June on the Hook – Day 8 – Sucia Island
Making tea, eating oatmeal, doing dishes, writing in the log, rolling up the bedding, checking the weather, changing my underwear; these morning cruising rituals don’t vary much from being in the home port. My first main task of the day, would be to re-provision. The romance of island living is real but it is not without its costs. Most food is imported. If it is locally grown, its production and producers still rely heavily on imported goods. My original plan was to go to King’s Market up on Spring Street in downtown Friday Harbor due to convenience and familiarity, however, Jenevieve afforded me the local knowledge about The Marketplace, which while a little farther away, is a proper grocery store. I was up for the walk and the forced exercise, as a 20ft boat does not offer much room to stretch out. It turned out to be an excellent and satisfying adventure. I was able to fill up my back pack with delicious and fresh foods at the maximum value, with the big score being lamb steaks. On an island, seafood usually comes to mind, but the island of San Juan, where Friday Harbor is located, has a long tradition of sheep farming dating back to the Hudson Bay Company and pre-Pig War days.
With my last main shore task finished, my provisions stored and check out from the marina approaching, I prepared for departure. A fair wind was blowing in the harbor, so I decided to revert to my engineless ways. Well, sort of. In the spirit of prudent caution, I did start the motor, I just never engaged it. I raised the main, warped the boat off the dock, hopped on and sailed out of the marina. Once outside, I shut the motor down, raised the jib and was on my way to Sucia Island, one of the northern most islands in the San Juans and one of Washington State’s most popular marine parks. The weather forecast was calling for a storm to come in with strong south winds in a couple of days, so my plan was to go to Shallow Bay on the west side of Sucia Island where I would have good protection, hunker down and ride it out. Seeing as I had never been there, this was still theory, but you have to give these things a go if you are going to spread our wings.
Once out of Friday Harbor and in San Juan Channel, the wind became fickle. I suspect this was due to topography and microclimates and not natures personal joke on me. If it was personal, two other sailboats were paying the price too. I changed out the jib for the genoa and we intermittently ghosted along with a bit of help from the flood current, which had just turned, with time passing in the way it does on a sailboat. The scenery barely changes and you constantly make small adjustments in the effort to maximize the little wind you are getting. Under these circumstances, time seems to drag, until you realize that it hasn’t. It’s something I have not gotten completely used to. It is so easy to get hungry or dehydrated because you think since you are going nowhere, that time too is standing still. I have to consciously take drinks of water and eat so that I don’t find myself in a bad space from neglect.
As I approached Jones Island I considered pulling into its north bay or heading over to Deer Harbor because of the lack of progress. Then I thought that I might possibly get some fair current if I went through Spring Passage between Jones and Orcas Island. In the grand scheme of the Salish Sea, the flood waters are moving from the Straight of Juan de Fuca to the Straight of Georgia and the San Juan Islands are in the way. The main channels flow on the east and the west sides of the islands and the tide fills into the islands from all directions. This fill-in current was now inhibiting me from getting north and the wind was not being a big help. If I could get far enough north to get in the sweep of the tide in the northerly direction then the light winds and current would both be favorable and we might get somewhere. The Spring Passage tactic worked as the piled up water pushed north around Orcas Island. The wind from the west varied from on the beam and the stern which kept me moving to the northeast.
Sucia Island and Passing Around the Reef
As I reached the top of Orcas Island, the wind filled in from the southeast and with the genoa still up, the sailing became quite brisk. If this held, it looked as if I would make it just in time for the sunset. I had heard Shallow Bay was an optimal place for viewing such celestial events. It was a long day and I still had the reef to the west of Little Sucia island to avoid. The tide was high and it was covered, but I could see the tide rips and upwelling. You are never quite certain what the depths are and where the current will sweep you. The SE wind was optimal for this pilotage and the challenge was to stay as close to the rhumb line as possible without going over the reef. Using the handheld GPS unit, I kept the boat going due north along a specific longitudinal reading, until I had reached a target latitude, where I could comfortably continue northeast to Shallow Bay. The entrance to Shallow Bay is buoyed and narrow, but I was able to sail close hauled straight in and after a few short tacks, drop the anchor just to the south of the WSP mooring buoys in about 18ft of water and let out 90 ft of scope.
The Sunset and a Boat Passing Through the Channel Buoys. The buoy in the foreground is a mooring buoy.
Stats: TO – 19.67NM, MS – 6.9kt, MA – 2.7kt, TT – 7hr 25min, AD ~18ft, AS – 90ft
Misc.: Left a note for the owner of Pinguoin, the Flicka at FH; Lamb steaks and sunset for dinner; worked to get the right combination of small line on the top pintle and gudgeon of the rudder to keep it from “clunking” from the wave action at anchor; Engine time – 12min, idle only.