Day 10 of Cody’s San Juan Islands trip in a SageCat

Day 10 – Fisherman Bay to Anacortes –

I had shared my tales of Holly B’s bakery with the girls the previous evening, so we all got up early and made a pilgrimage to this baking holy site in the morning. After again being dazzled with their confectioner’s wizardry, we spent a few more hours exploring the village shops and getting a few things at the grocery store for our afternoon sail.

Our plan was to sail back around Lopez Island and spend a few hours enjoying the beaches and views at Spencer Spit state park and then making a short hop over to James Island, another state park, which would be a good jumping off point for crossing the Rosario strait on Saturday morning to get back to Anacortes, where our truck and trailer were parked. There was not a breath of wind when we got back to the boat at around noon, so we motored the roughly eight miles with a hefty current helping us for the first half of the trip to Spencer Spit. Upon arrival, we again anchored and paddled ashore where we had a few fun filled hours of beach combing and hiking. I even got in a quick nap on the warm sand. At about 5 o’clock we got back to the boat and again began motoring toward James Island which was about four miles away, where we planned to stay for the evening.

I had been a bit stressed about crossing the Rosario Strait with the girls aboard since I had experienced some rather rough conditions and unpredicted winds a week and a half ago. The winds were forecasted to be about 10 knots from the north, which should have been fine, but the slack tide window on Saturday morning was very short, with strong currents from the south before the slack and quickly turning to strong currents from the north. The late afternoon slack tide window on Saturday had much more moderate current velocities and a longer slack period so I knew I could always wait for that time, but still I was feeling uncertain about what the conditions would turn out to look like.

As we motored up to James Island on a completely glassy sea state, I was finally able to look across the Rosario Strait. It was as flat as a board. Not a ripple to be seen all the way across to Anacortes. I pulled out my current tables and we were perfectly timed to cross the strait in a large window of slack tide with very small currents predicted on either side of the slack. I made the decision that we would be wisest to cross while the conditions were perfect and find a place to anchor near Washington Park, where the trailer was located, and then simply pull the boat out of the water in the morning and get an earlier start home. The girls both seemed happy with this plan so we enjoyed a delightfully uneventful motor across the Rosario strait.

As we approached Washington Park, I had planned to anchor just off the beach as it was protected from the direction of the light winds predicted during the night. However, I also quickly noticed a huge sign on the beach, facing toward the water, reading “DROP NO ANCHOR. ELECTRICAL CABLES UNDER WATER”, or something to that effect. The sun was getting low on the horizon and there didn’t seem to be any quick protected anchorage to get to, so I tied up to the dock, raised the dagger board, backed the trailer in the water and hauled Sweet Potato up into the parking lot. We were all famished after a long day of hiking and motoring in the sun, so we left the boat on the trailer and drove into Anacortes for a meal. We ended up at a great little Mexican place called Real Tequila and we all ate until we were about to pop. The food was fantastic and the service was equally so. Back in the campground, now nearly dark, I reconnected the truck to the trailer and we all walked down to the beach to enjoy the final colors of the sunset and the lapping of the water on the pebble beach. Now that the boat was on the trailer and had the centerboard taking up one sleeping position, I was relegated to the bed of the truck since I had the warmest sleeping bag.

Day 9 of Cody’s San Juan Islands trip

Roche Harbor to Fisherman Bay –

This hazy, smoky morning began with a shower at the marina, a quick coffee for all of us and a stop by our friend’s boat to pick up our battery before departing on our longest sail of the trip so far.  My wife had visited Lopez Village about five years ago for a brief afternoon and had fallen in love with the cute little town and laid back setting.  She was really wanting to go spend a bit more time there and show her friend Jen around, so Fisherman bay was to be revisited.  We motored out of Roche harbor in no wind at all, but after about three miles, a nice breeze from the north filled in so we killed the motor, hoisted sail and had a wonderful downwind ride for the remaining 11 miles to fisherman bay.  On two occasions much larger sail boats clearly changed course to come sail by us, say hello and comment on what a cute little boat we had.  Clearly I am biased, but Sweet Potato does have some striking lines.  Jerry Montgomery knows a thing or two about drawing a nice looking boat!  

bowl at Fishermans BayWe dropped anchor in Fisherman bay once again and, since it was such a quiet and peaceful setting, decided that we would spend the rest of the evening cooking a feast on the boat, watching the sunset, and listening to an audio book.  The cockpit was a bit crowded with three of us while trying to prepare and cook a meal, so I was ordered to the foredeck with a cold beverage.  A short while later I was handed a delightful plate full of food and a refill of my beverage.  We all enjoyed our meal as the sun set, and spent the next few hour telling stories and sharing laughs.  Days don’t get a whole lot better than this one as far as I can tell.

Day 8 of Cody’s San Juan Islands Cruise

Cody spends the day in Roche Harbor exploring and seeing the sights –

roche harbor mausoleumThe wind forecast or the day had called for a sustained breeze of about 17 knots from the north. This, I figured, was probably not the best type of day for us to make our longest jump from Roche Harbor, all the way back to Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island, so we made the decision to stay put for the day. Roche Harbor is a beautiful resort town on the northwest tip of San Juan Island. The marina is full of numerous multi-million dollar yachts and the resort is quite an upscale place. It is all built around an old lime and concrete quarry operation which operated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We had ice cream, browsed the few shops there, and hiked to an eerie old mausoleum secluded in a forest which more closely resembles a site for ceremonies than any other mausoleum I’ve ever seen. Although slightly creepy, it is a beautiful setting and structure and I would happily recommend the hike to go see it.

Roche HarborWe made it back into Roche Harbor from our hike just in time to watch their nightly “colors” ceremony where the entire place comes to a standstill as the flags are lowered to their various anthems. I nearly had a cardiac event when they set off a small cannon just before lowing the old stars and stripes. It seemed that only the three of us from our boat were startled by it, so I’m guessing we were some of the only first timers there.

 
Earlier in the day I had bumped into one of the old sailors I’ve known and raced against back in southeast Washington. He and his wife had brought their Seaward 26 up to the islands for a few weeks, a trip which they make nearly every summer. They showed us great hospitality and invited us to enjoy a ginger beer aboard their lovely boat. Another great help they offered us was to leave our portable phone charging power bank to charge on their shore power overnight. This was our only means of electrical power and I would hook it up to a 15w solar panel during the day to charge and then we would all charge our phones off of the battery at night. This worked well when I was alone, but you can imagine how much cell phone usage (and associated charging needed) happens when you have two young women in their late 20’s and early 30’s on vacation together sailing through and exploring beautiful islands. Needless to say, our battery bank was nearly depleted and the overnight charge was much appreciated!

 
We were all exhausted again from the sun and busy day, so we went back out to the boat and watched an episode of Friends on Netflix while laying in bed. Not a single one of us was awake to see the end of that 20 minute episode.

Day 5 of Cody’s San Juan Island cruise

Cody is now in Friday Harbor and his crew arrives –

The arrival of the ferry on Sunday afternoon was a spectacle to behold.  The cars lining up to board the ferry were jockeying for position and more than once the woman directing cars had to yell at drivers who had an agenda of their own.  Stressed looking parents were trying to keep track of their small tribes among the throngs of people as I sat in a coffee shop overlooking the ferry landing, feeling quite carefree.  My only concern was about how well three adults and a small dog could exist in peace and harmony on a 15 foot boat.  Would we all hate each other after the first few days?  Would the boat’s performance suffer so badly from the weight that we would make painfully slow progress when traveling?  I had sailed on the Columbia River with three adults aboard and the boat had performed well, but now I had her loaded with a significant amount of cruising gear.  I decided we would be best to spend the first afternoon and night on the boat in Friday Harbor so we could get an idea of how we all would manage the tight quarters before sailing anywhere.  

Friday HarborAfter a fun day in Friday Harbor and a tasty dinner at a fish and chips place, we all made our way out to the boat for the evening.  From this point on, I would shuttle each of the girls out to the boat from the dock on the SUP.  The board seemed to do fine and was rather stable with two people on it so long as we were both kneeling.  I’m happy to report that after the entire 10 day trip not a single person or item took a fall off the SUP! I had planned to have the girls sleep in the v berth and I would sleep on a cockpit seat, but after all laying across the v berth to watch a Netflix show on my phone, we discovered that all three of us could lie flat on our backs, shoulder to shoulder.  Granted, our feet were somewhat crowded together, but being that we were each in a sleeping bag it didn’t seem to bother anyone and we all slept soundly. Even our dog, Occy, slept well in the cabin on a blanket we put on one of the cabin seats.

Day 3 of Cody’s SageCat cruise

Spencer SpitThe sun rose the next morning to a lighter breeze but still the same clear and cloudless skies.  After an eggs, toast and coffee breakfast, I set to work tensioning the rig.  It all went exactly as described by Dave and I was able to do it rather easily while swinging at anchor with the mast still standing.  Spencer Spit is a beautiful place and I would have happily spent a day there, but the tides and currents would be helping me along if I got an earlier start for my next hop over to Fisherman Bay on the opposite side of Lopez Island.  I cleaned up my breakfast, stowed some gear, pulled up the anchor and set sail.  The day was glorious and under full sail I coasted along at about 4.5 knots for the entire 8ish mile trip.  The first half of the sail was downwind and around the north end of the island followed by a very fun upwind leg traveling south down the west coast of Lopez island.  The rig now looked and behaved perfectly and I was able to really sail Sweet Potato as she was meant to be sailed.  

After motoring through the tight and winding channel channel entrance to Fisherman Bay, I was greeted to a large but completely protected bay with plenty of space to anchor.  I picked a nice and secluded spot with plenty of depth for my little craft and set about inflating my Standup Paddle Board (SUP).  I own an 8’ zodiac that I had used as a tender for my Cape Dory 25D, but it seemed rather large, bulky and heavy to carry on the much smaller Sagecat.  The SUP worked very well for me and, when rolled up, could either be stowed under the cockpit sole in the main cabin or, more commonly, under the tiller in the cockpit.  

I rowed to shore and was apparently just in time to catch the tail end of happy hour at the marina restaurant which overlooked Fisherman Bay.  Some other boaters told me about a bakery in Lopez Village (about a 10 minute walk down the road from the marina) that had a reputation for being in a league of its own but was know to sell out rather quickly, so I’d be well advised to get there shortly after their 7 o’clock opening time. I thanked them for the tip and as the sun was getting low in the sky, paddled back across the bay to the boat and enjoyed yet another marvelous sunset.  The temperature quickly dropped and the breeze was still present, so again I hopped in the cabin and settled into a few more chapters of the book before retiring for another pleasant sleep.  

Second installment of Cody’s San Juan Is. cruise

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.  

rosario straitMy 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.

Cody’s SageCat Cruise Adventure – Part 1

Cody has been kind enough to expand the report on his San Juan Island trip report. Here is the first installment!

Day One

An ever increasing feeling of nervousness grew inside me as I looked out over Rosario Strait for the first time. I stood in Washington Park in Anacortes, WA after a long day’s drive from my home in northeastern Oregon just as the sun was setting, knowing that I would be crossing this stretch of water the next morning. I had been following the wind forecast for the previous week and with each passing day, the forecast for my departure day had been increasing. As I looked again out over the strait, it seemed peaceful enough, but the winds were on the rise and I had not much of an idea what to expect. After all, this would be my first time sailing in salt water, dealing with tides and their associated currents, in unfamiliar islands, in a boat on which I had little experience, and single handed. What could go wrong? I curled up in the cabin of Sweet Potato, my new Sagecat, and drifted off into a nervous slumber.launch ramp