Monday, May 26, 2008

Trip to Port Townsend for Memorial Day

We've just returned from a wonderful trip to Port Townsend; a long awaited journey. We've heard for many years about the great nautical and interesting elements of Port Townsend , but had never before gotten around to going there. That finally changed this weekend.

We always head out for wild natural areas when we have a chance, and this was our first ever voyage to go visit a city. It was actually Amy's idea, as I had been choosing between a return to Portland Island or Saturna. Once she suggested it, it seemed the perfect idea. Besides wanting to visit Port Townsend, it would give us a taste of some time on the Straits of Juan de Fuca prior to our trip to Barkley Sound later this summer.

As these pictures show, we had absolutely sublime weather for our Saturday departure. This first shot shows the Cattle Point Lighthouse with the Olympic Mountains in the background as we ride the ebb out Cattle Pass. Leaving for Port Townsend from Friday Harbor requries an unususaly difficult tidal reckoning. It is best to exit Cattle Pass with an ebb, as going against much current there is pretty tough in a sailboat. However, you face the opposite need when approaching Admiralty Inlet and Port Townsend. There, you really should approach on a flood if you can, as it can be very slow going otherwise with no way to find an eddy or get out of the current. So the best time to leave Friday Harbor on Saturday was about 2pm. This way we caught the last of the ebb out Cattle Pass and then the start of the flood around Smith Island. By the time we approached Pt. Wilson it would be flooding full speed. Well everything worked perfectly according to plan. We were amazed at the lack of wind in the Straits, as even the forecast called for 15 knots, but as you can see it was dead calm. This shot is of Smith Island, a place where if it is nasty anywhere, it is nasty here, as it is an area with fetch in all directions. But, you can see it was like a mill pond. We motored the whole way averaging a healthy 7 knots. Only on our close approach to Pt. Wilson during max flood did we get any noticeable chop. After a bit of bouncing around, it calmed right back down and we headed to our night in Boat Haven marina. Wow, is that marina tired and in bad shape. Between mediocre original construction, deferred maintenance and poor capital planning, it was in the worst shape of any public marina I have been to. Made me really appreciate how nicely the Port of Friday Harbor is maintained. Hats off to our local crew.

At Pt. Wilson, we had three cruise ships pass us in succession. All within a mile of us and within a mile of each other. The first one was the prettiest with all the colors. Such monstrous things to behold from the water.

Sunday dawned clear and bright and we had the immeasurable joy of sleeping in late (kids did too!) and realizing we had nothing to do and all day to do it. Heaven. No need to elaborate on our day in Port Townsend. We had a great time exploring the beaches and checking out the old town. My favorite thing was realizing that right around Port Hudson marina are three of the most amazing nautical business in the country: Carol Hasse sails, Brion Toss rigging, and Pygmy Kayaks. Jeez, all within 100 yards of each other. I paid mental homage for their contributions to us sailors and kayakers. Otherwise our favorite place was the Chetzemoka city park around the corner from Port Hudson. We laid and played there for hours.

Today, Monday, we headed first in the morning to Fort Worden State Park, which reminded Amy and I so strongly of our time at Ft. Baker in Marin County. We grabbed one of the mooring buoys near the pier. Being Memorial Day, it was especially poignant to visit the museum on site, which is chock full of guns and bullets and the paraphernalia of war. After visiting, we sat outside and debriefed with Elliott the whole war thing: interesting machinery, horrifying purposes, defense, offense, cost/benefit. Something more than him just being upset or amused.

We also visited the Marine Science Center which had very nice touch tanks and interpretive materials. Hats off to them. Being science educators ourselves, Amy and I both appreciated the quality of the center.

The forecast for the afternoon was for 5-15 or 10-20 NW in the Straits, depending on the spot. We left Pt. Wilson at precisely 1:30 pm for just the same reasons we had left Friday Harbor at a precise time. And again our tidal calculations worked out perfectly. Once outside Pt. Wilson we hit about a 1 mile stretch of pretty rough bouncing due to the last of the ebb hitting the incoming swell from the Straits, despite their being no wind. Even with all our bouncing up and down, we were still cruising along at 7.5-8 knots. I estimated the biggest waves to be about 4 feet and with that nasty steep short period of undercut swell. Aeolus loves that stuff and we were soon past that point and up closer to Smith Island. Still no wind, and so still we motored. We were never able to raise the sail! Can you imagine going back and forth across the eastern Straits of Juan de Fuca and not having enough wind to sail either way? Crazy.

Elliott fell asleep in the cockpit and I was concerned he may get bounced off his seat so I rigged a tether around him. He later woke and liked leaning on it!

We averaged 6.8 knots on the entire 30 mile journey from Pt. Wilson to Friday Harbor. Took just over 4 hours. What an amazing trip.

No comments: