In late September, Rich and I chartered a 34-foot Hunter sailboat named Wave Dancer, from San Juan Sailing in Bellingham, Washington (a hiccup from the Canadian border).
The first day of our sail, we left the Bellingham Marina in the early afternoon after getting acquainted with Wave Dancer and stashing several sports bags and bins of fresh, frozen and packaged food; bottles of water, clothing, rough weather gear; maps; books; sailing instruments; pillows; and bedding (feather quilt, flannel sheets and fluffy pillows). The boat sat a little lower in water after we loaded everything.
Our first stop was Pelican Beach on Cypress Island. We picked up a mooring ball, downwind from the beach where many kayakers had pitched tents and started smoky fires for cooking and keeping warm. Ah, the luxuries of a boat… propane stove, refrigeration, bathroom (complete with a shower), large bed in the aft cabin, comfortable seating, and if necessary, a heater… all the creature comforts one would expect at home with the benefit of being on the water in the scenic Puget Sound.
The next morning, we sailed to the Rosario Resort & Spa to meet Rich’s friend, Mike and his wife Teresa. They’d spent a long weekend on Orcas Island, kayaking and sightseeing then drove to Rosario to see us. The marina was closing up for the winter and most of the slips were empty so the harbormaster, Gary, let us enter our slip early so we could pick up Mike and Teresa… and also get assistance with our docking.
It was the first time we’d docked the boat and quite windy so there was the danger of ramming into the dock. As Rich expertly pulled into the slip, Gary was on the dock so I was able to throw him a line rather than wait until the boat was close to the dock, “step” down, and stop the boat from moving any further before tying it to the dock. I was very relieved when the boat was secured to the dock.
Our docking and casting off (leaving the dock) was more elegantly executed than our sailing with Mike and Teresa aboard. It was the first time unfurled the mainsail (big sail). The afternoon before and earlier that day, we had sailed using only the jib (small sail) or motored. Both the jib and mainsail on Wave Dancer are roller-furling, meaning the sails ‘wind’ around a roller and don’t need to be hauled up or lowered. While traditional sails enable you to sail better because of their shape, roller-furling sails are super easy to “pull-out” and “roll-up” once you get used to their idiosyncrasies. In addition, you can manage all of the lines from the safety of the cockpit.
Along with having to figure out what lines to release, pull, and hold, we had to deal with the wind, which had kicked up making it difficult to trim the sails when tacking, jibing or reefing (make the sails smaller). Nevertheless, it was exhilarating sailing with strong winds, blue skies, and open waters with no boats in sight… except for seaplanes touching down at Rosario then zipping off to other destinations.
After we dropped Mike and Teresa off, we decided to spend the rest of the beautiful day on land, wandering around the resort, enjoying the amenities that were included with our moorage fee, chatting with Gary, and hoping that Gary’s cat would grace us with his presence.
Gary’s cat, whose name we never found out, is the unofficial ambassador of the marina. He lives on Gary’s 42-foot Catalina (excellent boat for a cat) and maintains order by jumping onto and inspecting people’s boats. He’s also been known to taunt dogs that arrive on boats. When chased, he’ll dive into the water and swim to shore. Gary explains that the cat is also an excellent fisherman and has no qualms about catching and eating fish… often in front of bug-eyed kids.
Gary, who lives year-round on his boat, was in the midst of pulling in docks and preparing the marina for the winter. Because the resort was days away from being sold, many aspects of it were also being closed.
The resort had originally been listed for $18 million, which is a steal considering a high-rise condo in downtown Seattle can cost several million dollars. With no takers, it was going to be auctioned on September 30th. The winning bid would receive nearly 74-acres of what’s considered the “Gem of the San Juan Islands,” including 116 lavishly furnished guest rooms and suites, three swimming pools, several restaurants and retail shops, a spa, marina with 30 slips, and the 25,000-square foot Moran Mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historical Hotels of America.
While wandering on the grounds, I couldn’t help thinking that the end of an era was coming. People speculated that whoever purchased the resort might turn the mansion into a private residence and build private residences instead of offering lodging. The marina and the other amenities could conceivably only be available to property-owners.
Reinforcing the dreariness of what could happen were the closing sales at the little grocery store/pub/restaurant by the marina and gift shop in the mansion. The former was selling almost everything at 50% off. We left with many items we normally wouldn’t purchase like canned artichoke hearts (unexpected addition to a pasta dish I made that night and salads later in the week), local wine, and bags of barfy-bad T.G.I.Friday potato skin-flavored chips. We also purchased necessities like Ben & Jerry ice cream bars and cheddar cheese.
Down by the marina was one of two outdoor pools. That afternoon, we enjoyed the outdoor pool at the mansion where we met a musician and seller of rare guitars and his wife from the Bronx. They were visiting with friends in Seattle and decided to do some sightseeing on their own. We spent a good hour chatting about politics, the Pacific Northwest, and music.
As the breeze picked up, we retreated to the indoor hot tub then the toasty-warm therapeutic pool, which was part of the original mansion, built in the early 1900’s. Most of the bottom floor of the mansion, where the therapeutic pool, spa, and gift shop were located was mosaics from tiny tiles imported from Italy. The owner of the gift shop said that the floors took years to craft.
To remember our visit and also commemorate our six-year anniversary, we purchased a small, engraved ivory box with two teeny compartments. Rich and I are both writing our wishes for our 12-year anniversary. We’ll place these wishes, each in a separate compartment, in the box then resist opening the box until September 28, 2014.
The ground-level of the mansion hosts several restaurants, meeting rooms, offices, and registration for the resort. Moran was enthralled with the Arts and Craft movement, which emphasized workmanship, quality and beauty over economy and profit. As a result, no expense was spared in building the mansion, including extraordinary mahogany woodwork throughout, Arts and Craft furniture, stain-glass windows, and ornate light fixtures.
The third story is the Moran Museum, which is a tribute to Seattle shipbuilder (Moran Brothers Company in Seattle) and former Seattle mayor, Robert Moran, who built the mansion. The music room is also on this floor, featuring a two-story 1,972 pipe Aeolian organ and 1900 Steinway piano. Throughout the year, you can attend free organ and piano concerts by renowned musician and Rosario historian Christopher Peacock. Unfortunately, he didn’t perform on the day that we were there.
On the grounds of the resort, tame deer roamed. The buck in this picture was less than two feet from me… so there was no need to zoom-in to take the picture. A short walk away, a family was feeding a doe an apple. She was like a giant dog and had no objection to being pet and hugged.
It was magically walking in such beautiful surroundings, petting deer, hanging out on Wave Dancer, wandering through the mansion and other historical buildings, enjoying the spa… and taking a late-night stroll. I was disappointed when the morning came and we had to leave. Although, before we “officially” left, Rich made me practice docking and backing up the boat in preparation for getting my bareboat certification.
Update: Rosario Resort and Spa was auctioned for a paltry $4.5 million to “someone” who lives in Anacortes who loves the Puget Sound. In a month or so, the winner of the bid will be formally announced along with plans for renovating the facilities.
Stay tuned for more details of our trip and how I finally succeeded in passing my bareboat certification practicals and test.