San Juan Flotilla: Day 1 – Bellingham to Reid Harbor | NW Explorations


San Juan Flotilla: Day 1 – Bellingham to Reid Harbor

True to the city’s motto, Bellingham Harbor hummed with “subdued excitement” this morning. Those joining us for a week of cruising the San Juan Islands were busy finishing up their provisioning and getting to know their vessels.  Excitement grew as the day turned out to be blue skies and sunshine.  By 10AM we threw off the dock lines, and were headed out for a week in the beautiful Salish Sea.  We are all looking forward to relaxing, sightseeing, learning, experiencing new things and getting to know one another.

Let me introduce the crew.  On Aquila we have Alan and Kate accompanied by Mike and Cynthia.  Aboard AnamCara are Mark and Leslie and Debbie and Harold.  Skippering Morveren is Jim along with his wife Wynne, daughter Britt and son-in-law Peter.  And finally, on Koa Lanai we have Carroll and Molly.  Oh, and of course Captaining the lead vessel, Hele Mai is Tim and assisting as naturalist is me-Hannah.

Our guests have come from all across the US for this trip.  We have folks from Texas, Indiana, Florida, Illinois, as well as Washington, Idaho and Oregon.  For some, it is their first time to the area, and others have been out on trips with NW Explorations before and are back for more!  Many have come to escape the heat, enhance their boating skills, spend quality time with loved ones, and to learn more about the San Juan Islands and the wildlife that abounds here.  They bring with them loads of knowledge and expertise in a very diverse range of subjects, and I look forward to learning from them.

The weather could not have been better for our first day out.  Sunny, warm, clear skies and little wind led to spectacular mountain vistas and calm seas for our cruise from Bellingham to Stuart Island.  Mount Baker, called Komo Kulshan by the indigenous peoples, dominates the background as you leave Bellingham Bay.  At nearly 11,000 ft tall the snow covered peak towers over the surrounding landscape.  Although it sits alone, we also had great views of the Canadian Coastal Range to the north and the Olympic Mountains to the South. We encountered Harbor Porpoise fishing near Pt. Daughty on Orcas Island (shout out to Molly for spotting them!).  We also saw diving birds, such as Pigeon Guillemots, and Harbor Seals sunning themselves on rocks.  As we cruised along the north side of Speiden Island, a very strong tidal current kicked up some good sized waves and made the going a bit more exciting.  Everyone handled their boats beautifully and we got some good experience maneuvering through slightly rougher waters.

Upon arriving at Stuart Island, we entered the fjord-like inlet of Reid Harbor and anchored in the calm waters there.  Then it was time to explore on shore.  Stuart Island offers many great hiking options with a beautiful light station on Turn Point, a historical school house, small local history museum, library, T-shirt stand, and other harbors to explore.  As Tim and I visited the crew of AnamCara, we watched an Osprey and a Bald Eagle fight over fishing territory, harbor seals floating gently on the surface of the bay and hundreds of Moon jellies pulsing in the water.  What an amazing place to spend an evening! As the light began to fade, we made plans for our journey to Victoria, BC tomorrow.  Each group enjoyed their own relaxing evening and began settling into the rhythm of vacation, the lack of access to technology, and the joy of spending time with friends and loved ones.  We are all looking forward to the rest of our adventure!

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