Archive for May, 2010

One Moore Race to the Straits. . .

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

I’ve done several of the Sloop Tavern YC Race to the Straits, including the first one aboard my Thunderbird. But none really compare with the 2010 version. First, we had a Moore one design start where the talent level was high. Second, the tides, the lack of wind, the excess of wind, the rip off Marrowstone point, the “pile up” at Point No Point and the final blast across the straits through 30 knots of BIG seas to sanctuary at the Edmonds marina will not be soon forgotten. It was epic.

And since I’m spending the day recuperating, I thought I’d tell Sputnik’s race story:

Five Moores hit the 8:44 start line with spinnakers raised (well, Sputnik’s wasn’t but that’s another tactic gone south) and eased north in a light southerly over a favoring ebb tide. By the time we passed Kingston, boats were well spread out with various rates of speed in a dying breeze. And die it did as we reached the Point No Point area. There was the occasional whisp here or there with resulting boat repositioning. With no real plan, Sputnik wandered away from the majority of boats hugging the shore, out into the Strait with a zephyr here and there. We drank beer and considered that the ebb was ending in an hour and we’d mostly likely be swept back to Seattle by the monster flood. We wondered if we had enough gas to get back to Shilshole.

But then, we and the Tbird Fandango (who showed amazing speed and tactical savvy throughout the race), got a great northerly breeze that allowed us to head straight to the Double Bluff turning mark. Terrific! We were the second boat around rather amazed at our luck. But just as we rounded, the breeze died completely and we began to spin around in wild tidal action complete with many fish boats and crazy feeding seagulls. Where to go? First we tried to go the Whidbey island beach for tide relief but couldn’t make it. So we then tried to follow Fandango south to pick up the Marrowstone beach tide relief. Fandango made it. We didn’t, and after flopping terribly for an hour or so in no wind but large tidal waves, we said “f….. this” and turned on the motor and headed to Port Townsend via the Hadlock cut.

Of course, no sooner had we motored a while than the predicted 18 knot northerly filled in with a bang (we knew of the prediction but didn’t believe it after all the dead air we’d suffered through). So we dropped the main and tacked up toward the Hadlock cut with me worrying about our sometimes cantankerous outboard quitting just as went under the bridge meaning we’d soon be on the rocks. And the big flood and strong northerly had created big waves but we bashed through and ¬†over to the Port Townsend harbor tying the boat off about 7:30 pm. Our nearby motel room with hot showers, heat, coffee sure felt good.

We then headed uptown for the Sloop party and food. But we didn’t make it to the Sloop bash ducking into the Siren’s pub instead where a big Margarita hit the spot. Then we waited for a waiter. And waited. And asked. And asked and got a snotty reply “get someone else, I’ve been working since 11:00 this morning.” Well, there it was! Also, the place was packed with locals jabbering about their enclosed little P.T. life. Reminded me of ski towns I’ve known where the sex gossip ran non-stop and thick.

So we left some money on the table and walked out and over to a pub and had great fish and chips served by really nice people. Our motel beds felt really good that night.

Up early, hurrying around, worried about not having enough gas to motor very far, having breakfast in a tiny little cafe filled with really old guys like myself who can’t sleep either. Rushed down to the boat, the gas dock was not open so we took off along the city front to just make our Moore start. Then a nice little tete-a-tete with #26 and #124 trading leads as we ghosted over to Marrowstone island hiding from the big ebb charging through the Straits.

Right at the lighthouse point of Marrowstone, a raging tidal river ran. We plowed into it thinking we’ll get through it and then flop over and tack up the Marrowstone beach. But, WHAM, we were thrust back like a bowling ball and while there was wind on one side of the river, there was none where you needed it to fight the tide. We tried again a couple of times with no luck. Now many boats had collected at the point, all trying to get through the river. Eventually many did, but we were not there to join them having been swept way back toward Port Townsend. So when #124 headed over toward Whidbey island for shoreline tacking south, we followed, once again marveling at how fast Bill and Katherine can make their boat go.

After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally reached the Whidbey beach and began short tacking south in a light but sufficient breeze. We could see that, across the Strait, several boats had broken through the river and were short tacking up Marrowstone WAY ahead of us – aw, well, you makes your choices and . . .

All of this had taken so long that the tide changed to a favoring flood just as we reached the Double Bluff turning mark, and while the breeze was light and on the nose, we were moving and had improved our position with all the beach tacking.

Then across the Strait to Point No Point where a strange forest of masts appeared. It was the Marrowstone gang, it was everyone stuck in no wind and a strange tide-caused lumpy sea. Some boats had sails up, others did not and we all just bobbed around waiting for something until boats started peeling of motoring south to Shilshole, done for the day.

Well, not quite, for no sooner had almost all of us begun motoring south, than a huge southerly filled in and we were suddenly in 20 knots of wind against a big flood tide. Some kept motoring. Some motorsailed. Some bashed south on a single sail. We dropped the jib, flattened the main and headed across the Strait only to find really big breaking seas building and building so we tacked back toward the Kingston shore with the notion that we’d leave the boat in the marina and catch the ferry back to the mainland and a wife pickup.

But then we thought, let’s reach across to Edmonds and leave the boat there. So we did that with another Moore doing the same. Wild ride across big breaking seas at 7 to 9 knots worrying about how we were going to handle the marina entrance as the motor had stopped running and the sea state really precluded messing with it. So we made it, roared into the marina, tacked once or twice into a slip helped by several other escapees from the race.

In fact, it was Moore central with 3 of the five competitors tying up and heading to the bar. We tied up the boat, had a stiff drink and called my wife for pickup. The boat is still at the Edmond’s marina awaiting the passing of the strong southerly blowing through the Straits.

No Moore finished the long course on either day in the time alloted so finishes will be sorted out according to the Double Bluff turning mark times. But then, only a few of 109 boats finished the course in time on Sunday. Results are still being figured as the Double Bluff times filter in but it looks like Katherine and Bill on #124 finished very well.

Was it a race? Well, very much so at times. But it was also an endurance, a lark, a mess, a joke and a not-to-be-forgotten event.

Steve Bunnell, Jake Kennedy – Sputnik #132