featured Puget Sound

Why We Don't Sail . . . Much

Thursday, February 26, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

The Pacific Northwest has a strong sailing culture and nowhere is that more apparent than in Puget Sound where boats fill the waterway on fine days, flying colourful spinnakers or leisurely tacking across the Sound.  And yet, if you follow our blog (or any other sailboat cruising the Inside Passage), you’ll soon learn that we hardly ever sail.

What’s the difference between us and them?

That’s easy: We’re trying to go somewhere.

In the summer months (and periods of fine weather) the prevailing winds come from the northwest – the same direction the Inside Passage runs – and most days we find the wind directly on our nose.  It’s as simple as that.

This means that we miss out on one of the main reasons we started cruising in the first place – our love of sailing.  So, whenever a nice spell of weather moves through the area during the winter months, it’s not uncommon to hear one of us say, “we should drop our lines and go out for a sail.”  And then we continue working on whatever boat job happens to be holding our attention at the moment and forget all about it . . . until the next time.

Tired of missing the opportunity, we planned ahead and got ourselves and Cambria ready to go out on Sunday – but if we were going to go out, we wanted to stay out.  So, we opted to work our way to Port Ludlow, about 10 miles north of Kingston (as the crow flies) where there’s a good overnight anchorage.  Sailing there wasn’t straightforward . . . or fast.  It involved a lot of tacking, avoiding Vessel Traffic, searching for wind and dealing with currents.

Here’s what our day looked like:

Our tracks explain it all.  From Kingston to Port Ludlow, it’s a 15-mile trip on the water.  Under normal conditions, Cambria can do that in a little over two hours.  Sunday we sailed 26 miles and it took us seven hours – averaging 3.7 knots. 

It’s one thing to go out, hoist the sails and have a good time, anchoring wherever you can for the night.  But sailing to a destination is another thing entirely, especially when you’re faced with doing 3,000 miles in a fairly short season (five or six months).  Days where we only gain a distance of 15 miles are a luxury we simply can’t afford.

That’s not to say we pass the opportunity to sail whenever we can.  It’s just that a lot of factors have to come together to make it happen – winds, currents and obstacles (such as rapids that can only be transited at slack water).  Planning a passage can be a real chore sometimes and adding one more element to the mix (like sailing) doesn’t work out very often.  But when it does, it’s pure joy! 

Happy sailing!

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  1. This is one of my favorite posts - it does a good job explaining why it takes so long to go to windward. I often underestimate how long it takes.

    In the end, it's a challenge just like any other boating challenge - solvable (ex, by doing shorter passages, reducing total distance to windward, or taking on crew to help do longer days), just depends on how important it is to you versus the other tradeoffs.

    1. Thanks, Patrick. Now that we've seen just about all of the Inside Passage that we set out to see, maybe this coming season we can just follow the wind . . . that would be amazing.