We had a really good night sleep but come dawn we were both wrecked from 12 hours in the relentless sun. Straight out of the gate we had a single reef in our main and our Yankee and were screaming along. At this pace we were going to have to heave to for serveral hours waiting for the tide before we could sail into Fish bay and surprise all of our friends. I recalculated our speed butit was pointless because we wouldn’t make to fish bay anytime soon.
I take full responsibility for what came next, being back in our home waters my brain was shot off, I know every inch of this area like the back of my hand, every lift and every eddy. Silently we slipped across an imaginary line the forms a watery boundary between the USA and Canada and as we did the wind went with the ghost leaving us in a lumpy sea. It was too rough to use our crippled motor and we were sitting ducks in the ships channel of Harro strait. Eventually we got the boat moving on what was soon to become the glassiest windless day I have ever encountered. Once the motor goes on I lose all interest in deck side activity, it’s no longer about the journey, it’s about the destination. I showed my crew the corse to the south end of Waldron island and explained the river of current that would meet us there and whisk us to the customs office in Friday Harbor
Before we set out serveral months earier I had written a post about engineless sailing and my miserable outboard. There was quite a bit of back and forth and high opinions from readers. By their language I knew for a fact not one of the commenters had ever sailed engineless, I have and it’s more challanging then I have the ability to describe. A fistful of hundreds later we took our little outboard back from the marine mechanic and strapped her to the back of the boat. Within one hour of use she started to to south and so the almost engineless journey began and true to form we would do what not a single one of the commenters could, would, or did. We did happen to meet many engineless sailors on our journey. All of them far better sailors than I.
From the shady cabin our conversation was getting a bit serious, I wanted to fix the engine and my crew didn’t. I will stop right here and say if your crew doesn’t love your life or the care and feeding of the ship you sail together as much as they love their own life, kick them the fuck off I’m immediately because they surely will take every opportunity they can to sink your home and your life. Again as the captian of my vessel I take full responsibility.
Id had it with our conversation and I looked out the companionway and said. You know, you have learned everything about sailing and nothing about seamanship. As the words slipped out I saw land less that 30 yards from our starboard side. It was supposed to be on our port side. I launched into the cockpit grabbing the tiller and Im sure a long smooth set of finely chosen dialog followed. White water was rushing 10 feet over Spiden point, we were caught in the rapids and being pulled fast into what could possibly become our final resting place.
I steered the boat away trying to find the sweet spot on the little outboard without spinning the prop. It was useless I steered a full 180degrees trying to find any direction that would free us of the current. The boat, was pointing east the current was running north, south and west. I looked down the west shore of San Juan and an huge 40′ powerboat was getting pummeled, befor he pulled out and turned tail. I looked north and got so scared I immdialy looked east toward salvation.
It was hard to figure out but we were pointing east and moving south and west. My mind went into hyper sailors over dive and in the span of exactly one half second I had a 5 minute conversation with my brain. I’ve been though many Rapids, but nothing like this. I remembered my friend reminding me that water doesn’t like rocks and will flow around them, not over them. I looked at the volume of water flowing over the point and tried to work east while the stern was pushing south.
I looked over at my crew, grab the video camera were going through. Within seconds we were doing 10.2 knots with full steerage and a dozen huge yachts slamming towards us on a collision course. The Rapids were bad enough but the huge wakes threw us around causing the outboard to cavitate, in no time we were though and ducked into the shallow enterance at Roache Harbor. I looked to my left at a seaplane seemingly hovering in place 10 feet off the wate 100′ to port, it was very surreal, my fun meter was pegged and I just wanted to get though the runway and into the safety of the harbor. We made it in and I’ve literally never seen such anarchy in my life. Dozens of boats manovering around, caountless dinks with drunk skippers, three sea planes doing rounds waiting for thier turn at the dock, and us with no reverse and almost no foreward propulsion.
Having cleared customs we had just enough time to slip through Mosqiito Pass and into Garrison Bay. We dropped the hook in a dead calm bay with 8′ of low water and a cracked a beer. I was shell shocked. It wasn’t any one experience but literally doesens and doesens that had my myind made up, today was the straw that broke the camels back.
Ten days later in Fish bay my heart was in my throat and breaking as I heard the words come out. I offered every adventure on the planet earth and told her I would follow her anywhere in the world or do anything for her but under no circumstances would I ever set sail with her again. I had lost 100% confidence in my crew. When people are careless at sea really really bad things happen. Nearly a year has passed and I’m still shaken by the things I will never write about, the story I will never tell. Day by day I dip my big toe back in and know that I have nobody to blame but myself, I was the captian, I could have ended it at any point.
From the log of Sookie August 2015. Any fool, can learn 80% of sailing in a week. The last 20% will take a lifetime, it’s called seamanship.