Sailing the San Juans: Days 4-7

This is the second half of our sailing school log, describing our excellent outing with San Juan Sailing. Day 1-4 is here, and below is a map of our 7-day journey.

San Juans Map

Day 4: Roche Harbor to Friday Harbor

Roche Harbor is amazing – more huge power yachts there than anyplace else I’ve seen. There must be more than a billion dollars worth of fiberglass and wood floating in the marina.

We woke up the morning of day 4 to more testing – the offshore cruising certification exam. If you have to take a test, doing so on deck, with coffee, sunshine and seagulls for company is not a bad way to go!

We spent the morning of day 4 on docking and close handling practice, then when we finally saw some wind after lunch, sailed for the afternoon. Our destination was the far side of the island, Friday Harbor, the largest town in the San Juan Islands.

Roche Harbor
Roche Harbor

Day 5: Friday Harbor to Rosario Bay

We had time for more docking and close handling work in Friday Harbor, then headed out for our next port. I had the chance to be the decision maker on this one; we needed to determine whether to shoot the San Juan Channel south, with the current, and around the island the long way, or instead sail the shorter northeast route to that night’s harbor. The distance on the longer route was too great for a reasonable day of travel – would have required more motoring time – so we chose the shorter, less picturesque journey and more sailing time.

We started working on man-overboard drills under sail, as well as ships’ system knowledge in preparation for our final test. I sucked at my first attempt at sail-based man overboard recovery – I managed to lose the (floating) boathook overboard as well. Zach redeemed the family honor by recovering both it and the fender with the long-handled scrub brush. Go, Zach!

By the way, we did man overboard practice with a fender – a floating buoy, which we named “Chicken”. “Chicken Fender”. Creative, huh? Apparently most classes name it “Bob”. ;)

We headed first for Spencer Spit, on San Juan Island, but it wasn’t sheltered from the expected wind, so we sailed on north to Rosario Bay, where we had the bonus of *showers*. Did I mention that I love a long, hot shower?

Jeri Helm
Moran Mansion

Day 6: Rosario Bay to Chuckanut Bay

Rosario Bay was lovely, and sunrise on the still water was spectacular. I’m using the first shot below as my desktop wallpaper now, it will remind me of the peaceful and soul-renewing qualities of our journey.

We set sail for the mainland to drop anchor in Chuckanut Bay for our last night – the boat needed to be back by 1pm and we wanted a short final journey on that last day. En route, we passed the historic schooner Zodiac – *that* is some serious sailing!

Rosario Sunrise
Schooner Zodiac

Day 7: Chuckanut Bay to Bellingham

Our final exam was to take the boat in ourselves while the instructor slept in. In practice, this wasn’t quite the case; she wanted to see a couple more man overboard drills and a couple more docking drills. Still, we did the majority of the sailing and navigation without assistance.

We were on the books for Rick to be skipper, me navigator, Zach mechanic and Travis deckhand. Since it was final exam day, we tossed it all up in the air and left it up to consensus. Rick and I were both decent open water sailors at this point, but he was better at close handling and would be better able to dock at the fuel dock and slip – I was fine w/ him remaining skipper. I was the fastest and most accurate navigator, although Zach was a close second, so I remained navigator. Zach and Travis shared their responsibilities.

Mt Baker

We made it back to Bellingham uneventfully, with an excellent (and unusual) morning wind all the way. I am now certified at all three levels – basic sailing, offshore cruising and bareboat charter, while Zach and Travis are certified at the first two levels and can retake the third (at no cost, I believe) when they’re 18.

There’s an independent study advanced navigation course, and an advanced coastal cruising course, offered fall and spring – Zach and I might see about booking that for next spring. :)

For more pictures, go to my Flickr photoset.

5 Responses to “Sailing the San Juans: Days 4-7”

  1. Vince Says:

    I’m glad you had such a good time and learned so much.

  2. Mom Says:

    WOW! Beautiful pictures! The sailers certainly look capable and at ease. Am I envious or what? Ahem, I was on that Zodiak two different trips….Nice! Mom

  3. Joan Tench Says:

    Happy Birthday, Jeri,

    I so enjoyed hearing of your sailing adventures last night as we chatted over the fence in the almost full moon light. I’m reminded of that ‘mystery’ neighbor in Tim Allen’s, Home Improvement….over the fence tidbits.

    The Psalmist writes: “how precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered.” “You saw me before I was born. Everyday of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

    You are precious, Jeri

  4. Jeri Says:

    Vince, the learning curve was steep and a ton of fun.

    Mom, I thought of you when I figured out the boat was the Zodiac. :)

    Joan, we’d need a taller fence. ;) ::hugs::

  5. Tom Says:

    Jeri, WOW! The scenery, the sailing, the pictures. Absolutely fabulous. I’m going to keep this in mind for some special time in the future. I’ve done minimal small boat sailing, but learning and sailing they larger boats would be something to look forward to. Now you can look backwards as well!