Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Off to the Islands...

We left off in Port Townsend, preparing to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca and go gallivanting around the San Juan Islands.  We attempted to cross on Sunday, the 18th, but the winds were too light, and the current was opposing and quite strong, so we couldn't make any headway to exit Admiralty Inlet.  So, we headed back to Port Townsend, and did some studying and planning.    
Study Materials. 

Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse while we did our planning, so we had to amuse ourselves otherwise- crabbing..  (mostly unsuccessfully....)

Baking bread, cooking meals..  (Quite successfully!)  
We also met a new friend, Andy Freeman, who sailed with my sister on the Bainbridge High Sailing Team.  He's been following the blog, and recognized Rabannah while working on a tug boat in the Port Townsend boat yard.  He gave us a tour of the tug- and we gave him a tour of Rabannah.  Always fun to meet other sailors!  

Sunset in Mystery Bay

We were anchored in a spot that was fairly exposed to the Southeast- which wasn't a problem for a few days, but the weather called for strong SE winds one night, so we weighed anchor and headed across the bay to Marrowstone Island and Mystery Bay- much more protected.  And a nice change of scenery.  We had hoped to leave early the next morning to cross the Strait, to take advantage of the favorable tide and some wind that was forecast, but when the alarm went off at 5am, it was pouring outside.  The unanimous decision from the v-berth was that we would try again tomorrow.  

The next day, we woke early again, and headed out.  The winds were light, but the currents were strong, and we drifted our way across, all the way to Aleck Bay on Lopez Island.  We sailed 28 miles in about 11 hours- no speed records here- but we did it almost entirely under sail.  Mystery bay has a long and narrow channel, surrounded by shoals, that we motored through.  

Aleck Bay was picturesque, with steep, rocky shorelines on one side, and a sandy, curving beach along the other.  The water was crystal clear, and stayed calm during our visit.  

We rowed over to a neat little cove, sandy and nearly hidden.  Some minor trespassing (we think.  There weren't any signs...) led us to an beautiful little beach.  

This beach faces the Strait- you can see how foggy it was this morning!  We could hear the big ships honking away out there all day.  


We also found these mushrooms!  They're called Chicken Mushrooms, and our little mushroom guide says they're a "choice edible."  We cross checked our guide with the internet, and they are edible, but I don't know about "choice."  Maybe these ones had grown too large, but they weren't very tender.  They did have a chicken-like flavor though!  

There was one small dock in Aleck Bay, which had been empty when we arrived.  But the next day, a float plane pulled up to the dock!  We met the owners of the plane and the neat little cabin on shore.  Derek and Becca were kayaking around the bay one morning, and came by to see the boat.  We chatted with them for a while- Derek was once the Captain of the Atalanta, a 73 foot ketch, and also a highly competetive laser sailor, so he had lots of sailing and regional wisdom to impart.  His wife Becca was great too- showing us all around their off-the-grid property and serving us lunch.  We waved to them as we left Aleck Bay, and they took some nice photos of us under sail.

  Photo: Leaving Aleck Bay Lopez
Leaving Aleck Bay. 

It was slow, light wind sailing as we rounded the southern point of Lopez.  We just barely made it through Lopez Pass, a narrow channel, before the tide shifted at 7pm.  The weather was beautiful, though, and the views of Mt. Baker were spectacular.  We also saw several Humpback whales surfacing and raising their flukes as they dove.  We stayed that night in Hunter bay, only a few miles from Aleck, as the crow flies, but about 8 miles away by sea.  

Cody spent the next morning at Hunter Bay working on the Seagull.  It had been growing less and less reliable, less willing to start, and with the currents as strong as they are, the passes as narrow, and the winds as light as they have been, and typically are in the San Juans, we feel that having an engine is the prudent thing to do.  When sailing through a narrow cut, with a strong current, in light air- if the wind were to die, you're at the mercy of the current, and often, you cannot steer.  Not a situation we'd like to find ourselves in.  
Cody had no luck with the Seagull- he couldn't find anything wrong!  And yet, it won't run.  So, we're now in the market for a new motor.  We're thinking electric?  We'll see.  

So. we left Hunter Bay, and sailed north through Lopez Sound toward Thatcher Pass.  Once again, the winds were extremely light, but this time we missed the window to have favorable current through the pass.  There was plenty of wind in the Pass, but the current was too strong for us to overcome.  So, we turned around, and stayed a night at Spencer Spit State Park- conveniently located just to the west of Thatcher Pass.     On our way there, we passed the Adventuress under sail.  She's a 100 foot gaff-rigged schooner, and is a real treat to watch sail.  It seems that most of the sailboats we've encountered out here have their sails furled away, sail covers on, and are cruising along at 8 kts under power.  Why bother own a sailboat?  Even when we sailed across Rosario Strait yesterday, just roaring along on a close reach (a fairly comfortable point of sail,) in plenty of wind, there were sailboats under motor. 

Anyway, now we're anchored in Fairhaven, Bellingham, looking for a motor!   (Oh.  oops.) The weather is fine, and I'm looking forward to replenishing our stores, eating a few meals out, doing laundry, and all the other shore-side stuff we've got to do before we can head back out to the Islands.  

Life is pretty good out here!  

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