21 nautical miles
Today was one of our longest days in miles and one of our best in terms of interesting paddling. We woke early at 4am and managed to get paddling by 6am. Paddling in the dark was great, calm water and navigational lights flashing everywhere. The ferry landing on Mayne Island looked like a highway on-ramp all lit up and flashing in the distance. Lots of ferry traffic in and out of Active Pass at dawn. Becky tuned in the Vessel Traffic Service on her VHF radio to monitor the ships and hail them if we needed. There is nothing like sharing a small channel with four BC Ferries to make you feel very small, slow, and vulnerable. Now we know what a turtle feels like trying to cross a highway. Thankfully, the visibility was okay.
We continue east along the north shore of Pender Island into a light headwind with overcast skies and light drizzle. At Razor Point we turn north and cross over to Saturna Island aiming for the vineyards snaking up the hill. Yes, vineyards. Dry microclimate perhaps?
During the crossing Becky hollers out, “ORCAS ISLAND!!!” and we spot Mount Constitution looming above Waldron Island in the distance. Home waters are in sight. These are the first familiar landmarks we’ve seen in the 94 days since we left Bellingham! Looks like we just might make it home in time for our flight south to Antarctica on the 27th.
Much of Saturna’s south shore is newly protected as part of the Gulf Island National Park and it is easy to see why. The coast features spectacular sandstone erosion cliffs, terraces, madronas, feral mountain goats, and, remarkably for the Gulf Islands, no houses. The exception to this is East Point, the island’s eastern most finger, a cliffy promontory topped by simple cabins as well as palaces straight out of “Architectural Digest.” Paddling at the base of the cliffs we fight the current and dodge giant reflection waves caused by a freighter headed into Boundary Pass.
The East Point Light marks the last bit of Canadian soil before the border. Becky and I look both ways for freighter traffic, set the GPS, and paddle out into a bit of an ebb current pushing south through Boundary Pass. We’re in a major shipping lane now and waste no time crossing to Patos Island and the good ‘ol USA. Skies are clearing, seas calm, winds light, and, surprisingly, we encounter no shipping traffic in the pass. Yippee!
We pull onto the beach looking hopefully for our friend Glenn from Parkdale, OR. Unfortunately, he’s nowhere to be found, but we do encounter four paddlers from the Seattle area. Dianne and Jerry are paddling Greenland style skeg boats while Jim and Karen are in a double. Becky and I get an invitation to happy hour and dinner and we all share stories of the Inside Passage around the campfire that evening. All evening long we watch a constant stream of freighters and tankers parade through Boundary Pass. We’re disappointed to have missed Glenn, but sharing a sunset and stories with some fellow Washington kayakers is about the best welcome home we could hope for. For the first time in three months we enjoy a sunset reflected off our home waters, the San Juan Islands.