Items of Interest

Galley Provisioning and Cooking for Multihull Sailing

posted Nov 7, 2017, 3:17 PM by Mark Olsoe   [ updated Nov 17, 2017, 12:59 PM ]

The attached pdf file contains the presentation given by Elana Ripniz from Port Townsend at our May meeting.  It contains great advice about menu planning and provisioning for multihulls which often have only rudimentary galleys.  Especially valuable are the recipes that are included at the end of the file.  These are proven recipes that require only hot water and thermoses for cooking. Click on the heading title above to see the attachment.

Building an F9A - Time Lapse

posted Dec 7, 2016, 12:34 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc

It was super fun chatting with Gabriel Hines about his garage project.  He is building an F9A!  Below are a couple time lapse videos that he put together of the main hull's manufacture.  Really great stuff.

RACE REPORT - Round The County 2016

posted Dec 7, 2016, 12:14 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Dec 7, 2016, 12:16 PM ]

Thanks to Doug Barlow for the following:

This years 100 boat maximum was filled within 48 hours of registration going live and I am always grateful when Bob Brunius calls to remind me that if i don’t register now, it will be too late! With the boat registered and Ray McCormack already confirmed I needed to find one more crew member. Since we’d had fun earlier in the year doing the STYC Race to the Strait, Mats Elf was all in.

The weekend started on Friday with an 0830 tour of Bob Perry’s new 43 foot carbon cutter being built by Jim Betts in Anacortes. Bob is my neighbor up here on Port Susan. Wow, what an amazing project. After a major dose of carbon envy, Ray and his friend Susan helped step the mast and we launched the boat on a balmy November Friday afternoon. The Anacortes Yacht Club pre-RTC party is always a treat and the hospitality is first class. Thanks for the vegetarian chili option Stephanie and team!

With the promise for wind on both Saturday and Sunday, we headed to bed as it's an early morning to travel the 14 miles to the start at Lydia Shoal from Anacortes. The first of many fronts blew through hard in the middle of the night, and when we left the dock at 0624 there was a nice breeze blowing with a large easterly component. By the time we got to the start the forecasted 20-30 kt SE breeze was on. We put up the jib to analyze the conditions and on the first tack, the spreader punched through the leach of the jib. Why we never put a spreader patch on that big roach jib is a mystery to me! With the wind up and down, we chose to go with the full main, and hoped that the T-tear in the leach of the jib didn’t get any worse.

The tide was flooding at the start. The breeze was about 25 kts and although we were about 30 seconds late for the start at the weather end, we managed to foot off through the monohulls bad air and off to weather we went.

The breeze backed off a bit and and we wound up short tacking the Blakely Island shoreline attempting to seek current relief. We had to manage the following challenges for the first couple hours: disturbed air from the two starts before us, hanging the torn jib up on the spreader on a few tacks, wind holes, and tidal chop. We were to leeward of most of the fleet on port tack as we headed towards Lopez Pass. As we passed Kellet Ledge, which is a mark of the course off Cape St. Mary on Lopez Island, the sea state appeared to explode. The SE breeze had come on hard again, and with the ebb tide now flowing into the breeze, the sea state was like Goliath’s washing machine on turbo agitate.

With green water occasionally washing over the boat from all directions, I suggested we tuck a reef in! The crew's response was hold on this isn’t going to last.  I didn’t know if we were going to last! The conditions for the last couple of miles getting around Davidson Rock were rather extreme and we watch Mama Tried, the 8.5 meter trimaran, blast by us to weather as we all cracked off on port tack to round Davidson Rock.

We were blast reaching in the high teens with the jib, attempting to keep the bows out of the waves in front of us as we bore off towards Cattle Pass. The excitement was short lived as predicted by Mats and Ray, and the breeze started to ease off. Up we went with the screecher, and shortly thereafter to the spinnaker, as the F31 Big Broderna was coming up quick from behind. By the time we hit the ½ waypoint at Cattle Pass, the breeze had all but disappeared. The 3 faster tris in the division were all in plain site as the tactics of light air sailing took over from the overpowered,adrenalin sailing of just a few minutes earlier!

One had to pay very close attention to the lanes of breeze and current as the race progressed in the new conditions. As we passed Cattle Pass, the boats close to the SW shore of San Juan Island did the best and sailed away from us. We sailed lower than Big Broderna, and appeared to have a bit more breeze as we eventually reeled them back in, but by the time we got close to the shore at Pile Point, it was anyones guess. Mama Tried had somehow escaped in a lane of breeze, Big Broderna was clear astern about a mile, and Blue Lightning, the F31 with only Mark Gumley and Pat McGarry aboard, attempted the outside route. They eventually succumbed to the lack of breeze and negative current on the outside track and retired.  With about 5 miles to go to the finish we were trading gybes with the J125 Hamachi, as we approached Lime Kiln seeking current relief. Carl Buchan and Madrona were about a ½ mile offshore in a lane of “invisible” wind that had them come from way behind to almost 90 minutes in front of us at the finish line .. Olympians, pffttt!!!  

Although we were apparently moving through the water, it was not enough to offset the adverse current!  We wondered who was more crazy, the people on the beach standing still in the rain watching us, or we on the boat, apparently stuck to the water, barely moving, watching those on the shore. As the frustration built, Big Broderna came from clear astern, and “blew” right by us as we finally made it past Lime Kiln! We watched Big Broderna sail away from us towards the finish as we desperately tried to stay in touch. We heard them finish and took note of the time, as what little wind there was started to disappear again.

With the finish line in sight, and our breeze disappearing, several larger monohulls were coming up fast from behind bringing breeze, but it didn’t last, and then it happened!! The miracle puff from nowhere descended upon us and were were able to cross the line, wondering how close we were to Big Broderna on corrected time. We motored up Mosquito Pass into Roche Harbor celebrating with a well deserved beer, happy to have finished, knowing that many got caught out by the light air and ebb tide. As we arrived at the dock, having endured a challenging day, the trailing edge of the cold front gave way to a surreal blue sky and cloud mosaic, and a well deserved glowing sunset.

As one who is always happy to camp on the boat, RTC is one event where a warm shower and a dry space to hang out, can add to the experience.  However, at the last minute, your options can be limited. So I treated the boys to the honeymoon suite at the Quarryman Inn and we were off to the the Party Barge. It is a great place to meet up with friends old and new, share a beverage/story or three, refuel in the barbeque pit, and boogie with the band. With the kegs drank dry, we drug our jib into the honeymoon suite to dry it out for the repair and before we knew it, eyes were closed and the recharge was on.

We awoke to relatively clear skies and continued mild temps for early November. The breeze was light from the south and with the flood tide, and a downwind start, the first couple of attempts to start day two demanded a general recall. Being the small boat in our start with all of the big monohulls, we didn’t want to get caught to leeward and thought clean air would be the proper tactic. So much for strategy! We were a bit early and got too close to the big monos vying for the boat end start as the breeze was filling from the right. 

We were one of the last boats to finally get clear of the line, but with the SE breeze wafting down Spieden Channel, all was not lost. The breeze was still filling from the right, and as many boats gybed to port, things were looking good .. that is, until we realized that we needed to leave the Danger Shoal buoy to Starboard. We immediately gybed, put up the jib, took down the spinnaker and were able to squeeze around the proper side of Danger Shoal with Neptune’s Car (Santa Cruz 70) and Hamachi (J125) following our lead and close astern.

While the view of the 100 plus boat fleet in front of us was nice, it was not exactly where we wanted to be! However, it did provide us with valuable information on how to get back into the race.The entire fleet was compressing up against the SW shore of Stuart Island,along with the best breeze, and in no time at all, we were trading gybes with Mama Tried (8.5 meter rule),  the F31s Big Broderna and Blue Lightning, and the other 100 plus other boats in the fleet! Exciting, tactical sailing for sure. 

The next obstacle to negotiate was Turn Point and the open waters of Boundary Pass. With very light air and a bit of positive current, we doused the chute and ghosted around Turn Point waiting for the SE breeze to help us break free from the lee of Stuart Island.  Since we were on the inside, we had to be patient and eventually we started gliding forward. The leads boats indicated more breeze coming and it looked as though we’d have a steady, but tight jib reach towards the gap between East Point on Saturna Island (Canada) and Alden Point on Patos Island (USA). Suggestions were to stay high, maybe a bit fresher breeze, and pop the chute, but I chose to sail rhumb line since the boat was moving well.

It wasn’t long before the wind started to get light in front of us. The boats that stayed high were still moving nicely and the boats to leeward were doing the same. At the same time, the lead TP52s appeared to be tacking to port to stay in the breeze. Keep calm, this is yacht racing on the Salish Sea! Mama Tried was dead ahead of us and in the same void. One of the 31’s that had been moving well to leeward, closer to the Saturna shoreline, all of a sudden appeared to be going backwards. We stayed focused and kept the boat ghosting along as best we could, as we were all sitting on the leeward float and as far forward as possible. Eventually the breeze came back and before we knew it, we were tight reaching with the skreecher at 12 kts and finally in the passing lane. We rounded Alden Point (½ way point) with Mama Tried just a few minutes ahead of us, and no other multihulls to be seen.

Aliikai has a new carbon screecher, and when I asked Dave Calvert what its wind range was, he said that we could carry it until we got too scared .. more about that later. My previous screecher that came with the boat was only good for 6-8 kts of true wind, so we are still sorting out how best to use this new sail. With the monos able to point a bit higher around Alden Point, we stayed with the screecher and chose to follow Mama Tried on a long starboard tack towards Alden Bank, while the rest of the fleet tacked along Sucia and Matia Islands. The breeze was around 7-10 kts and and according to the current chart, the ebb current could be a bit stronger on the left side going into Rosario Strait. Unfortunately we were getting lifted and when we tacked back, it didn’t look all that good, as the breeze appeared to have gone right!

Tacking with the skreecher in breeze is still a bit of a puzzle to me. Since we can’t roll the sail going to weather with an apparent wind of close to 15 kts on the nose, here’s what we did.  We put the jib up, and when we are ready to tack, we’d roll the screecher up as far as we can, take a dive to leeward to get the rest rolled enough to clear the forestay, tack the boat, roll the skreecher out, and drop the jib! Quite a process even with three capable sailors aboard. Maybe it's time to upgrade my furler to a continuous line, larger diameter unit!

We were questioning our tactical decision as the next time we located Mama Tried, she had dramatically increased her lead on us. She tacked onto port off of the Lummi Island shore, clearing the Sisters off the SE corner of Clark Island and appeared to be heading for Lawrence Point on Orcas and the finish line. As the day afternoon progress, it seemed as thought there was more pressure closer to the Orcas shore. Mats and I were thinking that we were done with the screecher. As we approached the lee of Clarke and Barnes Islands we prepared to roll it up and drop it on deck. What happened next is forever imprinted upon my brain.

We called for the dive to leeward just as we were hit by a puff. The boat went into a crash stop as the leeward float dove hard into the sea. I was thrown across the cockpit and when I looked up, all I could see was the cold depths of the Salish Sea. I thought to myself, this is what it feels like to pitch pole a trimaran. Time slowed way down with the prospect of a very cold swim, when I spied the main sheet which had been travelled down to leeward. I reached over and released the main sheet. It seemed like an eternity, and as the boat pivoted into the wind and the leeward float was once again paralleling the surface of the water, and the boat dropped back onto the water with the right side up. Ray, who had been driving, took the biggest hit from our flawed maneuver. Having been on the weather ama, his forward progress toward the ocean was halted when his chin impacted the cockpit coaming. I don’t know how far we came to completing the unthinkable, but I am grateful that someone was looking after our well being .. sort of!

With Ray being a bit shook up and injured, we sent him below with pressure on his split lower lip to stop the bleeding. We got the screecher furled, assessed that we were all ok, and continued on our way! It was still an absolutely stunning November Sunday to be on the waters of the Salish Sea. We had a lovely breeze, sunshine with a few clouds and mild temperatures, as the positive current added to our forward progress around Lawrence Point.

As per RTC tradition, getting across the finish line at Deer Point can be a challenge.  The only breeze appeared to be in the main channel of Rosario Strait. It was absolute glass along the Orcas shoreline to the finish, so we we continued going to weather wondering what our next tactical move would be. As we started to overstand the finish, the windline started advancing towards the finish line and with fingers crossed, we tacked for the finish line. We relaunched the screecher, and started passing a few more monos as we approached the finish line. Our spirits were lifted when we saw a trimaran still leaving the finish area. Could that be Mama Tried? We crossed the finish line a few minutes after 1600, not quite sure how we ended the day, but grateful to have survived another RTC in challenging conditions. The sail back to Anacortes was heaven; flat water, 10-12 kts of breeze, a balmy sunset, and a couple of cold beers as we roared to weather at 8-9 kts.

When we hit the dock we sent Ray off to seek medical attention. We took some time to decompress and refuel before derigging the boat, loading her on the trailer, lowering the mast and taking a deep and gratifying breathe. Thanks to Mats Elf and Ray McCormack for helping Aliikai sail to a 2nd in the multihull division and an 11th overall in a fleet of 105 PHRF boats. 

A great time blasting around Possession Sound

posted Apr 10, 2016, 10:42 AM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Apr 10, 2016, 10:42 AM ]

Members Terry and Steve had a great time on S\V Vesper during a sunny spring afternoon in April.  Check out the video at

NWMA History by Rita Kepner

posted Dec 11, 2015, 2:27 PM by Steve Keever   [ updated Dec 11, 2015, 2:29 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc ]

Here is what I remember:

No one to ask...

I arrived in Seattle from Connecticut in 1966.  In New England I had met Arthur Piver at a sailor group meeting and was all ready to build a world-cruising sailboat in the back yard in 2 or 3 weeks (joke).  I think it was Art Piver that suggested finding the little club in Seattle,but it could have been one of the enthusiasts at the New England group.

I honestly cannot remember how I found the little group that was the early club, but do remember going to meetings once a month, and I know it was at individual homes.  I am certain that it was Jim Staggs who started the group and it may have been 1965, but I did not attend a meeting until fall of 1966.  It grew from 7 or 8 people to 15 or 20 crowding into rotating living rooms of people, some of whom had projects started in their back yards.  At one crowded meeting of wide-eyed dreamers someone proposed finding a hall to meet more comfortably.  We found the one where you are now, and at each meeting passed the hat to pay that night's rent.


It became the first Friday early on -- I think it was the first Friday at the homes.  Over time, people decided to get slightly more organized with rules and by-laws and a non-profit status.  That helped with getting discounts on supplies.  Jim Ruby wanted to find a small "clubhouse" to buy -- even found a small old building somewhere on the waterfront as I recall, but fund raising to pay a down-payment got voted down because everyone was going to build their dream boats and soon be gone...


Ellen Ruby and I and a few others who were there at the time argued down a women's auxiliary proposal from one of the guys.   We women had sawdust in our veins and fiberglass in our hair. We were part of the group.  End of that discussion. 


A newsletter mailed to all who asked (later all who paid dues of $5)  kept us together with information and reminders of the upcoming meetings.  Of course, all volunteer. Coffee, wine and beer were early fringe benefits to attending the meetings.  Put money in a can. The group grew in size to fill the hall and we had speakers, designers, of merit who would fly in from all over to talk to us.  In monthly magazines, we followed and discussed the stories of Donald Crowhurst racing his trimaran around the world, and also Piver's disappearance off of California.


Good memories...


2015 Cow Bay Regatta Report by Vince DePillis

posted Nov 16, 2015, 8:13 AM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Nov 16, 2015, 8:13 AM ]

I'm still buzzed from a great 5 day weekend. We did win the multihull division, but only because the fast guys broke. Dragonfly capsized, Ali Kai broker her rudder.  Not sure what happened to Blue lightning on the second day.  He crushed it in the heavy air on day one, flying full jib and main, while we were on one reef and the solent. Seeing him running north in 30 knots of wind in Rosario is a sight that I will not soon forget—a fall of spray.

It is amazing how forgiving the F31 is.  You stuff it and it pops up and keeps going.  But I still don’t like the feeling, so we go slow in the heavy air.

The second day was very light at the start and at the finish, but we did manage to cross the line an hour and a half or so before the cutoff.  It was nerve wracking, trying to catch a puff here or there, from all different directions--  all the while haunted by the experience two years ago, when we spent hours sailing in one spot, within sight of the finish, as the clock ran out.

The sail home on Monday was glorious.  We left Anacortes at about 9 AM, put up the spinnaker outside Guemes Channel, never took it down, and tied up at 3:24PM.    Not a single rain drop!


Are you worried about capsize? Read this email thread from the bottom first.

posted Nov 12, 2015, 4:02 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Nov 12, 2015, 4:05 PM ]

One follow up note:

When the 25c was turtled, I swam under the boat and in and out of the cabin twice to retrieve gear and release some of the halyards and sheets.  Even with the open transom, both getting in and out of the cabin was challenging.  Each attempt needed to be timed with the surge from the waves, and it would have been all but impossible had I been wearing any sort of PFD in addition to the drysuit.  Once inside the cabin, there was an air pocket so the risk of drowning was low, but the buoyancy in the drysuit made it very difficult to get to the cabin top (now underwater) to release the running rigging. 

Martyn, you made some excellent points about "freedom of movement."  My biggest safety concern in heavy air was definitely drowning from being trapped under the boat after a capsize.  Here are some links to people who have very recently died this way (including one on lake Washington this year). 


These are the risks we tried to be aware of in capsize conditions:

  1. Drowning from being trapped under the nets.  To mitigate this risk, we made sure all tethers had a quick release mechanism at the chest, and each crew member was equipped with a sharp knife that could easily be deployed when movement was restricted.  The knife sheath was typically sewn on to the harness, and could be deployed with one hand (i.e. not in your pocket).  Like Martyn, any auto inflating life vests had the auto-inflate mechanism disabled. 
  2. Drowning from being knocked unconscious and into the water.  To mitigate this risk, all crew members were tethered to the boat in with the tether short enough keep them on the boat.
  3. Drowning/hypothermia from long term exposure in the water.  To mitigate this risk, all crew wore good solid drysuits.  Each crew member had personal VHF, GPS and flares, and were tethered to the boat at all times.

 I've turtled a boat in the NW in November, and spent many, many hours in the NW water with a drysuit.  When you are conscious and have lots of clothing on under a working drysuit, flotation is not an issue, even without a PFD, and even when the drysuit has been "burped" out.  We'd often "burped" out our drysuits before going sailing so they would be more tight fitting and give us more ease of movement. 

As a skipper, my crew was not required to wear a PFD except when the rules required it or assistance was not nearby.  However, a harness/tether with quick release was always required when the wind was up.  For a race like Round the County, which is run during the daytime with lots of other boats and assistance nearby, I rarely wore a PFD over the drysuit, and, when I did, it was an inflatable with the auto-inflate mechanism disabled.  Ease of movement in the case of capsize was far more important to me than being able to float head up for a long time in the open water.  However, for a race like Swiftsure or the Van Isle offshore legs, we almost always wore kayak style PFDs.  Help was a long way off, we were racing a night, and we were usually sleep deprived which can lead to poor decision making like forgetting to correctly attach a tether.  In these cases, we opted for the kayak style vests for ease of movement, warmth, and I just don't trust the inflatables (even with the manual inflate).  I've seen the C02 cartridges fail more than once.  If you are trusting your life to one of the inflatable type PFDs, be sure to test it regularly.  The results may surprise you.


Hi Eric,

Re vests.

Kayak vests are a generic name for the vests that Kayak paddlers use when paddling.   They are smaller, lighter, more close fitting BUT have less buoyancy.  They are sometimes not "legal" for some racing venues.   In these cases, I carry the "legal" vest as well.

The issue that Pat refers to, and one that I and others have championed for several years is that auto inflatable vests simply have too much buoyancy, especially when coupled with a dri-suit and could pose a threat to life if trapped under the nets of an overturned multi.   Dragonfly was such a case and fortunately all wore the kayak vests save one who had a manual inflating vest.   

Being trapped under the nets, is for me my greatest concern.   With an inflated vest, you cannot really move and are pinned to the underside of the net.   Kayak vests are specifically designed to allow for freedom of movement.   I purposely disabled my auto inflation vest, converting it to a manual.

At my Safety at Sea class, even in the pool, I was grossly top heavy when inflated and it required a lot of deflation to achieve a stable and functional buoyancy.   Even worse, I was nearly unable to swim or function effectively until I had achieved the above stability.   Understand, I wear and wore a dri-suit and even that requires a good deal of burping to reduce excess buoyancy.

Pat said he was fortunate that the occasional wave just allowed an occasional quick gulp of air as he crawled from under DF's net.

I am NOT saying everyone should or must opt for this solution.   I AM saying that each person should experiment and see just what it is like to enter the water and imagine the various scenarios.

Is being trapped under the nets a "likely" scenario?   A personal decision but one that needs be consciously made.   If you have not done so, step off the side of your boat the next time you are at anchor and see what your inflatable vest feels like.   Don't go drown, we need your club dues.



Martyn & Linda Adams


Swiftsure Log - Finally After All These Years by Doug Barlow

posted Jun 1, 2015, 3:47 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Jun 1, 2015, 3:55 PM ]

Maybe it was the fear of rounding Race Rocks in the darkness of night with the weather station reporting 35kts!  Maybe it was the stories of 50 + miles of motoring back to Victoria because the wind had evaporated and the crew couldn’t take it anymore!  Maybe it was the fact that it was a holiday weekend and the end of the school year for my girls! Having participated in the AYC’s Northern Century a couple of times and loved the challenge of tide, currents, light winds, and navigating around the San Juan Archipelago, the out and back nature of Swifsure just didn’t seem like that big of a draw for me … Guess I am more of a loop tour kind of guy!  For some reason none of these conversations came up this year when I realized that I had the urge to do my first Swiftsure. It may have been the fact that my lover was going to be away leaving me with 2 of my three girls and I was compelled to steal 5 days of adventure before having to commit to being a single parent for 10 days!

Due to other obligations and commitments to family, I typically participate in 3 or 4 multihull events and I typically don’t have a “regular crew” if I chose to do other regattas.  So, my first order of business was to attempt to find a competent crew. I did what I normally do two weeks before the unexpected regatta, I start letting everyone that I know that I am looking for crew, and preferably someone who has a bit of multihull experience, or at least sailed a hobie cat when they were a teenager. The Swiftsure crew bank on the race website seemed ripe with possibilities, but I was a bit late to that party. I had lots of great conversations and in the end it came down to a couple of different factors.  Was anyone available to help me deliver the boat to Victoria? This would carry extra weight in my determining the proper crew for the adventure ahead. Since it is labelled an international yacht race why not get several different nationalities on board? Jonathon Watson is a Canadian, Cal 20 sailor from the RVYC, works in a ship yard, and having a bit of local knowledge, sounded good.  Jack Bucknall was born in Australia, holds a British passport, lives on a Newport 26 and works for a marine supply store. Both gents had a fair amount of enthusiasm, but no multihull experience. While Jack didn’t have any experience sailing at night he wanted to learn.  Living on Bainbridge Island he was also a possibility for helping me cross the Strait on Friday.  Jon sounded like he could steer the boat so I chose to register 24 hours in front of the deadline with my new found confidence.

Organizing safety gear was the next daunting task. As a first time Swiftsure participant, I was very grateful for the support of our NWMA Commodore Mr. Vince Depillis. Vince advised me to take a deep breathe, relax and set aside an extra 2 grand to outfit the boat. New safety regs for 2015, extra this for that, and that for this had me questioning if it was worth it. What is DSC anyway and why is it important in a radio. My 20 year old Uniden works just fine. A permanent depth sounder? Really? I draw 5 feet and when we see the bottom we tack/gybe or if we are concerned, we pull up the daggerboard/rudder. I’ll spare you the story of obtaining an MMSI number for sailing in US waters versus sailing in International waters and the Commodore will back me up on this one. The ambiguity was a bit confusing, and after about $1550 of new gear purchases, I was as close as I was going to get to “inshore/coastal” legal. I figured I’d plead insanity as the new guy if they questioned why I had a hatchet in my calamity pack, but wait, that’s required.  Someone with more experience than I mentioned that if you are in the cabin and the boat flips, you could swim out the open transom and no hatchet is required … there would be none of that!

I launched Aliikai in Everett on Thursday afternoon and made it to Port Townsend for sunset where Jack met me as I entered Point Hudson boat basin. I got the boat tied up and told Jack that I would meet he and his gal Shwnrene at the Siren Pub for a beer and a meal. The introduction went well and after maybe a beverage or two too many, I told Jack I’d see him in the a.m. for the 0800 departure. He called to see what type of coffee I wanted (I was really starting to like this guy) and before I knew it we were following Freda Mae out of the harbour.  The sky was overcast and a bit of low level cloud moisture was present as we began to cross the strait with Victoria being our destination.

We were greeted by an ebb tide running into the left over seaway from the previous days blow and so began our journey.  Sometimes there is no escaping the washing machine of Salish Sea tidal collisions and luckily, it only lasted an hour or so before we were into smoother water and a building breeze. By the ½ way mark the boat was moving nicely and Jack was enjoying the double digit speed as Aliikai paced the true wind speed on a tight jib reach. It wasn’t long before we were touching 15 kts and flying off some fairly decent sized waves created by the chaos of the Straits massive hydraulic events. Things were getting rather exciting and I was teaching Jack the finer points of apparent wind angles on multihulls.  The forecast was not for breeze over 20kts, but we were already there and I was faced with two options … 1)  show Jack how we put in a reef, or  2) show him how well the boat does when it is overpowered. We were rapidly approaching the Vancouver shoreline or so it seemed, so I chose the latter, and told Jack to come sit next to me on the windward float and enjoy the ride. We talked about the “death zone” on multihulls where you go from upwind sailing to downwind sailing, and how we were sqarely “in it”.  Jack wanted to know when it’s too much and time to reef and I told him you have to trust the helmsman , since he is ultimately in control.  Somehow the conversation to reef early was confused with getting the boat fully powered up.  I don’t think these words were very comforting to Jack as we launched off another huge wave and disturbed a raft up of about 500 seabirds that had congregated in the upwelling waters. We saw 17 + on the GPS and before we knew it, the sea smoothed out and the breeze was backing off.  Jack had passed the first test and while I believe he got more than he bargained for, I wasn’t sure if he was starting to trust the helmsman or think that I was a crazed speed junky with no concern for others well being!

The next challenge was clearing customs at Raymur Point.  Seeing as I am a known avocado smuggler in the USA, and that my WA state lifestyle has me on some sort of watch list when entering Canada, we were instructed to sit tight at the customs dock for further inspection.  Turns out, Jack too, draws special attention from border agents – birds of a feather I guess?  Knowing that the distractions of the raft up in front of the Empress would have been many, it was good to have some quiet time at the customs dock to make all the final preparations to Aliikai.  Having our 3rd as a local, paid off, in that we sent Jon to the skippers meeting seeing as our detention wound up lasting almost 3 hrs. The view of the inner harbour from photos just isn’t the same as experiencing it first-hand. The energy of Swiftsure immediately took hold as we tied up on the inner float adjacent to the sea wall with the 10 other registered multihulls.

I must say that there is nothing like the excitement of owners, skippers, crew, spectators and the general public at large, when it comes to the fanfare that is Swiftsure in Victoria.  Lots of smiles, hellos, comparing and contrasting boats, answering questions, friends we have not seen in a while, the making of new friends, and a general sense of all that is great in the world. We checked in with registration and Mark Gumley helped me confirm that the skipper’s meeting was only to remind us that we were going to sail out to Neah Bay from Victoria and return!

We closed up the boat and it was time to head to RVYC for the all multihull dinner that John Green is famous for organizing.  What a special touch! I don’t know of any other group of boats that get to have such a special event while at Swiftsure.  It is definitely one of the largest single gatherings of multihull sailors in the PNW and what a good time it was.  The hospitality of RVYC was amazing and the opportunity to honor each other and learn a bit more about all the boats participating was a special touch.  I know my crew appreciated the opportunity to hear from so many other excited multihull sailors and owners.  We returned to the inner harbour, took a quick wander around the docks and with the last song being played by the band at the Swiftsure Center, it was time for this skipper to try and get some shut eye. Since I never get to spend as much time on my boat as I would like, I am always happy to sleep aboard, but ear plugs at regattas are required. If the crew is more organized than I am, I am happy to find accommodations with more creature comforts, but …

We left to dock at 0745 for the journey to Clover Point and our 0910 all Multihull Start. The start line was plenty big enough for our 11 boat start.  We were somehow 1 minute early for our start, so we did a quick circle and were able to cross the line on port tack close to the committee boat.  When the cannon went off, I thought Jon was going to toss the winch handle over board as it startled all of us. With the entire fleet to leeward of us and clear breeze, we were off on our first Swiftsure with Race Rocks as our first destination.  We all sailed parallel to the Victoria waterfront till we hit the shore and then tacked towards Race Rocks. Dragonfly led the way with Freda Mae, Bad Kitty, Blue Lightning and Mail Order Bride (MOB) close at hand. The ebb tide sucked us all through Race Rocks quite nicely in the 15 kt breeze from the WNW. Having never sailed in these waters, we tended to stay in the outbound current lane and felt that there was more pressure along the Vancouver Island shore. We were keeping pace with MOB and tracking with some of the other monohulls we typically sail with.  It was a beautiful day to sail out the Strait with good breeze and an ebb tide to help us along our way. 

We hung up a jib sheet on one of our tacks and in the excitement to sort it out, our dagger board downhaul was released. It took us a while to realize that we just weren’t going to weather as we had been. I thought that maybe we didn’t have enough power to punch through the chop that was developing with the outgoing tide and the opposing 15 kt breeze. Why were we having such a difficult time pointing with boats that we normally hold our own with?  Freda Mae was ahead and to weather, Mail Order Bride to leeward and ahead with a fair amount of separation between the two when we split the difference and set up for a long starboard fetch towards the WA shore.  Why are we going sideways?  You would think it would be such a simple solution to solve eh? After losing so much ground to leeward, we eventually discovered the source of our lateral motion and got the dagger board down.  One can only guess that we sailed a good 10 miles in this compromised state and gave up a fair amount of distance. By this time we were directly astern of Mail Order Bride by a couple of miles.

While we never had to alter course for any commercial traffic, I was happy to have a new radio that not only had DSC, but AIS and GPS as well. It is quite an organized effort to keep the fleet updated as to inbound and outbound commercial traffic. As a first timer, it is also of interest to note how well the RC keeps track of who’s who, on what course, and whether you are in bound or outbound and were you are in reference to completing a ¼, ½, ¾ or the complete distance of the course you are on. 

The sun slowly started to disappear behind the cloud bank as we continued across to the WA shore and the cooling effect of the North Pacific was starting to take effect. We all put on an extra layer, had a drink and some food, and settled in for the next phase of the race. The ebb was slowing down and the mellow ocean rollers were starting to dominate the sea state. At one point I looked down to leeward and saw what I thought was a large dead head, but when it disappeared below the surface, I realized that it was the greenish barnacled snout of a large humpback whale. At the same time I realized that the two 31s Dream Chaser and Sauterelle were to leeward of us as we approached the WA shore. We started tacking up the shore toward the turning mark at Neah Bay as the breeze was beginning to fade. Mail Order Bride was on the offshore phase of her approach and we were just in the process of tacking back out when we hooked into a large port tack lift that had us pointing right at the turning mark.  We eventually sailed out of it, but not before it allowed us to cut our distance in ½ with MOB and double our distance from the chasing 31s.

We rounded the naval vessel that is the turning mark in Neah Bay at 1700 hrs and reported in. We gybed onto port and set the kite in about 6-8 kts of true wind and headed back for the Vancouver shore where the breeze was reported to be blowing around 20 at Sherringham Point.  We were barely making 6 kts and grateful that the flood tide was with us.  I told the boys I needed to close my eyes for a few, so I assumed the position on the leeward net just aft of the cross beam and took a 15 minute power nap. Knowing that the calm was not going to last, I warmed up some soup for the boys and we all fuelled up knowing that as soon as we reached the Vancouver Island shore, we’d be racing again.  We checked the tracker so see that Dragonfly was close to finishing followed by Bad Kitty. The two 31Rs were already back in the breeze ahead of us on the Vancouver Island shore, and we could just make out the red and white kite of MOB on the horizon ,as we carried along on port gybe desperate to keep the boat moving.

We saw MOB gybe away from the beach as the pressure slowly started to build one knot at a time as we approached the gorgeous scenery that is the west coast of Vancouver Island.  As we neared the beach, we got a little header and the boat started surging towards double digits. We gybed out to stay in the deeper water and flood tide and it seemed that we were off. However, the wind seemed to head us and the pressure subsided a bit. When we gybed back towards the beach our angle was off and a few of the monos that we had passed were back in front of us.

Having a couple of surfers aboard I got to learn about some of the more popular surf breaks in and around the strait with Jordan River being one of them, about 6 miles west of Sherringham Pt.  It was close to 2000 hrs and Sherringham Point was reporting 23 kts of breeze and Race Rocks about the same. The boys mentioned a reef, but if this was 23 kts with the boating reaching along at 15 kts as we passed Sherringham, I couldn’t have been happier. I asked Jack if beam reaching with the kite was a bit more comfortable that tight reaching with the jib? He smiled as the boat sailed along easily in the rolling ocean swells with was no concern of being overpowered yet (Aliikai has a rig almost as tall as the 31R’s so 20 kts downwind tends to be reef time for us).

Somewhere after Sherringham Point we headed out into the Strait on starboard gybe and went for a long blasting reach till we could gybe back towards Race Rock.  With none of us having sailed through Race Rocks before, let alone at night with the kite up, there was a bit of apprehension on the part of all of us. I could see the white flashing light of Race Rocks and was trying to ascertain whether to go to weather of it and through the Race or stay outside where there was room to run if the breeze blew up when we arrived.  We were still fully powered up with a full main hitting 18 kts, but in no danger of stuffing a bow. One comment was that the light was still 6 miles off, and my reply was that we’ll be there before we know it as the GPS read a steady 16 + kts. Still without a clear picture and things getting dark quickly, we raised the jib and doused the kite to navigate through Race Rocks. We gave up a bit of speed, but at this point the crew was happy to slow the boat down and regroup as we slid forward on the ebb tide that was just beginning to push through the nozzle between Race Rocks and the shoreline.

While there were still some strong puffs moving across the deck, the 2 31R’s and MOB were ahead of us somewhere or already finished  with only 10 miles to go, and I wanted to get the boat back up to speed. With the wind aft we had to relaunch the kite, but the crew was a bit hesitant, so I compromised with the skreecher. We could see stern lights in front of us and nav lights behind us amidst all the bright lights of the Victoria shore line. Our angle for the finish line was terrible so we heated it up a bit and would gybe when we hit the shore to cross the finish line.  The radio chatter with the race committee was overwhelming as it appeared there were boats from all 4 long courses converging on the finish line in a lightening breeze.

We finished our 1st Swiftsure Cape Flattery course  a few minutes after 2300 hrs in just under 14 hours .. The accomplishment didn’t really hit us until later. We slowly made our way to the inspection dock which was anti-climactic, for all the angst it created in prepping for the race. Hot soup upon arrival was a lovely touch and much appreciated by all!  When we parked up for the night, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad to know that all the other multi’s who had finished ahead of us were cleaned up and put away for the evening.  How much earlier had they finished in front of us? While I wasn’t so interested in how we finished, I was just excited that we had finished and wanted to share in all the adventure that we had all just taken in. Eventually the other 31’s made their way to the dock.  I thoroughly enjoyed the late night /early morning camaraderie that took place with every sailor you walked by who had a big smile on their face and a story to tell! Thanks John and Cam for your post-race hospitality. Eventually the day’s activities overwhelmed me and I succumbed to the exhaustion that was telling me it was time to get horizontal.

I chose to stick around on Sunday and have a proper end of our 1st Swiftsure celebration with my crew before heading south for home. We spent a glorious day in Victoria celebrating our accomplishment. When we eventually did look at the results, it was icing on the cake!

I would like to thank the Swiftsure organizing committee for running an outstanding event and John Greene for hosting a fabulous Multihull gathering at RVYC.  My crew of Jon Watson and Jack Bucknall, thanks for joining me aboard Aliikai for what was a very successful 1st Swiftsure for all of us.  Happy summer to all and hope to see you and more at the PNW Multihull Championships at the Cowitchan Bay Regatta the first weekend of August!


Douggie B – NWMA Fleet Capt

F28R # 49


Tulalip WA

Swiftsure Log - The Race Starts with a Bang by VInce DePillis

posted Jun 1, 2015, 2:25 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Nov 16, 2015, 8:06 AM ]

It is a fair amount of work to do Swiftsure, especially the first time.  Lots of equipment to purchase, reservations to make, arrangements to complete.  (We need how many waterproof flashlights?  And how the heck do you get a MMSI number for your DSC radio if you are going to use it in Canada?  And the damn fire extinquishe  is out of date again!). It does get easier every time you do it, though. We have the equipment (mostly), we stay at the same hotel, we know where to go, how to check in, all that. Crossing the Strait on the way up doesn’t seem as daunting. Strange to think back to our first Swiftsure—everything seemed such a big deal, so strange and wonderful.  The 5th time felt more like a ritual, less like an adventure.

We stationed the boat at Port Townsend this year, and drove up Thursday night so we could get an early start for Victoria on Friday. We had solid wind crossing the Strait, enough to practice reefing.  Johnny Ohta, Jon Frodge and I have been sailing together on the Freda Mae for years, but Eric Lindahl was sailing with us for the first time, so it was good to have a chance to put the boat through its paces. We arrived in Victoria hot on the heels of Doug Barlow, and arrived at the customs dock at about the same time.

Victoria is a small city with a compact waterfront.  The Swiftsure boats make a show, crowded together in the inner harbor, flags flying, crowds walking the docks, sailors keyed up and boisterous. There is a buzz that no other race in the Northwest can match.

That night, we dined with the Multihull Fleet at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, in a wood paneled room, with paintings of the founders on the wall, and trophies in cases, and a view of a charming harbor. I am conflicted about this—I hate banquets, I am uncomfortable with the pomp, and yet I hobnob with the best of them, and left thinking it is generally a very good thing to gather in celebration of a shared passion.

The Race

The race starts with a bang.  A really big bang from the cannon on a Canadian naval vessel that serves as one end of the start line. We are already keyed up. Sky is grey, wind is forecasted to build, you have a 100 mile race ahead, which can take a day and a half if the wind shuts down or the tides catch you at the wrong moment. 

The crack of the cannon echoes in my chest, catching me by surprise because we screwed up the start sequence. Crew scrambles to sheet in and get in position for the upwind drag race to Race Rocks. I focus so hard on the jib telltales I forget to blink. Boat goes quiet. Everyone settles in place, weight forward and out on the float.  Boat going well, high and fast, competitors not far behind.

For me, Swiftsure is about Race Passage, a pass just southwest of Victoria, between Vancouver Island proper and a formation of shoals and islets. The passage consists of an underwater ravine between the shoals and the mainland. The shoals protrude into the Strait, forming a corner the tide must turn as it floods and drains the Salish Sea.   The currents through Race Passage can run 3-6 knots—enough to stop a sailboat in its tracks. When the wind is strong (which is often because of the funneling effect of the promontory just north of the rocks), and runs contrary to the tide, square waves heap up in the passage.

Going west at the start of the trip, Race Passage is a manageable tidal gate. It is morning, crew is rested, and you are always going upwind, as the prevailing wind is from the west. The fleet is still relatively compressed, lots of boats within sight, and it is fun to tack close to shore, to fight the tide if it is foul, to ride it west when fair. The winds are usually moderate in the morning.

The return is different. It is usually dark. The winds are often 25 to 30, gusty and erratic, and you are under spinnaker. There have been several capsizes of multihulls on the return through Race Passage—involving skilled and experienced racers. No one has died, but any capsize is extremely dangerous. You cannot really win the race unless you keep your big sails up through Race Passage on your way home, and that is part of what makes the race so scary, at least for me. 

This time, the tide favors us, the wind was perfect, and we clear Race Passage second in our class of 11.  The sun is out and we delight in the sight of our competitors powered up, screaming along. The most beautiful of all is the mighty Atalanta, 60 feet and twenty tons, with two masts, and at the top of each mast a flag flying, so proud and festive. We cross close enough to hear the gentle roar of her bow wave.

Once you clear Race Passage, you head out into the Strait proper. It is a big body of water—maybe 20 miles wide, 75 miles long. Winds usually westerly, with plenty of fetch to build up a real swell, which we don’t see down in the Sound.  As the fleet spreads out, the sails get smaller and smaller.  It’s a little lonely out there.

The wind continues to be solid, maybe 15 knots true. We have a constant swell. In the trough, the crests are at eye level or above. You feel like your boat is in the ocean, not on top of it. The wind built some so there was a chop on top of the swell.  Challenging, wonderful sailing, especially for the helmsman, who has to steer actively to take best advantage of the waves. We are doing 9-10 knots upwind, changing helmsman every 30 minutes to keep everyone sharp and engaged.

As we get into the middle of the Strait, the sun vanishes and the murk increases.  Can’t see the sails of our more distant competitors, and the shore becomes indistinct. We carry on, putting on additional layers to stay warm. The lighter doesn’t work, so, no hot food or drink for us, but we were making miraculous time, pushed along by a powerful ebb tide.

As we approach Neah Bay, the halfway point in the race, the wind lightens. We round third in our class at about 5 pm, set the spinnaker, and point the boat northeast, back toward the Canadian side of the Strait. Winds are moderate, and it is a relief to be going with the waves and wind, not as cold, and the motion of the boat easier, even though we are going faster. To make matters even better, the tide changes just as we round, and we are riding the flood home.

The overcast deepens, and the Canadian shore is obscured by fog. We can see only one of our competitors--Blue Lightning, a similar boat to ours, and a boat we would like to beat. They rounded maybe 20 minutes behind, and raised their big white spinnaker, with the blue lightning bolt in the center. They usually catch us down wind, because they carry a bigger spinnaker and sail more aggressively. I expect to see them get ever larger in the rearview mirror. Johnny says it will take 2 hours for them to catch us.

Having another boat close to you on the course, especially when it is a direct competitor, adds much interest to the proceedings. The helm focuses harder on keeping speed, the trimmers react more quickly to each curl of the luff, and off watch guys pay more attention to weight placement. 

To our surprise, the blue lightning bolt doesn’t seem to be getting any bigger.  We gybe in synchrony, wanting to stay between them and the finish, trying to avoid a split that would let them luck into better conditions and pass. But it is becoming obvious that we have legs on them down wind. We have a new spinnaker this year, moderately sized, but cunningly shaped, and made of a light polyester fabric that does not stretch as much as the typical nylon. Maybe that is the difference this year? In any case, the lightning bolt is becoming smaller, and after an hour, it became hard to pick them out in the gray. We will sail our own race to the finish. 

As we make our way east along the Canadian shore, the wind builds. We are quickly doing 15 knots, then 16 and more. Hard to know what the true wind is. The boat is humming, reacting instantly to millimeter movements of the tiller, throwing a wake like a speedboat, overtaking the swells in big swoops of speed. Everyone wants a chance at the helm. It is a magic carpet ride with Robin Williams as chauffeur. It is like skiing powder on a really good day, or driving a motorcycle fast on a curvy road.   Your mind empties of everything other than the sensations of the moment.   Focused, engaged joy.

And this is where we separate the winners from the participants.

To go fast downwind in a trimaran, you have to sail it hot, meaning at an angle to the wind. The more acute the angle to the true wind, the more the apparent wind comes forward, which allows you to steer deeper relative to the true wind. It is a virtuous cycle of speed. But the hotter you sail, the harder you press the leeward float, driving it through waves. If you go too far, sail too hot and too hard, you stuff it. The bow knifes deep into the water, the stern rises, the apparent wind increases and swings aft, and…  over you go, in a diagonal somersault. The great majority of capsizes in these boats occur while racing, under spinnaker.

When you are on the helm, you feel invulnerable, you steer down in the puffs, keeping the boat on its feet, bleeding off the speed, heading up in the lulls, reveling in the acceleration, and your mastery. When you are not on the helm, you can focus a bit more intensely on the potential for disaster. As a skipper, I am somewhat unusual, in that I share time on the tiller equally—so I have plenty of time to consider disaster: an upside down trimaran, with four 60 year old, arthritic guys in the water, at night, in the waves, potentially trapped under the nets and sails. I have always been a worrier, and exceedingly cautious.

The guys know the dynamic. As the speed rises, past about 16 knots, especially in waves, I tell the helm to slow down—to sail deeper. The guys bridle a bit at times, but know the drill. And in those decisions, the decision to keep a large margin of safety, instead of taking the speed to 18, 19, 20 knots, is where the race is won or lost. 

Dusk is approaching, we are sailing alone, close to a lee shore. We are already sailing quite deep and still going fast. We have everything up. At this stage last year, I had already reefed the main, and taken down the spinnaker, but it was later in the day that time. 

I start thinking about a sail change. At this stage there is a bit of a discussion, as usual, with Johnny and Frodge inclined to hold full sail longer. Frodge prevails on me to keep the big spinnaker up a while longer. There is no doubt that the prospect of Race Passage has me spooked. The internet tells us that there is 28 sustained at Race Passage. Which means gusts are higher still. 

Well before the Passage, I call for a change—one reef in the main, take down the big spinnaker, and raise the little spinnaker. Leave the jib up. Looks like we will make it through the Passage at the tail end of dusk. It takes a while to get all this done, but I made the call early enough so that we are lined up perfectly once the change is complete. I want to start the run through the Passage well to the north, on the windward side, so that if we get hit by a big gust, we have room to bail out to leeward. 

Johnny is on the helm. He is a great helm in big air, fearless and steady. The water is flat, as we enter the Passage. The wind builds again, and the boat is flying, planing, rushing towards the lights of Victoria. Gusts hit, but we just accelerate, head down a little, under control, smooth as butter. Night finally falls as we clear the Passage. I am perched on the float, exhilarated, relieved, proud. We pass a couple other boats like they were channel buoys.

And it looks like there will not be a repeat of last year, when the wind completely shut off a mile from the finish, leaving us drifting for hours in the middle of the night. The wind drops but does not die as we near the line. Frodge calls in to alert the race committee that we are approaching the line. We haven’t heard any of our competitors call in. Shortly before the line, we hear Blue Lighting call in. Frodge raises the main all the way—probably made no difference, as we cross well before them. 

In the confusion and relief and joy after the finish, I almost hit an unlighted channel marker. Eric pushes the helm over just in time. We finished 3rd of 11, our best result ever in this race.  We are on the dock by 11pm, in bed before midnight, happier than I have been in months.

Post script

Eric and Frodge drive home from Victoria, so Kristin, Johnny, and I sail back to Port Townsend (motoring just a little while to get to the customs dock at a reasonable time). Kristin picks up the car there, and leaves Johnny and me to bring the boat back to Seattle.

The wind is light, but we sail the whole way. Even when the wind is nothing but a breath, and the water glassy, we keep moving, helped by a flood tide. And this is the most magical part of the trip for me. To sail a bit of water that I now know like my backyard, to talk intimately with my close friend, and to stay absolutely quiet and still as we glide through sunset into the dusk.  

As we approach Shilshole, night falls, a sliver of moon is out, and the wind increases.  We rush through the dark, the lights of the marina bright ahead. We milk it to the last possible tack, greedy for more, delaying the moment when we must turn into the wind, and drop the sails.  

But that moment does come. We put the boat away and load up the car, and drive along quiet Shilshole Avenue. Still entranced, I find myself driving at about 20 miles per hour, reluctant to press down on the accelerator. 

It was a very good trip, overall. 


Check out this short YouTube video of the horde of boats.

Ruf Duck Gets a Scrub

posted May 11, 2015, 10:36 AM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated May 11, 2015, 11:13 AM ]

The weekend before the Regatta means that Jeff and Ruf Duck must finish up the winter's projects.  Follow along below as her wings are put back together.

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