Back to Winslow Wharf and Bainbridge Island

After our first trip of 2016 a week or so ago around Elliott Bay, it was time for an overnight to one of our favorite places, Winslow Wharf Marina on Bainbridge Island. We spent a lot of time there this last year, and love everything about it.

This was also Grace’s first time out with the new Firefly battery bank which I will be writing about soon, and an additional set of tests and trials on everything else installed this winter. JJ and I departed Elliott Bay Marina around 11am on Saturday, looking forward to a relaxing sail to Winslow, only a few miles away.

Mainsail with weird leech line issue

Mainsail with weird leech line issue

One thing that has been bothering me since Grace became part of our family last year is the mainsail. As you can see in this picture, the leech line appears to be twisted or overly tight. Just over a foot above the outhaul, there’s a jam cleat where the leech line ends, and there’s no spare line to let out. The upper portion and other areas are also equally tight, so I have yet to be able to figure out how to release the tension. I am woe to let the one end go for fear that it will get sucked up inside never to return.

In addition to the leech problems, the sail in general never looks as balanced and full as I would like, and requires a lot more main sheet hauling than I’d like. It seems that these mainsails are quite large based on the design by Beneteau, and in many cases people reef when the wind hits 20 kts, so I’m wondering if there are some additional tricks and tips I need to learn about the overall sail handling for the main.

matson ship and seattle in background on way to winslow wharf marina

Matson ship with Seattle in the background

There was a decent amount of commercial traffic during our sail, including various cargo and container ships, as well as the usual ferries going to and from Coleman Dock to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton.

Grace's course from our DeLorme inReach Explorer

Grace’s course from our DeLorme inReach Explorer

Saturday we spent most of our time sailing around up northward a bit, and then down near Blake Island. We did see a number of sailboats out on the water later in the day, including the beautiful one below.

sailboat spinnaker on way to winslow wharf marina

There was not much wind for the majority of the time we were on the water, until we decided to motor in to Eagle Harbor – of course right then it started blowing more!

Entrance to Eagle Harbor

Entrance to Eagle Harbor

I believe that I have been in to Eagle Harbor more than anywhere else in Puget Sound, save my home marina. Even before I moved to Elliott Bay Marina, it was one of my favorite places because of the views and nearby town and facilities. I’ve also seen more boats aground here than anywhere else – I always advise folks who have never been to look closely at their charts, and don’t cut that last corner at low tide before the green buoy in front of the ferry dock! It’s scary heading so close to them, but you’ll regret it if you don’t! I also always try to time my passage through the main part of the outer channel when a ferry is not coming or going, as they have the right of way of the deeper part of the channel, and it can get a bit close for comfort even if you are in the shallows. I also wonder how many tourists have photos of my boat with the Seattle skyline in the background…

So many ferries! Pictured here are the Hiyu, Tillikum, Kaleetan and Evergreen State

So many ferries! Pictured here are the Hiyu, Tillikum, Kaleetan and Evergreen State

Eagle Harbor is Washington State Ferries maintenance facility, and there are usually a couple of ferries here being maintained. I’m a super huge ferry nerd, so imagine my delight at finding 6 different ferries in the harbor – the most I can remember ever seeing! In all, the Hiyu, Tillikum, Kaleetan, Evergreen State, Salish and Yakima were all here.

The Hiyu is a personal favorite, having spent much of my childhood on Vashon Island, and having fond memories of riding the tiny ferry between Pt. Defiance in Tacoma and Fauntleroy on Vashon Island. It’s the one in the picture above to the very right, a bit hard to see.

Ferries Yakima and Salish in Eagle Harbor

Ferries Yakima and Salish in Eagle Harbor

It was also pretty cool to see the Yakima and Kaleetan, both Super Class ferries, together in one spot. I witnessed the Yakima being towed away from Friday Harbor while visiting back in March when it’s electrical panel went up in smoke.

It was also a little sad to see the Evergreen State, which was the first in it’s class, now retired, with the Tillikum nearby, also likely to be retired in the next few years.

If you want to learn more about the current and retired fleet, I highly recommend EvergreenFleet.com.

The rest of the day we spent walking around town, eating a wonderful dinner at our favorite restaurant, Doc’s, and playing cards late into the evening in the cockpit.

OCD quarter organization

OCD quarter organization

The next day, we were back at Doc’s for the chicken fried steak before departing around 11 am. This is hands down the best thing they make…

Blakeley Rocks with Bainbridge Ferries in background and Seattle

Blakely Rocks with Bainbridge Ferries in background and Seattle

Sunday was even warmer and more beautiful than Saturday, and the wind was much more brisk as well. We were greeted by a couple of passing ferries as soon as we exited the channel out of the harbor, and headed down towards Blake Island.

Blake Island with Argosy boat and Mt. Rainier

Blake Island with Argosy boat and Mt. Rainier

The views were stunning, as usual. The wind was now steady at about 16 kts and gusting to 20+ so we decided to motor around behind Blake to see if a mooring ball was available so we could take a nap and generally be lazy. Looks like we were not the only ones to have that idea, as they were all full. We circumnavigated the entire island, and found one on the south side of the marina spit but lost our boat hook trying to grab it!

Already being tired from a long day before, we decided to motor back to Elliott Bay. JJ went below for a nap, while I used the auto routing feature on the Raymarine to get us home. I had been using this most of the weekend with pretty good success.

The trip across the channel was pretty lumpy – more so than I expected. Wind was steady at 20 kts gusting to 25, and the waves were stacking up as they usually do between Alki Point and Bainbridge due to the fetch from the north. Everything got a nice coating of salt water, and it was pretty fun!

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour

After docking, we enjoyed an evening of almost completely calm water and relaxing views.

A fantastic sunset

A fantastic sunset

By 9PM everything had been wrapped up and we enjoyed a fantastic sunset. All of Grace’s systems worked as expected, with only a few new tweaks – and a new boat hook – needed prior to longer trips coming up.

It’s great to be able to take short trips to Eagle Harbor without tons of extra voyage planning, and just enjoying the sail. I’m sure we will do more of these this year, but we’re also planning some much longer trips as well!

About Steve Mitchell

I live in Seattle, WA and love sailing, technology, & playing and composing music. I started playing the piano when I was 3, and ended up figuring out many other instruments along the way. I'm an avid sailor and have a 2000 Beneteau 311 named Grace, and sail it whenever and wherever I can.

  • Saffy The Pook

    Regarding your mainsail:
    – Are your reefing lines slack? They look slightly tense in the photo
    – Are your lower battens fully inserted and tensioned? The puckering around the pockets looks suspicious.
    – Check your downhaul/cunningham tension and lube your mast track, the luff looks a bit loose
    – Check your outhaul to make sure it’s not too loose
    – Your leech line may have shrunk, you should be able to splice an extension on

  • Thanks for your feedback, here are some answers:

    -Reefing lines slack – yes they were a bit tense, but I loosened them right afterwards. No change to the mainsail.
    -Someone else sent me an email on this – I saw that too afterwards, and I think they may not have been, but I swear I checked them. Something else might be wrong/going on there.
    -The downhaul/cunningham was pretty tight, and I lubed the mast track already a week before hand.
    -The outhaul was suspicious to me too and I was going to investigate before sailing again this weekend.
    -Huh never thought about the leech line shrinking. I just assumed it had a knot or loop in it somewhere. I will investigate.

    Thanks again!

  • Saffy the Pook

    Just another note on order of operations. If the reefing lines were tense when you raised the main and then you loosened them, you may not have gotten full luff tension with the halyard. Same goes for the vang and mainsheet. I like to raise the main with all those lines running free and then I tension them after the halyard’s tight.

    • True, I did notice that after your comment and looking back at the pictures. This was the first time this season we’d raised the mainsail other than at the dock, and I think someone may have gotten a little OCD with the reef lines and tightened them too much.

  • Saffy the Pook

    Argh, no edit function…

    Regarding the leech line shrinking, it’s possible depending on its material and construction but more likely to be due to stretch of the dacron sailcloth. Either way, if you splice an extension on, do it well up the existing leech line so the splice knot lives inside the leech line sleeve and won’t get hung up where the line exits the sleeve when you want to adjust it.

    • Yeah this comment system is WordPress, so a little limited. Sorry about that….

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’m terrible at fixing these sorts of things, but have a ton of friends that love this stuff who I will leverage. I trade my electronic, engine, and other systems knowledge for their help here 🙂

  • Saffy The Pook

    Happy to help myself, if you like. I could use some expert eyes on my Ubiquiti wifi configurations. I’ll break yours if you’ll break mine! ;o)

    • Thanks! We’re on a three day trip this weekend, and I’ve figured out a few of the bits and pieces. Will definitely take you up on it if I can’t figure it out. Let me know what questions you have about Ubiquiti 🙂 I use their stuff everywhere.

  • Saffy the Pook

    Thanks, Steve. It works but it’s a complicated setup and I’ve got a lot of latency for reasons that may or may not be related to configuration. I just need a second set of experienced eyes on it to make sure I haven’t done anything stupid. I’ll reach out after I’m back in town too.

  • Saffy The Pook

    Hi Steve,
    Just to close the loop in case this is useful to someone, I got my wifi issues sorted. It turns out that my neighbor just installed a bunch of wifi-enabled stuff on his boat and it was all set to the same channel as my long range link. The Ubiquiti Nanostation at one end of the link automatically checks S/N at its end and hops around to find the best channel but all the interference was at the other end, so it was hopping on to bad channels. This was causing 60+% packet loss. Another issue was the automatic bandwidth optimization, which is an algorithm that constantly tries to ratchet up the transmission rate (at the expense of transmission power) until packet loss rises to an unacceptable level and then it falls back. As soon as the system was on a good channel, this algorithm would kick in and chew up transmission quality, at which point there’s be another frequency hop. Lather, rinse, repeat. The algorithm can be turned off but I found that limiting it to the range of reasonably achievable speeds worked well. Also, I put a bigger and more directional antenna on the boat. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

    • Aha channels and interference are a big problem for most marinas and homes nowadays. I live in a condo that has over 200 WiFi signals visible to me, and I check the channel I’m on weekly for interference. Many products out there only look at the available channels on boot. Some, like your Nanostation, check on an interval, but even then it’s not 100% guaranteed that they will pick a good channel.

      Thankfully 5Ghz WiFi networks don’t suffer as much from this, but they are far lower power / shorter range. There are no good solutions to any of this other than checking your channels, frequencies, and turning off auto features as much as possible!

      Glad you were able to improve things!

      • Saffy The Pook

        Good point on the 5GHz option. I can’t use it for the long range link but it wouldn’t be too hard/expensive to replace the 2.4GHz Picostation I use for the boat’s local network with a 5GHz unit. Though there are nominally 11 channels in the 2.4 GHz band, only 1, 6, and 11 are completely separated so having a strong local transmitter on one of them isn’t helping matters.

        • I see over 25 2Ghz networks here in the marina, some of which are quite powerful, yet are still only from individuals boats.

          I see 0 5Ghz other than mine 🙂

          You’re right that 5Ghz is not good for backhaul, but it is great because of the spectrum not being crowded, and being considerably faster in overall throughput. While that might have not been a problem in the past, I routinely get 40Mbps+ download speed on Verizon LTE, so having that cleaner WiFi network locally helps with Netflix and other intensive apps.

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