Some of the best ideas end up forgotten. Such was a form of education that flourished at The Evergreen State College (TESC) between its inception in 1970 to its metamorphosis into normalcy in the mid 1990s, sometimes referred to as immersion interdisciplinary studies. Immersion in that a student is placed directly in an environment. Interdisciplinary in that varying fields of study are combined.
The location of the college on the shores of Puget Sound lends itself to the study of marine environments. It was logical that the school build a boat. A program in design was taught by marine architect Robert Perry. The boat then took shape thanks to the efforts of students, faculty and community volunteers and ultimately Hank Long boat works. The Seawulff, a 12-ton cutter rigged sailboat, was launched.
The Seawulff is thirty-eight feet long on deck and made of cedar, oak and fir. The main cabin has a dinette and a galley with a diesel stove. The aft cabin, the laboratory, has counter tops and a sink. Amidships between the two cabins is the cockpit with a two-cylinder 30-horsepower Saab diesel beneath. The Seawulff is a commercial vessel, licensed by the Coast Guard to carry 12 paying passengers, though on overnight trips there’d likely be fewer. There’s sleeping for six in actual bunks, including two coffin-like berths under hinged lids in the lab.
In 1986 I happened to be living on a houseboat and could see the Seawulff from my kitchen window. A teacher at the college named Bob Sluss came by regularly, talking things up. This was the most exciting program and the most beautiful boat ever, anywhere. Bob’s love of the “marvels and mysteries” of nature was contagious. My involvement was inevitable.
I soon learned that at Evergreen, nobody is in charge. In meetings with the Recreation Department and Deans and Joe Olander, the president, all I could see was opportunities. These might be divided between Academic Programs for students who are receiving academic credit and Leisure Education classes which are open to the general public.
January 8, 1987, the first of the Leisure Education workshops left West Bay Marina at 1:30 PM on a cool, sunny, windless day. We practiced working up lines of position and other navigational tricks, returning to the marina at 4:15 PM. We did another class on January 20, and another on January 22.
On January 24, we began the first Leisure Ed overnight trip with six students. Winds departing West Bay were 20-25 knots out of the south. Near Devils Head at the southern end of Key Peninsula we were struck with a 35 knot gust and the Seawulff was knocked over on her side. Plates, pots and pans could be heard flying around the cabin. Two women were under the table screaming in terror. The boat righted itself and we reefed the main and sailed on to Gig Harbor. Amazingly, nothing broke. We returned the following day to Olympia, passing a couple of Harbor Porpoises near Toliva Shoal and arriving home at 9:00 PM.
On January 27, I skippered for an academic program. We left West Bay Marina at 9:00 AM with faculty members Byron Youtz and Bob Sluss and four students in pouring rain.
Byron earned advanced degrees from the California Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley, where he studied radiation. He had been the Vice President of State University New York, Old Westbury and President of Reed College in Portland. Byron was a gentle soul.
Bob on the other hand was rough around the edges. An entomologist and ecologist, he earned advanced degrees through the University of California, financed through the GI Bill. Bob was on the US Army boxing team. Asked how well he did at that he replied “I could hit hard”. His nose had been flattened. Although Byron and Bob were in many ways opposites, they shared many aspirations and held each other in high regard.
This was part of a year-long Interdisciplinary Studies class called Exploration, Discovery and Empire. Other faculty including Tom Rainey, Rudy Martin, Dave Milne and Oscar Soule rotated through teaching biology, botany, oceanography, logic, mathematics and technical writing. The thinking was that everyone benefits from a well rounded education. The specialization characteristic of academic institutions breeds arrogance and reduces potential. Learning should at some level be a humbling experience.
On February 5, we departed at 1:00 PM with Bob Sluss and twelve students from the Exploration program. We did otter trawls – landing and identifying sea cucumbers, slime gobs and slime balls. The Seawulff was equipped with a hydraulic winch capable of lifting 1000 pounds. Nets and other gear could be raised and lowered via a gantry overhanging the stern, like on a fishing boat. The Seawulff could also do sediment and water sampling and plankton tows.
We did Leisure Ed trips over the weekends of January 31-February 1, February 7-8 and February 14-15. We provided beans, rice and oatmeal and any other provisions were up to the individual.
All eight seats on the February 7-8 trip were purchased by the Olympia Police Union. We departed in no wind and temperatures around 35 degrees. We headed north in thickening fog and navigated using the compass and depth sounder, ultimately tying to a buoy at Stretch Island Marine Park. Much of the evening conversation pertained to their work. What if you had to shoot someone? Would you hesitate? How would you deal with the emotional and other consequences of that? We returned the following day making much of the run in light air under spinnaker, arriving at West Bay at 5:00 PM on a summer-like afternoon.
March 1987, back to the Exploration program. The class had split into ten groups of six, some of whom would make a one-week expedition on the Seawulff. The first week we left Olympia with a crew of eight. Students rotated wheel watches while underway. They also rotated all the other duties of running the boat, navigating, keeping the log, cooking, cleaning and reading aloud. On this trip we read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Other weeks we read Moby Dick, The Odyssey, Between Pacific Tides by Ed Ricketts and Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck. The most challenging task was the bio-watch journal, an account of living things we encountered, which underway were mostly birds.
We sailed to the University of Washington Friday Harbor Marine Lab where we tied up to a dock behind Swirl II, a forty-foot William Garden sloop belonging to a fellow named Don Fassett who will come up again. We ferried students to outlying San Juan Islands where they camped. The boats also rafted up frequently while underway doing otter trawls.
A big wind came up in the middle of one particularly nasty night and waves began banging both boats against the dock. Driving the boats upwind away from the dock was going to be a challenge. Swirl II went first under Don’s hand. I backed the Seawulff down on a spring line until her bow swung out and even so barely got her away from the dock. We found good anchorage at the northwest end of the bay.
The following night we anchored in a bay on the north side of Matia Island. In the morning a river otter dragged a large wolf eel onto a rock and killed it in a horrific writhing display and began devouring its innards. A group of students paddled over to the rock, chased the otter off, and returned with the wolf eel minus a few organs. The Seawulff then found space at a small dock at the head of the bay and students went ashore to cook the eel.
Wolf eels, having paired gill slits and pectoral fins, aren’t actually an eel they’re a fish. They can grow to seven feet in length and weigh 40 pounds. They have powerful jaws and big canine teeth. The taste of wolf eel is, well let’s just call it strong. The following morning as we pulled away I looked back to see what appeared to be the head of a monkey sitting on the end of the dock with a cigarette in its mouth. It’s remarkable how much a wolf eel resembles a monkey.
We did Leisure Ed weekend trips on April 18-19, and 25-26 and again on May 2-3, 9-10 and the 16-17. The Seawulff was then hauled out and dry docked. Her steering mechanism was rebuilt, alternator replaced and prop bearings greased. She was painted and oiled and dolled up for the summer.
Our plan was to do week-long Leisure Ed trips as far north as we could go. Patricia Coon (Trish) volunteered her time which as time progressed grew invaluable. She took an active role in planning trips and creating and distributing flyers.
The plan was to make a minimum of $100 per day for the skipper and $100 for the boat or $1400 total for a week. Adding a small cushion the total came to $250 per person, an incomparably low price for a week-long cruise. We wanted to find a new niche, to fill and unfilled demand, rather than competing with established cruise businesses. We hoped to provide opportunities for people in the community to do what was otherwise impossible, perhaps the fulfillment of a life’s dream.
A person may end up sleeping on a couch or on deck. The cost did not include “food, fees and fuel” and provisioning and cooking were the crews responsibility as were all aspects of navigating and boat handling. We figured that by expecting the skipper would do nothing, the skipper might not in actuality be overworked.
Trish held classes in Olympia where students were briefed on what to expect, menus and provisioning lists were drawn up and each student took a required swimming test per Evergreen’s policy.
On July 4, the first of the week-long Leisure Ed trips departed West Bay at 11:11 AM in light rain. Wind was 5 knots from the South. At 2:00 PM we passed Eagle Island. At 3:30 PM we motored under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. At 8:23 PM we passed Alki Beach in Seattle and sailed under staysail into Elliot Bay to watch the Ivar’s Seafood annual fireworks. The wind was 25 knots. It was choppy and some of the crew were a little seasick. We sailed across to Eagle Harbor and at midnight found an open spot at the Winslow City Dock on Bainbridge Island.
We departed Winslow at 9:00 AM on July 5, motoring north in light air. At 11:00 AM we passed Possession Point on the southern end of Whidbey Island, sailing into headwinds of 15 knots. Wind increased to 25 knots with gusts of 30 in two foot waves. There was more seasickness. Too bad, it was beautiful sailing. At 7:30 PM we dropped anchor off Port Townsend. Her looks belie her swiftness. The Seawulff is a good performer. With yankee and staysail set and a single reef in the main, she’ll outrun anything in a blow.
July 6, we motored into Point Hudson to do some provisioning. We bought enough food for eight people for a week, fifty-six meals, three shopping carts overflowing. At 12:30 PM we departed Port Townsend and at 1:00 PM rounded Point Wilson. At 2:00 PM we were mid-way across the Straight of Juan de Fuca. And in an hour, at 3:00 PM we passed Cattle Point on San Juan Island to our port. At 4:00 PM we anchored on the western side of Turn Island, a beautiful little spot covered with madrone, where all went ashore for a short hike.
July 7, we departed Turn Island at 9:30 AM and at 10:15 AM put the crew ashore in Friday Harbor for showers, laundry, shopping and eating. At 1:00 PM we departed Friday Harbor, sailing up San Juan Channel. At 3:00 PM we passed Limestone Point at the north end of San Juan Island. At 4:30 PM we tied up to a mooring buoy in Reid Harbor a bay on the southern end of Stuart Island.
On July 8, we departed Reid Harbor under sail and sailed past the Adventuress, speaking with her skipper Carl. At 11:00 AM we passed through Roach Harbor and Mosquito Pass. At 12:00 PM we sailed down Haro Strait, riding the ebbing tide in light winds. At 3:00 PM we passed thought Baynes Channel and passed Discovery Island, off Victoria, British Columbia. Sailboats in a race were rounding the downwind buoy each dropping their spinnaker as they rounded the mark. One of the students, a woman in her 70’s named Sylvia, observed that they looked like “ladies taking off their party dresses”. We sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 25 knot winds out of the West and arrived at Victoria, British Columbia at 6:00 PM.
July 9, if we could clear Canadian Customs easily, we’d do repeated trips into British Columbia. If not, we’d have to stay in the San Juans.
The Canadian Customs agent looked like an English bulldog. “Are you carrying any guns or pornography?”
“Let’s go have a look”. We walked down to the Seawulff. “Everyone off of the boat. Wait here on the dock.” The agents went aboard with me. “What’s in this cupboard?”
“Mostly canned goods.”
“Let’s have a look.” They emptied the contents of the cupboard and repeated the process for all the bins and cupboards, reducing the boat to a shambles. “I’m going to have my assistant finish up here.” His assistant, a mild mannered young fellow, signed forms and asked a few more questions.
“Is the big guy always so friendly?” I inquired.
“If you have less there’s less to check,” he replied. “It might be easier for you to enter Canada empty and provision here. Bring money not stuff.”
Everyone went ashore and enjoyed Victoria. At 10:00 AM the following morning we departed heading back into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in light winds, riding an incoming tide running three knots, stirring up big whirlpools. I napped on the bow. We were startled by an orca that surfaced and blew a few feet off our beam. We rounded Cattle Point and arrived in Friday Harbor at 6:00 to find Customs closed.
July 10, we cleared US Customs first thing with no problems. At 11:00 AM we passed Middle Channel and Cattle Point at a minus 3.7 foot slack tide. The unusually low tide rendered otherwise safe passages unsafe. Three Mayday calls came over the VHF. “We’ve struck a rock. The water’s about to flood the batteries. We’re abandoning ship and getting in the dinghy.”
We sailed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in light winds and sunny 60 degree weather. At 3:00 PM we passed Smyth Island, a spring tide pulling us along. At 4:30 PM we rounded Point Wilson where an orca was feeding near shore. At 5:00 PM we tied up at Port Townsend Boat Haven, trip’s end.
Trish drove the following week’s sailors from Olympia to Port Townsend in an Evergreen van. Those from the previous week including myself returned in the van with Trish to Olympia.
David Young, a student at the school with a captain’s license would skipper the following week, July 11-18. David’s crew was made up of six single women, all in their early thirties, all school teachers on summer break. He asked “What would you ladies like to do this week?”
“Hit the bars. Meet men.”
So, David drove the Seawulff from port to port during the days and put the crew ashore each evening with a request to “be back by dawn”.
We rendezvoused in Vancouver, British Columbia on Sunday, July 18. David had tied up Saturday night in front of the Westin Hotel where Princess Diana and her cousin Fergie were hanging out partying. The following week’s crew including myself and Trish stayed at the Westin Sunday night. We paid $76 for two night’s moorage which included showers, pools, jacuzzis and saunas for both crews, a total of fifteen people.
The morning of July 19, we departed Vancouver with a crew of six. At 1:00 we entered Howe Sound in 25 knot winds, rounded Bowen Island and headed out into the Straight of Georgia, running in three foot seas under main, yankee and staysail. The Seawulff sailed beautifully, rolling along from beam end to beam end. There was some seasickness but nothing too bad. The compass seemed to be a little off.
At 5:00 PM we passed into Welcome Passage at the north end of the Straight of Georgia in blustery conditions and dropped the hook in Smuggler Cove at 6:00 PM Mediterranean Style, the hook holding the bow away from shore and a line from the stern tied to a tree. We departed the following morning at 9:00 AM. At 10:00 AM we were sailing in Agamemnon Channel under the spinnaker. At 2:00 PM we sailed past Jervis Inlet. Over the next three hours we alternately sailed and motored past Powell River to the east and Texada Island to the west. At 7:30 PM we passed Lund to the east and at 10:30 PM we dropped the hook in a small scenic bay on the eastern side of the Copeland Islands under an extended twilight.
July 21, at 7:00 AM we departed Copeland Islands sailing in a light wind out of the north past Hernando Island to the south and Cortes Island to the north. At 10:00 AM we were tacking into a 15 knot wind out of the west past Sutil Point, the southern tip of Cortes Island, a point known for strong winds and rocks extending far past the point of land.
At 1:00 PM we entered Gorge Harbor through a narrow 2000 foot long passage, carved by the tide through solid rock. We had hoped to buy bread from a bakery there but the bakery had become a restaurant so we ate lunch. At 2:30 PM we pulled anchor and headed out the cut. A sixty foot cruiser named the Lou Ann IV was entering, driving full speed down the center of the channel. We hugged the shore where we were tossed like a cork by the cruiser’s wake.
At 3:00 PM we anchored in an uncomfortably steep, exposed anchorage off Manson’s Landing and all went ashore. We spent some time on Hague Lake with its white sandy beaches, warm water and exotic little crabs and other creatures. I wandered up to a restaurant named the Taka Mika where I ate dinner watching an eagle and some common nighthawks circling in the sunset. They played Marty Robins, my mother’s cousin, the whole time I was there, seemingly everything he ever wrote.
Back aboard an eagle snatched a fish out of the water and flew to a tree overhead. We spent a restless night and departed at 8:00 AM. Rounding Sutil Point, an eagle circled overhead.
At 10:30 AM we were sailing past Twin Islands just south of Cortes Island, reaching in 15 knot winds out of the west. Off Iron Point the compass seemed to be off by 40 or more degrees. I had not trusted the compass on this trip and now something was obviously wrong. “This is crazy. We must be in the Bermuda Triangle.” Then I noticed that someone had placed a hunting knife behind the compass. When removed the compass card spun into correct alignment. Somehow the knife had picked up a magnetic charge. After Twin Islands we tacked into 20 knot winds to Malaspina Inlet which though wide has rocks dispersed throughout and can be treacherous in tidal changes. We anchored in Grace Harbor an arm of Malaspina Inlet at 1:00 PM. We could hear the anchor drag along the granite bottom and moved upwind twice before it seemed to grab.
Desolation Sound, the name for this general area, is a place of incomparable beauty. George Vancouver was hoping to find it to be the entrance to the Northwest passage, hence the paradoxical name. Being the center of the inland passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland, the tide doesn’t flow, it simply goes up and down. As a result waters throughout the area warm to an ambient temperature of 70 plus degrees Fahrenheit. In protected waters it can even reach 80 degrees.
Its greater density makes floating in saltwater easy. We spent a lot of time swimming. Distant stone monoliths loom through the clear air, the sky above intently blue. Rocky islands dot the water, each covered with layers of moss. Evergreen trees scrounge for nutrients in the smooth granite, rows of lichen, barnacles and mussels leading down to the water.
I walked to a nearby lake for a swim and then returned and paddled around in the dinghy talking with folks, among them the owners of the Lou Ann IV who nearly ran us down in Gorge Harbor. They were friendly. Beautiful boat. Portland registry. I wondered how such nice people could drive such a beautiful boat so recklessly.
At 8:45 PM we pulled the hook and left, hoping to catch the ebbing tide and sailed into a deep red sunset. At 11:00 PM we anchored as darkness fell in Copeland Islands and made popcorn.
On July 23, we pulled anchor and made our way over to Lund. At Lund we tied to a floating dock that’s moored offshore and made our way in to shore in the dinghy. We ate breakfast, listening to fishermen complain about the government. The proprietor was Chinese. Some people spoke French. There were some hippies and some local indigenous people. We showered and did some laundry and got underway at 9:30 AM. We motored past Savory Island in light air, sailed under the spinnaker for a while, then motored some more as we passed Harwood Island. At 2:00 PM we were sailing in ideal conditions.
At 3:30 PM we continued on under the spinnaker in winds out of the north ranging from 10 to 15 knots. Stuart Bay, the town of Vananda and large rock quarries are visible off to the right on Texada Island. At 6:00 PM we were bucking a current past the entrance to Jervis Inlet off to the left.
At 7:00 PM we had dinner underway. Chow Mein cooked by crew member Willie. At 8:00 PM we dropped the hook in Garden Bay at the head of Pender Harbour. Garden Bay is a perfect anchorage. The mid-tide depth throughout is an even thirty feet. After passing through an opening, the bay opens into a broad expanse, capable of holding 10 or 15 anchored vessels. Ashore, there was a fuel dock, a good seafood restaurant and showers at the old hospital on the hill.
On July 24, at 5:00 PM, the sun was up and we departed Garden Bay in five knot winds from the south and a favorable tide. By 9:00 AM we were in mirror like water. No wind. We passed Texada and Lasqueti Islands under power in a slack tide.
At 11:30 AM we entered the Strait of Georgia on a close reach in five knot winds from the southwest. The tide ran with us against the wind, kicking up a little chop. By 1:00 PM we were beating into a ten knot wind from the southwest in moderate rain.
The only channel on an AM or FM radio that comes in clearly is Canadian Broadcasting, CBC. On Saturdays they play opera all day… one opera with explanations and translations and interviews and intermissions. On this day they were playing Bellini’s Il Pirata. Given the setting, all agreed it was beautiful.
At 1:30 PM the VHF radio sprang to life. “Fishing vessel lying northeast of Gerald Island, this is the Canadian Coast Guard.” The message repeated again a couple of minutes later. Then a third time. “This is the Canadian Coast Guard. You are in a torpedo testing area and in danger”. A fishing boat had decided to pass through the dreaded Whiskey Gulf area, WG on marine charts.
The vessel eventually replied. “Eh. You guys ought to go play war someplace else. There’s a lot’o people out here these days.”
“You need to move. You’re going to get a big hole in your boat. The torpedoes come up from underneath.”
At 2:30 PM we were beating to windward in a 15 knot breeze, making slow headway. By 6:00 PM we were reaching for Nanaimo, BC in winds blowing 20 knots from the southeast. At 7:30 PM we passed through Dodd Narrows southeast of Nanaimo. The tide was nearly slack but whirlpools and other turbulence persisted. At 9:30 PM we anchored at Ruxton Island part of the Gulf Islands Archipelago.
At 5:00 AM we pulled the anchor. At 6:00 AM we passed through Porlier Pass amid terrific whirlpools… swirling vortexes funneling down to who knows where and boiling back up in undulating bumps of water. At 9:00 AM we were sailing under a reefed main in the Strait of Georgia in a 20 knot wind from the south. At 10:00 AM the wind dropped to 15 knots and we shook out the reef, reaching at seven knots. At 12:00 PM we passed Point Roberts. At 2:00 PM on July 25, we tied up in Blaine, cleared US Customs and turned the Seawulff over to Captain David. In researching how to do these trips we were informed by the Canadians that we can change crews in Canada but each trip must either depart from or return to a US port or we’d need to pay Canadian taxes, “Duty Pay” as they termed it.
On August 1, Trish and I arrived in Horseshoe Bay just north of Vancouver with the next crew: Gary, a high wire lineman; Dr. Len, an ophthalmologist; Dorothy and Dorothy, a couple of retired friends and Noni and Irene, a couple of old New Yorkers who had been part of the Frank Lloyd Wright team. Noni told long stories and did magic tricks with string.
We made the same run as the previous one two weeks prior but once in Desolation Sound we went directly to Cortes Bay on the southern end of Cortes Island where we took on water and fuel and some food and anchored for the night.
On August 5, we moved over to Grace Harbor where we were entertained by eagles and otters. Some of us walked back to a warm lake for a swim and each picked up a leech or two. I attempted to brush one off my arm, like one might a slug or some other sticky creature, but this thing wouldn’t let go. I whacked at it harder. “How do I get the damned thing off?” Trish carefully grabbed the leech, squeezing its head between her nails until in released its grasp.
Noni was fascinated. “I’ve never had a leech on me” he said. So Noni was off heading for the lake. He returned a half hour later covered with leeches. “I rolled in the grass at the perimeter of the lake” he laughed. The crew carefully pulled off the leeches, Noni smiling the whole time.
The trip south was a barn burner. We passed Powell River making six to eight knots under spinnaker, wind 15-20 knots off the stern quarter with two foot waves. We continued the run all the way to Pender Harbour. At 6:30 PM we anchored in Garden Bay.
On August 7, we made an easy run down the Straight of Georgia and anchored off Gibson’s Landing. On August 8, we made our way to Horseshoe Bay where we again turned the boat over to David.
And so the first summer went. On August 13, myself, Trish, David and a tall Hawaiian friend of his named Keith took the Seawulff on one more run. After a quick passage north we spent an evening in Whiskey Slough, across Pender Harbour from Garden Bay. On August 15, we were beating up Malaspina Strait. At 7:30 AM we turned into the quietude of Blind Bay. At 11:00 AM we passed through Telescope Passage into Jervis Inlet and at 3:00 PM Princess Royal Reach. The wind at turns would go flat or blow a gale, always from a different direction. We jibed the reefed main five times. Monolithic granite slabs jutted 6000 feet into the sky on all sides.
At 7:00 PM we passed through Malibu Rapids with the incoming tide riding a six knot current. Young Christians from the Young Life Campaign waved at us from large decks attached to large buildings fronted by a large swimming pool. I recalled a co-worker at Peninsula Lodge telling of her time working here. She recalled being serenaded by John Denver sitting around a camp fire. At 10:00 PM we dropped the anchor near the base of Chatterbox Falls in about sixty feet of water and ran a line from the stern to a tree on shore, a common way of anchoring in British Columbia where the bottom tends to get deep and steep in a hurry.
On August 16, 1987, as usual, I awoke at dawn. Sheer granite, with an occasional hearty tree, jutted vertically up 4000 plus feet to the North. One could look almost strait up out of the hatch and see cliffs, stained and bleached into great streaks. Across the fjord to the South, trees grow up steep slopes broken by vertical granite outcroppings, thousands of feet tall, highlighted by distant waterfalls, seemingly half way to the sky.
It was the Harmonic Convergence. The sun, the moon and planets were lined up on this day in a manner that predicts great change. According to the Aztec Mayan calendar it’s the beginning of a heaven cycle. The last one ended in 1519, the year Cortes landed in Mexico.
Around noon some small cacti materialized. Trish offered to take command of the ship.
After lying around nauseated for a half hour or so, a wonderful euphoria came over our little group. We paddled ashore in the dinghy and began a trek into the woods.
We were miles from the nearest road. Although a Provincial Park, Princess Louisa Inlet is accessible only by boat or float plane. So it was with some surprise that we came upon a group of ten or so children walking in the forest. And these children had antlers. Little fuzzy things somehow attached to the sides of their heads.
“Hey guys!” David said.
“Hello” an adult voice answered. Back among the group a man stepped forward and introduced himself and the children as members of the Royal Order of the Buck Deer or something.
Keith looked troubled. He leaned toward me and whispered “Do these kids have antlers?”
“I think so” I replied. “But I don’t think they’re real.” In hindsight, I’m not sure they weren’t. Perhaps they were shape changers, harmonic convergers.
At 1:00 PM we began the ascent up the southeast corner of the inlet. Much of the 3000 foot scramble was shimmying, crawling, clinging to long tendrils of roots that mingled into elaborate ladders and toeing it up granite slabs. We arrived at the base of a waterfall next to a small old cabin. We bathed in the pool looking out over majestic Princess Louisa Inlet stretching below and above and across and five miles down to Malibu. Rain then came, making the trip back especially treacherous.
A couple of days later we were sailing southwest in light air down San Juan Channel, Jones Island on the port, San Juan Island on the starboard. At least a hundred orca whales approached from astern, the annual gathering of the tribes. A large orca surfaced off our port beam and swam there for a few minutes, then swam slightly ahead and stood on its tail, “spy hopping”. This was an enormous whale, about as big as an orca can get, probably a leader of one of the tribes who had gone ahead clearing the way of any potential problems. The whale remained with its head well out of the water, a mere fifteen feet from the Seawulff as we slowly sailed past, examining each of us in turn. When we had passed the whale swam underneath the boat and on ahead followed by the rest of the pack, some swimming close by, some further off.
The orca could have easily tipped its head to the left and plucked me off the deck for a snack. It could have invited its friend over for a grand buffet. That didn’t happen because our two species have, over the past ten thousand years, come to an understanding. I don’t make a meal out of you and you don’t make a meal out of me.
These orcas are relying on assumptions and agreements by which people today are no longer abiding. They’re holding up their end of the bargain and we’re not. They see our cities. They smell our waste. They know their world is dying. But they don’t know why or what to do. They have no voice in this modern world. There are no agreements to be made.
The trip home was punctuated by a brief stop in Seattle where the Seawulff was supposed to be turned over to John Filmer a faculty member at Evergreen. Trish, David and Kieth departed and John cancelled so I ended up single handling the boat to Olympia. I arrived at West Bay Marina, home, at 8:30 PM on August 23, 1987.
We did more weekend trips in the fall and so ended the first year of Evergreen sailing.