Decadent Living

by on 22/02/10 at 4:26 pm

My timing of the tides and currents through the San Juans en route to Seattle proved to be masterful and heroic in scale… yet deficient in one particular: Spieden Channel.

I’d worked out our trip from Sidney to Seattle precisely accounting for the tides and currents at Sidney, through Haro Straight, down San Juan Channel, and into Admiralty Inlet, taking into consideration the behaviors of Rosario Strait and Deception Pass just in case conditions militated our entrance into one of those two bodies instead. I felt confident that we actually would get to Seattle that day, late, to be sure, a long day, a very long day, no doubt, but entirely possible. At the very least, we would make it across the Strait of Juan de Fuca for a short overnight stop in Port Townsend before making the last leg quickly the following morning.

But I forgot about Spieden Channel.

I didn’t really forget about it, of course, I just discounted it. We’ve been through there a few times, and it’s always been sedate. We were just lucky. Today, after a fast crossing of Haro Strait from Sidney, seeing the water boiling up in front of us though the channel was sheltered from the shrill northern wind, I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. Too late, I pulled out my copy of Coast Pilot 7 and looked up Spieden Channel. “The meeting of the flood currents, which flow E from Haro Strait and W from San Juan Channel, cause heavy tide rips and eddies. This channel is not recommended for sailing craft.”


So we slogged our way through it at about a knot, getting in to the Customs dock at Friday Harbor almost two hours later than I had planned, throwing the entire rest of my carefully honed schedule into disarray. Sailing is like that.

So, we decided to stop and get a burger and a slip for the night.

We’ve been living pretty decadently this trip, mostly because we can; it’s the off-season, and all the yacht clubs with which our own has reciprocal moorage agreements have guest slips standing empty, just waiting for us. So in Silva Bay, Sidney, and now here in Friday Harbor, we’ve indulged in the luxury of a solid tie-up, where in the summer we’d be lucky for a spot to anchor within dinghy range. Of course, in the summer we wouldn’t be madly in love with AC space heaters that require shore power, either. Still, it feels very decadent to just stop here for the night and go out on the town, when we had expected a hard day of sailing still ahead of us.

In fact, I haven’t even unlashed the anchor from its perch on the bow pulpit this trip. We’ve either found free moorage (well, everywhere but Vancouver) or an open buoy at a state or provincial park. I don’t really mind anchoring, but I won’t pretend that it isn’t easier and more certain to tie up at a dock or mooring ball.

Strangely, the prospect of being back in our own slip at our home marina doesn’t have quite the same allure. Maybe it’s the knowledge that the trip will be over and work will again loom at that point. Still, if we make it back there without dropping the anchor anywhere in between (which seems likely at this point) it will mark a first for us… we’ve never taken a trip before where we didn’t anchor out somewhere. Decadent, indeed.

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