“Road trips are the equivalent of human wings. We will stop in every small town and learn the history and stories, then we will turn it into our own story that will live inside our history to carry with us, always. Because stories are more important than things.” — Victoria Erickson
Road trips hold a sense of anticipation and excitement for that unknown but soon to be discovered thing. Sometimes they open our eyes to new places and our hearts towards newly made friends. If we are very lucky, they open us too, to new possibilities and perhaps to dive within ourselves.
I am embarking on a road trip of a different sort, aboard a sailboat, and I invite you to come along! If road trips are to be like human wings then doing it by sail is the purest form of flying. The wind is literally beneath your wings and sails.
Before we cast off.
Our plan is to be sailing for roughly nine to ten days. There is a little wiggle room padded into our itinerary to account for any weather delays or unexpected situations.
But before we cast off with the Selkie (name of our boat) there are preparations to be done.
While Richard worked on some minor adjustments and maintenance this past week, I have been busy taking stock and inventory of supplies, mainly in the boat’s galley (or kitchen). A sail on the water is always more pleasant with good food, good spirits, and a few comforts of home, such as a morning cup of full-bodied coffee. A beautiful way to watch the sunrise and start the day.
Casting off toward our first port.
Clear skies, warm weather, and a southerly wind at about four knots should be our forecast as we cast off from Bellingham Bay, WA, and head south taking the more scenic route.
As we will be sailing ‘into the wind’, our actual sail time will be determined literally in the moment. It may take us most of the day to reach our first port but that is just fine. There is a different sense of time out on the water and we are not in a hurry. In fact, a little spontaneity is part of the fun of sailing!
This once fishing town is now a draw for tourists and home to many artists and creatives such as the well-known novelist Tom Robbins. It hosts the largest Tulip festival outside the Netherlands and every winter this rich valley becomes home to thousands of migrating Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans.
Our port destination is just beyond the channel to the west. For our first evening, we will anchor at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island.
Penn Cove & Coupeville on Whidbey Island, WA
Fifty years ago the eyes of the country locked onto Penn Cove as a large pod of Southern resident Orca whales were herded into the bay and captured for the aquarium trade.
Lolita, who has resided at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970, is the only surviving member of that capture. Today the Southern resident Orca’s are struggling to repopulate. There are only 73 left in the wild, and Lolita. At 54 years old, there is a call for Lolita to be retired and returned home to her birth waters of Penn Cove.
Now, the small inlet is home to an artisan market, brewery, and once a year a festival dedicated to a prominent shellfish in the area, mussels. It is a hop, skip, and jump from Fort Ebey State Park and the slightly larger town of Coupeville.
Langley, WA, and day two.
The morning of day two will find us pulling up anchor and setting off around the island bend to Langley, WA. An artist’s mecca and small town located on the southern tip of Whidbey Island. This is our most southern point in the trip, roughly 30 miles north of downtown Seattle
Langley proves to be a fabulous destination for a fun and quirky evening spent leisurely perusing all the locally owned businesses, oohing and aahing over the hand-crafted items. There is a small grocery co-operative carrying organic foods as well as local produce, we will hit up before we head out on the dingy and back to the boat. Let’s hope the dingy will hold all our cool finds!
On the move to Port Ludlow
As much as I love Langley, it will be time to set sail and keep moving to our next destination, Port Ludlow This port houses a 300-slip marina and is uniquely set up for boaters. After tying up at the dock, we may explore the beachfront for an evening stroll before dinner.
This section of the journey crosses from Whidbey Island to the Olympic Peninsula, and like many towns here, Port Ludlow began as a logging and sawmill community. It was post-1960 and the completion of the Hood Canal Bridge, connecting the peninsula to the mainland, that Port Ludlow became the site of vacation resorts and get-away weekends.
Port Townsend, a favorite getaway.
This leg of the trip, from Port Ludlow to Port Townsend, will be of shorter duration, to our benefit for Port Townsend is one of our favorite landing places.
A small city with a strong maritime countenance and steeped in history, there is a blend of rugged and Victorian charm where ever you wander. Their motto is, Leave ordinary behind–experience extraordinary. And our plan is to do just that, for at least a couple of days.
Our visit will include an easy dinner at The Fountain Bistro and a stay at The Palace Hotel. A legend in its own right, The Palace is known for its colorful history of seafaring days and the ladies of the evening. There are apparently some longtime residents who still roam the halls in search of those times.
By day, we may be found nestled in the corner of one of the many local book stores or antique shops or mucking about the Marine Science Museum. All in all, this artisan city bursts with a rich and diverse history. A step back in time yet yielding a progressive look into the future.
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island
After a couple of lazy days of sight-seeing, we will be off again. This time making our biggest sailing of the trip, crossing over the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This can be big water! And we will have to watch the winds and tides closely as well as any incoming weather patterns. It will be an all-day sail bringing us into Friday Harbor, located in the middle of San Juan Island. Here we will port again for a couple of days exploring this artist community, on island time.
Besides outdoor activities, artists, and creatives, this island is known for two other famous things; the infamous Pig War, settling the boundary of the 49th parallel once and for all, and the resident Orca whale pods J,K, and L. If we are lucky perhaps we will witness a pod playing, feasting, or traveling through these waters. All from a respectful distance.
From Friday harbor our trip plans remain intentionally a little loose and open-ended One option is to continue around San Juan Island and spend some time anchored in Roche harbor at the Rosario Resort. Another option is to meet up with my son in Friday Harbor and sail around the archipelago before finding our way to Lopez Island where my son would depart and we would turn our sails east and head back to Bellingham Bay, completing our circle and our trip.
We will have stopped in several small towns and learned their stories. We will have made them our stories, and carry them with us because stories are more important than things.
We completed our sail trip and share our insights with you in our article here. I look forward to having you onboard and invite you to lend your voice to the story. Follow me here on Alluring Travel Magazine, Facebook, or Instagram.