Friday, November 30, 2012

San Juan’s Part 2–Jones Island to Everett

On Thursday morning, we cast off at our usual leisurely 11:00 and headed for Jones Island. 2012-07-05_14-00-33_728 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.  2012-07-05_15-46-50_950Jones 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 Winking smile 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.2012-07-05_15-51-04_573 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. 2012-07-05_21-02-15_806

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 through2012-07-06_09-48-16_340 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 2012-07-06_09-48-11_359proceeded 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.

Rot Repair

One of my last sails of the summer, I was returning from Holmes Harbor after a weekend with my son and a friend Walt.  The wind was pretty calm at the south end where we anchored, but hit about 20 knots at the north end going around the little island.  I was under full canvas and decided to ride it out as it was pretty clear that once I rounded the point, the wind would likely die down and I’d be on a quartering wind anyway. For some time, it has felt like Sojourn just won’t point on a port tack and the lee shrouds have been getting more and more slack.

I didn’t actually spot it until the next time I tried to take it out - the chain plate didn’t come all the way out, but perhaps nearly an inch. It could have been ugly.   Also the mast step failed (dissolved really), causing the compression post to penetrate the deck and actually go up inside the mast.  It’s about 80% repaired now, with new bulk heads and surgery complete on the cabin top.  I still have to fab a new mast step and do some maintenance on the mast while it is down.

Moldy Old Boat with a Hint of Sour Bilge

You may have read my previous post where I had tried Formby’s lemon oil and had less than fantastic results. Some months ago, I ran across the blog of a Gulf pilothouse owner who was touting the wonders of another brand, who’s name I forget.  So during the summer, I had occasion to need to entertain the girls while I did some other work.  I gave them each a rag and some of the new magic potion and they enthusiastically went to work dousing every surface in the cabin, wood or not, in lemon oil. The boat was literally dripping in lemon oil, but I figured it couldn’t hurt anything.  A few weeks later, I checked on it and was greeted with a fairly pleasant, in the context of musty old boats, odor. It had performed quite a bit better than the Formby’s.  

Fast forward a few months.  We had 12 inches of rain at the boat in the course of a week according to the bucket in the cockpit.  I entered the cockpit and was greeted with the very strong odor of moldy old boat with a hint of sour bilge!  Several leaks had gotten worse, so the humidity inside was very high.  The little Peltier junction dehumidifier just couldn’t keep up.  Upon closer inspection, every unvarnished wooden surface, which is almost every wooden surface, was fuzzy and green! 

Interestingly, the varnished surfaces were not moldy and didn’t harbor any odor. I’m now about 30% complete with an interior varnish job.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

San Juan’s Part 1–Everett to Friday Harbor

After repairing the dingy oarlock, installing the grill, a life sling and the rest of about $500 worth of expenses at West Marine on Saturday, I went back home and collected the second load of trip gear and the family.  It was blowing just less than stink – no idea where that term came from, but I hear it a lot – so I was concerned about getting Sojourn and her tender out of the slip with the prop shaft and dinghy painter in tact.  This was my first experience a loading a 120 pound dinghy on the foredeck, but with he aid of the main halyard I managed without too many scratches.  2012-07-01_09-52-24_136
We loaded up, backed out of the slip and headed for Langley.  Our goal was to keep each passage to four or five hours. Langley is two and La Conner is about 6 from Everett.  Langley was lovely as always, though it was chilly.  It was very low tide the next morning and I always have to marvel when I see beached sailboats.  There is a wonderful and in some ways very authentic French restaurant called the Prima Bistro, which caters to some of our dietary needs and culinary desires with gluten free calamari among other things. The wonder has worn off for our kids, so in the future I think we will save the modest expense for just Carrie and I who fully enjoy it.  Jack still claims that the have the best fries in all of the seven seas.2012-07-01_20-55-22_488
On day two we motored directly into a 12-15 knot head wind most of the way to La Conner and were rewarded with very pleasant sunshine and a light breeze.  After watching a 38 foot sailboat with what looked like a newly minted skipper at the helm attempt to dock and nearly destroy his vessel going with the current last year, I was more the wiser and managed a very soft landing at about 1800 RPM going into the current. Here we had the first opportunity to use the dink. 2012-07-01_21-18-45_47
Per our usual we hit the road, or water as it were, at around 11.  We’ve since concluded that my getting up much earlier and motoring or sailing for a few hours while visions of sugar plums or transformers  still dance in little heads would be much smarter.  This was also a short trip so we arrived in Anacortes in the early afternoon.  Apparently a severe leak had sprung in the heavens.  Sojourn isn’t exactly what you would call water tight on the decks, and I pumped about 2 gallons of water from the bilge the next morning. I had gone to the trouble to install a PSS shaft seal this spring and eagerly looked forward to a dry bilge this summer.  It seems my wait isn’t over.   We very much liked Anacortes with its modern wide docks, easy shopping, and spacious parks.  While Carrie shopped and took a break from parenting, I lead a march to the lookout, a mile or two around the harbor.  We actually made it about half way up the hill which was about 90 percent of the journey before the girls gave up. Maggie will declare “I’m tired” and plop herself wherever she happens to be standing.”
The leak had either nearly been mended or the heavens were running out of water, with patches of blue sky in the direction of our destination, so we cast off.  After about 15 minutes, the leak started pouring anew.  I had removed Sojourn’s tattered dodger believing that I would not need it in the summer time – a regretful decision. Just before committing to crossing Rosario Straight, I was carefully watching other boats and the chop through binoculars. Visibility wasn’t great and not having experienced the straight before, and not wanting to risk terrifying the passengers, I headed to the “Ship Harbor” as noted on the chart on the northwest corner of Fidalgo Island.  After about an hour at anchor, the heavens dried up again and we continued our journey.  The winds were fresh and crisp, filling in behind the low pressure system that had just moved through, but being on the bow, I would have been beating into 3-4 foot waves for a couple of hours, so we motored.  As the day proceeded the clouds receded and the sun shined brilliantly through pristine blue skies. I got about 15 minutes of sailing as we headed north around Lopez, but the wind has an uncanny ability to blow right up the passages between the islands so no matter the heading, it is always into the wind.  Tacking in a narrow channel with the family in cruising mode is a challenge so I just motored.2012-07-03_16-54-32_3
As we arrived in Friday Harbor, 100 foot steel square rigger named the Hawaiian Chieftain was docking.  At any distance it couldn’t look more like a classic pirate ship.  Annie declared it was Captain Jones!  We had previously been regaled with stories of the famous Captain Jones by a father of grown children who sailed through the San Juan’s finding treasure left by Jones and his first mate Scully. 2012-07-04_19-42-16_99 We managed to get a tour the next day.  The crew were friendly and the captain very enthusiastic.  She is quite peculiar having been designed and built as a beachable, steel hulled square rigger with hybrid polymer and hemp shrouds, wooden dead blocks and convincing cannons lashed to the deck.
The water is clear enough to see nearly 20 feet down to a completely alien ecology.  Everything is covered in large leafy kelp with a plethora of critters and creatures swimming about.  Translucent shrimp were abundant and a favorite local attraction among the junior sailors, my three being no exception. At night, you can shine a flashlight on them and pluck them out of the water by their antenna.  On the second night we got a slip at H-49, which is very near the north west corner of the marina and one of the best seats in the house for the fireworks show.  Just before the show, we were treated to a giant full moon rising over the mountains to the east.  Annie declared it the ‘super moon.’