November 10 & 17, 2023
Salish Sea, Pacific Northwest
Every couple of years we have to take our boat Elansa up to the marina to get her bottom cleaned and repainted. That means leaving her moorage on the south end of the island near the Strait of Juan de Fuca and cruising north through San Juan Channel, a 10-mile journey. We time it so we have the flood tide with us, otherwise we might not make it through Cattle Pass with our weedy barnacle-covered hull. We were actually scheduled to be hauled out on November 11 but the wind forecast looked bad so we went the day before.
Friday, November 10
The weather was fairly windy even so, with surface chop, but our doughty Swedish-built Albin 25 can handle that. The local harbor seals on the neighboring dock watched us go with interest. There’s very little human activity in this bay during winter, except for us.
We bypassed Whale Rocks, heading straight up into the channel. A lovely 50-foot schooner coming up from Port Townsend had a colorful spinnaker deployed to take full advantage of the southerly wind — she was able to stay on one tack for miles and miles. Ultimately she overtook us. It was a great day for sailing. Sadly, we’re too old for sailing now.
Entering the bay where the marina is, we passed the classic if decrepit tug Buster which has been anchored here for more years than I can count. Just past her, we tied up at the marina and left Elansa for the dock crew to haul out before the real wind settled in.
Friday, November 17
This was a much more clement day, partly sunny and quite calm. Since we weren’t trying to beat the weather, and with a clean bottom, we could cruise back home in a leisurely way. Sightseeing opportunities!
First we had to wait for the dock crew to drop Elansa back into the water.
The dock crew were still coming back from lunch so I wandered down onto the dock to see what wildlife there was in the bay. A Great Blue Heron perched on a dinghy dock grooming until it was disturbed by the local gang of half a dozen otters cruising by having lunch. Meal looked like sculpins mostly. You might see the seal in the background of the video too. The otters are a bit of a nuisance to the marina dock crew who have to clean up after them. In fact I witnessed several of the otters climbing onto the dock, and at least one of them taking a dump there before jumping back into the water. Seemed fairly purposeful haha.
A video of some of the action:
Eventually the dock crew lowered Elansa into the water and we were on our way.
Cruising down San Juan Channel, we saw a couple of uncommon winter visitors to the Salish Sea:
At Whale Rocks, there was the usual winter population of 100 or so Steller sealions, along with lots of cormorants. The migrating eagles had not arrived yet.
Turning the corner, we headed east through what I call “scoter alley”, a reefy stretch between two islands where scoters are often seen in winter. Indeed, there were about 40 Surf scoters, but also the less common White-winged scoters! A big flock of about 120. This rocky reef must have lots of shellfish, which is what scoters mostly eat.
And some more sightings, on islands, rocks and kelp beds —
When Kulshan comes into full view (on sunny days like this) we aim the boat toward the mountain, which will guide us into our bay.
That was a rare calm bright winter day, with glassy water. More often the sea is rough and choppy, and the skies cloudy at this season. But we’re ready now to go out boating when we want, whatever the weather, because winter is a great time of year for seeing wildlife.
THE DAILY BUCKET IS A NATURE REFUGE. WE AMICABLY DISCUSS ANIMALS, WEATHER, CLIMATE, SOIL, PLANTS, WATERS AND NOTE LIFE’S PATTERNS.
WE INVITE YOU TO NOTE WHAT YOU ARE SEEING AROUND YOU IN YOUR OWN PART OF THE WORLD, AND TO SHARE YOUR OBSERVATIONS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PURPOSE AND HISTORY OF THE DAILY BUCKET FEATURE, CHECK OUT THIS DIARY: DAILY BUCKET PHENOLOGY: 11 YEARS OF RECORDING EARTH'S VITAL SIGNS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS
Raining off and on in the PNW islands today. Temps starting to cool down from the unseasonable 50s of the past couple of days of atmospheric river weather.
WHAT’S UP IN NATURE IN YOUR AREA TODAY?