Friday, October 26, 2012

Legends of the (Northwest) Fall

Fall in the Northwest can be non-conducive to providing many decent sailing opportunities.  I should preface this by saying that Fall usually begins around the second week in October, plus or minus a week depending on the year.  Before that, it is summer.   And summer begins July 5th, but that is a different story. 
A "great" day for sailing.
At any rate, during Autumn, you have to expand your definition of “good sailing conditions.”  You also have to seize any opportunity to get out that you can!

There are limitations.  The days have shortened to the point that nipping out for a quick sail really is not a worthwhile proposition, so, at least for working stiffs, sailing opportunities are confined to weekends.  Even on weekends, you have to commit to getting out on the water early, because the daylight isn’t going to hang around forever. 

Then there’s the weather.    The peerless, idyllic summer days are gone.  The skies are going to be grey.  You have to mentally redefine a “sunny day” to mean “hmm…I think I see a spot of blue over there!” 

The weather pattern also tends to be dominated by endless series of storms moving in off the ocean.   It tends to be either gale force winds and raining, or totally calm and drizzling.  Sometimes the rain stops, though you still have to cope with grey skies and at least the threat of rain.  You have to be ready, or at least resigned to the fact, that you are going to get damp.  Maybe not drenched, but damp.  But you can’t rule out getting drenched either, I suppose.
Since the weather is cooler, really the best you can hope for is wet and cold.  Having the usual mixture of Scandinavian stoicism and Gore-Tex present in most native Pacific Northwesterners can help one shrug off the wet and cold.  After all, umbrellas are for wimps and tourists. 

Under a "hole in the sky,"  courtesy of the rain
shadow of the Olympic Mountains
Once you’ve pushed past the wet and cold, you have to conquer the winds.  As mentioned before, Aeolus shows bipolar tendencies this time of year.  I’m guessing it is due to a lack of Vitamin D.   Anyway, neither dead calms nor Small Craft Advisory conditions as are really ideal for spending time in the cold and wet in a small craft.  There is a secret, though.  There are brief periods right before or right after a storm, just as a system is moving in or out, that the winds are just right for truly exhilarating sailing.  These windows of opportunity maybe only a couple of hours long, or may even last nearly a full day.  Know when these are coming, carve out some time, grab your rain gear, and you are set! 
There's something else...the Olympic Mountains.  They are due east.  Incoming weather has to go around them, either to the north or the south.  Where the weather that went around the south and the weather that went around the north collide, well, that's called the Convergence Zone, and it can be very, very, very wet.  But, but, if the wind is blowing just right, you may find yourself  in the rain shadow of the Olympic and it will be sunny when it is grey and rainy everywhere else. 

Being chased by a nasty looking raincloud.
I took Solitude III out recently during one of these windows.  Sailing was fantastic.  The wind was right around 12 kts, just at the point at I still feel comfortable singlehanding without a reef in.  Solitude moved fast on the beat downriver.  I had other commitments later in the day, so I made just out to the saltwater before I had to turn back….being chased by a very dark raincloud the whole way back.   It only  started drizzling just after I pulled S.III back on her trailer.   I only snuck in about an hour of sailing, but it was sure worth it! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Post Partum

Such emptiness!
It has been just a little over a month since I launched Solitude III.  In the rush to get the boat together in time for the Wooden Boat Festival, many things were left undone.  I had the best intentions of pulling things back apart and finishing things right.  At the pace that I had been working, there was probably less than two weeks of work to do.

Of course, this is not what happened.  The first hiccup was the just stayed nice! This highly unusual meteorological happening allowed me to actually use the boat instead of work on it.  Sanding and varnish could wait.

The real problem though has been motivation.  I just haven't felt like getting home from work, changing clothes, going outside, and laboring away for an hour or two every night.  After that big, sustained push to get the boat where it is, I'm tired.

There is also something about not having the boat in the garage that is creating both mental and practical hurdles.  On the practical side, it means that some tasks are more complicated. To varnish the dropboard retainers of companionway hatch, I would have to construct some sort of tent to protect the wet varnish from dust, bugs, and dew.  Coating the dropboards with epoxy would necessitate creating a second set of temporary dropboards so that the cabin can be secure and weathertight while the originals are drying on the bench.  And so on.

But there is a mental aspect to it too.  The boat was built in the garage. That's where work on the boat has always been done, where it should be done.  Not just that, but there has always been a boat under construction in this garage since I moved in!  Now the nest is empty.  How can I work on the boat if it is not there?

This is not to say that I haven't done any work on the boat in the past month.  The boom gallows finally got sanded and recieved its first coat of epoxy. The radio is now wired and functional.  I've made some rigging tweeks.  But seem like pretty small accomplishments compared to what yet remains.   It is true that continuing to take polite nibbles will eventually complete a large number of tasks, there are some tasks that will require concerted effort, like unbending the sails, removing and adding several more coats of varnish to the spars.  I guess that is what winter is for.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gone Fishin'

"This isn't good fishing, its great fishing!"
"Coho fishing is on fire at Shipwreck".
"Its like Sekiu on steroids."
Solitude III is a sailboat.  Its main purpose in life is to bring pleasure and passage through sailing.  But when the fishing reports for your home waters are like those above, how can one resist mounting a couple of fishing rod holders, gassing up the trolling motor, and going fishing with dad?
From the Log of the Solitude III
4 September, 2012
Dad gets the fishing gear ready
"Today, Solitude went on her first fishing trip.  We were the only sailboat at the boat ramp, and had the only car serving as a tow vehicle.  After launching at Everett, Dad and I took her to Mukilteo and started fishing for Coho.  We fished from Mukilteo to Possession Point to nearly Edmonds and then back north again. 

The stanchions for the boom gallows
made a great place to clamp on rod holders
"We covered over 30 miles according to the GPS, on less than 1 gallon of gas.  Solitude get better gas mileage than my car!  In all fairness, going with the current helped a lot.  Still, the motor ran over 9 hours and only required its 1 liter tank to be filled three times.
"Fishing had cooled down since we saw those exciting reports in the newspapers.  No fish were landed aboard Solitude, and we only saw a two or three other boats catch anything. 
"We did see some warbirds fly overhead, including a B-25, P-51, Spitfire, and several others.  We also saw the USS Nimitz pass by on her way out to sea.
Everybody wanted to go fishing, even the Navy!
"On the trip back, we finally shut the motor off and sailed for a while.  But after about five or ten minutes of great sailing, the wind suddenly dropped and we had to fire up the noisemaker again.
"All in all, a great day on the water."

A great day for fishing!  Note, you can still see Nimitz off the port bow.