Exploring Friday Harbor. San Juan Sailing Trip – August 17, 2018

I have not been to Friday Harbor, Alix has not been for some time. We spent today roaming through this quaint little town exploring what it has to offer us mainlanders. I am becoming more convinced that we need to live somewhere in the islands.

First stop was the Whale Museum. It was spendy to get in but highly informative. We enjoyed learning about the whales in Puget Sound. The Whale Museum has been operating here for decades. They maintain the main board for whale siting and are the first point of contact when a distressed whale is found.

Alix adopted L-119, Joy. Yep, that is right, we are foster parents to an Orca Whale. She is excited about it. We went to a bookstore and got books on Orcas after the museum.

Here is a photo of Joy

After a lovely lavender latte at Bean Cafe we headed back to the San Juan Island Brewery to sample those last five beers. Delicious.

We wandered around town more, saw some sights, had a good time. Mostly I am tired of writing so I will end with more photos.

Heading to Friday Harbor! San Juan Sailing Trip – August 16, 2018

This morning was off to a foggy start. Really foggy, in fact we could not see across to the other side of the marina! I was up at 0700, our departure was timed for 0930. That did not happen!

Instead I spent the time scrubbing the deck, covered in poo from the hundreds of seagulls infesting the area. Their poop had turned the deck purple! Then I walked around and talked to other boaters. All were eager to get leaving.

Finally around 1030 we could see houses along the hill outside the marina. I decided that would have to be good enough. We had to time the currents properly for the 33NM sail to take advantage of the tide or it would take far to long to reach Friday Harbor. I wanted to arrive with plenty of daylight to spare.

We shimmied over to the pump out dock and did a quick turn around to the marina exit. Several other boats watched us and decided to head out too. A few went south towards Seattle, however two sailboats followed us, sticking close behind. About a mile offshore the fog thickened again, enough that we started using the fog horn.

Billabong does not have radar, nor any advanced electronics at all. She has boat speed (paddlewheel), depth, autopilot. We were using our straining eyes, ears, a chart plotter on my tablet, and the MarineTraffic app on my phone for AIS. The big commercial boats all broadcast AIS, which was a lifesaver. We knew exactly where the tankers and cargo ships were in relation to us, even though we could see only a half mile at most.

Ironically the other two sailboats were still following us! One was a new Jeanneau that had radar, the other an old Erickson 41. We passed a tug. The Jeanneau was falling behind. Here came the big cargo vessel. We passed it no problem. We could barely see it astern in the fog. The Jeanneau cleared it as well, though the cargo ship gave a toot on its horn. Right after the cargo ship passed the Jeanneau turned and headed back for Port Townsend.

About a half hour later the fog lifted and we could see for 20+ miles, making out the outline of San Juan. The wind piped up a bit and we were able to toss up some sail. Life was getting better. The Erickson put up sail also and slowly pulled away, not much though. For you racers out there we would have corrected over them in PHRF at Cattle Pass.

After Smith Island the fog seemed to be settling again. Sure enough, by the time we reached Cattle Pass, the entrance to the islands, the fog completely obscured Smith Island. Halfway from the pass to Friday Harbor the fog descended so thickly and quickly that the fishing vessel traveling one hundred feet of our starboard side disappeared! A call to Friday Harbor the day before revealed the marina being full. I was not looking forward to anchoring in a thick fog, not knowing where other boats may be anchored in relation.

As luck had it, we rounded the green buoy and pointed towards Brown Island and the fog magically went away! Clear blue skies ahead. Even the smoke haze was low.

We stopped at the fuel dock for a quick top off. With no fuel gauge on the boat, I wanted to know what our consumption rate was to better estimate our range and remaining fuel. 5.2 gallon of diesel to fill the tank. Running the motor at cruising speed for 10 hours, with a couple hours of diesel heater as well. That averaged to 0.5 gallons per hour. Pretty low! I wish my car was that efficient!

As luck had it there was a single spot on the first-come-first-serve pier of about 39 feet. All side tie. Non-boaters, imagine parallel parking on the street. We smoothly slid all 36 feet of Billabong in place, first shot, no questions asked.

About 1700, time to find some brew and grub, off to the San Juan Island Brewery we went! The beer there was great. We had a flight of five with a promise to be back the next day to finish the rest of the menu off.

By the time we got back to Billabong I was ready to collapse. Alix wanted to watch a movie. I have not remembrance of what it was about ;).

What a great day to be on the water!

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!

San Juan Sailing Trip – August 15, 2018

Today we stayed put in Point Hudson and explored the town of Port Townsend. Alix had not been here before so we spent the entire day walking around town. The weather had cooled off, which made it pleasurable to be out and about. Unfortunately the smokey haze lingered. In the morning we could not see across the water to any land, by the afternoon the land was slightly discernible.

The morning started off with breakfast burritos on the boat and then a saunter down to Better Living Through Coffee. An excellent coffee shop to hang out at. It overlooks the water and boat anchorage area. If you are anchored out front you can easily come in by dinghy to the beach or the small dock nearby.

After sauntering in and out of the various shops nearby we had lunch at The Old Whiskey Meal. The burgers there are huge! I was not able to finish mine. 

Our post lunch activity was a trip to the breweries! Port Townsend sports Propolis and Port Townsend breweries. The Port Townsend brewery is a great place. The tasting room is small but fills with locals from the boatyard. Propolis brewery has the most enjoyable atmosphere of any brewery I have been to. Their saisons are fabulous. Alix is not typically a beer drinker but she enjoyed all their drinks. We spent over two hours hanging out at Propolis, chatting with the owner, and playing a memory matching card game about bugs.

Maintenance today was:

  • Clamp off a water hose in the engine compartment that was leaking tons of water.
  • Put new weather stripping on the windows to stop the water coming in.

Tomorrow we are heading to Friday Harbor!

Finally received our new poly-laminate headsail!

Robert ordered a headsail from Precision Sails (do not purchase from them) at the beginning of 2017. They promised to deliver it by May, in time for the 2017 racing season. They missed it, by months. It just arrive a couple days ago (Jan 2018).  It is shorter than it should be and the foot is two feet longer than it was supposed to be, but it sure does look good up in the rig.

July 24, 2017 Race Report – NRN

Race: Ballard Cup Series III Race 1
Course in Shilshole: NRN
Crew: Ben L, Robert K, Jeff, Mike, Robert Dall
Winds: 6-13 knots (guesstimate)
Average Speed: 5.6 knots
Placement:

This was a tough race from the very start. The race committee had a snafu after the flags went up and had to postpone the race, and when they resumed the persons running the flags, horn, and timer were not in sync. They did pick a great course however, NRN. Perfect conditions.

The starting line was a mess. Boats from other starts were in our way. We had to duck and gybe to get around and into position. Our position wound up being ok. We picked a better line than Figaro by far and we had a chance to push Blue Lullaby over early. Beyond was nowhere near the start line. All we had to do was pull in the headsail and rocket out onto the course. Therein was our first snafu. We should have practiced a few tacks before heading to the line. When we needed to pull in the sails and power up the headsail was a mess. We had two people working the sheet but the tailer put the sheet around the winch backwards. It took him a long time to resolve the problem and a long time to get the sail pulled in. Figaro and Blue Lullaby shot across the line and pulled way ahead of us. Beyond was right on our tail.

Once we got our sails set we took off. We blew past Blue Lullaby and were hot on Figaro. There was a bit of a flood against us so our tactic was to head out on starboard towards the middle of the Sound and tack into the beach as soon as possible. We tacked in and could not get in sync with the headsail and stalled out. It took a couple minutes to get us back up to speed. We went into 12 feet of water before I spun the boat out and back over to a starboard tack. The idea was to get out of the current and ride the wind off the beach up and around the point. The headsail sheet was again wrapped around backward…. boat stalled out and we lost several more minutes powering back up. Surprisingly we were still ahead of Blue Lullaby and when we took off again we came within a couple boat lengths of Figaro.

Figaro tacked in and we kept shooting out. When we finally tacked in we were well above Figaro, Blue Lullaby was astern, and Beyond was still struggling near the starting line. Something happened on this tack that caused the headsail to go out of control and we stalled out again. Stalling on tacks really hurts us. We probably lost 6 minutes each time we stalled while finangling the headsail and waiting for the boat to power back up.The next couple tacks we were much better in sync. Robert Kirkman also had me spin over slower to keep pressure of the headsail a bit longer so the tailer could get more in before grinding was needed.

We drove hard into the bay towards Spring Beach. Only a couple times did we drop below 6.2 knots. Billabong is having some issues with pointing, partially from loose rigging and now backstay adjuster, but primarily due to a big Dacron headsail. We had the sail in tight on the winch but it was still billowing way too far out. The main was in tight to help with pointing but it caused heavy helm, which ultimately acted as a brake for the boat. If we could have gotten the sail shape better we would have been faster, pointed higher, and overall more efficient.

By the time we hit the beach and tacked back out we were dang close to the mark. The tack was much better than the others but we still lost a lot of speed. We would have been at the mark with Figaro with a clean tack. When we got up to the mark we got a bit too trigger happy and tacked early which caused us to go further away from the mark and require another tack.

Downwind we were pretty quick. The spinnakers were certainly faster than us but we held our own pretty well on a reach. Figaro was ahead but we were chewing up the distance, Blue Lullaby was far enough behind that we had her clinched, I could not even find Beyond.

As the wind shifted when we came to the edge of the bay we decided to put up the whisker pole and turn downwind more. Figaro had already done this. It took a long time to get the pole ready and up which lost us use of the headsail. When the pole went up it was on the wrong side of the boat and we had to turn away from our course, build speed, and gybe back out onto the correct course. During all this Figaro disappeared and Blue Lullaby pulled slightly ahead. Beyond was on our tail.

As we came around Meadow Point I called for the pole to be dropped. But of course after it was taken off we got the wind shift along the beach and wished we had kept the pole up. We cruised right up next to the beach in 13 feet of water. We struggled the final bit as spinnakers mucked up the wind around us to be 3rd across the line in our class and 4th on corrected time.

Though it was a rough race we learned a lot. Every week we are getting ourselves dialed in a bit more. Much more of this and we will be getting first places. To give you an idea, Billabong  is the fastest rated boat in her class by far. She was designed as a Transpac racer so she is fast. The only boat we should ever be worried about is Breeze and she has not been out racing this summer. Figaro and Blue Lullaby should never be a threat.

What we did well:

  • When the sails were set we drove hard and fast.
  • Weight was distributed well across the boat.
  • Communication increased across the course and we worked hard to get dialed in together.
  • I replaced the main halyard and it was much easier to get the sail up.

Opportunities for improvement:

  • I need to improve my crew training and direction giving ability.
  • We need to understand the whisker pole and how to use it downwind.
  • We need a downhaul on the whisker pole to control bouncing, flatten the sail, and catch more wind.
  • On tacks the headsail crew really needs to work together well. The tailer needs to pull like a banshee to get as much of the sheet in as possible and then help the grinder keep the tail in so they can go faster and not need to put it in the cleat.
  • I need to work on speed of maneuvers based on conditions and crew ability.
  • And the usual mechanical items: Rigging tuned, backstay tensioner, less stretchy headsail, replacing worn gear, etc.