Monday, September 8, 2014

Horses and Barns, Weather Reports, Work Boats and Currents

Distance traveled:  79.2 miles

Travel time:  8 hrs. 30 mins

We woke late this morning, planning to go for a jog on Shaw Island, then travel 15 miles to Hunter Bay on the southeast end of Lopez Island for our last San Juan Island anchorage before heading home. After coffee, the Horse-Back-to-the-Barn-Syndrome set in, as it ALWAYS does (and friend Hobie predicted in a phone conversation last night) when we go on long boat trips or road (car) trips, and we decided instead to head to LaConner on the Swinomish Channel, since the NOAA weather forecast called for wind and wave heights above what we prefer on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


We headed east across Rosario Strait toward Anacortes and the Swinomish Channel. Once in Rosario Strait, the sometimes fearsome Strait of Juan de Fuca is visible, and we peered south to see how it looked. Hmmm . . . . looked calm! Cathryn took the helm and Bob got on the iPad to check various internet sources about wind and wave conditions on the Strait. Soon he declared “Turn south! Looks great, so let’s get across the Strait today and save ourselves lots of miles and time!”  So turn south we did.


Contrary to the NOAA forecast, the winds were less than 10mph and the swells were 2-4 feet with waves 2-3 feet occasionally, but mostly less. The wind was on our nose, not the beam, making for more comfortable travel, so we stayed on the flybridge for the whole 24-mile crossing. We even both took naps (separately, of course) lying on the seat cushions placed on the flybridge floor. We’re becoming fans of the “Hank and Carolyn School of Forecasting” which says: “Ignore the official forecasts! Stick your nose out there and see what the conditions are REALLY like, then make your decision”!  Thank you Nancy and Kelly for the introduction to Hank and Carolyn.

Serendipity meant we traveled WITH the current almost the entire day, achieving speeds as high as 14mph, but mostly in the 10-12 mph range, as opposed to our normal speed of 8mph.

This 120-foot boat (confirmed by AIS as a “fishing vessel” raised some questions regarding the accuracy of AIS data) was sitting in the bay north of Bainbridge Island … doing nothing and going nowhere.


We’ve had lots of conversations about anchoring on this trip. Faced with deeper water than we’ve anchored in before, we’ve questioned our technique and ground tackle. Fortunately friends Robin and Jim on “Adventures” who are spending several years in Alaska on their 49-foot DeFever, stay in touch with us regularly, and  they’re fabulous about sharing their knowledge. They’ve now anchored in 110 feet of water, with 300 feet of all-chain rode, so less than 3:1 scope, which would be absolutely unheard of back on the east coast, and astounds us. We also have 300’ of all-chain rode, so are working to get more comfortable pushing our previous limits.  We’re in the market for a “bigger and better” anchor too.

This Coast Guard vessel passed us under the Agate Pass bridge.


So we by-passed La Connor and the Swinomish Channel, then bypassed Port Ludlow (our next agreed upon overnight destination) and headed to Kingston (which we also by-passed) and headed to Port Madison on Bainbridge Island where we planned to anchor for the night. Upon arrival, we (belatedly) looked at the Tide Charts for tonight (one day shy of Full Moon) and learned that during the night the water would drop from 20 feet to 6 feet, leaving us too uncomfortable to stay there with our 4-foot draft. So we continued south.

This property in the photo below has had some “issues”: note the landslide and the damaged sailboat onshore.


Finally nearing 6pm and very tired, we pulled into Manzanita Bay on Bainbridge Island and dropped the anchor. It’s vastly different from anchorages in The Broughton Islands, Octopus Islands and Desolation Sound, as it’s narrow and lined with high-end but not ostentatious homes, including a marker that posts the area as “local water-ski area”, an obvious attempt to discourage boaters from anchoring in front of their homes. Oh well . . .

So one day shy of six weeks, and 1002 miles later, we’ll arrive home tomorrow and resume our “life on dirt”. We’ve gained some new knowledge and skills, had loads of fun by ourselves and with friends, and seen gorgeous scenery. And “Next To Me’' has proven she’s nearly in the condition we want her to be to make longer and more challenging journeys. We’re less than 20 miles from home. What a great trip it’s been!

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