This blog is devoted to my John Welsford designed 15' Navigator yawl Ellie. I built her in my garage over a period of 18 months and launched her in 2011. She sports a sliding gunter main, roller furled jib and sprit-boomed mizzen. Her construction is glued-lapstrake over permanent bulkheads and stringers. This blog is a record of her construction and her voyages here in the Puget Sound area and (hopefully) a useful resource for fellow Navigator builders.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fossil expedition and Patos exploration

80 million years ago, near what is now Baja California, an Ammonite met an unfortunate end.  Life in the late Cretaceous was tough. Dinosaurs like the duck bills, the ankylosaurs, and horned dinosaurs were enjoying a period of great success. Tyrannosaurs were the dominant large predator. Birds were becoming increasingly common and diverse, replacing the pterosaurs.  Even primitive placental mammals were becoming common.  In the seas, modern sharks appeared and elasmosaurs diversified.  But perhaps it was the sudden appearance of the mosasaurs and their spectacular evolutionary radiation that contributed to the decline and eventual extinction of our unfortunate ammonite.

Let's hope our friend didn't fall prey to this Mosasaur

The shell of our Ammonite friend settled in a clam bed of a shallow marine sea.  Over millions of years, sedimentary layers were laid down upon him. Collision of the oceanic and north American continental plates caused the region to inch its way 1500 miles north, one earthquake jolt at a time. It also caused the seabed to fold into a U-shape, tilt, and uplift forming Sucia island, which geologists call a classic example of a "plunging marine syncline". Wind and wave erosion has continually eaten away Sucia's shoreline exposing the fossils buried there.

Including that of our Ammonite friend, the shape of which seems oddly familiar.

The fossilized remains of an Ammonite

Fossils riddle the cliff face

After my early morning fossil expedition it was time for Tim and I to explore Patos Island.  I've been to the San Juans many times, but I've never been to Patos. Sailing to, and exploring a place for the first time is something we enjoy immensely.

The seas were like glass, so we had to motor the 6 miles from Sucia's Fossil Bay to Active Cove on Patos.
We had some difficulty setting anchor in Active cove.  The bay is rocky and full of dense seaweed. After several attempts we were able to find a small patch of sand and drop the anchor on it.

Patos is a beautiful island.  The campsites at Active Cove have stunning, sweeping views of Boundary Pass.  I was always under the impression that Patos was a wild, undeveloped place, so I was quite surprised to find a sidewalk leading from the Cove to the lighthouse.  Tim and I walked out to the Patos lighthouse, which is similar, but larger than our Mukilteo lighthouse.  We bought some souvenirs.  Tim got a coffee mug with nice photos of the lighthouse and I bought the 50th anniversary of the book The Light on the Island.
We returned to Ellie and continued our circumnavigaton of Patos.  We spotted about 30 seals on the rocky beaches on the North East point of the island.
Time to head back to Fossil Bay.  We didn't want to miss out on the traditional "Wine and Cheese" night.
Good times!


  1. OK!!
    Seriously green with envy......I'm a closeted geologist and marine biologist.....reports like this don't help my blood pressure!

    what a wonderful trip Joel. our closest fossil place is lyme Regis in dorset and Charmouth beach;

    lovely report - glad you had such a great time

    arwens meanderings

  2. I, too, am green with envy! I would love to see that in person. Shame about the wind not cooperating, though. If putting an outboard on my SCAMP means that I'll be able to visit places like this, sign me up!

  3. You'd certainly be able to visit Sucia in your Scamp, but I would highly recommend having a motor. Currents of 3-4 knots are common and there's usually little wind in July. My friend Marty had to row for 7 hours from Sucia back to the boat launch because there was no wind. He says he's bringing a motor next year!