Friday, August 28, 2009

No dinghy

The plan: leave Aug 28th for 11 days away from Seattle; be on the boat each night; head north to the San Juans; putter around and then come back.  There were no more detailed plans beyond that.  I had two friends joining me for the trip up, Joe and Marcie.  They joined on friday and left monday afternoon.  Ivy joined on monday and stayed for the remainder of the trip ending Sept 7th.

After leaving on friday night we stayed at Port Ludlow, where we anchored out.  Saturday we anchored in Mackaye Harbor where we took the wind on our nose and the waves on our beam all night.  Rolly.

Most of the trip was amazing.  The trip up was perfect.  While crossing the straits the winds and water were just ideal - this was perhaps the best sailing I had done this year, it was just perfect.  The winds were a little forward of the beam, the boat was at hull speed, the sails were quiet and drawing nicely - we were all feeling great.  The next day at Mackaye Harbor there is fog, so we delay our move by a few hours for it to partially burn off.  When we do leave, the fog is still present but we want to be at Friday Harbor for the meet on Monday - so we leave with the radar on.  While using the radar, which I had only turned on to verify it was working earlier, I notice that the image is upside down.  The radar is installed backwards.  Oops.  This is later fixed.

The crew exchange is done in Friday Harbor.  After a quiet night at the dock, we have a little excitement in the morning - we had tied up to the docks in the Marina just behind the pump out station.  We were pumping out the previous evening when we asked for a guest slip.  The suggestion from the marina was to back the boat up a few boat lengths and leave it there.  Well, as it turns out, the waters there get shallow.  We woke up in the morning at around low tide to see roughly a foot of water beneath the keel.  The sailing lessons just never end.  This was a rookie mistake - I could easily have checked the depth and tide drop overnight to see it was going to be a problem.  Its easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Once away from Friday Harbor, Ivy and I visited: Blind Bay; Swifts Bay; Echo Bay; Prevost Harbor; Roche Harbor and then Friday Harbor again.  The only time we get onto land is at Friday Harbor - the other days we are at anchor as there is no dinghy yet.

We're at Roche Harbor on friday Sept 4th and its busy.  We are offered a guest slip - a starboard tie and I would need to back in.  This boat has awesome prop walk, to port.  Its a bear to control in reverse, I don't have the hang of it yet.  I declined the offer and we anchored out, again.

Anchoring out is amazing, I love it.  But without a dinghy we’re missing out on all the shoreline and exploring ashore that is possible in this area.  A dinghy is on my list.

August 30th its time to cross the straits and get closer to Seattle.  The plan was to leave through Cattle Pass.  We have 20-25 knot south winds with an ebbing tide - opposing wind and current through the pass.  I’ve read about this and experienced it before in other locations.  No worries, the waves will be a bit steeper, nothing serious I think to myself.  Well, as we exit the pass the winds are blowing and there are 3-4 foot wind waves.  The standing waves in the pass have the boat plunging down their backs until the bow meets blue water and then up until all we see is sky.  That was a little more than expected.  This lasts around 5 minutes and its a wild ride.  The boat feels fantastic.  No pounding, the helm has control, no scary moments.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be there in any of the other boats I’ve chartered in the past.  After motoring through the pass, I realize that something I had forgotten to do before leaving the protection of the San Juans was to install the Jack Lines on the boat.  I now decide they aren't doing any good in the locker and install them.  This involves crawling to the bow of the boat, clipping my harness around a strong point and bracing myself as I work on threading the jack line through a cleat and then walking them back to the stern, one at a time.  While at the bow, I have waves plunging across me.  Surprisingly, the foul weather gear I'm wearing keeps me dry.  Also, the motion of the boat is very assuring.  There is no pounding, the motions are broadcast by the boat.  I'm liking this boat more and more. Its now time to raise the sails.  The genoa on Luckness currently has a ripped UV cover, and when a reef goes into it the leach often flaps which helps to destroy the cover further.  So to avoid further damage and to quiet things down, I put up the staysail and a double reefed main.  This isn't really enough sail area for the conditions, but things are calmed down.  By calm, I mean the rail is in the water during the gusts and there is lots of spray over the bow.  Its fun.   It ends up being slow going making our way south, the seas are still high enough to keep the bow good and wet.  I should really have planned this day a little better.  Later Ivy gets seasick, the forward hatch has popped open and is being tied down from inside by a few lines, and the anchor has started to work itself loose.  Time to quit this crossing and use plan B which is a loop around the south side of Lopez into Hunter Bay.  Once back at anchor there is some cleaning up to do, salt water in the cabin, etc.  It was a good introduction to slightly heavier seas, and I have a list of projects to resolve to make this easier and safer the next time.  The other thing that will make this easier is a little more planning ahead of time.  It was a useful little trial, a taste of slightly heavier seas with an easy out if we decide to seek protection.

The next day the forecast is for 10-20 knots of south wind.  We exit Lopez pass planning to cross Rosario and get into the lee behind Whidbey.  But the winds never arrived.  Its a long motor back to Shilshole, the winds got up to a few knots - a light wind day.

It was a great trip.  It was: my longest trip on a sailboat; my first trip on Luckness to the San Juans; my first little experience of stronger winds and conditions on Luckness; a good test of the boats systems and comfort.  Luckness is looking good to me!

Everything went very well - I want to do more of this!  Luckily I have a sailboat and doing more of these trips can be arranged.

More photos are available.

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