Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Voyage #4: San Juan Islands - Days 4 - 6

San Juan Islands
8/24/2001 - 9/8/2001

Last week, we left Eolian anchored at Hope Island for the night, having already experienced an engine failure under way, and a wedding. Let's rejoin her the next morning, day 4 of the trip....

We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast with coffee in the cockpit (catching the pattern yet?), and hoisted anchor at 09:00. We drove south about 2 miles to the entrance of Swinomish Passage, and turned east into the *very* narrow dredged channel, dredged right thru the place where the seagulls were walking. There are range boards, and it really pays to keep them lined up. In the middle of the channel there was 12 feet of water, but it shoaled quickly to either side of the channel center. Just when it seems that you are about to run directly into the mainland, the channel turns left into a classic 'hole in the wall', passing thru narrow high cliffs into the passage proper. This Army Corps of Engineers project provides a protected alternate passage to the wild waters of Deception Pass. We continued north, and soon saw the 'Rainbow Bridge' which frames LaConner when approaching from the south.

LaConner is a quaint little town which now is nearly completely gentrified - it is packed with antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants - even a brew pub. Tho there are many docks, we didn't stop since we had planned to anchor in the San Juans that night. Helping to make this decision was an unfavorable tidal current which continued to build thru the morning. By the time we had reached the railroad bridge at the north end of the passage, we were showing 7.5 kt indicated but struggling to make 2 kt over the ground. As we cleared into the dredged channel in Padilla bay, we were met with a 20 kt north wind with intermittent showers. Of course this slowed us even more. It *really* doesn't pay to fight the tide...

After fighting that wind (which had now built to over 25 kt), I was looking forward to a rousing reach down Guemes Channel past Anacortes, so we raised sail and turned to port. Alas, it was not to be. Apparently the strong wind existed only in Padilla bay... and we were back to the diesel again. We did keep the main and mizzen up and made some use of them and the engine together.

(Please note: These pictures are all much larger than they show here. Click on any of them to see a full-sized one - this is especially helpful with the charts)

We motor-sailed the length of Guemes Channel, passing Anacortes. At a drydock there, a Washington State ferry was out of the water. If you think these look big when floating - they are HUGE when they are dry. One prop on each end - looked like it must be at least 8 feet in diameter.

We found that Rosario Strait was calm, despite the fresh breeze just a few miles to the east. Oh well. We motored across and ducked into the Islands thru Thatcher pass. Jane had an objective to see new territory in the islands, so we didn't stop at our traditional first night place: Spencer Spit (a neat State Marine Park with lots of buoys and lots of activity) and instead turned into Lopez Sound and tucked into a little bight at the north end called Brigantine Bay. This ideal quiet little anchorage off Decatur Island is protected by small but tall Trump Island. We dropped the hook at 16:30, finally. Too tired and really too late to start, we didn't crab. After dinner we had a glass of wine and watched the sunset and the wildlife quieting for the night.

Next morning (notice I have forgotten what day it is?), we laid around reading and enjoying the wildlife - we saw seals breaching and slapping the water in some kind of seal game, and seagulls eating clams. They dig them up and then carry them aloft and drop them onto the rocks to crack them open. We were waiting for the fog and clouds to burn off. It was so calm that the each land mass in the view was paired with a perfect mirror image - absolutely stunning. We decided that morning that we need to do more exploration of Lopez Sound on our next visit to the Islands. It's a beautiful place.

We left finally at 12:45, heading for Blind Bay on the north side of Shaw Island. As with most of the passages, there was a mix of sailing and motoring in light wind. We arrived at 16:00 and proceeded to the south end of the bay. The wind was forecast to be from the south, so an anchorage in the south end of the bay would provide a little shelter in the lee of the island and would reduce the fetch for waves to nothing. Blind Bay is a large open bay with a narrow entrance and a uniform depth of 20 feet - kind of like a lake - with room for lots of boats. We put out the crab ring and immediately began to bring in Dungeness. In fact, everything we had caught on the trip was Dungeness, while down south at Shilshole and Bainbridge Island, we catch almost exclusively rock crabs. Erica says this is because of the significant difference in salinity (the south Sound is much less saline than the Islands). Although we brought in a lot of crabs, most were female (which for Dungeness cannot be kept). We did get one large male, which we saved for later. We were intrigued by a young woman who got into a small ski boat and rushed across the bay and then the channel to Orcas Island and picked up her husband from work - sounds like a neat way to commute to work, at least when the weather is nice.

Next morning we were lazy again, except that we did exercise the crab ring, finally getting two more keepers. Despite the fact that we only had a few miles to go to get to Friday Harbor (our destination for today), we left a little earlier than would seem necessary: 09:25. The plan was to arrive at Friday Harbor just when folks were leaving their slips and before the big rush begins in the afternoon. This *was* Labor Day weekend after all. The plan was to be tied to the dock (preferably) or at anchor at Friday Harbor so that we could meet Adam, Erica, and Ken (our son, daughter, and son in law) - who were coming on the ferry from the mainland the next day. Surprisingly, when we contacted the harbormaster, we were assigned a slip immediately.

The problem was that in order to tie up to the slip, we would have to accomplish a turn tighter than Eolian can make. So, I moved her into the marina and then began the slow 'spin in place' turn alternating between forward with the rudder cocked all the way over and reverse (where it doesn't matter where the rudder is positioned). Just as I got lined up for the slot, the dock crew warned me off because the next boat in line was leaving. This was good, since it would give me a larger spot to hit, but bad because I had to back out and get lined up all over again. During the entire maneuver, smaller boats continued to buzz past and all around us. At first, this was a great concern to me, but I soon realized that they were far more maneuverable than we were, so I largely ignored them. Finally, we were tied to the dock.

We refilled the water tanks and plugged into shore power. Not too long after that, we both had a shower, then we went up into town to buy groceries - three college kids were going to eat a lot!

To be continued...

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