In these days of Covid 19, taking a cruise on a cruise ship is not an option for most people. Living in the USA where there was never any sort of national plan and covid-fighting was left piecemeal up to individual states we’ll probably be among the last countries where things return to any sense of normalcy. Meanwhile even in states that have tried to do something about it people do get tired of staying home all the time. Many look to local travel or some sort of social distance vacationing as a means of getting away.
While unable to book a long cruise to interesting destinations this year, we do have a small boat mainly used by my husband for going fishing. It’s no cruise ship, but it is a means of getting out on the water. We made plans to go out to Washington State’s San Juan Islands. Some of the larger islands have ferry service, but of course those islands have things you find on the mainland – like people. Many of the smaller islands are private. People live on some of the smaller islands, but in far fewer numbers. Vacation homes often outnumber permanent residences. Some small islands are uninhabited by anything but wildlife. Many are state parks, or have state or county parks on them, some of which are accessible only by boat.
My husband’s sister has access to cabins on Decatur Island, so we made arrangements to stay there. Decatur has no ferry service, but people and supplies arrive by island transporter, private boats, or small airplanes. Unfortunately just before our time to go the whole west coast was either on fire or shrouded in smoke. With two businesses and a dog it’s not always easy for us to arrange time to get away and it has to be planned in advance so we went anyway. There were no fires near us, but smoke blanketed the area from fires in our state as well as Oregon, California, and British Columbia in Canada.
Traveling from the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we launched out to the San Juan Islands, you are never all that far from land. In normal times it’s a lovely view with water, islands, and mountains in the background. On this trip it was like we were in a little gray bubble. We could see the water immediately surrounding the boat and usually some sea birds, but other than the surrounding haze that was it unless there was an island very close. Traveling along in that lonely isolated bubble a couple old songs came to mind. Smoke on the Water and Your Eyes Have the Mist from the Smoke of a Distant Fire. Navigating by sight was impossible, but the boat is equipped with electronics. On the way home it was even worse with the bubble of sight pretty much limited to the boat itself and the occasional seabird scared up off the water for a good part of the way home even though it had been fairly clear with visibility across the bay near the cabin on the day we left. We had to keep a constant watch for other boats. We crossed several wakes without ever seeing the boat that left them and then came suddenly upon a boat sitting still pulling crab pots and had to make a quick turn to avoid hitting it.
Had the sky been clearer we may have done more island hopping, but between weather, sea, and smoke conditions we just went out to visit a couple other islands one day and stayed on Decatur the rest of the time other than a bit of crabbing or fishing by my husband, his sister, or our grandson.
We had a cabin for just us and our dog. Our grandson and my husband’s sister stayed in a different cabin with her cats. There was one empty cabin between us and only a couple other occupied cabins, none of which were next to any other occupied cabins. Due to covid the cabins have a 2 day lag time between one occupant and the next so are often unoccupied. There’s 8 cabins total, 2 of which are set a bit apart from the rest, and one used by the caretaker. These are all private cabins, not available for public rentals.
Though people do live on Decatur, it’s a decent sized island so there’s lots of room for them to spread out. There are no towns, cities, stores, or paved roads there and we hiked quite a lot around the island without coming into contact with anyone. There’s a one-room school, but I don’t know if it is open this year or if the few kids who go there are doing online school now. There was a small store and the building is still there, but it’s closed now.
We stayed nearly a week and had a great time relaxing away from our daily duties. The best thing about a do-it-yourself cruise is that the pets can come too.