Friday, March 29, 2013

NW March Sailing is Cold

After a night in Gig Harbor, we took a short sail over to Tacoma where we met up with my brother and his family. We stayed at Point Defiance marina because we wanted to explore the giant wooded park it is named after. Our slip was the narrowest slip we have squeezed into so far and also, for lack of a better word, the crappiest. We were sandwiched between rickety docks lined with aluminum shacks that looked as if they may come down in a good blow, with a view of a black slag-heap that is used as a breakwater. We met my brother and family at the park and went for a sweet little almost-two-year-old-paced walk. I had forgotten that when you walk with little ones how everything must be explored and how no puddle is left un-splashed. We then piled into their cars and they took us into town where we ate dinner at one of their favorite Asian restaurants. It was so fun to catch up and see how Nate's little ones have grown. We spent the next day hiking, under mostly sunny skies, through the park. Aaron was on high alert for bird sightings and listenings, and Isaac marveled at how much he loves hiking through Pacific Northwest forests. The Seattle heritage runs strong in his veins. Late in the afternoon we caught a bus into Tacoma where we checked out a bookstore for Isaac, a toy store for Aaron, and a grocery store for me. Unfortunately, our plans with my brother didn't work as they had a sick kid at home. After dinner we stepped off the bus near our marina all in unison said, "whoa!" and stopped dead in our tracks when we looked up and saw Mount Rainier hulking over our crappy marina. Back on the boat, the view we had from our cockpit through the floating shacks surrounding us, was by far the best we've had of that monstrous mountain.

The next morning we set out through the Tacoma Narrows and under its two suspension bridges bound for Penrose State Park. In the afternoon we hiked in the rain through the park and the boys logged some beach time. We then settled in for the night and all of the next day as a gale set in, the temperature dropped to 35 degrees, with snow and 30 knot winds. Luckily our anchorage was well protected and not too rolly. The next day we hunkered down to the serious business of playing board games. I made cookies and soup and continued reading the Hobbit to the boys. Jason worked on our heater that, of course, decided to act up during the coldest days of sailing we have yet experienced. Happily, he was successful and we slept in warm, cozy beds without shivering through the night. The next day the south winds had calmed to 15-20 knots so we headed north, back to Blake Island in crisp, sunny weather with the occasional hail storm. We enjoyed a nice sail running downwind thirty miles with just our jib. For the majority of the time we managed to stay in a patch of blue sky between two lines of dark, forbidding clouds. When we finally collide with the storm ahead of us, the sky blackened and wind suddenly changed from south to north, forcing us to beat into the wind for the last couple of miles. Strangely the air temperature warmed considerably after one storm and then became very cold after the next one blew through.

Once we reached Blake Island, we decided to stay at the dock just in case our heater decided not to work again.  At least we would have electricity so we could run our small plug-in heater. Near the dock is a big park with campfire shelters strewn throughout. After dinner, Jason had a difficult time coaxing the boys (and me) out of the warm boat into the frigid air where we huddled by an itty-bitty fire and looked across the sound at the brilliantly lit Seattle skyline with mugs of hot cocoa steaming in our hands. The next morning Pika and I stepped out onto icy docks as we headed to land for her morning duties. Brrrr. We spent the morning on an unexpectedly lovely hike around the perimeter of the island where we saw a Golden Eagle and experienced both sunshine  and a frozen, icy rain. Sailing in March is definitely not the warmest thing we have done and my fingers and toes have the chilblains to prove it, but the afternoon brought sunny skies and a nice passage to our next destination.

Click here for photos.

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