The sailing we needed

The breeze was up and an approaching squall had more in store.

With the red buoy off Bainbridge Island’s southeastern tip fine on the port bow, Yahtzee healed hard on port tack. A wet, blustery squall had just passed and in its wake left sunshine and a stiff 25-knot breeze that scuttled clouds quickly across the sky. Glancing down from the mainsail to see our speed, I couldn’t contain my smile when I read 8.4 knots. Yes!

Shortly after, gusts in the mid-30s kept the adrenaline pumping and a rainbow framed the channel markers leading us into Eagle Harbor. We’d sailed 20 miles in under three hours in what turned out to be one of those days on the water that wiped away the fiberglass dust, boatyard grime and dollar signs that inevitably came with all our recent boat work. This was a day of sailing we’d been looking for.

Patience pays

When we’re cruising in our normal winter routine, we typically plan to sit and wait places for days if necessary to catch favorable breezes — sailing to a schedule just doesn’t suit us. Earlier this week we’d headed down to Gig Harbor in the snow, knowing that when a warm front came on Thursday we’d be in for a predictable southerly and smooth sail back north. Boy, did we get it.

While preparing the boat to leave this morning in the harbor, Magnus could be heard singing on deck. His usual “Bah, Bah, Black Sheep” was there, but so too was a ditty of his own devise. “I love Yahtzee. I love Yahtzee. I love Yahtzee” he belted out in a sweet tempo. At two, he’s more mobile and comfortable on deck than ever, and his tender crooning would signal that today would be his day on the water.

Just outside Gig Harbor’s narrow entrance, Porter tailed the main halyard while I jumped it from the mast and Magnus looked on. When the sail was set, we spun the wheel to port and pointed Yahtzee’s bow back north up Colvos Passage.

Magnus watching Porter help raise the mainsail.

The wind was predicted to start at a modest 10 knots in the morning and build to 25 or more throughout the day. With that knowledge, or hope, I shut the engine off, rolled out the genoa and kicked back while watching the boat surge ahead. Puget Sound’s recent high tides had pulled logs and flotsam off nearby beaches and we all monitored it intently when logs, a section of dock and lots of debris passed on either side.

Magnus was all smiles.

Steadily, the wind rose, Yahtzee sailed ever faster and the once rainy morning gave way to bursts of sunshine. Out came rainbows and sunglasses, and, given that the temperature hovered in the low 50s, the day was starting to feel decidedly spring-like — which made Monday’s snow seem like years ago.

The four of us were on deck far longer than usual this time of year and Magnus was in his element. Weaving our way up Colvos, he walked the side decks, sat near the bow, climbed over the cabin top, and played and bantered with me in the cockpit. Turning a winch and taking a trick at the helm were his speed and Jill and I could tell that he was loving every minute of it. As he should.

Sailing buddies.

By the time we’d left the passage in our wake and Blake Island to our port side, he had to be coaxed down below against his will for a well deserved and much needed nap. That’s when the squall hit, and while sailing through it alone, the bright beam on my face probably could have been used as the light on nearby Blakely Rock on the darkest of nights.

Sailing is the fuel that keeps us going. It has taken patience to wait for it this winter, but when the sails were set and the crew of Yahtzee was rolling, the enthusiasm for moving with the wind shined through us all. It was a day of sailing that we needed.


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8 thoughts on “The sailing we needed

  1. I very much enjoyed this account! I live north of you, in Campbell River on Vancouver Island and I am aching to get back on the water. I have taken my Sea Pearl to the lake on a couple of sunny days. Those, and stories like yours help me get through the winter.

  2. Andy, your writing is in such fine form; this post was particularly potent! Thank you.
    It reminds me of a chilly mid-December trip my wife and took, borrowing my boss’s Erickson 35 from Shilshole to sail up and back to Fish Creek, on the southern end of San Juan–southern winds going north and cold clear northerlies for the trip back south. Looking forward to meeting you in person.
    For awhile, I’ll be stuck ere in the Willamette Valley but I look forward to sailing again on the Salish Sea.

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