Monday, October 5, 2009

“It Takes A Lot Of Work To Have This Much Fun!”

As promised to a number of sail cruising friends and family here as a brief account of the 2009 September cruise of the sailing vessel AQUILA, our Allied Yachts, S-2, 30 foot center cockpit sailboat. This year’s journey was through the San Juan & Gulf Islands of the Pacific Northwest. A fantastic archipelago located in the southern reaches of the Inside Passage. More on the area in just a moment. Our cruising platform, the S/V AQUILA was in prime fitness having just undergone somewhat extensive repairs following last years trailer accident where the hitch failed allowing boat, trailer and intrepid sailor (and partner) Catherine, an uncontrolled plunge into Lake Roosevelt. Fortunately Catherine was unscathed, AQUILA was not. While I’ll start this posting with a in-the-boat-yard image of the boat the follow up with be the composite image of AQUILA before and immediately post accident.

The comopsite photo is from October 2008 after the recovery/trailer accident:
I chose to have the repair work contracted at North Harbor Diesel in Anacortes, and for the most part they did a fine job. There were some details like a backing plate left off our anchor rigging and a sheave neglected to being fitted to the rudder shank they later fixed; but all in all I was pleased with their work.
My September '09 arrival in the shore side town named after Anna Curtis,,_Washington happened on the first day of the ninth month and throughout the next four consecutive days I worked on, purchased for, loaded, stowed, prepped, rigged, and cleaned the boat. The 3rd image is of AQUILA being hauled down one the marine access streets of Anacortes for launching on 09.05.09 it would have been a grand occasion except that the above mentioned sheave for the rudder caused an immediate reschedule of a haul out and repair for early the next morning. About the time that was completed a southerly packing 30 to 40 mph winds blew into the harbor and another couple of days were spent working on the boat. It was during a very brief lull in that blow I managed to navigate the ‘ditch’, a marked, dredged channel linking the southern boat yards & marinas to the boat basin in the shallows off eastern Anacortes. There’s a sailing saying my cruising friends have all heard but I’ll share with the rest of you, “owning a cruising sailboat means you get to do boat maintenance and repairs in exotic ports of call”. Catherine and I can attest to the truth of this wisdom. I ‘hove-to’ at Cap Sante Boat Basin for the next three days finishing minor projects and awaiting the arrival of my crew.

Image #4 is my resident neighbors just as the weather was blowing in. I think they enjoyed the fact that the joke was on me and the weather had AQUILA pinned to the docks for several more days. Image number 5 is the dawn of the breaking of the summer storm. The first of many Labor Day weekend sailboats putting out with the coming of fair weather.
Of course the arrival of the crew meant more gear, food, clothes, and sundry other items to be sorted and stowed. By the time we had completed that series of tasks another late summer day had passed and we had the choice of venturing out into the late afternoon and make a twilight run for an anchorage or settle into a glass of wine and the berths for an early wake-up, shore side showers and an early morning run. We chose the later. “Oops” the early morning run went south with another venture to West Marine, Safeway, the liquor store and fueling the boat. That’s okay, after a calm early afternoon crossing of Rosario Strait we made James Island, and took a buoy for our first-night-off-the-dock portion of the cruise. James Island is one of the islands that are part of the Washington State Parks (see link provided above). Somehow over the course of ensuing years we had forgotten the ferry wake rolling into the buoy field on the northern side of the island. It was a rollickie night!

The Clementine-in-the-forest photo is the view through the lens of my partner Catherine as she & teen-daughter-woman-child frolicked through the forested slopes of James Island, climbing trees and chasing slugs. At this stage in the cruise there were still boat-chores consisting of stowing miscellaneous goods, trying to find a leak in the water system, and the like. These tasks combined with long work weeks leading up to the early moments under way and long hours of prep took their toll. Another free saying for you, this one from me, I’ll give you the acronym first; I.T.A.L.O.W.T.H.T.M.F! I say it before and after each cruise. There is so much innate truth in it my fortune may very well be made in T-shirts and bumper stickers from this saying – “It Takes A Lot Of Work To Have This Much Fun!” That being the case, it may come as no surprise our next anchorage was no more than two nautical miles from our first. Spencer Spit… Which is where this next photo, image #10 was taken. A quiet afternoon on the state park buoy. A cell call to our dear cruising buddy, Marjean Mathews, a solo sailor on the sailing vessel GRACE revealed she had just seasonally laid-ff from her job at the San Juan County Parks and was sailing toward Sucia Island for a much needed on-board break from work. Catherine and I went to berth with that thought in mind along with a bunch of other psychobabble of brains struggling to disconnect from the Matrix.

Predawn promised a clear, late summer day. Catherine and I awoke at nearly the same time and with the same thought. Lets go to Sucia! There were a number of reasons not to. An impending rendezvous with another good friend who was planning on cruising with us for a week or so. A pre-planned but surprise birthday party for the upcoming 17 year old who has spent the last 6 birthdays under sail in remote anchorages with very limited (but unique) party activities. And more. But the call of the dawn and our spirits rising to a new adventure prevailed and soon we were motoring our 16,000 pound loaded displacement, 30 sailboat out Peavine Pass and back into the embrace of Rosario Strait for an early morning run (see image #11). The winds of change had been whispering down East Sound of Orcas Island as we motored out into the strait. It was a portend of things to come. We were running with a flood tide giving AQUILA a lift but a northerly breeze was building, though in the early stage of the run the eastern shoulder of Orcas Island and Mount Constitution blocked the winds. By mid morning we were set to round Lawrence Point. Our approach revealed a continuous stretch of foaming, white water, wind waves being stacked up against the running tide. It was an impressive sight. Word had come up to me from the galley that breakfast, more of a brunch actually, was about to be served. I looked into the line of wave after wave, white capped and rolling toward us just around the rockscape of the point and knew there was no where out there where breakfast could be easily managed. I chose to heave-to (hold the boat in place) just at the abrupt edge of calm waters meeting the frothing churn of the wind whipped waves. Breakfast was good and relaxed. Then it was time to reef the main and sliver the jib. We motored into the maelstrom of the channel, out from the protection of the point and the rodeo began. Well, hmm… Almost.

Nothing untoward happened. AQUILA held her own footing sweetly. No bilge warning lights flashed of impending water filling the boat. The rail wasn’t blown under. We simply heeled a bit and continued on under way sailing along. It was great! It was the 1st time since the ’08 accident we had put our vessel to the test and she was rather nonchalant about it to tell the truth. “Oh, this?” she seemed to say, “yes, remember, we’ve gone through much worse.” I hadn’t really put my finger on it but after many miles under sail and motoring through many differing conditions, some quite adverse, I was nervous. Not due to lack of experience but to the fact that this boat had undergone a near serious accident and I was uncertain how she would handle rough conditions. “No problemo mon,” the voice in my head told me and a large, probably silly grin spread across my big, bald dog face.
“Having fun?” Catherine asked coming on deck in her warmies to share this part of the passage with me.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Lots of it!” And we romped and we ran, AQUILA shoulder tossing aside white foaming bow waves with nary a glance. The sails drawing, the boat making good time on her close hauled tacks in the general direction of our destination. It was GREAT!
The next photo; “Piloting into the sun” is a short while before rounding Lawrence Point into the run of the waves and tide.


Jacquie said...

I love this! So descriptive, its like I'm sailing with you all!!!

James Davidson Jr said...

You've sold me!!! Work to play, you can't be the open water..

J Duncan Gould said...

Well done Foster. Your photos are top-drawer, I especially liked the shots in fog, great atmosphere. And the story line ran along're getting good in your old age ;-) Thanks for posting the account, cheers Duncan