Monday, January 21, 2013

Catching up...

Tis the middle of January in the borderlands of the Inland Empire in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures are hoovering around the 0* mark with everything covered in old, hard snow. And while nursing an injury of a pinched disc a bout of Cabin Fever is setting in.  Good time to think of sailing. That said, this is a look back to the 2012 September Cruise Catherine and I undertook on our sailing vessel AQUILA. So hop aboard and enjoy and remember to double click on an image for a larger view...

Catherine, Pinja and I - photo JR Hageman
AQUILA sail San Poil mouth, Lake Roosevelt -
photo Catherine L. Brown

Catherine and I, along with our ship’s pup Pinja spent a few weeks cruising in the fresh, inland waters of the Pacific NW on Franklin D. Roosevelt LakeLake Roosevelt is formed by the mighty Columbia River impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam, a waterway with over 500 miles of rugged shoreline.Our magic carpet across this remote, inland waterway? The sailing vessel AQUILA, our 1987 S-2 9.2 meter, center-cockpit sloop seen in this image by Catherine.
Rickey Point Sail Club dock - photo J. Foster Fanning
While “a few weeks” is a relatively short cruise by sailboat standards, it still takes a lot of preparation especially when there are no provisioning options while underway. There are four marinas operating on the lake with very limited stock, especially in September.

S/V AQUILA on a spinnaker run, Lake Roosevelt - photo Debbie Brozick
Our trip started in early September. The weather was hot and dry, the winds light and variable. Much of the first couple of days was spent motoring south, downlake. Of the few sail-sets we did make our spinnakers, used as a drifter did see a little action. Photo by Debbie Brozik
Unplanned rafting with Rhodes Swiftsure 33' GATCHUTCHA - photo J. Foster Fanning
Underway on our first day out we crossed wakes with the S/V GATCHUTCHA, a Rhodes Swiftsure 33, owned and skippered by Joel Greene with Deborah Kollock as crew.
Pinja on Rhodes Swiftsure 33' - J. Foster Fanning

Here’s a pic of Pinja, our ship’s dog having completed a patrol of the decks of the S/V GATCHUTCHA (meaning sweetheart in Norwegian).

Dinghy crew, Lake Roosevelt - photo J. Foster Fanning
We had plotted Nez Perce Creek Cove as our first anchorage, knowing it would be a long run. Unfortunately there was a large encampment on the sandspit and with darkness falling we sailed on to Hunter’s Creek Bay where we dropped the anchor after dark on a very settled, star filled evening. Here’s a pic of Pinja guiding Catherine ashore for morning shore-leave.

Foster - photo Catherine L. Brown

Catherine caught this image of me that morning celebrating my 61st birthday as we rowed about exploring Hunter’s Creek Bay.

Cove of the Waterfalls - photo Catherine L. Brown

Better yet – here is Pinja and I exploring Cove of the Waterfalls (Nine Mile Falls). It was a cold birthday shower in the plunge pool of the falls making the 65* water of Lake Roosevelt seem warm when I later dove in.

Nine Mile Falls, Lake Roosevelt - J. Foster Fanning

Here’s a pic I caught of Catherine standing-off with AQUILA as Pinja and I get shore-leave to the waterfalls.

Moose at McGuire Point - J. Foster Fanning

It was later in the afternoon of our 2nd day out that I received one of my best birthday gifts from Mother Nature. While anchored in a small cove just north of McGuire Point, on the Spokane Tribal lands a young bullmoose caught our attention while swimming across our anchorage. Seen here from the cockpit of AQUILA as it walks along the sandy beach of the point.

Bullmoose at McGuire Point, Spokane Reservation, Lake Roosevelt, Columbia River - J. Foster Fanning

Caught this close-up pic of the young bull as he stands in the shallow looking across the lake. He snorted deeply, took a few steps forward and began a swim that took him just under 25 minutes to cross this reach of the lake. Every five minutes or so he would vigorously toss his head and antler rack back and forth in the water sending up a spray six feet or more into the air. Catherine watched his complete swim with our field glasses. After the fifteen minute mark the moose was so far out on the lake I couldn’t see him with a bare eye.
AQUILA's crew enjoying a sundowner - Lake Roosevelt

With the evening diurnal breeze holding our vessel stern to the descending sun Catherine and I set up our beach chairs on the aft deck and toasted the evening of my birthday. Not a bad way to spend the day…

Approaching Castle Rock, Lake Roosevelt
Day three found us spinnaker up / spinnaker down, sails set / sails furled as the air remained light and variable. To make up for it we motored close to Castle Rock with 60 feet of clear water under our keel and the 300’ of rising rock cliff tampering back, it’s exciting to pilot a vessel so close to this famous north lake landmark.
Spokane River, Two Rivers Marina, Lake Roosevelt
Catherine at the helm piloting AQUILA out from the Two Rivers Marina where we stopped to top off our water tanks and get ice cream. The Spokane River Bridge can be seen as the backdrop to this photograph.

Ah, the dog days of summer…

AQUILA sunset, Lake Roosevelt, Columbia River - photo J. Foster Fanning

Here’s the view from Naked Frank beach, near the confluence of the Hawk Creek Arm and Columbia River. This beautiful, calm evening turned into a raging blow with gusts up to 30 knots out of the north just after dark forcing us off this exposed beach anchorage and into the relative shelter of Hawk Creek Cove. Besides literally cutting the shore-tie to beat a hasty retreat we were doing so in the dark with heavy sand and grit blowing off the nearby chalk cliff faces. Unfortunately we were outside the scope of our VHF to receive WX forecasts and the intensity of the weather was unexpected with the last forecast calling for 10 knots of northerly winds.
Cleaning up the mess, Lake Roosevelt
The aftermath of our unexpected night run left us cleaning dust and grit out of our eyes, and ears as the moderate 20 knot gusts hit the Hawk Creek Cove. No problem there as we had 100 feet of chain and a lot of rope rode out after setting the anchor in a good sand bottom.
Catherine's Birthday, Lake Roosevelt

Catherine, on her birthday morning, recovering the shore-tie we had cut during the night in making our escape from Naked Frank Beach. Yep, I really know how to show a gal a good time…

Duck Pan Cove, Lake Roosevelt, Columbia River, Colville Tribal Lands - J. Foster Fanning

When I asked Catherine what anchorage she’d like to be in for her birthday, “Duck Pan Cove” was her response. Duck Pan Cove, located on Colville Tribal land, is one of our favorites. Clear water, well protected from winds and waves with limited fetch, it is the home to bald eagles, big horn sheep, mule deer, great blue herons and of course – ducks…

The greeting committee of Duck Pan Cove paddles over to welcome AQUILA back.

The view looking down from the heights surrounding Duck Pan Cove to AQUILA’s deck.

Our birthday luncheon of fresh garden tomatoes, various sauces, Italian olives, and veggies.

These unmarked, unnamed rocks are in our boat log as ‘The Pod’ referring to their formation like a small whale pod (yes, we know it’s fresh water) strung out over a quarter mile of waterway. You can see the northern most (smaller) rock beyond where Catherine has tied the dinghy. We are on ‘Humpback’ the largest of The Pod, which rises about ten feet above the waterline at this lake level (approximately 1,282’).
While Catherine and Pinja appear to be standing on water they are on the southern most rock of The Pod group. The distance between them and the shoreline is approximately three hundred feet with a depth of thirty to fifty feet of water. On a body of water marked to U. S. Coast Guard standards these unmarked rock islets are certainly a hazard to navigation.

The evening of Catherine’s birthday we are on deck and enjoying the coming of twilight over the Columbia River Valley.

Leaving Duck Pan Cove behind we have entered the historic Castle Cove of the Columbia River so named by the early explorers of the river, long before the Grand Coulee Dam was ever conceived. The name originates from the turret like rock promenades lining the towering cliff walls of this bend in the river. Catherine and Pinja are enjoying the view.

The view out and up the companionway of AQUILA as we are anchored and beach tied at Palisades Beach in a rather popular area of Lake Roosevelt. The weather hot, although a dry lightning storm passed through over-night with mere moments of a shower. Unbeknownst to us, that same evening over 150 new wildfire starts occurred in north central Washington State.

Everybody needs their “cat nap” even if you are a ship’s dog…

Not too hard to tell Catherine and I both have a bit of Texas in our blood; farm fresh eggs cooked and served over hot grits with toasted zuke bread on the side. Did someone mention hot sauce? Mmm…

One of our ‘evening wine tours’. This one in the night cliffs of the Palisades, an area of multiple, towering granite cliffs plunging vertically into deep, dark water.

And speaking of cliffs; a few miles further down lake this wall, part of the Basalt Reaches of Lake Roosevelt, is in the Whitestone area. In the center-ground of the image is a rather unique hive shaped basalt tower. Stretching from Hawk Creek in the east to the Camel Backs beyond the San Poil the basalt escarpment is a formidable wall of tiered and towering cliffs extending hundreds of vertical feet above the lake level.

We are on the shore-side of Whitestone Island, south of the landmark rock with the same name. As I pilot AQUILA through a gap, the width of our boat length, betwixt rocky shore and the island, Catherine has taken up the bow watch position. It had been many years since I’d navigated my smaller Lyle Hess designed 27 footer through the same pass.

Whitestone Rock seen in contrast to the leech of the genoa.

And that brings us to the Keller Ferry crossing and near the marina of the same name. Next onboard – Clementine in celebration of her 20th birthday! More to come…

Clementine’s would be a late arrival to Keller Marina so Catherine and I veered off to Moonbeam Bay, one of our favorite anchorages in the area. In this image we are departing Moonbeam Bay on the darkside of twilight running under the headsail toward the marina. Keller Marina has been on the verge of bankruptcy for a few years. This past winter their floating office broke loose and washed ashore along the beach. Additionally the marker buoys to the marina have not been maintained. Be wary the southern shoals on the approach. I neglected to heed that and soon had AQUILA’s keel firmly in the sand while still several hundred yards off the beach. The headsail pulling and a 20 knot tailwind pushing weren't helping our situation. Unable to back out of the shallows with the Yanmar diesel at full throttle I used the WM Zodiac with the 8hp outboard to pull while Catherine helmed and worked the diesel. Ten minutes later we were free of the sand shallows. A lesson re-learned.

Pretty rare to find AQUILA on an overnight tie to a pier on Lake Roosevelt but that happened twice at the Keller Marina. Once for Clementine’s late arrival and the next night for our rendezvous with friends Larry and Connie. We were the only overnight guest on the docks.

The next morning Clem is aboard and the winds were in the 30 knot range. Not a hard decision to hang tight and indulge on our shared birthday celebration snug below decks. With a special breakfast of local roasted coffee, home grown bacon, farm fresh eggs and the 2nd loaf of zuke bread we were set.

Morning on AQUILA at Keller Marina…
The gals smiling behind the pile of loot and treasures that had stacked up from our on-board birthday celebration gift exchange. With the winds dropping into the 20’s it was time to clear for action and haul up some sail for a down wind run to Hellgate Island several miles uplake.

The romp to and from Hellgate Island was just that, a romp with the cold frontal passage winds remaining between 20 and 30 knots. Adding to the mix was a thick haze of wildfire smoke as the dry winds fanned the flames of not-too-distant blazes. Here is a pic Clementine took of Catherine and I enjoying the rowdy day in AQUILA’s cockpit under a double reefed main and sliver of a headsail on a close haul.

The view through the reefed sails into the cliff walls adjacent to China Bay near the Keller Ferry crossing.

Catherine Clementine and Catherine Lou bundled and life jacketed as we work to weather in a cold front passage.

A little distorted but cool image Catherine took with the panoramic option on her camera of the SA AQUILA reefed and working to weather on a close haul tack in the mouth of the San Poil on Lake Roosevelt.

And speaking of old pirates – boat designer and builder Larry Silva accepting a bribe of hot buttered rum from the first mate. More on Larry and the newly launched row-craft HONU coming up soon…

That evening to celebrate the arrival of Larry and Connie, and to share a final meal with Clementine ending her all-too-short visit, the chefs prepared a home grown tomatoes, basil salad with feta and farm raised pork shish-ka-bobs served with red wine and all the while above decks the cold front passage winds howled on their uplake run.

As usual, after the passage of the cold front and the hard blowing SW winds, a shift occurred and the winds came strong out of the NE. Our buddy boating friends Larry and Connie looked out across the San Poil Arm of Lake Roosevelt at the lines of south marching whitecaps and decided the 20 mile row to our gathering point of Palisades would be better cut down by hauling HONU to the Lincoln launch ramp knocking fifteen miles off the row. Thus we parted company with the thoughts of meeting later that afternoon. The AQUILA crew was hoping for a favorable wind to carry them uplake. As it worked out right after parting company with Clementine, who was riding the ferry back across the lake, we were under way motoring in very light and variable winds. That was just about the time our circulator pump for the diesel cooling system failed – as in froze solid. The irony didn’t fail us – three days of howling winds, most of them rushing uplake which is exactly where we’d like to be traveling and now with a broken motor we could barely ghost the boat along. Fortunately the spinnaker served us well as seen in this image by Catherine.

A nice contrast of blues. It was a scorching 90+ degree day as we slowly sailed uplake under all full sail.
We had managed to catch some cell service and were able to update our buddy boat as to our situation and progress. At some points, with slightly favorable winds our GPS told us our arrival at the rendezvous point would be late afternoon. At other times we were showing arrival after midnight. And ever so slowly we adjusted, set and trimmed sail to gain the most out of each one and two mile an hour wind shift. During one of the update calls we received word that BLUE HERON, another vessel from the Rickey Point Sail Club was already anchored and beach tied at Palisades Beach. They were ready for us to sail in and would raft us along starboard side. Now all we had to do was get there, which appeared questionable at times.

On final approach to The Palisades Catherine spotted Larry rowing HONU downlake. Lar and I have a long standing joke between us. He once said, “Foster, you don’t own a boat that I can’t beat,” as a boat builder speed is his forte as in COYOTE his custom built 26’ trimaran with hydrofoils. To which I replied, “Silva, you don’t own a boat I haven’t towed.” An entirely true statement and humorous statement on both our parts. And now he was underway in his newly built and launched 21 foot rowing dory, HONU, to see if he could tow my disabled sailing vessel. Ha! I may love the guy that there was no chance he’d get that one up on me if there was a breath of wind moving across the water…

Catherine got this shot of AQUILA and HONU on their first water meeting as the wind freshened and I picked up speed. When we closed with HONU Larry was sitting midlake drinking a beer and as I sailed within arms reach of him he handed off a coldie to Catherine. I asked if he needed a tow.

As it worked out the souwesterly freshened and we had plenty of breeze to sail into the anchorage. BLUE HERON crew knew our lack of auxiliary motor status and was as ready for us. Palisades Beach is tight. A small bite of sand wedged firmly between two cliffs with rocky arms extending deep into the water. Anchor placement is critical. Fortunately I’ve spent a lot of time under various conditions in this spot but Jay, BLUE HERON’s skipper told me it was fairly exciting to watch as AQUILA’s sails furled and the 10,000 pound vessel bore down on him. Catherine was on the bow with the Delta claw anchor at the ready. I knew we had to clear over the southern rock ledge before letting the hook tag the bottom in forty feet of water. Jay said he anxiously awaited to hear me call for “anchor down”. My goal was to do an over-drop of the anchor, pay out all 100 feet of chain but no rope rode. Ideally Cath would cleat off, the anchor would bite in, AQUILA’s bow would swing to port, and her stern end up within twenty feet of BLUE HERON’s bow. Thankfully it all played out as planned and as Larry rowed HONU within tossing distance of a shore line, Catherine had moved astern and tossed Jay another line to pull the vessels into position for the raft up. I climbed into the motor dinghy to make adjustments to AQUILA’s position if any were needed. Moments later we were rafted along side BLUE HERON and had exchanged their 2nd shoreline for one of our own.
Another Rickey Point Sail Club vessel, GILLYFOYLE, with our good friends John and Joann, had hailed us on the VHF as we approached the anchorage and informed us they were just a few miles out and closing. Here is a photo of all the primary vessels rafted and beached. There was sundry other kayaks and dinghies floating about as well.

Boat Camp – gotta’ love it!

We were warmly welcomed into the nautical neighborhood.

 Part of the fun of rafting up and doing ‘boat camp’ is the beach gatherings. Lar and Connie of HONU had a tent ashore and the rest of us brought folding chairs, stumps or blankets to make-ourselves-at-home. And there is a beach-feast, of course!
One thing about these cruises, on one starves, refreshments are frequent and life is good...

Here is an image by Catherine Brown showing the main island and channel island of the Palisades area of Lake Roosevelt. Our beach is tucked off to the left of the image. Water through the channels between the islands averages 30 foot depth and we've often sailed through the channel entering or leaving the area.

And speaking of Catherine, she was lagging a bit in our on-board Scrabble tournament but used the time of our cruise to close my five game lead and might have even passed me a bit.

Seems like this was some sort of dinghy event or rowing race, at least until AQUILA’s crew deployed their secret weapon – the umbrella chute!

Catherine and ship’s dog, Pinja, on a little outing with boatcamp in the background.

Snorkeling the clear if somewhat cool green waters of Lake Roosevelt is one of the many activities that add up to the passage of another busy day. Pinja wants in on the action here.

It’s always enjoyable when the local wildlife show up and check us out. Here is a big horn ewe from a resident herd looking down on our anchorage from the cliffs above. Caught this shot from the foredeck.

So many books ~ not enough time…
And speaking of reading (see below) What did I read once? “Cruising is getting to work on your boat in exotic and far off places”. Truth be told ~ this fine stretch of Lake Roosevelt bordering the Colville Indian Reservation is neither exotic, nor far off, at least for us. But there was an opportunity to work on the boat when the cooling system water pump failed. 

Entry from AQUILA's ship log:

“9th Day – Yanmar diesel failure. Catherine diagnosis faulty water pump. Hoist spinnaker in very light air. Palisades anchorage rendezvous? Maybe…”
“10th Day – rendezvous successful – Silva confirms Catherine’s diagnostic conclusions. I call Hansen Marine, Seattle. Pump will ship today, overnight delivery to Seven Bays Marina.”

11th Day – Later afternoon call from Seven Bays Marina – UPS arrived with part, closing in half hour. I blast out on WM Zodiac arrive in time to refuel, get ice and part. Five miles back to boat camp.”

12th Day – pump fits! Silva and I finish up pump replacement and have AQUILA running again! Thank you Larry!!!”

Sailors do not live by greasy parts alone ~ The evening celebration was a small feast for the boat camp people.

Dinner was topped off with grilled fruit later skinned and arranged on a platter then covered in a light layer of dark chocolate shavings, served with chilled red wine…

With the last twenty photos of the Palisades it’s time to move on. One final look at beach camp from the perch of the northern rock wall of the beach. As George Harrison once said, “all things must pass.”

 Catherine Pinja and I caught up with this group of big horns while gliding quietly along in our dinghy. As always we were amazed at how nimble these hoofed creatures climb the steep rock faces and gullies. The Colville Tribe is keeping close tabs on the health and well being of these wild animals.

After one final ‘coldie’ aboard AQUILA whilst we towed HONU, we cut Larry and Connie loose near the lake side community of Lincoln and bid them farewell.

Our path for the next few days would be in the company of GILLYFOYLE with the crew of Joann and John, seen here in their cockpit enjoying a mid-day snack.

Together we piloted the vessels into the Hawk Creek fjord, a narrow passage, tightly lined with towering basalt cliffs ending in a large pool with a plummeting waterfalls dropping into a plunge pool. Indeed a unique and beautiful area.

AQUILA seen here against the early autumn colors of the basalt cliffs of Hawk Creek.

Ever the emissary of Stonerose, Catherine Brown is seen here sharing information with Seven Bays Marina owner Lyle as we top off our water tanks and purchase the last round of ice for our trip northwards and home.

The intrepid GILLYFOYLE and crew making passage north between the reaches of the Colville Indian Reservation (west) and the Spokane Indian Reservation (east) on Lake Roosevelt.

Couldn’t resist – Castle Rock, seen earlier as we motored past is now hard to starboard as we approach at 4 knots under a flying genny. What’s the old TV ad: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! It pays to be very familiar with the landscape and waterscape when piloting a racing sailing vessel so close to the rocks. But “Oh what a rush!”

With the northern evenings cooling off; Catherine and Pinja snuggled in the cockpit enjoying the last rays of a fine day while anchored in White Bird Cove off McGuire Point, Spokane Indian Reservation.

While the evenings grew cool they were not chill enough to force us below decks. The crews of the two vessels seen here enjoying an after-hours gathering in AQUILA’s cockpit. That would be dinner and a bottle of your finest, monsignor…

A couple of days later and the crew of GILLYFOYLE are departing Nez Perce Creek Cove on a tighter return-home schedule than ourselves. While we thought we had this fine gunkhole, sandspit anchorage to ourselves a loud houseboat with grandpa, grandma, ma, pa and the over-weight, overgrown kids arrived with disco music blaring and a fishing boat traveling in and out of the anchorage. Soon AQUILA had moved on and found another, empty, quiet and very attractive anchorage to enjoy all to herself…

AQUILA at Cedonia Beach near Harvey Creek, Lake Roosevelt, WA.

Ship's dog Pinja enjoying a new beach without dumb-ass powerboaters who act like their in the middle of Seattle instead of a pristine wilderness lake.

Catherine enjoying the new beach and the beginning of the sunset…

Catherine and I enjoying another 'sun~downer' together. What a fine woman to share a cruise with...

Pretty sweet boating sunset shot by Catherine. I think it says all that needs to be said...

And speaking of best: I think this is one of my favorite images from our 2012 cruise. Catherine used the panoramic feature on her camera to capture this late twilight photograph.

When departing Cedonia Cove we spotted another boat from the Rickey Point Sail Club and later in the day had caught up with George and Teanna on the recently purchased Catalina 30 K'PLAAH. We shared an anchorage in Strange Creek Cove and a fine meal below decks on their new boat.

Well, that’s about it. A short guide book on how to have a great, low budget, sailing vacation in sunny Eastern WA (except for the overnight part delivery). Were already looking forward to the next one.

As a final image I’ll close with this one from Catherine of French Rocks Islands near our homeport of Kettle Falls, on Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, Columbia River, Pacific Northwest

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