Short Trip to San Juans

Short Trip to San Juans

June 30th, 2011  |  by Marilyn  |  Published in Ship's Log

This has been a funny season so far. In our wintertime dreams, we planned to leave in May to head north. But one thing after another has held us up (some of it was work related so a reasonable excuse). When a friend from NYC called and said – “hey, we’re in Friday Harbor for work, want to meet us for dinner in three days?” I said – “YES, we’ll sail there!”

So on short notice, off we went. Since we have been in maintenance/repair mode for too long, not all things are functioning on the boat. For example, the water tank is foul because our Sanitred repair turned very gross. We hauled 25 gallons water in plastic containers instead, and stuffed a 6 gallon tank under the galley sink so we could have some pressurized (hot and cold) water. But the essential systems are working quite well, so it was safe to go.

We set off on a friday, leaving our homeport about 1PM. That was a late start. There was no wind. We motored thru the cut and north of Port Townsend (3+ hours) and then found enough wind to raise the gennaker (with a little difficulty because we’re out of practice and didn’t get it rigged right the first time). That was going reasonably well until Smith Island. Then the wind was reaching 20 knots, and it was pasttime to bring that light air sail down. We hid from the building waves in the lee of Smith island, and dropped it. Then we partially unfurled the genoa, and set off. After a while, we decided it was OK to let out all the genoa, but unfortunately in all the fluster associated with dropping the gennaker, the jib halyard did not get properly tightened. So when we unfurled the sail the whole way, it slid down the track a little – and would not go back up because a few weeks earlier the feeder had fallen off and we had not put it back on. I’m getting my stories all switched around here. The feeder story is – Van was tightening the forestay turnbuckle, so he had to move the furler out of the way. In doing so, he accidently dropped the feeder part into the water. About a week later, on a low tide day, we went down and successfully fished the part out of the water!! Amazing – that never happens. In celebration, we should have put the part back on right then, but doing so requires unfurling the sail, and well, you know. So a few weeks later, when we were leaving in hurry, it still didn’t get done. We paid the price out in the Straits. Van could not feed it and raise it alone on the pitching foredeck, and I cannot go on deck while underway (my balance is not good enough). That was too bad. Motoring was not fun at all, when we could be sailing if we had not made the mistake. But the sail was not damaged, and we were able to get it fully furled without a wrap even though the swivel was low. Those are all very good things.

Anyway, as we approach Rosario Strait, I decided not to cut across the bow of an approaching tanker. I should have. I didn’t realize they would slow way down to make that turn when coming from the west. We ended up lingering for about 15 minutes outside the shipping lane until he passed and we could cross. The interesting thing was we got to watch the pilot boat pull hard at the stern to swing the stern of the tanker and keep it in the shipping lane (and avoid Larson reef, which is what I was heading for while waiting for the tanker to pass).

Finally, we dropped anchor in Hunter Bay at 10PM. It always takes 9 hours to get between our homeport and an anchorage in the San Juans. Except when it take us longer. Needless to say, we were absolutely knackered. We slept in the next morning and didn’t haul anchor until about 1 PM. Oh, we did get up at 5AM when the wind dropped, and put the feeder part on the furler.

On Saturday, we had a lovely sail up Lopez Sound, down Upright Channel and into Friday Harbor, arriving just in time for dinner with Heather and Rob. It was wonderful to see them again – well worth the 1.5 days of sailing to reach them.

That night, we headed over to Parks Bay (see photo above) – and ended up staying there for about 44 hours because there was no wind worth leaving for. We eventually left on Monday late afternoon and had a nice light wind sail down to Griffin Bay – our jump off point for heading home. Van needed to get back for work. We had our first calm night ever at Griffin Bay. Usually the wind comes over the land quite strong there. But there was very little wind out in the Straits, and so no wind to come across the land either. The only disturbance was a Coast Guard Cutter on its nearby mooring buoy, which kept its engine on all night long. With the light wind, we just swung with the current all night.

We set off the next morning at 8AM. When we hauled anchor, the chain was wrapped around a boulder 30 feet below, and for a minute we thought we were stuck. It was impressive to watch the bow of the boat dip just after windless started to whine under the heavy load.  Of course I did not tug on it for more than a second! While we discussed what to do, the current and tension caused the bow to swing and we came free. So off we went through Cattle Pass.

I insisted on sailing in the light breeze, and so 7 hours later, we still were not to Port Townsend. Soon, the tide would change against us, and we would not be able to easily slip past Point Wilson. So we started the growling beast, and proceeded to motor 5 hours on glass smooth water  to reach home. Yuck. That trip took almost 12 hours. We are still running on our Axiom prop that comes too close to the hull, so we could only motor along at about 4.5 knots to avoid the terrible percussion and increased vibration that occurs at higher RPMs.

So – all in all, our first trip was enjoyable, too short, and reminder that we need more practice. When we sailed up for the haulout a few weeks earlier, the wind was gusting to 23 knots (Van hooked up a wind meter this spring, which a Nic 35 owner gave us when he upgraded – thanks John! It’s great to know the wind speed.) We did well in that wind under full sail. In fact, it was nice to learn that the helm is nicely balanced, now that Van carefully tensioned all the standing rigging. Did I write about that? Probably not. My stories are getting all confused! I guess the problem is – I want to be sailing, not writing about sailing!!

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