Yes, Another Day. Ventosa to Azofra 16.5 km. 

Today was a good day, filled with small moments. The early morning albergue is filled with the usual suspects who snore, make noise at 5:30 am, and in general trythe patience of their fellow pilgrims, namely me. But the sunrise walk through the red dirt vineyards of the rioja is lovely. A shell sign reminds us that we still have 593 km left to go to Santiago; but the good news is that we have walked 197.9 km or a substantial 123 miles! We’re rocking the Camino! The grapes are hanging heavy on the vine and the harvest has begun. 

As we walk, we continue to munch on the Tempranillo grapes, it is just too tempting to pick them off the vine, although I still check to see if anyone is watching. Walking through the vineyards, we pass a shepherd with his sheep and trusty sheepdog, who doesn’t appear to be paying attention to either the sheep or the shepherd. The sun beats down and we are sweatingly, happy to see the small town of Azofra appear in the shimmering distance. As we approach, John remarks that he feels like we are in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Cue that great music. Tonight we are staying at a municipal albuergue, cost 10 euro each and we get a small two bed tiny room…heaven! And a big bonus, the albuergue has a cold foot pool where everyone soaks their charred tootsies. 

While most of the pilgrims opt to eat in town at a pilgrims’ cafe, we choose to make a white bean stew with chorizo and partake a hyper-local wine, Senorio de Azofra, a crianza. Muy bueno! – K

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Barracks to beans. Logronos to Ventosa 19 km. 

Waking in my bunk among many others in the barracks, I dream I am a conscript in some strange army of zealots marching toward some unknown destination. But after coffee in the mess area I meet a couple of nice flight attendants getting ready for their walk and realized it’s mainly a regular crowd, except I’m generationally older than most. And rationalization is a self reinforcing coping mechanism. 

After last nights harvest parade through Logronos where each vineyard had a competing brass band, we left in the early morning walking through streets washed down by city workers already up before us. Crossing streets with light signals for bikes and pedestrians, it seemed a bit urban for hiking. But perhaps the nature of our trip is more migratory than recreational. At least that’s how it seems because we’re always moving on each day. 

At days end we stopped at the albergue San Saturnino in the village of Ventosa, where so few people live that there is no market and only one bar for dinner. The hostelario, however had a well stocked pantry with prices on each item and encouraged us to get “inspired.”  With his house wine at 4 Euro a bottle, we launched into creating a bean chorizo stew and had a wonderful evening talking with our fellow hikers from everywhere. It’s now 10 pm and lights out until the mandatory checkout at 8am. All is well. 

Buenas noches. 


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Two Sides of the Camino…Torres del Rio to Logrono 20km. 

Another 20 km down! We are getting slightly earlier starts and taking advantage of the cooler morning hours to make some distance. The walk today was referred to as the “knee crusher” because of the routes multiple ups and downs through the dry brown hills and cultivated valleys. To break up the day, we stopped frequently to crack and eat almonds from the trees and pick Tempranillo grapes off the vine sucking the juice and spitting the red seeds and skin onto the trail. Storm clouds out of Torres del Rio.

 Harvesting almonds.

Our lunch stop was particularly relaxing, enjoying a picnic lunch of chorizo, queso, and olive-anchovy pinchos on the steps of a 12th century church ruin. Following the advice of our hiking guru, Julia, John opted for a 10 minute meditation laying flat in the grass…I call it a nap. 

The afternoon portion of the walk is always the hardest; we are tired, the Way is hot, and the road seems longer. Looking back at the blog, I notice that our pictures are of the scenic, the medieval, the romantic; and for the most part that is a fair rendition of the walk. But there are portions, particularly coming into the urban areas like today’s Logrono, that are far less than scenic. The path may be along roadways, by gas stations, through graffiti tunnels. The “dark side” of the Way and a very hard way to end the day. 

 But all’s well that ends well; we have found our Albuergue Albas, taken hot showers and short naps and are ready to hit the town for rioja wine and 2 euro pinchos. -K

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Hostelario del KoolAid.  Villamayor to Torres del Rio, 20 km.

We awoke in the unfortunate choice of albergue for last night. (Note: Here comes the rant). Run by the Jim Jones of the Camino, proselytizing Christianity for profit to a hungry captive audience crammed into his dining room, he proceeded to force feed his propaganda and philosophy ad nauseum until we ran outside afterward. It was an offensive abuse. (Rant over).

After breakfast in a bag, substandard and overpriced (rant recurrence), we began the day anew with an early start, making 10 km before lunch.

Along the way through vineyards and fresh haystacks, we could tell the harvest celebrations must be imminent in these small communities. While snacking at the impromptu mobile cappuccino stand, Eduardo’s, he played loud energetic music just right for hikers and everyone was dancing away happily. 

Afterwards we stopped in Los Arcos to see the 12th century Iglesia de Santa Maria cathedral, known for its sculpture of a black Mary with blue eyes, inscribed in Latin “I am black but beautiful “. Unfortunately, in 1947 they refurbished the statue in white?!?

After a long afternoon in the sun, we approached our weekly indulgence in a Hostal. Wonderful private room with cold beer and a balcony upon which to hang our laundry, such luxury!

Hasta luego,


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A Short Day by Camino Standards. Villatuerta to Villamayor de Monjardin 13.2 km

After our most excellent paella dinner with “mas vino, por favor”, we had a late morning start, actually we were the last pilgrims to depart. The plan was for a short day in hopes that John’s ankle strain would continue to improve.

With that thought in mind, we started our walk without a reservation for the night. To reserve or not to reserve is an ongoing question. On one hand, if you reserve ahead, there is no worry about finding a bed for the night. The problem is a reservation commits us to a certain number of miles which may either be too many or not enough. However, no reservation is a problem when we pull into town at 5:00 or 6:00 pm and hope to find an opening. 

Today, in our continuing attempt to hit a happy medium, we left with no reservation but a plan to stop at 1:00 pm at a small town with a 25 bed albergue located in an old monastery. We arrived at 1:30 and a line of hot, sweaty pilgrims sat outside of the closed albergue. 

The instructions told us to line our packs up and the door would open at 3:00. Since the next town was about six miles, we opted for the line up. By 3:00, there were more pilgrims than there were beds. Fortunately, the bedless were offered spots at the next village, complete with a car shuttle. Nice! 

So we have spent our afternoon, washing clothes, chatting with the fellow pilgrims, and drinking our free wine that we picked up from the Monasterio Irache! What a country! 

Tomorrow, we will confront the mileage, reservation, bed conundrum again and head out for another Camino day. -K

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All roads lead to Rome unless you’re going the other way. Obanos to Villatuerta 20.2 km

Leaving Obanos, we pass through Puente la Reina named for its 12th century bridge over the river Arga, and walk on. Mostly pastoral countryside today where the village homes still have armorial crests the Knights of Templar crusades era of influence and protection in this region. The path along the Roman road is marked by olives, almonds, and grapes, which we sample surreptitiously.

Note: olives need to be rinsed nine times and brined before they taste marvelous, therefore not so good off the tree. Almonds, however taste like nothing ever before experienced; it was amazing to pull them, crack them with a rock, and bite into an explosion of bitter vanilla clove and cinnamon all at once that might have numbed my mouth. Possibly dangerous but these are the simple entertainments for a walking traveler.

Jamon y queso, Roman style. 

Evidently the Romans didn’t have bicycles. 

Struggling into Villaruerta, we have accumulated 100 km thus far with another 700 to go. It still seems like a long way and I am now familiar with shin splints as well as fatigue. But after a fine giant paella dinner with interesting people at our albergue, La Casa Magica, renewed enthusiasm may spur us forward tomorrow. Until then, hasta luego. 


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Hard to Get Back the Rhythm…Pamplona to Obanos 19.8 km

Early morning rain spattered down on Pamplona’s cobblestone streets, so John and I had another coffee at the alburgue. Annabelle, our hosteleria, wished us a buen Camino as we finally departed at 9:00 am. 

The old portion of Pamplona was fascinating but the modern suburbs with its roaring traffic was not so interesting. Walking out of a large city takes time, and in this instance sapped some of our enthusiasm for the day or maybe it was taking the zero day made us lazy wishing for more tapas and wine. At any rate, we found the 19.9 km walk challenging. 

Today, was a significant climb up and then back down with about 1000′ elevation gain. The top of the ridge had huge windmills as well as the iconic pilgrim sculpture featured in Camino movies, particularly The Way. In that movie, Martin Sheen undertook the Camino when his son died during the traverse of the Pyrenees. As it turns out, crossing those mountains is not without its real dangers. 

News travels fast along the Way, and at our Pamplona stop, I heard about a woman who fell coming down the slippery trail between Orisson and Roncesvalles; she broke her leg in four places. As I walked today, I chatted with a woman from England who added that one group had to be rescued off that same portion of the trail when they became disoriented and cold in the dark; another lady had fallen and hit her head and had to be evacuated to a hospital. Legs get wobbly after hours of hiking down rocky, slippery slopes and John and I take it very slow on those portions. 

Today we stopped short of the main town of Puente de la Reina and are staying in a brand new albuergue in Obanos. The little cubicles look comfortable and I anticipate that the hot showers, actually separated into men’s and women’s, will be fabulous. Our only problem is that the town is so small, we are not sure we will find an open cafe. Well, worst case we drink the aubergue’s San Miguel cerveza and eat our chorizo and manchego cheese from lunch. Actually, not so bad! -K

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Pamplona, a day of rest

Our first zero day, we stay over another night in Pamplona to see the sights and soothe the sore muscles. It is a medieval walled and cobblestone street city with a vibrant center full of locals and tourists enjoying the pinxtos (elaborate sandwiches) at the tapas bars late into the night.  We made an earnest effort to participate, although our albergue sleeping pods beckon us back.

Known for its running of the bulls into the Plaza de Toros, I’m reminded of Kathleen and Penny traveling here as twenty somethings years ago.  Steve and I have spent many evenings listening to them recount their adventures before our times.  Fortunately for all of us, they watched this terrifying spectacle from the sidelines. 

After more pinxtos tonight, we resume the walk in the morning. 


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Day three…how many more to go? Zubiri to Pamplona 21 km

The Zubiri auberge, Suseia, was amazing if only because of Alex’s incredible dinner.  For 23 euro, we received a bed, dinner and breakfast (plus the requisite hot shower). But calling the meal “dinner” is understating the event. Alex, a cute Spaniard 20-something, made an incredible 5 course extravaganza of beet gazpacho, goat cheese salad, basque quiche, pineapple panna cotta, and hand made chocolate.  This was our first auberge dinner, where all the pilgrims, Irish, Spanish, American, Danish sat down together for dinner. A lovely affair.

The next morning we awoke late, because some fellow pilgrim had closed the shutters and we had no idea the sun was up, and set out on our 21 km walk to Pamplona. While the aubergues in town are full, the path itself is quite empty. Granted we passed the occasional fellow pilgrim long the way, but for the most part we were alone on the trails by running rivers and flowered meadows. Where did they all go?

As we neared Pamplona, the largest town on our journey, we chose an alternate route to avoid the busy streets of the city.  As we walked the river path, local Spaniards would wish us “buen Camino” and “buen viejo”.

Tired and foot sore, we arrived through the gates of old Pamplona, another stage of the journey completed. -K

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Roman road for Roland…Roncevalles to Zubiri 21.9 km

Walking today from Roncevalles to Zubiri on remnants of a Roman road, where Roland was attacked by the Basques after sacking Pamplona with his uncle Charlemagne in 778, we listened for the sound of his horn in the woods calling to his uncle for help. Alas, Roland and the entire rear guard was lost in Charlemagne’s only defeat.

Nothing so dramatic unfolded for us as we forced our sore walking muscles into action for day two and another 21 kilometers. Coming down the last slope into Zubiri, my unprofessional opinion was of ancient cartwheel ruts in the stone pathway ahead.

 After a nice meal at the aubuerge Susiea, we searched for our bunks with the youthful crowd upstairs. Hasta manana, and on to Pamplona. 


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And so we begin…St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles 25.1 km

The starting point for the Camino Frances is the medieval town of St. Jean Pied de Port. Our first night was at the aubergue Le Chemin Vers L’Etoile; the owner an ex-Parisian that walked the Camino 9 years ago offered his sage advice, “the Camino will provide what you need but maybe not what you want”. This was a bit of foreshadowing for our overnight in his 500 year old peregrinos hostel. 

For 18 euro, we got a hot shower (John’s was cold), a bunk room with 12 other pilgrims, and a piece of French bread and jam for breakfast.  

Starting at around 4:30 am, some of our fellow pilgrims thought getting an early start was a good idea and starting digging through their packs and clomping around in their boots at that ridiculously premature hour. So John and I rolled out of bed at 5:00, and hit the pavement by 7:00 am; it was still dark outside. We were excited to finally be on our way … until we started up hill. 

Today was a classic Douglas “death march”. Over the years, our family has been involved in a number of death marches, hikes or walks driven by some unwavering need to get there. No one can fall behind; no matter the distance, the heat, the cold, the elevation, the blisters. Today was such a day. The climb was 3,000′ elevation gain over a total distance of 24.8 kilometers or 15.4 miles. The hike is said to have lovely views of the Pyrenees but today was cold (upper40’s), and windy, and rainy. Ten long hours after we started, we walked into Roncesvalles, our stop for the night. 

Despite the tribulations of weather, the hike was awesome. We chatted with fellow pilgrims from Canada, Germany, Japan, England, and Wisconsin (not actually a country) and everyone had a story and a smile. 

We saw herds of Basque mountain horses and long wooled Latxa sheep. The mist rolled across the desolate highlands and occasionally the distant villages peaked out of the fog. An amazing first day. -K

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Three days in France 

Three days in France have been a very civilized experience with crepes, croissants, and a castle: the walled medieval Cite de Carcassonne. Wandering its narrow streets with hordes of other fellow peasants, i.e. tourists, I wished for a horse and suit of armor. Unfortunately, there was a worker strike keeping the portcullis closed the day of our visit, and we were not able to see inside the keep. 
Now riding a fast train to St Jean Pied de Port, the towering Pyrenees fill the windows along the left side, reminding us of this natural barrier to migration between France and Spain. Hannibal, Charlemagne, and Napoleon all contended with its slopes and passes on their conquests east or west. Lacking their armies or elephants, we will attempt the Route de Napoleon tomorrow, simply by foot, one step at a time. 

With some trepidation, I bid you adieu. 


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Goodbye to Cadaques!

Our sojourn in Cadaques is coming to an end; John and I have no more excuses. Our jet lag is abated, we have learned the basic pidgin Spanish, our walking clothes are clean and and time is marching on. Today, we drive with Joe and Sandie to Carcassone, France, about 2 1/2 hours from Cadaques. After touring the medieval citadel, we say goodbye to our dear friends. Tomorrow, we catch three trains to our starting point, St. Jean Pied de Port, France. 

We are curious about the number of people starting on the Camino in mid September. Most of the St. Jean aubergues were booked out…no vacancy! Even more disquieting, for the first day across the Pyrenees, the only auberge on the trail is also booked out. The upshot is that we will have to hike the entire 25 km (15.5 miles) with a 3,000 foot elevation change…on our first day! Trial by fire, or in this case trail by fire. Our plan is to post daily to the blog once boots actually hit the road. 

In parting, I am posting some photos from Cadaques, Spain, an amazing start to what may be an epic walk…at least epic for a couple of 62 year olds. Buen Camino. – K

Our Cadaques home. 

The surrealist’s influence. 

Salvador Dali’s home in Port Lligat. 

Hanging at the Casa Museu Salvador Dali. 

Castellers, human tower building!

Hiking Cap de Creus. 

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Why leave Cadaques?

Jet lag was subdued by the usual methods, (coffees, meals, and naps in a revolving order), then a fine bakery and exceptional ham (jamon Iberico and Serrano) made for our complete assimilation to Catalonia. This southeastern province of Spain has its own language and pride of independence dating back centuries before, and again after Generalissimo Franco’s forceful oppression through 1975, when he died and democracy returned. Even now I see flags hanging for the independence referendum here next month. Regardless, the jamon is amazing. 

Salvador Dali began painting in this village of Cadaques and built his house in neighboring Port Lligat. An original surrealist and an epic wild man, Dali’s art, attitude, and mustache are all on display here and at his museum in Figueres. He is the local hero. 

On the morning sojourn to the bakery, I realize that Cadaques was built on, around and with the slate rock of this region. The white washed stucco walls rise from protruding boulders and narrow “streets” are paved with vertical stacks of slate like corduroy that challenge even the sure footed. There is very little sign of development in this centuries old fishing village and the hills behind are all lined with olive trees. 

Today we hiked through the olive groves and dry stacked slate terrace walls to the Cap de Creus national park overlooking the Mediterranean. Strange stone huts (allegedly from a thousand years ago), dotted the landscape and probably gave shelter to shepherds or defensive military along this point of the Pyrenees descending into the sea. 

So here we are with good friends, Joe and Sandie, exploring Catalonia.  And to paraphrase Dali, is this the path of the enigma? Or in other words, why leave Cadaques? We will think about that on Tuesday. 

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Stepping out. 

The Camino pilgrimage starts when you step out the front door; in this case, we stepped off the boat onto the dock to begin our journey. At the rail station, we weighed our packs; John’s came in at 16.6 and mine was 13.5. Each pack held our life possessions for the next two months, a curated collection of quick dry clothes sprinkled with key ditties. The Cascadia train dropped us off at Portland’s Union Station and we trekked in 91 degree heat through scattered homeless. We sort of fit in and no one hit us up for change. By the time we arrived sweaty and tired at the airport hotel, we were already reconsidering our commitment to this 500 mile plan. However our spirits were lifted when we boarded our series of first class flights (a mileage plan ticket score at only 40,000 miles Portland to Barcelona), no more walking for 18 hours! Personal pods with attentive stewardesses and real food, this is going to be amazing. Unfortunately, three hours into the transatlantic flight at around 1:00 am., the crew announced that they needed a doctor for an emergency. John, as he has done on other flights, volunteered his skills; ultimately, he had to work the entire night and never got to enjoy his sleeping pod. Upon landing, the passenger/patient walked off the plane and was picked up by waiting Spanish EMS. Job well done! 

Lucky for us in our jet lagged state, our friends Joe and Sandie picked us up in Barcelona and we whisked off to an incredible house exchange in Cadaques, a white washed town set on the Mediterranean. Recuperation will take us a few days, assisted by an abundance of Spanish wine, prosciutto, and manchego cheese, and then we plan our path to the start of the Camino, St. Jean Pied de Port, France. – K

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The Broughtons Beyond the Salish Sea

Now that Laysan is shut down, tied up, and pickled for a long winters nap, it’s time to recount a wonderful summer cruise to the Broughtons and back.  

The Broughton Archipelago is a large BC Marine Park of over 200 islands and 20000 acres of protected land between northern Vancouver island and the BC coast. Sparsely populated now except for bears and fish, it is a cruise boaters refuge, and even after six weeks we’ve only sampled the region. Suffice it to say, there were many quiet days at anchor and plenty of crustaceans at dinner time.
The First Nation sites of five thousand years have shell middens fifteen feet deep where their long houses sat and they harvested protein from the sea. We walked along these beaches amazed that the huge cedar frame logs remained despite the villages’ abandonment fifty years ago. Treading carefully beside rows of wild blackberries, we appreciated the solitude until realizing we were actually not alone. Kathleen was ahead on the white shell beach when I heard those familiar words, “hey bear”. Now I’m behind Steven who’s behind Kathleen who’s facing the big bear, and I’ve got the bear spray. Of course. Bear seems only intent on more berries regardless of us three on this narrow beach, and continues slowly foraging towards us as we back into one another, repeating the mantra ” hey bear, hey bear “. I don’t think bear had paid attention to the ranger lesson on human encounters. Nonetheless, he eventually turned inshore toward the old long house frames and we began normal breathing again. Whew. Back in the dinghy to the relative safety of our anchored Laysan and a glass of wine for a sunset review of the day.

In between wildlife encounters, I performed boat maintenance for both necessity and improvement. As I learned, entropy is inevitable and redundancy is temporary, meaning once the backup is engaged the impending total system failure is a greater threat. This is especially important in toilets and steering, both items that seemingly get the crew’s rapt attention. Fortunately I managed to get both systems back on line to much applause. 
By the numbers, (approximately, because I’m writing this at a distance from my log book), Laysan carried us for a hundred days and almost a thousand miles using four hundred gallons of diesel with only ten days in marinas , and the rest at anchor. Friends and family enjoyed Kathleen’s bounty as a crustacean hunter, but alas, yet another year without a salmon. We do own more fishing tackle these days but it’s seemingly still not working yet. 

Meanwhile daughter Julia has hiked the mountains of Japan, weathering Typhoon Noru for two days in a shelter on Mount Hakusan. Son Connor enjoyed the cruising life on Laysan and resumed his senior year studies at the University of Utah. 

And then came the tempest from nature, Hurricane Harvey. Daughter Sarah left on a pleasant afternoon from Seattle for Port Aransas to resume her studies at UT MSI, only to be greeted by hurricane warnings and evacuation orders the next day. Out of nowhere, from flat calm to devastation in two days, Sarah wrapped up her lab and her apartment and sought refuge with the relatives in Arlington. Now only a week later, Port A is already rebuilding their town, her university, and her home together like only a community of fellowship can. She is safe, strong, and surrounded by good people. 
And so now the journey changes from cruising to walking as we begin our way to the Camino de Santiago across Spain. Five hundred miles on a thousand year old foot path, this should be interesting. Stay tuned, stay healthy, and thanks for listening. All the best. 

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Timeless at Turnbull Cove

Timeless at Turnbull Cove

After a push up the Strait of Georgia for Campbell River, we visited our friends and former crew mates, John and Naomi. Feasting and hiking together, while also provisioning at the big yellow store, it was great to see them and we hope they join us for a few days up north.

Strathcona Provincial Park with Naomi and Riley

Campbell River with Naomi and John

Campbell River is the last town with everything, and next comes the Seymour Narrows with its famous 17 knot currents that even the cruise ships wait out for slack. As advised, we caught the slack before ebb on a nice Friday evening and rode the current up Johnstone Strait on a rare windless day to Small Inlet, where we had spent last year riding out a gale with our crew of five. This time it was flat calm and tempting to stay, but we left early the next morning to catch the ebb again further north toward the new and unknown. With the favorable current and no significant wind, Laysan broke new speed records of 13 knots and we arrived at Port Harvey that afternoon.

The floating barge marina there is renowned for pizza, pastries, and bears upstream, but alas the barge had sunk under mysterious circumstances last winter, so no joy there. Sometimes the locals move their floating homes ashore to avoid these problems until they pull them back on the water and follow opportunity elsewhere. It’s a different form of mobility.

So we moved on to Cutter Cove, carefully selected for its southeast orientation in the face of a northwesterly gale forecast, only to find out it catches the wind like a funnel rushing toward the mainland. We swung at the end of our new anchor chain, made tea, and watched four bears rummaging along the shoreline. Blustery, but nice, and binocular distance is good for bears.

Bear at Binocular Distance

Wahkana Bay by ourselves for a couple of nights yielded our first big haul with the new prawn trap, 54! And they are the size of mini lobsters! Kathleen is getting good at crustaceans, and adopting the local term of “food fishing” with vigor. Every day resets a new limit for the haul, and she will not miss an opportunity. As able assistant fisher, I’ve honed my cleaning skills and become quite familiar with crustacean anatomy. Kwatsi Bay nearby is in a bowl with thousand foot cliffs all around and waterfalls everywhere. Some cruisers there recommended Turnbull Cove and we started again further north.

Prawns in the trap

Future dinner

Enroute overnight at Shoal Harbor, we visited Billy Proctor’s museum. A true denizen of the north, he proudly showed us his collection of logging and trolling artifacts, his hand loggers cabin, and his boat Ocean Dawn, a genuine wooden salmon troller from which Laysan might derive some honest lineage in design and style. We bought his book, Full Moon Flood Tide, and it has added a lot of realism to the places up here with stories of the last hundred years of characters driven to survive and succeed up here, as well as the first nations civilization prospering for thousands of years before.

Bill Proctor’s Museum

Bill Proctor’s boat

Burly Bay

So now we sit quietly at anchor in Turnbull Cove, latitude 50 north, catching prawns in the afternoon, hiking to a lake nearby, and finding enough bear scat to keep us alert with one hand on the bear spray. Maybe we will leave tomorrow, but then again maybe not.

Hike to Huaskin Lake

All the best.


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When we were in civilized lands…

Reflecting back on our transit through the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, I now realize we were in civilized lands.  Unlike the empty, silent, grey waters and mountains of the Broughton Archipelago, the San Juan Islands are like a kiddy ride or maybe a Disney excursion.  The San Juans are bustling and sunny; chock full of bear-free hiking trails and rapid-free channels; open and easy anchorages; plentiful activities ashore.  

In this day tripper’s cruising paradise, one anchorage stands out as my favorite….shhh don’t tell…Wescott Bay, San Juan Island.  We have been here multiple times over the last few years and I am convinced that it is the best spot in the islands.  Weaving our way down narrow Wasp passage, a little adrenaline is generated navigating the currents and dog leg turns.  Entering by rocky White Point, we bypass the inexplicably popular Garrison Bay and settle in the quiet, usually empty Wescott Bay.  The bay is pastoral with a few vacation houses on one side of the bay and on the other, the untouched forest of English Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park.  The bay is shallow with a mud bottom, the best combination for worry free anchoring.  

Launching the dinghy, we motor over to English Camp and tie up at their lovely dinghy dock; a true luxury because now we don’t have to get our feet wet going ashore nor do we have to worry about the 10′ tidal change that can leave the dinghy perplexingly high and dry.  

​​​​Wescott Bay Dinghy Ride (click to see the short video).

The park is the site of a British fort established to protect the English claim on the San Juan Islands in the 1860’s.  We wander the grounds checking out the tiny, manicured officer’s garden, the 8 sided stockade, the enormous British flag flying over the grounds, and an ancient Native American midden.  

Happy to stretch our legs, we set out on a six mile hike up Young Hill to survey the Haro Strait and a distant Vancouver Island. Continuing down and around the Hill, we spy deer, eagles, robins; admire the tall, native Garry oaks; walk thru waist high meadows of grass.  During the entire hike, we only see one person out enjoying the trail.

Before retiring back to Laysan, we stop by the Wescott Bay oyster farm to pick a half dozen fresh oysters for our evening BBQ.  As the oysters sizzle on the grill, the bay once again delivers a most beautiful sunset.  Perfect.

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Good to go, or enough already


image4IMG_3390IMG_3388IMG_4027Enough is not a word found on the Captain’s pre-departure checklist, but that was the agreed upon sentiment after a week at the dock running up all the systems on Laysan and provisioning for three months off the grid. Olympia is one of our favorite cities, with marine supplies, a bakery, a craft beer tap room, and a farmers market all within walking distance of the dock. But despite these obvious attractions, eventually it’s just time to go, and today was the day.

One thing I learned, is it is not easy to burp a Diesel engine. Unlike a baby, there is no patting, bouncing, or mini-Heimlich maneuver to get the air out after a coolant exchange. Glug glug, you just can not force feed the recalcitrant fluid until the air bubbles rise to the bleed ports, or it will run hot immediately. Nonetheless, I love engine day almost as much as grease day, and baby Iveco and I came out feeling much better after all.

It was a tight squeeze getting out of the slip, and we had to back down the long fairway steering with the bow thruster; fortunately it was no wind, no current, and most importantly, no touch, my favorite. Then within a couple of hours, we were anchored at Hope Island, a state marine park with hiking tails through old growth forest, and the cruise north has begun. The Pacific High pressure system has moved in early this year for unseasonably warm days (the locals call 70’s warm), and clear views of Mount Ranier, so there is nothing to complain about here.

The plan is to cruise by Seattle next week, and then up to the San Juans and into Canada by early June. Destination is unknown, with the intent to explore beyond the Salish Sea into the Broughton Islands, inching ever closer toward Alaska. We will see.

All the best to our friends and family out there.  Be well and stay in touch.

John and Kathleen

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Salish Sea Summary

Looking  out the window at ridiculously perfect weather with palm trees and rainbows, I’m still wondering why we’re not on the boat, but the realities of early retirement necessitate replenishment of the so-called cruising kitty, and that means work. Not a bad gig really, and I enjoy the medicine and the patients, and besides, the weather in Seattle was turning into that cold gray wet they call winter, not very nice at all.
The often asked question:”What do you do all day”, is answered zen-simply, “Read, dinghy, walk, dinghy, repeat.”, with an occasional moment of wheel gripping shrieks in the middle of boat setting currents or gale force wind gusts. Family and friends rotated through Laysan this summer exploring the first and second stages of Pacific Northwest cruising, i.e. the San Juans and Desolation Sound. We generally spent a half day running followed by three days at anchor, not setting any speed records, but rather learning and relaxing our way into a familiarity with the PNW. Next year perhaps a longer leap north, and then a similar slowdown in new and interesting surrounds. Will we ever make it to Alaska? Or more importantly, will we ever catch a salmon? Not sure, but maybe close enough to see it soon anyway, and Kathleen will not give up on her quest for free fish.

Salish Sea Summary

June – September, 2016

109 days cruising

19 days at marinas averaging $50/ night

90 nights at anchor, 82%, all free.

1055 miles, 193 engine hours

344 gallons diesel at 1.8 gph, plus 106 genset and diesel heater hours, for an additional 100 gallons.
That totals approximately 450 gallons for transportation and comfort over four months of cruising, and the fillup at Anacortes was our best bargain yet at $2.18/gallon. The only two mechanicals that occurred with minor delays were the genset exhaust and the outboard carburetor. Miscellaneous painting, varnishing, and system adjustments kept the tool bag nearby, and altogether made Laysan look even better at the end of the trip.

Although this summary was a bit of a late entry into the blog, all is well at home and work in Hawaii. And with much assistance from son Connor, we have compiled a video of the people and places we enjoyed together. While Laysan sleeps in Olympia, we’re all looking forward to next year.

All the best,


Here is the link to our video:


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