San Juan Sailing Trip – August 14, 2018

This is the first day of our sailing adventure!

Alix and I hopped out of bed at 0600 and did some final prep work, like securing the dinghy to the boat, filling the water tank, and making coffee.

With smoke from the forest fires covering the Puget Sound basin, visibility was low. We could barely make out Bainbridge Island from Shilshole Marina.

Lines were cast off at 0720. We are on our way to the San Juans! First stop, Point Hudson, Port Townsend.

Coming out of Shilshole, there were fishing boats everywhere. Freighter traffic was sparse, though we did get honked at by a tug towing a barge. I guess he is not used to sailboat racers who are comfortable getting a few feet away from each other. We had plenty of room! Passed his bow by at least 100 feet ;).

The trip from Shilshole Marina to Point Hudson was calculated at five and a half hours by Navionics. We left on an ebb tide to push us toward Port Townsend. It is important to consider tides on any cruises in Puget Sound. They have a dramatic effect on the time it takes to reach your destination. Take today’s trip for instance, the 5.5 hours was calculated with an average speed of 5.5 knots. That is, speed over ground (SOG). There is another number we have to take into consideration also, which is speed through the water (SOW). When you are moving with the current you get to ADD the SOW to the speed of the current to reach SOG. So while our actual SOW average was 6.1 knots, SOG came in at an average of 8.3 knots. There was 2.2 knots of current pushing us forward. The reason understanding this calculation is so important is due to its inverse. Had we left Shilshole Marina against this tide the formula becomes SOW MINUS speed of current. That would have put our SOG at 3.9 knots, meaning it would have taken 8 to reach Port Townsend whereas we made it in slightly more than 4 with the tide’s help.

Whew, ok, done with the impromptu math and navigation lesson? How was the sail you say? For the first hour the water was glass. Nary a whisper of wind. We motored :’(. When the wind did come up a little we pulled the headsail out and motor-sailed. We had decided beforehand that the trips to Port Townsend and Friday Harbor needed to happen quickly. We are about the islands, not the journey there. We did not want to beat ourselves up with a 12 hour day of sailing in low winds. Our agreed speed was 4.5 knots. If SOW was less than that we would motor.

Pulling the sail out to motor-sail is a handy trick also. It allowed us to catch what little wind there was and amp it up with the motor to a respectable speed. Proper motor-sailing also means you use much less fuel as the load is split between the sail and the motor. With much lower rpms on the motor than with it, we were able to attain about 6.3 knots SOW in light winds.

At Point No Point the wind came up enough that the snarling iron genny was shut off. The silence of sailing is pure bliss. Billabong is a fast boat. Give her a good wind and she is like a horse chomping on a bit. For a while our SOW was 7.1 knots with an SOG of 9.2 knots! Wowee!

Sailing into Point Hudson I saw a Cal 20. I called up to Alix that it was just like Shane’s old boat. Turns out when we got closer that it IS Shane’s old boat! Fun to see an old boat you sailed on still being actively used. The new owners are great people. They sailed the boat right through the marina to their slip.

We made it to Port Townsend. The trip was lovely. It did not feel at all that we had been out for hours. As I write this we are bundled up in the cabin after a long stroll around town and a hearty dinner. Tomorrow the real exploration begins!

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