by Les Blackwell

A few of the yacht club members have heard this tale but there are a lot of new members who may like hearing about our cruise. It was in our Ranger 29, Kismet, a sailboat made in California (there were Ranger sailboats made in Kent, WA by another company.)

We were on a late August cruise, heading for Sidney and Nanaimo and it was the best of times and the worst of times.  The worst because we had started on our cruise a couple of weeks later than we usually did. But the best of times, the weather was near perfect as it mainly is in August—warm, some sun and some clouds ,and flat water, no wind for the sails.  

We powered from Bellingham to Deer Harbor on Orcas, a favorite spot for us. They have good docks, a small store and a great, great restaurant up the road a piece. We’ve always had wonderful meals at this restaurant. Our first stop lasted two days….it is a great marina.

But on the third day, we started out early with plans to head for Stewart Island, one side or the other, both sides have state parks. Okay, okay, it was noon when we left. We are not the early birds types.

We headed out and went around Fawn Island. I always had daydreams about owning that island. What a kick that would be. At the south end of Orcus Island, we made a turn to starboard and headed up the little pass (I forget the name of that water) between Jones Island and Orcus Island. It was beautiful and you could see South Pender Island, Canada in the distance. Oh my! What a great time to be alive.

As we passed Jones Island we noticed one buoy free in the little cove on the northeast side of the island.  From there you can see Waldron Island to the northeast. I remember we each looked at each other and turned into the cove without a word and took that last mooring buoy. We had been cruising for almost forty five minutes. As you can tell, we are not long distant cruisers. Once tied up, we had some lunch and then what to do? Lynn had a book to read and I thought perhaps I’d take my fishing box, rod and reel and go ashore to a place I thought I might catch a salmon heading north to the Fraser River in Canada. Hope always comes through in times like this.  

So I loaded up the dinghy with my stuff and rowed a short distance to shore, tied up the dinghy to a heavy duty bush to be safe. On Jones there is a great path that goes around the island. I have seen parents of fourth and fifth graders say to their kids, “go around the island and see what you can see.” When they got back the moms and dads would say, “go again.”  Great way to work off the energies of your young! If you go through the island from one side to the other you are apt to come across some small deer who will panhandle. They are the best beggars in the world. If you have an extra apple you’ll have a friend for ever. Well, until someone comes with a bigger apple.

I found the path and headed south down the east side of Jones. It is a beautiful island just like all the other islands in the San Juans. Down along the southeast part of the island before you get to the point there is a small indentation and the trees pull back from the path. You get a wonderful view of Orcus trees and the occasional home and some beautiful water. The tide was heading south through the pass just as I like for this type of fishing. I found my spot and proceeded to set up my pole and reel and turned to my fishing box.

First, I put a flasher  on the line, one of those shinny pieces about six to eight inches long. They are supposed to move from side to side, the flash attracting the salmon. Sometimes it works. From the flasher I added about twenty inches of line and a hook. I used to tie flies for fishing, mostly light fly fishing flies for rivers and streams. I’m not a bad fly tier but when I looked into my tackle box–no flies. I had taken some of the saltwater flies home to refurbish and had forgotten them. Well, damn! 

What to do, what to do. It had been a dry summer—how dry was it? I’ve been told that the folks in Friday Harbor had been washing their hands in vodka to save water. That was what I was told…. So finding a worm was probably out of the question since they had probably gone deep for the moister. Maybe if I turn over a rock or two I’d find a beatle or bug . While pondering the situation I noticed some movement in the short grasses and taking a step or two over found a little green snake about a foot or a foot and half long.  Little guy. But I also saw that he had a little frog in his mouth—the frog was too big for that little snake to swallow. Aha! Just what I needed–is that little frog. He would make a perfect addition to my hook. So I reached down and took hold of the frog’s legs and pulled but snake was having none of it. I would pull and he would clamp down harder and pull back. It was a standoff. What to do?   

So I reached into my tackle box and found my small flask. If you play the pipes you have to have a small flask to tide you over. So I grabbed the flask, opened and poured a few drops of good Scottish whiskey down the side of the little snakes throat. Well now, his mouth opens, he lets go of the frog and then begins to cough. You ain’t seen nothing until you watch a snake cough. It starts in the tail and goes forward to the mouth. Fascinating. But I had the frog and proceeded to tie it on my line and hook. Perfect.  

So, now I went over to the small bank on the water side, checked my gear, being sure that the flasher and the hook (with frog attached) clear. Ah yes. That bank gives you a clear area to swing your pole and I did just that sending my hook and flasher out into the saltwater. You have to make a good cast as there is eelgrass close to shore and you want your hook and flasher to go over the eelgrass and not get tangled up.  It was a good cast and I waited a moment or two until I saw and felt the tip of my pole begin to work. The flasher going from side to side in the flowing waters sends a shake up to the pole and gives you a good feel of what’s happening. Things were looking up and I moved a couple a fairly large rocks together to make a vee and laid my pole in that spot. Then I leaned back against a nearby tree and was able to put my foot on the handle of the pole and feel the movement of my gear. It was so great! The air was warm, I wasn’t in the sun but it was all around me—there was a coolish breeze and life was good. You sit there against the tree and you can close you eyes and just enjoy yourself. I did just that.

It hadn’t been very long when I felt something, opened my eyes to check the pole tip but things were normal, tip was moving like it should. Then I felt it again, a fairly strong nudge on my right hip and looking down I saw that same little green snake and he had another frog in his mouth.  

True story, really.  Would I lie to the members of the famed Squalicum Yacht Club


 Today, we own a different Ranger 🙂