Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016 May Edition of the Good Life Magazine: A Sail in the San Juans

**This article was written for the Good Life Magaine, May 2016 edition**

I started to fall in love with sailboats during middle school. In art class, I would spend hours painting watercolors of sloops, schooners and colonial trading vessels. I would sketch small figures in striped shirts manning the decks and would imagine that it was me. My art teacher told me that, in dream psychology, boats represent a desire to escape and be free. That revelation couldn’t have felt any closer to my own personal 13 year-old truth.  This was also about the time when my family acquired a small, single-sailed Sunfish. During the hot summer weekends, my dad would load the small craft into the back of the truck and would take us sailing on Crystal Lake. On windier days, we would race the little boat as fast as possible to see how far she would lean before catching water in her sails; eventually swamping or flipping. Over time, our family dynamics evolved. Weekends of taking the little sailboat out on the water made way for pre-college employment and other teenage distractions. The Sunfish was eventually sold and my sailing days came to an end. However, in the years that followed, I found myself gravitating toward the water now and again, if only to admire the beautiful sailboats that were moored along every coast that I have ever visited. I kept having this urge to jump aboard the deck, throw the lines loose and sail away on some epic deep sea adventure….but it never happened; until recently.
Robin Kodner has been my best friend since college. She is a take-charge kind of woman and her adventurous spirit never ceases to amaze me. During grad school on the East Coast, Robin found herself leading multi-week sailing courses for Outward Bound during her summer vacations. After graduation, she crewed for a private family and spent time sailing around the Canary Islands and various other exotic locations. For years, we have joked about running away and becoming pirates; two women on the high seas with wind in our sails and salt in our hair. So it came as no surprise, when she found herself permanently residing in Bellingham that she would end up as a partner in a 3-way boat share of a 38 foot sloop named ‘Arpege’.  
Peg is a beauty. Built in the 70’s, her interior is composed of impeccable mahogany with sleeping space for 5 people, a small kitchen and an even smaller ‘head’ (bathroom). Her lines are classic and graceful and her previous owners showed obvious care for her (including all new upholstery and a full engine rebuild). Although a financial stretch for a single, professional woman, Robin couldn’t refuse her and drained a good portion of her savings to both purchase the boat and pay for moorage. During the first months of ownership, Robin defaulted to her more experienced boat partners and never took Peg out in Bellingham Bay or the San Juans without a few additional crew members to help out with the lines and the rigging. But when mid-summer arrived, I could tell that Robin was itching to become the captain of her own vessel.  I talked her into taking me out on an overnight sail as her only crew member. Just the two of us, like we had always imagined.
My summer work schedule is hectic. I am often limited to trips that can happen within 36 hours or less from door-to-door. I knew that taking on an overnight sailing trip in this amount of time was pushing the limits of what was logistically possible coming from Leavenworth. But the idea of taking Peg into the San Juans with my best friend was too good to pass up. I was in my car by 10 AM on a Monday morning in July. By about 1 PM I was at Robin’s house. By 2:30 PM we were loading up the boat and throwing off the lines. The weather was sunny and bright with a variable wind of 5 to 10 knots. The water was flat and glassy; a perfect afternoon for sailing.
We tacked our way across Bellingham Bay and crossed Lummi Channel with a favorable wind. Peg glided through the water at a reasonable pace and we only needed to tack one time while shooting through the narrow channel between Lummi and Eliza islands. We set ourselves on course for Vendovi Island, a remote private island that is now held in a preservation trust. We reached Vendovi without incident and went on a quick hike around some of the most amazing, pristine forest I have ever visited. All vistas on Vendovi looked out over the water and the multitude of small islands that dot the Washington coast. Vendovi closes to the public at sunset with no overnight moorage available, so we hopped aboard Peg and motored our way back over to Lummi Island where we spent the night anchored in Inati Bay. We entered Inati just as the sun was sinking into the water; the heavens ablaze in oranges, reds and purples. The night entered the sky clear and calm, with the stars in full array across the horizon. I fell asleep to the gentle swing of the boat on its bow line as Peg swayed back and forth with the surging tide.
In the morning, we awoke to an unforeseen bout of weather. Although Inati Bay was calm, we could see that the Lummi Channel was surging with five to six foot swells and a wind blowing a steady 20 knots in the wrong direction. Feeling slightly out of my league as first mate, we motored across the channel and only raised the sails after passing into calmer waters, coasting gently back to Bellingham.

True to plan, I was back in Leavenworth by Tuesday afternoon having completed my first overnight sail with one of my favorite people. This summer we plan on sailing together out to the Sucia Islands. It’s our practice trip for when we really do run away and become pirates. 

No comments:

Post a Comment