May 8, 2016

The scent of fresh coffee floated out of hatches and galley windows this morning as the crews of the 2016 Mother Goose fleet prepared to cast-off their mooring lines and depart for summer adventures along the Inside Passage. After a catered breakfast had filled our bellies, John Paul, a young member of the Lummi Nation blessed our fleet with a traditional song, asking for smooth passage and helpful winds.

With the last of John Paul’s drumbeats still echoing in our minds we cast off one by one with the help of NW Explorations’ office staff and cruised out past the breakwater out into the smooth clear expanse of Bellingham Bay. The fleet fell in behind as the lead vessel Deception took her customary spot at the head of the pack, and with the diesels rumbling comfortably below our feet, the coast fell soon away aft, the snowy tops of the Cascade mountains lost in the mists to our east.

The overcast began to split as we entered the heart of the San Juan Island archipelago. The high forested peaks of Orcas Island to starboard, and the glades and sun dappled fields of Lopez to port. The ferries buzz busily between the island here, and the radar screen is cluttered with contacts. We slipped through the narrow notch of Pole Pass fighting a spirited four knot current that boiled past our hulls and hissed swirled along the barnacle encrusted shore. Farther out, into San Juan Channel, Harbor porpoises dart amongst the Pigeon guillemots and Rhinoceros auklets which preen and dive along the current lines, hunting the baitfish that gather there to feed on the plankton found in such astounding quantities in these cold rich waters.

The lighthouse at Turn Point on Stuart Island sits on the edge of Boundary Pass and marks the northwestern most point of the American San Juan Islands. We dropped into idle here for a few minutes to allow the fully loaded 350 meter Budapest Express to pass us by on its way in to Vancouver BC. We may have had right of way, but she certainly has the right of might! The custom’s dock at Poet’s Cove is quiet this early in the season, and we were on our way again in a flash under the warm afternoon sun.

As it is wont to do the sunny weather held just until it came time to step out on the deck to tie up to the dock at the marina on Salt Spring Island. The light shower soon passed however, and the fleet’s crews drifted ashore in twos and threes to explore, provision, and dine in the Town of Ganges.

A total calm tonight. A Barred owl is calling across the bay and River otters swim and play among the pilings as dusk and then night settles over the boats. The first sliver of a new moon promises good stars tonight and strong currents tomorrow as we push north across the Strait of Georgia and in to Madeira Park.

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