This is a boring story. Nothing important broke or screwed up. It was a long tiring 3000 mile drive but the sailing was worth it. Jay and Carol live about 950 miles down the track and very kindly offered to host me for the night to break up the drive and go the rest of the way in convoy. It was a real treat.
The skippers meeting was quite casual. After handing over our signed disclaimer we were told that this was an unassisted cruise and if we want to withdraw now or at anytime that was fine, do not bother to inform the group. If you want to rejoin later, that was okay also. “You are the skipper and all decisions are made by you.” I actually like the fact that we were responsible for our actions. In fact they were a most caring group and would go to any length to assist if it was needed. Because we had an extra day they added a new anchorage which they called Camp Zero. It was about 20 miles to windward and they were a bit vague as where we were to go as it has changed from the last hurricane. I had the disadvantage that I was the first to arrive at “I don’t know where Camp Zero is”. I decided on the prettiest beach but most everyone else’s draft was too deep and I became a group of one.
The hard way did have a fair proportion of windward work but we did get in an extra day of sailing over the traditional group while they did the car/ bus shuffle.
One of the most rewarding parts for me was to be able to see how our boats perform against such a disparate variety of craft in what was sometimes a long hard grind. 63 boats were registered with 108 crew. All of the boats were well reefed some of the time. This year was not as hard as some prior years, but I suspect that one reason that not as many boats withdrew was that there were no crazy boats this year. Probably the most extreme boat was a C scow that was bought on ebay for $200 with trailer. The crew flew in from Port Townsend and Vancouver and picked up the boat in Houston. They spent a few days going over the boat and setting up a reefing system. I believe that they sailed it reefed all of the time as they told me that when it got heavy, it was all that they could do to stop it from nose diving. They auctioned it off for $250 on the beach after the event.
Navigation here is always interesting, the water is hard to read as it is somewhat brackish and the charts often bear no resemblance to reality. At Camp 1 we walked over Lost Mans Pass which was several feet above sea level, some of the boats went through it last year. This is where our shallow draft really paid off as we could wing it when we had no idea which way to go. I can’t tell you how many times I blessed the cat ketch rig when I was able to reach the main clew and push it to leeward to make the boat tack where I wanted it to go after I was stopped by the centerboard on the bottom. We all felt for the skipper on one of our competitor’s sloop designs. He came into Army Hole late and decided to beach his boat along side. Like the rest of us, his centerboard hit the bottom and as he lost way, the boat blew off to leeward and his billowing jib pulled him down on the nearby lee shore. He fired up his Honda to back him out of the embarrassing situation. Unfortunately the Honda was not that reliable and I think that he ended up on the lee shore 4 times before he got out of it. When I touched the bottom there, a quick backing of the main and I was around and sailing to the windward shore.
The anchorages looked prettier than they were with large shell beaches and mud bottoms and mosquitoes. I was not expecting much from the Camp 3 where we met the rest of the group as it was called Mud Island. In reality it was the best of all with a nice beach and the wind was blowing straight off. I just had time to organize the boat, set a stern anchor to prevent the boat from chafing on the beach all night and have a swim when Jay and Carol fetched up along side in their CS20 mk3 “Southern Express”.
The three B&B boats performed very well and were always near the front of the fleet especially when we were on the wind. Carlita was usually the slowest of the three, it is understandable being the smallest. On the 40 mile run from Camp 3 to Army Hole, Jay tacked as he reached the channel, I had placed my final way-point on the channel and I was heading straight for that way-point. I was able to read that I had .8 miles to go. It is not often that you can measure exactly how far you are behind. If you look at the video that Travis took of Carlita from his Princess 22 “Pilgrim”, it was taken just a few minutes before Jay made his tack, you can get an idea of how perfect the sailing was that day. I tried to get some video of Pilgrim because she looked so good charging along but I could not read the screen in the sun and it failed.
It hard to say which boat was the fastest because conditions vary, boats sail different courses and leave at different times. Jay’s boat was right up there as one of the fastest. There were multi-hulls but when overloaded with stores, camp gear and sailing reefed, they were no faster over a range of conditions than a good mono-hull. We concluded over dinner at Camp 3 that we probably had the best boats for such an adventure. There were a number other boats that capsized but were recovered okay. Several boats with deeper draft required help and retired.
The wind vane lived up to expectation and overall I am very happy with it, it was driving during Travis’s video. During the harder gusts the vane rudder which is on the starboard side just about came out of the water and occasionally needed help. On the way to Camp 3 I did pull the push rod out of a sleeve that I had used to lengthen it. Because I was on the wind I did not need it and just let the boat steer itself. It pulled out because I did not finish the limit stop and used a line for a stop which became untied. I re-glued it back but put some glass reinforcing across the joint. The line came untied again but the repair held. Raking the vane in fresh running conditions reduced the over steer considerably which gave me the idea that I should tilt the vane axis back a few more degrees. This will reduce some of the power of the vane of which it has plenty in return for more course stability. More testing.