Sailing to Sucia – a Visit from the Deep

I am so lucky that my boyfriend has a sailboat! We love going out for a few days to “get away from it all.” This summer we are taking some time to explore the San Juan Islands in the Northwestern part of Washington State. Washington is called the Evergreen State mostly because it rains most of the time! We also have lots of Pine trees, snow-capped mountains and the Pacific Ocean! I grew up in Washington but I am able to explore this state in a whole new way from the decks of a sailboat!


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I imagine that when I tell people I’m going sailing for a few days they may conjure an image that is quite different from my sailing reality. I think they imagine me in a bikini, sitting in a lounge chair, hair flowing gently in the wind, skin bronzed, being served by a tan 20-something GQ model while our boat (hear Yacht) cruises gently through the islands.

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My reality is definitely NOT that! No bikini – I mean jeez, we live in the Pacific Northwest and there isn’t enough sun to get me to reveal my white belly for anything! There are no lounge chairs unless you count the few moments when I allow myself to rest on the Jib. Hair – that’s a whole story unto itself. My hair is long and when you are out on the water long hair is in the way ALL the time! So it’s usually pulled back quickly into a pony tail that gets whipped and twirled until it takes about an hour of combing to coax out all the knots! My skin does get bronzed or I guess you could call it wind chafed! And I much prefer a tanned 50-something Paul Newmanesque gentleman to share a drink with. 🙂

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We sail a 27 foot trimaran. It has a small berth (sleeping area for you land lubbers) which is only big enough for two people who REALLY like each other AND they have to be very good at Synchronized Spooning! There is a small head (bathroom for boaty people) with a porta potty but you have to be bent over 90 degrees just to get to it. The shower is a lovely black bag hung up by a hailyard on the outside of the boat above the nets. (yes, you read that right, outside) Hopefully there is enough sun to warm the water before you want a shower. 🙂 Cooking is done with a handy-dandy camping jet boil!

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So now that you have a little clearer idea of what it’s like being on our boat, let me tell you about our latest exploration to Sucia Island. Sucia is one of the northernmost islands in the San Juans. It is shaped very similar to a hand print with the fingers facing to the south-east taking in the startling view of Mount Baker. On a boat you can wander in between each of the fingers or even go up and around to the base of the palm to Shallow Bay – a perfect little crescent with three different beaches and a perfect view of the sunset!

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Sucia is a fun place to visit for many reasons, It has many shallow bays to explore, it has miles of hiking trails and fossils to search for, it has great views from every side. It is covered in Madrona and Pine trees, there are beautiful sandy beaches, cozy camping spaces, and the most gorgeous sandstone surrounding most of the island. These undulating, curving, rhythmic looking walls remind me very much of the slot canyons outside of Kanab Utah that we visiting this past Christmas. The colors here a little less orange but stunning still the same.

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One of the best things about Sailing and being on an island is the ability to disconnect from every day life, worrying, job stress and the inundation of the “shoulds.” “I should be cleaning my house. I should be earning more money. I should be doing a better job at (fill in the blank). I should be skinnier, nicer, happier!” We all spend so much time being hard on ourselves. We expect perfection and tear ourselves apart when we can’t achieve it. Sailing is one of the few times I have found that it is possible for me to just BE.

We enjoyed our time on Sucia with sightings of Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, Anemones and River Otters playing in the Bays and even one very spiky and hairy caterpillar that caught our attention. But little did we know that our biggest sighting was still to come!

There is always a little let down when you have to untie your mooring and head for home. So we were quiet and contemplative as we headed out of Shallow Bay and headed back to Anacortes.  My boyfriend was steering the boat and watching the horizon as he noticed a big puff of breath rise up from the water. He waited until he saw it a few times before calling down to me in the cabin. “Honey, there is something really BIG out here! I came up on deck and joined him in looking out at the water and there he was! A big huge Orca whale! His tall black fin breaking the water just after each exhale from his blow-hole.

Seeing an Orca in the wild for the first time is an exhilarating experience! Your breath catches, you hold it hoping that he’ll come back, swim along next to your boat, look you in the eye and give you a message from under the sea. My boyfriend said he was worried about me staying on the boat!

He stayed safely away from our boat and we didn’t try to follow or chase him. But we did stare out at the water watching for him for a very long time. It was like the universe was gifting us with his visit from the deep. As though our admiration of and love for the sea deserved a thank you. That our weekend needed a little something to cap it off. A message that we are on the right path, that we belong.

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It was pretty much a perfect trip. We love our boat (even with its limitations). We love living here – for now. And we love being out on the water, living one adventure after another and sharing our adventures with you!  Namaste y’all.

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The Power of “What IF?”

I have been eyeing a certain Island. it’s an Island on an Island ….super cool huh? Its uninhabited except for a pair of bald eagles ….even cooler right? This Island (pictured below center front) is in the middle of Lake Campbell on Fidalgo Island just south of Anacortes, WA. I’ve paddled this lake before. I remember being all bundled up against the cold and not feeling very adventurous so I stored the idea of climbing this island for a later day.

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Well today was that day! I packed up all my gear and headed out. Not too many people at the lake. The sun was fighting a thin layer of clouds and a easterly breeze made standing on my board a little unsteady so I sat or kneeled as I paddled out. Life jacket – check, whistle – check, paddle – check.. oh crap…I forgot shoes! I usually paddleboard bare foot but hiking or climbing – no way!

That was when I heard the first “WHAT IF?” What if you do it barefoot? I mean, Native American’s did it and so do those crazy people on Naked & Afraid! If they can do it maybe I can too!” Choice #1 Continue paddling out!

The island is not very welcoming. It’s basically just a big, huge rock that climbs steeply up from the lake. No maintained dock or trails. When I finally found the only spot that would work, I gingerly stepped out onto the craggy rocks and surveyed possible routes to the top of the knoll. I tied my board to a nearby tree and headed up and to the right. After about 8 rough climbing steps I came to an impasse. There was a large blackberry bush in my path, no hand holds to go around it and a steep rock wall to my left.

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“Now what?” I thought, “I might not be able to climb any higher today. Maybe I should come back another day with shoes? Maybe being out here alone isn’t such a great idea.” And then I heard it again, “WHAT IF you find another route and keep going? You’re not in a hurry. You’ve got all day. You can take your time and go slow. You will be disappointed if you don’t at least try?”Choice #2 Find a new route and keep going!

I turned around and made my way back down to my board and then turned to the left, climbed over a prostrated tree and found a rocky, shale filled crevice that looked passable. I screwed up my courage and went for it, hand holds, toes gripping the rocks, pushing bushes out of my face, moss sliding off of my hand holds, staying low against the rocks and fought my way up about 30 feet to the first moss covered shelf and then I stood up! OMG I had done it! I couldn’t believe it!

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As I stood there surveying the view I heard it again. “Now you’re here, WHAT IF you climb all the way to the top? I bet it’s a great view!” My courage was in full swing after my successful climb so I answered “hell yeah!” and headed on up the hill. Choice # 3 Go all the way! Stepping gingerly around thorny bushes and holly leaves I wound my way higher and higher – slowly of course, sometimes tip toeing over rough patches, robins egg shells and lots and lots of goose poo.

As I reached the top of the hill I felt a huge rush of adrenaline and accomplishment!  Life is like that isn’t it? It can be rough and challenging. We can have rocky starts but work our way through them, sometimes we fall and have to get back up but above all we get to choose. We can choose to get negative, give up and go home or we can listen to the WHAT IF voice that gives us other, positive options. We can keep moving forward, keep trying, look for another path!

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I explored the island a bit and took some time to contemplate the day, the adventure and how I felt but all to quickly it was time to make my way back down to the water and my board. I made it safely. I did leave a little blood on the island thanks to the blackberry bushes I tried to climb over. I think going down is easier than climbing up. But maybe that’s because I went down mostly on my butt and gravity was on my side! LOL. I was really happy to see this view when I reached the bottom!

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I had a great adventure today. As I sat in the sun, on that island I felt accomplished. I did it. I didn’t let myself quit. I kept going. I was proud of myself. Who knows what we are capable of accomplishing? Its like that famous saying, “What if I fail? But what if you soar?” The choice is yours. I hope you choose to Soar!!!!!!