Early Saturday morning Rebecca Linde brought her steaming cup of coffee on deck on her Yankee Clipper, Rowena. The 41 foot topsail ketch with a cutter rig was berthed at Shilshole Marina in Seattle Washington. Rebecca took a turn around the deck, inspecting the rigging and observing the weather.
Shilshole harbor was quiet. A gentle wind blew out of the north, an unusual Puget Sound southerly. Two crew members, Claudette Meyer and Julie Udd, arrived and the gang of three prepared for departure. They cast off the lines. Motoring north through the still waters, the good ship Rowena finally found wind just before noon. Her crew hoisted sail and began the beat upwind towards Port Townsend.
Rebecca and crew were to rendezvous on the 29th of December with Ross Fleming's Gulfstar Sailmaster 39, Renoun; Arthur Bierer's Beneteau First 38.5, Okolehao; and Chris Peragine's Shaw 24, Ariadne, at Victoria BC to bring in the new year. On this peaceful Saturday no one knew of the dangers that lie ahead and how their personal sailing skills and physical endurance would be challenged by wind, rain, and sea. This is the story of the New Year's cruise of 2003 and how fourteen members of the University of Washington Yacht Club brought in the new year.
A few hours behind Rowena, Renoun left Shilshole harbor with Ross, Abi Plawman, Chris Chamberlin, and Amy McNamara aboard. Their destination for the evening was Port Townsend with plans to continue on to Victoria BC Sunday morning. Rowena spent the day tacking north, and tied up south of Port Townsend at Port Ludlow on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Sunday December 29, 2002
Sunday, 06:00, Rebecca, Julie, and Claudette slushed off the icy deck with salt water and motored up the canal to Port Townsend, arriving at Boathaven at 09:30 to catch up with Renoun. The two boats headed out into the Strait of Juan De Fuca and sailed northwest toward Victoria.
Mimi Allen, former WYC Telltale editor and owner of the well known 27 foot Nestus Gurley, had given Rebecca a bottle with a poem inside that was to be cast into the sea for luck. Midway across the Strait, at what was presumed to be the Canadian border, the bottle was cast into the salt, setting into motion a series of events both exhilarating and frightening.
Sunday evening found Rowena and Renown tied up at the Empress docks in the capital city of British Columbia, Victoria.
Monday December 30, 2002
The next morning brought Jehovah's witnesses to the Empress dock talking about great changes. A strange spell fell over the crew as Claudette chopped fuel for the stove and they waited on Okolehao to arrive.
Back at Shilshole, Okolehao's skipper, Arthur B. stumbled aboard after a long flight from Amsterdam, proceeded by a twenty-hour journey from Berlin. His crew had the boat ready and cast off the lines as the captain fell into his bunk. Aboard were David Banks, Lindsey Reid, Adam Fuchs, Adrian Johnson, his sister Alison, Jennifer Bula, Jennifer's friend John, and Steve Wiley--a small crew by Okey standards, as she is well known throughout Puget Sound for pushing the boot stripe below the waterline by overbooking berths. They departed at 1400 and with the favorable wind and tide expected a quick seven-hour ride up the sound and across the strait. By 2300, Okelehao was in approach Victoria.
"I woke up late at night at sea with a combination of jet lag, a 9 hour time difference, and the moderate boat motion, and it was simply amazing, 'Wow, we're almost here already.' I had to squeeze the last hour out of sailing in the waning wind outside the harbor."
Okolehao docked shortly after midnight on the 31st; now the boats were three. Ariadne was eagerly expected the next evening or more likely on New Years day but no one held their breath for her arrival because Ariadne's skipper was known to be a will of the wisp, a man of action, however impromptu.
Tuesday December 31, 2002
The last day of the year found the eleven preparing for New Years Eve with glitter nail polish for all, bandanas for Rowena's crew, and pirate hats for Renoun's. They walked the streets of Victoria looking for trouble. However, the town seemed unusually quiet and the air had an unnatural stillness. To find their way from pub to pub they spun Commodore Meyer around and around. Where she stopped determined their direction and they would troop off in search of another pint.
Wednesday January 1, 2003
Early the next morning, now New Year's Day, Chris Peragine began his journal entry on board the 22 ft Shaw, Ariadne. His words describe the part she would play in this tale of wind, wave, and sea:
"Yeah it were quite fine. 3 big boats associated w/ WYC, _Rowena_, _Renoun_, and _Okolehao_, coming home from Victoria, were to stop in P.T., and we were all to meet and raft-up there on the night of the first.
Yet I had to fetch Wilhelmina home from a party @0230; by 0530 Linder were nudging me sayin' I was gonna hate meself if I didn't get down to Thatboat on time.....still slept an extra hour, got delivered down to the boat by 0700, got lucky w/ the locks, and then had to wait an extra hour anyway cuz Tom had forgotten his sleeping bag.........
_Ariadne_ started with a pleasant downwind jaunt. And Tom and I had in our care Kate Bough whose intent were to rendezvous......or something French with someone French............ aboard _Rowena_. She no doubt unconsciously inspired us old guys to high standards of Attentiveness. And as the wind slowly got stronger and stronger and rain would come and go we needed that Attentiveness as we were increasingly nearly twisting into a broach.
Being OlderandWiser, with Kate driving delicately before a growing gale we got the chute down mere moments before it got all hellacious, Already way past PointNoPoint...abeam south Marrowstone Isling and by then the GPS had us pegging 9kts.......... cuz , being OlderandWiser, Dr. Quinlan and I had tim'ed our Itinerary so as to meet the current of an exceptional 12 ft high tidal drop where it would benefit most (h)our passage
Carrying the chute and EVEN the red mizzen staysl! had made up for our starting 2 hours late, as well as for our lazy first hour or two together coursing along only under working sails whilst we feted our PrincessandProtege' with soups and sandwiches and fine teas that come all the way from China &c."
Ariadne had on board skipper Chris Peragine, mariner Tom Quinlin, and the current WYC Program Director, Kate Bogh. Kate was trying to catch up to Rowena and transfer over to that worthy craft to join her paramour, Adrian Johnson.
Up in Victoria, with the wind building out of the south at 20 knots, three skippers nursed their muddled minds, examined their charts, listened to weather information, and made sailing plans for the day. Okolehao departed Victoria first; Rowena left soon afterwards just before noon. Renoun stayed dockside. Ross and Abi heard the boats shuffling around but thought they were just repositioning. Ross had heard the weather report and had decided to wait at least a day for calmer, more favorable winds. Ross, the level headed one.
Once out in the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Rowena encountered good sized waves and a big swell. Claudette fell seasick and clung to the rail until the cold drove her below to the port berth. This was the beginning of a seemingly endless journey for the good Commodore. Rebecca split the remaining crew into two teams: Rebecca and Julie, Adrian and Alison. Adrian and Rebecca knew the boat well, while Julie and Alison were still learning about the eight sails and their assorted rigging. The compliment of sails include the jib, the outer forestaysail, the inner forestaysail, the topsail (the upper square), the course (the larger lower square), the main, the mizzen staysail, and the mizzen.
And so the two boats set out on a close reach across the Strait, Okolehao out ahead with Rowena just out of sight behind. The plan was to steer for the Washington coast at Port Angeles and hug the coast tight enough so that they would stay in the lee of the land where the wind was calmer. The winds progressed with the day.
Later that day Okolehao just couldn't seem to point upwind in the heavy swells and the gale force winds. She was taking a bit of pounding off the end of the swells. The course towards Port Townsend proved to be too difficult out in the middle of the straight so they changed plans and headed toward the southern shore where they hoped to find some protection. With the crew size down to 6 people all tired of night sailing, the destination was switched from Port Townsend to Sequim where they hoped to spend the night.
"Arriving near the entrance, we started our motor. A few minutes later, we heard a little BEEP from the engine panel over the roar of the wind. Our engine had overheated. Okay, now of all the times for the engine to overheat, I remember thinking. Well, it was time to unclog the engine intake, we all know the routine. Restart, ---BEEP-. No luck. Tried to adjust belt tension on water pump. Restart. -BEEP- Knowing full well that it was dark, we were tired (i.e. mistake prone), and way too precarious to get into a tight channel, Adam and Jennifer simply anchored in the Strait of Juan de Fuca under sail while we struggled on with the engine below.
There in the dark, we ended up sitting out the storm under nice lee of a cliff. Gee anchorage in the Strait wasn't that bad. Although for a while it felt like the Apollo 13 mission, low on water and battery power, we had to dim our lights and turn off our heater. We could see our own breath in the cabin. But after we prepared a good warm dinner, our spirits were warmed and we were ready to hit our sacks for the next day"
On Rowena, the crew decreased sail throughout the day, started motor sailing, and eventually had all the sails down except the mizzen which helped balance the boat by pulling the stern downwind, pointing the bow into the wind. As the waves coming in from the southeast increased in size, the bow was repeatedly pushed southward. The big clipper labored to keep her head to the wind. Progress was slow. By now the radio was malfunctioning but Rebecca was able to raise Okolehao on the cell phone and found out that her engine was out and that Arthur had sailed to an anchorage just outside Sequim Bay.
Meanwhile, back on Ariadne:
"Just as she had finished her turn at the tiller, Kate had her elbows buried in water as she worked a cockpit winch ...........it was almost a de nada moment.......,then, ina gulp, I, neophyte new helmsperson, realized she was on the _windward_ coaming; and even though Dr. Quinlan says I then took the Lord'sNameinVain.... thanks to my recent Conversion to the New Aerodynamics of Sails and my Rejection of Flow and Awl its works, and my embrace of and Belief in Vortii and Circulation, the mains'l boom remained canted near vertical upward to _leeward_ as we, By the Lee, shot the curl, and then braced off back ever so slightly to windward to tuck 2 adroit reefs in the main.
Ariadne had been running under spinnaker preparing to make the turn west towards Port Townsend.
In Kate's words:
"Chris had the tiller. We decided to pull down the spinnaker…. Tom was on the bow. I was really nervous. Although he seemed to have everything under control, the boat was really rocking and the waves were so big that if he (Tom) went in he would be hard to find. (This was around 4:30 pm) It was beginning to get dark and I just wanted to be inside with hot chocolate and at port. We were suddenly sailing by the lee. The boom was on the wrong side of the boat. The rail was still in the water. I was on the leeward side loosening a line for Tom.
Suddenly my arm was covered in water. I looked up to the mainsail looming above! "UP," Chris yelled, "If it comes over we'll be over too!" He looked at me for a second. Everything seemed to stop except the howling wind and the waves. We were still just cruising over the waves, our speed increasing as they flowed under us...and then…we righted."
"Surfed into Port Townsend by twilight........... 6.25 hrs to go 41nm, reached along Main Street....had no success in hailing the WYC Squadron. Fetched into PTYC Reciprocal moorage. Started the heater, activated the Galley, and set table....still trying to Impress Kate. It was howling 30kts plus ...truly 40 - rain aplenty - out there, and we - dry and berthed- were ruing _Rowena_ and _Okelehao_ (Ross in _Renoun_ turns-out had decided to wait -a-day) having to cross the Straits _upwind_. No contact on 16, or by cell. The Princess were despondent.......The wind began to Howoooooooowl."
The sun set early as it does in the short northwest season. Rowena, beating slowly through the dark towards Port Townsend, encountered high winds just east of Sequim Bay. Claudette in the port berth asked for the tenth time, "When will it be over?" "Not for a long time." was Rebecca's answer. Adrian and Rebecca decided to continue to push on to Port Townsend as it seemed a safer alternative than attempting an anchorage in the bad weather. Suddenly, down below, a cast iron skillet full of scrambled eggs flew across the cabin to join other debris accumulating on the floor. The inside of the boat was like a washing machine with gear on the floor leaping about with every abrupt movement.
The two crews worked roughly two-hour shifts. Rebecca and Adrian had on their harnesses and jack lines while on deck but without such safety gear, Julie and Alison had no option but to stay below or hold on tightly whenever on deck. The water tanks were empty so they could not clean up the galley and the motion of the boat was so rough that the crew spent most of the time below wedged and braced against the constant pounding of the waves.
Into the evening Okolehao bucked at her anchorage outside of Sequim Bay while Renoun sat safely in Victoria Harbor and Ariadne lie under a pounding rain at Port Townsend. Three out of four vessels were comparatively safe for the night.
Just off the point at Dungeness Spit, Rowena's engine alarm went off, signaling high coolant temperature. The crew briefly turned off the engine, added oil and water, and restarted. Now Rebecca had the engine to worry about along with the rigging, her crew's safety, and the building weather. Taking a visual bearing of Dungeness Point they realized that the Loran was telling them they were a mile further west than they really were. Now added to their other worries was the fact that the Loran could no longer be relied on for accurate readings.
And still, they continued to push windward towards Port Townsend hoping that by midnight they'd be safely docked. The wind was picking at the rigging, trying to tear loose anything not fastened securely. The upper course, a square sail, was furled well but the lower course was fixed only with sail ties. These began to come loose and Rebecca ventured carefully up the rat lines to secure them properly. Later the wind succeeded in pulling the lower course free and the sail shredded in the gale giving the boat the look of a ghost ship. Late in the evening, the fatigued crew observed ten-foot waves breaking over the bow and wind increasing to forty then to over fifty knots. The engine was providing just enough forward motion to keep the way on her so the rudder would bite. The mizzen also helped hold the boat into the wind and counteracted some of the weather helm. Claudette again asked, "When will it be over?" Rebecca replied, "It's going to take a long time."
"Circa 2300 spoke _Rowena _ via cell - she was at (only) Dungeness spit..... Our boat was leaky but warm. We went to sleep. So-cawled "Kisses from _Ariadne_ "...........well they git owld by the time you awake witha cold/wet sleeping bag... the heating stove was humming though.......ina meditative pre-dawn trance why it made for a passable clothes dryer."
Thursday January 2, 2003.
At 1:00 AM, one mile off Point Wilson, the waves were spaced 30 feet apart and breaking over the deck. Spray filled the air. Rowena's engine temperature held steady. Beating upwind, they tacked with difficulty and were often forced to make multiple attempts to come about. The tide flow earlier in the evening had helped make way towards Port Townsend. In the early morning the tide had turned and would soon impede their forward progress and create rougher seas. Tacking at Partridge Point, Rebecca was on deck when Adrian popped his head up to inform the captain that the engine had failed. They had thrown a rod and broken the camshaft.
Fearing for the crew, Rebecca and Adrian tried to beat south towards the beach but could not make water shallow enough to anchor in. They could see the beach in the dim light but could not make any headway. They discussed putting up the inner fore staysail but were worried about creating too much lee helm. Hoisting a reefed main was considered but with the wind as high as it was they would have too much sail area. So the mizzen remained and the crew consulted the charts, deciding to head back towards Sequim and duck in behind Protection Island into Discovery Bay. Rowena turned onto a southeast heading but try as she would she could not make it behind the island. Thoughts of running the boat up on the shore passed through Rebecca's mind but she knew there were as many rocky areas as there were beaches in that part of the peninsula.
|Track of Rowena|
Rebecca went forward out on the bowsprit to re-lash the innerforestaysail to the boom, free the forward block, and raise the staysail to give a little more balance to the boat. And so they ran across the wide Strait of Juan De Fuca meeting the dawn and making for the turn into Guemes Channel.
At anchor on Okolehao at sunrise, things were quite calm:
"We crawled out of our berths, and thought, well, that wasn't so bad. After hauling the anchor up, we starting sailing under a double reefed main and a working jib in 5-10 knots. Me: "I think it's time we pulled our reefs out" Everyone else: "Lets wait a few minutes." A few minutes later, the wind starting building. First it was about 25-30 knots, then as we crossed the mouth of Discovery bay, the wind built to over 40 knots. Checking the charts at the nav station, I noticed the anemometer peaking over 45. Coming up into the cockpit, you could see a foaming white mist blowing off the waves. But because the wind was coming off the land, the waves weren't nearly as bad as the day before. We screamed across on a beam reach, and everyone seemed to be having a blast (literally). Its not how much wind you have, it's how the waves and current you have interact with the wind, and today the conditions seemed to be on our side. I think everyone agreed, when we said later that was the best sail we ever had in that much wind."
Ross, Abi, Chris, and Amy brought Renoun out of Victoria harbor with one reef in the main and headed south towards Port Townsend. Out in the Straits the wind built and another reef was put on the mainsail. They passed anchored container ships waiting out the weather as the seas grew rougher and rougher, sending Chris to the rail, seasick. Abi and Amy on the bow, watching porpoises dance in the bow waves, plunged violently up and down with the rollers. One extreme drop threw Amy to the deck, spraining her ankle. Renoun now had two sailors out of commission, half the crew.
Rowena's crew finally made the Anacortes channel but were too far north with water too deep for anchoring. Tacking toward the south shore they made little progress with the small amount of sail they were flying. They would need the power of the mainsail to beat upwind so the exhausted crew loosened the sail, pulled on the main halyard, then sheeted the mainsail in tight. Rowena slowly clawed her way towards the shallower southern shore.
The violent action of the boat had fouled the anchor chain in its forward locker. It took both Rebecca's and Adrian's efforts to haul out the gear and lay the chain on the deck. Claudette rose to the occasion and took the tiller, keeping the boat on station while the anchor and rode was readied. Rebecca had never anchored this boat under sail and mused silently to herself that this was a hell of a time for a first try. They dropped the hook and took a couple of tacks to set and test it. At 16:00, with plenty of rode out, Rowena settled bow to the wind and finally, after 28 hours of sailing, the crew could rest.
After the exhilaration of taking the tiller and standing on a calmer deck, Claudette came out of her seasick fog and decided she was more rested then the rest of the crew. She cleaned up the galley and cooked pork chops and pasta for the sleepy crew.
A small skiff appeared alongside with three scruffy bearded men aboard. They had pulled out from shore to tell the skipper of the strange looking craft that this was not a safe anchorage. The leader of the band, Salty (believe it or not), told Rebecca that the sea remains calm in a southerly but when the wind clocks around to the west the increased fetch makes it quite rough. Enough wind from the west and an anchor could pull and they'd find themselves drifting towards a lee shore with no motor to pull them off. Tired Rebecca took this information and parked it in her brain to think about later.
Across the Strait of Juan De Fuca on Renoun, Abi checked voice mail on her cell phone and heard a message about catastrophic engine failure on Rowena. She called Rebecca and heard about their terrible night. Renoun was in no position to render aid. She had the strait to worry about. The south wind continued to build and the visibility dropped significantly. Ross realized that his running lights were out so he kept a sharp eye on the Radar, looking for other craft.
In Abi's words:
"With Chris sick and Amy with a hurt ankle, it left Ross and me to handle the sails, in the most extreme wind I had ever seen. We rolled the genoa entirely, and began to motor sail with just a two reefed main. We got more and more concerned, and decided to duck behind Protection Island to get out of harm's way. Unfortunately, the wind picked up as it came out of Discovery Bay, and we got to a point where we were making no forward progress whatsoever. I watched the same set of lights on shore for nearly an hour out of the same location, and finally Ross decided that it was time to drop the main to keep from tearing it.
At that point, the wind was so strong it was bowing the windows in the dodger inward and we were worried that they would blow out. Water was spraying over the entire boat with each wave. We still had no running lights, so we were depending on radar to tell us if there was any traffic in our way. I was scared shitless, and kept watching Ross for cues. As everyone was already tethered to the jacklines, he and I went up on deck to drop the main. The wind was so strong that it physically blew me across the deck, and I had to wrap my legs around the mast to keep from sliding off. We got the main down, and we crawled back into the cockpit, and re tethered in a sitting position. We motored on, making little progress, for hours."
On Rowena, Rebecca went below to rest only to keep waking throughout the night watching the compass over her berth slowly make its way around to a west heading. She kept thinking about Salty's advice and worrying about the wind, the anchor, and the ever-present lee shore. During the night Rebecca and Claudette went on deck to check their position. The light they had sighted on earlier in the evening must have been a porch light because it was no longer visible. The wind was rising from the West and the seas were streaming past the boat as if she were underway. They got the mizzen down and furled and found that the topping lift had parted. Later, gratefully, the wind clocked back around to the southeast.
Late that same night Renoun made Port Townsend. It was blowing hard and Ross, being the cautious skipper that he is, radioed for Ariadne's crew to help them dock the big Gulfstar Sailmaster. At the time, the Coast Guard station in Seattle was flooded and not accepting calls or radio hails, so Ross had to clear customs by calling a small town in eastern Washington where they had no idea what to do to clear the boat for entry into the U.S. Finally the officer in charge used his badge number as the clearance ID. One more boat…safely at harbor.
Friday January 3, 2003
"Lazy waking/long breakfast aboard...we 3 and our Dance called living together inside 24 ft.... Circa 1100 a vhf hail from _Oke_ "engine out, sailing in shortly....could you get us a Yanmar 3HM impeller and meet us docking under sail at at the fuel dock".... why Of Course!.......... we could and did.
Still!!!!!!! no word from _Rowena_....... Finally, word came through that she had had a major engine failure at Pt. Wilson, after steaming all night to get thatfar and had had, then, to reach NE all the way up to Anacortes......... She'll be back to fight another day - but ze Rendezvous were now foiled f'sure.
We all had a velyvely nice tofu curry dinner as guests of Arthur aboard _Okelehao_...... We Transferred our Charge to _Oke_ as she was going home Friday whilst Tom and I were intent on having OneMoreDay. Soooooooo Friday - wind and rain still!!!!!!!!!!! howling _A_ motored down to Hadlock to visit friends, then steamed through the PT Canal upwind into an Tempestuous Oak Bay... then started sailing.....a not too bad beat ...3 hours or so, all the way to PtNoPt whereUpon _Oke_ came motoring upwind and lo! toss-delivered a jug of beer and 4 fresh-hot falafel sandwiches and beer-battered fries a PointNoPoint ......Rounding..... to be sure............!
Suddenly all the wind were gone and all was gray and damp..so the OldGuys set the asymmetrical chute - yet no magic...no nothin... then _Renoun_, inbound finally, came motoring by........we sat becalmed................ At dark...... motored into Kingston where they on _Renoun_were there all ready to invite us to raft and dine aboard the Flagship and partake of their hospitality... UltimateLy.......we awaited yet another Front to arrive .......roun' midnight...... from the cockpit of _Ariadne_ tuned to BobMarley trying for to wake up KingstonTownMon."
Morning on Rowena, just off the Guemes Channel, brought a flurry of cell phone calls and some regret the crew hadn't asked the three salty dogs to arrange a tow. But a tow was finally arranged and at 13:00 after the crew hand-bailed 400 gallons of water from the bilge, Rowena was towed to a secure berth in Anacortes, her rigging in disarray, some sails in sad shape, and the engine destroyed. Rowena's crew headed back to Seattle to make plans to return to bring the good ship home. C.T.B. did so that next week, but that is yet another story.
"Saturday morn we all left late, too, too late cuz we each got pretty -well -pegged by a howlin gale/beat - just 10 miles home became 4 hours plus and All Things Below quite asunder and wet. 3 reefs in the main, and a working jib....reallyreally needed the bladejib - but it was swimming down below in the bilges somewhere - Although........... the SUN? was, finally. in the verylast hours of the Voyage, out! "Sunny and Delightful" - right over..........there - weeze _found_ it!
All systems were go, and I hit the Locks after dropping off Tom at his car at Shilshole Had her heater-fire re-lit and her wet gear a-drying at the WAC by 1630.
Some very good sleeps, conversations, meals, sights, and sails were had --------------a sharp start to a New Year.
Please do join us in your dear lil boat NextTime!
Somewhatsortasuccinctly, IRemain&c., cP SoleProprietor _PDG_ _Ariadne_ http://peraginedesign.com/