Free to Roam

A couple of days before departure

It’s a rainy Friday night with plenty of wind, and plenty of rain. I moved everything from the dock box to storage. The touring kayak my friend left here at the dock is back at his house. Anything that doesn’t belong on the boat is also in storage. I’ve been pecking away at the remaining stuff but the more I try to scale back my stuff, the more the stuff pile seems to grow. The pile is now in a neutral state. It’s amazing how much those items own me, but I’m glad to have some stuff on land for when I want to spend time in the mountains again. Skiing, rock climbing, and camping gear mostly. A few instruments, some kitchen gear, and a bin full of stuff for when it’s time to work on Satori again. Next time I am back I will take another stab at reducing even more unneeded stuff. The car and storage is everything left from a two bedroom house with a big back yard and awesome garden. At one point there was a flock of six chickens, a cat and Sasha the pup. The back yard had a garage full of yard and garden equipment, an old rotten fishing boat, some broken lawnmowers, lots of wood, a fire pit, a chicken tractor, and a trailered wooden sailing dinghy. The garden supplied a massive amount of food, and the chickens supplied more than two dozen eggs per week during the summer months. I miss the chickens and fresh vegetables, but I’ve traded for fresh seafood and the freedom to roam.

Winter Trials with new boom rigging. Sail shape is much flatter than before.
Winter Trials with new boom rigging. Sail shape is much flatter than before.

I’ve worked out the kinks on the new reefing lines after a quick cruise last Sunday. Just enough wind to make it fun, but not too much to need a reef in the jib, or a double reef in the main. Just one reef to keep her helmsman relaxed. Temperatures were okay for February, and the crew seemed to enjoy getting out. I decided after the boom was finished and I knew Satori was okay to venture, I would head out and work remotely pretty much indefinitely. The only reason I would need to come back to Seattle is to try to pair down my storage until I’m satisfied, and pick up any mail that I did not forward on to wherever I will be. I don’t really need my car except to move things out of storage, or to run errands in town. I’m pretty well outfitted so I only need to resupply food and water for the next month or two. I can also stretch my cellular internet so I have enough data to keep working without running out. A combination of working from coffee shops, and staying away from downloading movies will allow me to live pretty much anywhere in the American Salish Sea, but will also enjoy the convenience of part time at a marina. I can pay a daily rate when I want to come into a marina, then when I am able to roam again I can either anchor, or tie to a state park mooring ball. There are plenty of them unoccupied this time of year, and plenty of transient slips available. The only thing I need to be careful of is staying protected from strong winds and swell. I don’t mind anything under twenty-five knots, but ten to twenty knots gives me more peace of mind. Enough to keep the wind turbine running, but not so much that I worry about my anchor holding. I will retreat to a marina as an excuse to dodge wind storms, but also to resupply and be social.

New rigging, flat sail
New rigging, flat sail

I am subletting my Shilshole slip so I am not paying for an empty slip, and to subsidize the cost of staying as a guest and paying a daily rate. The maximum rate I can imagine would be having to pay for the slip in Seattle, then paying a daily rate for an entire month. The combination would equal to about $1800, and is prohibitive. Ideally I only need to visit marinas to provision and during windy storms. Most of the time I can anchor in protected bays, and take the dinghy to shore twice or three times per day for the pup. I am starting with an estimation of eight to ten days per month at a marina, and the rest of the time I will be anchored or tied to a mooring ball. This will keep my mooring cost to no more than $400 per month, which will be more than $200 cheaper than my mooring at Shilshole marina. I may decide to settle somewhere for longer term, but hopefully I will have not made my decision too late, and end up paying for too many days in a row. As a counter issue for not having shore power, I will be using more diesel fuel to heat the stove. The cost per month will be anywhere from $70 to $120 per month if I am using it every day. If we have freezing temperatures I will be running the stove pretty hot to keep the hull ventilated and as dry as possible, which can use as much as two gallons per day. I may also decide to run the portable generator instead of heading back to a marina slip to fully charge the batteries. I should be able to get three to four days with just the wind turbine and little sun we have near the forty-ninth parallel. As the weather changes into spring, I will end up adding more solar panels to the array. I am also planning on rewiring the circuit, and adding an ammeter so I can monitor the solar output directly.

See ya Seattle!
See ya Seattle!

Day of departure

I’m tied to a mooring ball at Blind Island, just before sunset. Getting here took about eleven hours, with much of it motoring in a little wind. The king tides right now are moving quite a bit of current, so I averaged about seven knots on the way. Around Edmonds I was sailing with the yankee jib and doing about seven knots over ground. Once I was closer to Point No Point the winds and waves built to gusts up to thirty knots of apparent wind, and three to four foot waves. The transition between jib and staysail was not ideal. I guess I’m a little rusty, or have higher expectations on how efficient I should be at getting the jib furled and staysail hoisted. When I raised the staysail I didn’t check to make sure the tack was tight, so at first the staysail was not giving any power and Satori was getting thrown around by the waves. The tiller pilot was useless at that point, but I didn’t setup the wind vane. In hindsight I should have since Pluto the tiller pilot is limited to relatively calm seas. It’s amazing how much more stable she becomes when a sail is putting pressure on the mast. I was running directly downwind most of the way, and at one point when I was trying to get the tiller pilot to behave, the staysail jibed and backed. The tiller pilot could not keep her course, so I ended up hand steering to ensure the staysail was doing it’s job, and we could continue safely on course. In hindsight I should have had the wind vane setup. Eventually the winds and seas calmed and I resorted to motoring again. I was planning on staying the night in Port Townsend but I was lined up to cross the strait at slack tide, and the winds did not look to be too bad. A last minute decision while on a course for the marina, I tacked and set a course for the San Juan Channel between San Juan Island and Lopez Island. I would either make it to Friday Harbor, or all the way to Shaw Island by dark. It’s nice to be back on the water, and enjoying a calm night in a remote bay. Tomorrow we have a short trip around the north end of San Juan Island so we can enjoy some time at English Camp, and Garrison Bay.

Mooring at Blind Island, Blind Bay, Shaw Island after sixty-five miles from Seattle.
Mooring at Blind Island, Blind Bay, Shaw Island after sixty-five miles from Seattle.

Onward to Garrison

Blind Bay on Shaw Island is a peaceful place in comparison to anywhere south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The mooring ball is inline with the wake from the Shaw Island ferry, and just about any other boat who is transiting Wasp Passage. The entire night I don’t think I felt anything at all. In the morning I was awoken by a Bald Eagle who I later learned is nested on Blind Island. After our trip to the island I put the dinghy on the foredeck and motored towards Roche Harbor and Garrison Bay. The entire way I only saw crab fisherman checking their pots and harvesting Dungeness and Rock crab. It was pouring rain with variable winds so I ramped the throttle to 3500 rpm and reused a set of waypoints I setup on the chart app this summer to get through both Wasp Passage and Mosquito Pass. Neither had much current running through the narrowest parts but I still decided to hand steer through them so I could keep the boat moving more efficiently. I didn’t realize how dirty Satori has become on her topsides and hull so I took some time to scrub the deck and try to organize the gear. The winds were very strange when I finally dropped anchor. At first they were coming from the south, but then backed from the east, and then from the north. I realized I was pretty close to the shore in Garrison Bay and watched the depth show as little as two feet under her hull. Fortunately it was at the lowest tide, and by tomorrow’s next low tide I will kedge another anchor and move her so she is a little further from the shore. I didn’t get a chance to check out English Camp today. It was pouring cats and dogs so after the trip we just took it easy and cooked some food. Tomorrow we will venture out for a few hours and have a look at the park. The wind is blowing enough to keep the wind turbine running. I’m also impressed with how little it takes to keep the boat warm inside. I have a low flow pump for circulating glycol in the stove, also a couple of LED lights, the entire boat network including the wifi hotspot, the stove fan, and a circulation fan running and am only taking 1.3 amps from the battery. The fridge has been kept a little cooler because it is full of perishables, and I also want to be able to turn it off at night to lower my energy needs. The fridge gets down to thirty-four degrees during the day, and then in the morning it’s up to thirty-nine degrees. The top items in the cold plate are thawing, which is good because I rotate the meats that I plan on cooking. Whatever is on top is getting eaten in the next few days.

Heading through Wasp Passage using waypoints to guide me in torrential rain
Heading through Wasp Passage using waypoints to guide me in torrential rain

English Camp

I have not seen a day so calm for as long as I can remember. Absolutely nothing but birds audible. When I’m in the cabin I can only hear the fridge cycling on and off. I spent lunchtime roaming around English Camp with the pup. We immediately encountered a retired couple with a herding dog. Given the couples’ history it is a fit breed for them. They are retired farmers who bought property in Wescott Bay. The wife was a passionate show jumper and owned several Dutch Warmbloods. After they left I was the only person visible other than a park ranger who was going through a checklist of maintenance. We wandered around checking out the property adjacent to the waterfront. The entire area is picturesque and somewhat perfect for my first full day at anchor. The afternoon temperature reached sixty-five Fahrenheit and without wind. Seagulls, goldeneyes, and eagles occupied the majority of the sounds on the water. The only boat to visit the bay was an aboriginal crabbing boat, checking their pots scattered in all of the bays on the island. I’ll stay here until the weekend, then head into Roche Harbor to provision and do laundry. I’m very happy to be in a remote anchorage, enjoying solitude for a while.

Nice day in Garrison Bay. Blue skies and sun is a welcoming sight
Nice day in Garrison Bay. Blue skies and sun is a welcoming sight

English Camp Day Two

I realized I still had my port light covers on last night. When I’m at the marina I feel like the boat is a fishbowl, so I made a set of covers to provide privacy. While I’m on the hook privacy is abundant. I’ve decided to pull the dinghy onto the foredeck before I go to bed, and put it back in the water on the first run to shore. This allows me to quickly pull anchor and get under-weigh without worrying about getting the dingy on board first. Tomorrow the winds are supposed to pick up and blow into the twenties, then Friday into the high thirties and low forties. I’m going to move into Roche Harbor marina for tomorrow night to recharge the batteries, fill the fuel and water, do laundry, and maybe pick up a few things at the grocery. My electricity needs and the lack of enough sun or wind has required me to run the portable generator for the past couple of days. I make the best of it by taking Sasha to shore while it’s running so I’m not bothered by the noise. It’s barely audible on shore and it sips fuel so it’s a great supplement to solar, wind, and shore power. On our second trip to shore at low tide I found some oysters, but didn’t have anything to pry them off the rocks or open the shells. On my way back to the boat the pull cord for the outboard finally parted ways, so I rowed back and spent an hour figuring out how to replace the cord. After several attempts I was able to get a length of Amsteel Dyneema attached, which should prevent the cord from ever parting during for the duration of it’s service life. We harvested the oysters and enjoyed them with seared ahi for dinner. I’m really enjoying this life, but also enjoying getting into a rhythm that is very different than being on land, or tied to a dock at a big marina. I watched a bald eagle swoop down and catch a fish, then bring it up into a madrona tree to eat it. This is something I should be seeing a lot more often.

English Camp and Garrison Bay. Satori is just around the point from the dingy dock.
English Camp and Garrison Bay. Satori is just around the point from the dingy dock.
Fresh fried pacific oysters from Garrison Bay
Fresh fried pacific oysters from Garrison Bay

Roche Harbor

It was light winds all morning. I pulled the anchor by hand and left it on the foredeck to dry. I could see some blue in the skies and the sun was planning to shine for a while. I waited until lunchtime to motor into Roche Harbor, through Mosquito Pass. The trip was quick, and I was lucky to get a windward tie to the dock. To my starboard and across the dock is another Westsail 32, and to my port side is a Westsail 43 ketch. The harbor is completely empty. The only people around are people who work there, but the docks were empty, as well as the village. A few hours later I did get a visitor who came to visit with Sasha, and Dave also happened to own the Westsail 32. Two Westsail boat owners together is like meeting someone you don’t know from your own tribe. All Westsail owners are in various levels of refitting their boat, and Dave was carting a pile of various paints and other chemicals, along with portable power tools. Virtually the same pile I kept in my dock box, which has gone to into storage while I live on the hook, so to speak.  I’ve taken the opportunity to do some laundry, which cost six dollars for one load to wash and dry. I’m expecting it to blow in the morning so I’ve removed some things from the topsides. I have also secured Satori with several spring lines to make it an easy ride. Being pushed away from the dock is better than against, and from what Dave says the forecast can be quite a bit under the actual wind speed. Satori will be blown sideways which means I will need to go outside and make sure everything is okay early in the morning. For now I hear nothing except the dog snoring and my keyboard keys getting tapped on.

Secured to the Roche Harbor marina slip during an expected near gale
Secured to the Roche Harbor marina slip during an expected near gale

Garrison Bay and beyond

I decided to head back to Garrison and decide where to go next after work. The winds did pick up and blew pretty well this morning, but not forty knots. Maybe the maximum wind speed was thirty knots, but I suppose it’s better to be safe than have regrets about not hiding out in a marina. I ate lunch at the infamous Lime Kiln Cafe while I continued working on the laptop. After I filled the water tanks and vacuumed the cabin, I started the engine and warped the boat down to the end of the dock. The wind was blowing fifteen to twenty knots and I had to cast off without help. I knew the wind would blow the bow down and away from the docks so I just untied the lines, put it in reverse and waited for a gust to turn her around. Once I was outside of the marina waves increased to chop. Getting through Mosquito Pass wasn’t too challenging. I was close to low slack tide so the currents were not very strong, but the winds grew to almost thirty knots, and the waves were stacked and had swelled to a few feet. I knew once I was past the section that is exposed to Haro Strait near Hanbury Point, the seas would calm down and the winds would’t be as strong. Getting into Garrison Bay and dropping anchor was somewhat uneventful and relatively easy. I prepared the anchor and chain while I had a chance under autopilot so I could run forward quickly and get it down to an eight-to-one scope. Once Satori started to turn and drift back onto her rode, I put the throttle down in reverse to set the hook well. She set and came right back with her bow on the wind. An hour later the winds subsided, and as I type this they have completely disappeared. The wind put a chill to my bones so I have the stove cranked, along with my forced air heater, and even added the ships lantern. It will be too hot in another hour and I can turn everything down. Tonight I am cooking a beef roast in the pressure cooker, and then planning a new location for next week’s adventures. It’s been a great week and I think I will get used to living like this. I am fortunate to be able to experience a mild winter on a sailboat exploring the San Juan Islands.

Beef roast in a pressure cooker
Beef roast in a pressure cooker

4 Replies to “Free to Roam”

  1. Tony: Enjoy reading about your boat upgrades and the start of your cruising. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to give you a bon voyage before you left Shilshole! Maybe we’ll see you up north this summer.
    Will & Joan
    W32 Chaika

  2. Great post mate! I really got a sense of where you were, I like your writing style. Perhaps we’ll run across your path this summer if you’re still in the SanJuans

  3. Hi Tony , I finally checked your blog . I found out about it on WOA , anyhow I really like it keep up the good work !

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