Duwamish Head Race 2017

We were promised snow. Instead all we got was fine day for the Duwamish Head Race 2017 out on the Puget Sound filled with teamwork, friends, exciting maneuvers, near collisions, plenty of insight and a thimble or two of Gig Harbor’s best Batch No 12 Bourbon (Heritage Distilling Company). But snow would have been nice. 

Team Stay Gold met at the Des Moines Marina on a cold, January 7 morning for the Duwamish Head Race 2017.

For several team members it was their first time meeting each other, and indeed for one, his first time sailing. This is part of the fun of sailing with Captain Brian on Stay Gold, however; sailors bound by their interest and passion for the sport, rather than experience and reputation alone. 

The team was able to get some hands-on experience pretty soon though, as we raised sail for a few practice tacks and to position ourselves for a timely start. The early morning wind was good and gave us hope for a speedy passage at race-time, but alas, this was not to be. Although we passed the 10am starting markers almost ideally, soon the wind died down to a few knots and plagued all but a few of the entire race fleet. Jibs came down, spinnakers went up (some upside-down, some twisted…) and every puff of air was exploited whilst trying to observe right-of-way within the clusters of sailboats. As the wind began to shift more frequently, spinnakers were exchanged for lighter and larger jibs and Genoa’s. Stay Gold opted for a light-air #1 Genoa (130%), which stayed aloft the remainder of the northward journey. 

Slowly, but steadily, with an average of 3-4kts (SOG) Stay Gold team made its way up the Sound, past Three-Tree Point and Fauntleroy towards the Alki Point Light. We managed to hold a fine course throughout, not veering too far out into the western Sound or coming too close to shore. This was only made possible by constant vigilance and attention to point of sail…the whole team was up to the challenge of making every small correction possible. While we had sailed at the tail-end of the pack up to now, suddenly we caught up to middle of the fleet, who had to lay in long tacks from the west to get back over to the next marker. As exciting as this was, the wind practically came to a stand-still and we had to inch our way towards the marker. Luckily we had nice (and lengthy) views of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle as a backdrop to the many deeply philosophical discussions that ensue on a windless passage (“Put the chips away before I end up eating them all”). 

Finally the turn around the Duwamish Head Light was made and the wind fell into our good graces again, driving us WSW on a fun 7kts spinnaker run towards the next mark, Blakely Rock. After reaching our top speed of the day of 7.7kts on the reach across the Sound, plans were made for dousing the spinnaker and exchanging foresails for the turn around the marker towards the south. Although the course was held tightly, we had difficulties getting the foresail up smoothly and ultimately we had to come to the quick conclusion that we had opted for the wrong sail, the aforementioned Genoa instead of the #3 jib. In the somewhat stronger SSE winds, our maneuverability suffered as we got onto a starboard close haul tack.  

To add to our self-caused stress, Wind Wizard, a fellow competitor, was approaching our port side head on from the East at a dangerous pace! Efforts were made to steer away from a pending collision.

As the Wind Wizard swooped past Stay Gold a crew member from the vessel loudly announced the root cause of their unpredictable course…”We’ve lost our steering!”. Tight on a close haul and still fighting to reconfigure our headsail, the out-of-control sailboat remained a very real threat to our vessel. Once again Wind Wizard appeared, this time in front of us. Almost driving right up onto their stern Stay Gold was able to fall off at the last minute and get on a decent powered tack to get some distance from the other boat. Support was offered per radio to the sailors, but fortunately their team managed to find some interim solution and avoid further mishap. 

In the meantime, Stay Gold had lost some valuable speed and therefore time. We had to watch any lead we had on fellow racers dwindle and disappear, but spirits remained high as we found a steady course and sped south towards our goal, the Des Moines marina. As night started to fall (around 17:30-18:00) we all worked to stay warm and kept a firm lookout for other vessels in the Sound. Headlamps were a luxury on board (only one, to be exact)…hence, mental and verbal notes were made to be better prepared for future night sails. After all, not a day goes by we don’t all learn how to further optimize our infinite path. 

Sailing southwards on a close haul in the dead of night, we were able to maintain a fairly steady SOG (speed over ground) between 4-5kts, sometimes holding at 6kts for lengthy periods. The crew had become much more proficient at laying in a quick tack after a good 7hrs of hands-on practice. Snacks and thimbles ensured enduring high spirits and warmth as we approached the final stretch.

To our wonder, there were other racers still underway and (behold!) behind us…good job team.

Tactical plans were made to lay in a final tack or two to get Stay Gold across the Sound and into the finish zone without losing precious wind or sailing past the actual finish line. We picked up some speed and changed to a starboard tack. Ben, standing at the pulpit with binoculars, searching the night for the markers caught sight of the unlit floating buoy and we had our confirmation…we’re right on target for a final maneuver. “Helms-a-lee!” and we’re there! We did it! Crossing the finish line to a horn-blast from the committee team at 20:06:37 we had been underway for 34.62NM and over 10 hours. But there were no complaints…on the contrary, we agreed it had been a mighty fine day of sailing and camaraderie. 

Stay Gold came in last in our class for the race, but you’d never have known it from the smiles plastered on the team’s faces…then again, the cold wind may have frozen them in place earlier.

Race Track (including return trip to Gig Harbor)

Mainsail Wreckage

During a routine sail with friends and regular crew of Team Stay Gold, we had just put away the spinnaker and were making our beat back south towards Gig Harbor in Colvos Passage. Wind was 10-15 knots, wind waves 1-2 feet; normal winter sailing weather here in the Puget Sound.

Without warning, the outhaul on the mainsail sheared. We got it under control quickly, took the sails down and returned home under motor. Had we been racing, we would have sorted out a solution to repair the outhaul on the main and carried on.

My main concern (might have intended the pun) was keeping the crew safe and minimizing damage to the sail and boat.

I think the lesson here is that wind and waves know no mercy; man made materials fail at any moment and usually without warning. Acting swiftly, deliberately and safely to get the situation under control is the best course of action. And always, Stay Gold!

Colvos Passage, Puget Sound, Washington

Stay Gold Races the Winter Vashon 2016

Race Report. Winter Vashon 2016.

Distance Traveled by GPS: 33 nautical miles
Max Speed by GPS: 9.44 knots
Avg Speed by GPS: 5.7 knots
Time by GPS: 5:50:15
Corrected Time: 4:22:09
Placed: 6th in class, 36th overall.

Stay Gold took part in her first long distance race; the Winter Vashon 2016. Tacoma Yacht

Our route around the island.

Club put the race on as part of the South Sound Sailing Series. We had a great time, learned a lot and put the crew and the boat to the test. The weather was perfect; wind was out of the SSW at 15-20 knots and by the end of the day was gusting to 30 knots. Cloudy, no rain. Couldn’t have been better.

Our seamanship skills were flexed in boat handling, reefing, recovering from casualties and safety. I think we were not unique in this; looking across Colvos Passage as we were making the northbound downwind run it was easy to tell when a puff was making its way along – all the lighter boats would behave a bit uncontrollably.

Getting into and leaving the Tacoma Yacht Club guest moorage was challenging. We were tucked into a tight slip on the E dock the night before the race. Getting out, we had to slide past a few large boats rafted up at the fairway we had backed down the night before. The morning of the race, we were not left with a lot of room to get out to the start line. Luckily, crew of the boats we had to drive past were there to fend us off and we were able to avoid contact.

The race started out with all the boats on a port tack, crossing the starting line then quickly turning north and raising their flying sails. Our highlight of the day happened about fifteen minutes into the start of the race. We were just off the southern end of Vashon Island making our way north under spinnaker and main when our mainsail trimmer, Dean, called out the spinnaker had parted. We quickly pulled in the lower half of the chute and raised the genoa trimming the sails for a deep run. We were unable to get the remainder of the spinnaker down from the mast as it had wrapped itself around the standing rigging.

Stay Gold flying her spinnaker right before it blew up.
Spinnaker turned into pennant.

Every boat on the course knew who we were thanks to our
massive pennant we turned our spinnaker into.

We ended up finishing the race 36th out of 39 boats, 6th of out 7 in our class. It’s a great place to start and we’ll take it.

Next up…Duwamish Head on Jan 7th!

Crew! Photo by Jan’s Marine Photography

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Ship to Shore Marine is our Official Sponsor!

ship-to-shore-logo-blue-transparent-backgroundShip to Shore Marine in Gig Harbor WA is now S/V Stay Gold’s official sponsor! We are beyond excited for this news. Ship to Shore Marine has been our go-to, favorite marine supply store well before this relationship took hold. Now to be officially working with them to further the sport of sailing and racing in the Puget Sound is just amazing.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out their new location, take a few minutes to stop by next time you’re in the Harbor. If you’re looking for Helly Hansen gear, local kayaking knowledge or a great place to get marine supplies, they’re it. Check them out at 3403 Harborview Dr. in Gig Harbor. Tell ’em Team Stay Gold sent you!

Make sure to like their Facebook and Instagram pages too! Stand by for more updates as they develop…

Pilot Charts and What They Tell Us

A big part of the preparation in a long distance voyage involves when to leave and how to get where you’re going…actually that’s a major part of it. Luckily, there are some places to go to get that type of information. One of those places is a Pilot Chart. Pacific Pilot Chart

With a pilot chart, you can select a specific month and determine what years and years of observed currents, wind speed, wind direction and the position of major weather patterns are. This is particularly important for the trek from Seattle to Hawaii because of the North Pacific High – depending on the time of the year it can be right between Seattle and Hawaii.

I’ve selected June or July as the time to leave because the location of the North Pacific High (NPH) is usually a bit farther north during those months (and there are a handful of races that kick off then so if they’re doing it then it must be right, right!?)Pilot Chart Hawaii to Seattle

Using the Pilot Chart, you can select a broad set of courses to help determine the best way to skirt the NPH. The idea is not to drive directly through it because that’s a great way to get becalmed. So, naturally you want to navigate as close as possible but not through. The chartlet above shows the location of the NPH during the month of July. You can see that you can draw almost a straight line from Seattle to Hawaii – about as good as it gets. We’ll want to drive a bit south then south south west after we pass about San Diego. The fine details will be decided closer to leaving using more real-time data. Keep in mind, these Pilot Charts are not real time or up to date data with where the NPH is at right this minute – just aggregated data from years of collection. It’s best to consult actual weather conditions prior to departure.

Preparation Begins…

…for our Transpacific voyage from Seattle to Honolulu HI. The rough date is set for June/July 2017. There is a lot to get done. We’ll use the website as a way to track it but also provide some insight on to the process we use to get ready. Lots to learn. Lots to get done. Ironic that we’ll spend over a year getting ready for a passage that will last 17-24 days.