Scouting Mission

ferry in thatcher pass

Passing a ferry as I motor through Thatcher Pass.

I spent this last week anchored within walking distance of the property that I’m thinking of buying. We’re like two people courting one another. Right now we’re getting to know the other. If we like each other enough, we might get married.


I walked around the property, erecting and demolishing buildings in my mind’s eye. I followed the lay of the land, imagining where runoff water would flow and how it might be better directed. Over the week, I visited the site at different times of the day, to observe how the angle of the sun played out in order to discover the sunniest location for solar panels and a garden. Assuming the sale goes through, I think I’ve got a solid plan of attack to build a garden, root cellar, and foul weather shelter/guest house.


I also got a good feel for the anchorage. Good holding, but there is a drastic shelf from 30 feet to 10 feet in depth, which makes anchoring a little tricky. While I was there, a squall rolled through with sustained 25 knot winds from the most exposed direction. It’s nothing I hadn’t been through, and all-in-all not too uncomfortable. NOAA eventually issued a small craft advisory, but it escaped their morning forecast.


Mantus Anchor

A Mantus anchor. Photo source:

Because of the suddenness of the squall, I pulled out my backup Mantus anchor and was unpleasantly shocked to realize that I was missing all the bolts! I didn’t really plan on using it. I was just trying to be proactive by assembling it. Thank goodness too. Now I can correct the issue before it bites me.


As the storm hit its peak, the wind turbine sang along, putting out its maximum of 500 watts. With batteries fully charged, I turned on the ice maker and started a movie marathon! Nature is a fickle giver of energy. When she gives it to you, you need to use it.


This is also a good time to point out that I have an incredible amount of trust in my ground tackle. I use a 7.5kg Bruce with 30 feet of 5/16” chain. My 27 foot boat only displaces 6000 pounds. I have no room for a windless, so I must bring in my anchor hand-over-hand. This configuration is also the most weight I feel I can comfortably handle. This rig has seen me over two years, to Desolation Sound and back, and has only drug twice. Both times were under similar conditions and I have since learned what I was doing wrong.


Bruce Anchor

A Bruce anchor. Photo source:

The Mantus is essentially a Rocna that unbolts into three parts. At 25 pounds, it’s significantly oversized for my boat. I got it because I have limited room and liked its collapsing ability. However, if I was to go on land and turn my back on the boat in the kind of conditions I experienced, I would want to deploy it in tandem with the Bruce in a V-configuration off the bow.


I spent the week like this, alternating between working on the boat while doing scouting missions to the island. I’m still waiting on paperwork to finalize the sale, so I’m keeping the location secret until then. Once it goes through though, I’ll disclose the location and encourage all sailors to come for a visit.


Sailing Rosario Strait double reefed main

Sailing across Rosario Strait with a double-reefed main and the 100% jib.

On Tuesday morning, I sailed back to the mainland with both the tide and wind at my back. The clouds broke, the sun came out, and the wind stayed steady. I crossed Rosario Strait back to Anacortes in record time.


I left the anchorage with both reefs set in the main sail, as it’s much easier to take them out than put a reef in while under sail, particularly when running down wind. With my 100% jib flying it was the perfect amount of canvas for this downwind sail. As I drew closer to the mainland, the wind died down and I released the reefs as more canvas was called for. As a cruiser, and not a racer, I care more about comfort than speed, so I generally run under-canvased.


For downwind runs, I like to have the mainsail small and the mainsheet pulled tight. This provides ballast and catches lighter gusts of wind. I’ll then select the size of jib sail I want to fly based off the wind conditions. I can position the jib on the edge of luffing in order to catch as much wind as possible, and I can take my eyes off it for a while because my tight mainsail is there to maintain steering control if wind speed or direction suddenly changes.


As I entered Guemes channel, a heavy current was still with me. But a large, dark cloud was slowly making its way north along the mainland coast. This squall shifted the wind 180 degrees so that now it was blowing hard in my face, opposing the current, and making the waves boxy and uncomfortable. I dropped the jib, reefed the main again, and fired up the engine. The tiny bit of main added ballast and helped Solace cut through the chop.

Related posts:

Square Cove - Guemes Island
Rosario Resort - A Honeymoon Destination!
Adventures at the Friday Harbor Film Festival
5 Responses to “Scouting Mission”
  1. Exciting times, Chris! We can’t wait to see what transpires and to come make plum wine from your vineyard some day!

    – Katie and Mark

  2. Enily says:

    Dude i really hate only having one reef point in my main and a roller furler jib it makes me pretty much always over canvased. I’m definitely going to get a new main and hope to learn how to roll with the furler…

    • Chris says:

      You should give some serious thought into ditching the roller furling and swap it out for hank-on sails. Furlers are a convenient technology, but they will always fail you in the worst possible situation. Hank-on sails are more reliable, but bulkier. It’s a trade off that every sailor has to make. I carry 4 jib sails to balance my canvas based on the weather. A lot of blue water sailors sing the praises of hank-on over furlers.

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