A Swell Passage
When Shane got off work he began final preparations for our departure. We made it off the dock by 6pm. High tide was at 7pm at almost nine and a half feet – pretty intense!
As we left the marina, Shane was at the wheel and the boys and I were on the bow. It was a hot day, so the air felt so good. There was a bit of wind swell on our bow on the way out, with enough wind that a few boats were out with their sails up.
The kids and I eventually went into the pilot house to procure snacks. Once we got past Drayton Harbor the swell started to pick up. We were headed south outside Birch Bay with the waves on our beam. The wind and current started to increase in opposing directions. The waves got bigger once we were out of the protection of Point Robert’s shadow.
Taking the waves on our side, or the beam, was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. We were pitching from one side to the other with stacked waves that came relentlessly Shane decided to change course.
I am so grateful for Shane’s time as a white water guide, paddling on the mixed up waters of the Snoqualmie. Plus, his hundreds of hours paddling all of the the Puget Sound. He’s so good at reading the water. We needed that skill on Monday night! The Puget Sound is one giant river after all.
Shane pointed our bow west southwest, towards the waves. This made the ride more comfortable for a bit. His plan was to go upwind until we got to a point where we could turn back towards Sucia on an east southeast course. Then go with the following seas. The trip was longer, but much more tolerable.
The waves continued to pickup as we went. Once we got past Alden Bank and into the shipping lanes the water really started to get wild. It really looked like a river we were riding. They were steep, because of the current. Shane estimates at around six feet and with a short duration in between each.
Once while crossing the traffic lanes from Shilshole to Blake Island we had to cross over a freighter wake that was breaking close by. A few of the waves resembled that. Coco Mar did awesome. On the other hand, our paddleboard strap couldn’t hack it. On a set of a few water-over-the-bow type waves, the paddleboard tie down strap snapped, sending the board over the hooks, dangling from the bow.
Shane, already wearing a PFD had me take the wheel. He carefully went to secure the board while the bow continued to rock up and crash down. Once it was secure we carried on until we reached about two miles off of Patos when Shane turned us around to go downwind towards Sucia.
Shane still had to point the boat almost straight east to not let the boat roll too hard. He was having a blast surfing our boat on the waves. We made it almost to the neighboring island of Matia before we could turn back up towards Echo Bay, our final destination. Not before going through competing eddy lines.
We made it to our anchorage about an hour later than expected. Despite the rough conditions we were all in good spirits. Anchoring was quick and easy.
I made dinner with comfort foods for all of us. Shane and I debriefed while the kids watched a show in the salon.
We made a few mistakes that we will be sure to pay closer attention to next time. Stowing is an obvious mistake. We’re purchasing new straps for the paddleboard. Shane would have let it go in that sea state if it fell off entirely, but it was just one strap that made it dangle against our boat. Thankfully nothing was damaged.
I stow Dishy and it’s stand in our cabin on a table-type surface. At one point the stand flew off the table, even with the raised bumper sides. I’ll stow it on the bed during passages from now on. I also have a soda stream that is on a non-skid. The top heaviness of the appliance sent it flying on a beam wave. I’ll lay that flat in a locker.
Personally, I messed up in the nauseous department . The boys and I were doing a load of Shane’s paddle gear laundry in town, with a skatepark visit earlier in the afternoon. I decided we’d wait in the air conditioned Starbucks and have a treat for the final bit of drying. It was hot and I was tired. I ordered a black nitro brew coffee. It was delicious and I drank the whole thing around 4pm.
I have yet to be seasick on the boat. I was definitely seasick on Monday. I’ve read in multiple books that caffeine may cause nausea in rough seas. Knowing that I’ve always gone easy on the coffee before we head out. Wyatt can get pretty queasy in rough water. So, in the midst of wanting to throw up I was helping him with his seasick l bands, grabbing a bowl and telling him everything would be over soon.
He is such a trooper. Both the boys are. Kelly went into his cabin and got cozy while we bounced around. Wyatt eventually took a nap when we were surfing downwind.
I will be more aware of being seasick ready in the future. No one threw up and everyone kept a good attitude throughout.
As far as staying out of rough conditions goes, Shane said he should have known the wind opposing the current would make for uncomfortable cruising. However, the conditions were not what we expected. The wind was stronger than forecasted and the current was moving swifter than instruments we use was showing. Shane thought changing course earlier might have helped. Ultimately, for how often we are out on the water, things will happen. We’ll continue to do our best to grow as mariners.
Im grateful for Shane’s experience, creative thinking and positive attitude whenever we’re on the water. Also, for Coco Mar. The only other vessel we saw that night was a smaller sailboat off of Sucia. You could see the mast was swinging hard from side to side. Finally, I’m grateful for our beautiful cruising grounds in the San Juan Islands. It was so beautiful. We were gifted with an impressive sunset as we passed into the protection of Sucia.