March 28, 2009

no sleep in Coupeville

The four of us slept well till about 2 am. Then the seas picked up. The exposed Coupeville wharf provided scant protection from the rolling, gusting Western seas. Our home began to pitch and roll. At this point, everyone stopped sleeping and began listening to a cacophony of scraping, banging, rolling sounds from the pitching, rolling vessel.

gale runs through the home port

one minute, the sun was shining, I was listening to Buju Banton and applying liquid electrical tape to my exposed circuitry - the next minute, this monster gale rode into town - and ripped the old blue tarps off the old derelict vessels at olde shilshole marina.

March 27, 2009

calm day on the Straights of Juan de Fuca

We began our voyage south in sunny skies, cold air and a total lack of wind. this provides time to tend to all the things that broke or worked their way loose in the heavy winds.

Somewhere in the middle of the Straights (can't tell you for certain because I was sleeping in the v-berth) a california sea lion swam under the boat only to be consumed by a transient Orca a few hours later.

The Gray whales are also beginning to arrive in Saratoga Passage. They stop here on their 5,000 mile migration from Baja to the Arctic circle. They catch their breath and feed on the ghost shrimp found in our bottom sediment. A few hundred of them like the place so much, they decide to stay year round. They tell the others to send a postcard from the Arctic - they're going to sit this one out.

anchor line fouled on a shipwreck

so, on the charts there is written, in small font, the letters 'Wk'. This is written in the exact place where we dropped anchor for the week. Turns out - that means - wreck, as in shipwreck. So, after 4 days of my boat drifting in the tides, pivoting on anchor, my anchor rode became entangled with a large piece of wreckage. When we tried to pull anchor on Saturday, it soon became clear that we were screwed.

I knew what I had to do, and I knew it was the last thing I wanted to do on a cold Winter morning - but anyway, I put on 6mm of neoprine and un-fouled the line, then we were on our way.

crossing Deception Pass at slack tide

When George Vancouver was exploring these waters in the 18th century, he thought this narrow, dramatic pass was the Northwest Passage that would lead back to New York City. This proved to be a deception, and thus the name. Now, it is famous for the 7 knots of current generated in between high and low tides. For sailors, it is absolutely critical to pass under this bridge at slack tide, because of the hydraulics that generate when the tides are running. We nailed this perfectly, to the minute at 3:04 P.M. Even at slackwater, there are some intimidating swirls and lumps in the water.

building seas and the failed boom vang

Wednesday brought a freshening breeze from the Southwest. To reduce weather helm and stress on the rigging, we set to work on the storm jib and reefed main. Even with reduced sail we still had our hands full. Upon finding we were damn near bottoming out on the muddy banks of Skagit Bay, we threw a quick jibe in - without sheeting in the Main - and just as I feared the force of the shifted boom ripped up some machinery. We were grateful it was the boom vang that failed instead of the Main sheet block.
- In this shot you can see the metal cleat that ripped down the middle under the force of the wind and then underneath that the canvas strap vang that Heather creatively jury-rigged in a matter of minutes.

St Paddys Day in Coupeville

Coupeville is nestled on the shores of Penn Cove. It is one of those picture perfect seaside towns. I am sure in the summer it is tainted by their tourists, but in the Winter - it is real nice. The town is known for their mussels and their shameful legacy of trapping Orcas and sending them to Sea World and Orlando. But that was a long time ago, now they are know for Toby's Tavern and this wild dude who lives on a permanently anchored boat in Penn Cove - We had the Coupeville Wharf all to ourselves.

Running downwind towards the San Juan Islands

It was that time of the year, the annual Northwest Developmental Biology Conference at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island. Just like last year's sail, we were escorted North to the Islands by a low pressure system that gusted up to 28-30 knots out of the South. The first day's wind took us from Seattle to Coupleville in 6 hours, this is pretty good time for a sailboat. We decided on the inside passage, along the eastern shore of Whidbey Island, as a way to avoid the 5 foot swells in the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

Jim was quickly crippled from residual flu symptoms and reluctantly resigned himself to a high alpine sleeping bag, leaving our token Swede, Sarah Malmquist, at the helm. Heather took these great pictures, leaving me free to walk around pontificating about god knows what.