Sailing the San Juans: Days 1-3

As some of you may know, Zach and I went to sailing school this August.

What we really wanted to to was charter a sailboat and live aboard, but our basic sailing skills weren’t quite up to the task, so we chose a learn and cruise sailing class from San Juan Sailing. It was a great experience – a lot of work, but very rewarding. We finished up the week with three levels of US Sailing Association certification – Basic Keelboat Sailing, Offshore Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering.

We departed Saturday, August 22, from Bellingham. Our boat was the Sundance, a 37′ Jeanneau cutter – a beautiful, late-model, three cabin boat. Our instructor, Captain Leslie Senn, was excellent – very knowledgeable, patient and supportive.

The below was, eventually, our course through the San Juans – and it was beautiful, sunny, warm, and breezy every afternoon. (Although I would have preferred more wind in the mornings – Zach and I both share a distaste for operating a sailboat under motor just because you have a destination to reach.)

San Juans Map

Day 1: Bellingham Bay to Sucia Island

We arrived in Bellingham the first day at 11am, ready to take our first test – which we passed. :) We loaded our gear on our beautiful boat, stored our provisions, and headed out to the sea and sun. We began learning immediately – close handling, maneuvering under motor, sail handling, and learning the points of sail.

At night, there were about fifty other boats anchored in the bay as well. The sailboats all turned on their white anchor light, at mast-top. Combined with a clear sky thick with stars, the glassy water, and the dead quiet, it was spectacular out on the water – I could could have stayed up in the cockpit to drink it in for hours.

Sucia Sunset

Day 2: Sucia Island to Stuart Island

We took the dinghy ashore in the morning for a hike, since it was foggy out in the strait, then raised anchor and headed further west.

We began in earnest to learn more about sailing and boat handling. We started man-overboard drills, practiced more sail handling, and each assumed what would be our rotating daily duties – skipper, navigator, mechanic, deckmate/chef. (I love navigation – makes me an odd duckling, I’m sure. I plan on taking the advanced and even-more-advanced classes.)

Sucia looking north
Reid Bay sunset

We made our way to Stuart Island for the night, found another peaceful spot to drop anchor, just offshore of an osprey’s nest.

Day 3: Stuart Island to San Juan Island/Roche Harbor

Our instructor kept us very busy, from 9am-ish to 9pm-ish, every day. After breakfast we did classroom work, practical drills, ship’s system work, and then set sail. My only down time was early morning, when I’d take a cup of coffee up above deck and enjoy the sunrise on the water – utterly lovely, and food for the soul.

 Reid Harbor
Jeri and Zach

The afternoon of the third day we reserved a slip in Roche Harbor. The initial plan had been to anchor in Garrison Bay so I could do an open water swim, but we had great wind and decided to sail for the afternoon. Still, Roche Harbor was a priority because we wanted real showers. The ship’s head had a tiny handheld shower nozzle on the bathroom sink, with only a main and reserve 20 gallon holding tank, so showers onboard were really not a great option. We all were looking forward to that first long, hot shower on land!

To be continued, with days 4-7, here.

For more pictures, go to my Flickr photoset.

3 Responses to “Sailing the San Juans: Days 1-3”

  1. Janiece Says:

    Jeri’s a wannabe QM! Cool.

    I’m glad you guys had fun!

  2. Eric Says:

    Looks pretty spectacular! Bon voyage!

  3. Eric Says:

    And you’re back, and I’m an idiot.

    I’m glad it was a good trip. :-)