Salish Dragon Tales

26 March 2019 | La Cruz de Huanacastle
19 December 2018 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
25 September 2018
12 September 2018 | Santa Cruz
19 August 2018 | Eureka, CA
12 August 2018 | Coos Bay
30 June 2018
18 June 2017 | Sgang Gwaay
30 May 2017 | Connis Cove
28 May 2017 | Hartley Bay
15 May 2017 | Glendale Cove
07 May 2017 | Squirrel Cove
29 April 2017 | Reed Point
25 January 2017 | Reed Point
07 October 2010
29 September 2010 | Vancouver
23 September 2010

The Easter Bunny

26 March 2019 | La Cruz de Huanacastle
Steve Dolling
We are in La Cruz heading north to go back to the sea. I have come to realize that most of the writing I have done over the years is a reaction to emotional trauma. Based upon the quantity of blog updates, life is pretty damn good!

We were with friends last night and somehow the rabbit story came up. I've wanted to write it down for years. It's a true story which is well told by one of our good friends. Here it is with a few names changed to protect the innocent:

The Rabbit Story

Our friend's dad Mike lives in a nice house with a big fenced back yard where his dog Max runs free and enjoys the good life. Max is a robust German Shepard: an energetic, alert and fiercely protective dog. Squirrels don't wander randomly through Max's yard. They have more sense than that.

Sometimes there is a little tension with the neighbour, Antonio. Antonio, you see, keeps rabbits. Rabbits wandering free on the other side of the fence sometimes cause a little excitement for Max. He gets a little vocal. Sometimes it seems like the fence will fall down when Max lunges at the rabbits.

Antonio from time to time suggests that Max ought to be chained up. Mike from time to time suggests to Antonio that maybe he should... Well whatever. Not really important to the story. Antonio and Mike have enjoyed a few years of relative peace that a good fence can bring to neighbourly relations. An uneasy peace perhaps, but each enjoy their animals and say hello to one another now again without complicating things by getting together for beers.

Everything was going OK.

Then one morning, Mike hears Max come up the back porch. Max is very excited. He proudly drops his prize for Mike to see: a rabbit. A dead rabbit. A filthy, dirty, dead rabbit. One that looks as though Max has dragged it around the yard for a while.

Mike is shocked. He has always felt that Antonio is unnecessarily dramatic and that his rabbits are perfectly safe. Now this. A dead rabbit on the back porch. He can't bear the thought of the apologies and the "I told you so. That beast needs a chain!" Mike looked in the back yard and could see where Max had dug under the fence. It was obvious who the guilty party was.

Mike did the logical thing.

He took the rabbit from Max and brought it upstairs. He poured a little warm water and got the bath ready. He opted for the unscented Ivory body wash rather than the apple pomegranate scented shampoo that was also handy on the edge of the tub. The rabbit fur lathered up rather well. Mike rinsed and then dried the rabbit with a towel.

The blow drying took quite a bit longer than he imagined it would. Rabbit fur is very fine and dense. Eventually, it looked all clean and fluffy and rabbit like. A little too fluffy. He patted the fur down and flattened it out some. The corpse was a bit stiff, but he managed to bend it into a nice comfy looking resting rabbit pose.

Mike opened his front door a crack and peeked outside to make sure the car was gone, and that Antonio was safely at work. He walked across his driveway with the bunny wrapped in a towel so that none of the other neighbours would notice and slipped in to Antonio's back yard through the gate.

There were two rabbit hutches in the back yard up against the house. One had a couple of rabbits in it and the other one was empty. He figured the empty hutch must be fluffy bunny's home. He propped bunny in the back corner of the cage leaned him against the side trying to make everything look normal. He made it look like he imagined it would if bunny died peacefully in its sleep.

Mike spent the rest of the morning filling in the hole under the fence smoothing things over. He even went so far as to sprinkle dried leaves around so there would be no evidence of any canine digging. Everything looked good.

Mike waited. Antonio returned from work. There was no noise. Not a peep from next door. Even Max was surprisingly quiet. The evening went peacefully. No doorbell ringing. No phone calls. Nothing to suggest that the little bunny hunting transgression had been discovered.

Two days later, Mike could see Antonio in the backyard from his kitchen window. He went out on the back porch keeping Max shut in the kitchen.

"How's it going?" he asked Antonio.

"Not so good actually." Antonio replied.


"My rabbit died."

Mike cut him off a little bit expressing sympathy, "Very sorry to hear that..."

"No. No." Antonio explained. "Rabbits die all the time. It's not a big deal. But this one.... This one died a couple of days ago. I buried him in the back yard. And then the next day... The next day... he is back in his cage like Jesus on Sunday."

"Weird," Mike said. And he went back in the kitchen mentioning nothing.

Years have passed. To this day, Mike has said nothing about the rabbit resurrection to Antonio.

Please mention nothing.

A Large White Woman on a Donkey

19 December 2018 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
We were off the coast of Sinaloa running south at night. The state of Sinaloa doesn't have the best reputation. They move a lot of drugs around. And they kill a lot of people there.

Tracey called in from the cockpit. "There is a boat approaching. Fast!" And sure enough there was a little white light closing in on us fast. Three guys in a panga came alongside.

No point in digging out the machete or the fire axe. Might as well see what they want. Tracey shifted to neutral.

Our Spanish skills are excellent. Tracey said, "Hola, Buenos noches." They said hello and hollered out "linea!" "linea!" and pointed their flashlights somewhere below the waterline. I turned on the deck light and shined our big spotlight down at the waterline as well. The underwater lights helped illuminate the area around the propellors.

They circled the boat in their panga. I circled the boat on deck shining the light down. No sign of any "linea". All was good.

We said "gracias." Not sure what for exactly but it is a happy Spanish word we know. They said "gracias." And they sped off into the night. They didn't bother to kill us.

We had felt a vibration a few minutes earlier. Checking the engines showed nothing abnormal, but we must have hit their long lines.

Yesterday, we arrived in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. We didn't really intend to, but we broke into the office of the Capitania de Puerto.

It's a time thing. We arrived there mid afternoon. The sign on the door says the office closes at 2:30. Tracey's iPhone said it was 3:23. But I'm very sharp. I knew the state of Nayarit is an hour behind Jalisco. We were in Nayarit, easily 5 miles out of Jalisco where it was 3:23. We still had seven minutes to check in.

I gave the door a little tug. It didn't open. So I gave it a larger tug. Mas fuerte! There was a loud noise and the double doors swung open. The bolt that secured the double doors together had popped out. The port captain's keys swung ominously from the lock on the inside. Whoops.

I wanted to turn around and go the other way. Fearless Tracey stuck her head in and said, "Hola. Buenos tardes!" The port captain appeared. In uniform. With his badge. Looking at the door that I had ripped open. He explained that his office is closed and normally closes at 3. "Should we come back tomorrow?", Tracey asked.

No. No. It is no problem he explained. He would check us in as he pulled his keys out of the door. Tracey did paperwork while I messed around on my iPhone checking world time zones trying to figure out why Nayarit is not in the dimension I thought it was in. I showed him my phone and asked if the local time was 2:30 or 3:30. 3:30 he explained. Very gracious. A nice man.

Everyone we meet in Mexico is nice. This is a beautiful country with wonderful people.

We are Spanish school dropouts, but most tolerate us. We were riding in a taxi with some friends the other night in Mazatlan. From the back seat they were asking if Mazatlan had been affected by hurricanes this year. The driver, Jose Luis, said sorry, but he doesn't understand English. I whipped out Google Translate and asked him in Spanish if any hurricanes had come to Mazatlan this year. I think he explained that Mazatlan was missed but Sergio had gone and whacked Culican to the north.

We drove along in silence for a while. I fired up Google Translate again and asked him, "Tuviste una gran dame blanca montando un burro esta ano en Mazatlan?" He looked at me funny and gestured for my phone. Clearly a translation error. But no, sure enough, in plain text I was asking if Mazatlan had been visited by a large white woman on a donkey this year.

Jose Luis saw me smiling and couldn't stop laughing. "Amigo. Amigo," he said.

It doesn't take that many words to be kind and offer friendship. Even when somebody runs over your fishing line or breaks open your door, they probably mean no malice. It is the season.

I see a panga anchored off our stern tonight with three guys fishing, just as they were last night. I think tomorrow we'll go over and offer them some home made Nanaimo bars. Because why not?

Wasn't Jesus a fisherman?

Oh yes and Nayarit is an hour behind Jalisco. Except for the bits around Puerto Vallarta. They recently aligned the time zones so tourists wouldn't get confused and do stupid stuff like miss their flights and break into the Port Captains' offices.

Feliz Navidad!

Flopping up the Beach

25 September 2018
I should probably be banging out a blog post every two days talking about the awesomeness of the grand adventure.

And it is awesome.

But I'm left mostly without words.

I can't do a blow by blow "Left San Simeon at O'dark thirty today and motored south into the black morning arriving Cojo anchorage after a calm rounding of the fearsome Point Conception." Those are just words. Nobody cares. Or perhaps I don't care to write about it.

We are reminded that we are a long way from a comfortable life commuting to and from work, binge watching some series or another to fill time until we go back to work again.

Yet we are comfortable. Our pace is relaxed. Weather is forecasted to blow 30? Let's stay another day in Monterey. We are still hoping to achieve boredom, but we are still a long way from that goal.

We have ripples off the transoms telling us the boat is alive, the sails are drawing and we are moving at speed, effortlessly, a thousand miles from home at six knots.

Brown Pelicans organize themselves into squadrons of five or six patrolling in lines because that seems to be what brown pelicans do when they aren't dive bombing in loud splats or sitting on the rocks soaking up the sun.

Little white birds that never seem to land, but catch a fish every time they dive, taking off again in a long horizontal sweep swallowing the fish and giving a little shake to dry the feathers. They swoop in huge flocks as the sun sets.

Humpback whales leave their watery world and launch their bodies into our airy world. Humans can imagine why. Only the whale really knows.

The coast is wild. Hard to believe that California is a populous place. Most of the coast is undeveloped, raw, rocky with a pounding surf turning the rocks slowly into sand. It must look much like it did when this was Mexico in the early 1800s with the possible exception of the odd nuclear power plant, oil platform, or rocket base.

Sea lions, like the whales, leap out of the water. Having a look at us as we go by.

A mola flops a pectoral fin on the surface unmoving as we approach, its thousand pound body unable or unwilling to dive below the surface. I am a giant sunfish. Go around.

Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in sunshine. Foster flying in and appearing magically on Pier 39 covering the distance from Vancouver in hours rather than weeks. Two different time scales perfectly synchronized for a few days.

Always there are great white sharks present and waiting to bite into a tasty snack. We've never seen one, of course, but we know they are there, Brief thoughts of hiring a diver in Santa Cruz to cut kelp from tangled prop rather than donning a tank.

Northern elephant seals on an offshore island flop up a pristine white beach like giant caterpillars. They breed on only four islands, two here in California and two more in Mexico. None of these islands has a place to rent a jetski, a hotel to stay in, a dock, a road, or a human settlement. On San Miguel we couldn't even find any human debris on the beach, no plastic, no floats, no old fish gear. Just beautiful white sand. Unnaturally natural. A spring with water flowing from the rocks and footprints of a fox that comes to drink.

Tiny popping shrimp that make me think perhaps my morning shit is effervescent until I realize the sound is coming from the hull and not the toilet bowl.

The awesomeness comes from the little things that creep in and touch the soul. Whales, foxes otters and molas are cool, but it is the wind and the waves that grip us and remind us of the vastness of the planet. Giant swells lift us and leave us wondering what winds created them how many hundreds of miles away. Winds pushed into low pressure we can't touch or see or feel but we take from them as we do from the sun that fills our batteries each day and makes our water and heats it up for warm showers.

And the human spirits lift us. Awesomely friendly people at every dock. Here have some crabs, we have plenty. Take a line for a fisherman, have a chat, "Do you have wheels, borrow my truck if you like." What? Do you even know my name?

And we do borrow a truck. From Jim, a fellow Manta owner in Monterey, an old friend we've known for 12 hours or more. We drive the long way to Ace Hardware in Carmel, 17 miles around Pebble Beach. It's highly civilized and reminds us that we don't want to be civilized. We give the keys back to Jim and plan not to drive a car again for a while. Though we do admire the floating community he and Andrea are part of which we pass through and sail on.

Dolphins appear and swim with us. Tracey cries out, "Good morning dolphins." Part of her world as surely as the cup of coffee she enjoys from her helm seat.

The whole experience transiting the coast is a little beyond description. We've done this before so we are able to relax and take it in without being anxious of what comes next. To just enjoy right now, right here is magical. Tomorrow is tomorrow and not really that relevant just now. Yesterday was wow. But today is today. Not all of it needs to be photographed or written about. It just is.

And perhaps most marvelous of all, maybe even the only thing that is really important, is to have someone to share it with who gets it all and wants to sail on with you. What more is there?

The Butter is Soft

12 September 2018 | Santa Cruz
So while everyone in Vancouver enjoyed a warm and wonderful summer, we have pretty much been stuck in some other season. The west coast of Vancouver Island and the coast of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California is often cold and foggy. As late as yesterday, I was still wearing a toque and two jackets surfing down to Santa Cruz from Half Moon Bay in winds gusting to 30 knots.

We swam in 21 degree C water in Barkley Sound; the water off central California is 13 degrees C.

My towel never really dries out. We generally don’t bother to put ice in the cooler in the cockpit.

We had a little warmth the day we rented a car and drove Noah and Foster down to Geekville a few miles inland, but on the boat it has been cool. The butter is perpetually hard.

It is our second summer without summer. Alaska in 2017 was a place for flannel-lined jeans not shorts. We hardly remember what summer is like.

I know this is generating a lot of sympathy from you climatically advantaged folks, but really you shouldn’t feel sorry for us. Today, everything changed.

Santa Cruz was 26 degrees C. We actually sweated a little on our afternoon walk. We ate dinner in the cockpit last night! The Wednesday night racing fleet is out sailing in shorts.

And tonight Tracey confirmed. The butter is soft. Not completely melted. But soft. We can smear it on bread without the bread tearing. A major milestone.

So be happy for us. From here on out our plan is torture folks back home with pictures of white sand beaches, palm trees, and tropical looking fish. You can hate us later. We expect to lose most of our friends on social media in the coming months.

But it’s not all celebratory. We picked up some kelp on the port prop and locked up the saildrive yesterday. I had to put on the dive gear and jump in the cold water to free it up this morning only to discover that whatever was there yesterday had fallen off overnight. Time for new prop zincs anyway.

Also this morning, the cruisers worst nightmare. Our vessel was boarded by an intruder while we were sleeping. I heard some shuffling over our bed and thought Tracey was outside dragging dive gear around. Instead, there was a 250 pound brown guy on the deck. He jumped in the water when I screamed at him. I think he was just enjoying the sun and didn’t really plan to steal anything.

Sailing at Night

19 August 2018 | Eureka, CA
My sister asked why do you guys always seem to sail at night?

It's a good question.

Sailing at night doesn't make a lot of sense. We have had no moon so visibility is near zero. Bombing along at six or seven knots, the first indication that there is a whale in front of us will be a loud crash. Fish boats roam around without any AIS indicating their position, heading, speed, and closest point of approach. Mostly they seem to want to hunt us down and run us over. There are dozens of different ways to get in a lot of trouble in hurry. It would be much better to sail in the daytime.

So why night?

It's really a problem with the way they designed the west coast of the US. They didn't build it with ports conveniently spaced 60 miles apart. Often we want to go 100 miles or more. Often a distance that cannot be covered in a day:

Neah Bay to Astoria: 153 miles
Astoria to Newport: 115 miles
Newport to Coos Bay: 92 miles
Coos Bay to Eureka: 180 miles
Eureka to San Francisco: 232 miles

And those aren't wimpy statute miles of 5280 feet. We're talking real nautical miles: 6076 feet long!

A few of those distances we could fit into daylight hours if we pushed hard, but there is another wrinkle. The way they designed the coast, they put bars in front of the ports. Imagine that. "Oh so boats will come in here. Let's put this shallow lump of sand across the entrance and then when the water flows out of the bay/river in a big ebb tide opposing the strong winds there will be steep, dangerous, breaking seas. What fun!" At the Columbia River bar, those seas can pile up to 60 feet high and there are 2000 vessels littered around the seabed there. Every port has a memorial to their lost mariners. The coast guard controls the bar and will close it in rough conditions. So we can plan on arriving at Coos Bay in 15 hours, but there is no guarantee that we can get into Coos Bay when we get there.

The best bar conditions tend to be at the end of the flood tide. So we try to time the arrival for that.

Once all the math is done, calculating wind speeds, wave heights, distances travelled, exit time, entrance times it turns out it's best to leave when the bar is happy and arrive at the next bar when it is happy. Then we are happy sailors. And oh yeah, it turns out we end up sailing in the middle of the night.

The conventional wisdom is that all of that is too much trouble and a lot of people go from Cape Flattery to San Francisco non-stop in 6 days and 6 nights and just skip the entire coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.

That's cool too, but we are enjoying our coastal explorations.

We have maybe another overnight or two between here and San Diego, but we are getting closer to the section of coast where they space the ports closer together and don't put as many bars in front of them. So it will be more day sailing the rest of the way.

In the meantime, I hold the belief that whales pop up in front of us all day long and we steer around them, but at night they hold their breath and stay below the surface.

Newport to Coos Bay

12 August 2018 | Coos Bay

So we spent most of the afternoon trying to slow down. Slack tide at Coos Bay was at 1530 and all the sail combinations seemed to have us arriving too early until we were down to just a jib as the winds increased.

Beautiful winds. Ocean winds. Not those finicky, gusty little bastards of the Salish Sea that go this way and that and puff and die. But rock steady winds. Slowly increasing. 8, 10, 12, 15, 20. Wing on wing without a jibe for hours on end with only a tweak here and there on the autopilot.

The kind of winds that remind us why we sail. As the seas built and built, the ass end lifted and we surfed a bit. Not a rager. Something gentle. Switch to manual steering a little kick and the surge that brings us down. No need to move the heaping fruit bowl off the table. Our first real ocean test of Salish Dragon was going well. We fine-tuned speed through 4 sets of reefs and were masters of our domain.

And on the radio “Securite” announcements from Coast Guard Station Coos Bay. Hazardous waves. The bar was closed to 18 footers. Then 20 footers, A couple hours later, 22 footers. Commercial boats compelled to execute safety plans and passengers must wear life jackets. But nothing for us. A stable 40 footer with a 21 foot beam. We would be OK.

Except for those inconsiderate puffing lumps of ocean mammalia. Humpies. Wall to wall across the horizon.

“Oh wow whales!”

No. It’s not like that.

These aren’t clever Orcas with eco-location who know exactly where they are. They’re clueless and carefree. They pop up wherever the hell they like.

It’s like driving down the road and a school bus falls out of the sky landing in front of you. A whale will be moving one direction, I steer around it and pops back up coming the other way.

Twice I had to jibe in a hurry - something we normally plan for and think about for some time before executing. Once, I had to start both engines and go full astern to avoid broadsiding a brainless baleen beast.

So be happy you only have to deal with texting pedestrian zombies stepping off the curb. One toot of the horn and they jump like rabbits. Last time we went to Mexico, these beasts sunk a 40 foot J-Boat we travelled with prompting a helicopter rescue.

Ah, our life is hard. But pity us not. We made it through the pod of pods with maybe 50 whales. We crossed the bar and got into Coos Bay. The rum bottle unbroken. Our nerves repairing.

OK. Perhaps more rum.
Vessel Name: Salish Dragon
Vessel Make/Model: Manta 40
Hailing Port: Vancouver
Crew: Steve, Tracey, & Sometimes Foster
About: Steve and Tracey have sailed out of Vancouver and are heading south until they can turn off the diesel heater. One day, they might come back.
Salish Dragon's Photos - Main
No Photos
Created 19 August 2018
Drone shots at Butedale and points to the south.
20 Photos
Created 28 May 2017
Knight Inlet, Glendale Cove and Approaches
11 Photos
Created 17 May 2017
Hanging with Gato Go in our last week in the Sea of Cortez
29 Photos
Created 9 July 2010
Exploring the Historic Copper Mining Town. The mine was purchased by the French and the town architecture has a distinct french influence.
34 Photos
Created 14 June 2010
Beach party in San Jaunico, La Launcha on Isla Carmen, Honeymoon Cove on Isla Dazante, New bottom paint in Escondido, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion
47 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 12 June 2010
Saun Juanico, Isla Carmen, Isla Coranado, downtown Loreto, visits with Sarah from Puerto Moreles, re-united with sv Gato Go
107 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 23 May 2010
Met up with sv Evergreen, Josh, Carol and Dennis. Visited: Bonanza, Los Islotes, East Bay of San Francisco, Isla San Jose' and Evaristo.
88 Photos
Created 5 May 2010
A few weeks dockside to work on some projects before heading north into the Sea of Cortez.
61 Photos
Created 18 April 2010
The Dulaba's are aboard in La Paz at Marina Palmira and we explore some of the pristine anchorages on Isla Espiritu and Isla San Francisco
43 Photos
Created 6 April 2010
36 Photos
Created 6 April 2010
77 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 17 March 2010
10 Photos
Created 17 March 2010
Making our way north. The Hillels on board until Feb 23. Tsunumi level one alert on Sat Feb 27th.
110 Photos
Created 17 March 2010
Travelling from Z Town to Manzanillo. Meeting with Al Sue and Hadley in Las Hadas Feb 13 for a week cruise with them.
25 Photos
Created 17 March 2010
The Walker family visits us in Z-Town.
102 Photos
Created 19 January 2010
Barra Navidad,
22 Photos
Created 26 December 2009
74 Photos
Created 20 December 2009
29 Photos
Created 18 November 2009
The 2009 BaHa Ha Ha Rally, 160 sailboats
121 Photos
Created 16 November 2009
35 Photos
Created 9 October 2009
The start of our journey
117 Photos
Created 10 August 2009
26 Photos
Created 15 July 2009