It’s been a long while since I’ve been back to Kabiki. The last time we saw each other was in early June, for an adventure in the San Juans right after I finished the first semester of nursing school. Actually, she was laid up, on the hard in a South Park boat yard at first, while she received new through-hole fittings and bottom paint. We were short on funds then, or shorter than we are now, and so we lived in the boat on stilts for a week, torn apart and strewn with tools in an asphalt sea of vessels great and small. Then we took her up to the archipelago. First to Port Townsend, then Orcas, then Sucia, Stuart, San Juan, and James. It was a magical trip, though stressful at times. Like the time when we discovered the bilge overflowing with water. I learned a lot. We fought a little. Mostly, we thought life was pretty grand, and that we were damn lucky. And we were. We are.
Last weekend, being burned out on bad professors and long clinical days, we figured we needed some boat time, even if we had exams to study for and essays to write. Besides, it was high time Fitzroy became a boat kitty while he’s still young and malleable.
The fog over Bremerton had graciously migrated elsewhere by the time we wanted to shove off, and with an ebbing current we made it to Blake Island in record time. Approaching her westward shore, we had to navigate around two gargantuan container ships—a pair from a slew of vessels anchored around the south Sound, waiting glumly in the rain for the longshoremen to end their strike so the boxcars can be unloaded.
Blake is a state marine park and is only accessible by boat—either your own or via an Argosy cruise to the island’s cultural center for a salmon dinner and Coast Salish performance. There’s usually a mix of sail and power boats moored at the docks, but rarely does anyone else leave the comforts of their cockpit and wet bar. For us, that means the island’s 472 forested acres remain generally free to explore without crossing paths with another human.
The wind battered the docks all night long on Friday. I slept in fits and starts like I do when the boat rocks too fiercely for my overactive mind to ignore. Next morning, it began to quiet itself down, and the sun followed in its place. When my brain grew mushy from reviewing cardiac meds and writing postpartum care plans, I scooped up the napping kitten and we headed for the cedar trees.
Blake is populated by a herd of mildly-tame deer, many well-fed raccoons, and your run-of-the-mill feathered friends. Not counting the park ranger and his wife, who have arguably one of the best government contracts in the nation, that about covers the neighborhood. By the time you’ve circled the entire island, you may have begun to forget where you came from and to what species you belong. It’s a quieting peace that becomes you here, sprinkled down through the fir needles and fiddlehead ferns.
Then it was back to Kabiki. We studied hard while the sea salt wind blew clouds to the east, and when the moon rose over the water, we traded the books and computers for a fire by the sand.
In the morning, Milo woke us up before 6 in order to watch the day begin over the shadowy outline of the snow-barren Cascades. As much as I love a chance to sleep in, I love the reward of an alpine start even more. Dawn crested over, and we sailed toward an orange julius haze whose sweetness made up for the chill of awaiting sunrise on a frost-covered deck.
And then the porpoises swam by, the delicate whoosh of their breaths mingling with the lapping of waves and the creaks and dings of the rigging against the side of the boat. Fitz was decidedly uninterested in being topside and complained until I let him go back to the warm familiarity of the v-berth. So we enjoyed the rest of the daybreak just the two of us, warming our fingers by pouring second and third cups of strong coffee as the orange faded into blue. Coming back to Portland later that afternoon was hard. Traffic sucked and the stress of the week ahead loomed and clawed away at the serenity we’d floated in all morning. But with a little perspective, it was hard to really feel all that bad. We’ve got a floating RV, an adventure-loving feline, and each other. And porpoises.
Pretty grand, if you ask me. Damn lucky.