The Snooze and Cruise to Langley was full of wind both days, and full of rain on Sunday. I may have mentioned this before, but I seem to have small craft advisory mojo. Four of the last five overnights that I’ve planned group cruises ended up in an advisory. These are some die-hard cruisers and only one cruise was cancelled, mostly because my boat/home was still recovering from the last one and I just wasn’t ready to mop up again.
With just the jib out, my heavy old boat was screaming down the waves at 7.5-8 knots – numbers I’d never seen in the 8 months I’ve had her. This was the first big downwind run I’ve done with her, and the quartering waves played havoc with my steering most of the time, but the new autopilot performed admirably and I was very happy to have it. It was an odd feeling to have my stern lifted up and peer down at the bow below me, but it was exhilarating at the same time. My crew, Micah and Shai, were undaunted and having a good time and I was happy for the company.
As we approached the south end of Whidbey Island, I saw a couple of boats off to port and wondered if that was the rest of our cruising fleet (4 boats had left before me). When I stood up and looked around the dodger, I realized it was more like 44 boats, all heading directly at me, close hauled and maximally heeled over…every single one having right of way. Well, this was going to be interesting. I knew there was a race that day because I had seen the mass exodus from the dock. This was the
CYC Scatchet Head race and I had friends out there amongst those tipping triangles. The boats were approaching in waves, with about 4 boats directly in line with each other, separated by another pack of four a few hundred yards away on either side and behind. It looked as if I was entering a mine field and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I varied between a deep broad reach to the north east and a beam reach due east as they were making a hard drive to the south east. I was able to parallel one line of boats, then cross before the next line came, only to do the same with the next wave without having to jibe. Finally we were out of the mine field and entered Saratoga Passage. We later learned two boats had been dismasted in that race.
The wind and the waves were still prominent inside the passage, but there was only one ferry to dodge. Just around Gedney (Hat) Island, the wind became abruptly still, and turned 18o degrees in what seemed like seconds. It was as if we crossed and invisible line and our screaming southernly became a light northerly which explained why the sun stopped following us and rain clouds approached. The wind was so mild, we rolled up the jib and continued by motor the short distance to Langley.
I hadn’t been to the Langley marina in a few years, and not since they put on their addition. There’s a long linear dock outside of what what the breakwater used to be, adding a D and E dock with a connecting ramp to the older portion of the marina. Langley is long known for being able to fit any amount of boats into the marina, and we had called ahead with our boat sizes, so they were ready for us. As the last to approach, I realized that I was going to have to parallel park which I had not done with the Challenger before. I was pretty nervous, probably more because there were 10-12 people standing on the dock waiting to help than because of the actual docking. It went much better than expected, being able to use my starboard prop walk to my advantage for the first time. I’ve been a port side tie in Shilshole since I’ve bought the boat, but I have an authoritative starboard prop walk which makes getting out of my slip in a north wind somewhere between a challenge and impossible, and any reverse when coming into the dock just takes me farther away. But in this situation, as I put her in reverse and goosed the throttle, my stern moved to the dock as if I had thrusters and I was delighted. Then, cheers and a round of applause went up, and I didn’t know if it was because I had done such a good job, or just that I had done a better job than they had expected.
Regardless, it was warming to have so much good will to greet us, and to have witnesses for a good docking. Our band of six boats and about 25 people took the big uphill trek into town and found the elusive Mo’s. I’m not sure Mo’s Pub and Eatery were prepared for the likes of us with our leprechaun hats and flashing green beads, although they had been given a heads up by Jeremy, who had organized the Windworks boats. After a few libations we made the downhill march back to the marina where it seemed at least 15 or 16 people had invaded S/V Cambria. Ever the gracious host, Mark provided the perfect boat gathering for new and old acquaintances to get together and talk about boats, cruising, and all things nautical.
Sunday was definitely a different day, with a stiff, cold breeze from the north and a record breaking rainfall for that day, beating the previous record of 1.2 inches in 1974 to a whopping 1.57 inches. It seems we felt every drop of that 1.57 inches on The Challenger as it pelted us from behind, making the dodger an inadequate shelter. The waves were still large and we were once more surfing downhill, but in much less pleasant conditions. I was again very happy with my autopilot purchase (thank you Sands Marine!) and stayed huddled under the dodger for the 5 hours it took to go 23 miles despite my speed over ground consistently reading almost 7 knots. It was a day to be happy about an uncomplicated landing, fleece blankets, a hot meal and a diesel heater. These small craft advisories seem to be getting old hat but the rain never gets less wet. At least this one was predicted before we left, unlike the last one which made my boat interior resemble a shaken snow globe. All in all, there is nothing like an overnight flotilla!