Islands in the Straits
Our hunt for a working ice machine had taken on comic proportions and gobbled up a darn good chunk of a fine July Saturday morning, but then a combination of quarters and kicks bought us a 20-pound block and we were on our way, free at last of the Squalicum Harbor breakwater and the Port of Bellingham, Washington. The blustery, early-morning breeze had quieted some, and clouds were giving way to sun-filled skies as we unfurled main and jib and settled in on a close reach, headed for the first of the San Juan Islands on the far side of Bellingham Bay. An hour into it, we were ready to round Point Francis, on Portage Island, and run up Hale Channel, along the northeast shore of Lummi Island. That's when we first spotted Mount Baker off in the distance, its snowcapped peak set off against a deep-blue sky. For the next week, as our journey took us across the Canadian border and then reluctantly back, Baker would be our most reliable geographic reference and a constant reminder to this group of six New England sailors of just how spectacular a cruising ground we'd landed in.
This little adventure had begun months earlier when Rick Sale, general manager of San Juan Sailing in Bellingham, e-mailed me an offer to explore the islands from which the company derives its name. Or better yet, he wrote, baiting his hook with an enticing story line, take the Jeanneau 43 DS Illuminé and sail a little farther north and off the beaten path to visit the South Gulf Islands, along the Strait of Georgia. In the space of a few paragraphs, he lured me in with promises of eagles, whales, lonely coves, quaint villages, and easy sailing. Then he set the hook, suggesting the trip include a visit to nearby Vancouver Island to see the renowned Butchart Gardens.
By happenstance, my wife, Sue, is a flower nut, so the idea of a little sailing mixed with potting soil was a big hit on the home front. Then there was my old friend Joe Baptista, who'd been bugging me for months in his own modest way to line up some sort of adventure. His friend, Annie Wilson, is a professional gardener at one of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, so we figured she'd even know the Latin names of what we'd be gawking at. And since a guy's gotta eat and because Illuminé has a three-cabin layout, it only made sense to invite sailing pals Peter and Peggy Davis. Peter's the chef at Henrietta's Table, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If it walks, slithers, swims, or grows, he'll figure out how to cook it, so we were certain to eat well.