It’s cheesy anymore to start a post with a definition, but to distill is to “increase the concentration of, to separate, or purify” something else. I can do cheesy. I also feel distilled. I and my crew spent four and a half days cruising the San Juan Islands in a 29-foot Ranger Tug called Serendipity. Our plan was to hit the outer islands: Matia, Sucia and Patos, then Friday Harbor, moving physically closer to our eventual last night’s mooring, before motoring back to Anacortes.
Spouse piloted the boat, while Jr and I handled the mooring lines, bumpers, mooring buoys, docks and slips. We figured it out quickly, you had to, and worked well as a team. Matia and Patos don’t have docks that could handle our boat, only one or two mooring buoys, and given the bottom of these coves, exposure to currents, and general lack of experience, we didn’t want to chance anchoring. Both coves had their fill of boats, and as such, we entered, photographed, and exited the coves of these two little islands without disembarking. Though somewhat disappointing, we were closer than we ever had been, and were given insight into how to make moorage possible next time. The small, personal favorite, Fossil Bay on Sucia kept us safe through the night. We were able to explore the island’s trails, coves, bays and view points to our hearts’ content. Our next night was spent in the larger Stuart Island’s Prevost Harbor. Spouse and I once thought we’d move to the mostly-privately-owned Stuart, with its dreamy one-room school, two air strips and romantic light house. Visiting it over the years has fed that dream, while, simultaneously, providing gentle reality checks. Hiking around Stuart easily made up for not staying on Matia or Patos. I could write more about the Friday Harbor marina or the Dept of Natural Resource buoys at Cypress, but instead, this feeling of distillation.
At the start of this trip, I was set with my journal, waiting for epic entries of all that would be revealed as I sat at the back of the boat, on a deck chair while we motored at a modest speed, through gentle swells, the wakes of other boats, the water rippled by currents and wind. I just wrote about what had taken place, log book or diary style. No big whoop. I just wrote. It was the same each time I sat to journal and I was fine with this. It was just another thing in the succession of motor, moor, row to shore, hike around, return, make dinner, eat, laugh, play a game, try to sleep with the bow knocking into the mooring buoy. Repeat. All while surrounded by striking beauty: grey then blue skies, island trails and trees, the water sparkling, giving way to our bow, knowing it was ultimately far more powerful then anything to do with us. Engine moving big boat, arms moving dinghy, legs moving us everywhere else. No profound thought, just distillation.
When boating, I am completely at the mercy of the boat, of the tides, of the weather. Our boat was happiest traveling at 8 knots. We couldn’t hurry, we couldn’t worry. We could only leave earlier, be vigilant, give room to the other boats and ships, moving to another bay or harbor if no room to moor at our first choice. There were no phone calls, no work texts, no meetings, no deadlines. The meals were simple, with few dishes to clean. Nothing overwhelmed. All that other stuff was gone. There became this purity of purpose, life on a smaller boat, with nature stealing all of the attention, all of the time. I’m still enveloped today. I have loved baking for the markets this season, but I was frazzled, tired, scattered. Thinking of bobbing on the, relatively, vast water, the moveable island of life that held us, with nowhere we had to be, has settled me, for what I hope is a while. I was looking for a change of scenery, but I feel a reset. As I ease back into the prep/bake routine, I can honestly say I’m excited to make bread again. Cheers!