Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Refuge 

It was a blustery morning in Blind Bay - winds gusting to 17 kt out of the SW, and Eolian yawing back and forth on her anchor.  Our destination for the day was either Roche Harbor or Westcott Bay, depending...

Wasp Passage was even more blustery, with the wind changing from nearly zero up to 20 kt in the space of just a few feet, as it tested and found narrow little passages between the islands, or as the rotors formed by it skimming over the tops of the trees brushed the water.  Despite this, we did manage to get the mizzen up in a prolonged (ha!) calm spell.

But when we exited into San Juan Channel, we got the full brunt of it.  Given that the wind was forecast to be from the SW, and that we had indeed seen it from the SW in Blind Bay, I anticipated that we would have a reach (of some kind) in San Juan Channel, and indeed we did - 18 kt gusting into the high 20s, and not warm - temps in the 50s.  We raised the staysail which gave us a balanced rig, but Eolian seemed to be struggling some in the lulls.  So we put up the mainsail.  With this, we were making 5.5-6.5 kt thru the water - a comfortable speed.  But the mainsail added too much sail aft of the center of drag, and in the gusts Eolian wanted to round up - no, demanded to round up.  There was too much wind to fly the yankee, so we just tolerated the weather helm and proceeded up and into Spieden Channel.  In retrospect we should have dropped the mizzen - that would have moved the center of effort forward and paradoxically would have speeded us up, since I wouldn't have had to hold the rudder so far over to keep us off the wind and on course.

In the weird way of the winds in the San Juan Islands, when we entered Spieden Channel the wind veered around until we were sailing close hauled, at least part of the time.  We had to constantly fiddle with the sails between a beam reach, close reach, and close hauled tho our course remained constant at 270°.

Finally we reached the point where we could make the left turn into Roche Harbor.  Taking the sails down in that kind of wind is never easy, but we got it done.

Motoring into Roche Harbor, we continued to see wind speeds continuously in the 20s.  We toyed with the idea of just anchoring there - it had been a long, tiring day, and the attraction of being at anchor was powerful.  But Roche was not protected.  Tho there were no waves, the water was black with the wind everywhere.  This is where the 'depends...' came in.

We had talked about going to Westcott Bay or Garrison Bay as a destination this morning, and really, could it be any worse than Roche Harbor?  There should have been some protection from the contour of the land, and perhaps the wind would be thwarted some.  These bays are fairly large, but are shallow, meaning that anchorage available to Eolian would be limited.  And they are popular.  We had visited here one other time and the bays were packed shore to shore with boats.  Today however, there were no AIS signatures appearing in either bay.

Motoring directly into the teeth of the 25-30 kt wind howling down narrow, winding Mosquito Pass was not encouraging by any stretch.  I decided to give Westcott/Garrison a chance, but that we would probably have to turn around in there and go back to Roche.  At least that would be a downwind jaunt.

Miracle of miracles!  Almost as soon as we entered the narrow little cut into the twin bays, the wind dropped down to single digits -  I even think I heard angels singing...

We put the anchor down in the narrow channel of deep enough water in Westcott Bay, and began to unwind.  For us, today, Westcott Bay was the very definition of the word 'refuge'.

Ahhhh...




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