A long way to go for a little bit of wind: Round Orcas 2020

We left Seattle on Thursday night with a nice breeze.
While we were heading north, we decided to head into Port Ludlow to anchor for the night, arriving under the last dribbles of light for the day and dropped the hook.
(Day 1: 24nm)
In the morning, we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and calm seas continuing our journey north.
We found some fog near Port Townsend that was a bit eerie knowing how much commercial shipping traffic there was around us, but we used our horn and listened to other ships, making it out clear of Marrowstone Island, and the fog. Grabbed some fuel in Port Townsend (which turned into great timing!) and headed back to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca!
While coming around Point Wilson, We saw a whale-watching boat heading out from PT. Soon after, we started seeing the boat coming our direction- we were near at least 4 orcas! Thankfully under full sail, and trying to keep our distance but yet simultaneously humbled and amazed at these beautiful creatures. Heading Southbound to follow the whales as they swam against the current was not in our plan, so we kept trucking on the ebb and headed towards Partridge Bank and Smith Island, the gatekeepers of the San Juans from the South. After putting Smith Island behind us, we continued on towards Middle Channel and San Juan Channel, managing to time the tidal switch with our arrival.
See orcas that we saw! (video link to google photos)
Soon, Shark Reef and Fisherman Bay would be astern as we neared our anchorage, turning slightly northeast into Upright Channel to go around the east side of Shaw Island. We quickly headed up and into Harney Channel, motoring over to West Sound, where we expected to see some friends anchored/rafted up for the night. We had gone right by them-they were anchored in Blind Bay on the North side of Shaw. Oops. So we motored back and dropped hook out in Blind Bay. After a quick anchor beer, we headed over to Blind Island where I flew the drone around the anchorage.
We saw a few boats enter the anchorage, including Moore Uff Da, and Area 51; Okvinna and Hummingbird were already anchored and grabbed a mooring as it freed up- thanks again to SV Okvinna for storing our dinghy and paddleboard! A few friends were aboard a big Jeanneau that seemed to be serving as a great spot for racers to socially distance in the enormous cockpit.
(Day 2: 62+nm)
The next morning, I went over to grab our race flag at the county dock and we were off (not before dropping our dinghy and SUP on SV Okvinna)! There was a cool easterly breeze blowing down Harney Channel, so we took the flagpole end of the starting line for a clear starboard start. We were really glad to have the #1 and tacking it in 6-8kts of breeze is tolerable; with anything less than 6, it seemed we had to walk the clew around the babystay.
Approaching Obstruction Island, the fleet bunched together in the calm air. Glass covered the water, and boats bobbed and drifted in the strong currents lee of Obstruction Island. We watched a few boats try to go through Peavine only to be carried back West with the current. We tried to use what puffs we could to work our way north to Obstruction Pass, knowing the current was about half what Peavine was offering.
We plotted our exit strategy for the strong eddies lee of Peavine and tacked north towards Obstruction. We found a lot of calm water after the eddies and put the big #1 genoa  to work, catching up with some of the fleet.
We flew the drone for a bit here, getting footage of the drift fest. I’ll let the footage tell some of the story here, you can probably use your imagination on approaching this turbulent stretch of water with little wind, and a lot of boats in a tight area. dr0ne footy
After exiting Obstruction Pass after what seemed like a dozen tacks, we next set our sights on the Peapod Rocks and Lawrence Point, easternmost point on Orcas. I have photos of us close reaching, but some of the fleet ahead of us were already flying kites. Eventually the wind came around enough to be able to fly the kite around North Peapod, leaving Lawrence Point to port shortly thereafter.
 
Most of the fleet headed far north towards Matia Island, leaving only a few boats gybing closer towards Orcas (Swaloon, along with a J35 and a trimaran IIRC).
 When the fleet returned from their frolick in the glass over by Matia Island, we were ready with the big genoa, to try and catch back up.
 
We crossed the halfway mark at 15:17:39 PST, but the fun didn’t stop there. We had a lot of calms and watching the fleet pull away from us as the southerly started to fill back in in the early evening. We heard a few boats retire over VHF, but continued trying to sail through the strong adverse currents in President Channel.
The best wind seemed to be anywhere BUT Orcas Island on that day of solstice.
Continuing to sail towards Jones Island, we had a few very nice tacks and angles, allowing us to reel in the leftovers of what we thought was the tail end of the fleet. It turns out no one finished this race in 2020. Most of them retired around 1730, and started motoring. And Swaloon sailed almost all the way back to Blind Bay, only starting the noisemaker after passing Jones Island and finding calms again.
 
We went to bed that night after setting the anchor in Blind Bay again, resting easy after a solid set. The sunset that night was really great, and we fell asleep quickly.
  (Day 3: ~35nm)
Waking up the next morning, we knew we had a little bit of time until the currents lined up in our favor, so we made some coffee and relaxed a little bit before departure.
We motorsailed by Upright Head and Humphrey Head, leaving Leo Reef to starboard as we headed towards Thatcher Pass.
The southerly swell really came apparent when we were fully exposed to the Rosario current against wind, just east of James Island. We quickly decided to sail across Rosario, as some of the waves were pretty large and the boat handles so much better under sail. With 12-16kts of wind, we made great time with most of the crossing, until the wind started to die down around Burrows Bay. We tacked a few more times as the current in Deception was still going against us. Once we were close to slack, we furled up the genoa and motorsailed through Deception Pass.
 
We noted Hope and Kiket Islands, where there are marine parks we’d like to visit in the future. The Ben Ure Spit has a really fun tidal river that runs along its flanks several times a day, I wouldn’t want to be here in adverse current! Jenna and Adam were really into sailing through Skagit Bay and Saratoga Passage, which went really well with the wind angles we had. I made pizza and some salads and tried to keep the drying process going for the big genoa down below.  Possession Sound wanted none of our kind, so we made quick work of passing through. Shilshole came before dark, and we didn’t even turn the motor on until just before the north breakwater entrance, a really smooth trip overall.

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