Anchor Drop: Port Townsend

Anchor Drop: Port Townsend

Yesterday at 8 a.m., we rolled out of bed and started preparing for our departure. Just a few days earlier, winds had been gusting strongly out of the southeast, leaving the anchorages around Port Townsend unprotected. But with the system out of the way, we were free to start making our way south. Assuming there would be enough wind to get us there.

It was dead calm as we raised the anchor. The new snubbing system came right up through the bow roller, allowing me to detach it with little effort–a big improvement from the two rolling-hitches we had been using to snub the lines. We motored northeast toward Cattle Pass, where strong currents were already building to push us out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A gentle breeze started up and then grew stronger. We raised the sails and were on our way.

We kept the engine on as we navigated the narrow channel just to be safe. The wind was inconsistent in places and while the channel is quite clear, there are a number of small islands to the southeast that we wanted to stay well away from. We did get sail right by a pile of enormous sea lions lounging on the rocks.

A view from the cockpit. A rust-colored sail fills the left-third of the image. Lines and rigging cross the right side. The water is calm and the sky is blue with wispy clouds.

Away from any hazards, we sailed gently south on 7-9 knots of wind with the current pushing us along. The Strait was calm with occasional rolling swells. Whale watching boats and power boats blasting along at high speeds were the only real disruptions. As we crossed, I practiced whistling, we read up a bit on how to pick up a mooring while under sail, and I made a double batch of dessert bites: it's a long trip! We neared the mouth of Admiralty Inlet to favorable currents and dying winds around 6 p.m..

Looking up the mast at the topsail. The sky is dappled with fluffy white clouds.

As with our last arrival at Port Townsend, the dying winds were replaced with strong gusts of 16-20 knots as soon as we rounded Point Wilson. However, we remembered our last experience coming into Port Townsend and I was standing at the ready to pull down the tops'l as soon as we were near enough to the mooring field. Then we doused the stays'l to kill our speed and tried our hand at picking up a mooring ball without any help from the engine.

A small dinghy bouncing through some rough water.
May bouncing through the current-roughed waters near Point Wilson.

Over the next hour or more, we put on a show for the folks in the park as we awkwardly tacked and jibed around the empty mooring field in our attempts to pick up one of the three mooring balls. The wind would mischievously lull to 11 knots then gust up to 20 as we got close, killing our speed and forcing us to try again. We'd nearly given up as full darkness was setting in, but we managed to grab one. I made a complete mess by running the mooring line around the a-frame, but we were hooked on, finally!

No sooner than we'd dropped the sails did we get a fun reminder of why Fort Worden isn't a perfect place to hang out: Blackthorn began rolling from side to side as the wake of a massive tanker ship washed in from the channel and proceeded to crash down the beach.

A cloudy sunrise on a rainy morning with lots of pink and orange streaks reflecting on the water.
Tanker Wake: the only thing that will get me out of bed at sunrise.