Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Perfect trip to Friday Harbor and Mantus proves itself again

Well we are just back from our trip to Friday Harbor and it went perfectly. Delivering Aeolus back to her home waters was as much a symbolic triumph as an actual accomplishment. I cannot adequately describe how great it felt to pull into the side of Lopez Island on our way into Lopez Pass, and to know we were back in these northern parts of the Salish Sea.

Friday afternoon gave me an opportunity to begin the trip by taking Aeolus north from Blakely Harbor on Bainbridge up to Port Madison, also on Bainbridge. I anchored out, which was somewhat tricky in the congested confines of that harbor, and soon Amy and the boys returned from piano practice to join me aboard for dinner. There is something so wonderful about being at anchor, and to feel the gentle shifts and movements of the hull in the sea. Like a leaf falling, or a cloud swaying, it is melodic in tune with rhythms beyond our reckoning.
The boys in Port Townsend on Saturday. We love river otters! Yes, despite their havoc on boats...

I must note here that this was my second time anchoring with my new Mantus anchor, and wow, once again it was pretty incredible. I had very little room to swing in Port Madison, and was in only 15 feet of water at low tide. Initially I let out 3:1 and tugged back as usual. Once again, Aeolus, all 16,000 lbs of her, came to an abrupt stop when the chain went taut. There was no question that the anchor was dug in. Later that night, a big Seattle Yacht Club powerboat chose to tie up right on the face dock nearest to my boat, despite having 50 other slips available. This seriously reduced my room for swinging, and concerned me. As high tide approached, and now in 25 feet of water, I did not let out any more scope. This means I was effectively at 2:1 as the next low tide at zero dark thirty prevented me from wanting to let out even more rode. It was a calm evening, and I took my chances. In the morning, when it was time to go and Elliott took over the controls of our windlass, that darn Mantus was still so stuck that the windlass had to labor a bit to pull us toward it, and then bogged down a bit until we were 1:1 before she would pull free. I tell you, this is amazing. And I tell you also, this makes this captain super happy with the holding power of his anchor!

Departed Port Madison at 8:45 am to catch the start of the ebb toward Port Townsend. We had a smooth trip north, and averaged about 8 knots SOG hitting a high of 9.9 knots in Admiralty Inlet. I had thought to go through the canal, but with the ebb being such a help and winds calm, decided to stay in Admiralty Inlet for a good ride. It paid off nicely. We arrived at Port Townsend at 1:15 pm. Hard to do that trip any faster in a 32 foot sailboat!
Our SOG later hit 9.9!

Winds were forecast SE and so we decided to tie up in Point Hudson Marina. It was a bit dicey as I couldn't reach anyone before pulling in, but there were lots of slips open and we grabbed the first one we saw. There is enough room inside to turn a full keel boat, but barely. Luckily, we didn't have to do anything tricky. Point Hudson charges $1 a foot, and has great access to town and newly remodeled bathrooms and showers. A lovely spot altogether. My boys were happy to jump in the dinghy and row around the marina for quite some time. They also spent quite a while observing a trusting Great Blue Heron.

We walked into town in the afternoon and played in the park and were tourists. The sun was shining, which made everything nicer. Port Townsend is such a great little town. It is too modest to have any of the shiny pretension of more touristy towns, and because of the maritime tradition, retains a salty blue collar MO that feels authentic. We grabbed dinner at Waterfront Pizza, which I can recommend for their great crust, and were just happy clams for the rest of the night playing games and reading aboard Aeolus.

A note on Owen. Have any of you played the game "Set"? It is card matching game, and Owen is absolutely unbeatable at it. None of us, not me, or Amy or Elliott can ever beat him. He has some gift for seeing patterns and recognizing shapes that truly amazes me. The little bastard.

The pass between Spencer Spit and Frost Island. Only a few feet on either side!
On Sunday, we departed Point Hudson at civil twilight, which I had researched to be at 7am, and sure enough, at 6:55 it was too dark, and at 7an it was just right. I needed to get as far north with the last of the flood that ended at 9:30 as possible. Because this day can be dramatic, I will explain a few logistics:
  •  It is 14 miles from Port Townsend to Smith Island, and 22 miles to Lopez Pass. 36 miles all the way to Friday Harbor going through Lopez Pass and around the top of Lopez and down Upright Channel.
  • This route was taken because the ebb at Cattle Pass, the more direct route, is quite strong, and we would have been there at max ebb. Fighting that ebb all the way from Cattle Pass to Friday Harbor would be folly. 
  • By going up and through Lopez Pass, we actually had favorable current in Lopez Sound, and sped quickly along down Upright Channel. Then you hug the coastline of Shaw until north to the latitude of Friday Harbor before doing a ferry angle across. 
Southern shore of Lopez, approaching from Smith Island
This was just what we did and it worked perfectly. Elliott has grown and matured to the point where he is able to take the wheel of Aeolus confidently. It was a big help to me, allowing me to eat breakfast and attend to matters a few times. We arrived in Friday Harbor at 1:45 pm, having averaged a good 6 knots for the day. We had light SE winds in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and this was most favorable. I cross those waters with profound respect, and with a light footprint. I always feel grateful to get through without high winds or drama, as it is certainly the fiercest piece of water in the entire Salish Sea.

One of the highlights of the trip was being able to pass between Spencer Spit and Frost Island again. That little pass is so tight, and so silly, that it always makes you feel like a kid going through it. Just hug the Frost Island side as tightly as you dare, and you will be fine.

So Aeolus is snug back in Friday Harbor, the boys and I had a wonderful time together, and the Mantus anchor once again demonstrated the wisdom of my upgrade. 

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