if I do say so myself.
With cruising on such calm waters, we were also able to spot a few good sightings of the elusive Harbor Porpoise feeding in the shifting tidal waters. These stout marine creatures reach a maximum length of 6 feet and a weight of 120 pounds, making spotting their tiny grey fins and fast-moving bodies a task for those with sharp eyes! Actively feeding 20 hours a day, it makes the chance to see them as they surface for breath a high probability during tidal swings.
The fleet then slowed down a bit and we made our way past an island with arguably the most interesting history in the San Juans. North of San Juan Island is the 516-acre Spieden Island currently consisting of three different species of exotic animals: Sitka deer from Japan, Fallow deer from Europe, and Mouflon sheep all the way from Corsica, pictured above. Even though these are the last species standing on an island teeming with exotic animals, historically, they were accompanied by fellow Zebras, Giraffes, Lions and even Monkeys. So, what’s the deal here? These animals were all imported to Spieden in the 1960s by taxidermist brothers who saw a business model in purchasing the island and stocking it with trophy game. They had a plan to make a fortune stuffing and spending home the catches for clients who came for the thrill of the hunt. Yet, when that dream was found to be unsustainable it crumbled within a handful of years, yet these select few species spectacularly adapted and survived, thriving here ever since.
After a little over a 4-hour cruise into Sidney, British Columbia, Mount Baker greeted us again with stunning views as we pulled into the Canadian customs dock. Our lead crew helped each boat tie up to clear customs and then after a “good-to-go”, find their way into their own slips for the evening, hunkering down and settling in.
Once secure, crews found their way to the local grocery stores to catch up on provisioning and experience the beauty of Sidney’s coastal ambiance. Our NW Explorations crew based out of Sidney welcomed us to participate in a cocktail party, celebrating the initiation of our well anticipated excursion into the astounding waters of Desolation Sound, and it was great to see everyone’s smiling faces again. We all shared a few snacks and drinks until parting ways for evening trips of late-night provisioning, dock walking, and enjoying a bite to eat at the marina side restaurants.
We have already shared so many laughs and lighthearted conversations in getting to know each other today and its ever so exciting to know that these next 14 days are going to be the adventure of a lifetime alongside a stellar crew of enthusiastic mariners. Cheers!
Now from our Captain Annie, a Daily Haiku:
Nine boats in the fleet
Two weeks to experience
Let’s cruise together
P.S. Is Desolation Sound on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Desolation Sound Flotilla. email@example.com