Saturday, August 16, 2014

Beyond Bellingham and back again..

When we left off, we were anchored in Fairhaven, Bellingham, looking for a new motor.  After lots of research, we ended up ordering an electric trolling motor, a 55lb thrust Haswing brand motor.  It's a pretty neat little thing!  Cody wired it up in an afternoon, and now, all you need to do is plug it in, lower it into the water, and twist the handle- and off you go!  Much easier than the pull cord on the seagull, which I couldn't pull hard enough to start on my own.  It pushes Rabbanah along at about 2.5 kts in calm conditions, and even has reverse!   It's also completely silent when running, which we like.  It runs off our existing battery bank, which we charge with a solar panel. 

Anyway,  we had a few days to kill while waiting for the motor to arrive.  As it happened, my parents had planned to stop and visit some friends of theirs in Bellingham, on their way up to Whistler for a week.  Not only that, but they were throwing a birthday party for my Grandma the day before they left.  Some quick research showed that I could take public transit all the way from Bellingham to Seattle for about $7.50.   So I headed down on Friday morning, attended the party on Friday evening, and rode back up to Bellingham with my folks on Saturday.   We took them out for an afternoon sail around Bellingham Bay, (I think they had fun!), and were invited to join them and their friends for a wonderful dinner on the shore of Lake Whatcom.  What fun!  A big thanks to Craig and Lorrie Mullarky for hosting us!  

Dad at the Helm! 
 (And my mom the Model sunning herself on the afterdeck...)  

We met up with some new/old friends in Bellingham-  Garrett and Katheryn were out Stand-up Paddleboarding in Fairhaven, and recognized Rabannah from the blog.   I went to high school with them, and had a class with Katheryn at WWU.  Katheryn got in touch with me over facebook and invited us to dinner.  We had a great time- (crab tacos, too!)  and invited them to join us for dinner aboard Rabannah the next night.  We had another fun night with them- Garrett grew up cruising the San Juans and beyond, and had owned a wooden sailboat for a while as well, so we had lots to talk about.  He had also had a record crab catch day-  and generously left us with bags of cooked crab, as well as 5 live monster Dungeness crab.  We feasted for days!  Let's go sail sometime soon, guys!  

'Bannah charging through the chop in Bellingham Bay. 

We had intended to leave Bellingham soon after we had the engine all wired up, but the weather, while sunny, was quite blustery, with large seas in Bellingham Bay.  We also needed to do a pump-out of our holding tank, and fill our fresh-water tanks, which meant we needed to get into a marina.  With our engine still rather new and un-tested, we would have liked to have somewhat calm weather to approach and motor into a new marina.  We tried it one morning, while the wind was relatively calm,  but it kicked up by the time we arrived at the mouth of the marina.  Back to our anchorage, to wait it out for another day.  While we were sailing in those heavy conditions, Cody noticed our mast pumping a bit- bending and flexing especially at the point where the inner-forestay connects.  It was flexing more than we liked to see, so while we waited for the weather, we deliberated and ended up installing a pair of running backstays, which support the mast at that connection point, but block the movement of the boom, so they are removable.  It's good to test out the boat in all conditions, so we can find the weaknesses and see the strengths of our systems.   

Stern tied in Toe Point Cove, Patos Island. 

The good weather finally arrived, and we left Fairhaven, bound for Sucia Island.  We had great sailing across Bellingham Bay, North along the Lummi Island, and West across Rosario Strait, but once we were in sight of little Matia Island with Sucia just beyond, the wind lightened and then died.  We were adrift- in no danger, but going nowhere.  The flood tide was creating a strong northerly current, and we were still moving North, slipping past Matia, then Sucia.  At one point, we found ourselves in a tide rip- a place where opposing currents meet and swirl.  The boat started spinning- and did a few slow pirouettes before really ramping up for a much faster turn.  We couldn't have turned her that fast ourselves!  We were becalmed- truly, fully, dead becalmed for 5 hours before the wind returned, just enough wind to sail by.  But that was enough!  We eagerly trimmed our light air drifter and made for little Patos Island, which is the Northern most island in the US Pacific Northwest.   We slowly sailed up to the small cove at Toe Point on Patos, surrounded by  dolphins surfacing.  The sun was setting, and it was so still and peaceful.  I immediately forgot the last 5 hours, and was enchanted by the beauty of this little spot.  

The cove was quite small, just room for a boat or two.  We set an anchor forward, then also tied a line to a large tree on the beach so we wouldn't swing.  The water was crystal clear, and the cove was sheltered from the tidal current still slipping by just beyond the mouth of the cove.  Cody said he felt like a real explorer when he landed the dinghy on the deserted gravel beach.  

We spent the next two days on Patos, hiking around the island.  We saw a baby seal sunning himself, and were able to sneak up pretty close to get a photo.  He was fat and adorable.  He didn't realize we were there for a while, but eventually heard the camera clicking, and turned to face us-  he looked a bit surprised, and then humped himself over to the water, where he plopped in, and suddenly became much more graceful.  

What are YOU looking at?

We also hiked around to the Western end of Patos to visit the lighthouse, but forgot the camera!  Oh well.  
"Pato" means "duck" in Spanish, and Patos Island was named by Spanish Explorers in 1792.  We didn't see many ducks there...  

But, can you find the duck in this photo? 

From Patos, we set sail for Sucia, a very popular island just South East of Patos.  We tied to a mooring bouy in little Snoring Bay.  We had just furled the sails when another boat came slowly into the shallow bay, a 42.5' Hallburg Rassy named "Miller Time."  The Captain smiled and waved, and tied up to the next mooring bouy.   A bit later, he paddled by in a kayak, and introduced himself as Bud.  (I wanted to ask him where Mr. Coors was...)  He was very friendly, and offered us the use of his kayaks, and said that he had a pan of brownies baking, and to come by later to help him eat them.  We took him up on his offer, and had an evening full of conversation, tea and too many brownies.  Bud is a partner on the Miller Time, and has cruised the Sound extensively.   He told us all kinds of stories- sea and otherwise, and ended up inviting us over for breakfast the next day.  We spent most of the next day with Bud- breakfast aboard Miller Time, a slideshow of our boat construction photos aboard Rabannah over lunch.  We broke off for a little hike in the afternoon, then joined Bud for dinner again aboard Miller Time.  He recited poems, read us passages from a book he was reading, asked all kinds of questions about us and our boat, and a good time was had by all.  We rowed away that night with an invitation to come visit him and his wife at their home- and to use his shop for any projects that might arise.  What a nice guy.  Thanks Bud!  See you again soon!  

Tied up in Snoring Bay, Sucia Island. 

We left Sucia on a somewhat foggy morning, and it began to drizzle as we sailed south.  The wind, quite light in the morning, really kicked up as we got out of the lee of Orcas Island.  We stopped for lunch and a chance to warm up on Clark Island- we picked up a mooring ball on the west side of the island.   We hoped to make it through Obstruction Pass, and into East Sound on Orcas Island.  We wanted to visit Rosario Resort for some hot showers, and a dry place to wait out the rain.  Unfortunately, by the time we left Clark Island,  rounded Lawrence Point, and were making our way west toward the pass, the tide shifted, and we couldn't make any headway against the current.  So, it was back to Clark Island.  We picked up a mooring on the East side of the island this time.  We rowed ashore, as it had stopped raining, and built a fire on the beach, with the express purpose of drying out our soggy feet.  It felt wonderful to have warm, dry toes once again. 

Clark Island, like Patos was another place we didn't really plan to stay.  Also, like Patos, it turned out to be a real gem.  It was deserted, and really scenic.  The woods were a mixture of Madrone and Cedar trees, and the beaches were smooth gravel pebbles, with some sandy spots.  There was a small trail circling the South end of the Island, and the views of the tiny Sisters islands were lovely.  

Can you see Rabannah? 
 (This photo is not in Black and White, and has not been edited in any way!)

The next morning was a bit foggy.  We waited it out, and hiked a bit more around the island.  After lunch, the fog had lifted enough to sail again, so we raised our drifter, optimistically telling ourselves there was wind, "just right there!"  For once, we were right, and in not too long, we were making for Obstruction pass once again.  We saw a cluster of whale watching boats, slowly motoring around, just north of us.  We could see a few dorsal fins through the binoculars, so we did a quick tack, to head back and watch the whales for a bit.  They ended up heading South, right toward us!  We tacked back, to resume our course, and before long, there was a pod of Orcas swimming along right behind us!  They were truly majestic creatures- the big males have dorsal fins that must be over 6 feet tall- they rise slowly out of the water, and then take a long time to dip below the surface again.  There were babies, and smaller females too.  Be on the lookout for a video in this space soon!  

Hiking on Clark Island. 

Once again, the tidal currents got the best of us, and we switched course for Cypress Island.  We stayed a pleasant night at Pelican Beach, on a mooring once again.  We hiked up to Eagle Cliff, and stayed quite dry on the way up, but it started raining on the way down.  We were glad to make it back aboard, where it was warm and mostly dry.  

We left the next morning, and made way for Bellingham once again.  Our good friends PJ & Sarah Mannion are joining us for a trip this afternoon, and we wanted to be somewhere easy to reach by road!  We anchored once again in Fairhaven, and went ashore for a nice, long, hot shower, and a run to the store.  We left our poor dinghy a little too low on the beach, and  while we were gone, she took a bath as well!

Oops.  Should have taken a hint from the other dinghy...  

We flipped her over, and just filled her with water.  Poor Majesty!  We found the whole thing quite funny.

And now, we're eagerly awaiting the arrival of some of  our nearest and dearest friends.  
The dream is soooo good.