Sunday, August 21, 2011

Baby Steps

The Milltown Sailing Association, of which I’m now a member and newly minted racer had it’s annual Oak Harbor Challenge last weekend. It is a cruise and sailboat race between the two clubs held, this year, in Oak Harbor.  My kids are too young, and not wanting to scare the older passengers (mom) with excessive heel angles, we went for the cruise, but skipped the race. I’m sure that had I participated, Mill Town would have successfully defended the cup – perhaps next year. SmileJetty Island in the dinghy

As preparation for our first overnighter as a family, we spent the night on Sojourn in her slip the weekend before. It may seem silly if you don’t have kids, but with a family of five, kids ranging from three to seven, routine is not to be dismissed.  Potty routine, bed time routine, feeding and all of the other routines are important.  Breaking them can have consequences.  Just imagine three days on the water with a cranky three year old missing her favorite stuffed puppy.  Or worse, no stuffed puppy and no cork screw!

Carrie had some things to do, so the girls and I headed up to the marina to start the adventure. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about sailing is the friendly people.  My slip neighbor Travis, whom I had just met, lent me a dinghy for the summer.  The girls at Jetty IslandThe girls and I took it for a row to Jetty Island.  I’m happy to report that we survived our test trip and that it was helpful.  We would have survived without it, but we generated a list of several little things that Sojourn didn’t have.    

So, the big day arrived and we set out for Oak Harbor, a 24 nautical mile trip from Everett.  Under ideal conditions it’s about 4.5 hours to get there.  As is often the case,our planned noon departure time turned into three o’clock. By 4:30 had been under sail for an hour and were starting to unwind, but I came to the realization that at current speed we wouldn’t make Oak Harbor by midnight let alone dinner time.  In fact, we wouldn’t make it until nearly dusk, motoring all the way.  I called the Langley harbormaster, who had an open slip, so we made reservations and enjoyed another hour under sail.  Creatures on the sea wall at Langley

This turned out to be a great decision.  I’d been to Langley before, but this was the first trip with the kids.  Langley is town with a small harbor on the west side of Saratoga Passage.  Fish abound around the pilings, star fish adorn the sea wall at low tide and it hosts a myriad of other fascinations to a family of newly minted cruisers.

Annie Sleepy Head at LangleyWe had dinner at a Prima Bistro in town.  It was suggested to us by some locals, because their menu was sensitive to special dietary needs.  My kids might be the pickiest ever conceived, so eating out at a new place while meeting everyone’s real dietary needs is always a challenge. They did indeed cater to special needs. We ordered calamari, which was fried in chick pea flower, so it is gluten free. It might be the best we’ve ever had.  We told our kids that they were a special kind of chicken nugget. Langley in the morningJack declared he didn’t want the “coral-ey” ones as all three gobbled them down in blissful ignorance.

The next morning, we woke up to calm seas, light fog and a low tide.  Of the hundreds if not thousands of toys and pieces of toys that fill our house to the brim, non has provided more mystery and entertainment than the back shell of a Dungeness crab, no longer needed by its owner.  For about an hour, all three buried, un-buried and re-buried it without ever mustering the courage to actually touch it.treasure at Langley

After an omelet on the crotchety old kerosene Shipmate stove and some coffee, we set out for Oak Harbor on water more suitable for skiing than sailing.  The kids were not quite used to the new routine and were missing their video games and television, so it wasn’t all smooth sailing.  Sojourn’s new engine didn’t miss a beat and I was happy both to get some hours on her just to build confidence and to boil any accumulated water out of the crank case.  About 8 miles out, the wind started to build out of the north west, so I uncovered and hoisted the sails.calm seas in Saratoga Passage  Within minutes it had built to about 10 knots and we were under sail, free of the droning diesel we’d grown used to over the last 4 hours.  We settled into a nice close reach making 5.5 knots, gently heeled over.  That peaceful last hour was gone in what felt like an instant and we found ourselves heading up a channel full of sailboats going the other way – the race was on.  We waited for them to pass, headed into the wind and furled the sails. After tying up at Oak Harbor, I couldn’t find the bottle of wine.  Upon further investigation, my wife confessed that the kids were on her nerves and she had found a cork screw.

Regrettably, there were no other kids on this cruise due to it being a racing cruise, but we found other sources of entertainment.  Once tied up and waiting for the racers to come back, we tried a little fishing.  I had a can of brightly colored power bait or something like it and Jack wasn’t having any success fishing.  Everyone knows you have to kiss your first fish for good luckA 9 year old came along and asked why we weren’t using muscles.  He reached down under the dock, pulled up a handful of muscles, crushed one, pulled out its “heart”, set it on the hook and within minutes jack had a fish.  Like I said, we are newly minted cruisers.  I convinced Jack that it was a right of passage to kiss your first fish.  Jack spent the next several hours trying to muster the courage to touch one and talking various bystanders into baiting his hook for him.

After hamburgers with the racers, we turned in.  The next morning we got news that Carrie’s grandmother wasn’t doing well, so we said fair well and cast off making breakfast under way.  There was little wind, and what wind there was taunted me.  We motored almost all the way home, dead into the wind. Occasionally it would shift and whenever the wind vane would show enough apparent angle to get some thrust out of the sails, I would hoist them.  It only panned out for perhaps 20 minutes of the whole trip.  Almost the minute I would them it would shift back to dead ahead or even across the bow.  I left the main up while we motored for about an hour, giving me perhaps a quarter knot.

The ride home was peaceful.  The kids seemed to lose site of the games and television and just enjoy themselves. Enjoying the ride home Unlike the trip up there were one kid always seemed to delight in the other squealing, they got along just fine.  I know they wouldn’t call it Disney World, but if my aim is achieved it will be the first of many fond memories.  As for Carrie, I am encouraged as I overheard her tell one of the fellow cruisers that she hopes for a bigger boat someday. As I write this, I’m sitting in the shade on the north shore of lake Winnebago watching with envy, a sailboat work its way toward amongst the beginnings of white caps.  

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