Hunting Treasure on La Isla Muerte.

So I'm sailing up in the Gulf Islands last summer and I find a strange little trader's outpost on an otherwise deserted island. Some sort of a salty sailor's traveling antique shop. Old bottles fished out of the sea, chests, driftwood, and whatnot, I peruse his wares until I come across a bottle with some weathered parchment papers inside. With some struggle I shuffle the papers out to discover an old crumbling map; two maps to be precise. I ask the salty sailor, who sits half drunk staring out at the sea,

“How much for the map and bottle?”

“Not for sale” he says without looking back.

Before I know what I'm doing, I slip the map into an old oak chest and I walk it up to him.

“How much for this here chest?” I ask nervously.

“Twenty loon,” he says.

I pull the loonies from my pocket, pay the man, and then I'm gone. Now this may sound unethical to some, but I would like the opportunity to defend myself. Any treasure map that is out there in the world is most certainly stolen, re-stolen, sold for a ransom, and then stolen again. The rightful owner is long gone and a treasure was meant to be found. Thus ethics have little place when it comes to treasure maps and treasure. That night I slept fitfully on my boat and I arose the next morning to find the salty sailor was gone along with his floating antiques roadshow. Not a sign that he had ever been there in the first place.

I dared not take this map across the border in my own possession, fearing that it would be confiscated by some uptight customs officers. Instead I trusted the map to an honest looking hobo that I met down on the wharf in Vancouver who said he was bound for Seattle by the rails. Since hobos don't have the same issues with border security as us 'law abiding folk,' I figured it was worth a shot. Thus, for a bottle of bourbon I entrusted him with the map and he gave me a toothless grin as he jumped a freight car heading South. I crossed my fingers wondering if I had done the right thing.

This was the story that I told a trio of 8 year olds and one 4 year old as I piled them into a mini van heading for the old train cars that line the streets in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. I told them that I had made contact with the hobo, but he had ditched the chest and the map as he fled from the train pursued by the transit authorities. I feigned frustration and hurry as I rushed down the streets towards the train tracks.

“Never trust a hobo!” I proclaimed from the front seat of the van. “Now, all we have is a poor description of a train cart from the most unreliable of characters.”

We found the train cars and I told them that all we had to go on was that he said it was, “probably on the most graffitied car.” They excitedly pointed out a car proclaiming several obscenities in large spray-painted letters and we set to searching. After thirty minutes of crawling all over the car a screech came out from underneath and one of the kids came tearing out with a small chest and what do ya know- a map inside. Two maps to be precise. They insisted on burying the maps again in Golden Gardens Park to keep the secret safe and I promised I would sail them to find the treasure that summer.

So it was that a little crew of fidgety treasure hunters came tromping down the gangway of the Orcas Island Ferry Landing to see out the conclusion of their treasure hunting adventure. I lay out the treasure map on top of a chart of the San Juan Islands and with much prompting they were able to discern the location of 'La Isla Muerte' (The Dead Island). As it turned out, this was Blind Island just across the way and conveniently where I had anchored my boat the previous summer.

Locating Treasure Island

We threw our anchor and I ferried the kiddos ashore. The instructions on the second smaller map were written in Spanish but fortunately I know Spanish, and so I dispatched them to find the 'Piedra mas alta,' the highest rock. From there they had to 'Mire al oeste', look west, for the 'ramas del arbolito', branches of the little tree. They found a large bolder at the base of some bushes, rolled it aside, and began digging.

Jack and Joe stand guard while Bella sorts through the booty and Tommy continues to dig.

It wasn't long before they came clamoring out of the bushes with a small degrading treasure chest and shrikes of “it's the treasure, it's the real treasure!” They set upon their new riches and we mused about the rarity of finding an actual sixteenth century buried treasure. Our treasure hunting successful we ferried the kids back to the boat and set sail for West Beach on Orcas Island where I had one more surprise waiting for them. On a recent road trip I had stopped by Wyoming and picked up some heavy duty fireworks that I was excited to try lighting out of a new cannon I had just pieced together.


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