The 20-foot Pursuit (my old camera boat) was loaded as we moved away from the launching ramp in Anacortes, Washington. I didn’t know it at the time, but this exploration of the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island would change my life forever.
I had no idea that such a wonderful geographical area existed. All you need is a small boat, an engine and the wonder at what is over the horizon.
Laurie taught me where to dig for clams and what kind of rocky inlets were best for oysters. I later learned the there is a fuel dock almost every 20 miles.
In contrast to Catalina Island in Southern California where ownership and limited use of a mooring buoy costs as much as $275,000, in the Northwest part of the world, the moorage is often free. No matter how much it rains, it’s the most beautiful part of the world in my mind. But Laurie and I are lucky enough to move to Montana every winter, where the rain comes down in the form of white snowflakes.
Between Montana and after making the commitment to build the house here on this small island with the dock and a couple of boats, we really have the best of all worlds.
We can put the crab pots in our boat, drive a mile or so away from our dock, drop them in the water, come back home, fill up the big crab-cooking pot with water, turn it on to boil and go back and get the pots. In that short time there often will be more crabs than our licenses allow. That’s what’s called a genuine Northwest crab fest. Once in a while the neighbors will sponsor a crab cook off where several of the guests compete for the best and most tasteful variation of just plain boiled crabs. There’s crab sushi, crab tortillas, crab salad, roasted crab, and the winner is designated by the applause of the people who test them all.
Since those early days in the Pursuit, we’ve expanded our fleet of boats to include a 26-foot Shamrock with a small Ford engine, a 47-foot Bayliner, a 16-foot kayak and a 16-foot captain’s gig.
Years ago I had to have shoulder surgery and Laurie and I couldn’t go windsurfing on Maui, so we decided to drive around the San Juan islands and see what they looked like from a car. Two weeks later somebody told us about a wonderful piece of property on Pole Pass.
We walked around the property and looked into a dirty class windows in the boat garage. Within 30 minutes I turned Laurie and said, “let’s buy this place.” Four days later we owned it, which had no sewage disposal capability and no way to get freshwater. Both were solved relatively simply by making our own drinking water from the salt-chuck with a reverse osmosis machine and getting permission from a nearby neighbor to put our drain field on his property over 1,500 feet away from where our septic tank is.
The purchase of our property included dock space next to our property, but it was three years before we had a dock of our own where I could tie up the Pursuit. Today we can get in our 26-foot Shamrock, cruise to Friday Harbor for dinner in 20 minutes each way, or to Roche Harbor at the same distance. Or, with a little more preparation, we can be off to an adventure as far away as Glacier Bay, Alaska, in the big boat.
Of course there are drawbacks to living on an island an hour and 15 minute ferryboat ride each way. But as the years have gone by, friends who go to the mainland frequently pick up what we need.
That way, you can spend the days fishing, crabbing, writing stories, or sleeping on a sofa on the terrace. It’s OK, because I’m 90 and am allowed to sleep as much as I want.
For more of Warren’s wanderings go to www.warrenmiller.net.