Fall Racing Season begins!

The next racing series began with a number of surprised, but first we have to take you back a few days before the race.

On Tuesday before racing we set up new rigging for the spinnaker pole. Whereas prior it was pretty much just floating out in the air, we now had a way to fix it firmly in place. However, this came with added complexity and the pole now has 5 lines on it (topping lift, then on EACH side, a downhaul and guy). Why is there a downhaul on each side? Because, due to the pulpit and safety lines, the downhaul would have to go up, over the rail, and thence out to the spinnaker pole, which negates a lot of the “down” in “downhaul”.

So now there’s a block on each side at the bow and a downhaul on each side. The line goes from the pole, through the block and then back to the cockpit. The downhaul that is not being used drapes across the pulpit, inside the forestay.

Anyway, we worked on the rigging for a few hours on Tuesday, and then raced Saturday. This is not a formula calculated to instill smooth operations, as you might expect. To complicate matters further, the normal bowman could not be there for the race, so it fell on the skipper to also handle bow duties.

As we crept onwards from Tuesday towards Saturday, the wind forecasts just looked worse and worse. The night before the race, the forecast was anywhere between 0 and 6 knots, depending on which model you chose to believe. Those are not the kind of conditions that Opus really does well in. She prefers stronger winds than that, but you have to sail what you get. Still, it was going to suck.

The night before, two of the crew converted Opus from her cruising set up to her racing set up – basically moving cruising sails off her and putting her racing sails on, taking a lot of other stuff off to lighten her. Fortunately, she’s not envisioned to do any cruising for the duration of the race series, so it won’t need to be converted back and forth again until at least next spring. Still, it made for a long day and it was two tired people headed to their bunks for the night.

Saturday dawned… grey and still. The water, what we could see before it faded into the fog, was utterly smooth and glassy. It was the kind of fog that can only exist in absolute calm winds, which was not a promising way to start a racing day. However, the fog lifted before too long… and then returned. Fortunately, an hour before the race was to begin, the fog was gone for good and some of the flags seemed to move a little bit, hinting that something was happening in the air.

By the time the boats were setting up for the start, there was actually wind to work with and on the first leg, we noted an apparent wind speed of 11 knots, though that soon declined. Still, there was wind the entire distance, which was a pleasant surprise.

It is said that no strategy survives contact with the enemy. In this case, our strategy was to cross the start line headed east to take advantage of a current to get a good angle before turning southerly to round the first mark. Unfortunately, we were poorly positioned for that angle to make it through the starting gate due to misreading the current and had to tack in order not to hit the mark at one end of the line. Rather than take the time to tack back, we continued on a SE direction for a ways before being able to head for the mark. This was definitely the slower way to go compared to our original strategy since we were now quartering into the current.

However, the wind picked up and we saw 11 knots apparent and were making better than 6 knots – far faster than I had thought and so the bow needed to rush to get the deck ready for the spinnaker hoist. Unfortunately, there had been some confusion about the rigging and some of the lines that needed slack had been tied off and that cost us a lot of time sorting out such that we didn’t get the spinnaker up until well after rounding the mark and consequently, we were in last place.

Slowly we worked our way past other boats and moved up to third place as we passed through the start gate once more before heading to the next mark.

Due to the difficulties we had with the first hoist of the spinnaker, it was decided that Opus would sail the second leg of the race on her spinnaker despite the fact that the wind angle really wanted the spinnaker doused and to proceed on the genoa and main. This was going to cause us to lose ground and the boats we had passed started gaining on us once again. Still, we were in third place as we rounded the isthmus and turned downwind once again, headed towards the mark, though that was to be a short run before rounding.

Unfortunately, after rounding the turn, the inexperience and lack of practice (we had two crew on for the first time and an out-of-practice person running the bow) showed and we had many problems dousing the spinnaker. It harkened back to the first time we had tried to fly it. Lines got caught up in the roller furling, which meant that for a long time as we untangled things (twice!) we were processing solely on the mainsail. It was during this time that we were passed by another boat, putting us in fourth.

Once we sorted out the lines and got the foresail out, the chase was on. We were catching up and trying to take back our third place, but Keela was sailed wonderfully and crossed the finish line 5 minutes ahead of us, putting us into a fourth place finish.

We’ll get you next time, Keela!

Another night of racing

When I joined the local yacht club years and years ago, I was annoyed at the constant push by some of the members to acquiring more racing-type boats. I was interested in cruising. Those racing-type boats are uncomfortable for cruising and without the accommodations for a pleasant trip about the islands. They were always pushing for acquiring another C&C whereas I was more interested in the Catalinas, Hunters, etc.

Somewhere along the line, something went wrong and I find myself owning a C&C and invested in the racing.

Last night was another race, and we took third. That leaves us with one more race in the series and no possible way to move up in the standings unless we win the race, which is possible but so unlikely as not to be even worth considering. In addition, the third place boat would have to take fourth in the race which is also possible but also very highly unlikely. So we’ll likely conclude the series in fourth place. Which, for a first season of racing, with a brand new crew, a boat that still needs a lot of work, using very old stretched out, ragged, sails, ain’t bad!

It was an interesting course last night, basically an oval around two marks, but with the starting line halfway between them. We had a bad start, partly because we had some traffic that got the inside track on us, pushing us further from the start line than I wanted to be, and partly because I probably SHOULD have been at the other end of the start and on a port tack instead of starboard.

As we headed towards the first mark I was debating. Should we fly the spinnaker or not? We’re down a two crew, though we gained one back due to someone bringing their friend. in addition, this crew has never raised the spinnaker before, though our foredeck has only flown an asymmetic (opus has a symmetric spinnaker, which is a very different creature) before. What the heck. Might as well.

Raising a spinnaker requires good coordination between the helm, the line handlers, and the foredeck. As this was the first time doing it, that coordination was… not there. Fortunately, we didn’t do any of the things like hourglassing it.

We raised the spinnaker behind the genoa and that went reasonably well. Then we started to furl in the genoa and that’s where things started to take a bad turn. We should have been more downwind to inflate the spinnaker. Instead, it kept collapsing onto the genoa as we were trying to furl it in and that, in turn, would cause the spinnaker to start twisting around the genoa… so we would have to unfurl the genoa a bit to free the spinnaker, get the spinnaker off the genoa, and then furl the genoa. That lost us a lot of time sorting out, but eventually we did and it turned out to be a good move. Under Spinnaker, we rapidly were catching up to, and then passing, three boats from the pack, catching them about 3/4 of the way to the downwind pin.

Dousing the spinnaker went better as we yanked it down with about 4 boat lengths to go to the turn. Though we still managed to dip it into the water for a moment before bringing it up. Still some work to go on that maneuver! 🙂 We rounded the pin and set up for a close reach to get back to the “gate”. However, this took us further out into the Georgia Strait, which was something we had said we did NOT want to do since the tide was incoming and bringing currents against us. Better to stay in-shore where there would be some protection from that current. Oops.

We made it back to the “gate” at the halfway point (the starting line acting like a funnel that all boats had to cross again) and beat upwind for the windward mark and headed for the finish line, crossing it in time for third place!

Turning around we headed for home, still under sail, while the crew got the boat back together, we held a debrief, then took the sails down and motored back to home tired, sore, but happy.

Committee Boat

Most races are volunteer-run, cooperative, endeavours, especially if they’re a “series” like most clubs put on. For instance, we’re taking part in the racing series that happen every Tuesday night at our yacht club. It’s basically a bunch of boats of all shapes and sizes getting out and working on our skills and having a friendly rivalry while still having some level of formalism. As a result, each race, one boat is appointed the “Committee Boat” which basically means you set out the starting line and starts the other boats, and then watch them sail off while you wait for them to return so that you can get their elapsed time, start-to-finish, hand that over to the race chairman to do some black magic voodoo computer program stuff that takes into account handicaps for different size/makes of boats and comes out with winners in different divisions.

This week was Opus’ turn to be committee boat.

The wind predictions were anywhere from 6 knots to 30 knots. In other words, we had no idea what was going to be happening out there and were not looking forward to bouncing and rolling at anchor while the other boats hared off on the same course that we had sailed the previous week, but responsibilities are responsibilities.

1/2 the crew had called in with unable to attend, so we were down to three people aboard this week too, however it doesn’t require a full crew to hang onto an anchor and watch other sail boats, so it worked out well.

The starting line is marked by a float that is dropped by the committee boat at one end, and the committee boat itself at the other end, usually the “starboard” end of the start line is the committee boat. The line has to be long enough to give sailboats a chance to pass it more or less en masse.

Opus motored out after collecting the “stuff” from the race chairman (float, placards, etc.). Our usual helmsman was one of those that had called in to be absent, so it provided an opportunity to give others a chance at the helm. We dropped the float, backed off a bit and dropped our own anchor, paid out line, “set” the anchor, hung a red “5” on our port side (that tells the other boats that the course is out marker #5 and the red means you must keep that marker on the PORT side as you round the mark), made sure we had our timer set, flags ready and waited. At 18:54 we made our first “recall” sound as a courtesy (as per the suggestion of the race chairman. 18:55 was the “CLASS” flag going up and short sound. At this point boats should have their engines off and be purely under sail. 18:56, the PREPARE flag goes up with another short sound. This means all boats that are not in the class about to start should stay clear of the start area and gives the racing boats a second chance to synchronize their start timers to the official one. 18:59 and the PREPARE flag comes down with a LONG sound signal signifying one minute before start. At 19:00 the last flag comes down, a short sound signal is made, and the race is on! As we approach 19:00, our job is to keep a sight down the starting line for any boats crossing early, which none did for this start (technically, the start line goes from the float, to the mast of the committee boat, so you sight down that line).

About 5 minutes after the boats had started, there’s another sailboat frantically putting up their sails while motoring towards us. It’s another competitor there late. They got their sails up, engine off, crossed the start line, and were off chasing the others.

The winds were up, though nowhere near 30 knots and were the sort of conditions that were just made for Opus. It was doubly painful watching the other boats sail away. We hunkered down to wait, weathered a light rain shower, and watched. at around 20:39, the first boat back crossed the finish line (same as the start line, but in the other direction), to be greeted with a sound signal to signify official end of the race for them. 3 minutes later the second boat crossed the line. These were the only two boats from Opus’ division that were racing. The last boat crossed about 1/2 an hour later.

We took down the information of each boat as they crossed – name of boat, elapsed time – in an email, then it was time to pull up anchor, motor over to the float, pull it up, and head for home. Arriving home, secured, crew brought the supplies back to the shed, we cleaned up, and all headed home.

For acting as committee boat, we get our “average” number of points from previous races added into our cumulative score. in this case, that actually hurt us. If we had raced, the minimum points we would have gotten was 0.33 points but acting as committee boat, we only got 0.28 points. Hey, that 0.05 points might make a difference!

Well, mathematically, it might. In reality, it won’t.

And did I mention that I lost my hat overboard? Darn, I really liked that hat too.

Two and a half men

Opus is a fairly large boat at 43 feet long. As a result, her sails, and her gear is also proportionately larger. As she has no power winches, everything is done by human muscle and, of course, involves a bit of motion up and down the decks. Things just are never within reach on her.

Tuesday was another race, or at least was supposed to be. One of the foredeck had said, weeks ago, that he would be unavailable for the race, so that meant we were already down one person. Then the second foredeck had something come up. Now we were down two. At the semi-last moment, another person cancelled. now we’re down three – approximately 1/2 of our crew.

I put in to the organizers that this might be a good time for Opus to do her duty as committee boat, but someone else was already slotted in. Ok ,guess we aren’t racing. It’s going to be maintenance except that the winds are up nicely and…

Oh, heck with it, we’ll race with the three of us.

Things went smoothly for departure as we switched from “maintenance mode” to “racing prep mode”. Hubert took us smartly out of the slip earlier than we usually would as I figured the prep work getting the sails up and squared away would take longer with just the three of us. Safely out of the marina with the wind blowing off shore, we motored further out and then turned bow towards land and into the wind to hoist the mainsail, then add the foresail. Conditions were wonderful with the wind speed in the double digits and little to no wave action.

We saw the committee boat set up and were listening on the radio, but didn’t hear the course call. Still, I was pretty sure how we would start, so started lining up Opus, only to see (almost) all the other boats on the other side of the start line. Quickly we hustled over to that line, concentrating on getting ourselves set up for the start. At the last moment I look up and…

… all the boats are on the side I started at, and we don’t have time to reposition. Once again, a late start as we swung around the committee boat for a proper (non-penalty) start, though now we were well behind the pack.

Still, these are the conditions that Opus likes, and we were overtaking them, starting to think about the tactics of picking our way through the pack. Unfortunately, since we didn’t hear the radio call, we had no idea where the pin was and therefore couldn’t plan strategy. All we could do was play follow-the-leader and hope that it would eventually be clear. Meanwhile we seemed to be heading out to Saturna island.

Eventually we figured out where the pin was located, but once again we were in a bad position and had to do a bunch of maneuvering that caused us to lose ground yet again. However, we came around the marker, giving it a respectful space since the marker was a concrete marker well embedded into the sea floor. Hitting it would be a bad, bad, idea.

Now it was time to head back and here’s where a spinnaker would really have been nice. I made the (incorrect) call to switch over to a broad reach hoping to get some better speed. This course took us out into the channel again, which was a bad call because we were bucking an incomming tide. In retrospect, it would have been better to stick closer to shore where the tide/current was less.

Once again we dragged in as the last boat of our division, though there were still boats behind us, they were a lot closer than they should have as Opus is a faster boat if sailed properly.

Lessons learned:

  • When out in Georgia Strait, hug the coastline if you’ll be fighting a strong tide
    • Become more familiar with the currents, especially where eddies and swirls might form
  • Have someone assigned to listen to the radio
  • Learn the course marking flags so that you can tell the course by looking at the markings on the committee boat.
  • Actually look at the committee boat to see the course
  • The closer to the pin you are, the faster that a course will converge on it. If you are 1 nm away from the pin and traveling 90 degrees to the pin, it takes a long time to change the angle of a course directly to the pin.
  • Clean up the cockpit and get ready for the next evolution as soon as possible.

So why 2 and a half? I turned my ankle on a line that rolled my foot before smashing into the coaming of the cockpit. My mobility pretty much went to zero, which made things difficult.

So we are currently in 4th place in the series. Yes, there are more than 4 boats, so we’re not quite in last place. That’s better than I thought we would do!

Third Race

This past Tuesday was Opus’ third race. The first was a few weeks ago. The goal for that race, indeed for the whole season, is simply to get out on the water, work out procedures, shake her up, find what needs fixing, rinse, and repeat. Therefore, it was no disappointment to come in last, with the second-to-last boat finishing nearly 30 minutes before us. On the other hand, it was a pleasant surprise for us to even cross the finish line within the time limit, which I wasn’t expecting.

We would have finished even sooner but I made some bad decisions along the way, calling the lines incorrectly and thereby causing us to be even slower around the course. This was the crew’s first time aboard her as well, and they need to learn her lines and procedures, how she likes to be trimmed, the timing for a tack or gybe, etc. And, lastly, the winds were pretty light, which is not Opus’ best environment. She likes a bit more wind. Of course, the winds were the same for everyone, so it’s certainly no excuse for us.

Opus’ second race was a fun, highly informal, one during a three-day weekend in which two larger boats (Opus and another called Runaway) and two smaller boats from the Lower Mainland Yacht Coop (LMYC) ran. We had brought Opus to the meet with just me and one crew aboard. For the race we had a crew of 6+1 – i.e. 6 active crew and 1 photographer. Notable highlights for this was a our chance to fly the spinnaker for the first time, ever, under my ownership. There is something about that brightly coloured, huge, sail sliding out of its bag to balloon out there in front that is just quintessential sailing.

Early in that race I made a couple of not-great decisions and then made a decisively good one that had us out in the lead. Then we decided to fly the spinnaker which, unfortunately, took us in a bad direction. We then complicated that by fouling the spinnaker halyard in the top of the roller furler for the Genoa, which delayed us taking down the spinnaker even further in the wrong direction. Still.. We Flew The Spinnaker!

We ended up in second place, well behind Runaway who ran away with the first place, and barely ahead of the third place boat,which we should have been well ahead of. Oh well.

And then came our third race this past Tuesday.

We had a fair start, slightly back from the pack (we have to work on our start, though we’re getting better) but we were actually crossing the line a bit higher on the bias, which in this case was a good thing and eventually allowed us to make up some time. The course consisted of the start line, an upwind pin, return through the start line, a downwind pin, return through the start line, and repeat, making two laps around the course.

For once we were within striking distance of the pack and actually ahead of one other boat. It felt like we were even starting to creep up on the boat in third place. Suddenly the boat in second place turned 90 degrees to the course and started bringing her sails down. A bit further in and the boat in front of us did the same. We later found out that the second-place boat had a steering failure and were out, and the third place boat had dropped out of the race to render assistance. However, that left only one boat ahead of us and the chase was on. They were far enough ahead that we had no hope of catching them, but possibly we could whittle down their lead a bit. It should be noted that boat has won every race so far this season.

We crossed the finish line in second place only 13 minutes behind the leader in elapsed time. That’s still a big percentage difference since they finished in 49 minutes and we finished in 62 minutes, but darn it felt good! By comparison, the first race was won in 81 minutes and we crossed in 111 minutes. We are improving!

Next race is on June 6th and we hope to do even better.


It’s been a long, long, two years getting Opus to the starting line, but she’s finally competed in her first two races. Tuesday night, she raced in a local club race. Came in last in our division, but that’s not the point. The point was to take a crew that has never sailed on Opus before, most of whom have never sailed on a big boat before, and at least one who has actually never sailed before, and get us out on the water and moving the boat around the course.
The course had a time limit of 2 hours to complete, and we came in under the the time limit. While not a goal, it was very much appreciated. We’ll be concentrating on improvement now rather than our place in the standings. If we improve faster than the other teams, we’ll start moving up the ranks. We’re in it for the long haul, though I admit a win now and then would be nice.

This past Saturday was her second race. This was just a fun, semi-informal, race with pick-up crews consisting of race start at Bedwell Harbour, down around Gooch Island and back to Bedwell Harbour. It was interesting as the lead kept changing, which makes for a fun race. A race where the leaders run away from everyone isn’t interesting… unless it’s us running away from everyone. That would be interesting. To me, at least. In the end, it was Runaway in first, Opus in second, Scherzando in third, and Bacca Lele in fourth (or maybe Baca in third and Scherzando in fourth?)

The best part was that we got to fly Opus’ symmetric spinnaker for the very first time. It was glorious.

For those who know Spinnakers, I KNOW those sheets are too tight and the sail should be further out in front. It just felt good that it was up and inflated at all!

Picture of Navionics showing us across the finish line and making 7.6 knots
Crossing the finish line

Navionics used as evidence of our finish time – blasting over the finish line at 7.6 knots

Helming across the finish line with radio in hand to report the finish…

Opus is Home

Well, it’s been months and months. I had dropped Opus off at the boat yard in late October, expecting that it would be a month or two of work before I picked her up again. I’d still have time to make the late winter/spring racing season. Most of the work would be done while I was away helping a yacht delivery. I’d come back, pick her up and off we’d go. Tiddlywinks!

Uh huh.

December came and went. January too, followed by February. Finally Mid March the call came that Opus was ready and a date set to put her back in the water. I found a volunteer to help me bring her home. The plan was to go down on one day, inspect her late, after the yard had closed, spend the night in a Bed and Breakfast, get her into the water, do some in-water checks, and be on our way around 10:30 AM. The travel down went well, but the gate to the boatyard was closed, necessitating a bit of a hike to go in to see her. No big deal, and there was a ladder set up (Opus’ decks are quite high off the ground when she’s ashore!) which allowed us to climb aboard where she hung in the straps of the travelift all ready to be launched the next day. We did a small amount of inspections before stowing our gear and heading to the B&B for the evening.

A lovely dinner with some acquaintances ensued, and the following morning they arrived to drive us back to Opus. Upon arrival, she was already in the water and people were aboard doing the yard’s final checks, all the things they couldn’t check while Opus was out of the water. At last it was time for me to (re)take posession of her.

Before departing, I wanted to do some engine checks, for we would be in a narrow channel for a few hours, and if the engine failed there, it would be a surefire grounding with the tide going out. With her securely lashed to the dock, I started the engine. She was blowing a bit of black smoke, but that cleared up relatively quickly. Engaging the motor and advancing the power level, she started to blow more smoke and laboured and then ran really roughly before dying. We started to troubleshoot the system, but there was a deadline bearing down on us. The boatyard’s lagoon is fairly shallow and Opus had a limited window in which she could float. As that deadline approached, it was agreed to haul her back out. This time was a bust.

Fortunately, the dinner friends agreed to drive us back to the border and from there we were picked up and taken home.

A few days later the problems had been found and rectified. This time I would do it alone and make the trip home over two days instead of one. The boatyard had launched Opus and moved her from their lagoon to a Marina just up the channel from them, so there was no tide window looming. The plan was for me to take Opus from that Marina, up the channel to Anacortes, overnight there, and then come home the following day. Because of delays at the border, we arrived at Opus much later than had been planned. That meant a check of only the most critical components there at the dock, namely the powerplant and transmission, before departing La Conner up the Swinomish Channel. The trip should take about 2, or 2 1/2 hours. Maybe three since the current was against me.

The trip up went fine other than the cold weather. I actually was hit with a bit of sleet and rain, and I was very glad I had my foul weather gear and warm undergarments on, at least until I got past the swing bridge at the north end and was headed into the last stretch of the channel. The banks here are very flat meaning there’s not much slope to them. As a general rule of thumb, they are going to continue to do the same thing under the water as they do above the water. It took me over an hour of slow, cautious, probing with the new (uncalibrated!) depth sounder to convince myself that, yes, I really do want to come that close to the west shore. Truly it felt like another 6 inches and I’d be high and dry.

Finally past that impediment, it was a clear run to Anacortes. The 5 months away from Opus really showed when it came to docking. It wasn’t pretty, so on my to do list is a lot of practice getting to where I know the “feel” of her again. In Anacortes, I had an opportunity to again meet up with the dinner couple from the first attempt. This time they took me to dinner. Then it was back to the boat where I was looking forward to turning on the heat and enjoying a cozy evening.

Except the heater didn’t work. Temperatures were expected to be somewhere in the -2 to +1 (celsius) range. I did have a small electric space heater but there was no way it was going to warm up the whole cabin. Instead I had to bundle up. Fortunately, I had come prepared for this eventuality as the heater has been completely unreliable since it had been installed. So, wrapped in my mummy bag, with warm clothing donned and the space heater going, I settled in to sleep.

The next day’s departure was planned for about 11:30am, but looking at the state of things again, it seemed to me that departure as early as possible might be warranted to try to avoid the worst of the currents in some of the passes. Even though the fuel gauge said I had enough fuel – it had barely moved from the reading the previous day, I decided to top it up. Imagine my surprise when the final read was 25.7 gallons. Why so surprised? That tank only holds about 27 gallons (I normally calculate it as 25 gallons usable). I was running on fumes at the end, despite the gauge saying 5/8ths full. Apparently the gauge is currently broken. If I had tried to make it home on the amount of fuel I thought I had, I would have run out of fuel about 1 1/2 hours into the trip.

The rest of the trip was a combination of trying to figure out the instrumentation, new procedures for using the autopilot, and trying not to freeze. The skies were overcast and drizzly, and every exhale resulted in a big white cloud of condensation. However, as I approached Canada, the weather warmed up until I finally had to remove my jacket AND sweater. Maybe it was just the relative temperature, but it felt nearly balmy by the time we arrived.

More to come on this as I work my way through the systems, get them all calibrated and have an actual, thoughtful, and fair review of the work done by the boatyard!

Ah, the ignominy of it all

Opus has had her share, or even more than her share, of mechanical problems. And, while I’m willing to get my hands dirty and pitch in, there are only so many things I can do alone. For instance, I won’t climb the rig solo – I want someone there to help. That means not being able to replace the wind instruments.

Opus and I were planning to do a long trip this past summer up to Alaska and back. We actually did make it to Alaska, but just barely. She broke on the way north, shearing the bolts that connect the engine to the prop shaft. On the way south again, she broke her vee drive. We did make it home, eventually, after a bit of an adventure.

Last month she did the bolt-shearing thing again, despite having been certified as Ok by 2 different mechanics. Enough is enough, and I set out to find a shop to fix this problem once and for all. We settled on a boatyard but then came the problem of how to get her down there. It broke down into three stages:

  1. Get Opus out of the marina she’s in and into open waters.
  2. Get Opus from there to the vicinity of the boat yard.
  3. Get Opus into the boatyard.

The second stage was the easy one – sail her. We’re now in late October, the winter sailing season is setting in, and there’s plenty of wind to work with.

First stage was also, seemingly, doable. Jury rig a repair that would let the engine work for about 15-20 minutes to clear out of the marina.

Third stage would have to be handled by a tow since the approach to the Marina we convoluted and narrow, but that’s doable.

Unfortunately, things are not going to plan. The flange from the vee drive still had parts of the sheared bolts in it, so they had to be removed. In order to do that, the vee drive had to be removed to gain access to the bolts. And then it had to be re-installed, and therein begins the tale of woe. It simply would not go back on. After two days of fighting with it, the decision was made that Opus would have to be towed all the way to the boat yard. Unfortunately, the wind was not feeling at all cooperative.

Wind conditions that would have been fun and exciting to sail in are not good for towing. So Opus sat at the dock for day after day, hoping for the wind to abate. We finally got a weather window open on a Friday, plans were made on Thursday night, the tow boat showed up at 10am and we were quickly on our way. The weather gods took pity and the crossing was completed in about 7 1/2 hours, arriving at _a_ marina, but not _the_ marina, at 17:30, friday evening. Arrangements had been made to stay until Monday, and we’ll get another two for the approximately 2 miles to the repair boatyard.

The last part of the first tow took us into the northern entrance of the Swinomish Channel, through a railroad swing bridge, and under some power lines that took a bit of close examination of the air clearance. We figured that at the high tide, I would still, barely, fit under them. We weren’t quite at high tide when we arrived there, so we had a little bit extra margin. After that it was under some more, higher, power lines and then an uneventful cruise down the channel. Coming into the dock without power and no real way to stop had my heart rate up a bit, but the tow captain managed the energy perfectly and Opus glided up to the dock, where I jumped off and only had to do the tiniest pull on the lines to get her completely stopped, then walk her along the dock to tuck in tight against the line of boats and leaving room for another boat behind me.

Now we sit at the dock for the next few days until she can be lifted out on Monday and they do a thorough going over on the engine to get it to stop doing this bad stuff. They’ll also be doing some electrical work because the charging system for the batteries does not seem to be working properly (noted on the way down here to the intermediate marina), and a few other oddments.

By the time this is done, Opus is going to feel like a new boat. I hope.

Coming home from the Rendezvous

I didn’t sleep well last night. Opus was too warm and stuffy, but the mosquitoes were far too numerous for me to leave any windows or doors open. I preferred stuffy to being bled to death in my sleep! As a result, I was definitely not at the top of my game for the trip home right from the beginning, unfortunately.

Once again, it was a parade of C&Cs with the occasional odd duck interspersed such as the impressively large motor yacht that had also been staying overnight at Telegraph Harbour. There was really, “clumps” of departures for various destinations. I was part of a group headed for Porlier Pass, about 10 miles away. As with the trip from Nanaimo to Thetis, I had wanted to sail as much as possible. However, it ended up being too much work for my state and I motored most of the way. The headsail got fouled three times during one tack before disgust and frustration head me furl it up for a bit.

The tide was coming in as we passed through Porlier Pass, pushing Opus through the gap at a brisk 6-7 knots. I figure the current was running at about 2 knots plus about 4 knots of boat speed. On the outflow side (Georgia Strait), were the standing waves that the chart symbols warn you of. While not very big compared to Opus, they certainly did push her around a bit and it reuiqred brisk and lively helming to keep her on course. That zone was only about 100-150 meters long, but I can see how I wouldn’t want to deal with it in a small boat. It would definitely be worth waiting for slack under those circumstances.

Once clear of the outflow, it was one more attempt at sailing, this time successfully for the next 7 miles before the wind dropped, which was expected. Between being tired, and having been on the helm for 4 hours already, when the “TTD” (“Time to Destination”) indicator read another 4 hours to go, with SOG (“Speed Over Ground”) showing 2.9 knots, it was time to fire up the engine and proceed with a bit more alacrity.

Two things of note occurred. At one point a distress call came in and, reluctantly, I turned to respond. They were about 10 miles away, which was 2 hours at my speed, and in the wrong direction. Fortunately, for me, there was a boat that was further away, but faster, and they responded as well, freeing me to head on home.

The second thing was the disparity between customs into Canada and customs into the USA from the water. Both countries use apps on my phone to file the paperwork. For Canada it’s ArriveCan and for the USA it’s CBP-Roam. Even using that, Canada requires me to tie up to the customs dock before I then have to call in, though the process is a bit more streamlines since they have all the paperwork already submitted. US, you can submit as soon as you’re in their waters and they will, generally, clear you while you’re still out on the water. None of this “We won’t talk to you unless you’re docked” business. It was a welcome relief not to have to dock up twice!

Anyway, Opus is home once again. Today is going back down to her to clean her up, take more stuff off, etc., only to load her back up again for the next cruise, and then prep her for racing season!

A Gathering of Likeness

This past weekend was the annual C&C Rendezvous, a gathering of C&C yachts from the area. All in all, we had 25 yachts at the gathering at Thetis island — thank you to Telegraph Harbour for hosting us!

Because Opus is kept in the United States, I had to determine where to go through customs on the way to the gathering. I elected to go to Nanaimo the day before and go through customs there, then go to Thetis Island on Friday. The trip up to Nanaimo was thoroughly unpleasant — single-handed motoring straight into the teeth of the wind and waves for the slog up the Georgia Strait, and arriving at Nanaimo completely knackered. It lacked only rain and cold to make it one of the most unpleasant legs I’ve had in a long time.

Arriving in Nanaimo, I tried calling in to Canadian Customs while still 30 minutes from the dock. I had to wait on hold for 10 minutes before talking to an agent who, when informed I was still 20 minutes out, informed me that they couldn’t talk to me until I was at the dock and then hung up. So, I putted to the dock, jumped off, tied her up, called in, waited on hold for 10 minutes, answered 4 questions and was cleared into Canada. Why in the world couldn’t we have done that while I was still out in the bay? Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming the customs officer – they have to follow the procedures given to them. Anyway, immediately undock and move back out the way I had come, across the bay, and into the mooring field for the night. The moorings at Mark’s Bay, btw, are a great deal. $14.00 for the night!

Next day dawned bright and clear and beautiful and I resolved to sail as much as possible. Being single-handed, I usually will just sail on the headsail as it can be managed completely from the cockpit. Sure enough, there were a few other sailboats headed towards Dodd Narrows with their sails up as well, and we threaded through the ferries and other traffic plus the anchored freighter and a few logs floating in the water just to keep it really interesting.

We all arrived at the narrows just before slack time, which was perfect. One by one, the sails were furled and the parade continued onwards. I had wanted to try sailing through the narrows, but it was so busy, plus there was a Tug boat patiently and politely waiting for us all to pass before he went through with his long log tow, that I decided to power through. I was last in the parade, other than the tug.

About a mile past Dodd narrows, I hauled out my 140% genoa again. Ahead of me, others also started putting out sails. With the engine off, I checked behind me to make sure that the tugboat wasn’t going to catch up. No, we were slowly leaving him behind, so I turned my attention to the boats ahead of me.

5 boats headed to the east side of Thetis, 2 boats headed to the west side. West side was where I wanted to go, so the race was on! Relatively quickly, I and another left the 3rd boat behind. Not a word was spoken by any of us, but I think we all knew the game was afoot. I was either holding on or slightly catching up to the lead boat as we sailed down. All too soon, unfortunately, the entrance to the narrow channel I needed to use came up, and I turned out of the race to furl sails, put out fenders, and set my lines. When I looked over, the other boat, too, had done the same thing and, for the first time, I could see her in profile. She was, indeed, another C&C and was obviously headed to the same rendezvous.

The rendezvous was definitely enjoyable. I met a lot of other C&Cers, made a number of excellent contacts. I’ll post more about it in my personal blog (“Captain’s Corner”).

Next entry, the return home.