Sailing through the San Juans

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High winds and beautiful weather

After several pre-trip meetings the group seemed well prepared for its epic journey through the San Juans. The weather forecast looked disastrous, so we were all well prepared. (The weather ended up being fantastic really. Maybe 45 minutes of rain in five days. Lots of wind though!) The theme of this week was challenge - and the kids knew they were being challenged in a big way for these five days.

We left the Catlin Gabel parking at 12:15 on Sunday morning with a bus full of kids -  most of them younger and inexperienced in the ways of sailing. We made the trip to Anacortes in about five hours. Sunday evening we walked in to town for some pizza, consumed outside the tiny pizza parlor in a biting wind. Everyone slept soundly that night in their warm boats, though.

Monday saw some brisk winds, and we sailed all the way around Orcas Island and set up camp on Jones Island. The winds were heavy enough that we had the mainsail reefed the whole day.

Tuesday we set out to sail around Shaw island - going clockwise. Our original plan had been to sail up into Canada and around South Pender Island, but the storm that was forecast made us change our minds. We had heavy winds (up to 28 knots) but no storm. One boat, smaller than the others, decided not to make the journey all the way around the island because of the winds and instead tied up at the dock on Shaw Island and did a little shopping run. That night we stayed again at Jones Island, and made a large campfire on the beach.

Wednesday was a busy day. We sailed to the head of Westsound, tied up our boats at the dock, and then walked up to the Helsell farm. We introduced ourselves and then made the hike up to Turtlehead. The view was spectacular. From there we walked down to the lake and did some rowing and wading  We visited the lumber mill, and received a demonstration before visiting the barn and the rope swing. Once back in the boat we sailed south to Spencer’s Spit State Park. That evening we had a campfire on the beach before going to sleep for the night. Each of the students shared their insights from the sailing experience with the group.

Thursday we had a gorgeous sail east across the straits of Rosario and into the Anacortes harbor. The boats were returned essentially intact to Anacortes Yacht Charters, but the students seemed to have been greatly affected by the experience.