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.

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