Slow-Mo Sailing, Jones Island Land Ho!

We did it!!! Well, Marty did it :)! WE SAILED CONDOR! We set sail with a new electric motor and a de-mildewed jib sail. This was our maiden sailing voyage and we were excited to share it with my nephew Noah. For our first sail trial run, we wanted to go somewhere decently close… just in case something went horribly awry and we needed to call TowUs. We settled on Jones Island since Marty had been there before and highly recommended it and more importantly we could get there within an hour depending on conditions. So we could easily have time to paddle to shore, hike, kayak around, etc…We diligently checked the charts for currents, tides and NOAA for the wind report and were happy to have light winds for a slow “get used to the boat” sail. A little before noon we set sail for Jones Island, a marine campground close to Friday Harbor, off the coast of Shaw and Orcas Islands.

Day 1, minute 1 of 1 hour journey, “the rudder won’t go starboard”, I hear Marty say as we are backing out of our slip. Fortunately the boat neighbor was there to help push up off his boat if need be… but should we be going if the rudder isn’t working correctly?? Well, apparently it’s normal a thing called prop walk and we were out of the marina in no time. We kept on motoring until we get into San Juan channel about ten fifteen minutes and Marty puts the sails up! Whoa!!! We were off at a comfortable snail’s pace of 2 miles an hour :).

Day 1, minute 30 of 1 hour journey. The wind is against us, putzing at 2-3 miles an hour. “There’s water in the boat!!” That’s not right. Some gross murky-ish water is spreading from the galley area towards mid cabin. We frantic-calmly check the bilge which looks fine and realize it’s coming from under the stove (don’t ask). Ick, I wipe it up with some towels and we avert crisis. After having hardly any wind for over an hour, we turn the motor back on for some motor-sailing action. Noah is down below, sleeping. Marty and I are enjoying the amazing weather and a spot a porpoise!

Day 1, hour 3 of 1 hour journey. The wind is against us, putzing at 0.5 – 3 miles an hour. Noah is still sleeping. “The motor sounds kinda funny, oh my, the power is dropping like the batteries are going out”. After about 2-3 hours (wait, wasn’t this supposed to be an hour trip??) we are not even half-way to Jones, should we turn back? Fortunately Marty hooks up a generator to the something-or-other and charges the batteries and we’re on our way again. We see some wind and turn off the motor and sort of go back and forth for a while.

Day 1, hour 5 of 1 hour journey. The wind is against us, we’re sailing at 2-3 miles an hour. Noah is still sleeping. “That’s crazy, that house looks like the same one we passed like 30-40 minutes ago”…oh wait. So in our tacking back and forth, we definitely lost some ground which was kind of frustrating, but fortunately the weather was still wonderful, the water peaceful, but the wind hardly blowing. I will say, I am very familiar with the beach homes on Shaw Island :)! Noah wakes and makes lunch (very much needed). We eventually decide to press on to Jones since we are now closer rather than farther, but we turn on the motor again just so it doesn’t get to be too late and mostly to arrive before night (especially because our night running lights aren’t totally working.. like not at all working). These are the ones that let other boaters know our port and starboard sides which inform the rules of the road for who has the right-of-way. We take the sails down and secure them.

Day 1, hour 6 of 1 hour journey. The wind is against us, we’re motoring at 4-5 miles an hour. Noah sleeps. “Ugh, bummer all three mooring balls are taken on the South side of the island”. The motor has been running great on the back up generator, so we decide to go the North side of the island where there are a few more mooring balls and a dock. Upon arrival, they are also full, so we decide to head back to the Southside where there are less boats and anchor off. I’m extremely nervous about anchoring off. I’ve never done it before and thus far… things haven’t been going totally great so I kind of don’t want to chance another thing going wrong. But sigh, we head around the island heading South again.

Day 1, hour 6 minute 15 of 1 hour journey. Noah is still sleeping. The motor stops working completely. Marty says, “I don’t know what else to do.” Slight panic. Hmnnn… we’re floating on a boat that is moving absolutely no where. The currents aren’t with us, we’re kinda dead in the water. So we list the positives: we are on the right side of the boat, there is still daylight, we can still call TowUs, we are in this together, the GPS and depth sounder are working really well!, there’s still food on the boat. Wait! Wind! And we’re on a sailboat… let’s hoist! I go to hoist the jib since the wind is finally in our favor even if it’s barely blowing and kabam, it’s gone in 30 seconds. HOWEVER, it was just enough for master Captain Marty to steer us in the right direction AND the motor miraculously (and I do mean miraculously) kicked back on. Fortunately we were very close to the South end and found a nice spot to anchor off.

Day 1, hour 7 of 1 hour journey. We have arrived! Noah’s awake! Marty unleashes the anchor and we are set. Like really set. Like it actually worked. Like wow… is it a trick? We rowed to shore and used the bathroom, Condor is a number one boat only. From here on out our trip was actually fantastic! We walked around half the perimeter of the island, enjoyed all the awesome madrona trees, saw some otters splashing around and just felt pretty relieved to be settled for the night. Our motor issues could wait for the morning.

Day 2, 3 am. “Michelle, come see this.” I heard Marty rouse around 2:45 or so, which I knew was a bathroom call, but also checking to make sure we hadn’t drifted. I got up and went out to the cockpit to see an incredible starry sky. Yep, we could see the Milky Way, and I’m pretty sure I caught sight of a shooting star. We could make out the city glow from Victoria and Vancouver, and we remember the stars from our bike trip last year. The silence and beauty of it all makes all the angst and hassles worth it.

Day 2, 7 am. The next morning we wake up to a gorgeous fog rolling over the islands and it just feels so Pacific Northwest. Marty gets the coffee going and makes some breakfast before we all head to the island to hike the other side of the perimeter. It was fun to see the kayakers camped out (pretty sure they got to Jones faster than us as well) and we talked about doing the same someday.

Day 2, minute 5 of 1 hour journey. We get back to the boat and I help Marty feed the anchor chain back into the boat as he lifts it. Noah is in charge of the helm and kept us from hitting the neighboring boat. We set sail, diligently powering the motor batteries with the generator, but we’re actually sailing 3 miles an hour, feels pretty good.

Day 2, minute 45 of 1 hour journey. The wind is so light we barely move for some time, then we’re sailing 4 miles an hour making a few tacks. Noah is sleeping. I’m helping to “come about” using the jib sails. We’re actually moving and feeling like this is what sailing is supposed to be. I look out for whales, but none to be seen.

Day 2, hour 1.5 of 1 hour journey. The wind is for us, we’re sailing 5, almost 6 miles an hour (have to set the gps to knots). Noah is still sleeping. Marty is near tears that he’s sailing his boat, we turn off the generator and enjoy the sounds of the water and the gorgeously sunny day.

Day 2, hour 2.5 of 1 hour journey. We’re back in the Marina and docked. Noah is still sleeping. We are pumped! I’m ready to do it again! We need to figure out the motor. All in all, this was such an amazing and liberating experience. I can’t say I loved being at the helm, but I love plotting a course, checking the currents and the tides and will be thrilled to be navigator!