"Oh Joy" coming home trip part 1
We left Elliot Bay with Gale Warnings up for the Admiralty Inlet and points North, bound for Skyline Marina on Fidalgo Island and the new home for "Oh Joy" at 10:30. We'd pulled the babystay to make flying the 135 easier and had it, the main and mizzen full up and donned our PFD's. We stood out on a beam reach in 15 knots of wind and were cruising along at 6.8 to 7.6 (surfing along the wave faces) while enjoying seeing about 30 sailing yachts playing over by Bainbridge. We did see one big, beautiful old yawl on a reciprical course but mostly plastic boats.
We had to short tack a bit to avoid a tug and skirted along the mainland on a broad reach with 50's and 60's CD's blaring. Jeesh what a smooth sail. Gybing back out into the Inlet we noted 3-4' waves on the beam. We centered up and gybed to 305* and ran by Shilshole about a mile out and watched a new collection of yachts finishing a race as the wind and waves started building. As the wind and waves came up I steered on a broad reach to relieve helm pressure. We also tried running but didn't much care for the motion, kinda like a drunk whore on Sunday.
As we came up on Whidbey, I could feel the winds blowing through the back of my hoodie and hear the rig moaning. The number of whitehorse was increasing as was the wave size, probably up to 5-6' by now. I'd sent my Son Antjuan below for a nap and he'd taken the starboard settee berth. We were seeing an average of 7.8 with bursts to 9.6 while surfing the quartering seas. The cycle was like this. You'd feel the stern push to leeward as the wave built and you'd have to bend back, pushing with your legs and use your back to keep on course. As the wave settle in the boat speed would increase, the helm go nuetral and you'd just enjoy the ride. As the wave passed you'd hear it breaking under the boat and the helm would pull hard to windward for a bit.
One particularly large wave pushed us onto a beam reach. As we were flying along on the face of this wave like we were in the Bonzai Pipeline, I was amazed at how strong the winds were now. I was full right rudder and the boat was just pinned on that wave front and wasn't coming off. I hollered to James, my experienced hand that we were gonna round up and reef, put the tiller hard over, jumped that wave, landed in the trough only to bury the bow 'neath the next wave. James went forward, as we pounded into 6' seas and 30+, to furl the 135, reattach the baby stay and hank on the staysail. We got the staysail up, put a single reef in the main, doused the mizzen and turned back on course. In the meantime, Twan was snoozing below, heard the slam of our landing, felt like he was floating, opened his eyes to find himself in the port berth. He'd flown across the boat from berth to berth. He went back to sleep.
After James had a break below, I took a break from the helm, woke Twan and had some lunch. The conditions had gotten worse as we made towards Useless Bay and it took both James and Twan to hold course against the wave pressure. Once we were abaft of Fort Casey, I decided it was a good idea to push on as the GPS was dying (12v outlets were dead) and it was getting dark. Not a good time to go into a strange marina with an entrance that faced to winward. I decided that Port Townsend was our best bet.
We tacked onto a beam reach, only to find that the wind was even higher and the seas were at 8-10' now. We closed up the house and put her on her beam on a screaming reach across the inlet with the rail buried to the tops of the stancions and green water sluicing by the cockpit coaming at god knows what speed. I can tell ya it felt as fast or faster than any of the 9-10 knot surfing we had done earlier. As we came into the lee of Marrowstone Is, we got a break and I took one myself. Unfortunately, it didn't last long and as we came out of the shadow, we saw the worst conditions of the trip.
Still reaching for Hudson Point we ran into 42 knots gusting to 60 with wave hieghts of 12'. Now, I've surfed plenty of times with following seas but I didn't know it was possible to surf along a wave front at lord knows what speed while moving at wave speed to leeward on the wave and not roll the boat. It made for a hairy, fast ride. Once we spied a marina (I'd never been here before and James couldn't recall where anything was) we decided to round up and douse.
I fired up the 50HP Perkins set at WOT, sheeted out all the way and around we went. *******!, felt like a slot car in a corner as we came around and into those black, big-assed waves. James went forward to duse the staysail and I sent Twan to the mast for the main. I saw the Kingston ferry going by ahead as we pounded into the piss. It looked like scenes from "The Deadliest Catch" up there. We'd pound into a wave, I'd wait a sec, duck, get pummeled with spray and then look back up to drive while white water cascaded by the cockpit coaming. While keeping an eye on the crew, the waves and the ferry, I noticed the ferry trying to leave the dock. He got maybe 200' out and couldn't go any further so he went back to the dock.
Now that the guys had doused, I spun us around and ran along with quartering seas looking for the entrance. All I saw was rock breakwater getting closer and as we rounded the point, just more rock. I turned back around and pounded back into the wind and waves, clawing off the breakwater until I found the entrance, all 20-30 feet of it between big nasty rocks and dead downwind. With the guys standing on the house, hanging onto the main and the now sheeted boom, I stood up to see while surfing a wave at 9+ through the gap into the marina. We set right down in calmer water, through it in reverse and took 200' or so to stop. Thankfully, there were 7 people on a slip, who'd watched us battle all the way from Whidbey, waiting to help. That was a good thing as I lost reverse while lining up and had to spin her around and charge around the slip corner to make her fast.
Ok, talk about sea legs. I stumbled around worse than that drunk ho on Sunday mornin' while checking the lines. No damage or injuries with the exception of the main halyard bitter end being foulded below on something. I gotta get a diver to get it loose. I went to a gorgeous yacht next door for a brew on invitation and found those folks had been toweed in after losing their engine. Afterwards, I went back and cooked a nice pizza for the crew (first meal on the "Oh Joy") and went my ass to bed.
In retrospec, there are somethings I'd do different.
A. I'd reef or douse in that wind shadow so as not to expose my crew to conditions like we faced.
B. Staysail downhaul without a doubt.
C. I'd sheet out the main to shadow the 135 while offwind and furl it that way.
Would I sail in those conditions again? Hell yes! The boat never felt out of control and if we'd had less canvas up, she'd sail in most anything. It's kinda funny. When all the plastic fantasics go home, we're just starting to have fun. I'll get what pics I have of this trip up as soon as I can. Now we get to finish the trip this Wednesday, just myself and Twan in much more benign conditions.