|Last year, Chuck Gottfried in his catboat Tabby, and I in
my Chebacco Wayward Lass, rendezvoused at Fox Cove at Sucia
Island. Chuck’s brother-in-law Rollan and my son Alan
were with us, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the sailing, and
the island. Someone, I think it was Chuck, had the twin ideas
of doing it again (a no-brainer) and asking other small boat
owners to join us there (brilliant!).
And so was born the
Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous. The original planning can be
seen at https://www3.telus.net/wavefront/sucia/index.html.
There was a quick and positive response to the idea, from
Oregon to Vancouver Island.
And here we were, finally about to leave for the 2004 Sucia
Small Boat Rendezvous! There were three Vancouver Island
boats going, and we had arranged to travel together. Maureen
and I arrived at the Sidney BC boat ramp about nine o’clock
on Friday morning, under a grey and somewhat threatening
sky. John Ewing was waiting for us, with his Bolger Surf,
Caer, all packed and ready to launch. We parked
our Chebacco, Wayward Lass, beside Caer,
and started rigging up. Because we were going to be rigged
up for four days, and crossing into US waters as well, I
took special care to get all the flag halyards in place.
Unfortunately, in my excitement I didn’t put the sail
halyards through all the right blocks, and had to lower
the mast twice before I got them right! Once that was done,
we loaded our food, drink, bedding, tent, bags and toys,
and were ready to go.
Meanwhile, Kirk Coleman and his son Dan had arrived with
their 17 foot Davidson, a large and sturdy sailing dinghy.
The Davidson was rigged and ready just about the same time
as Wayward Lass, so we launched all three boats
and motored off into a now steady rain, towing Caer
behind Wayward Lass.
|Caer towing behind
Wayward Lass, followed by Kirk and Dan in their
Davidson. (click picture to enlarge)
Not an auspicious start, rain and no wind, but with four
days ahead of us, there was plenty of time for improvement.
We headed slightly north of east towards the beacon on the
end of Sidney Spit, about 3 miles away.
Our immediate goal was Roche Harbor, on San Juan Island,
where we could clear US Customs. As we motored along, the
rain slackened and stopped – that was the last we
saw of it all weekend! A light wind appeared from the north
so we were able to raise our sails, although the motors
were kept running as we had a long way to go. At Roche Harbor,
we furled sails and motored in to the Customs dock, narrowly
edging out a big cruiser who was also looking for space
(honest, I didn’t cheat – he just got there
too late!). Kirk and I, as Masters of our Vessels, headed
into the Customs office, which is right on the outermost
dock. The Customs officers were their usual professional
but friendly selves, and didn’t keep us for long.
Boat work must be less stressful than highway border crossings,
the staff are always more cheerful. Maureen and I had forgotten
the restriction on citrus fruits, but we were allowed to
retain our oranges after we peeled them and surrendered
the peel. Seemed strange, since they were California oranges
anyway, but “our’s not to reason why”.
Leaving Roche Harbor we continued east, heading for President’s
Channel and Sucia, now visible in the distance. Once in
the Channel we had a light westerly, so raised sails and
shut off the motors for a while.
Kirk was pulling away from us,
so we pulled out all the stops!
Here’s our tiny jib, wing out on the boat hook,
with Sucia appearing in the distance.
But Kirk was still faster.
Unfortunately the wind stayed very light and the current
was against us, so eventually we resumed motor-sailing.
Ahead of us, silhouetted against the Orcas Island shore,
we could see silhouettes of four identical sails. As we
drew level, we saw they were four Lightnings, each one crewed
by four youngsters. I for one felt pretty sheepish as we
motored past these true-blue sailors!
It was mid-afternoon by now, but Sucia was looking very
close. The wind strengthened again, this time from the south-east,
so we shut down the motors again and beat towards the point
concealing Fossil Bay.
overtaking us again!
Sucia in the background.
(click images to enlarge)
The rendezvous was meant to be in Fox Cove, just over a
narrow neck of land from Fossil, but because our assigned
campsite was beside Fossil and because it was more easily
reached by the mainland participants, the destination had
been changed only days before. But it was awkward for us
with the tide was now flooding northwest, and we were losing
ground on each tack. Since the wind obstinately refused
to blow hard enough, we once again started our motors.
However, we didn’t really mind motoring, what with
the excitement of arrival. We passed Chuck Gottfried’s
brand-new, only-just-launched Chebacco, Full Gallop,
at a mooring halfway up the bay, and as we drew near I gave
him a chorus of the Sky Boat Song, on a very out-of-tune
bagpipe. (Shouldn’t have been out of tune, must have
been the sea air – however, as Maureen commented,
most people can’t tell the difference!)
We exchanged greetings with Chuck, but didn’t stop.
We carried on up to the head of the bay where we could see
a line of boats hauled up on the shingle, along with one
or two just off, held between shore lines and stern anchors.
We copied these excellent examples, letting Wayward
Lass’ bow rest on the beach for unloading.
My memory of the next few minutes is pretty confused. We
were meeting and greeting old and new friends, checking
out campsites and boats and just generally arriving. I knew
the weekend was a success when I overheard two boaters already
making plans to come again next year – and this only
partway through day one of four!
Things seemed to slow down after a few minutes, and we
got organized enough to carry up all the gear from the boats
and pitch our tents. The rising tide meant that I didn’t
have to haul Wayward Lass very far off the beach
for the night. On this coast we have diurnal tides, with
2 highs and 2 lows each day, and the next low wasn’t
going down very far, so once I’d tied off the lines
I could still wade ashore. I did take the inflatable ashore
with me and pumped it up later “just in case”.
On the beach at Sucia.
From left to right: a Whitehall;
a dory; a skiff; a Chebacco; a Bolger Surf; a Davidson;
and another Chebacco.
The tiny dinghy in the foreground
is the famous Puffed Wheat Boat!
About eight o’clock the Lightnings sailed into Fox
Cove, showing us it could be done without motors. The crews
consisted of three campers and one counselors in each boat,
from Four Winds Camp, a private non-profit summer camp in
the San Juans. https://www.fourwindscamp.org/
A young and cheerful group, it was hard for us oldies to
tell the kids from the counselors!
There were eight boats present (in our group) on Friday
night, plus one on nearby Orcas Island. Terry Lesh and his
wife Patricia didn’t fancy sleeping on the ground,
so were commuting the 2 ½ miles from Bartwood Lodge
on the north shore of Orcas. We just missed seeing them
on Friday, Terry called on the VHF as we arrived to say
he could see our sails, but was already on his way back
to Bartwood. We met everyone else, though, and this is probably
as good a place as any to make a note of who was there,
including later arrivals. By the way, all photos were taken
by me unless otherwise noted. (click the thumbnails for
|Chuck Gottfried and Shay, with their
Chebacco, Full Gallop (J. Kohnen photo)
|Dean Bishop and his son Cameron, with
their Rhodes Bantam
(J. Kohnen photo)
|John Kohnen with his Jordan Skiff,
|Frank Mabrey with his Gig Harbor Whitehall
(J. Kohnen photo)
|Gary Powell and his daughter Katie, with their Gig
(J. Kohnen photo)
|John Ewing with his Bolger Surf, Caer
(J. Kohnen photo)
|Randy Wheating and Ryan Shellborn with Randy’s
(J. Kohnen photo)
|Kirk Coleman and his son Dan with their Davidson 17
|Terry Lesh and Patricia commuting in his Baymaster,
(J. Kohnen photo)
|Jamie Orr (me) and Maureen with our Chebacco, Wayward
(J. Kohnen photo)
|Alan and Glen Woodbury with their Concordia Sloop
(J. Kohnen photo)
|Joe Morris and Margaret brought Joe’s Fibreform
(J. Morris photo)
There was pretty much constant visiting and chatting going
on. At some point we agreed that sailing to Patos Island
the following day would be a good idea. Patos is the most
northerly island in the San Juan group, about two miles
away from Sucia, but about four miles from our camp, adding
in the distance down Fossil Bay and up the west side of
Sucia. That’s about all I recall of Friday –
I think some folks joined Dean and Cameron at their campsite
at the other end of the beach, where they had a good fire
burning, but it was pumpkin time for this sailor. I crawled
into our tent, and that was all I knew until morning!
Saturday morning I woke up pretty early, so I dressed
and went for a walk under an overcast sky. Frank Mabrey
was already up and doing, but everyone else was still asleep.
Most of the boats were high and dry on the beach but Wayward
Lass was still just barely afloat – Kirk Coleman did
some work with his tide table the night before and gave
me an estimate of where the tide would reach, and was right
|Another view of the beach, taken around
six next morning.
After a while Frank and I carried his Whitehall down to
the water, and he set off, “for a row”. My last
sight of him was his sail rounding the point nearly a mile
away, and before he came back he’d been all the way
over to Orcas – some row!
Here’s Frank back from his
early morning jaunt over to Orcas.
It’s only a coincidence that my boat managed
to get in the picture too – honest!
Once everyone else was up and breakfast was over, we turned
to getting the boats back into their natural element. We
carried one or two lighter ones down, but we weren’t
looking forward to carrying the Davidson. However, Gary
pulled out a pair of inflatable boat rollers and pumped
them up. With these we had the Davidson in the water in
no time – I’d heard of these but never seen
them – a wonderful invention. I’m not sure how
well they would work on a Chebacco with its shallow keel,
but I think I’ll look into it.
|Here’s Gary’s inflatable
boat rollers in action, on launching his own Gig Harbor
A total of eight boats set off for Patos, rowing, motoring
and finally sailing. Frank stayed behind, and Terry motored
in as we left but didn’t join us. There wasn’t
much wind deep in the bay, but as we neared the mouth, there
was a good breeze. Unfortunately it was blowing the wrong
way and we had to work to get out. The last ones out were
Maureen and I in Wayward Lass and Gary and Katie
in their dory. Outside, the wind was from the west and we
had an easy close reach to clear the northwest tip of Sucia.
Once around that, we could see the rest of the fleet strung
out ahead, and set off in pursuit. We were on a broad reach
then, where Wayward Lass usually does well, so
you can imagine how pleased I was as Gary and Katie gradually
overtook, then passed us! Yes, well….
By now the sun was shining, the wind was dropping, and
the lead boats were almost at Patos. Since there was no
real hope of catching up, I made an executive decision to
turn towards the other (western) end of Patos, perhaps to
meet everyone coming around the other way. We had a very
pleasant, if slow, sail over to the island, then followed
the shore westward. We saw an otter running over the rocks,
and later a mother seal with her pup, soaking up the sunshine.
Eventually, however, we had to admit that we weren’t
making much progress with almost no wind and a slight current
now running against us, so we fired up Honda and motored
slowly around the end of the island. The overcast had long
gone by now, and we had a mostly sunny sky.
We met the two Johns coming the other way in Pickle, also
motoring, and swapped photo-ops.
We saw Gary and Katie on shore, so we pulled in and gave
them a lift. We also saw Chuck and Shay, but although they
accepted a couple of beers, they carried on walking. We
found the rest of the fleet pulled up in a little cove near
the easternmost part of the island, so I dropped the others
on the beach, then dropped the anchor just off the shore
and rowed the inflatable in. We spent a very pleasant hour
or so talking, quenching our thirst and admiring our boats.
The two Johns with mainland Washington
As usual, John K is seeing the world through Nikon
The beach at Patos Island.
Three Chebaccos in the background, then the Davidson,
the dory and finally the Bantam.
I think those are Cameron’s feet.
Dean and Cameron left first, then the rest of us climbed
aboard our various little ships. Gary’s dory had no
motor, and there wasn’t any wind worth mentioning,
so I offered a tow, which he accepted. He and Katie stayed
aboard the dory, to steer, and to be on the safe side I
didn’t go over about 3 knots. The other two Chebaccos
tried to sail but eventually gave up and motored as well.
However, as we went south down the east shore of Sucia,
a brisk wind sprang up from the southwest, and a choppy
sea came up. We followed Randy and Ryan in Bluster through
the narrow, winding pass separating Ewing Island from Sucia,
then across Echo Bay. The dory was towing well, but I was
worried about rounding the point from Echo to Fossil Bay,
where we’d be fully exposed to the wind, now blowing
strongly. As we came around the point, I slowed the engine
to try and keep the dory from plunging quite so much, but
Wayward Lass’ bow was getting blown off course, so
in the end I had to speed up again. However, the dory stood
it all very well and once we were on the windward side of
Fossil Bay, we let go the tow and they sailed the rest of
As we approached the head of the bay, I saw a very traditional
looking small boat at anchor. My first thought was that
they should be part of our group, and my second that they
Feather at anchor – nice
harbour furl there, guys!
The red Chebacco behind is Full Gallop. It’s
amazing how these Chebaccos keep appearing in the
pictures, isn’t it?
(J. Kohnen photo)
Alan and Glen Woodbury had launched that morning from Bellingham,
after finding the Lummi ramp didn’t have enough slope
at low tide. Not having a motor, they had had to do some
rowing, and had only arrived a short time before the rest
of us. After a quick hello, I dropped Maureen on shore and
anchored well out, as the next low tide was predicted to
drop quite a bit.
Wayward Lass at anchor,
with the north wind showing her flags to advantage.
The blue flag at the masthead is the burgee of the
Western Oregon Messabout List.
(J. Kohnen photo)
What little remained of the afternoon was spent hanging
out, chatting, and admiring the boats all over again. There
should be a word for that – something like “messing
about in boats” but without actually doing anything.
Can we say “messabouting”? Is that a verb? It
That evening, before dark, we shanghaied a passing couple
and the Mrs. was good natured enough to take some (a lot
of) group photographs with a variety of cameras. It’s
surprisingly hard to get 17 people to look in the same direction
and smile all at once!
The three at the back on the left are John Kohnen, Chuck
and Sharon (Shay) Gottfried, and the three at the back
on the right are John Ewing, Alan Woodbury and Randy Wheating.
In the middle, next to Shay, are Cameron Bishop, his dad
Dean, (almost out of sight) then Frank Mabrey in the floppy
white hat, Glen Woodbury in kilt and balmoral, Dan and
Kirk Coleman and RyanShellborn. In front, from left to
right are myself (Jamie Orr), Katie Powell, my wife Maureen,
and Katie’s dad Gary.
(photo by the nice lady) - (click image for larger version)
Then we “messabouted” some more,
finishing up at Dean and Cameron’s fire with a bag
of marshmallows. And that was the end of another excellent
On Sunday the sky was clear and it promised to be a hot
and sunny day. After two days with lots of time on the water,
some people were looking forward to hiking the island’s
trails and seeing the sights from dry land. However, as
some boats were leaving for home at noon, including Bluster,
we arranged to get the three Chebaccos out there for a photo-shoot.
Randy and Ryan were on Bluster, Alan, Dan, Maureen
and I were on Wayward Lass and Chuck, Shay, Glen
and John Ewing were on Full Gallop. Leaving with
Bluster were John Kohnen in Pickle and
Gary and Katie in their Gig Harbor Dory.
Since John K. is well known for his skill
behind the lens, he was the obvious choice for the unofficial
post of official photographer, and he kindly delayed his
departure for Lummi to capture three Chebaccos in company.
Here’s a sight not seen very
often – three Chebaccos in a row! That’s
Bluster in the lead, followed by Full
Gallop, with Wayward Lass bringing up
(J. Kohnen photo)
We sailed, briefly, more or less in formation,
but a prevailing competitive spirit made it hard to keep
station for long, and things got a little disorganized!
Keeping everyone together was sort of like herding cats.
We realized the photo-shoot was over when John gave up on
us and turned for Lummi and home.
However, we sailed together long enough to find that there
wasn’t a lot of difference between the boats. I will
say that Chuck’s Full Gallop did extremely well considering
they only launched a week earlier and were still making
adjustments. Maybe we can arrange to get all three together
again and do some serious, and slightly more organized,
As I mentioned, John had left for Lummi, following Gary
and Katie Powell. Randy was last seen motor-sailing to catch
them up as Chuck and I turned back to Fossil Bay.
I should mention that while we were still
maneuvering around, Joe Morris had arrived in Beachcomber
and snapped a few pictures as well, before heading into
the bay. When the rest of us got back, he was pulled up
on the beach, getting into the talking about boats thing.
He’d had other commitments for the weekend, but he
and Margaret found enough time to make a flying visit. They’d
launched at Anacortes and only took an hour to cover the
20 odd miles to Sucia, so flying is the right word! Joe
is building a modified Bolger Micro, so next time we see
him he’ll be moving a lot slower. After an hour or
so, Joe and Margaret climbed back in the tri-hull, fired
up the big outboard and were on their way home.
We had one more departure that day. Frank left late in
the afternoon for Orcas, travelling under oars in his Gig
Harbor Whitehall. However, rowing a mere two miles and a
bit would be nothing to a man who, the day before, had been
there and back before breakfast!
It’s amazing how quickly habits form. After supper,
everyone found themselves at Dean and Cameron’s fire,
doing that messabout thing again. We talked about what the
tide would be doing the next day, and when we should leave
to take advantage of it. For some reason, I couldn’t
get agreement on a 4:00 am start, but we did reach a consensus
I don’t see any pictures
of our fireside gathering by night, so here’s
one by day, with Alan, Dean and Cameron in attendance.
(J. Kohnen photo)
I woke up at four anyway. I couldn’t
go back to sleep so I got dressed and went for a walk, tiptoeing
around the other tents so as not to wake everyone up. The
bay was absolutely still, and it was very pleasant just
to sit and watch as the sky brightened.
At five everyone else emerged from their tents, and we
all got breakfast underway. By six that was over and the
tents had disappeared. Loading was well in hand, but no
one was getting too excited about deadlines. Our now diminished
fleet got underway about 6:30, with the exception of Full
Gallop, whose skipper and crew had decided to tarry a while.
We couldn’t leave without saying goodbye though, so
Wayward Lass motored around them while her skipper
gave Chuck a friendly shout. A single finger appeared through
the hatch and replied in the same spirit – but Chuck
finally did haul himself erect and see us off.
Dean and Cameron, in their Bantam, were travelling
with Alan and Glen in Feather. Both boats were
heading southeast for Lummi. Maureen, John Ewing and myself
were again in company with Kirk and Dan in their Davidson
as we motored northwest. We wanted to pass north of Waldron
in order to visit Stewart Island, so we were crossing the
current as well as using it to help us along. A light wind
appeared, followed closely by sails, but we kept motoring
as well, as we wanted enough margin to avoid the islet between
Waldron and Skipjack, surrounded by numerous rocks. There
was a commercial boat with some gear I couldn’t identify
between us and Skipjack. It had a line over the bows, that
I thought at first was an anchor, but they may have been
hauling in on it as the boat appeared to move forward, although
that could have been an illusion caused by the tide sweeping
us sideways. It also had lines out astern, but no floats
for a net – a mystery. In any case, I went south of
it, while Kirk passed to the north. He had the best of it,
as I had to turn into the wind and motor hard to clear the
obstacles between Waldron and Skipjack, while Kirk and Dan
passed north of Skipjack altogether. But once clear, we
both had the benefit of a good strong tide, and the GPS
gave us a better than 8 knots over the ground.
The wind continued, gradually getting stronger. Not long
after passing Waldron we were able to shut off the motors,
but still made good progress with wind and tide moving us
along. Even when the wind became light the current still
kept up a good pace. Once we turned into Prevost Harbor
on Stuart Island we lost the current and ghosted in to dock
with a sweeping u-turn into the wind. We had to call off
some well-intentioned power boaters who were sure we were
going to crash, and came running to grab the boom as it
swung out over the dock!
We didn’t stay long. Kirk and Dan were
keen to get started on the drive home, and we agreed there
was no need to travel together, with such good weather and
only a short sail left. They left first, then we also powered
out of the harbour, with a short detour to admire a big
schooner that was making sail. We continued motoring as
far as Turn Point at the northwest end of the island, then
shut down and started sailing. Kirk and Dan were well ahead
by this time, and drew further away as they motor-sailed
across Haro Strait. A large freighter was coming up the
strait, and there wasn’t enough wind to be sure of
getting safely across its bows, so we turned south until
we were sure of passing well behind it.
We had a quiet but enjoyable sail across the strait, passing
south of Gooch Island on the other side. The wind strengthened
from the north and the flood tide was making itself felt
by this time, giving us a good boost up the east side of
Sidney Island. We were able to clear the end of the spit
and carry straight on to Sidney without tacking. We cleared
Customs at the Port of Sidney Marina, then motored directly
to the boat ramp, arriving there not long after one o’clock.
What a great weekend that was! Good sailing,
good company, good everything. My heartfelt thanks to everyone
who came out and made it such a good time.
And everyone who came has agreed we should do it again
next year, so the 2005 Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous will
take place next July 8th to 11th! See you there, everybody!
* * * * *
Postcript: This may be the most written-up
rendezvous in recent history! I’ve added some links
to other sites where others have posted their experiences
PS Terry Lesh: https://groups.yahoo.com/group/MessaboutW/message/4891
Kirk Coleman: https://schools.sd68.bc.ca/PLVL/Div2/Sucia/suciaphotos2004.html
Gary Powell :