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Cruising Bootcamp. Part Two.

When we motored north from La Conner out of the Swinomish Channel the following day we had planned on an easy 9 mile trip to a cozy anchorage on Saddlebag Island near Anacortes. It was a windy day, with local forecasts for up to 20 knots or so. We were traveling through protected waters though and weren’t too concerned.

It was a long, breezy slog out of the Swinomish; because the channel was so narrow we chose to motor through it so we could stay in the center of the channel. Once we were clear of the final set of markers and into the deeper water of Padilla Bay we pulled out the staysail and scooted along on the last two miles to Saddlebag.

We were disappointed when we arrived at our expected anchorage however. The anchorage was tiny and looked quite shallow. It also was not very well protected from the SW winds blowing. It only took us a minute to decide to continue on. We scoured our guidebook for another anchorage. Our choices in the area were very limited: either backtrack to Anacortes or continue on to Lummi Island where Inati Bay looked promising. We decided to press northwards.

Luckily the SW wind, while strong and gusty, made for a fantastic sail with our staysail and mizzen up. The gloom had even cleared up and the sun was shining upon us as we sailed on. We were very pleased with Wondertime’s easy, balanced motion even in heavier winds.

Two hours later we finally reached Inati Bay. The steep hillsides of Lummi Island were sending williwaws down into the anchorage that we were disappointed to see already crowded with other boats. We found a spot along the north side of the pretty bay where we could tuck in and dropped our Rocna into 35 feet of water. After letting the chain out we reversed as usual to set the hook; instead of grabbing onto the bottom as expected the hook just kept dragging and dragging; since we were now heading backwards out of the bay we had no choice but to crank all 120′ of chain up with our manual windlass. It took more effort than usual to get the anchor up and with it came a bit of line so we assume it had become fouled on something. With the wind still howling down the hillsides it was no easy feat to keep the boat in position; the rock cliffs were much too near for our liking as well as other anchored boats. We knew it was not a good situation and decided quickly to ditch Inati and head further north still. Our next destination was to be Sucia Island so that is where we pointed our bow. It was nearly 2000 by this time however so we were not especially thrilled with continuing on.

The wind continued to howl as we motorsailed up Hale Passage. We were comfortable on board though: I cooked chili below while Holly was tucked into her carseat in the cockpit and Leah had decided to take a (rare!) nap in her bunk below. We hoped the crazy gusts were just the effect of the land but as we rounded the top of Lummi Island we were greeted by 25-30 knots and accompanying wind waves from the southwest. We motorsailed on, trying to reach Sucia before nightfall.

I tucked Holly into her bed too and told the girls it was going to be a little bumpy for a while. They weren’t concerned at all and thought it was great fun to bounce around in their forward bunks while we pounded onward. We only had seven miles to go to Sucia though and even with the wind and seas made about 4 knots as we splashed and bounced through the wind-streaked waves and watched the sun set.

Finally, at 2230 we reached Echo Bay at Sucia Island. The wide open, protected anchorage had ample room and only a handful of other boats. We dropped our hook right smack in the middle in the last few minutes of dusk and all was still at last.

We have been here at Sucia for two idyllic days now and are contemplating a third. It’s sunny and calm. We’ve hiked the easy woodland trails onshore, played in the sand, dipped our toes in the chilly water, marveled at all the sandstone sculptures on shore, napped, read, explored by dinghy, eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the sunny cockpit. It’s what we came this way for.

3 Comments

  1. Kyle Bollmeier says:

    Great entry and story. It helped me live (vicariously) for a moment as I am a NW transplant now living in beautiful Albemarle County, Virginia. I have spent time kayaking, sailing and hiking on and around Sucia and Echo Bay has saved me on a few occasions as well. Time always seems to stop on the beaches and bays of Sucia.

    Thank you.

    Kyle Bollmeier – Charlottesville, VA
    (formerly Bainbridge Island-Indianola-Seattle)

  2. Brian Stoll says:

    We miss you back here in Oly but I’m really enjoying following your blog and Yotreps reports. Please keep it up!

    ~Brian

  3. Mike & Jessica Doyle says:

    Fun to read! Brings back memories of our time up and around the San Juans 🙂 Great video of you guys sailing along, Wondertime seemed to really like it!!!

    We’ll keep checking in – Mike, Jessica & Mary