At the crack of dawn on July 14th John and I began our long-awaited Journey on Summer Breeze. My wonderful team of “roadies” was down to one after losing Jazzy last year but Sadie, who got her sea legs while traveling in the motorhome, was all in with the usual smile on her face. I admit to being a bit concerned that her arthritis, and relatively infrequent potty breaks might hinder her, and complicate our adventure to some degree. And they did… to some degree.
Our first day out was somewhat uneventful since we already knew and had sailed the south Puget Sound waterways. A stop in Gig Harbor allowed us time to catch lunch with our good friends Ryan, Richard and Ashley, and dinner with our friends/very extended family members- Mike and Brigette! This is a beautiful but busy harbor area with lots of summer tourists. I’d love to revisit during the off season to take it all in.
After leaving Gig Harbor we cruised out to Blake Island State Park and tied up to one of the provided mooring buoys. (Side note to the non-boaters on the list… mooring buoys are convenient option around many of the islands where you would otherwise be anchored. They are secured to the bottom, requiring far less line to be put out, keeping the radius of boat swing to a minimum. There’s also no reason to be concerned about the unknown bottom you’re dropping anchor on. A muddy bottom will hold an anchor quite well, if set right, but a rocky bottom… no so much!)
Many state and provincial parks provide dinghy docks, making it convenient to row (or motor) ashore for hikes and “potty breaks”, but not all of them. Beaching on rocky and oyster shell covered shores is more the norm, and definitely not the preferred option when it comes to dragging our beautiful brand-new, home-built cedar-strip dinghy to a safe landing spot. We have to consider tides as well, which rise and fall a good 15’. Not considering this fact could mean coming back from a glorious hike only to find you now have to carry or drag your dinghy a fair distance back to the water (on a gently sloping shore 15’ equals a lot more than 15’), or worse yet… no dinghy at all!!
Kudos to my husband for being the kind of guy who, after cruising some distance, will lower the dinghy into the water and row Sadie ashore for a much-needed break on dry land. Thus was the situation on our first island stop-over. We lowered Zephyr into the water and brought it around the side where my “well balanced” husband hopped in and as gently as possible plucked a squealing Sadie off the big boat and set her down. It was immediately clear that this action was painful to her because of her arthritis. Even in her younger years this would have been quite a leap for Sadie since it’s almost a 3’ drop into a tippy dinghy.
A “tippy” experience was the next factor in rethinking how to handle Sadie. When the two of them returned from their shore excursion and we got the dinghy tied off to the mother ship, John (who is has the incredibly good balance of a life-long sailor) gently picked up Sadie and… wobble, wobble… the two of them went backward over the side! The water temp in the Puget Sound is about 55 degrees in summer months, so this was undeniably a shocking experience. It was fortunate that I was still on the big boat, as John had to give Sadie a heave in my direction so I could drag her aboard by collar and fur. And thankfully we had the foresight to attach an emergency ladder which John was able to climb to safety. (It’s the little orange thing in the image above, which drops down with the tug of a small line.)
Between there and Poulsbo…
A few days later we were docked in Poulsbo, where we immediately went in search of a life jacket (with handle) for Sadie. The attached handle is meant to help retrieve your dog from the water, but in our thinking it would also facilitate in painlessly lifting her from one boat to the other, rather than picking her up under her rump and around her legs. We had to reinforce the incredibly poor sewing job on the handle, but since then it works perfectly!!
Shortly after getting Sadie in her new life vest we moved to a free slip at the Poulsbo Yacht Club (nice) and headed out for a walk with Sadie. Their little “log jam” breakwater was the seasonal home to lots of Harbor Seals with LOTS of babies!
On the way back to the boat I got a bit ahead of my tribe and spent some time enjoying and photographing the seals. When John caught up to me I pointed out one of the few solo seals and said “I think she’s in labor!” I’ve had a baby, and know that look… tensed up, body contorted… besides, there was a noticeable bulge not too far above her tail! I watched for awhile, even googled labor times for seals, which didn’t do me a lot of good since I had no idea how long she’d been laboring. I had to go make dinner, but went back to check on her a few times in the process and the last time I went out she was gone. That made me think John may have been right in his skepticism, as it truly did SEEM late in the season according to what we know of nature. (This was mid July.)
We took Sadie out for one last walk for the night and on on the way back to the boat I noticed a seal up on the dock ahead of us. OUR DOCK! No huge surprise since I’d gently idled my way past one to and fro earlier in the evening. I assumed this was the same one, but the light was getting low and… well they all do look an awful lot alike. As we walked closer I suddenly grabbed John’s arm and as quietly as possible in my excitement said, “Oh my God! She just had a baby!” I watched it plop out onto the dock! Mom flopped around to greet her new-born pup, and hovered and kept a close watch on us. I could tell she was worried so we started retreating, but I kept watching as I walked backwards. We were wondering how long it would be before we could get back to our boat. Not five minutes after giving birth momma bounced over to the dock edge and slid in the water, leaving her pup on the dock. I stood in rapt attention at this point, waiting to see what would happen next. “How long would she leave him there alone”, I wondered? And then I see mom’s head pop up and she starts splashing water up on the dock… at her baby! She probably splashed him six at seven times, and he bounced his little body up to the edge, and without hesitation slips down into the water! It was not a particularly high dock but in my mind it was a daring plunge for one so young! ?
Before settling in for the night John took the hose down the dock to clean up the mess. That’s just the kind of guy he is. ?
And with that fun story I’ll end this post with some images of the adorable seals I enjoyed so very much! The first image is the seal I gently skirted around the last time I went out to check on the laboring seal. As it turned out this WAS the laboring seal! She had come to our dock to give birth! (I confirmed this by zooming in and looking very closely at her markings, which are more distinct than you might realize!)