Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Currently Speaking

It was Memorial Day Weekend and we had no plans. The weather was shaping up to be pretty darn good considering the last few months, but Brad and I had a serious case of indecisiveness. After our wonderful little spontaneous dinner in Port Madison last weekend, we are feeling like we can just make something without much planning.
Sometimes (more often than not in our past life), planning is a good thing. We had even tried some planning: friends down the dock had lost their ride for Swiftsure and we had proposed going a couple of different places. They thought it was a great idea and left without us on Thursday evening (bummer that some of still have to work). I must say at this point that they did make it up to us, but I am getting ahead of myself. I wasn't prepared to make momentous cruising plans on my own, so I figured we would just stick close, maybe going to Poulsbo and getting breakfast from the bakery would be just fine with me. If that was going to be our plan, there was no need to get going til Saturday some time.
Thank goodness for customers who often need Brad's help with local knowledge of waters around here. It just so happened that we had closed a boat that the owner was delivering to Sydney and being from Calgary was relying on Brad to help with his trip planning. Brad started looking at the tides and weather and realized that we could have some of the biggest currents of the year. A plan started to crystalize and by the time Brad was able to join the kids and I at our neighbors' dock party, we were pretty sure that it was going to be an early morning heading north to the San Juans. Where exactly, well, like I said, we were having a serious case of the indecisives.
Saturday morning dawned beautiful (but calm). At least, we had that raging current. We headed north at 6:30. The woman across the dock was encouraging her husband to "hurry up" with those dock lines as she backed out their powerboat. I usually back us out, so I did the same thing (tongue in cheek, of course). When it was finally a reasonable hour for normal people to recieve phone calls, we put in a call to some friends who have a cabin on the south end of Lopez Island.
A cabin that they have had for 9 years and we have been trying to connect with them at for most of that time. The moon and stars aligned: they were in Anacortes awaiting a tittle higher tide to get out of the marina and head over with some other guests. We made it to their mooring ball by 1:30 and spent the rest of the day catching up and exploring their property and oh yeah, the kids played on the beach. The cabin is very cool, much like a boat as they are not connected to the grid. They have a battery bank charged by solar power and a very cool catchment system.
As of Saturday night, we still had no plan for the rest of the weekend except that we could always fall back on hit Henry Island (outstation) or Mystery Bay (a state park across the street from Deer Meadow). Then, our friends from down the dock (the ones who left without us on Thursday) and their cell phone intervened with a text message about coming to play with them in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. Again, we had killer currents to get us up to them about midday and so that's what we did. Since, we were waiting for that all important current shift about 11:00, we had a leisurely morning with our friends, I even got in a little kayak trip around Aleck Bay and oh yeah, the kids played on the beach.
A quick two and half hour motor (no wind), but again awesome current, we made Reid Harbor. With a good weather report (no wind expected), we rafted to our neighbors and their friends. They had been waiting for us to take a dinghy ride to a beach that they had seen on their hike the day before. We may not have found the exact beach they had seen, but we found one that had the warm afternoon sun and lots of rocks to skip in Prevost Harbor. One the way back, with the Baker family re-distributed to even out the dinghies, a little dinghy race took shape. It had all the makings of a dramatic competition with the fastest boat encountering engine trouble near the finish and eventually being overtaken by a smaller but more reliable team. There was a group effort barbecue and some live music once we joined by another friend from home later in the evening who motored over from Sucia.
Again, the currents were with us if we left Reid Harbor around 9:00 am (that left me plenty of time for a nice kayak around the foot of the harbor). The Straits were lumpy as the easterly finished out and swung around to a weak westerly. Up went the sails as Austin was not feeling very well and Brad was trying to steady the boat. Sailing was nice while it lasted but the dying wind and calming seas combined to get us back motor sailing the rest of the way home. Just about the mid-channel marker (about 25 minutes from the dock) a nice northerly began to fill in as Brad and I were putting away the sails.
Pretty good weekend for CAPAZ considering that we really didn't have a clear plan on Friday night!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ladies' Cruise

The "Ladies" of CAPAZ: Laurian Toland, Jill Hendrick, Ann Ferguson, Jan Holbrook, Barb Pomeroy, and Kelly Scholl

Now this is my kind of party. Invite some friends to go out on your boat, one of them hostesses (thanks, Laurian - you are the best), the rest bring the food and drinks, lunch is catered, and all I had to do was a little boat cleaning.
I guess I should start at the beginning. The "Ladies' Cruise" or "May Cruise" is an annual Seattle Yacht Club event. It's the last event for the Women's Group each spring before many people take off for the summer. Anyway, this has been something that my mom has participated in for at least 4o years. When she first became involved, there were many young women her age. However, the median age of this group has climbed a little bit over the years and they are looking to get some of younger women (I love being referred to as a younger woman - I guess it is all relative) to attend some of the events. They have some interesting speakers, but they also have the problem that a majority of the "younger" women work and have children. Anyway, since there has been sincere efforts to include us, I thought I would do my part to encourage some of my friends.
I figured: now that we have this fairly weather-proof boat, maybe it was time to volunteer for the Ladies' Cruise. So, I polled a few friends mostly from my book group and it turned out that they were all pretty much game. We even got to add an extra off the waiting list at the last minute (and we weren't too squished).
With Brad as our trusty captain, we pulled away from the dock sipping mamosas under clearing skies. We even had a sprig of lilacs tied to our ensign on the stern (I am sure that Kelly O'Neill was smiling). Once past the breakwater, Brad hoisted the sails and off across the Sound to Port Madison we went. As we were about 2/3 of the way to Point Monroe, our captain noticed powerboats converging on us from both the locks (the other boats that had left from Portage Bay) and from Elliot Bay (ditto from Elliot Bay). Of course, then it became a race with only two overtaking us before we got into the channel and the rest just patiently had to follow us to the dock. We were the only boat with sticks at the dock.
Cocktail hour commenced under clear skies and a wonderful steak and salmon lunch was had by all. The return trip was even better with Brad and his sailor girls enjoying a day that truly makes the last few months of crappy weather truly worth it from our roomy cockpit! Finally, with the boat tucked back at the dock and everyone off to their respective rest of their days, the captain, my hostess and I enjoyed refreshing mojitos in the sun (a nice northerly was blowing for those who were off to racing!).
What a truly fantabulous day! I wish Behan had been able to join us. I guess we will have to do it again when she is back in this neck of the woods.

Sailor Girl Extraordinaire

Sunday, May 17, 2009

True Blue Live-Aboards

There is no denying it now, the Bakers are true blue live-aboards. Last week our house closed, so CAPAZ is truly home sweet home or should I say, boat sweet boat! On Friday, we had a little open house (read open boat) to celebrate the closing of the house. The weather was fantastic and it was also the first day of the NOOD Regatta here at Shilshole. Not only did we have our relator, land neighbors and dock neighbors stop by, but also some of our old friends from racing who happened to be around because of the regatta. It was a great time and we are very excited to moving forward with our big adventure.
Today was another gorgeous day. The boys fished, Brad tackled a couple of projects and I just did some straightening, cleaning and cooking. Just enough wind filled in around 4:00 to sail over to Port Madison. We anchored instead of tying up to the dock so that we could practice our anchoring technique. During the process, we are trying to use hand signals only. Note to self, when Brad wants me to back the boat down, it is difficult to both watch for the hand signals from him on the bow and make sure that we are not backing too close to shore or boats to stern of us. We will have to work on that particular aspect of our technique. Anyway, we enjoyed spaghetti, fresh bread and salad on a beautiful evening at Port Madison. The boys and I checked out the new playground while Brad stood anchor watch and did the dishes. As we headed back to the dock at Shilshole, the wind died, so we decided not sail. About halfway acrose the Sound, the wind dcecided to pick up and we could have sailed, but decided not to put the sails up because we were less than 20 minutes from the breakwater.
I guess this is a taste of what is to come for the Bakers!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Opening Day 2009

While Brad headed off to work Friday morning, Bryce practiced a little "boat school" . . . . . . . . . . . .

We made the absolute right decision to keep the kids out of school on Friday and enjoy an absolutely gorgeous day on the water. It involved lots of kayaking and even a little dinghy sailing. Bryce got to take a spin in our friend, Eric's El Toro. Though it looks an awful lot like an Opti, it is much more tender. Luckily, Eric spent many years teaching sailing and Bryce came back dry for the most part. Then, there were several trips by kayak to Marsh Island to explore what Austin termed, "the Amazon wilderness".

After some cajoling by our neighbors (yes, I must admit they were using the margaritas as encouragement), we headed to SYC for an afternoon dock party. There we ran into G-pa and G-ma and got them to come back out to the boat with us. We were able to drop them off in the "pick-up" spot for Saturday morning which lowered everyone's anxiety level (we all love a good plan!!).
Opening Day started very early for me as the wind kicked up around 5:30 am. I went out to check lines and stuff (Brad had a pretty late night that included a few rum and cokes and was not willing to get out our nice warm bunk). My neighbor, Dave, was also out checking Sliante's lines and we decided that it sounded much worse from a bunk than conditions actually were on deck and we both headed back to our respective bunks and bunkmates. It was hard to know exactly how many people would end up on CAPAZ for the day, but we had solid commitments from my parents and Tiff and Brogan. For different reasons, both groups were going to have to cut it close on getting out to the boat before the Cut closed to boat traffic in preparation for the crew races.
When all was said and done the timing was perfect and we all settled in on CAPAZ's roomy aft deck for the crew races. Tiff and I took a little walk down memory lane as we met each on the first day of crew practice at UW over twenty years ago. By the way, our girls (and boys) made us alumns very proud sweeping every race!!! We battled the drizzle that started with what else, but a traditional Seattle blue tarp stretched over the mizzen mast. If there are blue tarp campers, I guess we are blue tarp cruisers.

Brogan wasn't so sure about the whole thing until he had eaten a little something and the boat parade started with all sorts of boats tooting at him like a train! All was then well. There were lots of cowboy hats in the parade as the theme was "The Wild West". We nixed barbecuing on the aft deck because it would have disturbed our blue tarp set-up, so we opted for the griddle on the galley stove which "grilled" up the brauts just fine.
As cocktail hour approached the skies cleared and we had a nice social hour on Sliante. Kids were out exploring: 5 girls in a little dinghy and two boys in a kayak. There was a message over the radio saying there was a problem but that the situation was under control. A few minutes later, my boys come paddling up to the boat, towing the dinghy full of girls who flooded their outboard's motor. I guess they did have it all well in hand.
Those who had to skedaddle saw the big gray cloud approaching and high-tailed it to dry land. The rest of us moved out little party into the main salon of CAPAZ for the adults and the aft cabin for the kids. We feasted on the leftovers of the day. I do believe that everyone slept well after our full day opening boating season.
Sunday dawned beautiful (of couse) and we were graced with a quick trip (less than 2 hours) back to Shilshole. Our 4 nights and 5 days on anchor was a great little shake-down. Batteries, genset, holding tanks and such all worked well while we out. We got back so early that Brad even had plenty of time to change out a duck valve in our grey water system and change out an almost completely disinigrated elbow in our diesel heater!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Log Boom or Bust

We weren't really heading for the log boom, but rather the south side of the Montlake Cut for anchoring. I should probably start at the beginning: I grew up (at least the first 20 years of my life) spending the first weekend in May celebrating the Opening Day of Boating which is a festival loosely sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club. There are related events for most of a week, but the crown jewel happens on Saturday. There is a crew race with probably the largest attendance in the world: The Windermere Cup followed by a parade of decorated and bristol boats that can last for 2 or 3 hours. This all takes place in the waterway between Lake Washington and Portage Bay called the Montlake Cut (the eastern end of the Lake Washington Ship Canal). The land portion of "the Cut" is completely packed with thousands of spectators and the watery sides of the eastern end of the cut are lined with boat of all shape, size and form. On the north side the University of Washington puts our a log boom which boats can tie to and on the south side boats just anchor and raft to each other. So, now you know the where and the why.
How we went about getting this little adventure under way involved leaving Shilshole on Wednesday morning. After getting the kids off to school and running some errands, Brad and I took CAPAZ through the Ballard Locks and into the fresh water. There are five bridges that we have to open between our slip and where we were headed. There are certain times of the day (rush hour) that the bridges do not open for boats. So it's a little like running the gauntlet. There was a group of 3 sailboats who had come down from Victoria, BC together who were in the same lock lift with us. That meant the bridges waited for all four of to get us to get close before they would open, so we just settled in with our new Canadian friends and kept heading east. We actually had the artificial time limit (not the bridge time limit) of having to get anchored and dinghy back to the office where the car was parked so that we could get the kids from school.
Once we cleared the Montlake Bridge, our anchorage was in sight. There weren't very many boats but more than we expected. We picked a spot and dropped a stern anchor in the middle of the channel then pointed the boat at Marsh Island. Brad took a line from the bow in the dinghy and tied off to a tree. That was that! By 7:30 in the evening, we had two friends tied up on either side of us.
Thursday morning, we commuted to work and school in the dinghy. It was a gorgeous morning and the kids thought that was the best way to go to school 9even though they had to get up early in order to be on time. We also took our neighbor (both at Shilshole and out here on the Cut), to work. He walked down and caught the South Lake Union Trolley up to his office. You could say he had a "dinghy-S.L.U.T" commute.
The weather forecast for Friday could not be better, so we all pretty have come down with cases of the Seattle flu (this has no relation what-so-ever to the Swine Flu, but rather is something that afflicts Pacific NW residents on days when the sun comes out and the temperature rises). Days like this are why we "choose" to live here in the gray most of the year - we truly appreciate the beauty of an outstanding day when it comes along!!!!!
I must go for a paddle in the kayak now.