Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Time to Reflect on 2009

Yacht Pals has compiled a list of the major steps (and steps backward) of sailing in 2009. Check out their article, and reminisce about the WYC's own steps forward. 


Now that 2009 is rapidly coming to a close, it's fun but also beneficial to look back on events of the past year that were both good and bad. Yacht Pals did so for the entire sailing community, you can read it here.

It got me thinking about the past year here in the Washington Yacht Club, and some of the high points throughout the year. I talked to a few members and consulted my own memory to come up with this list, and I encourage you to add your favorite WYC moments of 2009.

1. The launch of the new website.
2. The addition of the Hobie 20 to our fleet.
3. The increase in student participation at meetings. As Andrew C. said, "This is the first time I've ever seen more than two students show up at meetings regularly, ever."
4. Fall Snooze n' Cruise; even though we didn't get to Blake, we still had a great time.
5. The continual effort to share sailing knowledge and enthusiasm and, similarly, an obvious love of sailing and teaching in our members.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cool 49er Skiff Video

Take a look at this video of the 2009 49er World Cup!


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Redneck Yacht Club

Just outside of Ocean Shores, lives a yacht club to be reckoned with.


This weekend, on a trip out to Ocean Shores, we ran across this yacht club and I felt I had to share this picture of it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Smelly Slip-Up

A sewage spill at a treatment plant in Magnolia early this week makes dinghy sailing in the vicinity sound like a smelly situation. 


About 10 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into Elliott Bay on Monday night and Tuesday morning because of an equipment failure at the West Point treatment plant in Magnolia.

Photo taken August 2002, by Ned Ahrens, King County photographer.

More information here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010513686_websewage15m.html

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Thanksgiving BlastCruise Report

Idefix and Waka celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sound. 


On Thanksgiving weekend, a couple WYC affiliates decided to make a run for the Sound to flee the Apple Cup madness. We met up at the WAC on Friday night after boat moving. A number of would-beblastcruisers came to their senses and stayed home, but at 7 o'clock there were five of us standing on the dock ready to go. We kicked around a couple destinations and settled on Pt. Madison for Friday night andBlakely Harbor the next, coming back Sunday morning. Aimee and Kregg joined Matt on Waka, while Greg and I would chase them on Idefix.

We quickly made our way through the usual ship canal-bridge-lock circus and hit the Sound around 2100. We were greeted with a light southerly, got our main up, and started a beam reach across the sound. I was mulling over what to put up on the bow, when I heard Waka ahead of us put up a headsail. I couldn't tell what they were doing in the darkness, but it sounded like they were hoisting something big, so the racer in me went below, rummaged around, pulled out a light spinnaker and went to work getting it rigged.

Greg turned down onto a broad reach, the moon came out, the chute went up, the wind picked up, and we were soon cruising along, enjoying the last mild, clear night of the year. We reached up to Waka and I tried to take a couple pictures (hard to do in the darkness on a moving boat...), then practiced a couple jibes, and before we knew it we were in front of Port Madison dousing the spinnaker. We went close hauled to get back up to the entrance, but the wind soon died and left us drifting just outside the anchorage.

Time to start the motor and follow Waka in. I had been planning on just rafting up to Waka and letting Matt go through all the hard labor of selecting a spot, putting his anchor down, making sure it's set, and retrieving a mud-caked hook the next morning, but after a bit of meandering around the harbor, it was apparent that Matt wasn't really enthused by this idea and both boats pulled up to the dock at PMYC instead. The night was getting chilly so we regrouped on Waka for a late snack and drinks to warm ourselves up before bed, and ended up turning in rather late.

Saturday morning found us back on Waka for breakfast and coffee. Aimee ran off for her routine marathon practice while the rest of us sat lazily around talking about boats and eating. We made a plan to make a reconnaissance sail to Blakely Harbor and have an afternoon get-together there, then sail back to the WAC at sunset and get in after the football game. It was slowly getting windy in the harbor as we got the boats ready for sailing. Stations on the sound were reporting winds in the twenties, and the forecasts were for 20-30 all evening, so we pulled out our small jibs and put in reefs, but by the time we got off the dock and made it to the sound, there was nothing left but a nasty chop and a light southerly.

Idefix and Waka bounced around uncomfortably for a little while by the south end of Bainbridge, wondering where the forecasted winds were, before the chop let up a little and a 10kt breeze picked up. We then split ways, with Waka going East to try and pick up more wind in the middle of the Sound, while I tried to hug the Western shore to stay out of the strong ebbing current. Neither boat made much progress, and when sunset came we were still a bit south of Eagle Harbor.

I wasn't very excited about going into Blakely Harbor in the dark, and was starting to think about an alternate plan, when Waka hailed us on the radio and declared their intent to set sail for a happy hour at Ivar's. Greg and I agreed this seemed like a perfect alternative to beating up the sound in the cold darkness. We turned onto a broad reach and tried to catch up to Waka, but with the short sail back and no moonlight to help with the rigging, we didn't bother to put up the chute. Nevertheless, we covered the 3 or 4 miles to the locks pretty quickly, did the locks & bridge thing once more, and parked at Ivar's for a delicious wind-down to our day.

Matt even wrapped up "Thanksgiving 2009 Apple Cup BlastCruise" in style by scoring us a free appetizer from the manager with his display of docking skills, and securing our fame as "The Boat People" for at least a couple hours!

If any of this sounded appealing to you, be on the lookout for the next BlastCruise...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Rough Guide to Buying Your First Wetsuit

This guide is intended to provide new sailors with information they need before buying their first wetsuit for cold-weather sailing in Seattle. 


So, you want to sail through the chilly months of the Pacific Northwest? Congratulations! By making this choice, you join a relatively small group of sailors who realize that some of the best sailing to be had in this part of the world happens during the cold time of the year. No matter though, with a little bit of gear and some common sense, cold-weather sailing can be as safe and as comfortable as warm weather sailing.

The biggest difference between warm weather sailing and cold weather sailing is this: the margin of risk in cold weather sailing is vastly greater than it is in warm weather sailing. The risk of drowning is present in all sailing, but the risk of exposure is greater when sailing in the cold.

The gear that keeps you warm is as important to your survival as your pfd, so make your purchases wisely and bear in mind that no gear is absolutely guaranteed to keep you safe. Good luck and have fun!

Part one: The golden rule of choosing a wetsuit.

Question: What sort of wetsuit should I get for sailing in Seattle in the cold months of the year?

Answer: 4mm minimum thickness full body wetsuit that fits you the best and which you wear with a hat and wind breaking layer. 

There! Wasn't that easy? this is all you really need to know and you *could* go out to a surfshop and buy a perfectly good wetsuit with just this information. But I know you are more curious than that, which brings us to part 2.

Part Two: The golden rule, elaborated.

Question: No really, what sort of wetsuit should I get for cold weather sailing in Seattle? What do you mean by "4mm thickness full body wetsuit that fits you best and which you wear with a hat and wind breaking layer"?

Answer: Let's unpack the golden rule bit by bit.

"4mm minimum thickness": 4mm minumum thickness means that the neoprene of the wetsuit is four millimeters thick on your torso. Printed on every wetsuit there will be two (and sometimes three) numbers. In surf shops around here, most of the wetsuits will be 3/4, 4/5, and possibly even 5/6.

Why two numbers? Because you need the insulation to be thicker in some places than in others. Neoprene is pretty stretchy stuff, but the thicker it is the more difficult it is to move around. For wintertime sailing around here, you should not go thinner than 4mm for your torso and 3mm for your limbs.

You can go as thick as you like, but most of us agree that 6 is pretty darn thick for these parts, unless you are really cold blooded. Almost all sailors in the WYC, and indeed the majority of pacific northwest surface water sports enthusiasts (diving is a different game entirely) use 4, 5, or 6mm wetsuits.

Your choice is individual. get cold easily? Get a 6mm. Total polar bear? Go for a 4mm and you will probably be just fine, provided the thing fits, but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.  

"Full body wetsuit": Full body wetsuit means that you are covered from your ankles to your wrists and your neck. There are multiple ways to achieve this requirement for cold weather sailing. Wetsuits come in different styles.

One style is the full-body wetsuit or "steamer" and the bulk of wetsuits sold in surfshops around here are steamers. If you buy a steamer then you meet the full-body requirement and do not need to know anything about the other styles.

How do you achieve adequate coverage with a non-steamer setup? By layering of course! The "farmer john" style of wetsuit is basically a neoprene pair of overalls. This style offers the advantage of easy entry and does away with the hassle of zippers. Downside is that if you do this you will need a neoprene jacket to cover your arms and neck. Neoprene jackets are just that: they are neoprene tops that cover your torso and arms. Many neoprene jackets have a sort of "beaver tail" or very short legs to keep the jacket pulled down around your bottom.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either system. The obvious advantage of steamers is their simplicity and cost. The advantage to layering is versatility. There are times when just the farmer john is adequate and you do not need the additional jacket. There are other times when a 4mm steamer is just barely enough to keep you comfortable and you will definitely see the merit of layering a 3mm jacket over a 4mm farmer john for 7mm of coverage around your torso. Once again, the choice is yours. Most of us go for steamers, but this does not mean you have to.

"That fits you best": A wetsuit is pretty worthless unless it fits you well. A well fitting wetsuit will be snug around your body, without any large folds or creases created by extra neoprene. The balance between fit and comfort is a pretty fine one. The wetsuit should certainly be tight, but not so tight that it compromises your mobility or makes you really uncomfortable.

Neoprene is stretchy stuff, and it gets even more pliable when it gets wet, so the only way to really test a wetsuit is to try it on and see how it fits dry, and then to try it on wet. If it is too loose when it is dry, it will be even worse when it is wet. Likewise, if it is really uncomfortable dry, then it will not be a whole lot better wet.

If dry fit is nice and snug, but not too tight, it will probably be just right when you get it wet. Fortunately, a lot of surf shops and paddling shops have really great return policies and will allow you to try the thing on in the store, then take it to the lake and swim around and see if it really fits. Do not test a wetsuit in a swimming pool; chlorine damages neoprene.

A note on brands: Did you notice how nowhere in the golden rule are any specific brands mentioned? This is because some brands will fit you better than others, and no one should get hung up on brands when they are buying something where fit is the most important thing.

Henderson, Ripcurl, Burley, etc. are all very good brands, but some will fit you better than others and the most important thing is to go with the suit that fits you. Pretty much any wetsuit you buy from a reputable shop will be of comparable quality to all the other wetsuits they have for the same price range. Whichever one fits you best is the one you should buy. It will keep you warm if you wear it with some other layers, which brings us to our last point.

"And which you wear with a hat and windbreaking layer"This part is pretty easy. You lose a lot of heat through your head. Wear a warm hat when you sail. Wool is great but heavy and smells sorta funny when it is wet. A good synthetic hat is fine. You could wear a neoprene hood while sailing, but this is possibly overkill.

A very good idea is a hat with some sort of drawstring around your neck or another way of securing the hat so you do not lose it in the breeze or during a nasty capsize. If you lose your hat, you will get cold. The author of this guide loves balaclavas (and also loves baklava) but does not recommend them for dinghy sailing for the following reason: Dinghy sailing is really wet, and having wet cloth over your mouth is pretty scary. Balaclavas are great for keelboats, but (in his opinion) are pretty bad choices for dinghy sailing.

Windbreaking layers help tremendously by minimizing the evaporation of water off your wetsuit. The difference in heat retention is pretty immense. What sort of windbreaking layer should you get? Whatever works. A cheap warm-up jacket will work just as well as a nice rainshell or a dinghy smock. Whatever works, really.

The windblocking layer is most important for your upper body, but many sailors also choose to wear windblocking pants too. Even if they do not wear windblocking pants, most sailors wear a cheap pair of "board shorts" over their wetsuit. This will provide a little bit of protection from the elements but will mostly protect the seat of your wetsuit from the abrasion of constantly scooting about the deck as you hike in and out.

Question: What about my hands and my feet?

Answer: Your hands can be kept warmer by wearing gloves, and your feet can be kept warmer by wearing neoprene booties or lots of wool socks (or both). Really warm gloves for dinghy sailing are a bit of a holy grail. If you find something amazing, please let the rest of us know. Boots are bit easier.

Most sailors in the WYC sail with neoprene booties. If you want to be extra warm, wear a couple layers of wool socks under your booties. Alternatively, you could get away with wearing wool socks under any boat appropriate shoe or even sandals. The author has done this several times and has been pretty comfortable this way. Experiment and find what works for you.

Here's a link to the wetsuit information page on the WYC website.  If you'd like more information, check here!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Great Action, Bad Music

Some sailing videos worth checking out.


Here are some videos to inspire you to get out and get wet, even in the cold weather:

(Greatest announcer of all time)

If you can't get out sailing, or are interested in trying out something new, check out these kiteboarding videos:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Letter from the Commodore

The monthly letter from our Commodore, Jasmine Lee-Barber!

Hey Sailors!

I hope all of you had a great Autumn quarter, and enjoyed the classes you took. We hope to see you down at Supervised Sailing Hours to continue sailing--remember, you can bring a friend to sail with you!

This quarter we've started an informal gathering at 5:30pm in the HUB Student Resource Center before our ALL of our General Meetings which start at 7pm upstairs. These are a great way to meet new people in the club, and free food is provided! During this time, we do miscellaneous things like making posters and chatting informally about the club and any ideas/suggestions. We had our first one yesterday and had a great turnout! We discussed improvements we'd like to see in the club and ate delicious pizza.

The major themes that kept coming up last night are: to increase the number of lessons that we offer each quarter, get better at retaining our membership, and offer more club sailing social events. We'll be trying out some instructor-specific tabling and advertising throughout winter quarter to build up a great instructor crew for spring. If you are interested in teaching, please contact me! Instructing comes with a free membership that quarter. We had some great ideas for club sailing events--such as sailing out to Mercer Island and having a picnics at the Luther Burbank Park, so stay tuned when the weather gets warm.

Our next event is the Second Annual Nutjob Classic! It's an informal race on Thanksgiving morning, and will have some awesome prizes. Check out the website for more info--the details are in the "Annoucements" on the front page. Events during the winter will be confined to keelboats--but hopefully we'll get a few events up on the nicer winter days.

The next General Meeting is on Monday Nov 30th and I look forward to meeting you!!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Facing Open Ocean Alone, Part 5


I rush out of the cabin as the sails are spinning the boat around, still pinned down. Suddenly the boat frees herself, and I watch a spongy dark form move away in the moonlight. Sea creature? Kelp bed? I'm too tired to care, and try not to think about the trees and logs I've seen floating in the Strait.

Around 01:00 I pass Crescent Bay and realize the chop is substantially less. I'm no longer getting sprayed with seawater, and the pounding of the boat has eased. A wave of relief sweeps over me. I've finally made it to the other side! The winds are progressively lightening up and getting shiftier as I pass Port Angeles.

I'm exhausted and having a hard time staying alert. Dungeness spit looms ahead, invisible in the darkness, and I have a hard time picturing how far it is. The wind is down to a couple knots now. I'm getting disoriented, and the constant wind shifts aren't helping. I try to err on the side of caution, and end up tacking every five minutes to move away from the spit.

The boat seems unfamiliar in the moonlight. It's the same boat I've been on for 5 days, but somehow it's not the boat I left the WAC with. It's slowly morphed into some other boat. I look up at the sail and see the small jib and recognize it as Waka's. I must be on Matt's boat. I only vaguely remember when he loaned me Waka. It must've been a couple hours ago, because I remember at Crescent Bay I was still on Idéfix.

I'm trying to get abeam of the New Dungeness lighthouse before calling it quits. I've had enough of this drifting nonsense. The wind keeps shifting and the autopilot refuses to follow the shifts, and is constantly beeping. I take manual control, and point the boat at the nearest mid-channel mark. I stir awake, and the boat is off course by 30 degrees. I turn back to port, hold my heading another minute or two, and fall asleep again. I do this two or three more times. The spit is slowly drifting by. I look at the log. 13138.8NM. I've gone 565NM over water, and 470NM over ground.

At 06:07 I douse the sails, lower the engine, and after a couple pulls it starts with a puff of blue smoke. I start motoring towards Port Townsend. The sunrise is the most beautiful I've ever seen, the Strait around me is like a mirror, and there is no one around. This is such a beautiful spot, I can see Victoria and the Strait of Georgia to the North, the San Juans stretching out over the west, with the Cascades behind them, and Discovery Bay just south of me. Maybe next summer I should cruise up the San Juans and North a ways. I'm absolutely disgusted with the idea of racing to Hawaii.

My hallucinations are visual now. I'm seeing tree-covered islands out of the corner of my eye, which disappear when I look at them. Voices are coming out of the water again and filling my head. The vibrations from the motor sound like a jazz band with a full choir of singers, repeating the same melody ad infinitum.

Although I'm still damp and a little cold, I'm warming up in the sunshine, and the boat's batteries still have plenty of charge, so I opt to skip Port Townsend and motor straight home. The wind is supposed to pick up at 15-25 from the south and I don't want to have to beat any more. I motor through Port Townsend canal and down Admiralty Inlet while eating, cleaning up, and checking a week's worth of email on my phone.

I run out of things to do and rest against the lifelines. Suddenly a ferry is crossing less than a mile ahead of my boat. I must've been asleep for a while, because I didn't remember getting close to the ferry lanes! This sleep deprivation thing is definitely catching up to me, and I hope I get home safely.

The rest of the motor home is uneventful. I get a call from Peter and he offers me a ride home from the WAC. I go through the locks with a couple seiners and meet up with him at the Ballard dock, where we chat while waiting for the Fremont bridge to open. He mentions the race. I don't want to hear about it. In fact, I've had enough of sailing for a while. After a drink (I give Peter my victory beer and pour myself some fruit juice), I cast off, and am docked at the WAC at 19:45.

After a couple days, the bruises have disappeared, the jazz bands have stopped playing in my head, my colleagues are no longer telling me I look 10 years older, and I'm starting to dream of Idéfix surfing in the tradewinds again.

Thanks to Brandon, Matt N., Kregg, Peter, and several others for helping me prep the boat – you guys rock!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Facing Open Ocean Alone, Part 4


November 3. Fourth day at sea. The skies are lightening and I can see the coast under broken skies. The wind is now straight out of the mouth of the Strait, 12-15 knots and building. I brave the wet foredeck to peel the #3 to a #4 and put away the #1 that's been sitting up there for a day and a half. The leech has been occasionally dragging in the water, tearing away the mylar. I kick myself for being lazy and not putting it away earlier.

Every time I check the weather it sounds more unpleasant. The latest news: 15-25kt easterlies, building to 20-30 in the western part. Wind waves 3-4 ft. I've slept maybe an hour in the last 4 days, am cold and damp, and ready to be home. Beating into a gale is not my idea of fun at this point. I am making slow progress, but at 08:45 I have finally passed the Cape. The chop is unpleasant, and every 3rd or 4th wave makes it all the way into the cockpit.

Around 10 o'clock I'm finally past Neah Bay. The boat slams into every wave, shaking the rig. The air is cold, and I've discarded my soaked gloves. I really want to head into harbor, but that would mean giving up on the qualifier and waiting 2 days before bringing the boat home. I just keep going, unable to make a decision.  I tell myself I can always surf back here quickly if I have to.

My feet are wet. The air is in the thirties, and the wind around 20 knots. I curse the wind and chop. The chop is perfectly timed to make the boat slam into each wave, and I'm worried about the loads on the rig. I'm sailing an ultralight, a true downwind machine, and I haven't had good downwind sailing since Friday. With every gust I scream at the wind. My progress is a pathetic 2 knots up the Strait, for 5.5 knots over water. Every time a wave shakes the rig, I plead for the boat to make it through the day and promise her I won't make her do the race. It's too much; too much for the boat, too much for me.

I couldn't handle the boat going downwind Friday. This is even less fun. A wave blasts over the boat and soaks me, slowly adding to the moisture in my foulies. I make a note to tell Kregg to punch me in the face if I ever try something this stupid again.

I think back to the last time I was out on the Strait, in May. I was competing in the Swiftsure race, and fell overboard shortly after the beginning of the race. For some reason I feel like that was much more pleasant than what I’m experiencing now.

Neah Bay is now out of sight, and I probably wouldn't make it there by dark, so I'm committed to running the gauntlet. Every time a tack brings me close to shore, I look for some form of shelter, but the coast is featureless except for the occasional rock.

My hands are freezing from the touch of the aluminum tiller, so I put some fleece socks on my tiller hand and switch hands every 5 minutes. I put a neoprene dinghy boot on one of my wet feet to see if it'll help. This is no place for fashion.
I write in my log: "17:17 – the last 8 hours have been horrible." I haven't been taking notes, just steering to try to avoid the worst of the chop. It's getting dark now. I manage to heat up some chili without making too much of a mess, and fill a thermos with instant coffee. I am a quarter of the way up the strait.

The forecast is still the same, but the wind report from Dungeness Spit is either calm or light southerlies, so I have hope that there is a point soon where the chop will ease. I just have to get to the other side. The ebb is against me now and my progress is pathetic.

I'm trying to hug the shore to shield myself from the chop, timing my tacks to get as far inshore as possible, with the dark shoreline looming in the moonlight. Several times I chicken out and tack before my time is up. At one point I've just tacked inbound, and given myself 20 minutes to go below and get warm, when the boat suddenly stops.  How can I have run aground with 17 minutes to go? I've hit something!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Facing Open Ocean Alone, Part 3


November 2nd. Third day at sea. The clouds are lighter, but it's a gloomy and showery morning. The excitement of being on the ocean is gone. I'm wet and cold, tired and bruised, and really want to turn the boat around and head home.

I've been calculating a new turnpoint that's less upwind of my current position, but still meets the 100NM requirement. I tack on a shift and my boat is pointing straight at the waypoint with only a couple miles to go. I hear a splash in the water. Half a dozen dolphins are playing around my boat. They’re a species I’ve never seen before.

I do a quick position check and find I am 101NM from Amphitrite Point. Finally, time to turn around! I bear off onto a broad reach, with the swells right off the stern. The dolphins have followed me through the turn and keep playing with the boat for a couple miles before disappearing. Unfortunately, the wind has died down and I can't quite get the boat to surf. I think about putting up the genoa to eek out a little more speed, but I'm just too tired. I make some oatmeal instead.

The sun has come out, it's getting warm and I start shedding layers and laying clothes out to dry in the cockpit. Reaching in the sun is so much more pleasant than beating in the rain, I feel like I could do this for weeks!
Click to see a video Adrian took during this point in his trip!

The dolphins are back, splashing around the boat. I ignore them until I hear an unusually loud blow. I turn around to see a ten foot spray plume hanging in the air about two boat lengths off the stern, and a whale breaks the surface and disappears. I'm a little nervous about having a creature the size of my boat this close! I almost ran it over! The dolphins are bow-riding the whale the way they've been playing with the boat. A little further, off to port another whale surfaces with its own pod of dolphins. Soon our paths diverge and they disappear in the swells.

I pull out my $15 plastic sextant and take a sun sight, then slip out of my foulies, pull out my sleeping bag, and put my timer on 30 minutes for my first real sleep in two days. It's hard to let go of the anxiety, but when the timer goes off I feel like I've had a bit of rest. I do a quick check of the sails and horizon and restart the timer. I do this a couple more times before deciding I've had enough sleep. I make lunch, then take another sun sight and run the calculation. It looks reasonable, but I don't have a sheet to plot my position, and I'm off the chart, so I'll have to wait til I get home to see how accurate it was (8 miles off).

The wind is lightening up, the swells are dying, and my ETA at Flattery is slowly creeping towards tomorrow morning. About 60 miles out I'm starting to receive the VHF weather. Sounds like I'm going to be facing a decent breeze at the entrance, and variable winds in the Strait. In the late afternoon I put put my damp clothes back on so my body heat will dry them out fully.

I take quick sights of the moon and Sirius between the clouds. The horizon is easily visible in the full moon, but I have trouble reading the sextant in the dark and my position comes out a couple thousand miles off. I'll have to be more careful. The wind is now NNW and I've had to sheet in quite a bit. If I'd known I would've aimed further west instead of sticking to the rhumb line. The weather forecast is now 15-25 knot easterlies in the west part of the Strait in the morning, variable 15kts in the rest. I hope I can get there early enough to cut through the easterlies before the chop builds up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facing Open Ocean Alone, Part 2


On Halloween day I take my time getting ready. Showers are rolling through and the winds are light. I motor to Wilson Point, hoist sails, secure the engine, reset my trip logs and start beating in a light westerly. The wind eventually picks up to 15 kts or so and, just as I am hoisting the #4, jumps into the twenties. The chop isn't excessive, though, and after a couple hours of beating I'm abeam Port Angeles, where the wind eases a bit. It's a long way to Cape Flattery, but I'm well rested and happy to be sailing in waters I don't get to see much.

The sun goes down and it's a clear but chilly night with a full moon. I'll occasionally set my timer and grab a quick nap down below, sometimes 10, sometimes 20 minutes. I don't really fall asleep but it feels good to get out of the cold, close my eyes and rest. I have a thought for the Halloween party back home, but it's a good to be here. At 03:00 on November 1st I change my clock to Standard Time and live that hour again. In the early morning the winds become light, and I'm starting to feel the swells from the ocean.

The setting moon has been outlining a dark shape ahead that is keeping me from napping. Looking at my chart it seems like it could be Tatoosh Island, 10 or 15 miles ahead, but that should be hidden from view by the Cape. As the dawn breaks I realize my island is actually a tree floating about a hundred yards in front of me. It's a 60 or 70 foot pine, with roots and branches and couple birds are perched on it, bobbing in the swells, slowly floating out to sea.

The tree and I drift past Neah Bay at dawn and eventually the wind turns to a light easterly. It takes me almost all morning to get past Cape Flattery. With the light wind and 12 ft swells the boom is swinging over my head, so I rig a preventer and try to keep my mind off the flogging sails. In the early afternoon the Cape is starting to fade in the mist and the ride is smoother, with the wind off the beam. I hoist the genoa and go about my daily activities of, well, mostly eating. Singlehanding keeps me pretty busy.

By mid afternoon I'm getting sleepy, and starting to hear voices on the boat, which I've heard is pretty typical for solo ocean sailors. The lapping of the water against the hull is like a quiet conversation between familiar voices. The wind spins south and I peel to the jib and aim the boat at my waypoint. The sun is going down for the second time since I'd left Port Townsend. The horizon is completely empty except for a continuous flow of vessels on the shipping lanes, but I eventually leave those behind. There's a group of fishing boats working to the south of me.

 I make some breakfast sausage and spaetzle for dinner. As I pass through 50 miles out, two sets of very bright orange lights are glowing on the horizon in front of me. I can't tell how far they are. The AIS display is blank. The lights seem stationary. Oil rigs? I didn't think there were any out here, but double-check the chart to be sure. I'm nervous about aiming the boat between the two brightly lit objects.

Eventually I come close enough to see seagulls flocking around the lights. They're just trawlers headed slowly back inshore, the bright lights shining off their bows completely masking their running lights. Night sailing is such a strange game. Once I pass the trawlers I am completely alone.

The wind is turning to the southwest, and I can't sail directly towards my turnpoint anymore. I'm not excited about the prospect of beating through open ocean. The night is turning cold and I'm getting tired, despite longer naps. Rain has been coming through and most of my clothes are damp. Waves occasionally splash into the cockpit. Some water has made it into the boat and my spare clothes bag is getting damp.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Facing Open Ocean Alone, Part 1

Adrian describes his eventful 5-day qualifier that brought him 100 NM offshore in preparation for the seventeenth biennial Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race.


As most of you are probably aware through club scuttlebutt, I've been preparing Idéfix to compete in next year's Singlehanded Transpac, a biennial race from San Francisco to Hawaii. One of the requirements for the race is a qualifying cruise of no less than 400NM, going at least 100NM offshore, non-stop, under sail, singlehanded. I managed to complete this requirement last week, and thought I'd share my story here.

The forecast is for strong southerlies as a front comes through Friday, some strong westerlies dying down quickly Saturday (Halloween), replaced by easterlies for a little while before turning to the south, then back to the west and northwest, as a high moves over the area. All fairly mild, and not much rain, except Friday night when I'd be in port anyway. This might be the last opportunity of the year, so I decide to throw my gear on the boat and go for it.

I'm a little late getting started Friday and hit the sound about noon. The winds are around 15 knots from the south, and supposed to pick up. It’s good weather for some spinnaker practice, so I hoist the heavy kite. I'm a little past Kingston when the chute wraps around the forestay. I kind of want to see if it'll unwrap on its own, so I just watch it for a couple seconds. To my horror it starts quickly winding its way around the forestay. After 5 minutes of tugging at it desperately in building winds, I jibe the boat and the chute unwinds itself as quickly as it wrapped.

The wind is now in the mid-twenties, the boat is screaming towards Possession Point, and it's high time to jibe back to port. I take a minute to prep the maneuver, and jump on the foredeck to wrestle the pole.

As soon as I disconnect the pole, the boat rounds up and broaches. I let go of the pole and slide into the lifelines and waist deep water. I manage to crawl back to the weather side and into the cockpit and uncleat the first spinnaker line I come across. It goes screaming out and the chute is now flogging astern the port side of the boat. The wind is now in the thirties and I'm struggling to bring the sail back to the boat.

I look around and decide my best option is to lessen the load by tripping the halyard. I go for it and the sail promptly falls into the water - not exactly what I had in mind! I'm screaming in anger and desperation. The boat is now drifting sideways in the waves, dragging a chute full of water 50 feet off the stern. The tension in the sheet is incredible. It's going to be a miracle if I manage to bring this thing back aboard.

The winds are screaming, I'm soaking wet, the spinnaker pole that I'd abandoned during the jibe is swinging around wildly in the air, banging into the shrouds and mast. I start winching in the sail, pleading with it to come back aboard, cursing the winds, and winching in an inch at a time, pausing every minute to catch my breath. I eventually manage to grab the clew, then the foot, and finally pull the soaked sail into the cockpit. It's intact, minus one sheet.

I eventually get things sorted out and Idéfix starts tearing up the water under a #4 jib. In the inlet the waves pick up and she starts doing impressive surfs. On some of the steeper waves the boat pauses at the top for a second before pitching down into the trough and plowing into the next wave, sending a wall of foam a foot deep over the deck and into the cockpit. The knotmeter is staying in the double digits, and hitting 15 knots in the surfs. Every once in a while the boat rounds up and I have to fight the tiller for twenty seconds or so to get the bow pointed back downwind.

I reach Port Townsend at dusk, tie up and look inside the boat. The bilge is full, but most of my gear is dry. I'm soaked, but my foulies are still dry in my bag. I take a shower, make dinner, and go to bed, full of doubts as to my ability to handle the boat in the downwind conditions I'd encounter on the trip to Hawaii, and wondering whether this race is really a good idea.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Sailing Reads

During the cold months to come, when you can't get out on the water, pick up one of these titles to stay in the nautical frame of mind.


I enjoy sailing books, in particular adventure and disaster books.  Here are some of my favorites that I have read:

"Annapolis Book of Seamanship" by John Rousmaniere.  This is the book with the basics. If you have been in a keelboat class you've already read it, but it explains simply many of the basic concepts that would be good for any sailor to know.  They are available in the WYC office.

"Sailing Alone Around the World" by Captain Joshua Slocum.  "Full of astonishing adventures, this is the true story of the first man ever to circle the globe alone entirely by sea."  He did this in three years in 1895.

"The Proving Ground" by Bruce Knecht.  This is about the Hobart race and the disaster turned into a massive rescue mission as an entire regatta is caught in a massive storm with 80+ mph winds.

"The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" by Caroline Alexander.  They were on a mission to the Antarctic when they were trapped by an ice flow.  As time wore on, they had to hoof it across the wasteland, use liferafts in stormy seas, and live off penguin meat for months until their Captain, Ernest Shackleton, and some others patched together a mission to go get help.  All this, and "not a man lost."  Some say it is the greatest survival story ever.  My personal favorite.

*You'll notice I've started a side bar that is devoted to nautical books. Please email me your favorite sailing books (fiction and non-fiction) at telltale@washingtonyachtclub.org and I'll put them up!

Oracle Gets its Wing

On November 10th the wing mast on the BMW Oracle went up.


Photo Courtesy of Sailing Anarchy

For more information check out the BMWO website.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Andrew’s guide to Hazardous Situations

A Ratings Examiner’s tips on how NOT to die, or at least minimize dying, while sailing small boats.


Small sailboats--especially performance-oriented ones--can be hazardous in unexpected ways. Therefore if you’re planning on sailing these boats, it’s important to learn more about these hazards and how to deal with them.

Below are some possible hazards you may encounter, and suggestions on how to prepare for and handle these precarious situations. I do not pretend to be an expert on any of these subjects, but I've experienced some of the scenarios and would like to share my knowledge.


Lifejackets, PFDs, whatever you call 'em--they only work when you wear 'em. And they only work well when they fit. If you're considering buying a PFD for personal use, ask the store if you can jump in the water to test its fit. There's nothing more unpleasant than the sensation of a PFD riding up too far, obscuring your face (imagine trying to breathe through a wet cloth), cutting into your armpits, and snagging on deck hardware while you're desperately trying to swim out from underneath a turtled boat.

A well-fitting flotation device should not ride up while you're in the water. It should also conform to your body--make sure the shoulder straps don't stick up off your shoulders, and make sure there are no fancy pockets or webbing on the back that could snag on boat hardware.


Arguably more pleasant than being eaten by a giant turtle, getting trapped under a turtled boat is still rather unpleasant. Luckily I've only experienced this twice: once under an FJ, and once under an International 14.

The best thing to do is avoid getting trapped in the first place by either preventing the boat from turtling, or jumping clear (but no farther than you can reach) from the boat during a capsize.


1. Don't panic--most cockpits form a decent air bubble.
2. If you are sailing with crew and are both trapped, go one at a time (unless of course, there is no air pocket).
3. Clear your body of any entanglements (trapeze wire, rigging, etc).
4. Take time to ensure that your escape path is free of potential entanglement hazards (this is where that well-fitting flotation device comes in handy).
5. If you have a knife, make sure you can reach it.
6. Consider exiting belly-up--this makes it easier for you to grab the rail and pull yourself away from the boat, like a horizontal pull-up.
7. Holler at your crew as soon as you are clear and safe.


1. Lean into the boat as you capsize to windward, but don't linger or it will turtle.
2. Try to launch yourself fore or aft so you'll be able to reach the edge of something to pull yourself out.
3. Consider carrying a knife to cut through the sail if necessary.


Don't let this happen to you. Carry a knife.


Trapeze sailing is no doubt exciting. However, trapeze harnesses can become dangerous in certain conditions. With the exception of newer designs, most trapeze harnesses have a fixed hook with no quick release. In a capsize, this hook may entangle itself on running or standing rigging, preventing the sailor from reaching the surface. While statistically unlikely, fatalities due to entanglement do occur.

In one instance, an Austrian Tornado catamaran sailor drowned when his hook became entangled in the rigging during a capsize. In a separate instance, a German sailor drowned when his 49er skiff pitchpoled and his hook caught on the shrouds. Read more here.

Thankfully I've never personally experienced this situation, but here are some tips I've compiled from what I’ve read and heard.

1. Consider purchasing a spreader bar with a quick-release function. Unfortunately, the ISO standard for such a system was only recently established, and early reviews of these systems range from "works great!" to "accidentally released me tons of times".
2. Place your hand over the hook opening during the capsize to prevent anything from snagging on it.
3. Wear your harness over all of your gear. In an emergency you may be able to remove it, or at least loosen it enough to provide the needed slack to disengage your hook.
4. Consider carrying a knife to cut through your harness or running rigging. Someone also mentioned wire cutters for standing rigging, but I'm unsure how easy it would be to perform this while trapped underwater.


I have only heard/read of this happening before, so I can only speculate, but:

1. Strongly consider carrying a knife, even if it has a blunt 'safety-tip'.
2. Strongly consider temporarily attaching a second knife to the underside of the trampoline or crossbeams using velcro straps or some other removable method.


Having researched this topic extensively, I could write pages upon pages about the right knife to get. Unfortunately the perfect knife, which would be cheap, reliably sharp, and easy to use doesn't appear to exist. Here are some things to look for, in no particular order:

1. Blunt 'safety-tips' so you don't stab yourself in the leg when trying to cut that mainsheet.
2. Assisted-opening devices for folding knives. These torsion springs allow you to open a knife with minimal effort.
3. An easily accessible way to attach the knife to yourself.
4. Inexpensive because you'll lose it at some point.
5. Minimal care required to stay sharp even if exposed to moisture and salt (almost no cheap knives meet this ideal).
6. A hook knife feature, allowing you to cut line with one hand and minimal line tension.
7. If shopping for a dedicated hook knife, be sure to buy a double-bladed one, as the single-bladed hook knives require much more force to cut successfully . More information here.
8. If you are a keelboat sailor, minimal magnetic interference.
9. Brightly colored handle.


Other gear to consider using:

1. Loud whistle. Cheap, small, effective.
2. Brightly colored clothing. Remember, it's hard to see more than just the tip of someone's head when they're in the water, so skip the fashionable navy blue spray top and get something hideously neon.
3. Flares or a strobe light. Note the expiration date and/or the date you put in the batteries (batteries drain over time even when the device is powered off).
4. VHF radio and waterproof bag. Even if the radio says it's waterproof, it ain't. Remember, we get a discount at Fisheries Supply.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hobie 33 Crash Test

Warren Miller documents the crash testing of the Hobie 33 monohull sailboat.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

In the absence of Snooze n' Cruise...

What WYC members do when it's too windy to go on Snooze n' Cruise.

Most of you received the cancellation emails, but just to recap, Snooze n' Cruise was cancelled due to extremely strong winds. Though experienced sailors would have been fine in afore mentioned winds, it would not have been a pleasant experience for novice sailors and guests.

However, the fun did not end after the cancellation announcement. Breakfast was had in the shop followed by a full day of sailing. Many club members got out on the water in Union Bay and Lake Washington and had a blast! The evening wrapped up with delicious chili and cornbread in the banquet hall followed by an after party.

Pictures are still filtering in, but I've started a slideshow in the right-hand toolbar for all our picture documentation. Right now I've got some shots Goran took from breakfast at the WAC, and the pictures from the work party. Keep checking for more pictures of Waka and some dinghy and cat sailing.

If you have any photos to add, let me know! telltale@washingtonyachtclub.org

Friday, November 6, 2009

Snooze n' Cruise Work Party Photos

Some pictures I took of the workparty.

 It will be an interesting Snooze n' Cruise! Thanks everyone who came to help get ready for the event, and I'll see you all tomorrow!

Kira manning the SnC signup area.

Adrian updates the guys on his eventful qualifier.

Andrew C. after a day of high winds and skipper ratings tests.

Some sail mending.

Checking the strength of patching material...

Kregg, Jonah, and Andrew V. check out one of the engines in the shop.

Keeping warm in the sail locker.

If you are taking pictures at Snooze n' Cruise, or you have a story that you'd like to share about SnC this weekend, please let me know and I'd be happy to put your content up on the blog!