Going around Whidbey Island on a boat


It’s a beautiful weekend here in the PNW, and it’s time to get out there.  This past weekend was the “Round Whidbey” race, which starts off Deception Pass and goes around the South end of the Island, and back to Oak Harbor.  Well, it goes back there if you have enough wind.  More on that later.

So the start was sunny…..but not a lot of wind.  The committee boat was going to postpone the start, to wait for more wind. But then at the last minute they decided to get going at 9am anyway….which is why all the boats are so far from the start line up there by the yellow bouy.  We were all out of position due to the postponement and we didn’t have wind to get up to the line for a screaming start

The light air start of the race

So we had a slow drifting start.

We took and inside course this year, having been caught too many times on the outside route.  But this year 80% of the fleet when out…and they found wind and sailed away from us.   Sigh. That’s racing.  

But we crossed to Port Townsend popped the spinnaker and headed South.  We did pretty well picking our line through the current and passed most of the boats who were with us.

Round Whidbey 013

So when we got to the South end of Whidbey Island, there was the whole fleet that had sailed away from us in the morning.  Sure they got there early, but the wind died and current pushed them South of the bouy where they need to turn North.   What’s more, we had a great angle on the bouy, and as we approached we where the inside boat to go around…and the wind was light…but filling in behind us.  That means that we were able to slowly sail along with the leading edge of the wind….and as we’d come up on each boat….they would finally get wind…but we had momentum and would pass them before they could get going.   The result was us leading a long line of boats around the mark.

Round Whidbey 038

Nice way to spend a Saturday evening.

Of course, then the wind died.  😉  So we made spaghetti, and ate while the sun went down

Sunset but the race goes on

Now boat races don’t end when the sun goes down. We just turn on the little red and green running lights, and keep going.  About 10pm, as the full moon was rising, a 6mph wind came down from the North….the direction we need to go…but can’t sail directly.   This started an all night, slow motion, tacking duel between the entire fleet.  So here’s the way this works, you can’t go North, you have to sail at 45-degree angles to the wind, tacking back and forth, trying to get more wind than everyone else and get further North faster than everyone else does.  Boats can all be next to each other….or they might be on opposite tacks. In which case they will cross paths in the middle.  And Often you can’t tell who’s ahead until the last minute as you approach the other boats to cross.  And in the dark it’s even harder to see what’s happening. 

I don’t have pictures to share….as it was too dark.  Lets say I spend a lot of time on the bow peering into the night looking for sails and running lights of other boats, trying to see if we were going to cross ahead of them or behind.  It was a blast.   But I was also happy to take my turn napping from 1am to 4am.

When I got up, I took over the helm, and was surprised to see how little the fleet had gotten North….despite all the tacking.  There is a current to fight….and with light winds it’s hard.   And in the early morning hours, the wind died again.

My watch mate and I were able to follow a wind shear line. (you can see them out on the water} and were able to pull away from several boats.  But then the wind died again South of the entrance to Saratoga Passage. So I went below and baked cinnamon roles for the crew.  Funny thing about sleep deprived sailors. They think any food is good.

And that’s where we had to make the call at 9am.

We were 18 nautical miles from the finish line.  You have to be there by 1pm.  Four hours. We had to average 4.5 knots to cross the line in time. We had 2 knots of wind and a boat speed of .83 knots.  The forecast was for calm winds.  The waters were mirror flat.  Now we love to sail, but we’re not stupid.  We can drift around baking in the sun, and have pretty much no chance of finishing. Then we’d have a long cruise back to Everett.   Or we could just pack it in now, revel in catching the fleet at the mark and the all night tacking duel.  So we said, we’re done.  Pulled in all the sails and headed for home to spend Sunday recovering. 

All in all it was a blast.  Here’s to more wind next year.  A race is always more fun with wind.

On the ride home Karin asked, “Hey why don’t we race our boat?”    🙂   I love my wife.   Anyone want to crew for me?

2 thoughts on “Going around Whidbey Island on a boat

  1. I like seeing you out there having such a good time, Dan dear. It looks so peaceful out there in all that quiet and water. I wish I wasn’t so afraid of the water, but that the way it is. But I’m sure glad you’re not.Mama

  2. Sounds like you had an entirely wonderful weekend!!! Good for you.

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