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Posted By Robin & Jim

It's always difficult to come up with interesting posts for the blog in the winter season.  This is the time of the year when we sit still for a while and catch up on maintenance and projects, and usually they're not the most glamorous or interesting things to describe.  We run the boat and all her many systems pretty hard throughout the year, and it's much easier to do preventative maintenance than to fix things in remote places - don't ask us how we know that.

adventures lit for christmas

2013 was an unusual year for us because we made the huge leap from one side of the country to the other.  We did a lot of cruising but since so many of the great cruising areas out here are fairly close together we didn't put as many miles on the boat this season.  

We started 2013 in Marathon (in our beloved Florida Keys)

Lat/Lon: 24 42.19 N  081 06.75 W (temperature: 80) and ended the year in Victoria, BC, Canada

Lat/Lon: 48 25.36 N  123 22.22 W (temperature: 45).  In that time we traveled 1466 nautical miles (which does not count the miles ADVENTURES traveled on the freighter to get out here).  That's a big difference from the years we went to Nova Scotia and cruised around 6000 nautical miles in a year. 

Moving to a very different cruising area has brought new challenges for us, and pushed us out of our comfort zone - which is a healthy thing.  We don't ever want to stop learning and growing.

We have lost some boating friends this year - far too soon.  But both of our friends really lived their lives - they accomplished a great deal in their too-short time on this earth.  Gary and Judy were extraordinary and beautiful people, each in their own way, and we remember them often.  Their untimely passing reminds us how lucky we are to be able to have the adventures we've enjoyed so far, and we never try to take any of it for granted.

We are learning to embrace grandparenthood.  Jim's son Jimmy and his wife Valerie welcomed little James in October, joining big brother Donald who is now 17 months.  While I can't come to terms with the "G-word" to describe my role in all this (I am FAR too young!), I can manage to be a "Mimi".  And I have the irrestible urge to knit a lot of little sweaters for them. 

 baby sweaters

Jim has no problems channeling his inner child, so he's always on the lookout for interesting toys.  For. The. Babies.  I think he prefers bigger boy toys, so I'm not sure who he's really shopping for.

Christmas is all put away now, and the city has changed all the lights around Parliament back to plain white.  Now it's time for chores and projects, and dreaming about heading north to Alaska in the spring.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Christmas in Victoria wouldn't be complete without a visit to the famous Butchart Gardens.  We visited the gardens by boat in early summer, and were astounded at the size and variety: an Italian formal garden, a Japanese garden, an amazing rose garden, and the huge sunken garden.  There are things to see in every season, even in winter when little touches like a small owl totem are easier to notice.  Locals recommended that we get an annual pass so we could visit the gardens as often as we liked, especially around Christmas.

butchart sleigh

We had heard about all the lights, but we wanted to see the gardens before it got dark.  The sunken garden is a favorite area, with a meandering path, cliff sides, a pond, and a small waterfall all surrounded by tall evergreen trees.  Here's what it looks like in winter during daylight hours - pretty, but without the explosion of color that you would see in the other seasons.

sunken garden before

And here is the view of the sunken garden at night...

sunken garden after

The theme throughout all the gardens was the 12 Days of Christmas, which you begin to discover as you walk around.  We saw the tree with sparkly pear ornaments... and there was a partridge sitting in it.  The two turtle doves were in a small cage... but the three French hens had a bit of whimsy...

3 french hens

I won't bore you with the rendering of the entire song, but we almost missed the four calling birds.  We saw this little grouping of birds - a cockatoo, parrots, and macaw with cell phones and didn't make the mental connection until a little later.

calling birds

We just loved it - lots of creativity, cleverness, and humor.  We were warned that the last element could only be seen as you drive away at the end of the evening... the drummers were animated in lights and there really were 12 of them arching over the driveway.  If you EVER get a chance to visit Butchart Gardens at any time of the year you must do it, but to see it at Christmas is the best. 

We were dressed warmly, but it still got cold after a while, so we took a break and had some dinner, then went back outside to hear the carolers and the brass quartet playing holiday music. 

butchart brass

I think it was most fun watching little children so excited, with their rosy cheeks and smiling faces.  Christmas is about being a kid, no matter how big or how old you are.

We wish you all a very Happy Holiday season and a Joyous New Year.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Where are we?  We're now settled for the winter in Victoria, BC on the south end of Vancouver Island. 

map

You might notice that Vancouver is at the top of the map, on the mainland... not on Vancouver Island.  The yellow line is the US-Canada border, and the group of islands under the "RES" of our boat name are the San Juans.  We traveled as far south as Tacoma, and much farther north than this map shows in this first season of cruising the Pacific NW.

Here we are at the dock - decorated for Christmas, with the lights of Parliament in the background.

adventures decked out for the holidays

Victoria is a lovely small city, and it really goes all out for the holidays.  The first big event for us was to go see Tuba Christmas - a 40 year old tradition where musicians of all ages come together to perform.  It's a very special memory for us since we always went with our friends the Halls to hear Ed play.  We even trooped up to NYC one year to hear him play on the ice at Rockefeller Center!  We loved hearing all the music and getting into the holiday spirit, despite the fact that this year Victoria was in the midst of an unusual cold snap - the temp was 20 degrees.  Imagine holding a big chunk of brass and playing in that!  (Today we're back in the mid-40s - typical winter temps.)

tuba christmas

With frozen toes but a bounce in our step we headed home to watch the boats gather for the evening's lighted boat parade. 

parade boats gathering

The sailboat approaching the dock turned out to be the star of the parade.  He had an animated Santa that popped out of a package, with balloons that floated up.

best boat

We've participated in the Annapolis boat parade (cold!) and enjoyed watching them in the balmy Florida Keys.  Despite the bitter cold, Victoria's parade did not disappoint, and it only started after the amazing lighted truck parade moved through town!

parade

There is a lot more to photograph around town - all the pretty lights and decorated store windows.  Now that it's warmer, it's much more appealing to go out with my camera after dark. 

It has been pretty quiet around our dock, and we were hoping to meet more liveaboard neighbors... but there don't seem to be many, and people aren't outside as much in the colder weather.  We're working on finding people and community that we can connect with for the winter months, and I'm sure we will. 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Our friends Bonnie and Walt recommended Rosario Resort on Orcas Island, and we thought it would be a great place to celebrate our anniversary and Thanksgiving - something a little special (though it's hard to imagine anything more special than the cruising season we've been having out here!)

resort from the water

The photo above isn't the greatest shot of the mansion - I took it early on an overcast morning.  It's a lovely spot and the late 1800's mansion has been beautifully restored.

resort front entrance

The place had just that kind of special feeling we needed - especially since we were really missing our friends and family for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We took solace in some of the amenities at Rosario - the hot tub and some spa treatments.  We explored the property and admired the grand view looking down Eastsound Bay to the south.

grand view

We liked sitting by the marble chip fireplace, and we had scones and hot tea one morning, sitting in this nifty side-by-side chair (a single piece of furniture).

side by side chairs

The mansion boasts a pipe organ from the turn of the 20th century, along with a beautiful piano from the same time period.  The resort's manager is a well-known local pianist (Christopher Peacock), and he gives a little concert and historical talk on Saturday afternoons. 

organ and piano

We enjoyed the Thanksgiving buffet, though it was hard to see so many families together for the holiday - it reminded us how much we miss ours. 

Growing up in NJ, I always went to my godparent's place for the big family Thanksgiving dinner, which was wonderful.  We never thought anything about it, but my godparents lived in a large apartment above the funeral home that they owned and operated.  When my brother and I were at that age where we were easily bored, Dad would take us downstairs and play hide-and-seek.  We never bothered with any rooms where someone was laid out, but we liked the smell of fresh flowers there.  In later years we enjoyed talking with the "holiday strays" at dinner - friends or people who didn't have anywhere to go for the holiday.  Sometimes they were people who worked at the funeral home...  free-lance embalmers, hair dressers, etc.  Ask me sometime about the car my parents borrowed to take me to college.  You really can't make this stuff up.

We were planning to do some serious hiking Friday and Saturday, and then enjoy the music and history presentation, but the weather report predicted some very strong fronts.  The only prudent choice was to leave the day after Thanksgiving and head to Victoria, BC - where we'll spend the winter.  We were sad to leave Rosario, but we'll be back!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

It's a short hop from Bellingham into the San Juan Islands, which is a good thing since we had some strong northerly wind and choppy conditions to deal with.  We anchored off Lopez Island to hide from the wind, and had the anchorage all to ourselves (where is everybody - it's not that cold, is it?).  We had a great view of Mt. Baker in the Cascade Mountain range to the east...

mt. baker by day

...and we particularly enjoyed its many faces as the light changed.  Dawn was my favorite look.

mt. baker at dawn

The winds settled down and we were due to get a cold snap.  We had to hose the foredeck off with salt water to get rid of the thick layer of frost, and we got a laugh at the bird footprints in the frost on one of the deck boxes.  It's no fun to run around in the dinghy in the cold, so we decided to head to the marina at Friday Harbor for the two coldest nights.  It was nice - we went to the movies, visited the knitting shop (where I found yarn and a vest pattern that I couldn't resist), and walked around town.  After two days, as it was starting to warm back up to normal temps (daytime in the mid-high 40's) we ran around to the NW side of San Juan Island to visit the National Park site called English Camp. 

english camp

This is where the English military established a camp for the 12 years when the ownership of the San Juan Islands was in dispute.  The Americans had a camp on the south end of the island, and the two sides enjoyed each other's company during the political dispute known as the Pig War.  (The only fatality was a pig.)

We hiked up the mountain above English Camp, and had some fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island.  If you look closely, ADVENTURES is the little dark speck at anchor just to the lower left of center in this photo.

mountain view

After a long afternoon hiking and exploring the Camp, we decided to take it easy the next day so we took the dinghy around to Roche Harbor.  Roche is a "resort", though it was nice and quiet this time of the year.  We strolled around the historic buildings and the old lime kilns, and we checked out the sculpture garden - a little too abstract for our tastes.  We enjoyed a nice lunch there, and then bundled up for the dinghy ride back to the boat.

Our next stop will be nearby Orcas Island and Rosario Resort to celebrate Thanksgiving.

misty dawn


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

From Tacoma we cruised a short distance to the little fishing town of Gig Harbor to visit new friends Cathryn and Bob.  They treated us to a nice home-cooked dinner in their gorgeous home, right on Colvos Passage.  We had a great time and a lot of laughs, especially when we discovered that we knew some of the same boaters on the east coast!  It is a VERY small world on the water.  We had a grand time with our new friends, and we loved walking around the town of Gig Harbor - great shops, restaurants, scenery, and a nice little museum.

gig harbor

With another dentist appointment and a date to meet a fuel truck looming, it was time to head back to the north end of Puget Sound.  As we cruised out of Gig Harbor and up Colvos Passage, Bob and Cathryn came out on their deck to wave to us (nice jammies).

bob and cathryn

We cruised north to Port Townsend, getting a slip at the "downtown" end of town to play tourist.  These small towns have some really lovely shops, and most of them seem to have very creative and beautiful window displays.  The whole region is very artsy, and it manifests itself in many different ways.
We saw a number of river otters playing in the marina (and leaving a lot of fishy, smelly messes on the docks), but they were never around when I had a camera handy!  We were careful to keep our side gate closed to make sure they didn't come aboard for a visit.  We did see a lot of hooded mergansers - the "hood" on the male is most impressive when he's surprised or alert.

hooded mergansers

We were supposed to cruise across to Bellingham on Tuesday to get Jim to the dentist on Wednesday.  The weather forecast looked fine for the crossing, but we woke up on Tuesday morning at 5am to howling winds - time for Plan B!  Without any discussion, I pulled up the ferry schedule and Jim called the local car rental place.  That's life as a cruiser - you have to stay flexible.  It's an all-day event with the ferry crossing and a long drive each way, but we made it a fun day. 
One of the rewards for getting "stuck" in Port Townsend a bit longer was watching a nuclear submarine heading out to sea.  We were in the pilothouse and just happened to look up and see her - wow!

submarine

submarine close up

We had fun poking around town until the weather improved enough for us to get over to Bellingham.  We met a fuel truck on the commercial dock and filled our tanks at a decent price - we hope that's enough fuel to last us until we get to Ketchikan, Alaska in the spring since fuel is very expensive in Canada.  We took advantage of some rainy days to do a few chores, and now we're heading into the San Juan Islands for the next 10 days.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We were always excited when we had a high enough vantage point (and clear skies) in Seattle to get a glimpse of Mt. Rainier.  Heading south to Tacoma we cruised around the point and got a fantastic view of the mountain, with the cranes of Tacoma's working waterfront in the foreground.  Notice the lens-shaped cloud sitting on the mountain top - it's a lenticular cloud, and is common around the tall mountains here.

mt. rainier

Friends recommende the marina in front of the Museum of Glass in downtown Tacoma, near the Bridge of Glass leading to the Art Museum and Washington State History Museum, as well as some shops and good restaurants - very convenient!  Tacoma wasn't as impressive as Seattle overall, but since it's the home of the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, it seems to be the center of the universe for art glass.  The Museum of Glass is an interesting building, with a huge cone where the glass furnaces and "hot shop" are located and a glass sculpture in the reflecting pool out front.

MOG

The weekend we were there, the museum was hosting a special Chihuly project in the hot shop - we had to check that out.  Chihuly himself doesn't work with glass anymore; he has a team of craftspeople and artists who do all the work, inspired by Dale's paintings and ideas.  Just watching the artists working with the molten glass was so interesting - art with an element of danger!  There are many chances for ugly things to happen with so many people working in concert.

chihuly workers

The rest of the Museum of Glass was fabulous - the variety of techniques and styles, colors and shapes from so many different artists - it boggles the mind.  It was our favorite museum of all that we've seen. 

Chihuly is originally from Tacoma, and he has donated quite a lot of his glass works to the city - a collection of fanciful vases for the wall on the Brige of Glass...

glass bridge 1

...and the "sea forms" shapes for the overhead part of the bridge.

sea forms bridge

The Art Museum had a room full of other-worldly Chihuly pieces, and the lobby of the old train station, now the Federal Court House, had these great discs in the window.

court house chihuly

We explored the town on foot a bit, but there wasn't as much else to see.  We were content with all the art concentrated nearby, especially since we had a  few colder, raw days.  The marinas are pretty quiet this time of the year, but that makes it easier to go to popular places and enjoy things without crowds.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Just a short 7 miles from Seattle is Blake Island State Park - a great place to stop for some hiking and walking.  It's about 5 miles in circumference, heavily wooded, with some mooring balls and a breakwater and docks.  There's also an Indian Big House that is home to a cultural show and lunch or dinner for tourists who are brought out by boat from Seattle. 

Mid-week in the fall is a nice time to enjoy the park, and the black-tailed deer population seemed to enjoy the quiet. (We did too!)

deer

Bird watching continues to be very good, with some surf scoters, loons, and hooded mergansers keeping us company.

hooded merganser

We enjoyed hiking through the woods and around the island, trying to erase some of the calories from Jim's bakery stops in various towns.  I love the smell of the fall leaves and the sound they make when you walk through them.

We arrived at a marina right in the heart of downtown Seattle on Sunday and met up with long-time friend Steve and his lovely wife Anne - we both knew Steve from our computer security days.  They gave us a grand overview of Seattle, and we particularly liked the Olympic Sculpture Garden and view of Mt. Rainier.  We look forward to seeing them again.

We had a few days of beautiful weather and clear skies, and we wanted to take advantage of the views so we went up the Space Needle and got the big picture: the mountains and the city and the water - something for everyone!  (Mt. Rainier is in the far distance.) 

space needle view

It was perfect fall weather for exploring - crisp and cool.  We liked the artsy feel of the city, and checked out a few galleries and the Art Museum (great exhibit about Peru).  The Public Library was a great building, with creative touches on every floor and a vivid neon green escalator.  So much of the city  has a funky, artistic feel... what's not to like?

blue trees

It was certainly interesting being in a city on Halloween.  People watching is always fun, but on Halloween it was genuinely hard to tell if some people were wearing a costume, or if they normally dressed that way.  We saw a lot of that!  I think living on the water must keep us a bit "sheltered". 

No visit to Seattle would be complete without checking out the famous Pike Place Market.  We loved seeing the colorful fresh flowers, seafood, spices, and veggies.

pike place market

The view right from our marina was terrific, and we will definitely return to explore more of the city.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We had a good pause in Port Townsend, taking care of a lot of little maintenance chores and small repairs, but it was more work than fun.  We had a wonderful visit from our friends Bonnie & Walt, and we got to see a little of the town.  We also rented a car to get Jim to the dentist for his crown prep, and we had a big shopping day to re-stock the freezer and to get some new jeans and socks and flannel sheets. 
Some of our friends put their boats away for the winter so they could head to warmer places, and we were sad to see them go.  It's hard to watch friends leave or to hear about our east coast friends migrating south for the winter... not us this year.  Our only consolation is that the winters out here are milder than the winters when we lived aboard in Annapolis.  And we'll be able to head to Alaska in April for a nice long summer season.  We're still glad we moved out here, though we occasionally get a pang of regret on chilly, dreary days.  But then we remember the orcas and eagles and whales, and we're glad we did it.
We made our escape to explore the town of Poulsbo, WA and to join a local MTOA weekend rendezvous there. 

poulsbo

The trees were in full fall color, and the town was just great - friendly, with nice shops (including a yarn shop and a bead store), great restaurants, and a famous bakery (which made Jim very happy). 

jim and the bakery

We met a lot of nice people at the MTOA rendezvous, and the dockmaster organized a scavenger hunt for us throughout the town, ending at a micro-brewery.  We all had a ball, and it was great to be out and about in the crisp fall weather.  We got a lot of suggestions for more places to go here in Puget Sound, and an invitation to visit Cathryn and Bob in Gig Harbor.
We hated to leave Poulsbo - it was just so nice, but we wanted to check out the Naval Undersea Museum in nearby Keyport.  Keyport has a tiny town dock with cheap dockage and free electric, though it doesn't have much else.  We absolutely loved the Navy's museum, spending 4 hours until closing time - we could have stayed longer. 

undersea museum

No one had a a dry eye reading about the heroics of some of the submarine commanders and crews.  We found out that our friend Ted, a retired Navy EOD officer, went to diving school in Keyport in 1962, and was responsible for the placement of a mine from the first Gulf War into the museum's exhibits - very cool!
Along the way, we saw some nice ducks - Barrows goldeneye, surf scoters, and these oldsquaw.  (I do love my birds.)

oldsquaw

The temperature has dropped and the fall pattern seems to be well established.  It's often foggy and overcast in the mornings, but it can turn sunny, bright, and warm in the afternoons... or not.  We never know, so we've learned to dress in layers.  It's actually nice to be cruising in the off season, since it's quiet on the waterway except for the big ferries that are always running around.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

After we left Friday Harbor the weather was not the best to really enjoy the San Juans, and Jim's broken tooth really needed some attention.  We found a dentist in Bellingham, WA and headed there with the boat.  We're not used to the typical Washington marinas that are run by the towns - they don't take reservations, the staff isn't very helpful, and they have very little/no 50Amp power - which we really like to have so we can run our washer/dryer and electric heating systems.  But the important thing was the dentist, and it turned out that Jim only needs a crown and not an implant - whew!

In addition to the dentist, our boat is now 25 years old and our insurance company requires us to have a professional survey done - out of the water.  DeFever friends Jim and Susan recommended their favorite boat yard in Port Townsend, WA, so that was our next stop.  Actually we made the arrangements for the haul-out and survey two months ago, just to make sure everything would be done in time for the insurance renewal. 

Port Townsend is a great town, with old Victorian homes and buildings, great little shops and cafes (which we barely had time to visit), a Maritime Center, and lots of activities and classes at the decommissioned Fort Worden nearby.

port t sunrise

We didn't realize that this yard offers services for "regular" boats as well as the behemoths - large commercial fishing boats, float houses, and huge yachts.  When we were in the water our slip had a perfect view of all the activity around the 300 ton travel lift.  Our boat weighs 32 tons and we were hauled by an 80 ton lift seen here (with the operator and his wireless control in the lower left)...

adventures in lift

And compare that to the massive 300 ton lift that can pick up a big steel commercial fishing boat like the kind you see on Deadliest Catch...

300 ton lift

The tires on the big lift are about 6 feet tall, just to give you some perspective.  The yard was full of old boats, new boats, work boats, pleasure boats, steel, wood, fiberglass... and lots of real craftsmen and women who can do any kind of repair you might need.  What a cool place!

Getting hauled out is never fun - it means long hours and lots of boat yard dirt, and climbing a tall ladder to get on and off the boat. And we always hope the travel lift operator blocks our boat level so things stay "normal" inside since we stay aboard.  But we got a lot accomplished, and took the opportunity to replace our main anchor chain, among many other little jobs.  We need a longer chain out here in the west since anchorages are deeper, particularly in Alaska.

anchors and chains

The morning after we were put back in the water, a boat in the yard caught fire - about 250' from where our boat was sitting!  Luckily the wind was light and the fire department arrived quickly.  The damage was limited to just three boats, and it could have been much worse.