Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sucia Island Rendezvous 2011, Part 1

Cap Sante in Anacortes, Washington is a low lying claw shaped headland with a high brow to the east which protects the harbor from all but southerly winds. The southerlies are prevalent throughout the winter and as summer progresses high pressure builds from the north and the boat basin rides easy.

When I arrived at Cap Sante Boat Haven it was late morning and the wind was already filling in from the north. My only concern was getting the boat launched before the high afternoon winds kicked in. There was a sign on the boat lift that said they would not launch boats in winds over 25 knots. In the summer, hot inland temperatures mean higher winds over the coastal landscape due to the warm air drawing cool marine air inland. If the wind was already picking up before lunch, it would likely exceed 25 knots by afternoon.

Loading and launching Saga took a while, since I had packed enough food and gear to be at sea for a month. I had no intention of touching inhabited land. The launch went flawlessly even though wind continued to build.

During the evening I reviewed the charts and my planned route to Fossil Bay, Sucia Island State Park. As I drifted off to sleep, it was apparent that the wind had not let up, which is strange after dark. I resolved to wake pre-dawn and catch a favorable tide at 5:30.

When I woke, it was still blowing and had clocked around to the southwest. This should have been warning enough. Persevering as only a doryman can, Saga and I set sail.

As soon as we rounded Cap Sante into Guemes Channel, which runs SW to NE, it was apparent this was not going to be easy. The wind opposed the tidal current and caused the whole channel to churn like a washing machine. It wasn't long before I wondered just how seaworthy my little boat was. In a normally busy, commercially trafficked lane, Saga was the only boat in sight.

I've never let small details deter me, though I did wait too long to put on my rain coat and my jacket was already soaked with salty spray. Every third wave came in the boat. The headland where I would turn north was visible a couple miles away and I fixed on that.

The new heading offered a great bit of relief but heaped on a new challenge. How well does a small double-ended boat surf down a choppy, trailing sea? With a lot of authority, but not much control. It was too early in the morning, on a day that felt like early spring, to be sweating this hard!

The 24 nautical miles to Sucia Island took just over four hours that day. Probably a record for an eighteen-foot displacement boat. The first two hours were not much fun, though by the time I set anchor it was warm and sunny. This was the first outing for me in the little faering, Saga and I learned to have a lot of respect for this descendant of the old Norse light displacement double-enders.

There was only about a foot of freeboard left, with all the gear I'd packed, yet the only water to ship was spray from waves off the forward quarter. Mind you, there was plenty of that at times but the faering commanded the sea as well as a boat twice her size and I soon quit worrying about her ability to take care of herself.

Fossil Bay is a special place. Black Oystercatchers, bald eagles, raccoons, otters, seals, crab and all manner of sea birds make their homes there.

On the second weekend of July, so do a dedicated group of small wooden-boat owners. The Sucia Island Rendezvous brings these mariners from near and far to commune with nature and each other for three days.

In addition to the photos seen here, a good taste of the rendezvous can be found on Joel Bergen's weblog. Joel showed up in his new Welsford Navigator, Ellie. That's Joel to the right, in the green t-shirt, at "Wine and Cheese Night".

If that is not enough, you will find photos (weather permitting) of my entire trip on Doryman's Flickr site. Click here for the slideshow.

Stay tuned. More to come!


Unknown said...

Visited Anocortes last week and notice a little double ender, completely varnished, named "Sweet Thing". Maybe you saw her? Would love to know about the boat. ....

O Docker said...

Did you have a peek into Snoring Bay - the next bay over? One of my favorite spots on the planet.

One July we spent a week moored there, waiting for the rain to stop. It may have eventually, but we gave up and crawled back to Friday Harbor.

Did you know that the San Juans are in the 'banana belt' - in the 'rain shadow' of the Olympics - and thus receive hardly any rain at all in the summer?

EyeInHand said...

Terrific gallery of photos, Michael. What a great collection of boats, too. I can see why you would look forward to this trip all year.


doryman said...

I will have more to say about the boats and the !%^*# rain very soon.