Every year Round the County delivers one of the best racing experiences in the Pacific Northwest. The weather in November almost guarantees some challenging conditions. Combine that with the amazing geography of the San Juan Islands and you have all the ingredients for some great fun sorting out tactics and strategy. This year the weather was dominated by mild, light wind conditions so knowing when and where to stay out of the current was the key to doing well. It also generally favored the lighter boats that accelerate quickly in light, puffy conditions. On Kinetics we had some new and veteran crew ready to do our best with the mighty beast.
We failed to stay out of the current enough on Saturday fearing a lack of wind under the lee of Lopez Island after a late start. That put us way down in our division 3 which was dominated by the J105’s that day. The wind was a bit too light to get the big Nordic 44 moving well. On the plus side, we finished and the weather was really nice with sailing in water with almost no chop or swell of any kind.
After an excellent start on Sunday, hitting line within seconds of the horn, we sailed out to Turn Point on Stuart Island where the entire fleet went about trying to find the best way around in an adverse current and light wind. Ultimately it was decided to short tack around the point. Others went way outside in what looked like a visit to Canada. Amazingly, the cross border people did OK and for the boat Sir Issac, it was a brilliant move putting them way out front. That boat has a lot of sail area!
The next few hours of the day were spent struggling to stay out of wind holes that seemed to land on us from out of nowhere. A lot of boats went south after Waldron Island and others stayed out in the channel. There was current in the channel and without enough wind to keep us moving we fell behind. Soon it was looking bleak for us. We went from good to awful. But maybe not as bad as the ones that got 5 horns from the container ship!
However, never give up in a sailboat race as you never know what the winds have in store. As we approached the turn around the east end of Orcas Island the wind started to build and we were soon gybing downwind with the A2 at a decent pace. We picked off a few boats in the process. The big surprise was when we passed the Peapods and saw the majority of the fleet parked up short of the finish in zero wind! Kinetics was riding a wall of wind, at times 15 knots or more, right down to them. It was hard to believe. I had trouble figuring out what they were all doing as boats were trying to get to the finish line from the north and the south but almost no one was going right at the line. Time Bandit came up to us from astern and was soon really the only boat close. Time Bandit being a very successful team from many previous races was probably wondering why we were in their way!
We hooked up with them, letting them go below to lead the gybe in (although I grumbled a bit about the timing). The two of us rode the wind right up to about 100 feet short of the line where the wind died. Our momentum carried us across the line in front of what I suspect were some very surprised crews. Unbelievable finish. Lucky? I guess so but we worked hard to get to that spot that got us over the line and we had our own bad luck on the way there. Some days it goes your way.
Many thanks to my crew this year who persevered and helped make this RTC one of the most memorable. Thanks, Ann, Dave, Jeff, Jenn, Mike, Sara and Tim. Below are links to more photos.
A fun new addition to my post is Jeff’s YouTube 360 video with our start and finish. Use your mouse to view the action in any direction!
Checked into the Van Isle Marina just north of Sydney in Tsehum Harbor. Very nice marina and a super helpful staff at the fuel dock. Took a short walk around and the facilities are first class. I’m tucked in between boats that look rather expensive. I’m hoping the behemoth of a power boat across the dock gives up the only water spigot in sight so I can fill my tanks. That thing must hold a few thousand gallons of water! They probably have a hot tub and shower twice a day.
Unfortunately I have determined my beleaguered raw water pump is now leaking at the shaft seal and I don’t dare take it apart again without another to replace it. Summer Canadian cruise over. I will start the trek home in the morning. Between boat issues and the wildfires with all their smoke I think it is time. It was a good run considering I almost had to turn back before I had hardly started. I will have to visit Butchart Gardens another time.
August 15, 2018
Six days since I had cell service good enough to upload photos and update this post. The big news is the fires in BC and all the smoke. The past few days have been progressively getting worse. At first it looked like just haze but that orange tint was telling. Today is slightly better but after a hike around Sydney Island’s Sydney Spit park I could feel it in my lungs. The forecast is for some improvement by week’s end but then more of the same next week. I’m seriously considering calling it quits early and heading home. The fires are all over BC and I suspect it could be weeks before it gets any better. I will make a stop at Butchart Gardens on Friday and see what it looks like for the weekend.
Since the last update I’ve been to Clam Bay which would have been nice but the weather was cool, cloudy and the smoke was moving in. Just wasn’t feeling that good so moved on quickly. My cruising buddies, Dan and Irene were heading for Montague Harbor for some margaritas so that sounded good. It was nice but again the smoke, weather and crowds didn’t resonate. Moving again we headed over to Ganges to stock up on supplies and I wanted to see the town. I like Ganges as a place to stop and resupply. Easy access to food, stores and so forth. The fuel dock looked like a no go for me so I passed on fueling up. The smoke was getting really bad so after catching the Farmer’s Market on Tuesday afternoon which was the best one I have been to in a long time we pulled anchor the next day.
I want to see Butchart Gardens while I am up here and you can do that by anchoring out near one of their entrances and going ashore in the dinghy. Dan and Irene wanted to stop at Sydney Island so I figured I would see that with them and go to the Gardens after that as they are heading back to the US. It has been really fun hopping around the islands with them. We went to some places they have never been and they showed me the ins and outs of cruising this part of Canada.
Have not been to inspired to take photos because of all the smoke but here are some from the past few days.
August 9, 2018
Here in Nanaimo with cell service so I can upload some pics from the last stop at Valdes Island Marine Park. I met up with Irene and Dan there where we slipped through Gabriola Pass and into Dogfish Cove between Valdes and Kendrick Island (it’s tiny and claimed by the West Vancouver Yacht Club). Very pretty spot and room for just a few boats. The marine park is the northern end of Valdes Island and undeveloped but there are some existing roads to walk. It was nice and a first time visit for all of us and then we were off to Hornby Island the next day, a 5 hour trip north.
Hornby Island. A cool spot to visit and as far north as I will go this year. It is very popular and we estimated at solid 60 boats in Tribune Bay one evening. It is a large bay and during the day the big sandy beach is buzzing with Canadians and other tourists here to enjoy one of the best beaches for swimming (water was 72) in BC. The Island has a hippy vibe. A campground nearby plus all the boaters makes this a great place for families. This week has been a hot one. It seems we’re in a heat wave here in the PNW and it sure feels hot, even on the water. The only negative for me here is the mosquitos found me. I visited the little co-op, which is well stocked, and bought some window screen to fashion temporary bug screens on my ports and hatches. Since I got mega zapped in Mexico I seem to be sensitive to the bites and swell up nicely!
The stay here in Nanaimo will be brief. Too many boats in too little space. Too noisy. Too smelly. Anchoring in crowded bays with boats of various sizes and different anchoring hardware is a bit too much work. I always seem to, despite trying, fail to get it right when I have to crowd in. My all chain setup and boat often end up sliding up next to some small boat on all rope requiring me to pick and move. We’re out of here. The Dinghy Dock Pub music trivia night was a riot though. Here are a couple pics from Valdes Island.
August 4, 2018
Ladysmith Days! It was parade day in Ladysmith so I hiked up to town to see the sights and watch a parade. I walked First Street for the better part of the historic portion and then some. Some well preserved early 1900’s buildings in use by businesses was nice to see with a few waiting for someone to find a new use for them. This reminded me a lot of Winslow on Bainbridge Island and the parades they have there each year featuring a lot of community spirit. I had a nice conversation with a gentleman that works for the Maritime Society and he provided some interesting local color. I found a cool used book store and picked up a copy of How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone for $2 Canadian. I even found a nice crepe and coffee shop for lunch on my way back to the marina. I’m glad I stopped here. Nice marina, interesting town with a good deal of hitstory built on the labor of natural resource extraction and processing.
August 3, 2018
Finally have some cell service here in Ladysmith, B.C. so this is a long post. Stopping over in the Ladysmith Community Marina for a couple nights to resupply, charge the batteries, put a bigger hole in the raw water intake screen, do some laundry and see the sights. This town is an active logging center here on Vancouver Island. Tomorrow I will hike (up the hill) into town which is supposed to be frozen quite a few decades in the past. Photos to come on that. Turns out they are having a 3 day celebration with parades, music and more this weekend. I was lucky to get a slip. The marina is nice with all the amenities in good repair, clean and close. The Oyster Bay cafe served up a tasty veggie wrap. The two washer and two dryer laundry room was also very clean and I won’t have to wash things in the sink for a few weeks.
The nearby hardware store provided me with a 12″ long 3/8″ drill that I used to pop a big hole in the perforated plate that was clearly limiting my engine raw water intake flow. Just adding that 3/8″ hole turned the flow from a anemic burble to an enthusiastic gusher! Fingers crossed this may also solve my long running, mysterious steaming exhaust output. It looked like the previous flow was not enough to keep up with the demand of the water pump which might have caused the exhaust to be getting too hot and generate steam. I won’t know until I am able to run the engine at cruise under load.
Now backing up a few days, on leaving Spencer Spit things got interesting in a bad way. That day was one that might have ended my trip if not for some very good fortune and help from the best neighbors ever.
Within the first 30 minutes of departure I noticed my charging system did not seem to be working. With my battery bank already low from days at anchor this was not good. I made a quick stop in the next bay to have a look. I tried the backup regulator with no success. Clearly no amps going into the batteries. My intention was to go to Friday Harbor and hopefully get a slip or dock space that day anyway. Off I went. Within 10 minutes I hit a 10 foot floating log. All indications are the only damage was to my mental state. At some point I sent a text message to my neighbors Dan and Irene. They were already in the San Juan Islands but the important part is that Dan is a retired marine electrician. A really good one. They encouraged me to make my stop at Friday Harbor and just continue on to meet them at Stuart Island and let Dan diagnose the problem. He felt confident we could sort it out.
After finding Friday Harbor to be a madhouse of boats all looking for space I did a quick anchor out (after going aground momentarily while trying to find a spot!). I took the dinghy in and walked up to the store for what I needed (almost everything) and returned to a disgruntled fellow boater I had anchor too close to. Sorry about that. Up anchor and out of that zoo!
I reached Stuart Island, a favorite of mine from a previous trip, at the same time as Dan and Irene. We sorted our anchoring out and had a beer to unwind. With the engine cooled down Dan came over and he checked things over and confirmed that the alternator was not producing any output. Dang.
Hang on. His next suggestion is that I pull it off and we tear it apart on his back deck! Sure, why not. Irene made a great meal for us all and then I learned at lot in a couple hours about how these things work. It is one thing to read about it but much better to actually tear them apart and see it for real. Turns out the brushes, as he suspected were the problem. One was so worn it has come out of the holder and was no longer making full contact with the armature. An hour of tweaking, careful sanding and reassembly and I was back on my boat putting it all back together hoping this might get it working. If not, getting a replacement alternator was going to put me into a marina for several days waiting for one to be delivered to an island via float plane.
Started the engine up and bam, it worked. The output was still not 100% but it was charging at least and I was now at least not going to be dead flat in a day or so. Dan is the man.
The next day we get together and talk about what to do next. I’m prepared to figure out how to get a new one sent ahead somewhere that I can pick it up. However, Dan has a very generous offer to keep me going until I get back to Seattle. He happens to have a backup alternator, a spare, on board that he is willing to donate the brushes from. With new brushes I should be good to go until I can have mine rebuilt at home. Their boat has a killer solar system and they rarely need engine charging. He assures me even if he needs the spare he can borrow parts from the failed one to get the spare running and I tell him I will fly in parts wherever he needs them if that happens. What a relief it is to not have to head back or deal with ordering something and all the hassle. THANK YOU Dan and Irene!
Dan and Irene’s friends Axel and Daphne arrive at Stuart the next day and we all have a great time. The hike to the Turn Point Lighthouse is always nice.
Next stop we all agree is Canada! Deciding it would be fun to go to Montague Harbor as a group we depart together on 7/31. They go via Bedwell to check in to Customs and I use my CanPass and go direct.
Montague Harbor is on Galiano Island (named after a surveyor and map maker). It is a picturesque place with room for a lot of boats and a campground at the north end of the harbor. It is best known by boaters for its Pub Bus which takes people up the hill to a nice restaurant. The bus is driven by Tommy and he is the entertainment playing percussion with one hand and steering with the other. Everyone on the bust gets some kind of percussion instrument to play along with a stream of tunes on 15 minute ride. It was a blast and our bus was full. Not surprising as the harbor was equally full. The unexpected SE winds had driven in a lot of people looking for refuge.
I have a lot of pictures accumulating but the internet is still a bit slow so I will only be able to load a few now and hope I can add some later.
July 27, 2108
After a few very nice days in Hunter Bay I decided it was time to move on. I had no luck crabbing. Everything I pulled up was undersized. In a way, I was relieved by not having to kill and clean them. I am growing more conflicted about eating animals of any kind. The pressure we put on the fishery is too great I fear. This picture of Hunter Bay looks like so many other bays but it is a nice place for just stopping and relaxing I think. The only negative here is the water is muddy despite its blue appearance here.
I wanted to see Spencer Spit which is just a few miles North. I have. A bit crowded, as I expected, and the anchorage is rolly from all the power boat wakes. I went ashore to get some exercise and took a few snaps. The water on the North side of the Spit is clear as you can see in the first image below. The water on the South side is muddy and brown like it was in Hunter Bay. The last image in this set is the salt marsh on the Spit.
I’m ready to move on in the morning when the fog lifts.
July 25, 2018
Finally out of Port Townsend hanging off the hook in a quiet bay on Lopez Island in the southern end of Lopez Sound. The weather is about as perfect as it gets. I’m settling into not having an agenda. No plans. No timetable. Reading, listening to music, fixing some nice food and doing a little boat work. Yep. I actually started painting some of the non-skid today. I wanted to do it before I left but the anchor windlass project took all my time. With the perfect weather and no agenda it is the ideal time to spend an hour or two each day working my way around the boat. The first two sections look great.
Being out on the water away from the city is an amazingly wonderful feeling. We really need to take radically better care of this planet.
Uploading photos is slow using the intermittent cell phone service but here are few more from earlier in the week.
July 22, 2018
With a gap in project work and a spectacular Northwest Summer staring me in the face I saw no better time than to take off in the boat for the San Juan and Gulf Islands until I get bored or there is work. After installing a new windlass (not planned of course) I made my departure on July 20th under sunny skies, perfect weather and a favorable tide. Within a few hours I was anchored off the waterfront of Port Townsend, WA. Lot’s to like about this town and it is a great stopover for timing the crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Despite what I think is careful maintenance of Kinetics I have failed somewhere in the engine department. I find myself stranded and waiting for a water pump impeller to arrive on Monday. Sadly, I never noticed the spare that came with the boat was oh so deceptively wrong and failed to save the day. I must have missed changing the impeller on schedule and the existing one has become feeble. That or I haven’t found the root cause of the anemic water flow I see exiting the stern despite pulling almost every hose off the cooling system. Boat mysteries are something I have now come to accept. They just are.
So in the meantime I enjoy the beautiful weather, read, relax and take a few pictures. I am finally getting around to reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the driving force behind the company Patagonia. I like it and recommend it. We need more companies like Patagonia before it’s too late.
The race of the year here in the NW for a lot of people is Round the County and we made it again. Barely. The top end of the Universal engine got rebuilt after a total failure just a week before departure. The crew pitched in with the repair work and moving sails to make it happen. Added some new people to the roster that were a great addition and I think everyone had a great time.
Rented a house for the first time this year which was great. It made life so much better on Saturday night for a crew of eight. Nice dinner, hot showers and some comfortable quarters to relax and discuss our day’s efforts. Turns out we did rather well considering it was a light air day. The wind was light but never completely gone and that is what works for the big Nordic 44. If you can keep momentum up it will glide from puff to puff. We watched the boats ahead and did our best to avoid the places where they were parked up. It was an evening for celebration.
I managed to be over early for the first time ever and had to clear the line and restart. I figured that was going to be the end of our day so I was very happy to see we managed a good come back with great crew work from everyone. The start was wild with a crazy move by a big Beneteau making a dive in on port tack at the committee boat forcing several of us to dive out of the way and then yell for them to come up. That pretty much forced us to go up and over the rest of the fleet now heading towards the line. Who barges on port tack? I hope they learned something in the process and no one got hit thanks to some good boat handling by the rest of the fleet.
Sunday dawned a bit on the gloomy side and the forecast had left me uncertain of the best call for headsail choice. It was light but gusty in Mosquito pass so we hung on to the #1 thinking it would be light enough that we’d need it to get out the starting area. Unfortunately, the wind just kept building and we were quickly over powered and falling behind. I chose to reef the main rather than switch to the #3 thinking it might go light soon but again, I guessed wrong. We fell further behind and eventually had to go to the #3. We were now out of touch with our division and unsure of going into the beach or staying out. We ultimately started gaining back some time but it was too late. We got caught in a wind hole just after Salmon bank and had to put up the drifter to get out of it. That thing really works! We now call it the “weather changer”. We soon had to pull it down and go back to the #1.
Rounding Lopez the wind was up and the rain was starting to fall. Finally on a beam reach we launched the A3 for the long run up Rosario to the finish. The rain and the wind kept building and soon we were ripping along in 20-25 knots of wind. We had to dump the main a few times but never wiped out. We slowly reeled in another boat in our class but it was nearly race over and dark by then. With the light gone, the finish all but invisible, I elected to drop the kite and unfurl the #1. Just didn’t feel safe bombing downwind with smaller boats around us in those conditions flying a kite. Not worth it to place second from last instead of last in division. The finish in the dark, wind and rain was not fun but we got it done. Pretty sure everyone was as relieved as I was to have it over and get on the way back to Anacortes.
Another exciting RTC, the 30th edition, according to the tee shirt. We’ll be back next year for a CCW lap and hopefully do well BOTH days this time!
Our first Round the County is in the books. It was exactly what I had heard RTC’s could be. A little of everything and a bit rough. Overall we performed well for our first effort. There is a lot involved in this kind of race. It starts long before the race weekend. The crew eagerly took on assignments from boat prep, logistics to meal planning and shopping. I could not have done this without their help. In another way, I owe this race to my mother. She passed away just two weeks prior. We knew she nearing the end but the timing allowed me to go. I know she would have wanted me to do this. I thought of her often over the weekend. Fair winds and following seas mom.
There are a couple nice write ups of the race which I will link to and keep my comments here focused on our experiences and what we learned. There is one here and one here. The always excellent photos from Jan’s Marine Photography are here.
We did the transit up from Seattle to Anacortes, Cap Sante Marina on Friday the 6th. The weather was decent and we sailed most of the way on a broad reach with the new #1 up doing 10+ knots. We had a bit of an “oh crap” moment on the way into the marina though. Managed to snag a crab or shrimp pot and wrapped the prop. Lost reverse and had to limp in. Fortunately we were able to get Jim from Bottom Time Divers out to unwind it all. Thanks Jim! No damage and we had a green light for the weekend. The party seems to have moved to Anacortes as there were a lot of boats in the marina for the race. It is a nice marina and the Anacortes YC puts on a nice event too (although I never made it because of the boat issues).
Up early Saturday for the ride to Lydia Shoals. It was clear pretty quickly we were in for a wet and windy day. The forecast was for 20-30K out of the SE and that was what we got. While circling for the start (we were division 3 so part of the first group to go) a shackle pin worked out of one of the main sheet blocks on the boom. Great timing. I dove below and managed to find the right replacement shackle on my second try and we were back in business with 10 minutes to go. We hoisted the #3 and made for the start. We crossed the line a 5 minutes late. Oh well. We made it. The angles were wrong for the kite so we drove up to the first left turn around Orcas but by then we were seeing quite a few boats crashing and burning with kites up. The crew wasn’t volunteering to rig the kite and I don’t blame them. The waves were picking up and the boat was moving around a lot. The consequences of a screw up with the kite were going to be high so we decided the better plan was to ride it out with the #3 and live to fight on Sunday. As it was, we still saw speeds over 12 as we surfed off the backs of waves. The boat was a bit out of balance and required real concentration. We swapped out helmspeople a few times; going below to warm up. Yes, we have heat, comfy seats, and hot beverages down below. Continue reading “RTC 2015”