Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back to Anacortes

On the last day of the trip we awoke with a noon check-in time on our brains. After enjoying morning tea and misty views bundled in our warmest gear up on deck, we prepared to depart our slip. We were at low tide and, unfortunately, did not have time for it to rise if we were going to make it back to Anacortes by noon so we formulated a plan for backing out of the slip. At this point we only had two feet of water under our keel and rock wall 60 feet behind us. Montana Sapphire is 43 feet long so it was feeling a little tight. Fortunately, the dock worker was out and offered his assistance. As he pulled on the stern line and pushed on our bow, Jason carefully backed us out of the slip and into the narrow channel and we were on our way. When we were clear of all obstacles in Rosario, we raised the sails and slowly started beating our way into the wind making, very, slow, progress. Luckily, I enjoy the workout from tacking, because we tacked, and tacked, and tacked and Isaac is an amazing deckhand when it comes to tailing rope for me. 

After sailing, and sailing, and sailing, through Obstruction Pass to Rosario Straight, the tide turned on us and the angle of our tacks decreased dramatically until we were just sailing back and forth, back and forth on the same line. Though were still having fun, after five solid hours of sailing, we decided to drop sail and turn on the engine before we started progressing backwards, allowing Isaac and I to finally rest. At this point we were already two hours late in returning the boat. Oh well. At least we called and warned them that we would be late. Now are sights were set on what we call the Channel of Doom. (It seems only appropriate that perhaps I should say DUN, DUN, DUNnnnn, here, but I am unsure if that is how you spell it.) The Channel of Doom can only be described at this stage of tide as a river, complete with rapids and whirlpools at the edges, that we were trying to motor against. The water swirled and boiled under us as we pushed through at half a knot and it was Jason's turn for a workout. As the currents pushed us around, Jason had to heave back and forth on the helm to keep us in a straight line while carefully watching the GPS to make sure that the line we were on was not going to park us on any rocks. It was fairly nerve-racking. At the same time it was really awe-inspiring to watch and feel the forces of the water. We watched as the tide literally climbed on top of the water in it's path. It was really wild. After an hour and a half we finally made it through to the other side, triumphant. 

We were greeted by a beaming smile when we arrived safely back at the slip as Mark directed us in. As we climbed off the boat, he said, "Wow, I have to tell you I'm impressed." To which Jason replied, "impressed by what? That we made it back in one piece?" With Mark laughing, "Glad you were the one who said it." 

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Day of Rain

There is something magical about the San Juans. Especially when it is raining. Luckily for us, we awoke this morning to rain. Low clouds engulfed the islands and muffled all sound, the morning was so quiet and peaceful, the water so calm and glassy. Upon checking the weather forecast, we learned that there was a small-craft advisory in effect for the afternoon, so after breakfast we donned our rain jackets and pants as we prepared the boat to head out to Rosario Resort where we knew we could spend the afternoon and night in the safety of slip. Without a hint of wind to be found, we fired up the engine and motored to our destination through the rain, soaking up the moody atmosphere in solitude with its mysterious, low-lying clouds and penetrating quietness with the boys logging a lot of bow-sprit time along the way. Arriving at Rosario, tensions were high as we surveyed the layout of the marina and the tightness of the slips. Jason, however, perfectly swung us around the corner of the marina and parked all 43 feet of us into a little slip.

Rosario Resort was built by Robert Moran, a wealthy shipbuilder from Seattle in the early 1920's. One thing that I have noticed from my experience in Acadia, the Virgin Islands, and here, is that wealthy folks from the 1920's really knew how to pick stunning locations for their private get-aways. After tying up to the dock, we headed up to the much drier historic mansion to wander and explore in warmth. (A side note here, as mentioned before, this is our first solo trip without a captain and there are many things that are firsts for us, like, dealing with the head, or what landlubbers call the bathroom. We were warned that we would probably need to have the head pumped out partway through the trip so we asked about pumping services at the dock. We were informed that they had a manual pump and we were free to use it. Gross. At this point I forbade anyone to use the head for the rest of the trip because we did not know what its capacity was and my imagination for overflow of sewage was running wild. I was thankful to be at a dock with bathrooms that we could use.) After exploring the mansion, we settled into the cabin with hot coffee and spent the afternoon reading while it continued to pour outside. Just before dinner, we suited up in our wet rain gear and went for hike up to Cascade Lake. It was picture-perfect, and I couldn't help but to imagine vacationers from the 20's sitting around on blankets with picnic baskets along the shore. I could almost hear their laughter in the mist. Funny how this muted, wet weather brightens the imagination. 

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spencer Spit

After successfully surviving our first night on a sailboat commanded solely by us, we awoke after our modest two hours of sleep a little less than refreshed. A couple of cups of tea later and we were ready to go. First order of business, a trip to land to hike up to the top of the mountain to the swing of doom, as it affectionately became known to us from Captain Robert. Sounds like an easy enough plan, but as Jason descended down into the less-than-stable-wobbly dinghy, we thought twice about it. It seemed so unstable that I couldn't fathom putting the boys into it, and it seemed impossible to get us all in. We considered all of our options as Jason sat in the stern next to the questionable motor with Aaron pointing out, "Daddy, it looks like your going to sink it all by yourself." Inexperience strikes again. What to do? Jason climbed out and we almost gave up, our landlubberly nerves fried from the previous night. In despair, we looked at the shore. One of the reasons we wanted to try sailing alone was so that we were free to go ashore whenever we wanted, without having to bother someone to take us there, and here we were staring at the shore again, not knowing if we would make it. Sigh. A very woeful tale indeed. Below deck, Jason and I regrouped, took a deep-breath, and decided we would try again, this time using oars. With Jason centered in the middle of the boat we successfully climbed in and he gallantly rowed us to shore. Success. On shore, Aaron blazed the trail to the top of the mountain where each boy took turns on the swing of doom. The swing of doom is perfectly situated in a meadow on the crest of the mountain so that you feel like you are swinging over the edge of an abyss. Needless to say, the boys loved it, emitting squeals of joy and maniacal laughter with each push. As we headed back through flower-filled meadows, the chihuahua displayed amazing chihuahua speed, bursting with chihuahua joy, bounding over chihuahua-sized cliffs with her ears flat and her tail curled for maximum chihuahua aerodynamics as she ran circles as fast as her little chihuahua legs would take her. Quite an amusing sight. 

Back on the boat, we ate lunch and set our sights on the next destination, Spencer Spit. After Jason plotted a course, he, with his Herculean strength and bulging eyes, I mean muscles, sorry I had chihuahua on the brain, raised the panic-inducing anchor by hand. Meanwhile I whipped up some chocolate chip cookie dough, in hopes of baking while we were under sail, and secured things below deck. Hoisting sails, we headed to Rosario Strait where the boys emitted a constant stream of speed information 5.6! 6.0! 6.8! crescendo-ing when we hit our top speed of 8.7 knots! As our speed increased, we heeled over hard producing much clattering from below as various things and stuff flew across the cabin, including, but not limited to, the cookie dough. Aaron to the rescue. He quickly headed below deck to secure everything that had been dislodged. I instructed him to put the cookie dough into the sink, forgetting that there were dishes filled with water in there. On subsequent tacks, much to everyone's dismay, the cookie dough bowl took on water. Navigating the channel between Lopez Island and Bird Rocks, we lost our wind in an area of tidal turbulance forcing us to motor through Thatcher Pass, allowing me time to scrape off and throw out the water-logged bits of the cookie dough and put a batch into the oven, thus, successfully completing my first cookie-baking endeavor on a sailboat. With warm cookies in our tummies, we entered Lopez Sound, where we raised sails again and tacked our way to Spencer Spit. Here we executed a much smoother anchorage, leaving us both feeling more confident than the previous night. Safely secured to the bottom of the ocean, we hopped into the dinghy and rowed to shore to explore the drizzle. After a short walk, and an epic sword battle, we headed back to the boat for another delicious dinner. Snuggled into our bunks, we all slept soundly that night. I think we are starting to get the hang of this.

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