Unfortunately our trip time was starting to come to an end and it was time to start moving back toward Bellingham. To top it off, the long range forecasts were starting to show some serious weather coming down in 3-4 days, with gusts into the 40’s predicted, so our timeline was shortened by a day or two as we decided to get back to the marina before the heavy weather hit.
DAY 14 – Victoria to Stuart Island
We got an early start from Victoria, managing to back out between the parallel floats without scaring any of our neighbors… too much. Light winds greeted us outside the harbor so, with some distance to travel today, we continued on under motor around the bottom of Vancouver Island and through the tight channels that took us to the north of Discovery Island. Once clear of the reefs and rocks around Discovery Island, we motored across the Haro Strait – keeping a close eye on the AIS and the horizon watching for large commercial vessels – and took advantage of a nice flood current up the eastern side of the Haro. As we were swept north by the current the wind picked up to a nice 14-18 knots (although right on the nose) giving us one of the most pleasant sailing days of the trip. Clear blue skies, nice steady cool breeze, and a feeling of the Haro all to ourselves (well, except for the 1,000′ container ships in the main channel, but we were short tacking close to shore to avoid them). Eventually, though, we realized that – along with time and tide – customs offices wait for no man, so we dropped sails and motored the rest of the way to Roche Harbor to check back in to the US of A.
On arriving, we realized this customs station is not always staffed in the off season, and you have to call and have someone drive over from Friday Harbor to check you in, which can be a bit of a wait. We were lucky, though, as a previous boat had already called and the customs agent arrived about 5 minutes after we did (the other couple said they’d been waiting over an hour since they called, so plan ahead). Quick check back into the US, along with a $27 fee and the removal of some apples from the boat, and we were free to go. After a quick dog walk we motored back out of Roche Harbor having not lost too much time but definitely seeing the merits of the Nexus Pass (we have already put our applications in!). A quick run across the Spieden Channel took us back to our favorite island, Stuart, this time into Reid Harbor where we settled in to the dock – all by ourselves!
DAY 15 – Stuart Island to, well, nowhere
After a good night’s sleep and a lazy Tuesday morning on the dock in the sun, we took the hound for a nice walk on the Stuart Island park trails, with a quick stop at the only spot Bass has cell service to download an updated slew of weather data. Hmmm, looking pretty snotty end of the week. Brief consultation lead to the conclusion that we had one more night out in the islands, and that we needed to be back in Bellingham by late afternoon / evening on Wednesday… winds were forecast to pick up Thursday to a level we really didn’t want to deal with while backing into our slip! Logic dictated we should bite off a chunk of the 35+ nautical miles we had to cover today, and complete the rest tomorrow. But logic has no power over a beautiful sunny day on a deserted Reid Harbor dock. Just too nice not to stay, so we decided on a layover day at Stuart and a long day on the water tomorrow. Having made our decision, we got to some serious laying over! Books were read, long dog walks were taken, adult beverages were imbibed, and some killer Le Creuset bread was baked (by Brig) and eaten (by us both). While we both had fresh memories of our epic sailing conditions yesterday, laying over in special places is just as epic.
DAY 16 – Stuart Island to Bellingham
The long run back to Bellingham (35+nm in a “5 knot boat”) seemed a bit of a “you have to pay to play” situation, but in reality who are we kidding, another beautiful day on the boat in killer scenery is not exactly “paying”. An early start off the dock got us moving in the right direction and timed up a bit with the currents. Depending on current directions and timing, from Stuart you can either go below Orcas (through the Wasp Passage) or above (past Sucia and Matia)… the timing worked better for us to go over the top, so off we went. Pretty much a glassy day all day so the whole trip was under power; with the dock still in the water at Matia we took a quick break to stretch the legs and let Hobie run around for a few, then knocked off the rest of the run back to B’ham, pulling in around 4PM.
As is often the case, our arrival in Bellingham was not an immediate celebration as there were chores to do, specifically changing the engine oil and transmission oil while they were still hot. With winds forecast to be gusting 30+ now through our expected departure date, we took advantage of calm conditions and good weather to tighten up everything on deck (haul, flip and secure the dinghy; apply all our docking lines; remove our headsail for the winter; pump out). Our chores list sated for a moment, and feeling a bit melancholy about the end of the trip, we snugged into Boundary for a simple dinner and some sleep.
Overnight the winds arrived, as predicted, with gusts into the mid 30’s most of the night with rain off and on. Being pros at this by now, we figured that meant a long breakfast at Old Town cafe was in order! After breakfast and a walk for Hobie we spent the rest of the afternoon tackling a few small projects and generally tightening everything up for the winter off season. After celebrating with dinner at Anthony’s, we spent a restless night getting blasted around by gusts that ranged into the high 40 knots (according to the airport wind station) which is certainly enough to make us not sleep well. Friday, with no respite expected that day, and higher winds forecast for the next (which in fact never did arrive) we reluctantly locked up the boat and headed for home, revisiting in our minds all the cool places we’d gone and cool things we’d seen, and all the spots left unseen just waiting for us next time we’re back!
Nautical miles traveled: 225
Travel days: 11
Layover days (not including Bellingham): 5
Nights on dock: 5
Nights on mooring ball: 2
Nights at anchor: 1
Nights in marina: 7