Sunday, May 25, 2014

Using the boats instead of working on them!

By Jeff

Spring is here and summer is on it’s way.  I’m feeling fortunate to have work lined up through September, and it will all keep me in Bellingham.  The best part is that all the projects have “soft” deadlines, so there’s plenty of flexibility in the schedules.  This means that on Thursday evenings we’ll be pulling out on either Sugaree or Kwaietek and returning Sunday evenings.  Chris and I also have a two week trip through the Gulf Islands planned for while Juliet is travelling this summer.

After a winter of maintenance projects it’s nice to be coming into the part of the year where we get to use the boats.  We’ve managed to get Sugaree out almost every week now and Zeta goes for a quick daysail three or four times a week.  We’ve been keeping her tied next to Kwaietek, rigged and ready to go.  It’s about three minutes between saying “Let’s go for a spin around the breakwater”, to sails up and heading out.  We’re also starting to have friends take us up on our offers to go sailing or use the boats when we aren’t.  

Yesterday Jackie and John came up from Seattle to take Sugaree out for a shakedown trip. They’ve taken an RYA cruising course and are checked off to bareboat charter in the Bahamas.  We’ve been offering to let them take Sugaree out in the islands and they’ve scheduled their summer to take advantage of the offer.  Toward that end, they wanted a few opportunities to take Sugaree out with us to become familiar with the boat.

We started by walking them through the rig and systems, and prep the boat to depart.  Leaving the dock with John in control we spent an hour practicing close quarters maneuvering around some of the empty slips.  There was a South wind at 15-20 knots, which made for some challenging docking situations.  It only took them a few tries to get the feel for the boat, learn her idiosyncrasies and become comfortable.  Jackie took her turn and then we slid in alongside Kwaietek long enough to pick up Chris, coffee and cookies.
Clearing the breakwater we opted to leave the main furled and tack out under mizzen and genoa alone.  In a good blow, Sugaree handles beautifully reefed down like this.  We were comfortable, upright and making a solid four knots and Jackie and John started to familiarize themselves with Sugaree under sail.  We worked our way out into Bellingham Bay and and hour later had covered half the distance to Chuckanut Bay.  As the wind eased, we set the main and enjoyed another good hour working our way south.

As we closed on Chuckanut I walked Jackie and John forward to show them the groundtackle.  Once they felt comfortable with that, we worked our way into Pleasant Bay, on the south end of Chuckanut.  The winds grew increasingly fluky and variable we pushed into the lee to the head, forcing us to go through several planned and unplanned tacks.  Once inside the bay with the hook and sails down we settled into lunch.

A couple of great pulled pork sandwiches (thanks Jackie!) and a beer later, we set about pulling the hook and sailing out.  As Chris showed Jackie how to back the mizzen to force Sugaree to fall off John set the genoa and I winched in the last few fathoms of chain.  Ghosting out of the bay we set the main and worked clear of Governor’s Point.  Back out into the wind, we settled into a nice broad reach for home.  As we cleared Post Point and made the turn for the marina we jibed the main over and ran wing on wing north.  Jackie and John traded places at the helm as I answered their questions about how Sugaree likes to be trimmed and handled.
Chris and Jackie relaxing on the run home.

Chris had decided after clearing out of Chuckanut that she was now a passenger, so she eased back into her seat, closed her eyes and enjoyed the ride home.  About a quarter mile out from the marina we set fenders and docklines and fired up the engine for the final game.  Rounding up, Jackie and I dropped the main and John fell off again, setting for the South Entrance.  With just a little guidance John sailed us in the entrance and ran down to our fairway.  As we rounded up towards our slip Jackie dropped the genoa, we sheeted in the mizzen and with one bump from the engine John eased Sugaree into place like a pro.

In a total of seven hours, we’d done maneuvering practice, sailed 13 nm and dropped the hook for and hour’s lunch.  Jackie and John had become familiar and comfortable handling the boat.  I enjoyed the opportunity to teach again and Chris relaxed and had a good ride.  All in all a productive day.