Our 2018 Summer Cruise finale

This year’s summer cruise is coming to an end here in Port Ludlow, about 3 hours north of Seattle. Our visit to Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC was as enchanting as usual, filling our senses with the color and smells of the magical gardens. Some of the dahlias were as big as my head! I included a picture of the bark of the 100 year-old Alders lining the walk down to the sunken gardens.

What a legacy Jennie Butchart left for all of us. Interestingly, the gardens are still run by their Great-Granddaughter, representing the 5th generation of a successful family business. Something to aspire to as we work to steward Dick’s Drive-Ins for our future generations.

Butchart not only has the wonderful gardens, but also a lovely restaurant and delightful summer concerts almost every night.

We loved our time anchored in Tod Inlet next to Butchart Gardens and enjoyed an easy crossing of The Strait of Juan de Fuca as we returned to the USA. As usual we anchored at the almost empty Fort Flagler state park across from Port Townsend, then took our dinghy into town the next day and enjoyed a yummy lunch and an hour of hot tubbing at Soak On The Sound. That night, we even saw some phosphorescence in the water again although the light from nearby Port Townsend diminished the glow.

Now we are finishing up in Port Ludlow at the hotel/marina there, about an hour south of Port Townsend. We haven’t stopped here in almost 10 years. Needless to say, it has grown quite a bit in the last 10 years, but it’s still a pretty little bay. It gave us an opportunity to relax at the dock, do some more kayaking, eat a yummy meal at the hotel restaurant and plug into shore power to recharge our batteries. Usually we can recharge our batteries with our generator, but yesterday when we left Fort Flagler our generator failed. Good timing for us since our need for a generator is over for now! We can just “plug in” the boat at the dock today and when we’re back in Seattle. Our mechanic has been notified and will meet us at our marina in Seattle on Wednesday morning.

One nice surprise: we learned from a facebook post that two of our very special friends, Carrie and Troy Shaw, were in the neighborhood on a vacation of their own, so they drove over and met us for breakfast before heading to the coast. What a treat to get to see them!

After they left we took advantage a “boat & golf” package at the marina and played nine holes. The air today is heavy with smoke from the forest fires in BC, Washington and Oregon, but we still enjoyed getting back into the golf swing of things.

Tomorrow we will leave early, refuel in Kingston and return to our slip at the Elliott Bay Marina by 2pm so the First Mate can get to her seriously needed haircut appointment. It’s time to clean up a bit! And we will get to visit the grandkids for dinner!

So our voyage ends with us relaxed and inspired. We’ve seen humpbacks, orcas, fishing sea lions, eagles, kingfishers, herons, raccoons, seals and otters. We’ve met new friends, enjoyed beautiful sunsets, shooting stars and amazing phosphorescence. We’ve discovered new gunk holes, rivers and docks. We were able to visit Princess Louisa twice in one summer and are excited to plan a longer voyage next year when we’re officially “retired.” We’ve improved our chess game, learned to paddle board and had some great philosophical discussions.

Thanks again for sharing it all with us!

Tata for now!

The Captain and The First Mate of the True Love.

Return to PLI but first Friel Falls

After our crazy windy evening in Powell River the winds calmed enough the next day for us to leave the marina there so we did. Our journey back to PLI included clouds, some wind, and some rain but generally was no problem and we turned into Jervis Inlet heading to our our favorite place. We all hoped the rain would clear out the smoke. Here is a photo our new friends from Aluel Winery in Seattle took of us leaving.

We were trying to time our arrival at Malibu Rapids (the entrance to PLI) with the slack current before high tide; that way we can ride the flood tide up the fjord, clear the rapids and then secure our shore tie when its easiest to do that (at high tide). It looked like we were going to arrive at the rapids too early so as we were cruising the First Mate remembered reading about Friel Falls in Hotham Sound. Turns out it was less than 5 miles away from us so we decided to do a detour and spend our “waiting” time there on a new exploration.

Friel Falls plunges 1,400 feet and even late in the season there was a lot of water coming down (we plan to begin our summer boating trip next year in June so we can see all the waterfalls in their full glory). It falls from Friel Lake and we even lucked out with light winds and some sunshine so the First Mate deployed the paddle board.

After playing for about an hour we headed again toward PLI, about 30 miles up the fjord. Everything went according to plan; our favorite anchorage was available and after we secured the shore tie and dropped the anchor we felt the calm and magic of PLI. Because of the rain the waterfalls were temporarily flowing like it was early summer, but it was cloudy so we were not able to watch the Perseids meteor shower. But we were rewarded with three days of remarkable phosphorescence in the water.

The first night of phosphorescence were pretty normal, if you can call this unusual phenomenon normal. As we experienced the one night the year before, I looked out behind the True Love and there was a glow where a nearby waterfall hit the surface of the inlet. So I snapped the stern line on the water and ohhhh there it was! The Captain and I then disturbed the water around us with paddles and ropes to create glowing shapes on the water. We laughed and giggled and enjoyed it as if we were children playing with sparklers on Independence Day.

The next day we woke hoping that the clouds had cleared and they had but unfortunately the clouds were replaced by a smoky haze from distant forest fires. The waterfalls were really very small compared to our visit a month earlier despite yesterday’s rain. Amazingly or maybe predictably, the water was about 70 degrees, 3 degrees cooler from the shorter days in mid-August compared to mid-July. The warm water is created by the limited tidal exchange with the Pacific and from the hot summer sun and the long, 17+ hour long early summer days in the inlet. The first mate still took a swim or two. 7AECEE71-7182-47E6-AE2E-4688F84BE958.jpegAnd the Captain tried the paddle board successfully. We were also visited by a heron that was fishing along the shore. Harry (yes Harry Heron) visited us every day. Also on our way into our anchorage we spotted the mother seal with two pups we saw in July. We were worried then that the second, smaller pup wouldn’t survive. But it turns out it did! Still smaller, but it looked healthy and much better than the month before.

During the day we met some new friends, Bridget and Bill and helped them with some shore tie advice because this was their first visit to PLI on their boat “Aimless.” Our day was filled the usual PLI way with meditation, reading, kayaking and now paddle boarding. When night descended we knew the smoke was not going to allow us to see peak Perseids, but would we get phosphorescence again? Boy did we! This time there was a large school of small fish around us and as the fish swam around the water all around us was glowing and sparkling at different depths intermittently like the lights at a concert. As we walked out on the True Love’s swim platform the door thunked shut behind us and the low drum sound vibrated the water so all the fish moved at once . . . and voila! fireworks in the water! We were enchanted, astonished and giggling with each thunk. Alas, although I tried, it was too dark to photograph or video.

Our third day was spent much the same. The smoke unfortunately thickened. When a sea plane landed we went over to get information on how widespread the smoke was now. It turns out it was everywhere, from Seattle north, as our readers in Seattle know.

Later in the day we enjoyed cocktails with Bridget and Bill, and shared our combined joyful phosphorescence discovery. They experienced the same thing. The Captain and First Mate decided if we got the phosphorescence an unprecedented third night we would take the tender out to see how the propeller on the outboard engine looked in the water. Well they were there again, glowing all around with the movement of the fish and driving the tender through the water created a comet tail behind the boat. While moving we played with glowing feet in the water and glowing paddles at different depths, all filling us with joy and laughter.

The next day the smoke was even thicker. Unfortunately, the smoke was flowing into our little inlet like a funnel into a bottle. Despite the sunrise the temperature wasn’t very warm and we departed PLI with the slack current that morning and rode the ebb tide back toward civilization. We shared info with passing yacht cruising toward PLI and he said the smoke wasn’t as bad further south near Nanaimo so we decided to do a long day cruising and end in Nanaimo, depending on the winds in the Georgia Strait.

We weren’t in any rush so we cruised close to the west shore looking for future waterfalls and gunk holes. We stopped along the way for a floating meditation and I tried to reach out to the creatures in the water for an orca sighting. We were told by a whale guide that orcas had entered Jervis a couple of weeks ago, something we had never seen.

A fellow boater told us about a good iPhone app a lot of sailboaters use called “Predict Wind.” It is very helpful and seems to be accurate. It predicted a calm crossing of the Georgia Strait and so we did continue to Nanaimo. That is where we saw the orcas!

A pod of around 5 or 6 were fishing all around us. It appeared they were catching. One orca surfaced right in front of the True Love and we had to quickly cut the engines. Our next hour was spent with the orcas. I turned on the music and we tried to capture some photos with the telephoto. Orcas are truly hard to photograph because unlike humpbacks you need to capture them coming up out of the water, not descending like the humpbacks. I thanked the water creatures for responding to my meditation and prayers and we headed on to Nanaimo, leaving the orcas fishing behind us.

In Nanaimo we felt very lucky at first because we got the last spot on the Cameron Island pier. Unfortunately, it was on the outside of the pier. We have never been on the outside and we soon learned we would never stop there again. The outside is rocked heavily by the ferry waves every hour or so. And rocked doesn’t describe the motion quite enough. It’s more like the scene in Mary Poppins where the cannon goes off on a regular schedule and the household has to prepare to catch everything as it falls screaming “places everyone”! But we tied down, cleaned up and headed into town for our annual Greek dinner at Astera Taverna. We ordered our usual combo plate dinner with yummy calamari, ate half and enjoyed the rest for lunch yesterday.

In Nanaimo we were docked behind the 200′ “Huntress”, a $75 million mega yacht that can be rented for $450,000 a week in high season, plus expenses. It was quite the draw at the docks and it didn’t get knocked around by the waves. It only sleeps 10, but it does have 20 crew to take care of its passengers.

After arriving back at the True Love satiated and experiencing more rocking, we knew we would be leaving first thing the next morning. No need to set an alarm of course, the rocking woke us and we left to cruise through Dodd Narrows with the slack current to a place I’ve read about often, but had never stopped at in the southern gulf islands: the mural town of Chamainus. The description in the Waggoner Cruising Guide sounded delightful but we had never visited it before because we are always heading north or south with great purpose, quickly. Now we had time, so we stopped for a stroll and some baked goods and it was worth it. It’s adorable with over 30 murals depicting the history of the town, cute little restaurants and three bakeries. We will stop there again.

Feeling really tired from three late nights of phosphorescence entertainment, and a super early start in Nanaimo we decided we needed a sure thing anchorage and a couple of nights somewhere fun and easy. So we are currently anchored in the little inlet behind Butchart Gardens in Victoria. We slept great last night and today we will kayak, paddle board, enjoy the gardens, share a lovely dinner at the restaurant there and end with an evening jazz concert near the restaurant.

It looks like we will be able to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the calm winds predicted for Friday so we will do another long cruise tomorrow and take our time the last 4 days in northern Puget Sound before heading home. We will anchor the True Love in Fort Flaggler near Port Townsend for two nights and then spend two nights in Port Ludlow where we will take advantage of the “boat and golf package” and ease slowly back into reality. That is the plan anyway. Let’s see if the wind predictions are accurate.

The Captain and the First Mate of the True Love

Re-entry

Our 2017 True Love Adventure is coming to an end.  The last few days we have had some very peaceful times in a few of our favorite anchorages, at Lasqueti Island, Cabbage Island and finally Port Townsend.

Given the smoke and colder temps up north, we spent a long day getting to Lasqueti and decided to stay an extra day because the conditions were perfect for peace and kayaking.  

We visited the funky hippie community by tender for a yummy lunch and a few provisions:  milk, kale and a scrumptious somewhat healthy muffin.  This was a perfect place to stop.

 Unfortunately, our second night at anchore wasn’t as calm as expected and we were awoken to really strong northwestern winds battering us.  The anchor held beautifully, but it wasn’t a restful night and in the morning we had to move to some protection to get the tender up.

So we decided to do another long day down to Cabbage Island where we began our Canadian adventure this year.  Once we were safely anchored, we embraced a calm afternoon and took a nap using our new 3.5″ self-inflating REI camp cushions.  They are extremely comfortable. 

The evening winds were calm and the prediction was for continued calm south winds at night.  Perfect for our anchorage.  After a yummy dinner and a smoky sunset we went to sleep early expecting to kayak in the morning. 

Unfortunately, the wind got us again.  It came from the north, not the south as forecast and we were treated to another bumpy night.   

Once again we rose early and this time after a quick refil for gas at Roche Harbor we decided to do some orca hunting before heading across a predicted calm Strait of Juan de Fuca.   The crossing was thankfully calm, but no orcas.  Turns out they are eating lots of big salmon on the choppy west coast of Vancouver Island.

Our goal for the night –  Port Townsend, a needed night at the dock and a a meal at Sirens. Both goals accomplished, although the slip was too close to the breakwater and its Hitchcock-like gathering of seagulls and other assorted waterfowl.  Luckily, we were never bombed. But the overwhelming smell at low-tide just wasn’t good.  

So, we moved the boat to Fort Flagger the next day and went back to anchoring.  We took the tender to the south side of town for the first time instead of the community dinghy dock near the center because that’s where Kathy’s Nails was located. We had made a coveted and hard to get pedicure appointment.   After wonderful pedicures (3 weeks on th boat makes for some pretty ratty feet) and a day walking Port Townsend, we ended our excursion seeing the movie Big Sick.  We highly recommend it.  The adorable Rose Theater is a great place to watch a movie. 

Last night we actually watched the sun set almost all the way into the horizon for the first time in two weeks.  Our plan was to head to Seattle today, but given that it’s still smokey and hot in Seattle and pretty clear here, we are going to wait another day before full re-entry.  We have full connectivity so emails and calls are in full swing.  

After a working morning we tendered into Port Townsend to get a game we saw for the grandkids, pick up a piece of art for us and enjoyed a late lunch.  

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but we really love Port Townsend.  It’s idyllic on a sunny day like today.  The views, the quaint atmosphere and the sweet minstrels on the corners. Thursdays are their Music At The Pier evenings.  But, that seems to bring out all sorts of musicians on every street corner.   For lunch we headed to a new place suggested by a local the day before.  She overheard us talking about choices and suggested Alchemy.

And the local advice was spot on.  Alchemy is a yummy French bistro near the fountain.  The fountain anchors Washington State’s smallest park.  We weren’t disappointed.  The French onion soup was delicate, the salmon salad fresh and perfect and the Croque-madame really couldn’t have been better. Now we have another restaurant we love in Port Townsend.  

Staying mindful as we re-enter is certainly a challenge.  But of course that’s the goal, taking what we’ve learned this trip and using it in everyday life.   We will do our best.
Until our next Adventure!  

The Captain & the First Mate of the True Love

The Joy of Grandchildren, the Agony of Appliance Failure

Can you fine the seal?

Our trip this year began  with a little different pace. We didn’t leisurely begin our True Love Adventure, but we motored quickly north, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, through the San Juans past Friday Harbor and to our anchorage just across the Canadian border at Cabbage Island marine park.  We’ve been there before and it’s one of our favorites.  We needed the long day on Friday to be sure that we could easily get to Sidney, BC on Saturday afternoon to meet Jasmine, David, James and Robert when they arrived by ferry from Anacortes.  Luckily, even though we got to Cabbage Island at 6:30 PM. there was still a good spot to anchor in the little harbor and we were treated to lovely views and a peaceful evening. 

The next morning we had some house keeping to do to get ready for the troops before we headed west towards Sidney. It was a perfect cruising day with calm winds and we were treated to lovely views of Mt Baker, eagles and seals.  It striking how prominent Mt. Baker is in southern BC.  You can see it well from so many places.

Our plan was to arrive in Sidney a couple of hours before the kids, get settled, reconnoiter and find the ferry terminal.  We had never moored before at Sidney Harbour Marina and it is a truly lovely stop.  The marina is very nice, the town is great to walk around and includes an exceptional bakery (the “monster foot” shaped donuts were a hit), and what has to be the fanciest self-serve laundromat I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world — complete with leather chairs, a big screen TV and a snack bar.

The ferry from Anachortage was on time and an ideal way for traveling with young ones.  We all walked back to the marina where Jasmine and David dropped off their bags and quickly rallied to grab a taxi and head out for a date night at Butchart Gardens for a concert, dinner, fireworks (in the sky) and brief evening together.  

We had a blast with James and Robert, ate dinner, played, showered and helped them into their bunk beds.  Jasmine and David had a nice evening although a cruise ship was in town so the gardens were packed.   

I wish I could say the kids slept well, but that is not the phase they are in now.  It was a theme for their visit.  This too shall pass, but poor Jasmine and David are so sleep deprived, we don’t know how they do everything they do!  Children are certainly for the young.

Sunday we woke up and stopped by the baker in town before cruising around the top of the peninsula that is the north boundary of Victoria and its suburbs and then south into the bay that includes the boat entrance to Butchart Gardens.

James loved this fountain.

Little Captain James looking for safe passage.

Foot donut was a big hit.

We thought it would be a perfect spot for James and Robert and it was!  David got to spend Sunday with us before heading back on the evening ferry for an important meeting at Amazon on Monday.  We played with the kids at the little beach area, enjoyed the gardens and generally a great time was had by all.

Jim and I even got to enjoy a romantic dinner at the gardens on Sunday night while Jasmine was back on the True Love with the grandkids.   We’ve never had dinner at the nice restaurant  at Butchart Gardens before; it was yummy and peaceful.  A string quartet was playing at the outdoor amphitheater nearby and after dinner we strolled through the gardens serenaded by lovely music.  If it sounds perfect, it was.

The next day after some fun swimming and beach play we lifted anchor to journey to Montegue Harbour.  Before leaving, however, the first of several “appliance” failures began when the kitchen faucet stopped working.  Jasmine and I took the top off and tried to repair a small piece of plastic that makes the thing work, but to no avail.  But after removing the handle we could get water using a pair of pliers.  Not a big deal we thought, it should be easy to replace the faucet in Nanaimo, a mid-size city and our next stop.

 Then shortly after we began our cruise  north the fridge went “nock, nock, nock, put, put, put, big sigh.”  Oh no!  We thought our 12 year old fridge had just died!  This would be a much bigger problem So we rerouted back towards Sidney, made some calls, put a thermometer in the fridge and found to our surprise that it was still working.  

The Captain and I decided we could take the risk and head towards Naniamo with our planned one night stop at Montague Harbour.  Anchoring there we had another 24 hours of beach play, sand castles, swimming, pretend baseball in the salon, reading, lots of laughter but again not much sleep.  

Poor James suffers from occasional night terrors and he had a doozy on this trip.  They are so weird. He’s very upset, but not awake, and inconsolable.  Jasmine is a saint, calmly holding him and soothing him. We were really no help.  Jasmine stroked James, I stroked Jasmine and Jim stroked me until James finally woke up surprised that we had him out of bed.  The next morning, as usual, he remembered nothing about it and was our normal happy James.

As many of you know the Captain is a compulsive sand castle builder and this trip had lots of castle building.  I’m sure it is just the beginning of many years of fun sand castle building with Baba.

Our final stop on our True Love Adventure with the grandkids was Naniamo.  We enjoyed the beautiful waterfront, the big playground, and some yummy fish and chips and ice cream before they boarded their seaplane back to Lake Washington. 

After they flew home, the Captain and First Mate breathed a sigh of relief that all went well.  We were now ready to enter the more tranquil part of our journey.  Little did we know that our faucet repair was going to be much more of a challenge then we first thought.

Part 2:

While in Nanaimo we did our usual reprovisioning at the local Thiftway, and had a scrumptious dinner at our favorite Greek restaurant (Astera Taverna).  We also took a taxi to the Loews to buy a new faucet and some other supplies.  

I also decided to remove the shower door from the front bathroom.  It’s a great shower, but the door is a killer, opening a foot into the small shower with a sharp corner. The new shower curtain works so much better.  But the sharp corner got me one last time while I was removing  it.  Good riddens! 

While in Nanaimo we called ahead and made massage appointments for the next day in Egmont at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge, a beautiful little hotel with great views.  Crossing the Strait of Georgia was typically bumpy and rocky.  No problem really, but just uncomfortable for about two hours. Once we were safely across near the mainland shore it was an easy cruise to Egmont. 

And we were treated to a spectacular rainbow.

The next morning we decided to wake early and replace the faucet before our massages at 10. And so the faucet drama begins.  First, it was not easy to remove.  We didn’t have the nifty tool to remove the bolt from the long bolt underneath the sink.  Actually, we learned later that we did have the nifty tool in the new faucet kit, but not before we brutally took apartheid old faucet, complete with bending and breaking each copper pipe.  It was quite an accomplishment.  No problem, we were now ready to install the new faucet, easy sneezy.  But no!  The size of the new pipes did not match our water system!  This wouldn’t normally be a problem, we would just drive to any hardware store and get two 3/8th to 1/2 adapters.  Unfortunately, the closest hardware store was a two hour boat trip away; or a thirty minute taxi ride but the nearest taxi is two hours away.  And, to further complicate the situation, on the boat if one of the faucets cant be turned off the entire water system shuts down because there is just one master shut off.  No Water!  #!&@!!!!! And since we just destroyed the pipes from the old faucet to remove it we couldn’t put it back.  

We asked for some help both at the Back Eddy Resort where we were moored and the Wilderness Lodge next door where we scheduled our massages.  Everyone was so helpful.  Jacqueline, the manager of the Back Eddy Resort found us some old parts from her emergency plumbing repair box but unfortunately nothing worked.  But Paul, the owner of Wilderness Lodge and a really nice guy was driving into town that afternoon and got us the two adapters we needed while he was there.

Massaged and fed we were ready to easily complete our plumbing project.  Which we did, only to find the now the water pump would not turn back on!  Are you kidding me?  We did everything we could think of: check every fuse and breaker, bled the system of air but clearly there was no power at the water pump.  Could the pump have died too?  Are you kidding me.  We couldn’t call our boat guru Ben Rhoades because there is no cell phone service in Egmont, so we tried to communicate by cryptic, intermittent, weak wifi-assisted texts.  Two hours later, feeling stupid, exhausted and very frustrated (after walking to the office and calling Ben on a land line) we learned where the solenoid was, what it is, and how to rewire it to send the electricity directly to the pump, avoiding the solenoid and the circuit breaker.  And voila, easy as that, the water system worked again.  

We celebrated with showers and although we both wanted to collapse in bed we rallied to walk up the dock for a beer and some food before collapsing in bed.

Now every time we turn on the kitchen faucet we smile with pride.

I’m now committed to read the entire Boat Owners Illustrated Electrical Handbook this trip.

Now the Bliss

We left Egmont two days ago for a whole week alone in Princess Louisa Inlet.  This is truly one of our favorite places in the entire world.  The snow capped mountains, warm water, and minimal people are completely energizing and restorative.  Our days our made up enjoying quiet time together, the beauty all around us, floating on the water, eating,  kayaking and some hiking.

The last two nights we have gone to bed early and woken up in the middle of the night for star watching.  The dark sky entertains us with lots of stars, the Milky Way, shooting stars, satellites tracking across the sky and even the International Space Station.  We read a couple of nights ago that you can see about stars with the naked eye.  I think we can see all of them! 

Other than the Electrical Handbook, The Captain is reading Thick Nhat Hahn’s How to Love, Relax, Walk, Sit and Eat books.  It’s leading to some wonderful discussions. I’m reading book 12 of the Inspector Ganache murder mystery series.

A week reading and enjoying the beauty of nature, no phones,  no internet.  True Love, true healing.  Thank you God and the universe for this wonder gift.  And thank you for running water!

Part 3:

We’ve never given each other a gift like the last 6 days. Complete calm and bliss.  Mary Chapain Carpenter’s song “What If We Went To Italy” captures the feeling perfectly.  We have both been mentally lazy and physically active.  We’ve had lots of quiet and great conversations.  Our love and healing is very deep.



We took a short hike near McDonald Island and the moss was fantastic.


But the time has come to share our beautiful space with friends. We had to prepare for our guests.  For the first time we left the tender with the shore tie and took the True Love out to the deep waters outside the main Inlet to run the engines and clean the tanks.  Out here the “solution to pollution is dilution”.  And we went to where the big inlet is wide, the currents are strong and it’s 1,200 feet deep.

After retrieving the tender and re-anchoring it was time to do some tidying.  Our chores were completed by lunch leaving us plenty of time to enjoy our last day in PLI alone to its fullest: meditating, floating, loving, reading.  Last night when we woke to see the stars the Captain noticed a glow from the small waterfall.  Phosphorescence!  So cool!  Has it always been here? Making the water glow with the shore ties and the paddles was true giddy fun.  Stars in the sky and in the water!  Turns out it was just for one night.

 Islands of Art

  Our journey takes us next to Benesse Art Islands.  To get to this spot in Japan southwest of Kyoto, we traveled by high speed train, taxi and ferry. The Islands are south of the tiny Port of Uno.  Although the islands themselves are just small dots on the map, they are part of the much larger Seti Sea, the “inland sea” passage located between the south side of Japan’s main island and two of Japan’s other large islands.

   

 The taxi took us to the “private” ferry (the “Thunderbird”, the same “public” ferry we would ride the next day) to get to the Benesse Art Hotel on the island of Naoshima.  It was a cold, windy afternoon and the forecast wasn’t promising.  In fact, the smaller inter-island public ferries were canceled on our arrival day. We got to our room and it was quite small.  The design was upscale dorm room.  The art at the hotel was very modern, minimalist .  

If the weather didn’t improve, hanging out in the room and the “minimalist” hotel would be disappointing for 3 nights.  The grounds and beaches are very nice, but we were beginning to question how wise this location was for this time of year.  I think we were going through Kyoto withdrawal.  

Throughout our trip very few people have spoken English, but it really hasn’t hindered our travels.  This night, after a scrumptious dinner, we had a problem with the bill and very little ability to clear it up.  We were beginning to think we would cut this part of or trip short.  But, after talking to our agent by email and phone we decided to wait until the next day and see if the weather improved so we could explore.

It did!  

   

 The wind calmed down and the temperature increased enough that the sun felt warm.  Our art explorations by ferry took us to 2 nearby Islands:  Teshima and Inujima.  Jim and I have never really appreciated modern art. But the instillations on these islands are quite unusual, combining old villages with architecture, art and nature.

Once again our itinerary was perfect,

  
  We were met  at the small ferry dock on Teshima by cab and our driver swept us to 3 different spots beginning with Les Archives du Couer. We wove through a little village then came to a building by a lovey beach housing a long dark room with a single light bulb and speakers amplifying individual heart beats from people all over the world.  

  

 Clever, but not worth the trip. The art got much better from there.

Our next stop was enchanting and perfect.  The Teshima Museum is a collaboration of art and architecture, dug into a hill surrounded by rice paddies. After walking the beautiful grounds you come upon a white concrete dome.   

 Before entering we removed our shoes, put on slippers and were told to be quiet and not step on anything on the ground.  From there you enter a perfect environment with moving water, wind, and openings to the sky.  It is absolutely impossible to describe but I’ll try.  It’s a metaphor for life.  Some drops of water enter from small holes in the floor, they grow in size until they move toward a distant well.  Along the way, the traveling water “beings” join with others, separate from others, and ultimately merge with a large pool or disappear down a well.  If it was a bit warmer we would have stayed much longer.  I’ve taken some photos from the book we purchased because photos weren’t allowed.  

   
   
We stopped for some coffee in the second building before moving on to our last stop on Teshima and our first “art house” experience.  Here is a photo of a group of children visiting the exhibit. 

   I love the matching hats to designate the group.  One of the children was clearly visiting her Mom. You don’t see a lot of children in Japan because of the extremely low birth rate.  We read an article just a few days ago about the lack of desire for many young people here to date, have children or even have sex.  If you remember our gold leaf artist who’s family had the studio for 5 generations, they have three 40-something children and none of them are married.   

  An “art house” is an old local home in a hamlet that’s transformed by an architect and artist into an art experience.  The Teshima Yookoo house surprised and enchanted us. This one included a wonderful water element, garden and very cool tower.  Sorry no photos allowed.  When you enter you look through red glass to the rock garden and court yard.   

 The concept of these small architecture and modern art projects was really new for us.  The fact that they were in these small, rural and old areas infusing young people and art lovers was delightful and ingenious.  Would this work in the states?  We think it would in struggling WA communities like Aberdeen.  

When we began our day we weren’t sure if we were going to go on to our third island, Inujima, but we were hooked now.  The weather was good and we were up for the adventure to continue.

Our enthusiasm was rewarded.  After departing the small ferry there was a building with a cafe and the ticket site for the returning ferry and the art projects on the island. After ordering a lovely small lunch we sat and looked at the water.  The table in front of us was filled with a group of ladies doing origami led by an origami Jedi master.  

 After I took pictures of her, she made Jim and me a gift of origami.  No English, just smiles and bowing to give our thanks. 

   
Our hearts and tummies full, we walked to the first stop at the largest art building, Seirensho, created from the remains of a copper refinery.  It’s designed By Hiroshi Sambuichi.  

  

  

  

  The bricks used are from the original smoke stack and have a metallic sheen.   The exhibit is hard to explain, but it used long dark hall ways, mirrors, solar projections and natural light in a magical way. We loved it!

 

From there we strolled through the village visiting other art house projects. Some we looked at, some we sat in, but alas no photos were allowed. I snuck a few plus some photos of the walk around the Island.

   
    
    
    
  

This is one of the young people who have moved to the island to work at the art houses.  They are well cared for by the elders who still live on the island.

  
    

The coast here is full of  actual “sea hawks.”
 

After the return ferry we had time for a shower before a traditional Kaiseki Japanese dinner.   

 The restaurant is located at the main museum up the hill above our hotel.  The dinner was perfect.  We’ve been doing quite a bit of sake testing and enjoyed some more with our dinner.  After dinner we ended our day by exploring the museum.  Now this was the modern art we were used to seeing. All white painting, wood and rock circles on the floor, toy soldiers in a circle, “junk on a shelf”. . . it was a fast tour.

This morning we got to sleep in before exploring the Chichu Museum and another collection of art houses in an old area.  The Chichu features three artists Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria in a building designed by Tadao Ando.  We loved it all, the interplay of art and architecture once again opened our eyes to a new appreciation of the possibilities in this kind of art. No need to explain Monet, but the light, shapes and interactive aspects in Turell’s and Maria’s installations were so engaging.  Again no photos allowed.  This is a picture from the book.  It’s a huge room that you walk into and around.

  
On our way out we stopped to chat with the gardener who was proudly tending and planting flowers despite the winter weather. 

 The best part of the art houses here was walking through the village to find them.  We also passed by a really beautiful shrine.  The curve of the roof (which we learned on this trip, represents the ocean) is particularly dramatic. 

  

  

  

  

   We stopped for a leisurely, delicious lunch at small spot with only 3 tables.   

 The food was scrumptious. At our favorite art house here we are led into a dark space using our hands to guide us along the walls before we sat on a bench.  It is pitch black.  This is what it must feel like to be blind. Over time light appears.  A few specks at first and then a full screen. We were then told to stand and walk towards the screen. It turns out the light was there all along.  It just took ten minutes for our eyes to adjust. Really cool. 

Tonight we enjoy one last dinner at the fine hotel restaurant before traveling again by ferry, taxi and high speed train to Matsomoto. The adventure continues!

First Days In Japan

  As I write our first blog from Japan we are sitting in our traditional robes looking out at the stormy sea at The Earth resort.  

We began our trip by flying out of Vancouver to take advantage of the Canadian exchange rate to buy our airline tickets.  By staying over the night before at an airport hotel, it made our day of flying very calm.  Everything was done and all we had to do was eat breakfast and take the shuttle to the airport. 

The most difficult part was getting all of our luggage from the shuttle drop off to check-in.  This isn’t our usual “pack light” adventure.  We are skiing at the end of the trip after two weeks of touring in a winter climate.  But we made it with plenty of time to spare and the Vancouver Airport is quite nice, with an artificial forest stream in the waiting area and a large aquarium. 

 Jim was excited to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with its large windows and better air circulation.  The only oddity was that the reclining seats in our flight’s Business Class didn’t lay down flat (as they did in the two Delta Airlines 777’s we have been on).  Instead, our seats almost reclined flat but then left us at an angle something like Frankenstein’s table in the old movie.  Still we were able to sleep for a few hours of our nine hour flight to Tokyo.

The service from Japan Air Lines (JAL)  couldn’t have been better and I transitioned to my  Japanese cultural experience by ordering the  

 Bento box for dinner which was really quite tasty for airplane food.

After landing our first experience in Japan was fast and efficient.  The luggage came right out and customs was a breeze. Interestingly, Japan takes finger prints and photos of all foreigners.  We were not offended.

Our driver met us, sweeping us and our luggage to his car.  Our 2 large bags, 2 small bags and massive ski bag was on a cart.  We panicked as he approached the escalator only to learn that the clever Japaneese have created carts that adjust so that they can go up or down escalators without a problem.

Once again we chose a wonderful travel agent to plan our trip and we weren’t disappointed at our first quick stop in Tokoyo. The staff took care of all our needs including helping us ship our ski bags on to Myokokogen and our larger bag on to our Kyoto hotel.

After getting our bags settled we headed out for a nearby walk to see a bit of downtown Tokyo. Our travel agent gave us lots of walking and touring suggestions.  This evening we headed out to find a local SIM data card for our IPAD. On the way we walked past the beautifully lit Tokyo International Forum  

  

 building built on the former site of  Edo Castle.  Bics Camera store was a hopping potpourris of technology and although no one spoke English well and we don’t speak Japanese at all, we all spoke technology and quickly procured a SIM card which the staff tested and is working beautifully.

From there we went to a nearby building that offered a variety of international restaurants.  We settled on some Tapas because they had a no smoking section and made it through a meal and the walk back before collapsing in bed.  Other than the large number of smokers, the Japanese are very clean — there is no graffiti, almost no litter of any kind anywhere, and yet there are almost no public garbage cans.  On our 90 minute drive from the airport to downtown, we didn’t see a single dirty car or even a dirty truck!

Breakfast was lovely and our job was to take a walk to Dimelers department store and their food section to procure Bento boxes for our train trip later that day.  

  The variety and beauty of the culinary selections was truly overwhelming.  We decided on a Japanese style bento box and a salad for our travel food.

Back at the hotel the staff was waiting to walk us to our train.  Although we felt a bit lazy and self-conscious by this service, we thoroughly enjoyed the stress-free transfer.

  The trains in Japan are exceptionally clean, comfortable, smooth and fast, and run like clockwork, especially the “super express” bullet trains.  We boarded and left promptly only carrying our overnight bags as instructed.  Jim loves trains and this trip will be full of train travel.

Our excursion southwest along the coast took us past Mt. Fuji, lasted most of the afternoon and included one transfer, which thanks to detailed instructions we navigated on our own without a problem.

After 2 mores shuttles (one big and one small), along a surprisingly narrow and winding coastal road (and by many oyster operations) we were welcomed with Japanese bows by the staff at “The Earth” healing waters resort.  Our room is amazing, the views of the ocean and rugged coastline are vast, and the food is artistic and scrumptious. 

    

   
Originally, we were supposed to go for a train excursion on Monday to a local important shrine.  But we decided instead to just stay here, enjoy the healing waters and watch the big wind storm that blew in overnight, raised the surf to over ten feet of loud crashing waves, and then gave way to a sunny late afternoon. 

We ended our day yesterday with a facial for me and a shiatsu massage for both of us.  Here in Japan facials include massages, because your face can’t relax if your body isn’t relaxed.  The shiatsu massage was very different.  Two people swept into our room pointed to the bed where we both told to lay down with our clothes on.  They then proceeded to press very firmly on every pressure point in the body. They never touch you directly, there is always a cloth between us and them. It was different, but surprisingly relaxing after it was done.

Very few people spoke any English here and we were the only Americans.  But we felt totally welcomed and well cared for at all times. Here is a young lady, Shinba, that practiced her English with us while we were here and was delightful.  She lives near Mt. Fuji but works here and stays in the staff housing. We are soon to be Facebook friends!

 Today we are on the move again, this time to Kyoto.   We send you all our love and hopefully a little of the “healing waters” Japanese energy we have experienced so far.

We end our first blog with a beautiful sunrise from this morning. 

 

Fun with James and Jasmine & our change of plans!

After leaving Blind Channel we cruised the short distance to Dent Island. Dent is back in the land of cell service and as the dots appeared the messages came in and we got the news that Jim’s dad was in the hospital. We decided he should fly back and we quickly arranged for a seaplane flight home for him that evening.

Jim’s dad got better during the day and a half Jim was with his dad, so Jim decided to fly back to the boat for our preplanned time with Jasmine and James. However, after Jim returned, his dad became worse again so we decided to head home early. Dick is back at Mirabella now and is doing better. But we wanted to share this last blog post with you.

While Jim flew to Seattle I stayed at the Dent Island marina and was lucky that our friends Stan and Mary Harrelson happened to be there too, so I had a great dinner with friends. Joining us at the table was an interesting collection of boaters and fishermen. I met a lovely couple, Richard and Michelle Glickman, who own Gorge Harbour. They were celebrating their anniversary at Dent. Since I was alone, and determined to catch a fish, Richard offered to take me fishing (this gave Michelle the opportunity to sleep in).

I warned Richard that my fishing success rate was dismal. Despite that, he took me out, gathered a yummy breakfast for us, and gave me a great fishing lesson. Although our summer of heat and sun has been a constant this trip, my fishing day was cool and drizzly. Richard was a great teacher, and we did catch a couple of salmon, but they were too small to keep. Our only keeper was a medium sized rockfish, which later became yummy fish tacos,DSC_7533 but no large catch for us. Ah well. We shared great conversation, I learned a lot and I look forward to seeing Richard and Michelle again.

We got back to Dent just in time to meet Jasmine and James arriving by seaplane. Although it was cloudy they had a fun seaplane ride. “Just a little scary,” James said of the end of the flight.  After they arrived we headed to lunch before taking a nap.

DSC01311

Because it was a rainy day we spent most of our time playing in the boat. But, Grandma was prepared! I purchased a great jigsaw puzzle at Blind Channel that was perfect for James. IMG_3618Although it was rated 3+ he rose to the challenge and really enjoyed working on the puzzle repeatedly over the next few days.

After a good nights sleep we woke up, enjoyed a hardy breakfast, some rock throwing IMG_3623and then all worked on our boat chores preparing the True Love for the Captain’s return and our cruise south.

James was a big helper, filling the water tank and washing the boat.

DSC_7350  DSC_7372DSC_7364

The Captain arrived at noon and we headed out. The second mate fell asleep almost immediately, exhausted from all his chores,DSC_7462 but we heard on the radio that there was a pod of orcas just north of Dent. So we turned around and headed to see them. Jasmine had never seen orcas from the boat. The orcas positioned themselves perfectly to feed on the salmon as the current funneled them through the narrow channel. We counted over 12 including some really big orcas.DSC_7504

Because we decide to return early to Seattle we changed our plans to take Jasmine and James to Pendrell Sound and instead headed for Gorge Harbour. Richard and Michelle have done a great job with the area and James really enjoyed the heated community pool.IMG_5288

One of our favorite memories of the trip was sharing Mary Poppins with James for the first time. We watched the first half on Saturday night while anchored in Gorge Harbour and James was mesmerized.DSC_7586

From Gorge, we cruised on south to one of our favorite stops: Egmont. It worked perfectly as a stop on our way to Pender Harbour, where Jasmine and James had rescheduled their flight back to Seattle for Monday.

James was excited to see the end of Mary Poppins, which we saved for after dinner. The day ended with a beautiful sunset and moonrise. DSC_7602The next morning we took the tender out to show Jasmine and DSC01305James the Skookumchuck Rapids DSC01306 and then took a walk to our favorite little bakery in the woods. James enjoyed a yummy, mini cinnamon roll and ran around the grounds and the deck. DSC01318 DSC01313 DSC01312Jasmine, Jim and I also enjoyed the yummy baked goods and breakfast sandwiches while we watched James play.

After leavingIMG_3625 Egmont, Jasmine and James napped during the cruise to Pender Harbour, where they awoke rested and ready for their gorgeous seaplane flight home.DSC01325 DSC01332

Even though it was 2:30 PM, after plotting our course and estimating our time of arrival, we decided to take advantage of the long days and temporarily calm winds to cross the Georgia Strait. We then cruised past Naniamo to a new stop, Pirates Cove in the Southern Gulf Islands.

It’s sweet and funky; a shallow little anchorage with shore ties to keep the boats from bumping into each other. Our 57 foot boat was a little oversized for the area, but it was late and we made due. DSC01358 (1)Because it was such a low tide, the Captain was a bit concerned with our position and we had to reset the anchor and the shore tie.DSC01347 The next morning it was clear that our concerns were valid. Our clearance to the bottom was under 3 feet. But a fellow boater had totally miscalculated and was high and dry.

The island surrounding the moorage is a marine park with lots of trails so our days started with a fun little hike.DSC01363 DSC01354 The area is lovely, but unfortunately it was really buggy. Usually, I’m protected by the Captain’s natural appeal to the biting critters, but not this time. Jim didn’t get any bites, because he was protected by long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. I was munched. Over 20 bites! Oh well!

From Pirates Coves our cruise south took us through calm waters and sunny skies all the way back to the USA and to the little town of La Conner. I used to be the person at the helm when docking the first True Love because I couldn’t jump from the high stern to the dock to secure the lines. But since we have owned the Navigator I hadn’t practiced docking. It became clear after we thought I might have to Captain the boat back this trip, that it was time for me to practice docking, “just in case.”

It’s tough for the Captain to give up the controls, but we switched roles, Jim on the lines and me controlling the helm. It’s a little tricky maneuvering in the strong currents of the channel in La Conner, but the Captain was pleased with my docking. I must say the True Love maneuvers beautifully. The next day I took the helm again at the nearby fuel dock.

Because the low tide and the currents we waited until noon to head to Seattle so it was another long day heading home. We were treated to beautiful weather once again and enjoyed watching lots of navy aircraft flying in to NAS Whidbey for fleet week.

As we approached Seattle a skywriter was practicing for Seafair.DSC_7615

We are home now for a while. Our next adventure will be the birth of our second grandchild in late August or early September! Stay tuned!

Until our next adventure!

DSC_7634

The Captain and First Mate of the True Love.