Written by Roger Kamholz, Photography courtesy of David Hagen
David Hagen estimates that, in the ﬁve years that he and his wife, Linda, have owned their Meridian 391 Sedan, the couple has made about 50 ports of call throughout the Paciﬁc Northwest. That’s pretty ambitious stuﬀ, particularly for a self-described “chicken boater” like David, who says he hardly ever ventures out into questionable conditions. Once, when the Meridian was caught in a heavy fog while heading into Seattle, David opted to putter the whole way back in the wake of a crane-hauling barge doing 6 knots, rather than risk any sudden encounters with Washington State ferries that his radar might not discern from land. But in spite of this, the truth of the matter—which comes to light after hearing his experiences threading through the rich cruising grounds scattered between Seattle and the northern tip of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island—is that David doesn’t really shy away from exploration at all. He just proceeds carefully.
The Hagens, who work together running an insurance business, split their time between a condo on Seattle’s Lake Washington and a home in central Washington state. With the flexibility to work from anywhere with cell reception and an Internet connection, he sets up shop, so to speak, in whichever place is experiencing more pleasant climes. “I kind of move with the weather,” David says with a chuckle. The couple keeps the 391 docked in Anacortes, Washington, which places the Meridian and its pair of diesel engines within range of numerous idyllic destinations. In their previous boat, a 38-footer, David would venture no farther than Roche Harbor, a five-hour cruise from their former dockage in Seattle. “We would think that was a big trip, going to Roche Harbor, which was about a 60-mile run,” he says. “Now we hardly even stop there anymore. We zoom by and keep right on going.” He adds, “We’ve had some really big experiences, which we never would have done in our old boat.” This past summer, the Hagens made one of their most memorable and far-flung excursions to date; they tucked in at the Dent Island Lodge, a stunning waterside property owned by the Nordstrom family. (Perhaps you’ve heard of their department stores.)
The Lodge and its marina lie sandwiched between Dent Island and a broad outcropping of mainland British Columbia. Stuart and Sonora islands stand sentry to the east and west. The thickly wooded land-masses descending into deep blue water makes for some stunning scenery. The salmon fishing is tremendous, and with just a few rooms to accommodate guests, the place feels small, faraway and intimate—a true hidden gem. “It’s a beautiful resort,” David says. Early in the day, “they’d send a couple people down to see what we wanted for dinner that night. They would begin dinner preparations at noon, one o’clock. Dinner was like what you’d expect a Nordstrom’s restaurant to be—classic, perfected elegance.”
Taking on the challenge of cruising to Dent Island was proof of the confidence the 391 instills in David. Getting there can be tricky.
Visiting Dent Island was on David’s boating bucket list, but it likely never would have happened if not for Linda’s insistence on upgrading to the 391. “It was a beautiful weekday in Seattle,” David says, setting the scene of the boat’s origin story. Driving by the local Meridian dealer, Linda spotted a gleaming new 391. “My wife says, ‘Stop and turn around,’” David recalls. “I could smell danger in the air.” Before he knew what was happening, he was agreeing to a boat ride. “We went for a ride on the lake, and we were thoroughly enjoying it.” The salesman then offered David the wheel. “I said, ‘Naaaah, I really don’t want to do that.’ This is smelling like money going out the window to me…” He took the wheel and put the boat through its paces. “It was such a world of difference,” he says. “The 391 was just a sports car—just a completely different ride for us. It was fast, it handled, it turned. It did everything.” Later, David walked toward their car, happy to leave things at that. Linda stood firm. “Ever since then, it’s been a great experience,” David adds. “I’ve gone places I never thought I’d go.”
Taking on the challenge of cruising to Dent Island was proof of the confidence the 391 instills in David. Getting there can be tricky. Near the island are stretches of fiercely turbulent tidal waters, including the Dent Rapids, Yuculta Rapids and Gillard Passage. “It looks like a river, but it changes direction four times a day,” David says of the Dent Rapids. The current can pull at about 15 knots at full flow. But, being the careful cruiser that he is, David managed to secure another escort—although this time a much classier one. On their port-hopping journey northward from Washington, the Hagens stopped at a beautiful yet lesser-known spot called the Gorge, where the old-growth fir trees are so massive, David says, you can’t get your arms around their trunks. There they befriended another couple from Seattle that owned a stately 85-foot yacht. It just so happened that those two were en route to Dent Island, as well, and the captain had lots of experience traversing the tidal waters. “I asked him if I could follow him up there,” David says. The 85-footer took a couple-hour head start the next morning, and by the time the Hagens’ Meridian reached the rapids, the boats were reunited and carefully negotiating their way to Dent Island together. With a nostalgic sigh, David says, “It turned out to be just an incredible trip.”