Return From Orcas

Come Sunday I was pretty exhausted. Not from the two parties I went to on the weekend (they didn’t help) but also the fact that the boast was tied up to a daydock that could be described as ‘decrepit’, if I were feeling charitable. Several of the cleats were pulling out and the section I was tied onto appeared to be fairly loosely attached to the rest of the structure. I spiderwebbed lines EVERYWHERE to every available cleat and then spent both nights on a kind of anchor watch – leading to very unresetful sleep. Which is probably why when I came back to the boat after a party, I mistook the reflection of the moon off the wet dock as the dock being underwater and panicked for a couple of minutes. Or it could just be me being an idiot.

On Sunday I decided to leave at 9ish. The winds were supposed to be 25-30 on the Juan de Fuca, dying down later while the Haro Strait was 25ish. It was very similar to Friday with one exception – I would now being going INTO the wind. This means that any boat speed I had going would be added to the apparent wind and I would be going into the waves rather than with them – both adding strain to the boat.

I motored to the Haro Strait and then put up the sails (reefed main and the headsail at 50% furled) which saw me scooting along at 7 knots in around 20 knots of wind. It was going pretty well up until the Cordova Bay area where the opposite wind/current directions caused some really big waves to start stacking up, causing everything in the boat to start flying around as Gudgeon fell off 6 foot waves into troughs before pounding through the next one. I got hit in the face several times by breaking waves. This was by far the most intense sailing I’ve done, and I was heeled over a bunch. The nice thing about going into the wind though was that if the wind gusted even higher and started to overpower the boat, I could ‘pinch’ in (turning more into the wind) which stopped the sails working so efficiently and so pulled the boat back upright.

I flew down to Cadboro Bay, and that’s where stuff starting going a bit wrong. I had to tack twice to set myself for the entrance. On the first tack a flailing Jib sheet caught the oars (that I had stupidly left attached to the stanchions) and ripped them off. They miraculously sat on the foredeck for around 30 seconds while I tried to decide whether to go and try to grab them – I decided not to as there was a jib sheet line flailing around like crazy, the seas were SUPER bouncy, and I had no jacklines attached. I figured losing the oars was better than falling overboard, and sadly watched them eventually slide off the deck and drift away. I am pretty bummed about that, I liked them a lot!

The second tack went even worse as I didn’t swing the wheel over hard enough, the genoa didn’t switch sides and instead backwinded and I got caught ‘in irons’ (facing directly in the wind). Not a fun place to be with the wind howling and the big swells/waves. I tried to finish the tack using the engine, but it couldn’t generate enough power to swing me around. At this point I was just getting tossed around a bunch and was starting to feel seasick (which is terrible when you are solo) so I decided to furl the headsail and use my engine for the rest of the way. Except the wind was so strong I was having trouble getting the sail in and it flogged so much a bunch of the suncover ripped off. Sigh.

I finally got it in and motorsailed down through Cadboro bay area, and got to the Juan De Fuca. Enterprise Passage was quite calm, luckily, and the Juan de Fuca was only blowing 15 although the swells were pretty wild at this point. I managed to drop the mainsail (THIS IS NOT FUN SOLO WITH NO AUTOPILOT IN SWELL AND HIGH WINDS) and motored home with no incident.

Man, I was glad to be back.

My cabin looked like it had been through a tumbledryer. I found my bedside lamp IN THE BATHROOM SINK as it had got there by flying THROUGH the head door knocking out the center panel. I couldn’t find my kettle either, it eventually turned up somehow wedged under the nav desk. My poor old laptop hard drive died as well – possibly because it bounced around the cabin and ended up in a pool of water from the aforementioned kettle. Oh well. I am now without a laptop, phone or internet connection for the time being.

The boat held up extremely well, and added a lot to my confidence in here. The only damage was my internet antenna being ripped off, the loss of the oars and the tearing of the foresail, and I guess my laptop being destroyed. I learnt a ton though, and next time I’m out in weather like that I feel I will handle it a lot better!



  1. Dude, that’s horrible (the laptop more then anything). This would have been one of those situations where more money spent on the boat (autopilot) would have saved you money.

    But good on you doing that solo. Sounds like you braved it like a champ.

    • An autopilot is 100% on my list and has been bumped up from next year – I’m waiting till the black friday/boxing day sales, and will hopefully snag something there. I think stowing the laptop better would have really helped, rather than leaving it on a table (doh). Oh well, it was a pretty terrible slow thing anyway!

    • Hi Horatio, thanks for the feedback. I think you are right, that’s the type I am going to go with – I can’t find anyone really enthused on the Wheelpilot type.

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