Saturday - May 23 - The Great Escape (11 NM)

One of the things that I truly love about sailing is that you just never know. The are hundred of variables, problems to solve and at times things go your way at other times they don't. This is why I make the choice to sail the way I do. I love this part of sailing.

The advertisement for today was 10 to 20 kt northwest winds, a strong flood current and lots of Memorial day weekend boating traffic. As it turns out, the wind never quite made it to the northwest. It was from the south, like always. Well I guess two out three ain't bad, but for sailing out of Fishermans Bay it ain't too good either.

So instead of tacking with good wind against a strong current while dodging holiday boaters we got dead downwind sailing with all of the above. This is about the worst set of condition you can have to sail out of Fishermans Bay on Lopez Island. As I have mentioned in previous posts a strong flood current is tricky in Fishermans Bay since it wants to set you into the docks to the southeast of the channel entrance.

There was plenty of wind in the bay at our mooring (of course) and a flag on the cliffs outside the bay was rocking so there was just the wind lull in the channel to overcome (that and the current and power boats).

Here is my track leaving the bay. This was my second, or third attempt. I aborted the first two because of low boat speed on one and traffic on the other.

My plan, as usual, was to hug the west edge of the channel staying shallow and out of the current as long possible. This is also better for boat traffic as, for whatever reason, boats tend to motor in pretty fast and and swing wide from a combination of their momentum and the current.

This was also a situation where I expected Bolero to outshine my old Bluenose. With her taller mast and greater displacement she would grab all the sheltered wind available and coast through the lull at the channel entrance.

On this, my third attempt at getting though the channel, I was encourage by my 2 kt approach speed so we decided to give it it a go. The current was wicked strong (I would guess a minimum of 2 kts) and as soon as we entered the main part of it, our boat speed dropped to 0 kts. We spent 2 minutes inching forward to move 60 ft.

But distance was our ally. With every foot the channel widened and the current lessened. And we finally overpowered it. But it brings up an interesting point, sailing performance matters. If Bolero's SA/D ratio was 16 instead of 20 we might not have made it. Ditto had we been dragging an outboard or fixed propeller or a dinghy.

In any event that was the lesson for the day. It really reminds of what Jay Fitzgerald speaks of in his books when people talk about sailing 90% of the time. It is the 10% where you really have a chance to learn.

The rest of the day we, Laura, spent work on sailing skills. Tacking, sail trim, coming up and falling off and sailing downwind. Great fun on another beautiful day.