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Desolation Sound Cruise: Cortes Harbour

We slept late on Saturday morning: our destination was only a few miles away, south on Cortes Island at the Seattle Yacht Club’s northernmost outpost in Cortes Harbor. After malingering aboard, Glenn and I set out for the oyster beds to replenish our cache of shellfish. Slippery rocks and shallow waters made it difficult but we collected another bucketful of critters.

On our way back, we noticed that Bob Eichler’s dinghy was away from his boat, and Tom hailed us as we approached that Bob had radio’d of finding another, even more impressive bed nearby. We didn’t even unload our haul – we motored off immediately in the general direction of the outer cove where we expected to find Bob.

Indeed we did, and with a burst of throttle caught up to him. “Throw those away,” he insisted. “There’s a beach over here that is shellfish heaven.”

We followed him to a tiny hidden beach near an unoccupied house. Not only was it carpeted with oyster shells – Bob leapt off his boat to show us his prized discovery of vanilla clams. “Just scrape the pebbles like this,” he said, using a kitchen ladle to rake at the stones. And just below the surface were dozens and dozens of quarter-sized bivalves in the mud, easily picked up and tossed by the handful into our bucket. He recommended a white wine, butter, and onion steam bath that would open them and create a delicious broth at the same time.

We returned with a barely manageable bucket of clams and oysters, and after rinsing the shellfish with several changes of water, proceeded to stew up lunch. Outstanding. Each of us had bowls filled with a mound of tiny white-shelled clams, and a rich soup to sop up with bread.

In the early afternoon we navigated to the SYC outstation and tied into our slip, filled our water tanks, and unwound. That evening was to be the final social event of the cruise, and Glenn offered our hand-gathered selection of local oysters for the green box. While Tom and I helped other boats tie up, Glenn made arrangements to shuck the shellfish.

Just before the cocktail party Kim Lorenz of SYC escorted some 10 people to the steep top of the low mountain that guarded the harbor entrance. The aerial view was breathtaking, overlooking the entire range of mountains surrounding Desolation Sound and the waters below. We posed for multiple pictures for everyone’s cameras, and carefully tread back to the marina.

A quick shower and change enabled us to appear at the greenbox in decent condition, and once again it proved to be a delightful evening. Our oysters were of course an unexpected hit and the three amigos of the cruise’s only stag boat were acquitted of any previous violations of greenbox protocol. Beyond that, all of the cruise directors – John McColloch of NYYC, Comms. Sarah Howard and Russ Fraser of RVYC, and Comm. Chris Otorowski and Roger Pawley of SYC – provided heartfelt and occasionally raucous speeches thanking those who organized and all who participated in the week on the water, including a poem by Chris that somehow managed to name every vessel. And the SYC contingent was especially proud of their second place finish in the NYYC’s Invitational Cup Qualifying Series regatta just today.

Shortly after, we moved to outside picnic tables for a catered buffet dinner and more comraderie. At some point the RVYC table began a bread fight with the SYC table which spilled over into an aerial assault on attendees within range, who were therefore breaded alive. Before we were baked as well, we retreated to our boats, where, at least in our case, the numerous visitors kept us arguing and laughing until 1am. Glenn disappeared for an hour or two to Komokwa and returned with that he gleefully described as his “pole dancing video”, which prompted a visit from Sarah Howard and others to refute. It may have been the end of the multi-club cruise, but it wasn’t the end of the cruisers or their enthusiasm.