Our Trip on Chug
by Les and Arlyn Kerr*

Arlyn and "Chug"

In late September, 2000, we chartered Chug, a 26-foot Nordic Tug from Anacortes. We’d fallen in love with this type of boat after seeing a pair of them during a kayaking trip on Vancouver Island a few years ago.

Chug's PilothouseAlthough this was our first powerboat experience, we had twice chartered a similar size sailboat, the Kofu Maru, in 1987. So Les felt fairly ready, but, to gain confidence, he practiced docking maneuvers on Chug in May.

The Volendam, Bellingham ChannelWe were aware of all the ferry routes, but, as we set off between Guemes Island and Cypress Island, we had a surprise encounter with a huge cruise ship.

Fossil Bay, Sucia IslandChug’s speed was about 7 knots, so it took a few hours to reach Sucia Island, our first night’s destination. Since it was the off-season, we easily found a mooring buoy.

Kayakers, Sucia IslandA group of kayakers reminded us of the way we usually explore the San Juan Islands.  We envied the way they were more a part of the environment, closer to the water and the shore, than we were in Chug.

River Otters, Sucia IslandAt sunset we had the thrill of watching three river otters feeding next to our boat. The days were short (sundowns at 7 PM).

We enjoyed viewing each day’s photos on our laptop.

We went to bed every night listening to a bedtime story: a library cassette tape of A Walk in the Woods, read by author Bill Bryson, about his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Sunrise, Sucia IslandThe next morning we were greeted by another fabulous day. In fact, considering that we had to commit to the date in March when we reserved Chug, we were very lucky to get four days of fantastic weather. (The day after our trip, the rains started.)

Chug's GalleyAlthough the galley was small, we had no trouble making tasty and nourishing meals. Chug's SalonWe started each morning with Arlyn’s homemade muesli, fruit, and soymilk.

Sandstone Sculpture, Sucia IslandAfter breakfast, we circumnavigated Sucia with its many bays and inlets. Reflections, Sucia IslandWe admired the sandstone sculptures, the rock formations, and a long line of rhinoceros auklets drifting along.

Deer Harbor, Orcas IslandWe headed for Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, where we learned how to use the pumpout station to empty the holding tank.

Jones Island, North CoveThen on to Jones Island, where it was again easy to snag a mooring buoy.

Les in Chug's DinghyWe tried out the dinghy, rowing to shore for a hike around the island. The stars were wonderful that evening, and we had fun with the bioluminescence, throwing handfuls of fresh water into the bay to watch the explosion of colorful patterns.

As we set off the next day we saw a lot of ancient murrelets, another bird we’re not used to.

Friday Harbor, San Juan IslandWe headed to Friday Harbor, with the quest of finding a good bakery. We succeeded, and bought a “mystery bag” of day-old goods, which kept us in fine snacking for the rest of the trip. A “big brother” of Chug happened to tie up behind us at the marina.

Les Setting Chug's AnchorAt Turn Island, Les practiced setting the anchor. We spent an hour relaxing in the sun on the small afterdeck, while listening to the next installment about the Appalachian Trail.

Sunset, James IslandWe spent the last night at James Island. The one mooring buoy was taken, so we tied up at the dock. Our neighbors on the dock were live-aboards from Texas.  We were treated to a lovely sunset.

The next day we had to head back.  We waited for 20 minutes before crossing the main shipping channel, so that an oil tanker with tugboat escorts on their way to the oil refinery could pass by.

We poked in at Skyline Marina, then returned to Anacortes, where we learned how to re-fuel (we got about 5 miles to the gallon of diesel), and then checked in little Chug. Both “Skippy” and “Matey” agreed that the trip was as much fun as we had anticipated.

*Note: you can enlarge the small photos by clicking on them.