Sunday, July 11, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation, 2010.

I left for a vacation on Luckness June 26th, returning July 11th - 16 days.  There was no real destination for the trip - I had a few goals, but they were related to gaining experience rather than any particular destination.

On Saturday June 26th, I met up with Jeff Moog and the gang for his Chowder Run aboard Angelique in Langley.  I arrived at 6pm to see Angelique already at anchor.  So I anchored a short distance off, put the dinghy in the water and motored over.  This was the first time I had Luckness anchored when I wasn't on her.  It was weird.  I kept poking my head up out of Angelique making sure she was still there.  I got more practice at being away from Luckness while she was at anchor during the holiday. Its still a bit of a strange feeling when I leave the boat empty, with no anchor watch ready to fix a dragging anchor while I go about what I'm doing on shore or elsewhere.  On Angelique the chowder and company were great, and I returned that evening to Luckness.

The next morning Angelique left south back for Seattle and I headed north toward the San Juans.  There were light winds all day and so I didn't make a lot of distance.  I chose to stay in Port Ludlow that night, not the first time I would be here for this holiday.

The next day I motored out into the sound and then sailed in light wind trying to round Point Wilson with the current against me.  After a lot of sailing back and forth, I rounded the point and entered the Straits toward Mud Bay on Lopez.
The wind eventually died, and I ended up motoring for four hours.  When I arrived at Mud Bay I found the bay perfectly calm, and took the time to calibrate my knot meter.  Its always read high, but I wasn't sure by how much.  After calibrating it, I now realize that the boat isn't able to motor at hull speed - 3300 rpm gives me 6.4 knots where the hull speed is around 7.1 - so I'll need to repitch the propeller, something to do when the boat is out of the water this winter having work done on her.

Mud bay was the first of many beautiful evenings. One of the things I really like about sailing is that it puts you closer to the environment.  I experience the weather and my surroundings more than when I'm in the city.  Here are a few pictures from that evening:
The next day I left Mud Bay and headed toward Echo Bay on Sucia.  Again, I had light winds, around 8kts SW for a lot of the day with an opposing current, so I struggled to make progress.  I cleared Cypress around 2pm and the wind improved to around 15 knots with gusts to 20.  During a slightly mismanaged jibe I saw 7.7 knots on the knot meter while I got things under control and pointed the boat back to where I was going (off of the beam reach she was on at max speed.)  As I got up toward Matia the wind started clocking around 360 at 0 to 2 knots.  After a while doing that, I got fed up and motored the rest of the way into Echo Bay.

The previous post mentions Echo Bay.  After staying here two days I realized that if I headed north toward the Gulf Islands there would likely be a long string of wonderful anchorages with nice islands to explore. At this point I changed my mind about what I was going to do.  I had been planning on heading into Canada, but instead decided to try to get out to Neah Bay for some experience.  The Gulf islands will have to wait until next year.

I first stopped in at Friday Harbor to buy a new charger for my cell phone.  While there I had a shower and ate on shore.  The shower was nice, by now I'd been out for 5 nights. But it wasn't really needed.  A sink bath works just fine and uses very little water.  The shower was a luxury, not a necessity.  There was no one else onboard, so this fact can't be disputed.

One of the biggest problems I ran into during the trip was my lack of electrical energy generation on Luckness.  My alternator is nothing special - its rated at 80Ah but it has an internal regulator and charges at 13.3 volts so it takes forever to charge the batteries with the engine.  I have no alternative energy yet, so the engine is the only way to recharge.  I was tempted to put into the marina in Friday Harbor - by now my batteries were at 12.2 volts, down 160 Ah - but the marina was pretty full and I wasn't able to get a slip with power.  I'll need a new alternator and voltage regulator, along with solar panels etc.  I knew about the need for solar panels but didn't realize how lame my alternator was.

I anchored in 60', fuel at 31 gals having consumed around 7 gallons so far.

I left Friday Harbor July 2nd heading toward Port Angeles.  I intended to stay at Port Angeles over night and head out to Neah Bay the next day.  The winds were light so I motored out through Cattle Pass and past Salmon Point where I started to sail in light wind.  By 5:30 there were 15nm to go so I had to reevalute.  I changed my mind and decided to stay at Dungeness Bay overnight - there is not much protection there but with light winds it was viable.  Within 30min or so the winds had picked up to 15 to 25 from the west.  I arrived at my intended anchorage and quickly decided that I wasn't going to stay there and reevaluated again.  Port Angeles would have been a long bash, and I didn't want to enter an unfamiliar anchorage in the dark with this wind.  So I decided to head east toward Port Townsend.  I got the sails back up and headed downwind.  This was a fun ride.  I was seeing boat speeds around 7 knots, sometimes faster sometimes slower.  The apparent wind was showing 18 to 22.  The boat felt wonderful, very reassuring.  As I was rounding Point Wilson it was around 10pm, the stars were out, the sky was clear, and my wake was glowing!  Luckness' keel is 5' 6" deep, and behind the boat was a column of bioluminescence about 2 feet across and 6 feet deep glowing brightly.  When I moved forward to the shrouds and looked over the side, the wake was sparkling with light, it was wonderful.  At this point I reevaluated my plan once again.  I was having fun and decided to keep sailing toward Port Ludlow.  I arrived at anchor at 2am.

The next day I was pretty tired, having been at the helm for 17 hours the previous day, so I slept in and took a day off, working on boat projects and reading.  On July 4th there was a gale warning around Neah Bay and the middle of the Straits, so I decided to stay one more night. This put me in Port Ludlow for July 4th.  I expected a few small fireworks along the shore but nothing large.  I was mistaken.  There were four or five houses along the shore which seemed to compete for the largest display.  One of the houses had around a 45 min intense display of high level fireworks - it was amazing.

By July 5th I had decided to give up on my Neah Bay plan and simply head back to the San Juans and explore some more.  By now the batteries were at 12.0v which meant more motoring was in store.  I bought 10 gallons of fuel at the marina.  I motored most of the way past Point Wilson in wind I could have been sailing in.  I hated this - there were other boats out sailing and here I was motoring.  I normally feel good about sailing while other boats are motoring.  After a few hours I entered the Straits and I started to sail.  I was on a beautiful close reach most of the way to Lopez.  The wind died just as I rounded the southern corner of the island and I motored the remaining distance back to Mud Bay.  I gained 108Ah, batteries back to 12.7v.

The next day I headed to Blind Bay, where I did some more dinghy exploring.

From Blind Bay I went to Reid Harbor where I took the dinghy ashore again.  From Reid Harbor I went to Roche, from Roche I went to Mackay Harbor, from Mackay I went to Port Ludlow, and the next day, the 11th I headed back to Shilshole.

It was a good trip.  I wasn't sure if single handing the boat for 16 days would wear me out or what I would find out about the experience.  Single handing was just fine, I enjoyed it.  Luckness was wonderful, with a few system improvements related to energy she would be an awesome coastal cruiser.  For blue water cruising I want to add a few more things, but that will come.  

The hardest thing I encountered single handed was leaving anchorage one day in about 15 knots of wind, the wind blew the boat around as I was trying to raise the anchor and wash the mud off the chain - this was a little tedious involving much walking back and forth, bow to the helm.  I'll need to work on this.  Having identified this as the hardest thing - I realize the weather and winds weren't challenging.  The hardest thing would be bound to change given different conditions!

I didn't get a chance to sail throughout the night, but this will be better left to after I have a self steering unit installed.

I used around 30 gallons of water during the trip, of 80 I had onboard.  I didn't use the pressure water at all.  The foot pumps for fresh and salt water in the galley and head were preferable and probably lead to less water used.  I didn't use the water from the hot water tank at all - when I wanted hot water I heated some up on the kettle.  I'm considering if I even need the hot water tank - the space it occupies would be valuable for something else.

I used my pressure cooker for the first time on this trip.  You can make beans in 28min!  Beans and rice is a viable (supplement to the) food plan.  For this trip I didn't plan meals too closely, I just brought a bunch of ingredients and made it up as I went.  The only thing I almost ran out of was granola.  I'll need to learn how to make my own.  I ate well on the trip - and by well I mean it was healthy simple food.

There was too much garbage generated, I'll need to reduce packaging next time.  I also had too much plastic onboard, I'd like to try to minimize this in the future as well.  On offshore passages you can't toss the plastic overboard, but you can toss most other garbage.  Avoiding plastic would be a good habit to get into.

One last thing I noticed during the trip - I felt good.  My dreams were vivid and cool.  I felt creative and challenged.  There was a lot of smiling going on.

I feel lucky to have this boat and to be able to do all of this.  I'm looking forward to more of it in the future.