A bunch of us small boaters got together for the annual Pocket Yacht Palooza in Port Townsend. And then about a third as many went on a short cruise together for a few days.
It was an excellent show. Not as big as in its pre-covid heyday, but larger than last year, with a wide range of boat types and sizes to check out, and many enjoyable conversations were had with very experienced small boaters. It was also better attended by the public this year, thanks to the efforts of Lee Bjorklund getting the word out. Thanks Lee for organizing these events this year!
I actually bought a little Portage Pram from Lee at the show. I was planning on building something similar as a tender for our Lavro Dory this winter, so this saved me a bunch of work. It only weighs about 38 pounds and is known to be a good load carrying and rowing pram. Thanks twice Lee!
There were also a few cool boats on the beach.
Although not part of the show, there was also a really nice Joel White designed Shearwater rowing boat on the shore at the Maritime Center.
Cruise to Mystery Bay
There were around 12 boats that joined the cruise this year, and we all headed from Port Townsend to Mystery Bay on Marrowstone Island for the first night. I got a late start, not launching until nearly 11 am. I had not packed a thingo until that morning. Good thing too, because there was a solid wall of fog earlier in the morning across the bay.
I rowed the first few miles across the bay, south toward Indian Island. On the way across I was joined by new friend Larry in his 18’ Hereshoff America Catboat, sans sailing rig. He was using it as a motor boat for this trip. I was glad more boats were not close to me that were that attractive to take pictures of, or I would never have been able to set my camera down and get back to the oars. Apparently fellow pocket yachter and friend Marty Loken had a hand in painting this boat. Although fiberglass, it looked like a wood craft. I learned that Larry also has a 25′ Blue Jacket motorboat, which is another design I admire. We had much in common.
The tide was coming in most of the day, and was flushing hard into Kilisut Harbor through the narrow channel between Rat Island and Indian Island. I hung out in the eddy at the point, waiting for a big power boat to muscle its way against the current and out of the channel, before rowing in. I beached on Rat Island for a short break and a snack, before continuing on. Rat Island was just teaming with bird life this year. Gulls and terns were in the thousands, and there were a multitude of seals in the current, protecting a large number of seal pups.
There was a little bit of wind out of the north, so not long after leaving the beach I raised sail, heading south, and had a really nice sail to Mystery Bay. It was such a nice wind that I sailed a bit deeper into Mystery Bay before coming back to the beach at the park.
Many of our group spent the day and next night on the Mystery Bay State Park dock. I and two others of our group opted to beach our boats, and anchor out in the evening. In the picture below all three boats are using anchor buddies (basically giant 50′ long bungee cords), to keep them from going dry as the tide goes out. They take a bit of experience to use. The trick is to not row or motor against the bungee cord coming to the beach. After setting your anchor with the anchor buddy attached, spool out enough additional rode to reach the beach without stretching the bungee. Get your beach/retrieval line attached to your boat and at hand. Then haul in your anchor rode by hand, stretching the bungee until it is very tight. Attach the rode to your bow, push your boat out, and let the bungee pull your boat offshore, spooling out your shore line in your hand. Next, fix the shore line via another anchor in the shore sand, or a beach log, and you are ready to retrieve your boat when needed. A very handy tool indeed, that makes it so you don’t have to constantly tend your boat when the tide is dropping.
Here is another shot of Kent rowing his Walter Piel. I fell in love with his boat last year during this event.
While hanging out in Mystery Bay my friend Randy and his wife got out on Stewball, their Flatiron Skiff.
And just like a year ago, some local folks also brought down their lovely sharpie.
On my last little dinghy cruising trip in May out to Sucia, I froze, particularly at night. And on this first day, and the following three, we all roasted. It was nearly 80 degrees, which is blazing hot for around here, particularly when it is reflecting off the water for hour after hour at you. I hung out in the shade as much as possible at Mystery Bay, and started to think about how I could add some shade option to my dinghy. My friend Roger had put up a little orange shade in the bow to tuck under that looked smart.
After a pleasant afternoon of chatting with my fellow boat heads, I made dinner and then rowed out to my anchorage spot for the night.
And I slept great, which was a relief compared to my last trip. I had bought a new sleeping pad, that was warm and much more comfortable on my hips and shoulders. And my new gear compartments kept the foot zone of my bed clear.
Both Roger and I considered not putting up our tents that night because it was so warm. But it was a good thing we did, because there was a very heavy dew that night. Our tents were soaked in the morning.
Next Day to Port Hadlock-Irondale
Nearly all of our group was planning on moving on the next day, and that required getting going early, to make sure we did not get stuck by an incoming tide at the entrance to Kilisut Harbor. I cheated and rowed straight up the middle of Kilisut Harbor, while my fellow boaters that had keels had to wind around the marked channel to avoid going aground. It was going to be a negative tide that morning.
And in fact, on the way out, I came across a 26′ Thunderbird, that draws 5′, that had sailed wide of the channel and ground out. They would have to wait for several hours for the tide to come back up to lift them off. And hopefully with that deep narrow keel that boat did not have further problems as the tide dropped. Sketchy situation.
We all had a good sail down to Port Hadlock-Irondale. At one point the wind picked up to about 13mph, and there were some rolling waves coming behind me. I decided to put in a reef because my rudder was getting very heavy in the gusts. Lee got the nice picture of my boat below shortly after the waves mellowed.
Most of the group stopped in Hadlock and received what was apparently a wonderful tour of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building. Since I live in the area and am familiar with the school, and Roger attended the school, we both skipped the tour and kept on sailing with the wind and tide through the PT Ship Canal.
On to Port Ludlow
Once on the other side, we decided to take a little break before heading on south to Port Ludlow. I was following Roger, and when I caught up with him I could swear he was anchored. But in fact he was just hove-to, using his mizzen and mainsail to just hover in essentially a fixed spot, against the wind and current. Not having that ability I sailed in closer to shore and anchored, to have some lunch. For about a half hour Roger just stayed mostly in place until I was underway again. That is a great feature of a boat with a mizzen sail. It was very cool to see, and will be a feature on a future boat of mine.
Roger and I continued on down the coast, with a really nice breeze behind us. Eventually I had to pull out my reef as the wind started to die off close to Port Ludlow. But there was just enough wind to make it. We pulled up to the dinghy dock, stretched out our legs, and bought some ice creams at the store. Hanging out in the shade we ran into good friends Tina and Marty, who were back in their slip on their beautiful motor sailor Raven, having recently return from one of three cruises they were doing this summer. We enjoyed a glass of wine with them in their nicely shaded cockpit, and talked boats.
We may have poked a bit of fun at all the power boat owners who only seem to know how to turn their boats when docking by using bow and stern thrusters. I used to sell big contactor/solenoid switches, and many were sold to replace those in bow thrusters that were burned out from doing that. Thrusters really are not designed to run for long periods, just short little bursts. But with so many new boaters entering the market in big expensive boats, it is not surprising I guess. If you don’t learn on small boats first, handling a big boat with lots of windage at the dock must be very stressful.
Next Roger and I made our way deeper into Port Ludlow Bay where there is a little park that we could beach our boats, and we set on out on a short hike.
There are many trails around Port Ludlow that a boater can explore. It makes it a nice destination. On a little boat like mine, I must be able to get off the boat and stretch my legs, or it just becomes too uncomfortable after a few days. Particularly when the sun was so blazing hot as it had been these few days.
We were able to hike through mostly woods to the other side of the bay and up a little hill in the trees, a wonderful respite from the sun.
On our hike Roger and I talked a bit about how uncomfortable small boating can be at times, and yet we keep coming back to it, and love it. But we constantly are thinking and talking about what solutions the next boat might provide to make it more comfortable and fun.
Small boating is such an interesting blend of joy and sometimes misery. You certainly are more in tune with the water and environment, which can be a double edged sword.
Finally it was time to head back, find our anchorages for the night, have some dinner while the sun still roasted us, and put up our tents for a good night’s sleep. Port Ludlow has some beautiful little wooded islands you can anchor next to. The downside is a bit of traffic noise from the road above. There were also a few kayakers out at sunset who were enjoying the bio-luminescence light show in the water, but did not seem to be concerned about talking loudly around our tents as we tried to catch some winks.
Back to Port Townsend
Hearing that the next day was going to be even hotter, with less wind for sailing and to cool us off, we decided to cut our trip a day short from initial plans.
I had another excellent sleep that night and woke about 4:30am. Poking my head out the tent door I was treated to a wonderful sight of the a fully visible moon with just a crescent shining, and a star below.
I packed away my sleeping gear and made some freeze dried eggs and bacon. The last time I had these it was kind of like egg and bacon soup, which is actually pretty dang good when you are starving. This time though I noticed the last line of instruction said to “drain off excess water”. Oh, that makes more sense. Much better!
I finished up with a cup of coffee and pulled the tent down and the anchor up. Rowing over to Roger I explained my plan to row like hell so that I could make it before the change of tide at the PT ship canal at 9am, and set off.
The sun was a blazing orb of hateful vengeance from the get-go. I was in long sleeves and sunscreen, and had a neck gator all the way over my head, leaving just a gap for my face, at 6am. Hats don’t do much good at these low sun angles.
I rowed nearly nine miles, in a little under three hours, in mostly calm waters. Other than a few seal heads, I did not see any wildlife or other boaters. I had the last of the outgoing tide with me, but a bit of a light headwind the last four miles. That effort brought me to the PT ship canal. Fortunately I had made it in time, the current was still flowing a bit my way, and I easily rowed through the canal. If you time this wrong you can be up against a 3-5 knot current.
I rowed over to Chimacum Creek, thinking I might row up it a bit, tuck into some shade, and have lunch. But it was a negative tide, and there was no Chimacum Creek, just a long tidal flat. Right then a light wind picked up, so I decided to sail on. Unfortunately it only took me about a mile before dying and I ended up rowing the majority of the way back to Port Townsend, a 16 mile day.
Later I learned that Roger had taken his time coming back up the coast. He had planned on waiting for enough water to rise to pass through the new cut and under the bridge that is between Marrowstone and Indian Islands. He mentioned regretting that decision because he had to hang out at anchor for five hours in the blazing sun.
Small Boating Is a Mindset, That Does Not Always Show Up
While I normally try to immerse myself in nature on these trips, during this adventure my mind was pretty obsessively focused on thoughts of other boats, and how I might improve my experience. I had a stressful feeling when sailing, and overall was in a bit of a funk. The sun was torturous, and that is not said without experience. I lived in Tucson, AZ for nine years. And while the rowing was not too strenuous, my mind was very focused on how long I could keep doing it. And the seating in this boat, despite my changes to it, is still fairly uncomfortable after a few days. I could not drag my mind out of a suffering mindset. Sometimes it happens.
I did really enjoy meeting a number of new boating friends at the Palooza and this cruise. I was also very happy with the recent modification I had made to my gear storage on the boat, and my improved sleeping pad situation. I slept so much better.
The benefit of some lightweight first world “suffering” is the huge appreciation it brings for basic comforts. Once home, I could only marvel at the endless shade provided by our home’s roof, the very cushy sofa, the not bucket toilet, fresh cooked food, a big comfy bed, and the easy company of my wife and dog. A home is a wonderful machine of comfort and efficiency.
As for my boat and its discomforts, I am going to stick with it for a number of more years, learn to work within its limitations, and continue to improve it in little ways. And come at it with a better mindset.
Still, as I get older, I will need a more comfortable camp cruising sailboat that is more stable, and less dependent on human power. I have been drawing up plans for that boat for awhile, which I will share when I start building it.
Future Boat Improvements
As per usual, I came back from this trip with a list of improvements I want to make to the boat before next time, having completed the list from last time to my satisfaction.
- Add some air vents to the tent, for humidity control when it is closed up
- Get a better ice cooler situation
- Taper the looms on the oars for better balance, in addition to the lead I already put in the handles
- Consider some shade options on the boat that can be put up quickly and moved around
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