Monday, May 25, 2009

Swiftsure Lightship Classic 2009-Part2, The Race

Saturday was the start of the 66th Swifsure Lightship Classic. Originally the race was run from Victoria to a lightship anchored on Swiftsure Bank and return. The lightship no longer is anchored on the bank, so a Canadian Navy ship anchors on the bank and is the turning mark of the race. The location is about 20 nautical miles in the Pacific Ocean from Cape Flattery. Originaly all boats went to the bank, but to encourage participation for smaller boats, the Juan de Fuca race to Clallam Bay race was included in the late 60's and the Cape Flattery race to Neah Bay was started in the mid 80's. These races give competitors the oppurtunity to race in exposed waters without spending many days heading out to the ocean. Distance for the Swiftsure Lightship Classic is 138.7, CapeFlattery is 103.4 and Juan de Fuca is 79.9. There are also day races near Victoria for those that want the "Switsure Experiance" without venturing into the exposed waters of the Strait.

Racing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is unique. The wind is funneled between the Olympic Mountains on the American side and the mountains of Vancouver Island. As the land inland heats up during the day, the wind can be "sucked" off the ocean, often at high velocity. The waters are really quite large and the seas can be quite nasty. In addition, the currents always need to be considered and can really add to the size and shape of the waves.

On Carene(X119) there were eight of us on board to race the longest race to Swiftsure Bank and back: Bob(owner/skipper), Kevin, James, Frank, Gary, Peg, Cindy and myself. I raced with Bob on this race in 2002, so I was the relative newcomer.

We were away from the dock at about 0830 and motored to the starting area. The line is marked at one end by the HMCS Whithorse, a canadian navy vessel. The starting signal is the deck gun on the ship. Even though we warned them, a few people on the boat were surprised when the gun was fired. The winds were light and SW at about 5 -7 knots. We had a good start right with the largest boats. We were really fast and stayed in touch with the rest of our competitors. The wind stayed light until we got close to Race Rocks where it picked up to 10-12knots westerly. The current was flooding, so we shortacked the right side of the pass. When we could, we set out for the American shore. The fleet split with most staying on the Canadian shore, probably the better move. We had great winds toward the American shore and at one point, the fog rolled in and reduced visibility to about 1/2 mile. It blew clear after about an hour. The wind built some and when we should of been thinking of changing headsails, the No. 1 tore at the foot. So we changed to the heavy No.2. Soon the wind increased until we reefed the main. The wind built to 20-25 and built up very square, steep seas. Our speed was good, but we were pounding heavily. Near Pillar Pt, we hit "the wave". Near as I remember we went thru a large wave, soaking everyone on the rail and filling the cockpit. The box of pretzels was the main casualty and Bob was soaked as he had not put on his gear yet. We had a few people feel ill, but nobody got totally sea sick. I struggled a little when I had to go down to radio our position report. Trying to focus on the chart with the tiny grid numbers was a chore.

The wind lightened some after Pillar Pt. We continued beating out the Strait and after dark Kevin and I shook out the reef. I drove for a while and the boat felt really fast and the seas were smoother. As the wind lightened, we started missing the No.1. At one point about 0200 sunday morning, the wind dropped to virtually nothing and with the swells from the ocean, we were slatting around. Classic Swiftsure. I went below for a nap and when I got up at around 0430 for the next position report, the wind was very light from the SW. After giving our position report, I drove for a while again. We were close reaching at about 2 knots straight into the swells. It was hard to keep any speed up when we slammed down the other side of the swell. Eventually we could see the ship on the horizon and with the current helping, we closed pretty quickly.

We rounded the ship at about 0821 and headed back toward the Strait. The current was still ebbing slowing our progress, but the wind was increasing. I went down for another short nap, and when Cindy woke me to give another position report, the spinaker was up and we were flying down the straits at 6 knots. The wind kept building and we saw speeds up to 11knots. Faster over the ground with the now flooding current.

Soon we started seeing boats in our class. Differant Drummer(Wauqiez Centurion 40) and Korina Korina(J/N 42) actually rounded about 5 hours ahead of us and parked in a hole until we caught up with them. We worked toward the Canadian shore and had a great race with Differant Drummer. We edged out a slight lead and split some near Race Passage. They hugged the left shore and we stayed more out in the middle and had a better angle and more wind through Race Passge. We stayed to the east after the pass. DD and KK stayed left and had less wind and more running. They were putting on a fashion show changing spinakers multiple times as the wind changed for them. Near the finish we were able to reach up and keep our speed up, another classic Swiftsure move. We finished about 1728. DD was close enough that they should have corrected on us by 90seconds. At the inspection dock, we were listed as first to finish. That confused us as we thought that Night Runner(Perry 42) should have finished hours ahead of us. They lost a pin on one of there shrouds and retired. It was a shame as they were one of our better competitors. Fortunatly they did not lose the mast and sailed safely back to Victoria.

More info and results:

This was a very "Classic" Swiftsure: beat out in strong winds, wind drops at night on the bank leaving you slatting around in the swells and then builds during the day for the great run back to Victoria. The weather was warm and sunny the whole race and even at night I was not cold. At night, a look up at the masthead was mesmerizing, the stars were extremly intense and the sky dark with no moon. I was tired as I only got about 4 hours of sleep during the race, but that is fairly normal for me.

Bob, James and I brought the boat home on Monday leaving Victoria at 0600 and arrived back to Port Madison by 1730. This was the first test of my NEXUS card for "Trusted Travellers". Bob called Customs and cleared into the United States without having to stop. The NEXUS is a great program for people who boat across the border frequently.

The various courses in the Swifsure Lightship Classic.
The parade of boats to the starting area outside Victoria Harbor.
Peg, one of our trimmer "dudettes"
HMCS Whitehorse. The Canadian naval vessel anchored on Switsure Bank as our turning mark.
The friendly Canadian crew of HMCS Whitehorse.
What we all live for on this race, the fast spinnaker run down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Kevin and James holding up the backstays and Skipper Bob driving.

Swiftsure Lightship Classic 2009-Part1, The Delivery

Thursday morning was delivery day. For us on Carene. Skipper Bob said that we would be underway at o530 from his mooring in Port Madison. We actually got underway at about 0615. Onboard was Bob, James, Leena(James wife along for the ride to Victoria) and myself. We headed across Puget Sound to pick up Frank. The weather was spectacular with crystal clear skies. The wind from the north was blowing about 15 knots which slowed us down. Also slowing us down was the current that was flooding for several hours. We headed to the eastern shore of Marrowstone Island looking for current relief and also tucked in toward Port Townsend after we were clear of Marrowstone Pt. The current was still flooding around Pt Wilson, but the wind died and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was flat. Part way across the Strait, the current started ebbing and sped up our travel.

We arrived in Victoria around 1900, cleared Customs and were directed to a prime spot tied to the dock in front of the Empress Hotel. We were fortunate that we were not rafted several boats out. Across the dock was Neptune's Car(Santa Cruz70). Thursday is the traditional party day and the folks on Neptune's Car were having a great time!

Friday we got up early and went to Smitty's Restaurant for a great breakfast before starting the work for the day. We had a full list of items to work on: safety gear check, light sail repair and repacking, and provisioning. Provisioning meant that James, Frank, Leena and I walked about a half mile away to the closest store and with a menu in mind, bought the necessary food for the race. We then lugged it back to the boat and stored it. It all went quick and by noon we were free to play sightseer or just relax.

There is always something neat about Victoria during Swiftsure weekend. Tourists are everywhere. On the causeway, street entertainers are performing and vendors are selling their wares. Lots of non-sailors wander the docks to look at the boats. In the 80's Swiftsure participation was up to nearly 500 boats. Now it is around 200, so things are a bit subdued from the "old days".

Carene moored at the dock, Parliment building in background.
Carene with the Empress Hotel in the background.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Big Red gets scrubbed and Ms. Tom Tom meets Mr. Ulysses

Yesterday was a stinky day with rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. A good day to stay inside.

Today was a lot nicer with sunny warm conditions. I needed to stay home to recieve a package arriving via FedEx. So I spent the morning washing the truck. And about the time I was completing the washing, FedEx arrived with the package. So while the truck was drying, I opened the package, had lunch and then waxed the truck. It has been a while since it has been washed and waxed. The pollen was caked on. Really did not take too long to wax, about 1-1/2 hours. Probably should go over the hood again.
"Big Red". Washed and waxed entirely by hand-no pressure washers, powered waxers or buffers! Looks good!
The package I recieved was a Tom Tom GPS for the Buell Ulysses motorcyle. It fit well and has all the same features as the Tom Tom I use in the truck. Why, you ask would I need a GPS for the motorcycle when I have one for the truck? Can't the one in the truck be used on the motorcycle? The motorcycle unit is water proof, shock resitant and has a lot more secure mount. The truck unit does not have these features. The motorcycle unit also comes with a Bluetooth device that attaches to the helmet. It has two small speakers that fit inside the helmet to hear the voice commands from Ms. Tom Tom(yes, I use the ladies voice). The Bluetooth device also has a microphone so that the GPS will also work with a Bluetooth compatible cell phone. I don't have a Bluetooth phone and I have not figured out how to mount the speakers and mic to my full faced helmet, so the voice function does not work yet. Went for a short ride and the GPS is very readable. Does wash out some in the direct sun.

The next item for Mr. Ulysses is the Buell side and top case set. They should have been here by now, but there was a few days delay in the order. Hopefully they will be here next Tuesday. The case set comes with molded plastic side cases, a top case(trunk) and all the racks to attach to the bike. In keeping with the sport bike theme, they are not real large and should look good on the bike. They are the same set that comes standard on the sport touring version of my motorcycle. Pics when they are installed.

Underway to Victoria at 0530 in the morning. Should not take more than about 10 hours underway to get there. The weather is suppose to be nice, hopefully we will have some wind for saturday when the Swiftsure race starts. The currents are flooding very strong in the morning. A good chance that we will be drifting around in the ocean on Swiftsure bank with no wind. Only a couple more things to do(like print out a couple more current studies) before I can call it quits for tonight.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Port Orchard Invitational WSSA #5

Saturday was the 5th race in the West Sound Sailing Association(WSSA) series. This was a race from Port Orchard Yacht Club to a temporary buoy at Battle Point and return to the finish at Port Orchard Yacht Club. The total distance is 16.4 miles(nautical miles) with an option to shorten the race at the halfway point at Battle Point.

The day was warm and sunny with wind predicted to be NW at 5 to 15 knots. The start was postponed for about 30 min while waiting for the wind to build. When it finally was started at about 1030, the wind was only about 3 knots. We got a good start on port tack on the right end of the line, while Dulcinea(J105), Tantulus(Express 37) and Reign Maker(C&C 37XL) got tangled up on the pin end. The winds stayed light past Bremerton and built some past Pt Herron. Past Pt White, the wind shifted SE and spinakers were launched on most boats. The fleet separated with some boats going down the west shore, a few down the east shore an most staying in the middle. The wind stayed shifty between south and north as a convergence zone parked on us. Spinakers were launched and retrieved as the wind would not decide what to do. Opposite University Point, Egress (Hotfoot 27) passed us for the lead. We played the Bainbridge Island shore and eventually found new wind blowing off the land. This eventually filled in from the north and we completed the beat to the mark at Battle Pt where the we were the second boat finished at 1604.

We probably corrected first in our class. Looks like several boats that started in classes behind us finished close enough to correct on us.

The day was very warm and sunny. The wind could have been better. Everyone on Great White went home with tanned faces and smiles.

Results(when they are posted) can be seen on:

EDIT: Here is a link to Photos, by Bryan M. on "Falcon"

Port Orchard Invitational

Next week I am off to Victoria where I will be racing in the Swiftsure Race, 136 nautical miles from Victoria British Columbia to a ship anchored on the Swifsure Bank about 30 mile in the ocean off Cape Flattery and return. Hopefully we will have good winds and can complete early.

The light winds at the start, but how most of the day appeared.

Our track for the day.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Graduation in Pocatello and the drive home.

On friday, we continued on to Pocatello, Idaho. The day was bright and sunny and the drive across the rest of Oregon and then across the high desert of Idaho went well. I had never been in Idaho before. The area was differant than I thought it would be. Sure, there were areas of sagebrush, but also lots of cultivated farmland as well. I was impressed with how flat it was. It was also cooler than I expected. Western washington was actually warmer over the weekend.

The graduation ceremony was at Idaho State University. My niece graduated with a Doctor of Audiology degree. She spent the last year in Great Britan working on her extern ship. This was a long pull for her to complete her degree. Now she needs a job!

The university also had two year programs and passed out diplomas for associate degrees at the same time as the Bachelor degrees. This was a suprise to me. I am used to Associate degrees being handled only by Junior Colleges. It was explained that probably because of the isolation, Idaho State handled all programs, not just Bachelor and Grad programs.

After graduation, we went another 45 miles east to Idaho Falls for dinner. This is another place that I had been curious about. Some of my co workers went to the site there for work. I had always volunteered but was never selected. Their description made me think it was a desolate area, but I was suprised that it was not. Maybe in the middle of the winter or summer I would think differantly. There is actually a lot of new home construction going on there.

Started early on Sunday for the drive home. Again, the sky was clear and the temp cool. Stopped at Twin Falls to look into the Snake River canyon there. Stopped again at Baker City for gas and lunch and again at Ellensburg for an early dinner. The traffic got heavy on Snoqualmie Pass and there was some rain. Made it home by 8pm and still had over 1/4 of a tank of gas left after the fill up at Baker City. That car of my dad's gets really good mileage! I drove all the way except for about two hours between Boise and Baker City.

This drive started me thinking about taking a motorcycle ride around eastern washington when Chinook Pass opens up. I think I will plan for a three or four day trip.

My family: Father, mother, sister, brother in law, nieces and me.

Snake River canyon at Twin Falls, Idaho. About a mile upstream from here was where Evel Knievel tried to jump the canyon in his rocket bike in 1974.

Looking downstream. Snake River canyon at Twin Falls, Idaho.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Baker City, Oregon

Today my parents and I started for Pocatello, Idaho. My niece is graduating from med school from Idaho State as a doctor. So today we drove eight hours as far as Baker City, Oregon that is about the halfway point. I have never been to this part of Oregon before. I drove my parents newer car the whole way. This is the first time I have driven it, it is a nice ride.

Even though it is spring, we had snow and slush on the road at Snoqualmie Pass and snow flurries in the Blue Mountains. The rest of the drive was in nice sunny weather. We stopped for breakfast in Cle Elum and gas and a snack in Pendelton. The drive through the Blue Mountains was pleasant. Baker City was quiet. I suppose that in the summer the place is busy with lots of tourists. We walked around town and most of the shops were closed. The hotels were empty and there was no waiting at the restaurants.

On to Pocatello tomorrow.

The old Geiser Grand Hotel.
Baker City Hall(or Baker City City Hall?)

Snow covered hills around Baker City.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Race to the Straits Day Two-3May2009

Day two of the Race to the Straits was a far differant day than Day one. The sun was out early and as the first boat started, the winds were very light. By the time I started at 0929, the winds had filled into around 7 knots from the SE. "Rev", was suppose to start at 0826, but was swept passed the the starting line and started after 0900. "Slightly Ripped" was nowhere to be found at the start. Don't know what happened to him.

I started and headed straight out into Admiralty Inlet. The current was supposed to be flooding for the first hour, but once again it was hard to find favorable rivers of current. The fleet divided into two groups. One group worked the Marrowstone Island shore and another group worked up the Whidbey Island shore. I chose the Whidbey Island shore and stayed close to shore for current relief. Also had good lifts on the wind coming off the land. The winds increased to 10-12 knots and at times I thought about changing to a heavier jib, but the new light No. 1 jib was doing an awesome job.

After Point no Point, the winds shifted more easterly and the tacks along the Kitsap shore were long port tacks and short starboard tacks. Most of the boats worked the shore to stay out of the current. Past Kingston I kept going on port untill I could lay the mark at Shilshole. Most of the other boats tacked earlier and then short tacked up the King County shore. I past a few more boats that way. Finished at 1555.

By the time I finished, only about 5 boats had past me (including the Santa Cruz 70!) and there was only about 10-12 boats ahead of me. I got my revenge for yesterday! It was a warm day with great winds. I got a bit sunburned. I also counted up the number of tacks today. I came up with 29 tacks with the No1 headsail. Lots of grinding on the winches! I really did not feel very tired.

I could have won the single handed class or tied with "Rev" for first. Results are computed on the two days scores. Results when posted will be on:
Log for the weekend: 108.2 nautical miles

EDIT: results are up at and it looks like I did place first in the singlehanded class! And it looks like I was the ninth boat to finish on Sunday.

Light winds at the start.
More light winds at the start.
Powered up and heading toward Appletree Point.

The track for the day.

Race to the Straits Day One-2May2009

Saturday was Day One of the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club's annual Race to the Straits. This is a 30 mile double handed/singlehanded race from Shilshole Marina in Seattle to Port Townsend on Saturday and return on Sunday. The classes are divided in double handed and singlehanded divisions and flying sails and non flying sails classes. 90 boats were registered. I always elect to race this race singlehanded with flying sails(spinaker).

This race is unique also in that it is a "pursuit" race where the handicaps are applied at the start of the race instead of calculated at the end of the race. The slowest boat (Coronado 27) started at 0754 and the fastest boat (Santa Cruz 70) started at 1039. My start was at 0929. You always know where you are on the course. Boats ahead are beating you and you are beating the boats behind.

Saturday was grey and rainy. The wind was south at 10-13 knots. The current was going to start ebbing at about 1100. The wind held up until three minutes to go to my start when it died to about three knots! I had already decided to fly the heavy spinaker, so it was a bit of a struggle to get clear of the line. I left a few boats that started ahead of me right at the line. As I sailed north, the wind did build. The current was still changing and it was fun trying to find rivers of current to help.

By the time I reached Double Bluff buoy(the only mark in the race), the wind was up to about 12 knots and with the full ebb underway, the speed over ground was about 7 knots. Some boats did not pay attention to the current and were nearly swept past the buoy. I pulled off several good spinaker jibes during the day.

The wind built more and by the time I went past Marrowstone Point, it was up to 16knots. At Marrowstone Pt, I had to head left and was sailing on at beam reach for the last 4 miles. It was pretty exciting. The boat was under control, and was going 8 1/2 knots through the water. One faster doublehanded boat(FARR 39) was sailing right off the my windward quarter. No way was I going to let him go by! I finished at about 1425.

As I had predicted, the race was a parade. I only passed a few boats and only a couple past me. I was third in my singlehanded class. "REV"(Tbird 26) and "Slightly Ripped"(J27) finished ahead of me. I was closing on "Slightly Ripped" at the finish, but he finished about 100 yards ahead. "String Theory"(Olson 40) started about 10minutes behind me, but I never saw him.

Sloop Tavern Yacht Club put on another great party at the VFW hall. Lots of good eats and Day one awards were presented. I was also third in the predicted log competition. This is where you predict your finishing time. I was off by 34 minutes.

At the start.
"Wicked Wahine" (Melges 32) passing me.

The long downwind chase.

Point Hudson marina filled to capacity with racing yachts.

My course for the day.

Ballard Locks

On Friday, I took the boat to Shilshole Marina. I had a meeting Friday night for the Race To The Strait race that started Saturday morning at Shilshole. More on that on another post.

It was a sunny warm day so I decided to walk to the locks. It is about 2 miles away on a well developed paved bike/walker path.

Officially these locks are named the Hiram Chittenden Locks, named after the engineer who designed them. They were finished in 1917. Locally they are called the Ballard Locks for the community that surrounds them. They are the only way that boats can get from Puget Sound to Lake Union and Lake Washington. The dredged ship canal connects the locks and lakes. Commercial craft as well as recreational craft utilize these on a constant basis. On holiday and summer weekends, the wait to go thru can be quite long.

The locks consist of large and small locks. The large locks are two chambers that when fully opened are 760 feet long. There is a gate in the middle. The smaller locks are only around 100 feet long. The small lock has walls with mooring bollards that float, so that long lines are not needed. Both locks can lift between 6 and 26 feet depending on the height of the tide in Puget Sound. In addition to the locks, there is a dam and spillways to control the level of the lakes and a fish ladder for the returning runs of salmon and trout. Also, there are well maintained gardens and lawns around the locks.

Many Puget Sound sailors have not made the transit through the locks. It can be a stressful excursion, but is a good procedure to learn. Many of the best boat yards are in the lakes, so sometimes it becomes neccesary to transit just to get work done. Some people keep their boats in the lakes and anytime they want to go into the sound, they negotiate the locks.

This is the small lock. The Argosy cruise boat fills it. I heard them tell their passengers that the locks are the third most visited place in Seattle. I would image the the Space Needle is one of the first two. They are by themselves in this lock because they have priority and the smaller locks are quicker to get through.

This is the large locks with a small load of boats at Puget Sound level. They were using only one half of the lock. The lock tenders keep all of the boats on one side and if you get to raft, you don't need 50 ft lines.

And here is the large lock at lake level with the upstream gate open. Barriers underwater prevent seawater from migrating into the lake.