Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Round the County 2015

We were all excited about our second straight Round the County race. Round the County (RTC) is a two day 76 mile course that starts and ends at Lydia Shoal near Obstruction Pass, and overnights at Roche Harbor.  The popularity of this race is incredible and they had 113 registered boats, with everything filling up in a few days. Technically it was full at 100 and Shawn had to talk our way into it by working with the race organizers.

True to form Shawn and Peter took the boat north on November 1st to position it for Round the County in near gale conditions - we always have big weather for the ferry trips.  This time they were going with the weather and set a new speed record, going from Elliott Bay Marina to Skyline in around 7 hours.  With the boat sitting comfortably in Skyline, Shawn and Jason spent the few days before the race working logistics in the San Juans.  We provisioned Johns Is, our Saturday night basecamp, and positioned the Almar in Roche Harbor to ferry the crew over the Johns Is. The forecast was for big air Saturday morning, easing off in the afternoon.  Sunday was light, possibly turning into a drifter. 

The crew of Shawn, Jason, Peter, Dan, Phil and Adam arrived at the boat at 6:30 Saturday morning with gale force winds and driving rain.  We made it off the dock and set our main to push us along to the start.  Coming around the corner by Washington Park, the wind was steady in the high 20s with gusts to 35 kts with big swells coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The boat was highly loaded right out of the starting block but taking it well, surfing down the waves.  We could see boats converging from Anacortes, the San Juans, and other points of the compass.  We decided to throw in a reef for safety sake, and for practice.  As we made it to the start we thought the wind would slack off, and while it initially did, it built again as the start approached.  It was a crazy downwind start with lots of boats weaving around at high speed.  We started on the west (pin) side of the course alongside Time Bandit, and stayed west.  We were flying a full main and #3 jib and had rigged for a spinnaker set.  However, with the wind in the mid-20s and gusting to 30kts we decided to err on the side of caution.  Further, the wind angle was a full reach at 120-130 AWA and it would be questionable if we could have flown our symmetrical spinnaker in those condition, especially with that much wind.  We instead watched a few other boats attempt it with consistently disastrous results - there was a lot of broaching and a few blown chutes.  Time Bandit put up an asym and was gone on a full plane (at least 10 kts), choosing to take the west side of the course and laying a rum line for Pt Lawrence.  We followed their western line and did well on the fleet with boat speed in the 8-9 kts range.  We all rounded Pt Lawrence and sailed a deeper line, but it was still high 20’s gusting to low 30’s.  We toyed with setting the spinnaker, but with the boat already cranking along at 8-11kts and we weren’t sure how much more speed we could get (although we did consider putting up the #1 jib).  We chose to stick with our gear selection, as did most everyone else, and enjoyed a nice downwind sleigh ride in building seas.  Somewhere between Pt Lawrence and Matia Island we set a new Monkeybones speed record of 13.2 kts while surfing down the front side of a swell under full main and flogging jib.  This was somehow all caught on GoPro.  The big fast boats started flying through the fleet with full spinnakers at speeds that looked to be at least 20 kts.  It was a sight to behold.  Shortly after this we heard the may-day on the radio that Dragonfly, the 40 ft racing catamaran, had pitch poled (flipped end over end) a little farther up the course.  Further there was still lots of gear getting shredded and boats getting knocked down.  We were content to play it conservatively since our sail inventory is already small compared to everyone else’s.  

We rounded Patos Is, the half way point, at 11:30 am and headed for Turn Point on Stuart Island in a driving rainstorm.  We now had 25 kts on our beam and the boat was power reaching at 8 kts.  We passed a good number of boats, including some in our class, and traveled the 12 nm to Turn Point in 1.5 hours.  We rounded Turn Pt and headed for the finish off Roche Harbor.  This turned into an upwind beat in subsiding wind and it took us a while to find our groove.  Further, we waited too long to do a head sail change.  The net effect is that we lost a lot of time to the competition on this short 4.5 nm leg.  We finished middle of our fleet at 2pm.  Everyone was extremely wet and tired after many hours of intense sailing.  We put the boat away, transferred our gear, took a quick walk of the dock, and then headed to Johns for the evening.

The next morning we were off the Island by 7am and, after a quick boat swap, motored with the fleet out to Open Bay for the start of day two.  It was forecasted to be light and we could see wind out in Haro Strait, but it was very light at the start.  After putting up the sails and tuning the boat, we maneuvered into the start box outside of Snug Harbor.  We initially wanted to start pin (west) side but saw there was a current setting boats that direction, so decided to go committee boat side.  The winds were very light but we had some forward motion and this strategy served us well.  The bulk of our fleet started pin side without enough speed and the current set them all, before they were able to cross the line.  This happened to us last year and it took us 20 minutes to sail back up and around the starting mark.  However, this year the wind was elusive and nearly half the fleet was unable to cross the start within the 30 minute time limit and were forced to withdraw.  We were excited to be out on the water and racing, but progress was extremely slow.  The wind was out in the channel and very faint on the inside and we did not have enough of it to cross into the heavier breeze.  And then it went away altogether.  We were forced to sit and watch other boats in the wind disappear over the horizon.  While we were across the line we were within a mile or two of the start drifting with other boats until the wind finally reached us nearly three hours into the race.  It was an extremely frustrating few hours but we were glad to be finally sailing, and once going MB got into her grove and did great.  We were able to point high along the shore and stuck with faster boats Jam and New Haven on an inside track.  We crossed the mid-point at 12:58 well behind those that got to the wind, but ahead of the group of boats we were in.  We made smart tactical decisions and continued to pass boats on the inside up to Davidson Rk.  We turned the corner into Rosario Strait at 2:30 in really nice sailing conditions with 7-9 kts over the rail and a bit of sunshine.  After so much despair that morning, we were starting to feel good about our chances of actually finishing the race.  There was a big rain squall over Anacortes that freshened the breeze from the east and we power reached up towards Cypress Island, surprised to see the fleet all bunched in front of us.  The weather on Sunday was a weird convergence of northerly and southerly winds, with the convergence creating a belt of dead wind passing right through the middle of the San Juan Islands on an east-west track.  We struggled with it at the start, and apparently is was also sitting atop the finish.  We approached the finish in a strong easterly wind and could see boats stuck in a wind hole about a mile in front of us, many of them tacking on a northerly wind.  There were boats parked on the west side along Blakely Is, while the east side along Cypress still had good pressure.  We hugged the wind line on the east side and got to within a half mile of the fleet, and then the wind shut off.  We waited and hoped for the northerly to descend down to our location but the rain storm shifted our direction and dampened the wind, essentially snuffing it out.  We sat for an hour and watched all the boats we had passed sneak up behind us.  Some of them took their cues from our despair and followed a slight breeze, now a westerly on the west side of the strait, and snuck around us in the dying light.  As darkness fell, and the time crept towards the cutoff time of 6:00, the ebb tide started to build, pulling us back to the south and away from the finish line.  A slight wind gave us some forward motion but it was never enough to compensate for the current.  Twenty minutes before the cut off time we were sailing at 2kts north, but going 0.5 kts south because of the current, and were sitting 2.5 nm from the finish.  We decided to cut our losses and head for Skyline. 

When it was all said and done we finished fifth in class and 48th overall.  One boat that snuck by us on Sunday actually finished with 10 minutes to spare, but we were never going to make it.  It was an epic weekend of sailing and we already look forward to next year.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer 2015 Sailing Recap

The year 2015 has been an extremely busy one for Shawn and Jason.  As a result we haven’t been on the water as much as we’d hoped.  Over the summer Monkeybones participated in many of the Thursday night Elliott Bay racing series, and then made the trip north to the San Juans for August.  She placed well in the Shaw Island Classic race with our crew of kids, finishing 7th overall (see highlights below)

Shawn and Jason then did the Northern Century double handed, which turned into a giant drifter.  We had a great start and were leading the fleet off the line (see our video below).   Things went down hill from there.  After spending 15 hours on the water and making it only 25 miles into a 100 mile race, with few prospects of finishing, we decided to pull the plug and spend a glorious weekend with the family instead.  

The most excitement of the summer came at the end of August when a freak low pressure (the lowest ever recorded in the PNW in August) came through and resulted in storm force winds.  We raced to rescue MB, which was tied to the mooring buoy on Johns Island.  We braved 40 kts winds and epic seas across Rosario Strait in the Almar and made it to MB just as the wind cranked from 25 kts up to 40kts.  Jason and Ellis jumped aboard MB while Marian and Ava ran in to Roche Harbor for safety.  Ellis and I fought against the rising storm and limped into Roche Harbor with the speedo topping out with gusts of 46kts.  We double handed it (that’s one kid and one adult) somehow onto the dock and lashed it down until the storm could pass.  Two days later Shawn and I took it down to Seattle fighting 15-25kts on the nose and a driving rainstorm the whole way.  Around Point No Point it started building to 30kts and we were motor sailing under full main when the outhaul blew.  The main, still attached to the clew car, which is a stainless steel fitting that weights a couple pounds, started whipping around wildly and with a lot of force.  Somehow we managed to secure the sail by putting in a quick reef before the car damage the boat or seriously injured the crew.  It always seems that the biggest air is reserved for the short handed transit runs.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lukemia Cup

June 6th was a brilliant day for sailing, and for sailing for a great cause.  We loaded the boat with friends, family and kids with the idea of a short three hour cruise around Elliott Bay.  A great opportunity to let others sail, and for the kids to get some experience.  This wasn't supposed to be a race.  However, Shawn and I are too competitive so once on the water we immediately started jockeying for the line.  We set the kite and soon found ourselves in fourth place out of 50 boats on a run down to the Seattle waterfront.  We had no business racing with our teenage, and pre-teen crew, and mayhem ensued at the leeward mark.  Father Murhpy ensured that what could go wrong did and it was all a little comical.  Jan took some great photos and we have GoPro of the fracas.  We finished 11th, not that we were supposed to be racing...

Great picts from Jan:

Pulling away:  http://janpix.smugmug.com/Boats/Leukemia-Cup-2015/49797450_6mPV3h#!i=4115715112&k=v4q37DM&lb=1&s=XL

Looking a little loose: http://janpix.smugmug.com/Boats/Leukemia-Cup-2015/49797450_6mPV3h#!i=4115610233&k=bKK4mPf&lb=1&s=XL

Starting the takedown: http://janpix.smugmug.com/Boats/Leukemia-Cup-2015/49797450_6mPV3h#!i=4115718775&k=6xSnvbj&lb=1&s=XL

And the GoPro:


Monday, May 25, 2015

Swiftsure Lightship Classic

Thanks to Jeff, Peter and Mike for coming out for our first Swiftsure Lightship Classic.  This was MB's first appearance and we were signed up for the Cape Flattery (Neah Bay) race - a 100 mile event.  We were out there with all of the other top racers and usual suspects from the Pacific Northwest with boats from Portland to Vancouver BC and beyond.  

Since this was our first Swiftsure there was a little bit of learning going on both before the race and on the course, and several boat / gear upgrades required to meet the race's strict safety requirements.  Prior to departure we outfitted the boat with new reefing lines and fixed our broken outhaul (from Race to the Straits) and installed a new 25W cabin mounted VHF with stern antenna.  We also ran jack lines to secure the crew.  

Shawn and Peter took the boat up early on Thursday so that we had Friday for final preparations.  The rest of the crew filtered in on Friday with Jeff flying up in the morning, Mike flying up in the afternoon, and Jason coming across from the San Juans in the evening.  Upon reaching Victoria we learned that we also needed to have our own class flag (a french bergie) as well as our sail numbers mounted on the port and starboard rail.  Our team jumped into action calling upon their home economics and marketing skills to fashion the bergie using materials appropriated from the Salvation Army (it's amazing what you can do with scissors and duct tape) and Jeff was able to find a store to print large laminated numbers...one at a time...  The team used more duct and sail tape to create a single rail number (ours is 30925) which was secured to the rail with zip ties and line.  Finally, we ran around town and found a bomber man-overboard flag (Mike had fashioned a homemade one but it wasn't going to cut it out on the Strait).  With preparations complete we hit the party at the Steamship Bar and Grill.  Apparently both Shawn and Peter made quite an impression on the race support crew the night before because EVERYONE knew them and came to say HI at some point during dinner.  After a solid meal and several rounds of drinks we retired somewhat early with the crew sleeping on MB and Jason sleeping on Sounder (the Almar).  

Race Day started off at 5 am and we were first in-line for Starbucks and the buffet breakfast, which was key.  Fully fueled we made our way back to the boat and everyone filtered off the dock and into a long boat parade out to the race starting line.  The weather was dry with 8-12 kts from the SW with a forecast to build over the afternoon.  We set up among the other 200 boats with our #1 headsail.  We were the third of four starts with the big boats leaving at 9:00 and our start was at 9:20.  We maneuvered for a solid start at the middle of the line, choosing to play it safe with all of the traffic.  There's great drone video (click here) of the start and MB can be seen middle-left (@ the 30 second mark - white main with yellowish jib / white hull - not the blue hull).  

Once underway it took us 10-20 minutes to get in our groove, primarily because we needed to get the jack stays set and tighten up the forestay, which required a few tacks due to our gear setup.  We dueled with several boats up to Race Rock, about 7nm from the start, and continued to trade tacks up the south side of Vancouver Island.  Being new to Swiftsure we didn't have the benefit of understanding the wind and current patterns up the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We could tell there was better current inside against the shore but many boats were already tacking out for the far (US) side of the Strait.  We chose to make one last tack into shore to grab the better current, which proved to be our downfall...  

As we approached the shore we could see a wall of wind coming down the Strait.  While we initially thought this was to our advantage since it looked to be on the northern (our side) of the Strait, once we tacked back and set up for a long 3-4 hour beat across the Strait the rising breeze (14-15 kts) was creating short steep waves that cause the boat to pound and sapped precious speed.  Most of the other boats did not follow us back to shore so we were on our own and fighting the worsening conditions, while they were closer to the calmer waters on the far side.  About an hour in we were seeing winds between 14-17 kts which was the very upper end of our #1.  We made the decision to switch down to our #2 which, while it was old and tired and hadn't been used in a couple years, was properly sized and pliable to allow us to power through the head seas.  The crew did an excellent and efficient sail change but we quickly noticed that the leech of the #2 was starting to come out of the forestay track.  Within a few minutes the leech peeled out of the track down to the base of the forestay, with the base of the sail getting stuck in the track's steel feed fitting.  We quickly lowered the #2 however the base of the sail was firmly stuck in the track feed despite the efforts of Mike and Jason, aided by screwdrivers, to dislodge it.  Peter came forward to use his weight and strength, to no effect.  We tried to re-set the #2 to get a headsail working in the primary (port) track (we set the #2 in the starboard track) but the stuck #2 deformed the tracks to the point that this was not possible.  In the end we decided that the #2 was done - never to be used again - so we cut the #2 out of the track and Jason was able to pry the small piece of remaining feed cloth free with a screwdriver. This all was going on with MB plowing and pitching through steep head seas in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, making for very wet and dynamic bow work (Mike was almost gored by sharp objects more than once).  Once clear we were able to set the #3 and were back sailing.  However, this whole episode, most of which was caught on GoPro, set us back 20-30 minutes and lost at least a mile relative to the competition.  For the next 2+ hours we soldiered on in steep 2-3 foot chop on top of rolling swells with the boat slowly building to 6.8 kts and then pounding waves slapping us back to 5.5 kts.  

Here's video of the start and sail change.  Then the GoPro died and we were too busy to recharge it:


We were thankful to get to the far side and calmer waters where the wind was down to 10-12 kts.  We went to switch back to the #1 when we had our next issue.  Earlier, just after switching to the #3, we had to move the jib sheet car because of sail tension adjustment and somewhere in that process the car's pin head sheered off.  Now in lighter waters we wanted to move it back to support the #1 but the car's pin sheered off below the face of the car, meaning it was unreachable and the pin was locked into position by the spring.  Mike and Pete worked on this for five minutes as we gave up more speed and ground in the lightening wind, eventually giving up.  We had a second (backup) car we could use but, because of where the other car was stuck, it had to be fed into the track from the aft end of the sheet track, which was blocked by an end fitting.  So Mike, Peter and Jason set about removing several through deck bolts and were able to pry the end fitting loose and loaded the second car.  They then reassembled and resealed all of the hardware and bolts.  This whole escapade sapped another 15-20 minutes before we could get the #1 back up.  Once complete though the boat quickly accelerated and we were back racing at speed. However, by this time the damage was done.  We were 2-3 nm from the Neah Bay mark still beating upwind when most of our competition passed us under spinnaker heading home. We soldiered on working up to Neah Bay and gained some ground against the remaining boats around us, then gave most of it back in fluky conditions near the mark because of indecisiveness.  We eventually rounded at 7:45 pm, beating our prediction of 8:30 pm and headed back east in fading light and light drizzle.  Unfortunately, by this time we had already given up 1-2 hours to our primary competition between our bad tack, extended pounding out in the middle of the Strait, and head sail / sheet track issues.  

The winds were forecasted to fade, and we were living it in 6-8 kts near Neah Bay, but they were also supposed to be stronger on the northern side and decent in the center of the Strait.  As a result we immediately turned north and Peter cooked us all freeze dried dinner on his camp stove while we jammed some music to lift our energy.  It was much needed after 11 hours sailing upwind.  We followed Mata Hari, who we'd been dueling all day, north across the Strait and wove between a few commercial vessels.  Once on the northern side of the shipping lanes we jibed east, then again north into what was supposed to be stronger breeze.  This worked out as the wind built from 10 kts up to 15 kts over the course of an hour.  We approached shore and the jibed east again and watched the wind continued to build as we neared the center of the Strait.  Just after midnight it hit 20 kts and the boat was flying along at 9 kts sustained and the wind continued to build.  The crew clipped in since a man overboard at that point would be a scary event.  By 1:30 in the morning the wind was steady at 22-23 kts with gusts of 26 kts and the boat was surfing down large swells, which we couldn't see, at 10 kts.  This was clearly a highlight since it amounted to some of the heaviest air downwind sailing this crew had done together, and it was in the middle of the night and in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Unfortunately we were now back out near the shipping channel and we had a tug and barge heading right at us.  In these conditions we were not sure about our ability to jibe without a big wipeout so we made the decision to douse the spinnaker, which we did an excellent job of with a classic heavy air takedown through the slot between the main and boom, and jibed away under main.  This was a good decision since we passed very close to the tug and his load.  We set the #1, which had been lashed to the bow, and headed back to shore doing 8+ kts.  Relieved to be out of harms way we debated our next move.  We passed in front of Mata Hari, who we had passed earlier, but delayed setting another spinnaker and watched them pass us sailing deeper and faster lines.  In the end we decided to set our heavier but smaller cruising asym and reached home at 9 kts.  We passed Race Rocks at 4 am in 19-22 kts sustained, at which point we had our one and only wipeout / broach, which we quickly recovered from.  The wind started to ease and we debated whether to re-set the spinnaker but fatigue, and the realization that we were already out of the competition, convinced us to take the easy route.  We crawled to the finish line and crossed at 5:30 am.  

Our final adventure came after we finished inside Victoria harbor.  At some point during the night Shawn, wresting the boat in heavy seas, inadvertently kicked in the ignition switch to our motor.  As a result Jason had to climb into the starboard quarter berth and spent several long minutes fidgeting with our finicky ignition switch to get the boat started.  We motored in to the inner harbor for our obligatory checkin and safety review.  There Jason jumped off to get his boat and Jeff disembarked for a Kenmore Air flight home.  Not wanting to shut the motor off, MB was on the dock for only a few minutes before Shawn, Peter and Mike headed back out for a long trip back to Seattle.  After sailing for 21 hours they spent another 14 hours getting home.

As a final wrap up the crew and MB did well handling the wide range of sailing conditions.  We had excellent sail changes and McGivered our way out of several tough situations, both before the race and on the course. Unfortunately our lack of course experience and some untimely gear failures knocked us way down in the final standings.  However, we achieved the primary objective of having fun and demonstrated to the Victoria shore crew that we really were a "Drinking Team with a Sailing Problem".  This crew will be back for many more Swiftsure races!

Prologue:  Swiftsure has an amazing website and race tracking system.  You can replay the entire race, and watch MB, here.

STYC Race To The Straits

The 2015 racing season has started off slower than planned due to work and family commitments.  However, Shawn and Jason weren't going to miss one of their favorite races of the year: the Sloop Tavern's Race to the Straits.  The Monkeybones Racing Team can trace its roots to the 2012 STYC RTTS, which was the first race Jason and Shawn did together (it was Jason's first race ever) so this event has become a way to mark time, and this was our fourth consecutive outing.

This year there were 111 boats signed up with nine boats in our class and two boats having the same rating (PHRF of 81) as Monkeybones: competimates Different Drummer and Kotuku. It was a brilliant day with clear skies and 8-10 kts from the north, forecast to rise to 15 kts in the afternoon. The RTTS is a rolling start based on PHRF so by the time we crossed the line at 9:25:15 the fleet was all over the course riding an ebb in the morning, which was going to switch to a flood around noon.  After an even start the three of us (DD and Kotuku) headed to the left (west) side of the course and then we tacked MB back east chasing stronger pressure. Having done only one other race (and not practicing) this year it took a while - like half of the first day - to get MB into a groove.  Kotuku rode up the east side while DD guarded the middle and we futzed around on the east side looking for a lift up the eastern shore.  We eventually gave up and crossed back to the west side and dueled with some boats between Apple Tree Pt and Point No Point.  The boat was slow and both DD and Kotuku were well ahead of us.  We tacked back into the middle of the channel and were able to get the boat powered up in the 15 kts of wind with the #1 driving us along nicely.  As we approach the mid-way mark at Double Bluff we gained on a bunch of boats and did a great job of working the inside wind and currents past the mark, which is always a cluster with too many boats in too small a space with too much current.  Jan did a great job of posting up here to take shots of the fleet and we've included some links below.  By this time the current had switched and was squarely on the nose and building fast so everyone worked up the inside of Mutiny Bay to find relief.  
Photo Link: Here's a good shot of MB (sail number 30925) at the mark in front of a REALLY NICE J-122 (can you say UPGRADE!)
Photo Link: Great shot of MB coming upwind along the shore in Mutiny Bay

Photo Link: Here's Jason advertising for SIMMS gear

We were looking for every little bit of speed and tried to flatten our main using the outhaul.  Unfortunately our outhaul has never worked well having been poorly rigged by previous owners, as well as being well used since the boat is 34 years old.  Jason cranked on it using a winch to get it to move and the increased load caused the primary cable to break.  Instead of making the sail flatter, the outhaul car slid forward and now we had a big bulbous main.  Further, we didn't have a clear way to flatten it since it was going to be under load for the rest of the race.  Jason set about jury rigging some lines to tie off the car to the end of the boom as well as set up a pulley system to pull the car back.  However, during all this the boat was losing speed and position relative to the fleet.  We made several very slow tacks inside Mutiny Bay and used those tacks to get purchase on the outhaul with little effect.  In the end we had to rig a barber hauler to the main sheet car and luff the sail to get any purchase.  Unfortunately during these luffs the boat went into irons and we were forced to do several unplanned tacks, which further slowed us.  We eventually got the outhaul half way back and then decided to focus on sailing, since we were getting hammered in the fleet.  We tacked up to Bush Point and rounded in very poor position.  Both DD and Kotuku were at least a mile in front of us and up with the leaders of the fleet.  We realized that if we didn't get the outhaul fixed we were done for so we made one final attempt, which was successful, by luffing the boat, which again threw us into an unplanned tack.  We came out of the tack with a flat sail and pointed across the channel towards Marrowstone Is.  We were also near the back of the fleet and pissed / frustrated.  In an act of indifference and desperation, we decided to sail across to Marrowstone and risk a huge knock from the flooding current coming down the channel.  This was an act of desperation and we were close to breaking into the ice cold beer.  After a deep breath we instead decided to just enjoy the beautiful day with 11 kts, flat water, blue skies and sun.  We noticed two other boats break from the fleet and cross over with us including Alex on Poke and Destroy.  After fighting the current we got a great lift as we approached Marrowstone and notice the few boats that had crossed early sailing straight up the beach with an amazing wind angle.  We were able to get into the same grove and quickly tacked up around Marrowstone Point while the main fleet was stuck on the opposite side along Whidbey.  Further, there were only a handful of boats between us and the finish line.  Those of us on the west side dueled to the finish and we crossed in 13th place overall and 2nd in class behind DD - having gone from zero to hero with our early move across the channel.  While we would love to think it was brilliant strategy this specific case was more desperation.

We put the boat away and settled in for happy hour on DD.  We then set out to find dinner in town.  Shawn spied a bunch of people on a balcony overlooking the water and the Olympic mountains and we were able to make our way to the restaurant / brewpub.  It was a brilliant evening and we had a table on the patio.  Service was incredibly slow and, while we were waiting, a band set up for the evening.  It probably took two hours (and more drinks) before dinner came and, in the process, we met several of the band members.  They convinced us to hang around, which we did (of course), and then we got a great introduction to Wild Rabbit.  They jammed some incredible tunes akin to the Limineers and we wound up staying for two (or was it three?) sets.  As a public service message - check this band out (link here)!! By the time we made it back to the boat it was after midnight and we'd gone hard all day and then harder that night.  The next morning was rough...

We were up early in search of the standard breakfast haven needing something (anything!) to break the hangover.  Unfortunately they didn't get the word out this year and the restaurant was closed.  We found another coffee shop and got some food in an effort to slowly put humpty dumpty back together.  We rallied hard and had the boat off the dock and geared up for our start.  

It was another brilliant day in the PNW and we were to be treated to 10-12 kts from the north and more sun.  Everyone was under spinnaker from the start and we dueled with DD and Kotuku across the line and up to Marrowstone Pt.  We rounded in building winds and headed down the shore into the ebb on our nose.  It was an amazing site to see 100 boats strung out along the shore as there were no opportunities to make a move.  Due to our fractional rig and smaller spinnaker MB is not fast downwind so our main objective was to minimize the damage.  

Photo link - great show of MB coming around Marrostone Point 

The fleet worked south with Kotuku in the lead, followed by DD and then us. There was a lot of commercial traffic and everyone was looking for gaps to break for the Whidbey side, which was the rhumb line.  We made a good move passing just astern of a tug and barge and, in the process, passed DD, who stayed west.  We liked our position as we passed Bush Pt and were inside as the fleet approached Mutiny Bay.  Unfortunately we got trapped by a wind hole near the shore and had to watch as boats sailed by, including DD.  Once out of it we were back in the hunt and hung off DD's stern as everyone passed Double Bluff, then Point No Point, and further south.  We worked down the west side and then went out towards the middle to sail with Great White, since it looked like they had better pressure, only there wasn't.  The inside boats, including DD and Poke and Destroy, got better current and accelerated, so we jibed back in.  This time we were inside with DD outside and we jibed back and made good gains, coming back up on their stern.  Everyone was in a final reach for the finish and we caught several boats at the end to finish very well: 2nd in class (behind DD and ahead of Kotuku) and 17th overall.

Here's a picture of us (white/blue spinnaker) catching competitors at the end.  We edged them out by 1 second.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Skiing - Not Sailing - Points North Alaska

The 2015 sailing season started off a little slow, not because we didn't want to sail, but because we were off doing other stuff.  The crew of Monkeybones Racing has many interests.  We are a drinking team with a sailing problem...and a skiing problem...and a climbing problem...and...

Here's some video of Jason and Jeff (along with Gabe and Helen) in the Chugach Range with Point North Heliskiing:

This was our first time heliskiing - and epic experience.  Here's a quick video of what its like in the wilds of the Chugach Range:



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Round the County 2014

After taking most of the Fall off from racing, we rallied the crew for our first ever Northern Century.  It had been on the “to do” list for a while but we needed better crew and gear before attempting it.  2014 would be the year and, having done the Northern Century twice, we were excited to be back in “the hood”.

Jason and Shawn sailed the boat north the previous weekend riding 20-30 kt southerlies up the Sound and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We left the boat in Skyline Marina and then met the crew there on Friday afternoon.  The incessant flow of Pacific storms had eased and a beautiful weekend was forecast, but wind could prove to be elusive.  We shuttled MB out to The Hook on Shaw Island and the crew, which consisted of Jeff, Pete, Mike, Dan, Mitch, Jason and Shawn went over to the Orcas Island Yacht Club for dinner and the race briefing.  We awoke early Saturday morning and motored across the beautiful but calm waters of the San Juan Islands.  The wind gauge registered 2-3 kts at the start off of Obstruction Pass and the one hundred boats, which consisted of the best boat from the PNW (Wash and Canada) racing fleet, drifted aimlessly.  

The race committee delayed the start until a soft 3-5 kt breeze started to fill in from the south.  We were in the third start and by this time the ebbing current had started filling in, which was pushing across the line to the south / south west.  We positioned ourselves towards the pin end, and then the wind died.  As a result, we watched hopelessly as the 1-2 kt current swept us and four other boats past the start pin and down the course.  While the remainder of our fleet tacked down the course, we were forced to turn around and sail back up-current in an effort to get across the start line.  The wind was elusive to we had to wait five agonizing minutes until there was enough breeze to even fill our sails since we were now sailing downwind.  Slowly 3-5 kts filled in from the south so we set our spinnaker and sailed a tight reach to build boat speed.  We continued to tack away from the mark before slowly jibing around and reach back.  The wind was shifty and it wasn’t clear we had enough speed to get around the buoy a second time before the wind died again.  Eventually we made it around the mark, but at least 20 minutes had elapsed since our fleet had started.  As a result they were miles down the course. 

While it was extremely frustrating, all we could do was set our jib and press on.  Luckily MB is a fast boat upwind in light airs.  We were quickly up to speed doing 5-6 kts in 5-6 kts of wind.  We used the currents off of Blakely Is to gain ground and quickly started passing boats.  We made significant ground up until the SE corner of Lopez Island, where a wind hole around Davidson Rock formed.  We stayed outside, chasing the 2-3 kt breeze and found ourselves pushing out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca while most everyone else stayed inshore.  The breeze held steady at 3-5 kts and started shifting from the W to NW so we continued on our tack, which gave us the most direct speed towards that half way line and reporting station.  We crossed the half way mark five minutes behind Different Drummer and 12 minutes behind Kotuku, our regular competimates.  The wind would never fill in and by 3:40 in the afternoon, the sun was getting very low and we were three hours from our evening mooring on Johns Island.  Further, it was clear that our 3 kts of boat speed wasn’t going to get us across the finish before the 6pm cutoff so we pulled the plug and headed north under the iron jib.  We put on the reggae and started drinking rum as we motored through the remaining boats hoping to finish that day – most didn’t.  We had a great lasagna meal with wine with Jason’s family on Johns Is and retired for the night.

That night it rained heavily, with wind building from the S/SE.  Luckily the rain quit around 6 am so we left the beach at 7:30 for the start just a few miles away.  We had a great start with 12-15 kts from the S/SE and everyone flew off the line on a port reach with spinnakers flying.  We saw several gear failures and wipeouts, but MB was solid.  We held our own, passing a few boats by the time we rounded Turn Pt on Stuart Is.  We continued north and the wind came around from the west, and was forecast to continue building and pivoting to the NW.  We sailed north to Patos Is expecting the 20-30 kt ball buster to descend upon us at any time, but it didn’t.   

Our fleet rounded the mid-way mark off Patos Is in a tight bunch and we bore off towards the east side of Orcas Is.  The wind at this point was fairly light at 9-12 kts and we were sailing deeper lines, which is not MB’s strength, so we lost some ground.  As we rounded McConnell Island heading for the tip of Orcas on a starboard reach we could see the white caps forming to the north of us, indicating that the high pressure was coming, and with it the strong winds.  The wind quick ramped from 12 kts to 25 kts and we sailed a deeper line to avoid the wind hole behind the tip of Orcas.  Unfortunately traffic kept us high and we were forced to jibe out while everyone pressed on.  We jibed behind our fleet and then jibed again towards the finish.  At this point the wind was 20+kts gusting to 30 kts and reaching with our spinnaker was downright wild in these conditions.  We suffered through our first full crew knock down, which was caught on GoPro, and then dropped the spinnaker, since we needed the jib to work upwind to the finish.  At this point we were in a wild wind hole behind Mt Constitution.  The wind would vacillate from 10 kts from starboard, to 10 kts from port.  We literally sat and watched the wind direction gauge spin in circles on the top of our mast.  Everyone was struggling.  We switched from the #3 jib to the #1 since the force ranged between 5 – 20 kts.  We aggressively worked the little puffs towards the finish.

Eventually we made it across the line to finish 10th out of 20 in our fleet and 43rd overall.  Our “epic fail” at the start on Saturday cost us at least 10 spots overall and several in our fleet, but that’s sailboat racing in the Pacific Northwest.  It was a great first outing.  The entire crew had a great time and we are already looking forward to doing it again next year. As a reward for their efforts, Shawn and Pete sailed MB back on Monday with clear blue skies riding under spinnaker with 15-25 kts from the north!

Mitch captured some amazing pictures from the weekend, which can be found here: