Depart La Conner approximately 1230 hours for Skookums first day sail out of her new port of call. The wind was blowing so when we untied from the dock Skookum immediately started swinging towards her marina neighbor forcing Captain Tim to make a precarious lean over the water to catch her and pull her back. Skookum is a big heavy boat and so despite giving her good power on the reverse she pointed her nose in the wrong direction as we backed out of our space. Undeterred the Captain just reversed out of our lane and pointed her towards the Swinomish channel and we were on our way.
The channel ride is about 7 miles heading north towards Padilla Bay and Anacortes. Near the end it passes under the Highway 20 bridge connecting the mainland to Fidalgo Island and just beyond that, sitting in the middle of the channel, is a train track bridge on a movable barge. The track is rarely closed because the train only serves the oil refinery further down the track which is good because it's too low for Skookum and her tall masts to pass underneath.
Once Skookum made her way out of the shallow waters of Padilla Bay and passed the town of Anacortes the wind really started to pick up. Since we were heading directly into it Skookum was crashing into some 5 and 6 foot wind waves making for an uncomfortable ride. Combine that with a current also working against her and our progress was painfully slow. By this time it was past 1400 hours and it was time to turn around.
And what a difference it made. The minute we turned her around the ride became ten times more comfortable and we were able to put up sail. With the wind at her tail we hoisted a sail and turned off the engine and finally did what we came out to do. Skookum moved twice as fast with the wind behind then she had driving into it.
For an enjoyable half an hour we sailed back the way we came and then turned toward the waters around Anacortes in the hope of more sailing before we headed back to the channel. But the area is full of little islands and we found a hole in the wind on the aft side of Huckleberry Island. We creeped along hoping to pick it up again but the once vigorous wind remained hiding behind the island like a shy teenager. In annoyance the Captain decided we would require some iron wind to get us away from the spot and so turned the key on the engine. SILENCE!
This is not a good sound on a boat who's only other source of power is the wind which does a terrible job of powering the batteries, hahaha. As the trusty First Mate kept the boat steered still looking for the elusive wind the Captain shucked his old hat and put on his Engineers Cap. ("We need more power Scotty. I'm giving her all she's got Captain!") Soon he's in the bilge playing with the batteries and sparks are flying. He yells to the first mate "turn her on" and presto the engine roars to life. (It pays to read the manual as the Captain was quick to point out to a non-manual reading First Mate.)
Having had an eventful enough day and wanting to get back to the marina in time for a nice barbecue and beer we turned Skookum towards the Swinomish and headed home. The wind behind us the boat moved quietly while we bird watched and enjoyed the sunshine. As we closed in on Highway 20 we were barely paying attention until the Captain says "Hey, does that train bridge look closed to you?" And as sure as there are tornadoes in trailer parks the train bridge was clearly closed and blocking our path.
So we started circling the narrow channel in Skookum until finally a train came along and crossed the tracks. After it had passed by we watched a man in an orange vest make his LEISURELY way back across the train bridge, all the way to the other side and finally into the control booth where he finally hit the shiny red button to turn the trestle sideways again. Thanks dude.
Then the final and wonderfully uneventful last leg back to La Conner where the wind had died and the water lay like glass in the marina. The Carne Asada tacos off Skookum's grill were outstanding washed down with a couple of cold ones in the sun. Good times.