dire straights

on board

dire straights

Some intense stuff from our friends up in the Pacific Northwest…

So, the Race to the Straits… it was a round trip race to Port Townsend – up on Saturday, back to Seattle on Sunday, with a party in Port Townsend and an overnighter at the Point Hudson Marina. The forecast was for 20-25 knot winds in the afternoon both days, but only in the north part. Not frightening at all, especially since we have learned to tie in a reef. Lots of boats signed up – over ninety – and a good time was expected by all. So we left early Saturday (Mark, Birgit and me), did fairly well the first half, and then the wind died and the tide reversed. We couldn’t make any headway, so we started the engine and motor-sailed up toward Port Townsend. By the time we got close, it was blowing about twenty out of the north, so we tied in a reef and slugged our way into Port Townsend, slopping through heavy chop when we were exposed to the Straits. Not one boat was able to finish the race within the allotted 11 hours. Dinner followed by a snooze on the boat, then up and at‘em at 0700 for the Sunday race back. When we got out of the marina, we could see that there was very little wind, and a strong ebb, trying to push us out into the Pacific.

We struggled just outside of Port Townsend for three hours, making no progress South, and finally threw in the towel, like many of the boats around us. We turned on the engine and started for Seattle. It started blowing a little, maybe ten knots, out of the south. By the time we got halfway down it was blowing twenty, and we were forced to tack back and forth, using sails and engine, to keep going. By Kingston it was blowing thirty out of the south, whitecaps everywhere and large lumpy seas. The engine was making funny noises. We kept slugging along, but with diminishing hope of getting to Shilshole before dark. We considered ducking into Kingston, but then the engine quit. All of the wave bashing had disturbed junk in the fuel tank and plugged up the filters. So, with Mark handing me tools and Birgit keeping the boat on a non-dangerous course, I stuck half my body below (through the hatch in the cockpit) and removed the first filter – the only option – and sloshed out the filter housing with clean diesel, getting slopped myself with diesel. The second filter was beyond reach in those conditions – besides, we had no spare. After my half-baked filter change, the engine would start and run for thirty seconds, then quit. We were screwed. Read on and comment if you wish.