Wilderness Places…

One does not have to be in an entirely unpopulated place to be  in a wilderness. Or be lost, either. I'm actually beginning to think a large part of being in a wilderness is a state of mind. Since we began our journey north on June first, we haven't gone very far as miles go. Yet, we have gone miles and miles. 

There are eighty islands in the San Juans, most of which look fairly much the same. In fact, if you didn't have charts to refer to, it would be easy to get turned around. Or even lost. Not to mention tides that can change twenty feet, or more, in a single turning and leave you high and dry if you're not watchful. Sometimes, the fog rolls in so thick you can't see the front of your own boat, much less what might be in the ocean nearby. 

Then there are the currents. 

It's like a maze in and around those islands, and the narrower the channel, the swifter the current. Sometimes, we've had to skirt around little whirlpools formed by the collision of a low tide, strong current, and narrow channel all at the same time.  You also have to watch out for areas that are open to the sea. The "doorways to the world" I call them. Here you get a taste of the underlying swells of "big water" that seems to be the constant heartbeat of the ocean. 

Photo by Todd Stahlecker
If ever a wind comes up (especially off a cape) and frosts these swells with a choppy sea, it can be a very rough and scary ride. More so if you've been reading about all the sunken ships there are on the outward coasts of those islands. All of which make the phrase "If you can sail the San Juans, you can sail anywhere in the world," seem true. Because surely we have come across every condition and situation possible, in and around these waters.

Which doesn't include the many mechanical failures we've added to the ordinary hazards of sailing and navigation. So much to learn! And so much we were entirely unaware of until it happened to us. But I must report that we have survived all our accidents and misjudgments. And that God has been gracious to rescue us out of the rest "by divine appointment" that we blundered into out of sheer ignorance. Those things that should have, by logic, gone very bad. 

Which is probably why I have a first hand idea of what the children of Israel must have felt when they discovered they had been wandering forty years in an area they could have crossed in forty days. The thought that God Himself had been leading them with "a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night" makes one wonder how they could still go on trusting Him after all that. Even though they saw a lot of miracles along the way. 

Rowing to town in a fog
Having some of the same experiences on this adventure of ours, I can understand why He might have done that. It was because where they were headed for was a lot bigger and more difficult than they realized. And they weren't ready for it. So, the training grounds of wilderness places. Along with all those experiences that strengthened the body and sharpened the wits along the way. 

Today, we are sitting "on the hook" (at anchor) in Port Townsend, waiting for repairs. Again. It's only eight hours -- a mere forty-five minutes by car--away from Liberty Bay, where we first started out. That's a long way from Alaska, where we had figured to be there and back by now. Instead, we have meandered in and out of the San Juan Islands, and ventured only as far as the border of Canada before we had to turn south, again. 

We haven't quit. But we're not sure how long it will take to actually get there, anymore. One thing we do know, though. We're on "His clock" with this journey, and there are miracles and divine appointments raining down all around us, wherever we go. So, we've decided to let go, let God… and hang on for the ride.

Because it's going to be a good one.


  1. Great post, Lily. As usual, your blog is a delight! I too, in my adventures abroad, have learned to Let Go and Let God. Can't help but wonder what we are in this training ground for!

    1. Thank you, Tanya... I sometimes find myself wondering if I really want to know what I'm training for, as I might chicken out and not want to go there. I mean, what if it's a giant, or something, and they can paddle faster than me? Not to mention that an actual whale surfacing next to the boat looks WAY bigger than in the movies. Oh, dear lord...

  2. I never thought about you being in so much danger and how treacherous it can be. Knowing there are sunken ships below would definitely put my anxiety meter in the red zone! Loving reading about your adventures!

    1. Karla, I have been in the "red zone" way more than I'm proud of on this trip! Thank you so much for following along. It truly encourages me to try and buck up. If for no other reason than this might at least be a good chronicle of what NOT to do when one goes adventuring. Of course, I'm still hoping to hit the mark a little higher than that, but at the moment, all I can think of to do is just keep paddling. Which has always worked for me before. Except there's a first time for everything, isn't there. Hmm...