Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sucia to Reid Harbor by way of Friday Harbor

After all the geeky photos of Sucia Island Marine State Park geology, Keith and I went back to the boat intent upon starting the engine to charge the house batteries while we had a nice hot shower. The hot shower part was no trouble. The solar shower had heated our five gallon bath water to 116 degrees.

But starting the engine? Mm. Is it supposed to make that noise? Didn't think so. This can't be good. Our house batteries were dead. Too dead to start the engine. Fortunately, there's a third battery held in reserve. We switched over to it, and the engine started right up. Okay. Back on track. At least our dead house batteries are being charged by the engine. We'll shower and get cleaned up. Everything will be fine. First, showering two people in five gallons of water in what amounts to a closet is no mean feat. You'll get no photos of that. Second, everything was not fine. The moment we shut down the engine, the house batteries began bleeding off their charge. Batteries aren't supposed to do this. It was clear we had at least one dead battery.

Keith set to diagnosing the issue while I fired up the BBQ. That's when I saw this headed directly for us on the current. It's a tree. An entire, freaking huge tree. I know it looks like a black dot. But that black dot had a bead on us and circled in for the kill. Several times. When it became apparent it was going to hit us, I ran for the boat hook to fend it off. Keith apparently thought I was going to end up in the water, cause he dropped everything and came running when I began swearing at the tree just as it came close enough to poke with the boat hook. It hit us, but I'd slowed it way down and shunted it to one side, so the impact didn't even mar the gelcoat. I stood watch with the boat hook for a few hours until the outgoing tide sucked the monster out to sea. I wasn't sad to see it would have been a long, cold night out there in the dark trying to figure out where it was.

Keith found the dead battery, disconnected it, started the engine again to charge up the remaining house battery and said, "this'll get us through the night." Yeah. You see it coming, don't you? He uses a CPAP - a breathing machine. To run it off of the batteries, he has a tiny 400 Watt inverter that plugs into the 12 volt plug. At 4AM, the final house battery gave up the ghost. We discovered this the hard way because the inverter has a power interruption alarm that sounds like the hounds of hell are screaming in your ears. And I wear earplugs to bed. We levitated out of bed, pulled the inverter plug, calmed freaked out cats and humans, and watched the diesel heater choke and quit (it needs a tiny trickle of electricity to run - this battery had nothing to offer). We trudged back to bed and hoped the adrenaline would fade enough that we could get a few more hours' sleep.

Once the sun came up and we gave up pretending to snooze, we switched to the reserve battery, started the engine and diverted south to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island where we could blow yet more money replacing stuff. You do realize that when you're on a boat you walk everywhere? The West Marine in Friday Harbor is six blocks up from the marina or so. We had to carry two lead-acid batteries back to the boat. And then carry our spent batteries back to the store for core recycling. Suffice it to say it was a very long day. But the batteries are in and working beautifully. After a brief delay to accommodate a brush with the flu, we set out for Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. And look. We got to sail.
We have the screecher up as we approach Spieden Island. The screecher is a large sail designed for use in light wind. Very versatile sail - it's on a track that allows us to shift the leading edge of the sail from one side of the boat to the other depending on wind angles. In this case, we had 11 to 13 knots of wind coming over our starboard aft quarter. Very comfortable and easy point of sail for a cat.

 Yes. We could have put up more sail and gone faster, but it was such a nice day, we didn't see the point. Then we realized that the currents were taking us awfully close to the island with its danger marker (the tiny black and white thing in the photo left). Keith said, "Time to start the engine and furl the sail." I went top side to pull the furling line. The sail began rolling up on its furler. Then the line jammed. I may have said a bad word. The sail would not budge. I even tried getting a wrap on the winch to see if I couldn't pop the jam free. No go. And we were still getting closer to that stand off marker. I told Keith I'd deal with the sail, to go ahead and start the engine. He did and eased us around the tip of the island.

When the furler on that sail jams, the only rememdy is to take the entire thing down and stuff it into the sail locker until you're someplace either at anchor or at dock. It's not a big huge thing to take the sail down in light wind like we had. In fact, once we rounded the tip of the island, we had no wind except what our motion generated. In 15 knots of wind, that great big sail is flat dangerous when it jams. No offense Shaeffer, but after putting in the rope guides and even switching to a smaller line size as suggested to prevent the countless jams just like this one, I think I can say this furler bites. If I had $2k I didn't know what to do with, I'd replace that itty-bitty piece of ... hardware with something reliable. Not that I'm bitter about hanging off the bow of my moving boat trying to release a pin so I could drop a sail that shouldn't have needed to be shoved in a messy lump into a locker. I'm also not bitter about spending precious hours of what should have been time relaxing at anchor having to manually unwrap and then rewrap furling line just so I could get the sail back up and working again. Yeah, that sunburn is totally the furling system's fault.

Eh-hem. So the sail is back up. It's furled now. But I doubt we'll entrust the safety of our boat and our family to that furler any more. It makes me sad. I really like that sail. Next: less whining, more photos. Stuart Island and Roche Harbor.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sucia Island Marine State Park

Sucia Island sits on the northern edge of the San Juan Islands. Geologically, it's a very different place than the rest of of the islands. Most of the San Juans are a submerged mountain range - dense, black granite - lots of cliff faces, steep hills, and craggy bits. Sucia is ancient, uplifted seafloor and riverbed. Part of the island is comprised of 70 million year old rock, the rest is 50 million years old stone with modern soils developing on top. So bring on the photos!
Geology of the island - the yellow layer is the 70 million year old portion of the island.

This is the cove where we moored at Sucia. The dark spot there in the rocks is a cave. Two river otters were nesting in there from what we could tell. We had a great time watching them hunting and playing in the shallow water.

Copernicus at the mooring buoy in Fox Cove at Sucia.

This is a mushroom rock. Apparently, sandstones can weather on the top to something like concrete, then when the softer underlayers are exposed they weather faster, creating these features.

70 million year old mud. The entire shoreline was made up of this rock. Maybe we really were walking on dinosaurs.

The mudstone flats exposed by a minus tide.
Anemones exposed in tide pools in the rocks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Anacortes to Sucia Island Marine State Park

Leaving Anacortes. Our joke was that we'd fixed the heater (with the dealer's help) and thus ensured weather that would mean we didn't need it. Nice theory. Evenings are chilly. We've been using the heater pretty religiously. It's a thing of beauty. Once Keith and Doug from Scan Marine chased down the problem (we were sucking air into the fuel supply - had to eliminate that), the heater began performing brilliantly. It really *does* heat the boat to a nice, toasty temp.

Sucia and Matia Islands off the starboard bow. It was a gorgeous day, but the incoming tide was running fast and hard. At one point, crossing Rosario Straight, I went from being in 300 feet of water to being in 50. And rip tide had the water white capping in just that spot. I spun the wheel, turning nose to tail and took us out the way we'd come in - I assumed I'd found a reef and needed to get off of it. The only problem was that when I turned around, we were nose into the current, and we were standing still in relation to the shore of Orcas Island...this is a bad thing. I opened the throttle and flat got us out of there. So much for fuel economy. After that shot of adrenaline, we made it around Lawrence Point on Orcas and started up the northeast side of the island, taking Clark Islands Park off starboard. More swirly currents. Saw porpoise feeding in the rip tides between Clark Island and Orcas. Again, I was in 300 feet of water, when suddenly, I had 14 feet showing on the depth sounder in the midst of the rip. It bounced down to 24 feet. Then up to 12. Then to 33 feet.  I had the pod of porpoise underneath my boat, screwing with me. They tired of the game and peeled off as I left the churning current.

We by passed Fossil Bay in favor of secluded Fox Cove. The beach in this photo is from the boat after we'd tied up to a mooring buoy. Campsites line the shore, though few people were there mid week. The cove has four mooring buoys, but save for the fishing boats that came through the cove en route to where ever, we had it to ourselves. Fox cove is on the south western side of Sucia and is protected from the open water of Boundary Pass by Little Sucia Island.

The north shore of Fox Cove, golden in the early evening sunshine.

The view past Little Sucia into Boundary Pass. That smudge on the horizon is Canada.  Well. One of the Gulf Islands, anyway. We watched the BC ferry pass, as well as huge commercial cargo ships, and were glad we had the protection of that little island to break up the wakes. The park has no lights. The nights were brilliant and clear. The moon rise that first night looked like something out of a horror show. The eastern horizon turned dusty orange. Then the orb of the nearly full moon, distorted by layer upon layer of atmosphere to twice its normal size, edged into the sky. If my camera wouldn't have reduced it to a simple bright patch of sky, I'd have attempted a photo. But a night shot? From a boat? Yeah. That wasn't going to happen. Sorry. I deeply regret not being able to capture a truly eerie photo from that moon rise.

This is a photo from the next morning. It's a cave. *The* cave where a pair of river otters were nesting. We watched them all morning. They'd tumble out of the cave and spill into the water, hunting fish and clams. Then they'd climb up on the rocks and rub their faces against the stone while their tails s-curved back and forth. It was a great show and we hated to disturb them by getting the dinghy down, but we both really wanted to go ashore to explore. The otters didn't actually seem to mind, even if they steered clear of us as we rowed into the beach.

Next up: More geology than you'll ever want.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cornet Bay to Aborted Deception Pass Attempt

The landmass lost in the lowering clouds is Fidelgo Island. A pair of bridges connects the island to Whidbey Island and to the mainland on the east. This bay approaches the narrow passage between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. It's a treacherous bit of water. The currents run so fast through this passage that we've seen boats with their engines wide open, still being pushed backward by the current.

This photo to the right offers a glimpse of the bridge. It's the smudge showing just above the low-lying islet in the middle. We have to time our attempt through the passage. We'll wait for slack and make our run. The state has parks on either side of the passage with dock space for those of us who prefer to tie up and wait for the current to die down. The danger of running the passage at peak current is that once the water is running past your rudders faster than you're going, you've lost steerage. A narrow passage lined with granite isn't a spot where you want to have no control over where you go.

As you can see, our copilot is gravely concerned.

Oh, wait. So's the captain and his cohort. I took us up the inside of Whidbey Island into Cornet Bay, the state park just inside Deception Pass. Keith comforted Autolycus. Or was that the other way around? Hard to tell at the point of this photo. We planned to spend the night tied up to a float in the state park (floats mean no power, no water, but they also mean no anchor dragging). Turned out, we got to the park and tied up just in time. It was the opening weekend of boating season and an entire fleet of racing boats came in to tie up. It was the 'Round Whidbey Island Race. These folks rafted boats four deep. They grilled burgers and hotdogs in the rain, then got up the next morning early to make their run through Deception Pass so they could raise sails and finish the race around the outside of Whidbey.

Autolycus, before the docks filled up with boats, enjoying a little shore leave.

Madam Erie, inspecting the docks. She was not impressed. The wood seemed to confuse her.

Note about Cornet Bay: bouncy. The state park has boat ramps right beside the docks with no break water between. Fishing boats launch from those ramps and go screaming off in search of whichever seafood suits them. It made for pretty uncomfortable moorage. Especially at the prices the park charged for mooring up to a float with no amenities. We're pretty much crossing this stop off our list.

Deception Pass: We got up with early and made to get underway before breakfast, intent on making our run through the pass at slack. Two things happened. The cabin heater gave out again. And as I was on deck casting us off, one of the lines caught on my PFD. I yanked on the line to free it. It had wrapped around the "Jerk to Inflate" tab on my life vest. The CO2 canister fired. PIFF. Good news: The life jacket works and no sea water was involved in finding that out. The bad news: Useless once inflated. We had to find a re-arming kit at a marine store to make it usable once more. More bad news: I couldn't breathe with it inflated. I have the vest adjusted for comfort while it wasn't inflated, which meant that once it blew up like a balloon, it was way too tight. I couldn't get out of it. Keith had to help me escape the neon yellow monster. A quick consultation later, we diverted to Anacortes - back the way we'd come, into the La Connor cut and into Padilla Bay, then into Anacortes. Naturally, the West Marine in Anacortes didn't have the parts we needed to repair my PFD. Since, with my lower center of gravity, I do all the deck work, I have to have an autoinflating PFD while outside the cockpit. Keith gave me his. He wore one of the bulky, orange life jackets whenever he had to be on deck, too.

PS: Restaurant tip in Anacortes: Adrift - seafood/burger restaurant. Excellent food. Keith had the crab au gratin. I had coconut green curry catfish. Sounds weird, I know, but the flavors were subtle and fabulous. Key Lime (the real thing) tart for dessert. Mmmm. We're going back.

Next up: San Juans, the PFD fix, Rosario Resort and wildlife!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Book Photos

This is an edit (with corrections in the original text) of a previos post. I'd hoped that Blogger would be smart enough *not* to publish it as new...apparently, it's not. Sorry.
Science Fiction and Fantasy author, Noel-Anne Brennan with a tricky, reverse-bound copy of Enemy Games...or maybe the photo was taken in a mirror...whichever entertains you more. She preferred to suggest that aliens delivered her copy to her.

This is Sammy in Texas with her copy of the book. Did someone tell her I'd modeled the hero on one of my felines?
True friendship is reading a book one of your pals wrote, even when it's in a genre you don't like. This is Faye from California. She's a voracious reader and she has as many cats as I do. Some of hers are even more neurotic than mine. Is it any wonder we're friends?

And this is Cosmo. He's 18 and very dear to my heart. He belongs to Carol White. Kind of her to let him read the book first. Does he dog-ear pages, Carol? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Poulsbo to Oak Harbor

Keith at the helm, consulting his copilot. Note the blue skies. We were coming out of Poulsbo, headed north to the port of Everett.

Here's a close up of our copilot, Madam Erie. That's her basket beside the helm station. She's at her post every single morning, ready and willing to help manage the difficult task of sleeping through all the rough spots and of demanding belly rubs at critical navigational challenges. She's a true professional.
The Agate Passage bridge connects the Kitsap Peninsula and Bainbridge Island. It's a narrow passage and the currents can get pretty tough through here, but it's a walk in the park in comparison to some of the narrow spots we'll navigate further north. See our sails all still furled? See how smooth the water is? Yeah. Not a breath of wind.
This is coming into Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. You'll notice that just 24 hours after the photo above, we're back to slate skies and occasional rain. It's still pretty.
The town of Oak Harbor. It's tucked back up in a very shallow bay. Getting in is a bit dicey. The channel is narrow and dog legs a few times. In this gray, foggy weather, it's sometimes hard to see channel markers from far away and I like to see channel markers from far away. Really. Getting into harbor was a two person and binoculars navigation job. Bonus: Keith found a Chinese restaurant that delivered to the marina.

There are two channel markers in this photo - one red, one green. If you click on the photo, it may enlarge for you and make it easier to see them. We have to go between those channel markers. This is as we're leaving Oak Harbor the next morning. We'll take the red marker to port (we'll pass on the right hand side of the marker, taking it to our left). Cutting that marker means running aground on that point that seems so very far away from where the piling sticks up out of the water. We go slowly through here and watch the depth sounder to make certain we're keeping to the channel. This is habit, paranoia and best-practice. Our boat has dagger boards that will kick up if we touch bottom. Great feature - we go from drawing 6' of water to drawing 2'. But depending on what you 'touch' and on how fast you're going when you do it, you can damage the boat. Other sailboats with a fixed keel can do significant damage running aground. The lucky ones go aground in mud. The unlucky ones hit rock. And there's a saying about running aground. "There are those of us who have and those of us who will."

Next up (tomorrow, when I'm not falling asleep at my keyboard) photos from Cornet Bay, the aborted run on Deception Pass, and the diversion to Anacortes following the accidental inflation of my life vest.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Release Day

 Here it is. The Silverdale, WA Barnes and Noble didn't know quite what had hit it. My mom, my husband and my entire critique group (they drove an hour to get to us!) descended in search of Enemy Games. We found eight copies in the romance section. I asked (and received) permission to take a photo or two. So Darcy redecorated the shelves - all with Enemy Games. Just for this shot. Really. We put it all back!

Then off to Red Robin for a bite of lunch - one last hurrah before DH and I sail north tomorrow morning with the tide. From the left - Marcella, Tina, Darcy and Lisa. These ladies worked hard helping keep me on track. Not pictured in the group, Melinda and DeeAnna - move away will you? :D They worked hard keeping me on task, too and we missed not having them with us.

From Florida, Lizz and Goat the Foldie model a copy of Enemy Games.

Brenda sent photos of her copy, downloaded to her Nook Color.

It's been a great release day. Thank you to everyone who has Tweeted, sent Facebook messages, emailed, texted or otherwise called. On to book three! Working title: Enemy Storm.