Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Sunny Winter Cruise

The last few trips out on the boat haven't been the most enjoyable, thanks to several winter gales and the failed heater.  Last week, however, the forecast looked good for some winter cruising...light winds and sunny skies.  Initially I thought about heading north into the Canadian Gulf Islands and perhaps across the Strait of Georgia to Princess Louisa Inlet.  But winter weather forecasts aren't all that accurate, and I didn't want to get stuck somewhere.  Instead, I opted to head south for Seattle.  I've spent lots of time on Lake Washington in the summer, but I'd never spent much time exploring the South Sound.  This stretch of good winter weather seemed like an ideal time to explore the area with few crowds.

The trip down from Twin Bridges to Elliott Bay was smooth and easy with a light north wind and minimal following seas.  I spent the first night at Blake Island State Park, just 8 miles from downtown Seattle but seemingly a world apart.  Despite the beautiful weather, I shared the docks with just one other boat.

Blake Island offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainier.  One of the benefits of the short winter days is it's easy to watch sunrises, and they did not disappoint during this trip.

Mt. Rainier sunrise from Blake Island

Sunrise at Blake Island

Day two started lazily.  After wandering around Blake Island for a bit, I headed towards downtown Seattle without any real plan.  I worked my way through Elliott Bay and up towards Shilshole Marina.  From there I headed through the Ballard Locks and into the fresh water of Lake Union.  Since I was alone I was glad to be put in the small lock where lines don't have to be constantly tended to and the locking was uneventful.

The ship canal and Lake Union are filled with commercial ships and the marine related businesses that support them.  It's fascinating to see it all up close from the water.

I spent the night at Luther Burbank park on Mercer Island.  I don't think overnight use is technically permitted, but I didn't see any signs on the docks that prohibited overnight moorage and nobody bothered me during the night.

Mercer Island sunrise, from Luther Burbank Park

First light on the top of the Space Needle as a floatplane departs Lake Union

My mom came down early the next morning for a trip over to Bainbridge Island.  The docks were icy when we left.  We got through the locks by 9:00 AM (this time tied to the wall of the big lock), fueled up at Shilshole, and were tied up in Eagle Harbor by 10:30.  We wandered around Winslow for a few hours and ate lunch before slowly heading back across to Bell Harbor for the night.

Mt. Rainier sunset from Bell Harbor Marina

My brother and some of his friends came down for a nighttime tour of Elliott Bay.  We headed (slowly) across to Alki, tied up at the Alki Water Taxi dock for a few minutes, and then headed back to Bell Harbor.  I've spent quite a bit of time boating at night, and radar has proved invaluable.  It certainly was useful crossing Elliott Bay in the dark.

Seattle skyline at night from Alki

Sunrise over Seattle as I headed back up to Twin Bridges

The weather looked like it would deteriorate on Saturday, so I headed back up to Twin Bridges Friday morning.  The trip couldn't have been easier, with glassy seas and almost no wind.  The roughly 60 nautical mile trip burned about 14 gallons of gas cruising at 13 knots, providing substantially better than 4 nautical miles per gallon.  Pretty good for a boat!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wind, Rain, and Heat!

I came up to the San Juan's yesterday to thoroughly test out the recently repaired Wallas stove/heater and see if any other problems crop up.

The weather yesterday morning was quite nice. The Cascades were beautiful and the wind hadn't yet picked up.

Since the forecast called for gale force winds until Thursday, and I need to be home Wednesday night, I didn't want to go to far. Cypress Island is only a dozen miles away from the marina and is a nice place to spend time.

Calm conditions in the anchorage at Cypress Head.

But the wind picked up in the afternoon. The wind died around 8 PM and it rained heavily for a few hours. Then it was dry and windless until about 4:30 AM when the wind returned.

I got underway around 8 AM and headed back towards Twin Bridges.

I'd heard good things about Saddlebag Island and decided to check it out. This is the view from the South side, which is bearing the brunt of today's gale. I went ashore before the rain started and wandered around for an hour or's a nice island to explore and it's amazingly close to Anacortes.

The cove on the North side is providing good protection and holding for the anchor. It's a bit rolly with some waves wrapping around, but not bad given the conditions.

This is a tug coming the same way as I did this morning. As you can see, it's a bit choppy.

Thankfully the Wallas is heating and the cabin is warm and dry. For as yet unknown reasons, the Wallas is actually overheating and shutting itself off when the blower lis is lifted for cooking.  It restarts and runs normally after the shutdown, but it is not operating properly.  I've been in touch with Scan Marine and we are working on troubleshooting the problem.

I'll spend tonight on the hook at Saddlebag Island and head back home tomorrow morning.

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