Friday, December 20, 2013

Gig Harbor-Seattle-Bremerton Yacht Club

Day 1: Gig Harbor to Seattle

Distance traveled: 24.9 miles

Travel Time:  3 hours, 2 mins

Despite a somewhat formidable weather forecast from NOAA, Thursday morning dawned calm and sunny. We slipped our lines at Peninsula Yacht Haven in Gig Harbor for the last time, as this is the trip that will result in our moving Next To Me  into a slip at Bremerton Yacht Club, which we joined 6 weeks ago.

Mt. Rainier kindly showed her face as we rounded the mouth of the harbor at the lighthouse.


We saw only one recreational vessel the entire trip, but the Coast Guard was busily zipping around.


And 3 commercial fishing vessels were out doing their thing in the cold weather (temp about 38).


Winter cruising just doesn’t get much better than this! Washington State Ferries and Mt. Rainier (14,409’ elevation) are two iconic figures in the Seattle area.


Coming into Elliott Bay on the shore of downtown Seattle we had to stop the boat for a bit, as 3 ferries and a freighter converged in the Shipping Lanes right where we had to cross. Those ferries travel at 20 mph, and we only do 8 mph, so it’s pretty crucial to stay out of their way.


Bell Harbor Marina, owned and operated by the Port of Seattle, is literally right downtown, only blocks from another Seattle icon, Pike Place Market and with spectacular views of city lights at night, with the ferris wheel and Mt. Rainier in the background. It’s a steal of a deal at the winter rate of $1.00/foot plus $5 for electricity. See Next To Me slightly right of center in the bottom half of the photo, just behind the blue skiff?


After securing the boat and registering with the Harbormaster, we walked to Pike Place Market, one of the oldest and best Farmer’s Markets in the nation, open 7 days a week and hugely popular among both locals and tourists.


Our son Ryan and his fiancée Jaime (wedding less than two weeks from now on New Year’s Eve; exciting!) live in a downtown condo a few blocks from Bell Harbor, so at 6pm they joined us on the boat for dinner. We had lots to talk about and hope we enticed them to come boating with us next summer if not sooner.

Day 2:  Bell Harbor Marina in Seattle to Bremerton Yacht Club in Bremerton

Distance traveled:  18.8 miles

Travel time: 2 hours, 35 minutes

After a calm, comfortable night we awoke to SNOW, a first for us in terms of boating experiences.  While “following summer” around North America doing The Great Loop in 2012-13 we never even saw really cold weather, much less snow, and mostly had hot temps, so this is a new one.



Today’s weather forecast, regardless of sources checked (Bob checked many), said it wouldn’t be a nice day by any measure, but the morning was to be better than the afternoon, and we didn’t want to be in downtown Seattle all weekend without a car, so at 8am slipped our lines and headed west, destined for Bremerton Yacht Club.

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As expected, the wind blew 20-25 mph with gusts to 30, and waves were 3-5 feet for the first hour in the open section of Puget Sound. The southerly wind was directly on our beam, and Next To Me handled it well, but was so roll-y we couldn’t walk on the flybridge or outside decks, wore our life vests the whole time, and Cathryn was tense. As you’ll note if you look at the green track marking our course, we altered our route to the southwest, then to the northwest to make the waves easier to steer and tolerate. Bob is great about putting on a calm, confident face which contributes to Cathryn’s willingness to tolerate travel of this type. In any case, it was nowhere near as bad as our day in the Atlantic Ocean off the shore of New Jersey in June 2012 where we encountered a squall and 8-foot waves, and keeping that perspective helped.

photo to byc

Now we’re happily tucked into our new slip (where even in the blustery wind our docking went well!) and plan to spend two nights on the boat before returning home by car.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Vashon

The Tacoma Yacht Club sponsored the “Winter Vashon” sailboat race on Saturday, Dec. 7.


Because of the way the currents run, always northbound through Colvos Passage on which we live, sailboat races always begin with the sighting of  30-100 sails or spinnakers off to the south down the Passage.


The temperature Saturday was in the 20s as the boats passed our house about 11 AM, with a 10-15 knot wind.


Can you imagine how cold it must have been hanging off the rail with that wind blowing by?


The instructions being shouted by the helmsmen were crystal clear in the cold air as they tacked 50 yards off our bulkhead.


For half an hour our front yard was an exciting place as boats fought for position.


Then the last boats passed north around Prospect Point, out of sight, and the Passage returned to the cold, quiet waterway it had been an hour before.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

We Passed the Winter Test

Distance traveled:  67.8 miles round trip

Travel time: 4 hrs 7 mins northbound, 4 hrs 35 min southbound

As we’ve mentioned, conventional “boating season” is May through September in Seattle. This Fall has had exceptionally little rain, and with the purchase of our new boat we wanted to discover whether we could expand the boating season comfortably. Well, if the forecast below doesn’t prove we CAN, nothing will!


Wednesday morning we slipped our lines and left Gig Harbor with Bob’s sister Lynn and her husband David aboard (who joined us for a week in Chattanooga and the Tennessee River on our Loop trip). Lynn and Cathryn had made fitted bedsheets and blankets for the V-berth mattresses in the guest stateroom, and we hoped to test their increased comfort over the sleeping bags in which friends Jim and Phebe slept two weeks ago.

It was sunny, calm and COLD! But the fully enclosed flybridge let in so much solar heat that we were soon removing coats, gloves and hats as we motored north. (OK, we’ll admit we used our Mr. Buddy propane heater initially to take the chill off the flybridge).


And just as if in Florida, we had to wear sunglasses to protect from the blinding sun the entire journey.


Our destination was Poulsbo, the Scandinavian-influenced town where we spent Oktoberfest weekend as part of an  MTOA (Marine Trawler Owner’s Association) Rendezvous back in October. Look how different the marina looks in December (below) . . .

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. . . compared to October (below). Doesn’t our boat look lonely above?


We wandered the galleries and shops in town for a couple hours in the afternoon, had lasagna, salad and wine aboard Next To Me for dinner, and stayed warm and cozy with the diesel heater running all evening and one electric heater warming the salon all night.

But yikes! It was 16 degrees when we got up in the morning, and we were happy to be tied to concrete floating docks instead of wood, so they weren’t slippery. The sunrise was pretty despite the cloud cover that rolled in shortly after, making the air temperature warmer, but not warm enough on the flybridge.

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As occurred two weeks ago, we journeyed home driving from the lower helm in the salon instead of from above. We saw dozens of Dall’s porpoises, thousands of water fowl, a few seals and sea lions and hardly any other boats except for the ubiquitous Washington State Ferries running from Bremerton, Southworth and Vashon Island. It was a wonderful trip, made all the better for learning this boat, and her Captains and crew, enjoyed winter boating in below-freezing weather!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Boating

We've already been on one Winter Cruise on Next To Me with friends Jim and Phebe. Today we depart with Lynn and David aboard. The good news is the sun is shining, an uncommon experience in December in Seattle. So we'll find out how well our diesel heater works, how we feel about icy docks, and how tough we are. Yesterday had high winds and waves, but today is calm and gorgeous. We'll cruise 4 hours to Poulsbo for an overnight stay.

To all our boating friends in Florida who are complaining about the uncomfrotable heat there: come on up and join us!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Almost every year for the past 29, we’ve spent Thanksgiving at home with parents, kids, and a few friends. This year our son Ryan was in Hawaii with his fiancée Jaime, one daughter Mackenzie and son-in-law Matt were in Ecuador, and Adrienne and Justin were traveling to Ohio to be with his family. Justin’s parents invited us to join the group in Ohio, and we happily accepted.

Justin’s parents raised the family on an 11-acre farm outside Columbus, but work in the city, so own a condo there too. We  stayed at the condo with Justin and Adrienne at night, and the rest of the family at the farm. What generous hosts, those folks!

It was 23 degrees with a bit of snow on the ground  on Thanksgiving Day. Ten adults and two toddlers enjoyed a feast, watched football, tromped around the farm and had a great day.


The farmhouse where Justin grew up is lovely, much of it restored by his Dad, Jeff.


On Saturday extended family, friends and neighbors gathered (about 50 people) to celebrate Justin and Adrienne’s August nuptials . Fortunately the temperature climbed into the 40s and most of the snow melted.


Bucolic scenery around the farm.


Skeet shooting is a source of fun in many families, but Adrienne’s only done it once on a previous trip to Ohio with Justin, and we had  not done it ever. Out came the clay pigeons and shotguns, and lessons began.


Little Annie (Adrienne) Oakley demonstrated her sharp shooting skills. Who has acute enough vision to spot two clay pigeons in the air in the photo below? Justin got ‘em both.


Steve, a peace Corps friend of Justin’s who performed their wedding ceremony, also gives shooting lessons. Beginner’s Luck had Bob, Cathryn and Adrienne all smiling with success at nabbing those pigeons!


Another day was spent driving to Cincinnati, about 2 hours from Columbus, for a reunion with Looper friends Craig and Barbara from “Blue Heron”. We had lunch on the Ohio River seen in the background below, about 400 miles upriver from the stretch we traveled in September 2012.


What a great Thanksgiving trip!