Echo Bay, Sucia Island

Echo Bay, Sucia Island April 16, 2015

Woke to a perfect morning - blue skies, flat water, still and quiet, off in the distance a clear view of Mt. Baker and the Cascade Mountains, all capped with snow. Glorious. In the past Douglas and I have avoided this bay, in the summer is is overrun with all forms of watercraft and a bit chaotic, we opt for the quieter Fox Cove or Shallow Bay. Fox Cove is preferred but open to winds from the south and Shallow Bay is open to westerlies. We're pretty protected here in Echo Bay, open to the east but no weather from that direction in the forecast.

Yesterday we were in Parks Bay, a small cove across San Juan Channel from Friday Harbor. The land around the bay is owned by the University of Washington and off limits to visitors, which keeps the place pretty quiet. We had light winds, 2-4 knots most of the day, with a few puffs to 8 knots, and so motored to Sucia. A real shame because the day was beautiful and felt more like a summer afternoon than early spring.

We are continually amazed at how few boaters there are in the San Juan's during the off season, even with beautiful weather we saw only a couple boats the entire day. When we anchored at Sucia there was a lone fishing boat that left as we anchored. Late in the afternoon a small fishing boat came and tied up at North island, one of the two private islands that make up the Sucia Island group.

Later today we'll row ashore and hike around the island. It is a beautiful park and even in the summer it is easy to find quiet space. The trails wind around the island's many little coves and bays, coming in and out of the forest and along nice stretches of beach.

VHF is giving us grief - seems to not be transmitting beyond a close range, and receives intermittently. Douglas is at work troubleshooting it today, could have been fried by a loose antennae connection, or a problem with the AIS splitter. A small rain on the parade but want to get it sorted out before leaving the US, might need to order a new one and have it shipped to us in Roche Harbor. We had tested it in Port Townsend but think that maybe we weren't testing from far enough away (about 1 mile) or that it was damaged between now and then. Could also be that the antennae was damaged when the new rigging was done - we had a bit of work done at the top of the mast including some drilling - perhaps a line was cut or worked loose. Hope we can get that sorted out quickly.

PM Instead of a walk ashore I climbed the mast to inspect the fitting for the VHF antenna. It was my first time up the mast, a great day to do it - no winds and the water was still. Quite a view from up there - the deck looks very far away. I have some good photos I'll post when I have wifi access. Our VHF isn’t working, we are getting a weak signal and able to broadcast only weakly. We have the VHF and the AIS run through a splitter and the AIS is able to analyze the system and is giving us a message that the antenna isn’t in order. I went up the mast to see if there was any corrosion or fraying with the wiring at the top. All looks clean and in good order but the collar for the connection from the wire below to the antenna at the very top of the mast shows several threads. I can’t reach the very top of the mast with my current climbing set up and so ordered an etrier or webbing ladder from Bluewater ropes, it’s being sent to Roche Harbor and I should have it monday, I’ll try going up the mast again in more settled weather tied up at the dock on monday or tuesday, the etrier has a series of steps sewn with webbing, I”ll be able to “step up” a couple more feet at the mast top and give the plug a couple turns. Hopefully that is the problem - we need VHF and AIS is very handy. Currently back to our handheld VHF radios that have short range, better than nothing but not once we are out of the San Juan Islands.

Feels pretty safe up there, I”m using a climbing harness with a mechanical ascender and foot straps to climb my way up the rope, and using a gri gri for a controlled descent. The system for climbing the mast was set up us by Port Townsend Rigging and I've seen it mentioned by other cruisers. Evans Starzinger has an excellent description with photos on the website he and his partner Beth Leonard maintain. I haul a climbing rope up the mast with a halyard and use a combination of mechanical ascender,a mechanical belay device called a gri gri and foot loops to climb up the mast wearing a climbing harness. The ascender moves up a few inches, I stand up on the foot loops, take in the slack through the gri gri, and repeat, moving up the mast inches at at time. The folks at PT Rigging have a space to demo the whole set up and put together a good kit. Douglas belays me on a second line.It sure feels high from up there and the mast has a lot of flex at the top. I climbed on a windless, perfect day and have nice photos of Tumbleweed’s deck from above. Don’t like to think about doing that on a rolling deck at sea

Yesterday we went ashore and walked out the length of one of what looks like the ‘thumb’ on Sucia. The stretch of land that faces south to Echo Bay and north to the Strait of Georgia. We had a picnic on the beach at Shallow Bay, where we usually anchor, then walked all the way out to the end of the island along a forested trail that wove along small coves and back into the trees, up a couple of sandstone bluffs and ends at a small cove with limestone sculptured with pockets and organic shapes. We had the place entirely to ourselves until the end of our walk when we saw a small group that had recently landed.

Echo Cove was empty thursday but is filling up for the weekend. Several boats came in at the end of the day and there are now 5 sailboats, 2 motor boats and a large Coast Guard cutter as neighbors. But the bay is very large and everyone is quiet and keeping to themselves.

The light yesterday and today has been bright and crisp, the water has been sparkling with thousands of tiny reflections. In the distance is Mt. Baker and watching it change throughout the day has been our entertainment. Last night it was capped with high clouds that marched out in bands toward us, all yesterday afternoon it was cloud free and stately with its dome of snow.