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Old 19-08-2010, 15:29   #1
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Arrow Challenge: Strait of Juan de Fuca at 0300

Alright, I know now how stupid this was. But for all of you that have faced these conditions, I need to know how you handled it.
I had to cross the Strait quickly and efficiently to get to family in Seattle. The Wx said larger swells and 25-30 knt winds in the evening, abating after midnight. So I set sail at 0800 from Bellingham, thinking I would get into the strait after midnight and have a nice quiet sail across. Also the tide would be slack at 0430, giving me a push up the inlet to Port Townsend.
Things started wrong because my battery charger was turned off when I got on the boat and I had near dead batteries leaving port....my crew was inexperienced and had not agreed on my sail plan (second mistake) I left with a greater than 5% chance of getting in bad adverse conditions (3rd mistake) On the other hand- what is 25knt winds for the Valiant? That's just getting in good sailing weather!
Moon set at 2300 leaving a inky blackness all around. It started to get bumpy in Rosiario Strait so we reefed the main, put up the staysail and lifejackets with jacklines on. About 0100 we entered the straits and all heck broke loose. I turned on the diesel and motor sailed, with the boat being knocked around pretty well. Breaking waves and swells about 10-12 feet. For those that know the area, I thought going behind Smith island would get me some relief, but it put me so close to the shore my nerves were constantly on edge. Finally we get to Admiralty inlet, but the tide is still going out!! Rips and standing waves were everywhere I could see, which wasn't very far due to the fog there. By now my crew can only lay on his side and moan, after throwing up a few times. We are punching through, but the rips turn us 180 every minute or so.
So there we are....
Pitch dark- only occasional buoys and hints of the rocks out there.
Chart plotter going in and out-
Crew immobilized-
Unable to leave the wheel for even a couple of seconds due to the rip currents-
Wave tossing us about like a toy in a bathtub-
Unable to make headway because of the current-
Thick fog-
Comments/Suggestions? And don't think I set this up- these are the actual conditions I faced 2 days ago. I will tell you how I got out of it a little later...
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Old 19-08-2010, 15:59   #2
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Old 19-08-2010, 17:51   #3
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Glad you survived, that can be a very deadly stretch of water. My wife and I learned a hard lesson trying to beat the weather in a crossing from Cattle Pass to Point Wilson. I'm trying to imagine it in pitch dark conditions with an incapacitated crew, clawing your way past Point Wilson in a blow against an ebbing tide is scary as hell in the daylight. After dropping the hook in Port Townsend it sure felt good to be alive though.
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Old 19-08-2010, 18:09   #4
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Sounds like things went in the toilet!! I'm glad you've recovered enough to tell us your experiences. Every sailor has their own "passage from hell" story.
I'll refrain from doing a hindsight armchair critiquec of your experiences and will wait for the rest of the story.
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Old 19-08-2010, 20:58   #5
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Sorry, guess I am having a hard time placing this in time and space. I have only sailed to the San Juan Islands once - from Hawaii - and sailed out once to Port Townsend, and that on a 30 foot sailboat without a working engine (i.e. we needed wind, in that area either a lot or none). My (imperfect) recollection is that it is only about 15 miles from Bellingham to Rosiario Straight, yet you left at 8 AM and didn't get there until 11 PM? If progress was 1 knot, that would have prompted me to search for "Plan B" after five or six hours.

Get to family in Seattle? I am not positively sure about this but I would bet there are a few options with public transportation or renting a car that would have gotten you to Seattle in relative safety in the worst of weather.

I am gonna guess you wanted to experience some bad weather, which is admirable - "smooth sailing does not good sailors make"...

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Old 19-08-2010, 22:05   #6
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correction

Sorry, I am still a little tired. I left Bellingham at 8pm. And I have made this crossing a few times too, all safely.
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Old 19-08-2010, 23:03   #7
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I also had a appt for someone to view the boat for charter- although my family was waiting for me. Your right- a car would have been the way to go otherwise
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Old 19-08-2010, 23:59   #8
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Well, you must be an OK sailor! You made it with nothing broken. What would our ole timers done 100 years ago? Especially, without the chart plotter which it sounds like you didn't get to use much anyway, Which brings up another thread "GPS in the Puget Sound". Mine too goes in/out all the time and just at the wrong time.

Personally, I hate rounding Port Townsend. I've started swing wide (close to the East shore) during the rips. With deep keel boats that rip can send one every-which-way.

It's too bad for your crew help but getting beamed with big swells it not for those with weak stomachs. But that's when it's best to have a sailboat, the wind in the sails keeps the boat from rolling too much. That's why some trawlers have sails, to steady the boat.

OBTW Didn't you know that Murphy takes over when your in a hurry?
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Old 20-08-2010, 00:59   #9
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Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
. But for all of you that have faced these conditions, I need to know how you handled it. ...
I would have taken the Sea Ray and went through Swinomish Channel........Oh wait!......I sold that...never mind....

Just kidding around......Carry on!
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Old 20-08-2010, 02:00   #10
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G'day, mate. One my only trip through the Juan De Fuca from Grey's Harbor to Port Townsend I was motor sailing on the south boundry of the shipping lane going East in thick fog. No plotter back then, just the route with the waypoints and the radar going, along with the appropriate fog horn. Heard a freighter approaching with his fog signals. He called me on the radio and asked me to shift another 100 meters to the south to get around the upcoming turning bouy. The fog was so think, I never got a visual on him, but I was glad he was paying attention to his radar! Cheers.
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Old 20-08-2010, 08:44   #11
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Newt,
A week or so ago you advertised in this forum for crew to help you move your boat. Was your choice of crew from this source and what were their qualifications?

The few times I've been on other sailboats in the San Juans I've found that the currents around the islands change dramatictly hourly.
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Old 20-08-2010, 08:47   #12
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I was unnecessarily sharp in my reply, but after penciling out your journey I couldn't figure why someone would slam into weather on a coastal passage for 15 hours before "all heck broke out" thereby missing tidal changes at the straights - unless they wanted to... Leaving twelve hours later puts this tale in a different light...
Our boats are very similar - double-enders, Bob Perry design, similar displacements, the keels a bit different. My Panda 40 has taken me through some harrowing experiences (read: stupid mistakes) and has proven to be more durable than me. Still, it doesn't do well against rock or ship so I try to learn from each new harrowing experience how to keep away from those - a strong autopilot (in my case, Alpha), radar visible from the binnacle, and heaving to when thoroughly confused. Occasionally turning back. It would be impossible to second guess what someone should have done in a particular situation but since you did make it you did what was necessary - but perhaps not wise.
"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." Now you have some more good judgment ;-)

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Old 20-08-2010, 09:19   #13
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well I could not figure out how I had gotten there with an outgoing tide (I had looked and it was low tide at 0430 remember?) So in the midst of my trouble I tried to figure out what had gone so wrong- Daylight savings time. Sure enough, about 530 the tide starts to creep in, the sun slowly brightens my world, and Port Townsend bay starts to appear (in little windows) on my right. We anchor in, collapse and wake up much later in the morning.
As for crew- I had a couple of excellent people volunteer, but because of problems with the boat, I could not make the schedule and had to turn them away. I made this journey with my son. He still loves me BTW...
Lessons learned:
Tides are on standard time.
Lee shores get closer at night.
Don't get lazy and depend on your chartplotter.
If travelling at night, know when the moon sets.
The Wx is a guess.
Fog is a given in at Point Wilson at this time of year. Be grateful when it is not there.
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Old 20-08-2010, 11:03   #14
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Never underestimate the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Always error on the side of safety. That being said, Point Wilson is a real bugger.
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Old 20-08-2010, 11:39   #15
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Alright, I know now how stupid this was. But for all of you that have faced these conditions, I need to know how you handled it....
Only once have I faced conditions like that, in Alaska, and I got chicken, turned around, and hid in a bay until the **** blew out. The pivot on top a wave to turn and run back was an example of effing beginner's luck.

Since then I've been pretty careful to avoid conditions like that. I am an admitted wimp, capital W.

Glad to hear you got through it. I agree, you must be a good sailor.

It's not the wind that get you; it's the sharp, square waves. There's nothing you can do but run downhill if you have no lee shore, or else muscle your way through it and hope the mast isn't laid over. Or hide, like I did. I can't imagine doing that at night. What a nightmare.
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