August 27, 2015:
After completing ASA 101 and 103, we were dying to get more time out on the water and on a boat. Lucky for us, Passion Yachts offers Monday night Graduate Cruising sessions. For just $90, you get two consecutive 3-hour sailing classes on Monday evenings with the guidance of an instructor – a super easy way to get out and keep your skills up and stay fresh! We signed up for two sets of classes – two with Captain Dee and two with Captain Bob.
This week we arrived to our first class to discover that we would get to have a private sail with Captain Bob! The classes are usually capped at four students, but no one else had signed up for this Monday – awesome! This was the perfect opportunity to see what it would be like with just the two of us and to practice our skills without worrying about anyone else wanting a turn.
It was a bit of a whirlwind getting the boat ready and getting out of the harbor and into the river. We had meant to do some studying prior to the class, but ran out of time. It was great practice to get back on the boat and try to remember where everything was and the proper sequence to prepare to set sail. I started at the helm, backing the boat out of the slip and motored out of the harbor; Ty prepared the lines, sheets and brought out the sails. It was a beautiful evening out, with a great breeze, and we were under sail right away!
Check out a video from our sail here!
We sailed across to the other side of the river and into the channel, the breeze was blowing and we were moving really well. We did a few tacks and jibes, and then Captain Bob asked us if we wanted to sail under the I-5 Bridge… Umm, yes! There are two channels under the I-5 bridge: the main channel, where they open the bridge for the large shipping boats, and a secondary channel under the tallest part of the bridge for the smaller boats. Luckily, our boat fit under the secondary channel, so we could just sail right under. The wind was coming from the Northwest and we tacked our way back and forth all the way up to and under the bridge!
As soon as we got out the other side, the wind really picked up. I saw it get as fast as 17 knots, which is quite a bit, and great wind for sailing. We were sailing close-hauled, which not only means that you’re going pretty fast, but also that the boat heels a lot… not my favorite when I’m at the helm. I don’t mind the heel at all when I’m trimming the sails, or just enjoying sailing along, but I really don’t like being at the steering wheel and being in charge of controlling the boat when we’re leaning over 25°. To stop the boat from heeling so much you can either trim the sails in very tight, or “head up” (steer into the wind). When you get a puff of wind, the boat also naturally heads up a bit, so you really have to hold your course, or even “fall off” (steer away from) the wind. Because I didn’t like the heeling, I kept trying to head up every time we got a puff, Captain Bob talked me through it though and convinced me to keep falling off the wind and hold my course. It was great practice, but it will definitely take a while for me to get comfortable in that position.
Unfortunately, not far after the I-5 Bridge there is a railway bridge that is too low to sail under, so we only had a short time to sail close-hauled. We turned around, and navigated our way back to the the I5 bridge. I lined us up on a course so that we could sail pretty much in a straight line underneath the bridge, and avoid the need to jibe in the middle. The wind gets kind of weird, and blows around in all different directions around the pilings when you’re going under the bridge, but we made it through without any problems.
The rest of the evening was a bit calmer, and we sailed between a beam reach and a far reach almost all the way straight up the river. It was so calm and peaceful, the sun began to set, and it was so beautiful out! This year, there have been record-breaking forest fires in Eastern Washington, and over the weekend the wind had blown all the smoke over the mountains and up the gorge into the city. All weekend, there had been thick, thick smoke settled over the city, but it had mostly blown away by the end of the day Monday. However, there was still enough smoke in the air to make beautiful colors at sunset! I took lots of pictures, and we took in the colors glowing all around us.
Towards the end of the sunset, we turned around and began to head back to the marina. It was a new experience sailing in the dusk, which was quickly turning to dark. We switched on our running lights, and began to observe the lights on the other boats out. Lucky for us, there was still a bit of light in the sky, and a very bright moon. It’s incredible the system of lights that all different types of boats have so that you can identify them and know the type of vessel and direction of movement even in complete darkness. We made our way back into the marina and into the slip in near darkness, clumsily trying to figure out how to tie our knots in the dark.
It was an amazing and beautiful evening, and we left excited and not wanting to wait another week to get back out on the boat!
Check out a video from our sail here!