Solo and going with the flow

Islander 30 sailingLast weekend Riley and I decided to go for a mini weekend cruise to reward ourselves for not shooting anybody during the Poulsbo Third of July Fireworks. I was abundantly thankful that neither my boat nor any of my neighbor’s boats were harmed, bumped into, or even glared at. In fact as I was staying on my boat during that cloudy, off and on rainy day, scrubbing Libby’s teak, she and I were recognized by two people who read this blog!  It made me feel so popular! Hello Jason and Dan. Jason was kind enough to invite me to a par-tay, but I had to stay with my boat to make sure she was safe through the night of chaos. Thanks for the invite, though, Jason, I wanted to come.

Last Thursday NOAA predicted winds out of the north, northeast, so I decided to head south. Unfortunately the winds didn’t pick up until two in the afternoon, which meant I missed the ebb tides out of both Agate Pass and Rich Pass. Slack tide out of Agate would be at 8:10. I decided I’d rather motor through Agate, stay the night in Port Madison, then be off Friday morning and not worry about ferry traffic or strong currents through Rich Pass. The northerly deviation was well worth it.

It took me about two hours to sail into Port Orchard Bay, where the north wind typically cooks. I had a blast sailing then decided to work on heaving to, an important maneuver I hadn’t yet learned, as I was waiting for slack tide. Since I had up my 150 genoa to tempt in any and all winds, my heaving to was unsuccessful at first. I decided to drop the headsail and attempt the maneuver with just the main, though I’d like to try it again with the headsail in the future. Nerd that I am, I had to run below to grab a sailing book to look up how to properly hove to. I loosened the main a tad, made sure it was positioned on the traveler amidship, then lashed the tiller amidship. Anyone can tell you, though, that not all boats are the same. Since my Islander 30 is a fin keel, she operates differently than a full or cutaway keeled boat. I found that if I unlashed the tiller and let it move about freely, the boat did much better in my hove to position, and made at most 1.3 knots, bobbing about pleasantly off Manzanita.

At just after seven, I started tacking up towards Agate Pass, then when I got close enough, dropped the genoa, started the engine, and subtly tacked through the Pass. I like keeping my main up and tight when I’m going into the wind under power, allowing the wind to pull the boat along and the still-fouled propeller to push us.

A perfect day for a sail! Motoring through Agate Pass.

I’d never anchored out in Port Madison before–I had read on other sailing blogs about its loveliness. I didn’t reach the private inlet until dusk (too dark for photos), but as soon as I pulled in I could see I’d enjoy the place. The body of water was narrow but, according to my charts, deep. Gorgeous houses flanked either side, and I was by far the loudest entity there.

The night stay was quiet, uneventful, and perfect in every way. There was even a small park available by a small, don’t blink or you’ll miss it, dock, so Riley could get things done landlubber style.

On Friday morning we headed out, or original destination Blake Island. As we sailed south, hugging the coast of Bainbridge Island to stay clear of the freight traffic, the wind died. A larger sailboat with a blue hull, obviously owned by people who had lots more pennies, nickels and dimes than I, bobbed along side me, its skipper and crew reading books. After an hour or so of not a breath, my casual neighbors started their engine and left. I meandered a bit more, but finally cranked over my diesel when I saw a wave of water heading my way, thrown by a freighter. A sailboat in the distance, which looked about my size and my level of there-will-be-wind optimism, had its bow sixty degrees up, leveled out, then stern sixty degrees up while taking this wake. Yahoo.

Big boat.

I’m not exaggerating for the sake of excitement people, this wake was a wall, with cresting white caps, coming at me like a tsunami. Most of the time wakes are giant rolls, this was a wave. I sat down, held the tiller, told Riley it was all going to be okay, and felt like I crashed into it, peaked over the top of it, dove, then repeat. And that was the most excitement of the day. When it passed, I looked behind me and heard it hit the shore.

This was day two of sailing, and my skin was scorched, my lips burned from UV and wind exposure, and as I leaned down to change my battery from 1 to Both, I heard my neck muscle say “eeeeeeeek!” Blake wasn’t going to happen, I knew it, not unless I motored there for the rest of the trip, and I was sure that, beautiful Friday afternoon that it was, no mooring ball would be free, and I’d be in a vinegar addled cucumber.

The closest harbor to me was Eagle Harbor, and it made me glad in a way. I first fell in love with my boat as she sat in a slip in Eagle Harbor, and seeing as July 7th is our anniversary (the sale closed on July 7th), it seemed appropriate for us to return there. Plus, my grandmother lives on Bainbridge, but is moving back to California in a few weeks, and if I dropped my hook in time, I could swing by her place for a ride to her goodbye dinner at my parent’s house.

Eagle Harbor anchorage
First evening in Eagle Harbor.

During my stay on Bainbridge Island, perusing Winslow Street, I felt that buddy boating was much more fun. Sure, sailing solo and going where the wind took me was incredible, but I found myself wanting company.

eagle harbor
Libby anchored in Eagle Harbor. She’s the little boat. Seriously, she’s out there, she’s just little!

Which leads me to the real purpose of this post. And you thought it was to document a weekend sail. Ha! I’d like to have some buddy boaters for some of my future trips. Though I didn’t make it to Blake Island this past weekend, there are still plenty of weekends, or days during the week, left. (I sometimes get Good Weather Hostage Takeover, thinking that the sun is out only for TODAY and will be gone forever.) What I love most about sailing around here is the abundance of destinations. There were two anchorages between me and Blake that day, Eagle and Blakely Harbors. It was fun to be able to sail more casually and not run my engine for hours at a time, worrying about where I’d go.

There are cruisers who are destination bound, and there are cruisers who go where the wind takes them. I’m trying to be the latter. If there’s no wind, I don’t go. If the wind is coming from the north, I’d like to head south. If the wind is southerly, a great time to go north. Should the weather change along the way, there’s a point of sail for that. If I want to go home into the wind, time to tack. Are you that kind of sailor? Would you be interested in buddy boating sometime? Bonus points if you’re single and look like this:

Now back to the story…

elliot bay seattle
Elliot Bay and the Seattle skyline.

On Sunday I headed out of Eagle Harbor at 8 am, into the northernly wind, tacking across the Sound until two in the afternoon. If you’re going to tack, Sunday mornings must be ideal, or at least it was for me. Ferry traffic is lighter, and I didn’t see a freighter until afternoon. The wind did poop out on me at 11am, in about the same spot it had on Friday, but it got going a few minutes past noon. As I floated I listened to the radio and all the Coast Guard activities.

When the wind came up there was a sudden appearance of boats–at least fifty out there with me! A mass exodus came out of Port Madison as I was reaching into it, and oodles of boats played around Shilshole and Edmonds. The wind cooked nicely in the afternoon–I understand the rush to get out there. I was considering playing for a bit longer, but I had a ways to go before reaching home. I made it back and dropped my hook at about six, clocking my sail in at ten hours. A great weekend cruise.


  1. Pingback: Solo and going with the flow | Courtney Kirchoff

  2. Fred Facker July 16, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Is the beard mandatory?

    No sailing here in the past three weekends due to endless thunderstorms.

    1. Courtney July 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      What is up with these storms? Seems like the same system keeps circling around us. And no, the beard is not mandatory, nor is the loud sweater.