I have always said the Captain gets most of his love of boats from his Scandinavian ancestors. So, what a surprise it was to discover that one of the first settlers of this island was a man with the same last name and origin as his very own family. Which didn't excite him as much as it did me because he said a lot of people could have that name. But I tend to believe everything, so I'm going to look into it.
At any rate, this ancestor, who went to sea at the age of sixteen and traveled the world, said the "wickedest shark he ever saw" was right here off the coast of this island. So, when I noticed a place on the map marked Shark Reef, I wanted to go see it. It's out on the southwest tip of the island, facing the "big water" at one of the most volatile confluences of current, ocean swell, and winds. Which is probably why it is such an abundant feeding ground for all manner of sea creatures.
Not that I expected to see a shark from some rugged point of land, but you never know. So, I took the camera and we threaded our way through a lovely forest path for about fifteen minutes just to get there. What an amazing scene!
A great rocky reef spread out like a thin crescent moon along the shore, covered by sea lions basking and barking, and even arguing over the best spots. Some were fishing in the fast-moving currents, and seagulls kept swooping down to catch a quick bite whenever one came up with a fish. In less than a minute, we even saw a family of dolphins swim by.
I snatched up the camera, and we began an immediate (rather emphatic) "discussion" about whether you could, or couldn't, capture anything decent while shooting into the light. I admit I'm still new enough at this filming stuff that I get somewhat beside myself at the prospect of an exciting subject. So, we both decided to have a turn (to try things our own way), and Puh-leeze do not take any shot of me other than the back of my hat.
Which was why it was a bit embarrassing to round the corner afterward, and find several groups of people (that had been only steps away) spread out along the rocks being absolutely QUIET. So as not to disturb such a pristine wildlife observation area. All of a sudden, I felt like I had talked out loud in a movie while trying to find my seat.
Still, it was a fantastic afternoon, even though we never glimpsed so much as one shark fin cutting through the water below. And considering the fact the place was also referred to as Shark Reef Sanctuary, I thought I better check some facts before writing this post.
I found out that if I would have seen a shark in the water out there, I probably would have been written up in the local newspaper. Because there are no sharks out there, anymore. What hasn't been commercially fished to extinction for a popular recipe called "Shark Fin Soup" has been done away by enthusiasts who enjoy hunting large, predatory animals. And should any "strangers" happen through from other territories, they are rather immediately dispatched by local killer whale pods.
So, even though such a sanctuary has been set aside to try and make matters right for these creatures that once had their own place in the cycles of ocean life around here, only one species has managed to thrive. That is the bluntnose sixgill shark that lives between 300 and 3000 feet off the bottom, and rarely makes an appearance into the light. Much less near Shark Reef.
All of which left me feeling a bit sad. Along with a major determination to capture as much wildlife on video that I could, out here, in case the same thing happens to anyone else who lives in these amazing waters. Mostly because trying to start a "be nice to sharks campaign" would be a really hard sell.
Maybe even as hard as selling books.
The Good News…
Lopez Island is the most beautiful island we have ever stayed on. Truly. Mostly rural, with a few commercial cattle ranches and sheep farms in the interior, it is bordered by lovely forests, amazing beaches, and a picturesque waterfront town you can walk through completely in about, um… fifteen minutes.
From the dinghy dock (where we paddle in from the GLORY B), the road to Lopez Village (as well as countless other places) is lined with wild blackberry bushes. That still have ripe, perfectly delicious berries on them. So, we've been picking some every time we come and go, and I'm turning them into jam. Such fun!
The people are friendly, and we have been meeting quite a lot of them. They even issued us temporary library cards (first time in all our years of travel), and I have already found a lovely little tucked away corner (with a view!) in the quiet reading room. Ah, bliss…
The Bad News…
The closest island, with the larger town of Friday Harbor, is less than an hour across the San Juan Channel. Just right for an afternoon outing, or an overnight anchorage in the cove we enjoyed so much at the beginning of the summer. Which is where we were headed on Labor Day afternoon. We didn't get very far.
|Entrance to Fisherman Bay. Our|
anchorage is behind the clump
of trees in the middle.
Halfway through (thank the good Lord it wasn't halfway through the ferry lane out in the middle of the channel), there was a terrible clanking sound that forced us to pull over and drop anchor. At high tide that spot was only twelve feet deep (we draw six) but we knew we had a safe couple of hours before we would be bouncing off the bottom when the tide changed.
This time, it was serious. A major rebuild is in order--and no-- we could not turn the engine on, again, even to limp back to where we had been anchored in the first place. I don't know what a tow might cost in a place like this. But considering a pound of good hamburger can be close to eight dollars, it didn't look good for us just then.
But we've changed a bit since we started our great adventure. Because it has worked out considerably better for us if we pray FIRST, in situations like this, rather than as a last resort. A lot can happen between those two time periods that one tends to be ashamed of, later on.
And MoreGood News…
|I had a better picture of rowing back|
to the GLORY B, but the Captain is still
disturbed at the prospect of rebuilding
the engine, so I didn't post it.
Not long afterward, a wonderful couple in a smaller sailboat passed by and agreed to tow us back (Hello, Yvonne, from Ventura, California!). It was nip and tuck for a bit, as they only had a ten horsepower outboard engine, but we made it! Without mishap. And considering the fact that I grew up in Ventura county, myself, I felt like we had been rescued by family.
Which is how it always seems to be when you are trying your best to stay right in the center of God's hand instead of leaping off so often. At least that's how it seemed right then. And two days later…
I'm still inclined to agree.