Here Cody describes the second day of his San Juan Islands cruise –
I was awoken just after dawn by the clanging of my halyard on the mast and immediately knew that the wind was blowing harder than had been in the forecast. Sure enough, looking out over Rosario Strait I could see churning water and steep, short chop being driven by a wind of about 18 knots opposing a current of about 3 knots. This did nothing to help the already uneasy feeling I had in my stomach.
I should point out that my new Sagecat was not my first sailboat. I began sailing as crew on a stranger’s 1978 Crown 34 on the Columbia River in southeastern Washington nearly 10 years ago. He saw me admiring sailboats in the local marina and asked if I’d like to help him on his boat in an upcoming race. I readily accepted the invitation and he and I are now old sailing buddies and good friends! Over the course of the next decade I ended up with a Compac 23, then a Cape Dory 25D, and then a four year absence of any sailboat due to life and financial circumstance. Both of these boats I had bought, in part, because they were “trailerable”. Although they both did indeed have trailers, I rarely ever took them out of the water because they were such a chore to rig/de rig and tow (especially the Cape Dory). I had grand plans with both of those boats to sail in the San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands and even the Sea of Cortez, but these plans had never materialized for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was how much time and effort they took to transport and set up. So when I saw plans coming together for the Sagecat several years ago on the Sage Marine forum, I knew I had found a boat that seemed to fill a void in my sailing life I had been missing.
My planned departure for the day was to have Sweet Potato in the water by 8:30 and begin crossing the Rosario Strait as the tide began to go slack and hopefully cover the roughly 5 miles to Thacher Pass (and more protected water) before the current changed direction and really started ripping the water in the strait up again. As I finished stowing all the final gear on the boat and put on my foul weather gear, I continually looked out over the water I was about to cross and it did not put me at ease. The wind was not abating and the water was a dark and churning mess for large portions of the strait. When 8:30 and launch time arrived, I decided that I’d better listen to my gut and delay till the next slack tide and hope that the wind conditions were more manageable. I cooked a good breakfast and coffee on the tailgate of the truck and did my best to enjoy the day in the park as I observed the water and weather for the next several hours.
When my next slack tide had arrived, the wind had indeed subsided somewhat and the strait looked a bit choppy, but certainly much better than it had in the morning. I put the boat in the water, pinned down the bulbed dagger keel and timidly began venturing out into the Rosario Strait. The chop kicked up by the wind and subsiding current was indeed short and steep, but nothing that felt dangerous or unmanageable. I had a single reef in the sail and all seemed to be going well. My relative calm quickly turned to worry as I sailed further into the open channel where the winds were a bit stronger and noticed that each time the boat would come down off a steep wave, the sail would naturally load up from the decreased boat speed and rising bow and the forestay would go slack far more than I had seen on previous sails. My best guess is that the new rigging had “settled” or stretched from my first several sails in the Columbia River Gorge which had been, at times, in rather strong winds in the low to mid 20 knot range. The boat never showed any signs of struggle or failure, but I was very worried about the rig and the conditions.
After some doubt and deliberation, I realized I was roughly half way across the strait already, so I might as well continue and do my best to baby the rig and keep the loads on it as light as possible. I tucked in a second reef and called Dave Scobie from Sage Marine on my phone. From following Sage’s social media pages, I knew that he would be at an outdoor show in Salt Lake promoting their boats, but to my surprise he called me back quickly after I had tried to call him! How’s that for customer service! As I continued the crossing, Dave helped describe to me the process for tensioning the rig and some helpful tips for doing so while the boat was at anchor.
I arrived at my first destination, Spencer Spit state park on Lopez Island, with a huge sigh of relief. The boat had performed well in spite of my neglecting to double check the rig tension before beginning the crossing. I nosed my way inside of all the big yachts on mooring balls and anchored in nice and close to the beach on the lee side of the spit of sand from the forecasted breezy night to come. I decided that the rig tensioning would have to wait till the morning and got to work cooking a splendid dinner of bowtie pasta. As the sun set, the sky was crystal clear and the breeze blowing across the water from the south had a distinct bite to it. I enjoyed the evening until I got too cold in the cockpit and retired to the cabin and a few minutes of a good book before crawling into bed and sleeping more soundly than I had in months.