Tag Archives: sailing

Just go sailing and forget the rest

Every weekday, I sit with Porter and Magnus to tackle some schoolwork. Porter has a workbook that teaches him to read and write letters and numbers, and identify shapes and colors. Today’s shape was an octagon and the instructions were to trace the shape and then be creative and draw any picture inside it. He couldn’t wait to draw the picture.

Peering over his shoulder, I watched him diligently craft a sailboat in the middle. He then turned to me and proudly pointed to each part of his new vessel and labeled the parts aloud: “Mainsail, jib, hull, mast, keel and rudder.”

It was a simple yet elegant sloop. Beaming with pride, I congratulated him on a nice boat and we turned the page.

I love that Porter draws sailboats. Without prompting and without pointing out what parts need to go where, he has been using shapes to create these simple designs for a while now. Whether on the chalkboard at the local aquarium, on a blank sheet of paper or on his schoolwork, it’s his go-to doodle. Funny enough, I used to do the exact same thing.

His drawing today, though, got me thinking about all shapes, sizes and designs of sailboats I’ve been fortunate to sail on over the years. And out of all of them, I truly couldn’t think of a single one that I didn’t like. The reason is that I just flat out love to sail. And I love sailboats.

Whether gunkholing on a 20-odd-foot sloop, testing a full keel cruiser, steering an ocean racer, teaching aboard a roomy catamaran or ripping around an anchorage in a Laser with one sail, I’m on it. Basically, if it has sails and can be steered, count me in. Nothing else matters.

But to some sailors, it does matter — A LOT. And if you’ve sailed long enough you’ve certainly met those in the sailing community that will vehemently argue boat design and equipment until they are red in the face. Try asking a group of sailors what boat you should buy and wait for the reactions. It’s exhausting.

Rather than falling into the trap of being fanatical about one type of boat over another, or one style of sailing over another, I’ve always tried to find strengths in them all. Because the truth is that sailboats, like their owners, are moving targets that carry a variety of characteristics. And, certainly, no two boats or owners are ever alike.

In many cases, what is considered the right boat or the right way to outfit it depends solely on what the owner plans to do with it and what their personal tastes are. Will the vessel sit at a dock and on the hard most of the time? Will it cruise coastal or offshore waters continuously? Will it hit the race course? Or, will it do a bit of everything?

The overarching reality is that it doesn’t matter what boat you or someone else owns, whether you have one mast or two, a Yeti cooler or a refrigerator, freezer and ice maker. Oftentimes, the right boat is the one you have right now. And as long as you’re safe, it probably doesn’t matter if it is a boat as simple as Porter’s drawing or one with every possible piece of gear aboard. Most of us just need to go sailing more often and forget the rest.

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. Continue reading The sailing we needed

Why we’re out here: 7 inspiring days of sailing

Broad reaching towards Ladysmith after the squall
Broad reaching towards Ladysmith after the squall

When we rounded the northern corner of Salt Spring Island the squall overtook us. Big drops of rain coupled with strong headwinds brought visibility to almost nothing, and I hoped we wouldn’t hit a log or snag a crab trap. I knew it was just a passing shower, but I wanted it to end.

With one reef already in the main, we beat slowly towards the southern end of Tent Island and, as expected, it soon passed. Blue sky followed and the sun filled in brilliantly, causing my black Musto jacket to steam and gleam in the warm light. I took it off, tossed it aside and rolled the jib out on a broad reach to sail the remaining miles to Ladysmith. Such has been life aboard for the past seven days — sailing all the way, and loving it. Continue reading Why we’re out here: 7 inspiring days of sailing

Yahtzee’s Round Saltspring Race, and the highs and lows of sailboat racing

The Round Saltspring Island fleet at Salt Spring Island Sailing Club before the race.

Under a thin veil of cloud cover, an unexpectedly fresh northerly breeze had the fleet of 105 sailboats for the 42nd annual Round Saltspring Island Race (42 miles) milling about and set to start in Ganges Harbour, British Columbia. When our division’s five minute starting sequence ticked down to zero, Jill and I, along with our friends Will and Sarah, had Yahtzee right on the start line with full sails and good boat speed. We absolutely nailed it. Continue reading Yahtzee’s Round Saltspring Race, and the highs and lows of sailboat racing

A Canadian welcoming committee — cops & whales

Our escort

We were just a couple miles across the Canadian border when I noticed a few powerboats milling about in mid-channel. Taking a closer look with the binoculars, I could tell they were looking at something — orcas. Shortly after spotting them, I saw the small pod of whales they were watching. The unmistakable spout and tall black dorsal fins emerged off our port side, and then the small group disappeared.

Seeing orcas in the wild is an experience that never gets old, and a few minutes later, one of the whales appeared again and swam parallel to us for a few hundred yards; seemingly escorting us into Canada. When she went on her way, I got us back on our course and noticed very quickly that an official looking black and gray powerboat was speeding our way. Continue reading A Canadian welcoming committee — cops & whales

Ready When You Are

Three storms landed haymakers on the Pacific Northwest this week that brought gusts of wind in the upper 60s and low 70s, knocked out power to many, downed trees, and for mariners, caused a good bit of anxiety. We got socked with the first punch while at anchor early on Tuesday morning before retiring to our corner in Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor to watch the rest of the bout unfold on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday night when the gusts started I immediately knew they were in the mid 50s, but we didn’t really see much above that. Thankfully.

What this succession of storms did, though, is upped our overall preparedness. Not for another round of storms per say, as we’re generally always geared up for those this time of year, but for the arrival of our son. Jill’s due date is just a few weeks away now and we’ve decided—along with some gentle nudging form our midwife—that staying in Bellingham until he arrives is the best thing to do. So no more anchoring out in places like this…

Inati Bay, Lummi Island
Inati Bay, Lummi Island

Or sailing…

Crossing Rosario Strait
Crossing Rosario Strait

…until this guy is here, which is just fine with us. We’re ready now. We’ve secured a temporary slip in the harbor, have Jill’s mom aboard to hang out with Porter, rented a car so we can make a dash for the delivery room, and have the new babe’s room waiting. We’re ready when he is.