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
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
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