It shouldn’t be a surprise that many of us were able to enjoy cruising despite this summer’s Covid restrictions. Isn’t boating all about navigating changing conditions? We’re used to watching the weather, double-checking the anchor, wearing life jackets and following Rules of the Road.
Still, this summer was different.
“Of course we missed going to Victoria and the Gulf Islands,” explained yacht club staff commodore Mike North. “But this year we got to know the San Juan Islands really well.” With wife Juli on their 36-foot Grand Banks “Restless” they cruised first to Sucia Island, still empty in early Spring. As boat numbers increased they visited Stuart and Cypress Islands, hiking familiar trails and discovering new ones. “We finally got to Patos. And found a new trail above Spencer Spit that we hiked for the first time!” The Norths quickly learned the best days for finding moorage and buoys (Sun, Mon and Tues) and how to explore beyond crowded towns and marinas (hop on electric bikes). As for the impact of Covid-19, they chose to “be smart about it”; guests and family tested and quarantined before joining them so no one had to think about masks and distancing aboard. “It’s been a good summer,” Mike concluded, “with perfect weather.”
Janice Olson, who joined the yacht club only a year ago, voiced a similar enthusiasm about this summer. “I feel guilty almost,” she said of her many kayak adventures. “I take Covid rules seriously, but they haven’t restricted kayaking at all.” Launching with a buddy in a quiet empty place was never a problem with Lopez’s abundance of public beach access. Once on the water they took off their masks and easily kept their distance while paddling. Their favorite area was from Mud Bay to Richardson: “No ferries, no other boaters, beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife.”
Long-time yacht club member Audrey Bordvick found creative work-arounds to Covid restrictions. During this year’s South Cruise with husband Duane aboard 30-ft Ocean Sport “Gypsy Spirit”, they enjoyed happy hour without masks by docking stern to stern on one side of the dock, with a third boat on the other side. Instead of trying to find restaurants “many of us brought our own everything”, or found places with to-go menus. Audrey advises others to “bring a good book or two to read, take long walks and explore or kayak. And wear a mask that breathes because you really get hot.” The biggest challenge she reports was remembering to mask up when rushing to leave dock.
Paddling their 16-ft Old Town canoe through Hunter Bay, Mike and Wendy Mickle found that Covid restrictions seemed to enhance, rather than reduce, sociability on the water. Boaters who in the past hurried on to Canada and Alaska slowed down this year, savoring San Juan anchorages. From a canoe it was easy to meet people. Keeping distance was simple and natural, and everyone was relaxed on their own boats. In one afternoon they had animated conversations with two skippers who had strong Lopez connections. “It was such a fun and memorable day.”
Barbara Carver, yacht club membership chair, credits this summer’s restrictions for the highlight of her boating experience. If not for Covid-19, she would have been in San Francisco with her newborn grandson; instead the parents brought baby Hank to her. When asked about a boat ride she rose to the challenge with her 23-ft Ranger Tug “Joy”. “I’d been trying to master docking for years,” she explained, “and here I was with my most precious cargo ever! And I docked by myself both ways! Such a joyful day for us all.”
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Migael Scherer is the author of four books and numerous essays that range from the literary to the practical, including “A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juans.” An experienced mariner, Migael and her husband lived aboard a sailboat for 35 years and now makes her home on Lopez Island. She is a contributing author to the Newsline.