adventure, Chuckanut Bay, cutting the dock lines, debt free, falmouth cutter, freedom, gale warning, independent travel, living aboard, maximalist, minimalist, photography, sailing, sailing blog, sailing the San Juans, San juan Sailing, simplicity
If you wait till the boat is done, you will never leave, the question is when when is she done enough. We left penniless, with no water tanks, or stove 2 gallons of fuel, no head, and not much of anything but a feeling like the time had come. We had amounted a pretty hefty bill for past moorage, and spent our last penny’s on that and the electrical system and little boat bits.
The week ended sailing my friends FC 26 for a beautiful sunset cruise adding to Serena’s quiver of boats she has sailed, to date 100% of the boats she has sailed on were designed by Lyle Hess. The next evening she broke her streak by sailing a 9′ Ranger and getting her first sailing lesson from my friend Rob. We have been so busy with opposite schedules and non functioning auxiliary power that I haven’t had time for any hands on training, “mistake 1”.
I was beginning to get very superstitious about all our failed attempts, we were 2 months behind schedule and winter is coming fast. I started to dream that The` wanted to be free to ebb and flow with the tides and find a new home. After much debate I decided I had to set her free and rename the boat. I made her an honorary crew member and had a 24 hour de-naming ceremony, the next day I renamed the boat and everything started falling into place including completely rewiring the entire boat without killing myself.
I had the perfect plan, we would leave on a a perfect day and I would trick Serena into thinking sailing as always downhill, fun, and easy, by the time she had her first tough day I figured she would be hooked and that would be that,”mistake 2”.
We had made the mistake of setting a departure date, “number 3” and telling people at the dock,”number 4”. I was absolutely exhausted form 14 hour days getting the boat ready and left the dock completely drained, “mistake number 5” We cheered as we cleared the breakwater shut down the engine and we were free, searching for traces of a breeze on the flat bay. We found great wind eventually and were off. Drifting backwards in the tide 5 hours and 6 miles later we called the day and made the run for Chuckanut Bay, the weather had called for a small craft advisory starting at 5;:00 pm but it also reported 14 knots of wind overnight so we ignored it, number 6”. There is a perfect protected bay at the south end but we ignored it, “number 7” and went to the far north end looking for a beach for Chloe to play on. We set the anchor easily but as the wind started to gust the 300′ between us and the rock dyke seemed awfully close, we reset 400′ off and felt much better, the secret spot in the lee of the cliffs and close to the dog beach was taken so we had about a 500 yards to row our rubber ducky to get to the beach. As the sun was setting the wind really piped up, so much in fact we were beginning to wonder if we would be able to row back to the boat, we brought matches a bottle of water and our VHF just in case. By the time we left the beach the wind was up. We have crappy two piece oars that I had to fix before we left and was sure one would snap before we could row the distance to the boat. Pulling with all my might we made about 6” good per stroke and I was completely spent by the time we made it back, it was a fun ride but we long for a real rowing dingy the isn’t half sinking.
The wind continued to blow but our new Rocna anchor was holding fast. We crawled into bed exhausted and that’s when we noticed the bongo drum effect of our old worn pintles and gudgeons slamming with every with wave that hit the boat, we were bucking like a bronco and the noise sounded like it was right in the v-berth with us. I tried every form of tying off the tiller but every new try was worse. By 2:00 am I was still awake and getting grouchy, I charged the cockpit in a temper tantrum cursing as I went and freed the whole thing and just then the wind started to blow down.
I woke up completely exhausted and the wind was building again, I let Serena sleep and rowed Chloe ashore and it was absolutely beautiful seeing the boat bucking to the anchor in the early morning light. I wondered if I would be a able to get the hook up in the growing wind and started planing my escape, Mistake 8. I returned to Serena in the cockpit with hot coffee, she told me she had had the best sleep of her life and felt great I mentioned we should probably tuck two reefs in the main just in case it was blowing on the outside, I had jury rigged reef lines and didn’t have much confidence in them working very smoothly. The wind started to die and I jumped up “lets get out of here while we can”, “mistake number 9” we pulled the hook so fast I forgot to take down the anchor light hanging in the for-stay, and almost pulled it up the mast raising the stay-sail. In our hurry to escape the dock I hadn’t given Serena any navigation lessons , mistake number 10” and now we had a reef to cross and rapidly increasing wind. With my tired eyes I couldn’t focus on the chart and she didn’t understand how to read it so we crossed it from memory but it is a pretty large gap so no worries.
When we cleared the point we got smacked with a wind over tide and growing wind, the weather called for 10-15, I’m not a good judge of wind strength but with a full main and stay-sail we went over on our end, I couldn’t get her into the wind and couldn’t reef, so I spilled the main and we shot like a rocket off on a reach under stay-sail while I worked on a plan, we were taking a fairly large amount of green water over the windward side of the boat and got our final christening with a salt water bath in the cabin as Serena tried to close the hatches. I called her up to the cabin to steer so I could try and reef the main. I had been very worried about her and Chloe wondering how they would handle situations like this. Chloe has been very afraid of boats for the the last few years but this year she has been trembling the whole time, even in calm weather and it really stresses me out. I couldn’t get the main reefed with my crappy reefing set up and considered pulling the main down, reefing it on the deck and then raising it but the wind was still building and for the sake of Chloe decided to call it for the day, I dropped the main and looked over at Serena who was reaching under stay-sail and whooping and hollering the whole time, she had a huge smile on her face and screamed “THIS IS SO MUCH FUN”. I guess I don’t have to worry about her anymore. Under stay-sail alone we ran down the bay at 6 knots till we rounded the point and the wind dropped substantially slowing us to 3.5 knots all the way back to the dock.
The very next day we had Chloe back out day sailing again in calm weather coaxing her with treats and lots of attention. I’m not sure what to do about her but it really bothers and stresses me that she is so scared, we will continue on babying her as we go. Serena on the other hand has turned out to be a natural little sailorette. I knew the boat sailed great in light winds and now I finally got to experience how comfortable she is is higher winds, now if I can only get a real reefing system going I might be able to sail her to windward in over 25 knots of wind. Having no life lines is a bit stressful with the dog, my new priority list after new reefing gear as lifelines and then pintles and gudgeons so I can get a good nightes rest, you know the old sailing acronym BOAT, break out another thousand.
Never in my life have I felt so safe or secure on a boat, Sookie does everything right.