We didn't make it to Seattle in 2020 for obvious reasons. But we did make it this year and I wanted to post some of the sailing highlights for this trip. I ended up getting on the water three times, two sailboats and a fast ferry. And with the trailer being down it was great to get on the water in a small boat. But let's talk about big boats first.
|S/V Obsession at Pier 56|
I've known for years about the big sailing boats at the Seattle waterfront. I even have pictures in my last Seattle post
about them. And I've been determined to sail on them. Well this was the year. After a minor scramble to get a date and time that would work with our packed schedule we were set up for a 4:30 afternoon sail. We departed on time and soon the motor was shut off and we were under sail in very light airs.
I've never been aboard a sailing vessel this big. S/V Obsession was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, the famous east coast yacht builders and launched in 1986 as an IOR Mini-Maxi Ocean racer. She's 70' on the waterline and an overall weight of 34 tons. It should be noted the keel alone on Obsession outweighs her stablemate Neptune's Car by a considerable margin. The mast is 100' tall and we were the biggest, fastest sailboat on Elliot Bay. The cruise is very low key. You can sit in the cockpit with BYOB beverages and watch the wonderful scenery all around. you. It seemed most were doing just that. We had some salespeople enjoying the day and a member of cabin crew taking a break. Winds were light and we ghosted along at two knots.
|Seattle from the sea|
|Obligatory sail shot|
Soon as I was able I got up and headed aft the cockpit and asked sailing questions of the crew. As you do. Watching them use both a big hydraulic winch and a grinder set to get the sails up was fascinating. I'm only used to the smaller winches you find on most recreational sailboats and here I was on a boat more then twice as big as some of the largest boats I find at Dayton. The captain was young but he'd been sailing a long time. He too started in a Lido 14 and did some of his sail training at Center for Wooden boats. Seemed he's sailed all over the world and I'm sure there are more stories I'd like to hear. The mate was younger still but absolutely competent in his duties.
|"I'm an amateur sailor" "Oh, so am I"|
Eventually I just asked if I could steer. And they let me. The wind picked at once and we were sailing! Looking out over the deck I took in a deep breath of salt air and all was right with the world. We picked up to five knots, touching six. The wheel on the boat was incredibly light and responsive, very much like the wheel in a car with power steering. It was a trip to move the wheel three inches and see the bow start to move. Something new too was working wind instruments. Knowing where the winds was coming and at what strength in real time without the need to crane my neck was wonderful. I was on the helm for most of the trip, the crew certainly didn't mind once they figured out I sorta new what I was doing. I tacked, I gybed, we did a close pass with Neptune's Car
that was pretty cool. There was a sailing schooner that fired upon us with cannons. We showed them our stern with proper aplomb.
|"Set my course for 'that way', aye"|
|Bring me that horizon. I could get used to this.|
Eventually I had to turn the helm back. And we did a slick little docking maneuver that they do several times a day. Got to see why you set your spring first when docking in reverse. Pulls your stern in and gives excellent control. I'd like to thank Sailing Seattle
for a great time. I plan on joining again next time I'm in town. I'd suggest you do to.
The next day I had a sailing lesson at The Center for Wooden Boats. And I was going to sail a catboat that very few people have gotten to sail. A true Seattle boat by way of Vancouver, the Kitten Class catboat Lucile. Let me copy and paste her story from the CWB website:
"The Kitten was designed in 1920 by John Winslow of the Royal Vancouver
Yacht Club. A 15-foot wooden sailboat, the Kitten was designed to teach
young women how to sail, and a detailed article on how to build the
small craft was published in Pacific Motor Boat Magazine that year. Two
years later, Winslow relocated to Seattle, bringing along a small fleet
of Kittens to the Seattle Yacht Club. He made fast friends with local
sailors, and with the help of famed Seattle boat designers and builders
Ted Geary and Norm Blanchard, he modified the design of the Kitten. A
fleet of these boats were built and used to teach Seattle’s young
sailors. The new design made the Kitten the first self-rescuing dinghy
on Puget Sound. This small vessel has marked heritage significance to
King County’s maritime history, and today, there are no known seaworthy
There is one that survives and it sits outside of the main building. But it's far from seaworthy.
This spring I set up a lesson with CWB's online scheduler with the notation "Would like to use the Kitten". I called about two months out and got to talk to Josh Anderson, the lead on the Kitten Project and the Executive Director of CWB. He told me confidence was high it could happen but to call a week before my lesson to check in. I did that and it seemed like it was going to happen. My backup was the Beetle if the Kitten was not available. Oh no.
|Showing up early has it's own rewards.|
|Obligatory seaplane picture.|
I changed into my sailing crocs and put my sailing gloves in my pocket and checked in at precisely eleven. I was directed to the docks where I meet my instructor. Turns out it was his first time sailing the Kitten too. We got it figured out, rigged, and set out.
|Two topping lifts and running backstays|
|My job at this point is to keep the mainsheet from catching|
|Should have let the other topping lift off. Oh well.|
I don't have much to report on her sailing habits. She sailed like a catboat should. We didn't have any really good wind but we did have a few moments of good sailing. The tiller was very neutral and comfortable. She tacked and gybed readily. The biggest issue was something very rare on catboats, running backstays. I'm not sure why these were included in the design but it was simply an added step when coming through the wind. I had asked on Obsession the day before how they set their running backstays. "By eye" was the answer and it seemed to suffice on Lucile as well. Couple of figure eights and finish with some round turns and the stay was secure enough and yet easily cast off. An hour is not a lot of time to get to know a boat but I think I got a good look at the boat and would be happy to sail it again. I may attempt a checkout in Lucile the next time I'm in the city. I'm fairly confident I could get it.
I think my proudest moment was when Kat reported the front desk person was wondering if I was the catboat fanatic. I'm pleased to say yes, yes I am. If you get a chance for a sail in Kitten I also highly recommend it. It's worth it and it's rare when you get to sail fifty percent of a sailboat class.
|Lucile post sail|
So that concludes my sailing in Seattle for 2021. Certainly making up for lost time. I'll end the post with boat pictures we took along the way.
|M/V Dusseldorf Express. She's almost 1000' long!|
|Water Taxi |
|M/V Tacoma. She hailed us on VHF while sailing|
|M/V Ornella Also almost 1000 feet long.|