The Shake Down Cruises By Bill

July 16 – 22

We motored out of Anacortes Marina at 9am on Monday, July 16th. We were elated to finally be out on our boat for an extended period. As we rounded the south eastern tip of Guemes island and entered Samish Bay, we found 10 knots of wind and raised our sails! It was exhilarating to be sailing our boat together. We quickly discovered our first lesson and a big difference between sailing Epiphany and our previous boat, Epiphany has three permanently rigged sails; the main and two foresails, the genoa and a staysil. Our Genoa is a 130, which means that it extends past the mast by an additional 30% (100  is equal to the distance from the forestay to the mast). It is a really big sail! Our problem was that immediately aft of the forestay, just 4 feet back,  is the staysil stay.  Each time we would tack, the Genoa would end up laying on the staysil’s stay, or worse yet, folding in half around it so that we had two sections of sail filled with wind…… on each side of the stay. We tried everything that we could think of…..going faster, going slower, holding fast to the windward sheet, letting go completely of the windward sheet, but we couldn’t quite get it. And so, each time that we tacked, one of us would invariably end up out on the fore deck, pulling the sail around and through to get us sailing again.

Side note: We have asked strategy for this from other skippers on similarly rigged boats. Most say they just float the jib out there and tack over at such the precise moment that the clew darts right between the two stays and runs the sail straight on through……….liars all!

Side note two: it does get easier with practice and in a pinch, we can always roll the sail half way up before tacking.

Anyway, we sailed, if poorly, into the afternoon. Sailing north of Guemes, past Vendovi, and Cypress and then Lumi and Sinclair until we lay off of the north shore of Orcas and the edge of the strait of Georgia. With Sucia (our destination) right in front us we lost our wind in the shadow of Mt Constitution.

We were going nowhere and we were getting there fast ,when our friends on Irish Lady called us up and said they had just moored out at Roche Harbor. We were running out of day, and getting to Roche on San Juan island would mean continuing all the way around Orcas. So we had to make a quick decision, we fired up our motor and set off. We arrived just in time for happy hour with Brian and Kecia and had dinner onboard Irish Lady.

The next day we decided to follow Irish Lady into the Canadian Gulf Islands. We passed west of Stuart and made our way to South Pender where we cleared customs and motored with Irish Lady up to Ganges.

Side note: There is a story to tell about S Pender Island and why it took us three hours to clear customs; but it is not mine to tell. Maybe the perpetrator will reveal the details in a subsequent post!

Epiphany motoring in the Canadian Gulf Islands: Photo taken from Irish Lady.

Ganges is a beautiful little town located on Salt Spring Island in the Canadian Gulf Isles. We stayed for two nights enjoying the food, town and live music with the crew from Irish Lady. On the second day, we awoke to steady 15 knot winds, so Julie and I immediately pulled out and went for a sail! This was the first time that we really got a feel for sailing Epiphany and it was magical. I can tell you with certainty that the very thing Epiphany is looking for is 15 knots! We tacked back and forth across the wind to the top of the bay flying all three sails and when we reached the top we found our reward. We turned and headed down wind, flying across the bay at 8 knots. After spending the whole morning tacking as we beat to windward, we never had to changed our sails once the whole way down (and hour and a half on the same tack). The serenity and quiet of the downhill run was a complete joy. We ate tuna sandwiches in the sunshine with smiles on our faces as we watched Epiphany effortlessly glide across the water.

Irish Lady
Irish Lady motoring toward Ganges

The next day we parted company with Irish Lady. We passed out into the strait of Georgia through Active Pass where we dodged the BC ferry boats and made for Point Roberts and US customs. The Strait of Georgia was, at the time the largest body of water that we had crossed. We were treated to a steady 10 knot breeze and 3 foot seas. We made short work of it and, after a mid afternoon run in with a super tanker that required a course adjustment (we passed a quarter of a mile behind them in the end), we arrived in Pt Roberts. Customs was a breeze (this time!) and in no time we were at happy hour at the only bar in town.

It was at the bar, there at the marina, that we met Patrick. He was very keen to come and see our boat and so we invited him back. Patrick is…………eccentric. He regaled us with stories of his kayaking adventures; up to Alaska, circumnavigating Vancouver Island, and washing up on the Olympic Peninsula in a gale. He claimed to have lost his wallet in California the week before and that he was in the country illegally. He also kept offering us tokes of hash (we declined) that he chipped off a grapefruit sized ball of black tar and put into a little pipe. As he spoke, clouds of scented smoke issued from his mouth and nose. He was nice and interesting and entertaining…..but in the end we had to shoo him off ( its important to realize when it is time to leave).

Leaving Point Roberts

Finally, we made it to Boundary Bay,  and moored at the Semiahmoo marina. The area is interesting. On the American side it is very rural and small town. And even though there are beautiful waterfront properties , it is very sparsely populated. Right across the water is the Canadian city of White Rock; which is a well to do, densely populated and bustling bedroom community of Vancouver. The contrast is startling.

Our friends Chris and Tracy have a condo in Birch Bay, just south of Semiamoo. They picked us up and took us home where we had luxury: a bed and a bath! And decadence: and all time, no shit old fashioned crab boil. I have some experience with Dungeness crab…..I have never seen it done better! Chris had caught the crab that morning and the boil include shrimp, corn, sausage, chicken and potatoes. 

We stayed with Chris and Tracy for two days and on the second evening they brought us to our boat for happy hour before saying goodbye. The next morning we left bright and early for the 30 mile plus sail back to Anacortes. Our first shakedown cruise was complete……and the next day, I would quit my job!

August 8th -12th

We left Anacortes at 1PM on Wednesday the 8th. We were heading for Chuckanut Bay to rendezvous with Julie’s dad and step mom aboard their boat Mistral. Dick and Beverly sailed around the world and then again back to Mexico from Seattle. They know what they are doing and are a good resource for us. On this occasion they were going to show us their anchoring strategies and methods. We were running ahead of schedule and Julie and I were messing around with sail configurations and particularly playing with our staysil; when all of a sudden, there was Mistral passing us by! Now don’t get me wrong, Mistral is nothing less than a bad ass boat! She is a 33 foot Hallberg Rassy, that has sailed around the world and then some and she is skippered by two very competent sailors. But…….um….nope. We quickly turned back into the wind rolled out all three sails, fell off onto a beam reach and put the natural state of things back in order!

Mistral at anchor in Chuckanut Bay

That evening, we followed Mistral into a beautiful anchor spot in Chuckanut Bay.  The north side of the bay offers great protection and the added bonus of the railroad trestle. What fun to sit and watch the cars go by. We counted one train with 140 cars! Dick and Bev rowed over in their dinghy a climbed aboard and gave us a tutorial on anchoring technique. Bev was with Julie at the Helm and Dick and I were up front on the bow with the windlass.

Side note: That is how we learned to anchor; with Julie at the helm and me on the bow. It is how we still do it. It is probably how we will always do it.

Eventually we dropped anchor and laid out about two hundred feet of chain. We were confident that we were not going anywhere! It’s a good thing too; because that night after a beautiful dinner on Mistral, we rowed back to Epiphany and were asleep when the howling wind woke us up. Julie and I were up on deck and it was blowing 30 knots or more. We thought for sure that we would have to start our motor and run for it…..but our anchor held! Thanks Dick and Beverly!

The next day we parted company with Mistral and headed for Sucia. We had intended to go there on our last trip, but we got side tracked with Irish Lady. We pulled into the bay at and quickly put our anchoring lessons to work. One of the things that we learned from Dick and Beverly was to scout the whole bay for depths, another was that there is often space inside of (closer to land) the anchored boats. The ring of anchored boats started about 600 feet from shore, we moved inside of them, found the water sufficiently deep all around a laid out 200 feet of chain 300 feet from shore. We had the best spot in the harbor! Soon other boats began joining us on our line.

Sucia is a natural phenomenon. It is the largest island in a mini archipelago located a couple miles north of Orcas. The island is a state park and the anchorage is a beautiful little bay in the most idyllic setting imaginable. Madrona trees line the shore with Douglas fir and red cedar trees marching up the interior and salal covering the undergrowth. There are rock out croppings, coves, bays, trees, kelp, wildlife and mini islands everywhere. We quickly found a little tide pool to dip in and cool off from the hot day.

The next day we rowed in and christened our dinghy “Gin and Julie”. We had received the lettering right before departure , so we pulled her up on shore, gave her bath and put on her lettering. Next we made a make shift anchor with our cleaning bucket and some rocks and headed off on a hike. It’s a good thing that we made that little anchor, our hike took a couple of hours and when we got back, Gin and Julie was floating! But our little anchor did the trick.

On Friday afternoon we pulled anchor and made for Friday Harbor.

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago  made up of more than 400 rocks and islands. There is almost 500 miles of coast line. The four most inhabited islands, San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw are served by the Washington State Ferry system. Friday Harbor is located on San Juan and is the largest town in the islands. It is also busy, especially on a beautiful summer day….and a weekend to boot. The marina was full. The best they would offer us was to raft up with another boat on the outer break water. We were about to turn a run for Roche when we remembered something…….we were now expert anchorers! Julie quickly found us a spot and we anchored in a beautiful location with a view of the town, and the ferry traffic. We grilled burgers and watched the excitement in the harbor and the meteor shower over head.

Saturday afternoon Julie’s son Darien caught the ferry out from Anacortes, bringing our grandson Mason with him. We had pulled in and purchased a slip. But it was noisy and crowded and besides, we had already showered, gotten fuel and pumped out the holding tank. So it was back to our anchorage. We barbecued and Julie took Mason on a dinghy ride in Gin and Julie. Then we sat and watched for meteors.

On Sunday we headed down the San Juan Channel past the southern tip of San Juan and Lopez. Darien was keen to sail and we hoped to find wind in Rosario strait. Unfortunately, none was to be found and it was a motor boat ride all the way back to Anacortes.

August 24th-26th

Dick and Beverly had been out sailing on Mistral since we parted company with them back in Chuckanut Bay. Now they were heading for anchorage in Blind Bay off of Shaw island. We were keen to see them again before leaving and so off we went.

We motored the whole way. Out of the marina, down the Guemes channel, through “Hells half acre” and into Thatcher’s Pass. It was a quick four hours later that we dropped anchor next to Mistral. Dick and Bev rowed over for Happy Hour and then we rowed to Mistral for a delicious meal. That night we decided to stay another day. Dick and Bev wanted to sail on Epiphany and we were looking for more advice. We had yet to operate our wind vane. 

A wind vane is a self steering mechanism. It is not an auto pilot. It is completely mechanical, uses no electricity and it will not hold you on a particular heading. But it will keep the wind in the same place relative to the boat. They are magical, wonderful devices. I had assembled ours and rigged it on the boat. But I was not positive that I had done it correctly or certain about how to deploy it.We hoped that Dick and Beverly could help us sort it out.

The next day broke grey and drizzly. We were lulled to lethargy by the weather, the cold, the rocking boat and the two boxes of wine that we consumed the night before. By early afternoon the weather improved and soon we got a call from Mistral, “lets go sailing”!

We headed west out into the opening between Shaw, Orcas and San Juan. It is a nice sized body of water and there was wind! We were quickly sailing. Immediately we wanted to try the wind vane and within a couple of tries we had it working. “Wilson” as we affectionately named our wind vane, was steering the boat! 

Having accomplished our goal we returned to Blind Bay and once again anchored next to Mistral. Dick and Bev stayed over for dinner, happy hour and a game…..Bev took our money. She won fair and square…….. but really it was our shower money and she took it!

That night we turned in early. The next day we would head out the San Juan Channel and into the eastern edge of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We were heading for Port Angeles. More than 50 miles away and across a dangerous strait. Hopefully we had learned well. It is about to get a lot more serious.

4 thoughts on “The Shake Down Cruises By Bill

  1. Very nice. I really enjoyed reading this. You are having an exciting adventure! Just don’t sail into water that is over your head.


  2. Sounds like a blast – you two sure know how to have a mid-life crisis!! Keep the posts coming, Of course I’m living vicariously through you until I can think of something to top this! Joan

    Liked by 1 person

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