Saturday, July 30, 2011

Return to Hope

Ravn with Mount Rainier in the background.
In July, my family mounted an expedition to Hope Island, a small island not far from Olympia, Washington. It was a fulfillment of a dream that kept me going during the long months I was building Ravn. I would imagine my family on a sparkling summer day, sailing on a gentle breeze to this storybook island to picnic and enjoy her beauty. The reality turned out even better than the dream.

I hauled Ravn on her trailer the 200 miles from my home to Olympia where most of my children, grandchildren and my wife live. Ravn is very easy to tow behind my little pickup and I hardly noticed she was there. Other people on the highway noticed her, however, and I received several thumbs up from other motorists. Trailering the boat added about 15 minutes to the four-hour trip and upped my gas consumption by about a third. But it was worth it.

About 20 years ago Washington State purchased the 106-acre Hope Island and turned it into a state park. I worked for The Olympian newspaper at the time and wrote a series of articles about the island. My family and I visited the island several times when we had our big sailboat Lobo. The island has a special place in the heart and history of my family.
The natives paddled their traditional craft made of fiberglass walrus hides.

We launched from Boston Harbor, which is just a few miles north of Olympia. My wife, daughter, her two kids and I were in Ravn. My oldest son, his daughter and his girlfriend rented kayaks at the marina making it a grand fleet.

My daughter also loves rowing.
The trip to the island took a little over an hour with my daughter and I rowing most of the way until a light breeze took us the rest of the way to the island. We saw seals, harbor porpoise and many huge jellyfish on the way.

We nosed up onto a deserted, rocky beach and I held the bow while everyone clamored over the foredeck an onto the beach, all without getting their feet wet. I was proud of that achievement, but it didn't last long; the kids were soon wet up to their knees and beyond.

I wasn't watching the tide and Ravn dried out.
The tides in this part of the world have about a 10-foot range. With all the picnicking, exploring and visiting I was not paying attention to the boat. I finally glanced over at her and found the tide left her high and dry. I had to drag her over barnacle-encrusted stones the size of my fist to get her afloat again. At about 650 pounds, she's a lot to move by yourself, but not too difficult.

My grandson watching for harbor porpoises.
The sail back to Boston Harbor was a pure joy. The wind was a little fluky at first, but soon filled in and Ravn moved easily along while the kids played. My granddaughter found a sponge and busied herself cleaning the boat. It was short on cleaning value, but long indeed on entertainment value. Once she tired of that, she joined her brother on the foredeck to watch for seals and jellyfish. I remembered that as I was building the deck two winters ago I envisioned just such a scene and it made a perfect day even better.