Monday, on the public dock of Orcas Village, the skipper of a whale watching ship took the time to come over and warn us about the upcoming wind storm. We compared notes, snippets of news we had seen, and he gave reference to anchorages in the area that should be protected from the worst of it. Our little harbor was on his list and I assured him we would tuck in. These islanders are friendly and helpful.
As predicted, Tuesday the winds began to build after lunch and by four were gusting to 40 just two miles away at Friday Harbor. We had only cat’s paws dancing over our bay, nothing but ripples over the water. We could hear the roar of the wind on the other side of the island but we were so protected we had to watch things play out on the weather app on my iPad. If you must ride out nasty weather, that’s a great way to do it.
We are heading into this holiday weekend with large tides and hot sunny days. The nine foot tide swing today let us harvest some massive pacific oysters from the nearby beach. Grilled open on the BBQ, they were sautéed with olive oil, garlic and a can of smoked oysters, then served on crackers. Yum!
It’s late Thursday on the eve of Memorial Day weekend. With a safe and beautiful anchorage we have decided to hold tight till the crowds head home. Late next week we most likely will head further North into Canada.
Thoughts to leave you with.
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came.
John F. Kennedy
Today, Monday the 22nd, was one of the more technical days we’ve had in awhile. We have been off the dock and completely self sufficient for over a week and needed to pump out our holding tank, take on fresh water and restock groceries. None of these were in a critical state, we could stay on anchor for another week if needed, but we were out of alcohol and that was forcing our hand. Sailing into an unfamiliar harbor to resupply is excellent practice so up came the anchor and off we went.
I have said it was a ‘technical’ day because at issue was the lack of services in the area. We discovered that everything we needed couldn’t be had at one place. The nearest pump out had no store to restock food and beverages and the town with a store hadn’t a pump out or fresh water for our tanks. Our initial plan was was further thwarted after contacting one location and finding we would need the tide to come in for a few hours before we could safely get in and out. Our sailboat doesn't like shallow water. So off to food shopping at Orcas Village. The trip was successful, we certainly won’t starve with Sarah’s excellent planning.
Next was a nice cruse back up West Sound to the town by the same name to pump out and fill our water tanks. We had read (with delight) they also had showers but it turned out there was just one and it was for moorage holders, not visitors. Not to fear, our ship side bath does have shower facilities. We try to avoid it because it uses too much of our precious fresh water.
I’ve never spent an entire day to get gas, water, and food, but this day was long, fun, and educating. Getting back to our little bay was a pleasure.
After setting the hook we stood down for drinks on the deck as the hot sun dipped lower in the sky. We were tucking in due to a major wind event coming Tuesday. Our goal was safety in a great anchorage, then enough supplies to sit out the weather that was to come.
But that is another post.
The goal this week has been to get some sail practice. West Sound of Orcus Island was chosen for this as I’ve explained in a previous post. It hasn’t disappointed. A mile across and nearly three long, no ferry traffic and little of any other kind. With 10 knots of wind down the bay and little tidal flow, West Sound is a playground for those who wish to practice sailing. I’m pleased to report we are taking full advantage of this fact.
At the head of this sound is Massacre Bay with it’s famous Skull Island. We moved in for a photo shoot to record the momentous occasion, but I’m sad to say the names are only images for the imagination. Mown lawns, the sound of weed eaters, civilization abounds here. In a distant past this area may have moved the explorer’s heart, but no more.
We pulled about, heading downwind so as to put the town of West Sound in our sights. We first played with the head sail, seeing what power she had, then tacking and jibing, looking for any problems. We found a few. The head sail was furled and up went the main. Again we learned so much, both good and bad. The sail held light wind well but was difficult to raise.
After tacks and jibs we raised both sails as the wind started to fade. Amazing. Three knots in less then five. We sailed this way to the bay just south of Victim Island, dropped the cloth and were anchored in 20 feet in less then 30 minutes.
I think these are the days sailors dream of and remember when too old to pull a sheet. Dolphins and seals, sunburns with raccoon eyes.
We will continue practice for the next week and then sit tight for the holiday weekend. We hear it gets very busy and like where we are right now. When June arrives we move on. I’m not sure where, North of course. We have our Nexus cards so Canada awaits. Who knows.
Those who know how to sail and have a sturdy ship travel where they wish. We wish to head to where our imagination takes us.
48 36.575 North
122 58.797 West
We left Blind Bay by 1:00, letting the two state ferries sort out their passengers and get on their way. That left us nearly two hours to cross Harney Channel unmolested and enter West Sound. Ok, it really was only a 30 minute transit, but who wants to deal with two ferries in close proximity?
Our goal wasn’t much further, just north of Double Island, tucked into a cove with 15 feet under the keel, very protected from the south-south east winds we had been getting in Blind Bay. In less then half an hour we were anchored and enjoying drinks in a cove all to ourselves.
Before I leave you, let me explain that it didn’t go as well as expected. There were several lessons for the captain and crew, even in this ‘easy’ passage. When raising the anchor in Blind Bay, the chain stacked up in the chain tube and wedged against the capstan, jamming it cold. In my haste to clear the problem somehow I slipped the chain off the drum and down went the anchor and 25 feet of chain as fast as you can blink. Luckily I was able to pull the chain back up onto the capstan and then power the ground tackle up again. Scared me a bit, but all ended well. If that wasn’t bad enough, coming into our Double Island cove I made the newbie mistake of approaching the anchor point from upwind. Yes, the hook set well and held but it took twice as long as if I had done it right the first time and I’d be closer to the anchor spot I wanted.
So much to learn. With homes on the shore and towns nearby, it feels like a kids pool for those learning to swim. I’m glad for this. No mater what happens to our little boat, we can get it fixed here. In two months we wont have that luxury. It is a good time to learn and test our gear, boat, and ourselves.
48 34.737 North
122 56.381 West
Friday Harbor is one of my favorite places. With that said I’m very happy to have left. Too much noise from people, planes and ferry traffic. I will tell you that the showers are excellent and put Anacortes to shame.
The timing of our departure was important, not just the day, but the hour. Our goal today was to leave Friday Harbor as the tide changed and head due east to Upright Channel. There we would head Northeast through a narrow spot between Canoe Island and Flat Point. The event proved an often heard recommendation up here. Time the tides. As we entered the narrows our speed went from 4.5 knots to 8.1 in the span of 100 yards. There were eddies and swirls all around, even with 150 feet of water under us. If we had tried to fight this current, we would have all but of stood still. Past the pinch point we were soon traveling at normal speed and rounded into Harney Channel with no traffic and little wind. In 30 minutes we dropped the anchor in Blind Bay. To our surprise we are the only boat here. Quiet, protected, and beautiful. This will be our staging spot for the next week as we let a small front move through on Monday. Then a week or so of high pressure will let us sail up into West Sound to explore all it’s anchorages, including Massacre Bay and Skull Island. There we will practice sailing, something we haven’t had a chance to do yet. This large sound will provide lots of open water, little traffic, no ferries, little tidal flow and lots of spots to tuck in.
We are really looking forward to it.
Captain's Log 5/10/17
48 32.369 North
123 00.954 West
Our needs dictated we travel here to Friday Harbor. After a week anchored and on our own in Blind Bay it was time to go, for we had waited as long as we could. I chose a course over Shaw Island, through Wasp Pass and then down San Juan Channel. The timing was right, slack tide, with a following current to help us on our way. The trick was to navigate the narrow pass alone, without the large Washington ferry to worry the crew and captain.
Leaving Blind Bay, a sizable wind chop followed us but as expected, didn’t disturb Odyssey. I was surprised though how much the small tidal flows moved our heavy boat. We were in the mixing point of three large waterways, a mere curiosity at the best of times. I shudder at what a bad tide and wind would do.
Out past Cliff Island and then Neck Point we slipped quietly into the deep waters of San Juan Channel, a major waterway that would lead us south to Friday Harbor. Within 30 minutes the ferry came out of Wasp Pass, on schedule. In 400 feet of water we circled to let her go by and then followed into the protection of the harbor breakwater. Sarah called the marina on the radio for a slip and without any further fuss we were docked for the next few days.
Easy? Come if you dare and follow us. Bring your sailboat along through the same passages we do, the same bays we anchor in. This is the adventure, prove us wrong. It is a world of wonder and beauty and yes, a little bit scary, but it is real and so very worth it.
The first impressions of 'wow, we needed that' are often the most decisive and the most illuminating. So here in no particular order are the things I've come to love in a very short time.
• Great ground tackle. Hold against the wind and waves, this will let you sleep at night.
• Vesper Marine AIS Transponder with matched system. Money well spent.
• Auto pilot. Who would of thought this could be so helpful?. Of course it isn't necessary, but it will change your life.
• Ipad running iSailor for chart plotting. Too many reasons to go into. The best.
• Hydronic heating. Yes, I know. Expensive. This too will change your cruising world.
• 330 watts Solar power. 19 amps on a sunny spring day, 10 while overcast, 5 when it's raining. MPPT controller. Forget the wind generator.
• LED lighting. DO this first and do it all.
• Oil lamps. If you have a gal on board just trust me on this one...
• BIG house batteries and an ACR to handle it.
• An expensive ice chest. The new super coolers will keep ice for five days.
• Every conceivable weather tool you can get your hands on. It's never enough.
• A VERY good wind tool like Windytv.
• You can never have enough snuggly blankets and pillows (Sarah).
• A girl to bring the snuggly blankets and pillows.
• Music, lots.
• A way to play all that great music. UE Boom 2. Outstanding!
• Two propane tanks.
• An easy to use BBQ.
• A really great teapot. Our most used tool on the boat right after the stove.
I’m sure there there will be many more things for this list but so far these are the standouts.
One of the exceptions rather then the rule for bays in the San Juan Islands, Blind Bay is nearly a uniform depth of 15 to 25 feet and never plunges deeper at the center as so many other bays do. So far our time here has been pleasant, with just enough breeze to turn Odyssey, giving us different views of the bay during the day.
We took a leisurely tour of the shore with our dingy, heading to the small mom and pop store to check it out and pick up some snacks.
We had a friendly chat with a couple who have been sailing these waters for the last twenty years and then motored over to Blind Island State Park, no more then a wildflower covered rock in the mouth of the bay. A beautiful view with crystal blue waters.
After a picnic lunch and a walk about we were back on the water to head home. We had changed the dingy harness that morning so I did a few laps around Odyssey to take a look. Sarah took some great pics. That’s a beautiful boat!
In the evening a large thunder system came through the area just east of us. Amazing sky, thunder, but surprisingly little wind. Blind Bay seems very protected.
We spent Tuesday the 2nd at the dock doing a hundred things. Water, laundry, mail, supplies. Saddle Bag Island was a shake down and now it was time for the 'big trip'. Anacortes, though on Fidalgo island and part of the San Juans, is really on the fringe and connected by a freeway to the rest of the world. Everything else, every island west, has to be reached by boat or plane. On Wednesday morning we left the dock for the heart of the San Juans.
As unfortunate as Saturday had been, Wednesday was the complete opposite. I had chosen time, tides, and winds well and all played the part I asked. Calm water, beautiful skies and little wind let us focus on our path and the natural beauty surrounding us. We left Cap Sante and Fidalgo Bay, entering Guemes Channel for a run westward to Rosario Strait. It had been last year since we had seen Rosario from the deck of the ferry during a winter storm and I had spent many nights thinking of those big waves and massive tidal rips. Clearing Guemes Channel I was relieved to see a calm landscape to the islands in the distance. Our goal was Thatcher pass and we were there in less then an hour. Calm and quiet we entered the pass and I was reminded that all the islands were in fact the tops of mountains. Here the sea had come in and flooded the world. I felt this deep in my soul.
I could spend pages telling you of the sights and sounds and smells that made that day special, but I couldn't do it justice. From Thatcher Pass we rounded Humphrey Head and crossed Upright Channel. Tucking into the smaller Harney Channel we made our way west till Blind island came into view. This tiny rock marks the entrance of Blind Bay and our destination, there to anchor and play for the next week. Turning in, the bay opened before us and we saw we had the pick of spots. Sarah urged us in towards the back of the bay which offered more privacy and a better view.
I'm writing this night, the 4th of May from Blind Bay, the San Juan Islands, Washington. Though still ignorant of many things we are well on our way to learning them. Here we will stay for a week or so to test our capacity of water and such. Friday harbor isnt far and we will head there when we must.
We have sampled a minute fraction of possible discoveries before us. It is humbling and inspiring. If you have ever dreamed of this same journey, I tell you, do it now.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.