More adventures of Moxie and her pets

posted Jun 30, 2014, 10:41 PM by PacificNorthWest MultihullAssoc   [ updated Jun 30, 2014, 10:41 PM ]

(I was going to write this but one of my pets asked if he could try.   It was the male one who can be a bit of a pest although a very nice one. Be kind, he takes offence quite easily.  Moxie)

I have changed Moxie's main sheet (again) so it is 9:1 and find it a bit of a grunt to either sheet in or ease when heavily loaded.  I use a trigger cleat (some like some don't) and lead the sheet to a winch if I really need more pull.   PITA if you need to dump the main sheet fast, although I actually had no problem when we severely stuffed Moxie (first time we had substantial rudder out of the water) on a 75 minute reach of about 20 nm (27kn true at the marina entrance at Pt Townsend, WA).   All my fault.   Waited too long to reef and then decided not to.   Quite impressive to shave off the top foot of a wave for 50 feet with the front beam.   Looked like a hydroplane rooster tail of shattered water.   Both Linda and I wish for a GoPro.

Here is a more detailed write-up for those interested.

                  REEF?    REEF!    YOU DON"T NEED NO STINKING REEF!

For those who "always check the weather first", no I didn't.   Though, I doubt it would have mattered.   For 4 days we had sailed in 0 to an occasional 20 minutes of 15 on our recent trip from Everett through the San Juan's and return.   Day five dawned the same  as the previous 4.  Motor sailed for most and decided to run down the the exposed lee shore of Whidby Island.   Wind speed stayed 0-5 until we reached the east side of Smith Island, a bit less than 1/2 way down.  Linda is asleep.  A wind line is apparent ahead and I see 2 white caps.   No tidal current.  We are motor sailing in smooth glassy water with the 8ft inflatable on a 15ft tether off the lee float.

In less than a mile, apparent wind speed (AWS) is north of 15kn and in 2 miles is north of 20.  It has clocked aft to a solid beam reach.  The Windex and the TacTic both indicate the wind is 30* off the bow, in line with the chord of the rotated mast.   However, the waves from the 100 mile fetch out the Straight of Juan de Fuca are building and lie parallel to our course.   Boat speed and GPS agree at 12 knots.

No biggie, the motor is wound up pretty tight so for the umpteenth time I throttle back, shift to neutral, kill and retract it.   No change in speed, higher if anything.

At 13+ knots boat speed, I wake Linda and ask her to come up and drive.   As she sticks up her head, she tosses me a PFD, dons her own and takes over the helm.  I can't recall her exact words but they were a classic understatement along the line of "Finally got some wind."

The dingy is periodically airborne.   The electric dingy motor is just lying on the net near the main hull and we decide it would be a good idea to secure it.   I have already traveled nearly all the way down and matched the position with the jib.    AWS is now 22-23 and I grab a reefing gasket line, ease over the cockpit coaming and throw a couple of half hitches around the motor shaft, securing it to the net lacing.

Waves are 2-4 ft and we see boat speeds of 15.5 as the front beam slams through the occasional taller crests.   It isn't the familiar thump and splash but rather a loud clap and a near solid wall of shattered, cold water into the cockpit drenching both of us.

A glance at the chart-plotter shows 9+ miles to Admiralty Head buoy and the first 16+ speed.   I hear Linda's grunt and groan as she wrestles with the helm and tell her I will ease the mainsheet to try to twist off the head.    Simple enough, just grab the mainsheet and lift.   It automatically releases the trigger cleat until you let it go, where-upon it reengages.   Not this time, it is rock solid but with 2 hands, I can release a foot at a time.   I decide not to mess with the jib but see 24.5 AWS and it sits there.   A bit of quick math and I guess it is close to true wind speed (TWS).

(Note: those who believe the nice big square head will automatically bend off to leeward in gusts...don't be so sure! You can twist it off a bit but it is still there.).  

"Boat speed 16.8 and pretty steady", I comment but Linda says, "Look again."  

"OK, 17 and pretty steady."   This is about where we creamed 50 ft of the top foot off a wave.   They had continued to build and were 4-6 ft, right on the beam.   Moxie just shuddered a bit and kept right on going.   The wall of shattered water was "about even with the boom" as Linda later said and added, "It was about even with the biggest waves."   Time to recalculate as the boom is nearer 8 ft above the water.

"Uhh, I hate to tell you but we need to sail a bit deeper."

"I planned to sail to the bluffs west of Pt Townsend and tack."

I don't know the native word for Point Wilson but it loosely translates to "big freaking waves and bigger winds".   The first nation's people would stop outside the point and put the women and children ashore to walk to what is now Port Townsend.  

Between Pt Wilson and Admiralty Head is the entrance to the bulk of Puget Sound.   It is a giant venturi and the underwater part has a major over-fall on the Pt Wilson side.   We are now well into the ebb against a 25 kn wind.   Having been through there in a 15 kn wind on tide wasn't fun and this would be seriously worse.   Linda was probably processing the same things because very gently, she took us lower.   The chart plotter said a bit over 3 miles to Admiralty Head proximity...I quietly re-plot to the Pt Wilson Light.   7.6 another 2.5 miles to the marina.   We've already been at this for 45 minutes.

18 knots! 

Linda states, "Keep your eye on the freighter to leeward.   He is coming our way."

I see him but can't get a "read" on if he is really a problem.   Gee, I hope someone there is seeing this.   He is a quarter mile to leeward when we cross his bow.   It is pretty constant spray now.   Linda has us fractionally below the wave trains and patiently works us lower as she bears off, surfing each succeeding wave crest and then lifting Moxie over the crest and into the trough and up again to repeat the process, all the while keeping the speed under control.   She has driven the float bow into the back side a few times but always recovered before any real peril.

I didn't see it but rather felt it as Linda called "Help!", our universal word for "I have done all I can and you had better do something really skilled or we are in very serious doo-doo".    The bow had really stuffed.   Water was about a foot up the cap shroud and the surface ended about half way between the chain-plate and the aft beam (That, people, is a serious down angle!).   The aft end of the boat was high and most of the rudder must have been clear of the water.   That bar tight main sheet came out of the trigger cleat as slick as can be.   I would like to say I did it one-handed but it was not the time for finesse.   One monster yank and let fly.

Moxie just shook herself, popped back up and off we went again.

A glance at Linda with the helm all the way down and the main-sheet came back in as fast as I could.   A 9:1 mainsheet is pretty quick.   All-the-while, Moxie just continued like nothing had happened.

Approaching Pt Wilson light at the then 17+ kn boat speed, the seas took on another guise.   Gone were the predictable wave trains in relative order, replaced with scrambled choppy chaos.   Look on a chart.   See those squiggly lines?   They are a euphemism for "I bet you will wish you were somewhere else".     

Once past Pt Wilson, I expected the wind to drop.   No deal.  The wind is right parallel to the waterfront but we still have a mile to clear the Pt Hudson spit which keeps us on the same beam reach.   Linda is talking about carrying on to the lee side of the pulp mill, another 5+ miles farther.   The ferry is in at the dock and I silently pray it doesn't decide to leave until we are past.   That screaming beam reach lasts until we clear the spit, where we come closer to the wind and the AWS peaks at 35 and boat speed drops to 14 kn.

"Drop the motor and go head to wind.   I'll dump the sails and we will motor into the next marina."

Linda slows the boat as she turns into the wind so we are dead in the water.   "27 knots!   It's blowing 27 knots right in front of the marina."   There was a note of incredulity in her voice.   It sort of juxtaposed the 3 bursts of laughter (hysteria maybe, but well earned.) that I had heard from her earlier.  "Full main and jib, phew."

There you have it:  

About 20 nautical miles.  

75 minutes.   Nearly 1/2 in the last 30 minutes.  

"Zone of death", all of it.  

Incredible job of driving, an amazing boat and a wonderfully heads-up job of planning by yours truly <cough>.

They say after a near death experience, passions run high.   Wouldn't know as we were both wrung dry, cold, hungry and only just staggered to a local motel to collapse.   My last memory as we walked from the boat was that the wind in the rigging had a different tone.   It wasn't the melody of dreams and challenges.   Wasn't the sing song of hums and the occasional slap of a stray halyard.   This sound was pitched several notes higher.   More like an eerie keening siren song to come out and play.   

The shudder that passed through me was, I am sure, just from being cold.


*Today I sent the pets back to the boat to recover the data and track of this part of our trip from the Garmin Chart Plotter.   It is gone.   The track ends midway between Lopez Channel and Smith Island, near where we had started to alter course to go home via Deception Pass.   When we were near Smith Island, I recall that the arrival time for the nav point that was set off Admiralty Head was just over 3 hours at our then 6 kn ground speed and we would arrive there at 1850.   We actually arrived at the mouth of the marina at 1830, traveling an extra 7+ nm.  

The Pets were in a bit of a dither but I wasn't all that concerned.   The female did a smooth job of driving me and there was room to either head deep or head up to reef  should that have been really necessary (thanks to the way my main sail is rigged).   The male had, as usual plotted the most direct route and laid down the gauntlet to travel same.   I'm always up for it and now, so are they.   Moxie