Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Global, er, Vashon circumnavigation...

Yes, Brigadoon is capable of going around the world. Maybe she will one day, with Kerry and me at the helm.  But for now, we are content to get to know our boat, out in the salt water again, on our planned 80 mile, two day, circumnavigation of Vashon Island.

We planned this trip for a few weeks. We were to leave early Sunday morning and return early enough on Tuesday to beat the bridge closures between 4:00 and 6:00 PM.  It was to give us more time out on salt water, including more practice of trip planning, navigation, decision making, and to get some helmsmen time for Kerry.

I started the weekend by single-handing Brigadoon off our dock in heavy southerly winds (they pin her to the dock) and motoring down to Duke's Chowder House to pick Kerry up from work.  We spent some time under the main'sl as Kerry practiced sailing her close hauled and drove some tacks while I handed the sheets. Aside from having to dodge out of the way of a Kenmore Air plane on taxi, it was a calm and fun sail.

Leaving on Sunday, instead of Saturday, was a brilliant move.  We were able to attend Folklife on Saturday and, in addition, we missed the chaos and mayhem that can be the locks on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

The original plan was to sail to Dockton on Vashon, or Tacoma and spend the night.  There was also a  possibility of another night in Gig Harbour.  Over the course of the weekend the plans changed to suit conditions.  This is what happens -- you plan, you change your plans.  Having to make a destination at a certain time leads to "get-there-itis" and bad decisions.  This has killed pilots and sailors for decades. Our plan was to have contingencies, alternatives, and to enjoy our time on the water, knowing we had alternatives.  This trip was an excellent opportunity for that.

Our second outbound trip through the locks went spectacularly well. Soon we were entering Shilshole Bay and raising Brigadoon's sails.  The winds were out of the south so we ended up beating our way southward in a series of long tacks (see the map).  That's how you head into the wind when you choose to sail. You have to sneak up on it in 45 degree tacks.

Kerry got to exercise her new sailing skills. She was at the helm the whole way south and steered Brigadoon for every tack, from Shilshole towards Des Moines, until I took over around the east shore of Vashon.  It was at this time that we changed our destination for the night.  Instead of overnighting in Dockton or Tacoma and visiting the museums and restaurants of Dock Street, we chose to head to Des Moines instead.

I spent some time at the helm as we sailed into quieter and quieter air towards Vashon.  Eventually, I dropped sails and started the engine.  The sea was dead calm at this point. The Sound was a quiet surface of ripples.

Des Moines is a lovely marina. It's very modern, and the people running the place are first class.  The only issue we had was one redneck powerboater who, as we were headed towards our assignedslip, cut us off, docked at that slip to unload some people. Then, on the way out, as he was looking at the dock and saying goodbye, he tried to hit Brigadoon as we were maneuvering towards an alternative slip.  I have this feeling that 22,000 lbs of Brigadoon would have made short work of his little 12' power skiff.  If he hadn't heard us yelling at him that he should look where he is going as he leaves his dock, the likely worse damage to us would have been a scuff on the hull and a few tossed life rings in his direction. With the help of the marina staff, were soon tied up. We spent a very quiet evening at the dock, having walked to dinner in town.

The next day we were treated to breakfast on Brigadoon! Some friends who live in the area visited the boat and brought us french toast and all the fixins.  This traveling thing is working out to our advantage.

Casting off at very low tide we headed west into the sound and, discovering no wind and accepted the fact that we would have to motor to our next destination: Blake Island.

This was the perfect opportunity to try out our hammock.  Crusing along at a brisk 5 kts (you all can jog that fast), Kerry got to ride above the deck as we motored over wake induced swells.  Sure, I could have steered the boat over the swells better, but it was more fun to hear her squeal as the hammock swing from side to side, attached between the mast and the stays'l.  Astute readers will note that Kerry is still wearing a PFD and a safety harness, which is attached to the gray jacklines installed after our last adventure on the Sound.

Soon we were docked at Blake Island State Park and having dinner (soy sauce noodles and veggies in the cockpit).  A well fed crew is a happy crew.  I like it when Kerry is happy.

The place is crawling with young bucks at sunset.  They were having dinner too.

And we were told that we may find a fuzzy visitor or two on deck late at night.  However, we found no evidence of bandits on board.

The next day was spent motoring through no wind but plenty of rain. This gave us valuable experience navigating the shipping channel. We got practice using our nav software, radar and GPS to make our way in 3 miles, or less, of visibility.  Here is Kerry, my trusted navigator, calling out radar targets, the large screen in the middle, while I pick them up visually in the lousy weather outside.  Though our radar is very old, it seems to work pretty well.  The ferries are nice big targets.

There are also the bouys and their attendants to ensure we stay on course.  This one was slightly bored but seemed to enjoy a short conversation as we passed by.

Our wait at the locks was pretty long but, from what I heard, nothing like the insanity of the previous day (Monday, Memorial Day).  After a little fiddling about in the outflow current, we were finally invited into the locks.  A lesson learned here is that we will, next time, tie up on the wall. An Argosy cruise boat got to cut in front of us and three other waiting boats.  I guess "commercial traffic" includes tour boats showing tourists what the locks look like from the floaty side.  It was a bit of work keeping Brigadoon in place.  Also, were we to have an engine outage, we would have been screwed as there is the railroad bridge downstream of our position.  Next time we tie up on the wall.

"Blowing the bridges" was a snap as we followed another sailboat.  All we had to do was stay on their tail. We cleared the Ballard and Fremont bridges and, in short order, were tied up on our dock.

Welcomed by our Canadian contingent, I was able to sit on my tired ass, sip a beer and watch the Duck Dodge.

It was a great trip for us.  We accomplished some important goals.  Those included; getting some helm time in for Kerry, finding some new destinations, practicing our navigation, including motoring in really lousy weather and continuing to get a good sense of what a great boat we have.

Thanks, Bob Perry, for designing her and to Bob Berg for building her.  We love traveling in our home on the water.

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