My account of the first 2 days of the 2019 Salish 100 event
“I wanted freedom, open air, adventure. I found it on the sea.”Alain Gerbault
It was June 22, 2019, and the official first day of the inaugural Salish 100 event. I was brimming with excitement. Mom and I packed up early that morning and decided to get a coffee before the scheduled skipper’s meeting. But before the coffee run, I needed to teach Mom how to attach and detach Guppy’s empty trailer since she would be traveling independently with my car, while I was out sailing. I demonstrated how it was done, and then she attached it. It looked good to me, and she noted how it was easier to lock than she had expected. I didn’t think much of that notation, and we went on our way. After 2 minutes of slowly driving along, the most awful sound came from the back of the car. The trailer had come off the ball hitch! It was flopping about, making lots of scary noise by hitting the car’s bumper. The safety chain did its job and kept the trailer attached to the car. I pulled over immediately. Both mom and I were startled but despite all the ruckus, it appeared that no major damage had occurred to the car or trailer. Whew, what a relief. We then secured and locked the trailer properly this time and continued with our morning. I was a little shaken up and tried to avoid thinking of this occurrence as a bad omen by focusing on the positive: I now know the safety chain works.
I had a black coffee with a blueberry scone and the sugar/caffeine combination got me feeling better. I was ready for adventure! At the final skipper’s meeting before setting sail, Marty Loken (the brains behind the event) had passed out an itinerary detailing the days to come so that those participating in the event (and mom!) could know what to expect. For this first day, we were to set sail from Olympia, Washington, travel up Budd Inlet, through Dana Passage to our first anchorage in Henderson Inlet. It was a total of 11 nautical miles. The distance wasn’t extreme, but I had tides and currents to consider. Puget Sound is mysterious and magically alive. The tides shift and gain in strength throughout the day and can create rather strong currents. A novice sailor like myself with little knowledge of the area was blessed to be in expert and helpful company. The schedule and itinerary had been organized and set by people who understood the area. The first challenge was to pass the point of Budd Inlet at a certain time before the tide would shift and start working against me.
As I was prepping Guppy to set sail, the Harbor Master came by for a chat. He was very friendly and expressed he thought that my boat was the cutest, and of course I agreed with him. I used my noisy motor to initially get out of the marina, but turned it off as soon as possible. Utilizing the light winds, we slowly sailed out and away from the marina. I waved to Mom who was on the pier seeing us off. Once away from the marina and catching a little more wind, I was in awe. The 100+ small sailboats quietly gliding together painted the pristine landscape with white sails. It was absolutely stunning.
Christine had set sail after me, but it wasn’t long before her 16 foot Sparrow, Christine’s Dream, passed little Guppy and was ahead. The day started relaxed with light winds, not what I had originally anticipated. Noting the other boats making faster progress, I was discouraged with my prudent decision to start with our smaller working jib sail. The winds lightened even more and there was a sense that I needed to make a better pace to get past the point before the tide shifted. I decided to change out my headsail to the bigger Genoa. So I turned the bow into the wind, secured my tiller as best I could, and then climbed up to the bow to switch out the sails by hand. Then, I noticed Christine backtracking and approaching Guppy. I waved at my friend. She had a concerned look on her face, and expressed that me being on the bow, with the cockpit unmanned, was a precarious situation. I wasn’t overly worried, but I did hurry up. As she was leaving, she said when we got to Henderson Inlet she was going to help me by fashioning a jib downhaul so that I could stay off the bow safely in heavy weather. Once I had changed out the sails, I climbed back into the cockpit, the wind picked up ever so slightly and with her bigger head sail up, we started making great speed. There were support boats all around, cheerfully checking on me.
As I passed the point and turned starboard into Henderson Inlet, the winds started picking up. I gained speed and had to tack up the inlet to the designated anchorage. It was a blast. I had little races with nearby boats and even beat a Montgomery 15. Then a Catamaran came zipping by playfully, super speedy passing us easily, splashing and having fun. I approached our anchorage and searched for Christine and her group. The Lewis-Clark Sailing Association from Idaho were a jolly and welcoming group of sailors. They greeted me with Gin and snacks, as I rafted along side Christine. Once safely rafted, Christine climbed aboard Guppy and created the jib downhaul by attaching a block to the tack of the jib sail and ran a line from the head of the sail through the block and back to my cockpit. This would allow me to lower my jib sail safely from the cockpit and not require me to physically get on the bow. I appreciated her help and it came in extremely useful the following day. I decided to set up my cockpit tent as well as inflate my tender, the inflatable paddle board that would aid me in getting to and from shore and around anchorages. It was a beautiful sunset with a great group of people. We drank, ate and shared stories. It was a fine first evening followed by a very restful sleep in Guppy.
Awakening to the quiet, serene beauty of Puget Sound in the morning, while listening to the stirrings from nearby boats on the water was like waking up to a dream realized. I am really here! Coffee and breakfast were top priority. I decided since Guppy was the smallest boat, relatively “slow”, and located at the end of the raft, that I should be the first to set sail from the raft and get started towards our next destination of Penrose Point State Park, 14 nautical miles away. We needed to sail up Drayton Passage and through the narrow Pitt Passage. The morning brought light and variable winds. I was very patient and resisted starting up the motor. I figured I was here to sail, see the area, and was in no rush. I knew that the wind would eventually come back and the current was helpful in the direction that I needed to go. Going through Pitt passage, I noticed a few local, large and beautiful sailboats joining me. They were fun to watch and sail with. The scenery was stunning too. The shoreline was rocky with varying elevations covered by piney trees. The water was a dark pool reflecting the clouds and the sea creatures reminded me often that I was in saltwater. I would see seals and porpoises playing and an occasional large orange jelly fish would drift by.
After being the last boat of the fleet to get through Pitt passage, I turned port in the direction of our next anchorage. Afternoon clouds were rolling in and the winds began to pick up. Before long, Guppy and I were flying! It was exhilarating after a slow morning of drifting. However, as we continued on, there was a little too much excitement with gusts knocking Guppy around and catching my nerves. The boat became more difficult to handle, and I wanted to reduce sail. I had my large genoa headsail up but changing it was not an option in these conditions. I decided to drop my small mainsail to reduce speed and steady the boat. The winds kept building, but I was on a nice beam reach with the headsail so I wasn’t overly concerned…. until that is, I had to go upwind to the anchorage. Everything changed at that point. The strong head wind combined with the only sail I had up, the large genoa, was a recipe for an upwind challenge. I had a very friendly support boat nearby who saw me struggling. “Want a tow?” he called out. “No thanks!” I answered back. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do this. He suggested that I raise my jib halyard more to reduce the slack and to have more tension in the front to help me point better. He also suggested shorter tacks, to spend no longer than 3 minutes on each heading. I knew he was right about the sail and had been ignoring the issue for a while. I pointed into the wind and moved quickly to raise the jib sail as much as possible. It had been improved but still slipped a little. I had been doing long tacks because every time I tacked I would lose speed and headway, but he was right, and the shorter tacks produced clear upwind progress. I noticed a small dory in the distance who also was having some trouble going upwind, and he was now receiving a tow. It was nice to know that I had support nearby. I was definitely tiring. It had probably been 2 full hours of struggling, but I was finally nearing the anchorage.
I called over the VHF radio for Christine to see about another potential raft up. Skip, the captain of G’Day, a 33 foot Fjord, answered back. He stated that he was moored, Christine was rafted with him, and that Guppy and I were more than welcome to raft up too. I gratefully accepted the offer and asked his location. Now I knew where I had to go, but I was also so tired and just wanted to stop. I called over the radio and asked Skip if it was ok to drop anchor where I already was. This spot appeared close to shore and was located a bit north of the moorages. It baffled me as to why no one else was dropping anchor at this pristine spot. Skip calmly came over the radio and said that I can do what I want, but according to the charts it looks like that spot was over a hundred feet deep and covered in seaweed. A side smile came over my face, what a delicate way to deliver bad news. I knew I had to suck it up, and that I definitely couldn’t drop anchor there! I tacked again and pointed as best I could. It was only about 15 minutes later that I reached G’Day. As I approached the massive sailboat, I fired up my motor and dropped my headsail using my nifty new down haul line. Guppy and I were rafted! And to a boat only slightly bigger, at almost 3 times her length. Once Guppy was secured, Skip and Melissa welcomed me with open arms. They helped me aboard and handed me a beer followed by yummy meat, cheese, and crackers. They are fantastic people and I felt as if I had known them my entire life.
After a lovely evening with great people, food, and a rich hot chocolate, it was bedtime. I climbed back down onto Guppy, set up her cockpit tent and then transformed her cabin for the night. I inflated my air mattress, unrolled my sleeping bag, and changed into my cozy pajamas. I wiggled into the sleeping bag and relaxed, completely wiped out from the very full day. Ahhh, so nice to close my eyes, I thought, as I stretched out. And then I felt a huge wave lift Guppy up and slam her down. My eyes popped open, What the heck was that?!