The Grand Adventure, part 1

I know, I know.... it has been a LONG time since my last post.... I won't go into all the details, but things have been very busy for me, and, I guess I got a bit lazy....

 But, Lest you think that all I do is work on Dulcinea, I figured a couple of posts are in order that show me actually sailing her!  When I bought her, I mentally made a goal that I wanted to cruise the San Juan Islands, Particularly Sucia, the "Crown Jewel" of the San Juans.  At that time, it seemed pretty far fetched, and a long way to go on a single handed trip, but none the less, it stayed in the back of my mind.  This summer (2014), I decided to make it a reality!

Now, the first thing you should know about this summer's sailing season is that I was not on Dulcinea a great deal, due to major Upgrades to 2 critical systems at work, and my being cast in "young Frankenstein", the summer production at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. I don't normally do summer shows, but I couldn't resist this one, having been offered two of the funniest roles in the show, namely Inspector Kemp, and the Blind Hermit.

Inspector Kemp - "vate, vate, let's not jump to conclusions.. Oh, vat ze hell, let's jump to conclusions!"


The Blind Hermit - singing "Send me Someone"

  So, with all the above going on, I started this adventure much later than I would have otherwise.  Now, I planned to go out for more than 2 weeks, and I had never been on a trip that long before, so I was a bit nervous.  I also had to figure out the provisioning, stowing, and all of that other stuff.  Believe it or not, it is kind of overwhelming when you have to do it all yourself, and when you don't have experience.  So I did what I normally do when faced with stressful stuff like that... I procrastinated.  As a result, rather than leaving on Saturday, I left on Monday.... oh well. better safe than sorry.... right?

   The first leg of this trip would be a familiar one...a quick trip to Blake Island where I have been many times before.  (go from the known to the unknown... right?)  I was eager to use my new GoPro camera to document parts of this trip, so I started with a video of "How to Catch a mooring ball"... well, it turned out to be "How NOT to catch a mooring ball".... but it does illustrate one of the things I Love about the Boating Community... we take care of each other... Have a look:

Dulcinea moored at Blake Island

Blake Island has a nice beach!

Dulcinea from the beach
The next day I was headed for Tulalip Bay which would be the furthest North I had traveled yet.  This was recommended to me by a guy I know who works at West Marine, as a good stopping point... I had mixed emotions about this anchorage.  It was a bit on the shallow side, but had pretty good holding.  the only problem was that I felt I was definitely unwelcome here.  You see, Tulalip is an Indian reservation, although I am not sure that it extends to the bay or not.  But about every half hour or so from 2 PM until 7 or 8 PM, these small fishing boats would come BARRELING by at very nearly their top speed within 60 feet or so, on their way out to and coming back from Puget Sound, causing Dulcinea to rock quite a bit.

The next morning I was up early, as I wanted to get out of there.  The fishing boats had started out their buzzing by routine at around 0630 or so, so I figured I would oblige them.  Besides, I had a fairly good distance to travel, as I was headed to La Conner, via the Swinomish Channel, which I didn't even know existed before planning this trip.  I got a welcome surprise on this leg, as the wind came up and I got to start really sailing... imagine that!  I actually sailed a good long portion of this until I needed to enter the channel.  Take a look!

I did get to sail some of time though....
  Going through La Conner was the "safer way" to get to the San Juans, but that doesn't mean it wasn't without its challenges...  You see, the entrance to the Swinomish channel is pretty Narrow and fairly shallow, and is periodically dredged out.  The last dredging was in 2012 I think.  Anyway I knew all this from the charts, and I also knew that you needed to use the Range Markers to make sure you were lined up properly.  Range markers, for those that may not know, are Navigational markers that act much like lining up the rear and front sights on a rifle... when the two markers are on top of each other, you know you are lined up correctly.

Unfortunately, the one thing I didn't know was where to LOOK for the markers.  Silly me, I assumed that if you are entering a narrow channel, that the markers would be right there in front of you.... WRONG in this case.  they are BEHIND you... (although I didn't figure that out until the return trip through the channel) Sooooooo, with no accurate way to line up into the channel, I became a "Real" sailor that day as I promptly ran aground.... I cannot begin to describe the feeling of helplessness that happens when you can't move in any direction.  Compound that with knowledge that it was nearing high tide, and if you don't get free SOON, the tide is going to start to go out , and you will have LESS water under you and you will REALLY be in a pickle. I tried everything, going back, forward, moving the rudder side to side to try to get free of the sandy bottom with no luck.  Fortunately a 32 foot Motor vessel named the "Stella Marie" came by me, asked if I needed help (I said YES) then spent the next 20 minutes maneuvering in front of me to get close enough to get me a line without running aground themselves.... finally, with both our boat hooks extended to the maximum length, they were able to pass a line to me.   I tied it off to my bow cleat, and then we spent a very anxious 5 minutes working back and forth, until suddenly, dulcinea's keel broke free of the sand bar that held us prisoner.  What a Relief!  I handed the line back to my rescuers, and off they went, not wanting anything in return other than a an enthusiastic THANK YOU!  I followed them up the channel to La Conner keeping a mindful eye on my depth meter every 10 seconds or so.... no more problems though.  I was hoping they would stop so I could buy them a beer or something, but alas.... maybe I will run into them again sometime.

The current was VERY strong as the flood tide was still in full action, and even at near idle I was moving at about 4.2 knots.  To get into a space on the dock at the La Conner Marina I had to turn around and dock going into the strong current.  Fortunately the captain of the boat docked ahead of me came out to give me a hand with my bow line.... and a good thing too.... because a boat that weighs over 5 Tons in a 4 knot current is difficult to handle even with the extra help!  After getting snugged down, I went into town to explore a bit.  La Connner is a great little town, with some really nice people.  everything was within easy walking distance.  there were a lot of art shops.... paintings, sculpture, and so on... I ate in a local restaurant... really good food.  Since I had power, I decided to have a movie night.  I had good Wi-Fi there at the marina, so I streamed a movie from Netflix, then hit the rack.

looking down the Public dock at La Conner

Early Morning Visitor

The next day I woke up fairly early.  It was kind of exciting because my next stop was going to be James Island in the San Juans!  I was really doing this!  I stopped by the fuel dock to get about 9 and a half gallons of diesel, and a couple of bags of Ice. I paid for both, then promptly got on the boat, cast off and continued up the Swinomish Channel.  It wouldn't be until a couple of days from now that I would realize I left without getting the 2 bags of ice that I had paid for... Live and learn, right?

So with a keen eye on my depth meter, I head up the channel, and encountered NO problems!  I then entered Padilla Bay where there is lots of commercial traffic.  I passed a very large freighter that was anchored out in the bay, and continued on.  I got a little distracted looking at this little gem:

My distraction... there were about 25 people on this beautiful ship....
 when all of a sudden, I heard 5 long blasts on a loud ships horn.  I thought about what that meant... one blast is merely informational... meaning "hey I am out here!"  3 or more blasts means "LOOK OUT! DANGER!"  So, I looked behind me and lo and behold, there was that HUGE freighter I had seen anchored earlier... right on my... ummm... STERN!  After getting over my initial shock looking at this HUGE bow coming my way, I disengaged the autopilot and made a very sharp turn to port and hugged the commercial docks, so this guy could pass me.  PHEW!

this was the story of much of my trip.... wind on the Nose

The rest of this leg was pretty uneventful.  As was the case with much of this trip, the wind was either VERY light, or right on the nose.

On the Dock at James Island
James Island
Bill and Marge's boat, M/V "The Real World"
  I came up on the east side of James Island, where I was hoping to grab a mooring ball.  My charts showed 4 of them.  However when I got there, there were in reality only 2.  So I went with plan B.... go around to the west side of the island where my charts showed a mooring ball and a small dock.  when I got there, there were NO mooring balls and the small 40 foot Dock was full... DARN!  I knew from my charts and Active Captain that this was NOT a good place to anchor.  I asked the park Ranger, who just happened to be leaving where all the mooring balls went, and he just said that they were coming up "Missing"... what ever that meant.  So I was considering what plan C would be when the people on the 30 foot sailboat that was on the right side of the dock said they would be leaving in about 20 minutes.  Perfect!  so I just waited for them to leave and set up my boat for a port side tie, then docked.  It is really a quiet anchorage if you are lucky enough to get a mooring ball or space on the dock.  later that afternoon a group of Kayakers came in and camped in one of the several campsites on the island.  I also met some new friends who shared the dock. They were Bill and Marge, and their dog Ray aboard their CHB 34, the M/V "The Real World".  We had sundowners aboard their beautiful boat and enjoyed the sunset together.  They are a remarkable couple in their 80's and spend just about the whole summer on their boat.  I hope I am that energetic and still boating when I get to that age.

  my first night there was quite serene. 

The next morning the group of kayakers headed out... turns out I would meet up with them later.
Kayaking Group

Kayakers heading out

The Afternoon brought Steve in his 21 foor M/V "My Toy".  I moved Dulcinea as far up the dock as I could so we could fit him in.  because, that is just what Boaters do!  That day I explored the small island, and just hung out on Dulcinea.  I also had to move things around a bit.  I am still learning how to stow stuff.
  That night, we decided to have a pot luck dinner.  I brought grilled chicken, and I also grilled a couple of steaks that Steve brought.  We had a great time having dinner on the dock and enjoyed another great sunset.
Dinner on the Dock! from L to R - Bill, Marge and Steve.  you can see Ray just behind Bill on the left

Sunset at James Island

The next morning I was going to head to the next stop on this Grand Adventure, Clark Island, and then it was on to my ultimate destination, Sucia Island.

On to the next Destination!

That will be covered in part 2!  this one has been long enough!!!!

Till next time!



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