On Thursday morning, we cast off at our usual leisurely 11:00 and headed for Jones Island. I tried to sail this short 4 mile trip, but the wind and tide conspired against me and I found myself tacking back and forth over the same ground. So, I dropped the sails and motored. We found a spot to anchor along the east shore of the crowded north harbor. First we piled Jack and Annie in the dinghy, and then I returned to ferry Carrie and Maggie. Jones Island is really a treasure and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. In an amazing happy coincidence, Captain Jones, the infamous pirate of the Northwest and his first mate Skully managed to leave one trinket for each of the three children. We hiked the short trail to the south end of the island and then returned, deciding to ferry the grill and provisions to shore for a dinner of grilled chicken, hot dogs and and a pizza that had been forgotten about after the grill ran out of gas earlier that day. As the sun was starting to set, we cleaned up. Jack and Annie rejoiced at being able to be ferried last, enjoying a few more minutes of freedom on the island. I only had about 70 feet of rode out due to the crowded harbor. I asked an old salt in a Pearson 36 what he though of my anchoring prospects and he deemed spots acceptable, but after motoring around watching the depth and chart plotter I never found a comfortable spot. So, we motored to Deer Harbor, found a suitable spot with lots of clearance to the other boats and dropped and set the hook.
Annie started to get sick that night so we decided to leave when I woke up letting the kids sleep. We had planned on trying to cross the Straight of San Juan De Fuca, but very shortly after leaving Deer Harbor I could see fog spilling over and into the spaces between the islands to the south, so we retraced our path through Thatcher pass timing the tides well most of the way. As we approached the gap between Blakely and Decatur Islands, what I believe to be Thatcher Pass proper, we were nearing the fog and witnessed a Ferry emerge from it about a quarter mile away. I cheated and checked my phone where I have an app called Marine Traffic which displays the position of all of the ships that manage to broadcast AIS to a shore station. It isn’t always reliable, but was spot on with the last three ferries we had seen, I so veered out of what I thought was the probable ferry path along the shore and proceeded. Keeping close to the southern shore, I continued into thicker fog until I could no longer see the shore only 50 yards away. I dropped to about 2 knots, got out my horn and proceeded for a few minutes until we got to a suitable place to anchor adjacent to James Island where I dropped the hook and had lunch. There was a symphony of fog horns all around us. Occasionally, I could see a little shore and a few fishing boats while about two hours passed. Finally, while I still couldn’t see the shore, a mere 100 yards away, the fog overhead started getting thinner and the fog horns to the east abated. I took this to mean the fog was clearing to the east and was impatient to get going, so I fired up the diesel, pulled the hook and proceeded very slowly along the space between James Island and Decatur Island. Within a few minutes I could see the horizon and within a few more, I could see Fidalgo Island.
As we approached Deception Island, the GPS was reading about 8 knots. Carefully motoring under the bridge, the current actually reversed in an eddy and I found I wasn’t making very good progress. The at the bridge, we sped up to almost 12 knots as I approached a whirlpool, perhaps 20 feet across and 3 feet deep. I steered around it, but it was violent work with the tiller for about 30 seconds. For the first time since installing a shorter tiller, I wondered if I would have been better off with the longer lever.
After a few hundred yards it became pedestrian again. As we rounded the corner to head south, I raised the genoa and mainsail and was intermittently stalled and blown over. As we headed south it became a little more consistent if not over powered until we came to the Swinomish channel where a sailboat lay partly on her side, the skipper reading a paper or something waiting for higher tides. It was a bigger and more expensive boat than mine. I must say that the skipper was much calmer than I would have been as we heard him call the coast guard an hour earlier.
As we approached the the top of Camano, we were in the wind shadow of Whidbey, but it looked like the wind would be 30 degrees off the starboard bow and about 15 knots. Heeding the advice of a fellow Islander 30 owner, I got out my 130 and furled the genoa. He was right, I was heeled about 12-15 degrees making an easy 6.5 knots through the water. Just a few miles before I was in similar winds with the Genoa and the tiller pilot was almost at its lock fighting weather helm, Sojourn making no more progress than we were making here.
After a while the wind calmed as we approached Holmes Harbor and we found ourselves on a run in light air so I trekked up to the forestay yet again to hank the Genoa. Sailing wing in wing at about three knots, we were making five over ground. I was seriously contemplating trying to get Carrie, who speaks fluent French, but not so fluent tiller, to man the helm while I raised the chute. Fortunately reason prevailed as fifteen minutes later I would have been in a panic trying to figure out how to get it down in 20 knot winds while Carrie wrestled with the tiller. I rigged the preventer and we sailed wing in wing at 8 knot over ground, 6.5 through the water the rest of the way home. Carrie lay on the cockpit seat snoring with Annie asleep on her chest for the whole length of Camano and most of Port Gardiner. We left Deer Harbor between 7 and 8 AM and I dropped Carrie and Annie on the guest dock in Everett at 7:30. The whole trip was 144 nautical miles. The last leg was over 70. The average is over 6 knots almost any way you calculated it and over 7 if you delete the little stay at Decatur.
I arrived in Everett sated. I had spent a week, not dwelling a minute on anything work related, met my long time dream of sailing in the San Juan’s, had a delightful week with my family, and got to sail a solid 40 miles in conditions more often only dreamed about.