Big Day sailing on the West Coast

The only movie of this day is in my head, and it has been playing repeatedly since August 23rd 2015.

Having decided to move quickly towards Barkley Sound due to  a forecast of bad weather 3 days hence , I got going at first light from the anchorage at Matthews Island, in Forward Inlet, near Winter Harbour.

It is always exciting to go around Cape Cook at the end of the Brooks Peninsula. Even if the weather is calm and settled it is exposed and spectacular. The day’s forecast was for the usual summer conditions of building NW breeze, perhaps to 25 knots by mid-afternoon.

In early morning there was no wind but a leftover swell from strong winds offshore. The motor drove us along in the cool sunshine. Another big dragger, the ‘Northern Alliance’ steamed across my course heading straight into Quatsino Sound. It was accompanied by hundreds of pelagic birds including Albatrosses and several species of Shearwaters and Petrels. It was dragging these birds far out of their usual range, in their hope of some fishguts for breakfast.Winter Harbour to Friendly Cove

The wind finally started to fill in by late morning as I approached N of Cape Cook. Near Solander Island I was under full sail. I tried sailing dead downwind with the jib clew sheeted to the float bow and the mainsail strapped down on the other side, but this felt slow; safe but slow.

I did not want to raise the spinnaker because I was fairly confident that the wind would increase soon to a strength at which I would not want the it. Control felt like something to hold on to.

Shortly after passing Cape Cook I passed the last sportfishing boat out of Winter Harbour, and started to feel some real wind and the building seas. This was getting good. Deep jibes with the apparent wind kept at about 100 degrees.

By 1400 hrs the conditions were as good as it gets. The foam was streaking downwind so we were in more than 25 knots and the seas were building. Regularly surfing, we were still in control. Working jib , with now one reef in the mainsail. Each jibe was about 5 miles. The actual jibes were undramatic as long as I did it while surfing when the loads were light. Twice ,early on,I stuffed the bows dramatically into the wave ahead and slowed form 14 knots to 4 knots in just a few meters.Loose articles propelled forward belowdecks. No hint of the stern lifting as in a pitchpole, but they were warnings I decided to heed. We touched 17.2 knots, which is as fast as I have ever been under sail.

I mostly handsteered and that was easy with only a light hand on the helm required. To attend to nutrition and peeing, I engaged the tillerpilot, and rolled up the jib. This slowed us to 9 to 11 knots and everything was totally controlled and relaxed. When ready, disengage the pilot, unroll the jib, and off we went like a scared cat.

I learned quickly that the boat could be steered even while surfing down a wave and diverted laterally along the trough, if the back of the wave ahead looked too steep for easy ascent.

This was serious fun, and it was several hours of the best sailing I’ve ever had. It felt similar to backcountry skiing in good snow. We were probably about 10 – 15 miles west of Nootka Island when passing Ferrer Point, brilliant sun and wheeling birds. I saw two long-line fishboats heading north, and they were making heavy weather of it with spray flying back over the entire boats.

Occasionally we were at the top of a wave about to start surfing, when the top would break and cascade over the rudder, aft cabin and a bit into the cockpit. Just enough to keep me in waterproof trousers and boots. Twice the foam and whitewater was deep enough to render the rudder momentarily ineffective, but never long enough to lose control.

I had a vague idea of sailing all the way to Hotsprings Cove, and possibly there may have just been enough daylight to do so. But I was getting a bit tired and i didn’t relish the thought of pressing on into the night unnecessarily.

Therefore I jibed over and reached in towards Nootka Sound by Friendly Cove. Once in the shelter of Bajo Reef the boat really lit up, as the sea was smoothed and the wind persisted. Smoothly sailing along at 13 to 15 knots, with no stress, as the sun declined. What a sail!

The sun set as I passed Yuquot and ghosted right into Santa Gertrudis Cove in the dusk.

I had covered 87 nautical miles that day, and I won’t soon forget it.

I learned a lot about sailing an F 27 trimaran in fresh surfing conditions. I could see how one might get a bit carried away with running hard perhaps with the spinnaker up. A good surf, then stuffing the bows, and over she goes, head over heels. But I never saw anything approaching that situation and it felt very safe, especially once I eased off on the ‘throttle’ a bit.

Next day on to Hotsprings Cove