gmhTODAY 14 gmhToday May June 2017 - Page 98

these years. My wife and I look back fondly on our Gilroy years. After 35 years, most teachers wander off into a gentle retirement, living out their years reading, traveling, painting landscapes, tending to the grandchildren and going to dinner ala early bird specials! We took a different retirement path, one that led to me becoming a whale watch captain! In the summer of 1986, wife Carolee Maya (also a Gilroy school teacher) and I headed to the Pacific Northwest for Expo ’86, the world’s fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. On the way home, Carolee and I were wandering the marinas and docks in Bellingham, Washington, just south of the Canadian border. Being a lifelong 98 boater, I was looking at boats, dreaming and fantasizing, when we heard some- one shouting off in the distance, “Last call for whale watching!” We looked at each other and dashed toward the sound of the voice. Back then we could dash. As we hopped aboard that whale watch boat, little did we know that the next four hours would dramatically change the course of our lives.  The boat left the harbor and headed south toward a little-known archipelago called the San Juan Islands, the Crown Jewels of the Northwest! Never had we seen such a captivating scene! With the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and Cascades as a backdrop, the sunny green islands of the San Juans were dazzling. And the fact that GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2017 people actually lived there did more than tickle our imaginations. In the back of my mind, I decided that these islands would be the place that someday I just might call home. The San Juan Islands are north- west of Seattle, right on the Canadian border, out in the middle of the Salish Sea, north of Puget Sound. The islands, some 200 of them, form the smallest county in the state, San Juan County. They lie in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, much like Gilroy and Morgan Hill are in the rain shadow of the Coastal Range, those hills between the Santa Clara Valley and the Pacific. Hence, the islands have twice the sun and half the rain of Seattle. These islands are stunningly beautiful, tranquil and progressive.  In the summer of 1988 we went back to the islands, and really fell in love with them. In 1989 we returned and bought a lot on the west side of San Juan Island. The lot overlooks the water of Haro Strait, with the Olympics and Victoria in the distance.  And often Killer Whales! The next year. with the help of our two younger children, Josh and Jessica, we built a home. It was a rental for four years while our four children finished high school in Gilroy. We finally moved to San Juan Island in 1994. After teaching for three more years in Washington, Carolee and I started a small whale watch business, Maya’s Westside Whale Watch Charters. Astonishingly, people began to pay me