Wind (?) on the open water

This is Ardent, she was our floating home for a week in the San Juan Islands. She really was a great boat for our first time living aboard.

We got to the spend the week on a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m pretty deliberate about saying we spent a week on a sailboat, because to say we sailed for a week would be a bit of an overstatement!  In typical Lever fashion….we were lacking wind or when we had it, it was coming from the wrong the direction.  That’s were I keep coming back to when I go to start this blog post, the wind.

I think a lot of people who have never sailed have this idea that you’re on a sailboat, raise the sails and go!  Right? Wrong.  There really is a very small window where the wind is in your favor.  Too little wind and sails won’t pull the boat.  Too much wind and it can be dangerous.  If the wind is coming head on, you can’t really sail.  So, the window of wind is narrow.  The window does get larger as you get more experience sailing because you can sail in heavier winds. But still, conditions do need to be just right to be able to sail.

We did have one day with some great wind. After we got up and had some coffee, we raised the anchor and motored out of our anchorage, once the wind was in a good spot, we raised mainsail and headed out toward our next anchorage.  Initially there were a few things that we needed reminders about, she gave us some reminders.  Like, watch your heading when the wind is directly behind you.  You will jibe and you need to be prepared for it.  Even though the boom was well overhead, accidental jibes are unnerving.  But it only happened once, after that, I watched the heading and if we were going to change headings, we tightened up the main-sheet and made sure the boom didn’t swing wildly across the boat.

After a while, we altered our course toward the new anchorage.  In doing so, it put the wind nicely on our port side, it was a great beam reach and just with some minor tweaks to the sheet and the headings, we sailed along. We averaged about 5 knots the whole way.  There was something magical about it.  No motor, just the wind pulling us along.  I just stood at the helm and watched the sail to make sure things were set just so.  The confidence boost for all of was real.  We sailed.  On our own.  I know that we still have a lot to learn, but it sure felt good to know that we had learned and could sail.

The next several days when we changed anchorages, the wind wasn’t as cooperative.  As we were motoring up toward our next destination, the wind came up, but right at our nose.  So, even though the wind speeds were good, they just were the wrong direction, completely.  It gave us a whole new perspective for Sailing Nahoa when they ended up having to motor from Thailand to the Maldives.  I can’t even really imagine running the engines that long.  Our few hours of motoring left me wanting to raise the sails just for the silence.

On our last day we headed out of our anchorage and had maybe, maybe 3 knots of wind.  So, it’s time to keep on motoring.  After about a couple of hours of motoring, we passed an island, and all of the sudden from the starboard side probably 25 knots of wind us.  At first, we were all excited, hey let’s put out the sails, even half the main would be nice, just to be sailing.  Then I looked at the wind map on PredictWind.  Not more than half a mile down the channel the wind would drop back down to 3 knots and we’d be firing up the engine again.  And it was right.  All of the sudden, after ten minutes of being blasted by Wyoming level winds, it was gone.  I was glad we kept on motoring.

We were really shooting to get back to the marina by about 4:30. That way we’d have time to fuel up, pump out, and get our boat back to her slip before the marina help left.  So, when we had some decent wind in the bay, even going the right direction, I knew that it would probably slow us down, so I made the decision to keep motoring on to try and make the time we needed to get the help we needed getting into the slip.   In the end, even motoring, we didn’t make it back on time.  If my navigation skills and timing had been a bit better, we might have been able to sail a bit more and make the time. It was ok though, it was an important lesson about wind, time, and navigation.

Overall, the week was a great week.  We had a wonderful time and learned a lot.  I know that chartering is different from owning because you don’t have to do the boat projects, but we still learned a lot.  I’ll share more in the coming weeks.  We have a lot going on right now, but there will be more about the overall trip and the changes that we are making right now.

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