Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sailing Downwind

Sailing Downwind, originally uploaded by macatay.

Nanaimo, British Columbia

Yesterday we had six perfect hours of downwind sailing - the perfect point of sail for a simple soul. For the non-nautical, downwind sailing means that the boat is traveling in the same direction as the wind. This is also known as sailing before the wind. Our big reference book says that this was the first kind of sailing man invented. Modern sailboats aren’t really set up to sail with the wind directly behind them – it’s all about having the sails at an angle to the wind direction, or sailing with a spinnaker, one of those large, often colorful sails that billow and flap.

We don’t have a spinnaker, but we do have a new whisker pole – which attaches at one end to the front of the mast, and at the other end to the foot of the jib. So when we are sailing downwind and it isn’t rough, we can put the boom and the mailsail out to one side of the boat, as close to perpendicular to the boat as possible, and the jib out to the other side with its whisker pole. This is called sailing wing-on-wing – or goosewinged - and makes a wonderful ride in a light wind.

One of the reasons sailing downwind is so comfortable is that it doesn’t feel windy. It can be blowing twelve knots of cool wind, but if the boat is making six knots, the sailor only feels six knots of wind. Technically, this is called the difference between the real and the apparent wind. Non-technically, it means sunbathing in shorts and shirtsleeves in the cockpit. A simple delight – all you need is to have the wind at your back.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Boat Passage

Boat Passage, originally uploaded by macatay.

Canadian Gulf Islands
26-27 June 2005

A winding puzzle route from the North around rocks and shoals is the only deep water entrance to Winter Cove, a shallow circular bay where we anchored for two nights. But there is a narrow back way in and out of Winter Cove, definitely not for the faint hearted. Boat Passage is about twenty feet wide between flanking rocks, and leads directly into the Georgia Strait. The tide fills and empties the big, wide-open Strait before Winter Cove. So the flood tide spills over Boat Passage into Winter Cove as a roiling whitewater rapids, and then the ebb rushes back out. Kayakers come here to play in the currents and waves; macho motor boats wait for high water, then run through at just the right angle with engines full throttle.

We thought this was not a passage for a sailboat - too rocky, too narrow, too much current, too shallow for our deep keel. So we sat at anchor and watched the dare devils run the narrow slot. Then after sunset when there was still some light – the time called Nautical Twilight – a big trimaran under a pale bronze sail ghosted into Winter Cove from the north at a good clip, skimming over the water without a sound. And without a sound, its two man crew turned their boat to just the right angle, trimmed the sail and ran Boat Passage to disappear out into the Georgia Strait.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Airborne over Vancouver Island

Airborne over Vancouver Island, originally uploaded by macatay.

Airborne yesterday, in the single engine turbo prop plane owned by our friend Max. We squeezed into a two hour flight geography it would take us a month to cover by boat. From Sidney we flew north over Nanaimo and Campbell River, then west over the mountains that make up the island's spine.

Barkley Sound & Pachena Pt

FlightComp2.jpg, originally uploaded by macatay.

Then back south along the Pacific coast, where we looped low over Barkley Sound, spotting favorite anchorages from summer sailing last year, and lighthouses along the coast.

Tall Ships in Victoria Harbour

TallShipssm.jpg, originally uploaded by macatay.

The final loop was over Victoria Harbour, where we got this glimpse of some of the tall ships gathering for a festival this weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sunset in Portland, 19 June

Sunset in Portland, 19 June
Originally uploaded by macatay.
A line of thunderstorms eclipses a perfectly clear sky at sunset

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Eve of Departure

Getting ready for a Monday departure. Imagining the sparseness of a simple on-board life, we are chagrined to find ourselves surrounded by the clutter and confusion of packing. Mt. St. Helens puffs smoke in the waning evening light, moon rises nearly full.

Turn Point, May afternoon

Turn Point

Turn Point, westernmost reach of the SanJuan Islands. The international boundary between the US and Canada wraps around this point, along with great rushes of ingoing and outflowing tide. Killer whales, oceangoing freighters.
A hard won destination for hikers, who must first find a boat to take them to Stuart Island, then find shore and trail to the abandoned lighthouse. For our family, the place of choice to celebrate graduations, birthdays, the beginning and end of sailing adventures.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sunset sky over Montgomery Park

Friday, June 10, 2005

Portland Spring into Summer

The long, long sunset evening skies mean it is summer in Portland. Otherwise the constant shifting from sun to rain shower is no different in June than it was in May.