Sailing in Solitude

Bowman Bay Dock

The floating dock at Bowman Bay has several nice picnic tables. This weekend I had the whole dock to myself.

When I set out the water was as placid as a lake. The only ripples were those from my bow cutting through the calm, cold water. This weekend I was headed to Bowman Bay, just west of Deception Pass where Fidalgo and Whidbey islands meet. This is a great little bay with a floating dock, three mooring buoys, and another dock at Rosiaro park on the other side of the bay.

It’s a tricky entrance though. The mouth has three rocks, one of which is submerged on a high tide. It’s important to identify the large swaths of bull kelp that identify their location on a high tide. When entering, you want to swing wide to the south and enter from that direction, hugging the cliff walls. Enter slowly and during daylight if you’re unfamiliar with this anchorage.

Bowman Bay Rocks

The mouth of Bowman Bay is lined with rocks, one of which is underwater at high tide.

While Bowman Bay is great for hiking, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and diving, it’s not well protected. The mouth of the bay opens to the southwest, which is where the dominant wind for this area comes from. But on placid weekends, like this one, it is a great choice.

Bowman Bay is only only six miles from my home port of Skyline Marina. Choosing it as a destination worked well for me as I had several issues that would have turned me back if I had picked a more ambitious destination. Is it just me or does calamity always seem to strike in threes? My engine started sputtering three miles into the trip, but fixed itself after a few minutes, which worried me. My new dingy got a hole somehow, and I didn’t have the right tackle for fishing!

Boat With Dog

Oaty joined me on this trip. He’s a great boat dog, but he wasn’t impressed with the engine troubles.

Like Ken says, “If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen out on the water”. The advantage of frequently using my boat is that I can catch these kind of problems early before they have a chance to get too bad. The engine troubles got worse on the return trip, to the point that I had to cut the engine to idle and put up a sail. I managed to maintain a steady 3 mph between the two and got home without any difficulty. The problem? It turned out to be the premium gas I had switched to. Apparently my Mercury engine didn’t like it.

Strength in Solitude

San Juan Flora

There is a cliff face in Bowman Bay that is covered with beautiful flora.

Being the off season, I had the entire bay to myself. There were plenty of people hiking around shore, but no boats other than kayaks. Given the sometimes eerie calm, the overcast weather, and the solitude the conditions were right for a lot of musing and reflection.

It’s strange how I feel most connected when I am most alone. Correspondingly, I have always felt most alone when surrounded by family, friends, or colleagues. The contrast of my aloneness inspires me to reflect on my family and friends, and inspires a desire to connect with them. I find myself contemplating how I can give more of myself to them.

Everyone embodies this duality of the individual and the generic. We are all the same: we all eat, sleep, and have other bodily urges. We must all work and find a way to provide for those needs. We all aspire to achieve happiness in our lives. And yet we are all unique in our passions and focus in life. Attempting to share and have our passions understood by others is a great, intimate need. There is a special brand of loneliness that stems from having a passion that you can not share: When something moves you and inspires you, and yet none of your friends and family are willing to join you in it. When you attempt to share it, all you receive is an ambivalent encouragement. The specialness is lost on them, and that is an incredibly alienating feeling.

Cormants on a rock

The rocks in Bowman Bay make excellent perches for sea birds, like these Cormorants.

That is how I feel about my desire to live simply and close to nature. I am an oddity, a black sheep, and a lone wolf. To me, this lifestyle represents not only a responsible way to live, but is a gateway to for me to deal with society on my own terms. I used to identify with labels such as ‘rugged individualist’ or ‘fiercely independent’, but in recent years this somehow seems like an understatement. I simply do not care to live any other way. For years, until I discovered this lifestyle, I wallowed in a misery of depression because it seemed that I could never escape societies clutches. Some one person, sometimes identifiable but usually not, would always have a say in how I lived my life. I only feel truly free when deep in the woods or out on the water, setting my own schedule, destination, and providing for my own needs.

Although I may be unique in the specificity of my passion, I am not unique in having passions. I have always loved to meet passionate people, and in the last few months I have encountered many. This corner of the world seems to attract people of that mentality. My spirit is buoyed by these encounters. I take solace in the fact that there are other people in the world perusing their passions, pushing past the societal norms, ostracizing themselves through their dedication, and discovering strength in their own solitude.

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One Response to “Sailing in Solitude”
  1. Sandi says:

    your stories are awesome. I love to hear about the different places, moorages and cautions in the areas that you travel. when sailing, that information is really important…

    and it is so cool how you describe the natural beauties that you see. many people take it for granted and some people have never even experienced life on or near the water…

    it is a magical place and a true blessing – so sweet of you to share it with us.

    one day i sail south into the San Juans

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