The sailing adventures of the crew of the Montana Sapphire.

“Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this Northwest port,
Aboard this tiny ship.”

The short version of the story is: We picked up the Montana Sapphire, a 38 foot Hans Christian sailboat in Anacortes at Skyline Harbor. We cruised through the San Juan Islands and up into the Canadian Gulf Islands. We had a delightful time and returned to Anacortes on a much larger vessel, the Washington State Ferry.
Somewhere in there is… “the rest of the story.”

Crew of the Montana Sapphire

Crew of the Montana Sapphire

Starting at the beginning, I shall elaborate on this story a bit. Now don’t skip ahead on me, but suffice to say we did have a delightful time with the exception of one or two anxious moments. We got off to a rocky start when we motored out of Skyline Harbor expecting to pick up the two crab pots that Glen and Bryce had set out first thing that morning. We had our hearts set on crab salad for lunch. Only one crab pot float greeted us. The charter company’s crab ring was very lightweight and must have been swept away in the strong current in Burrows Pass. We only managed to attract a single female and no crab salad.
We moored to a Spencer Spit State Park buoy for the evening. Glen and Georgia went ashore to pay our fees and scope out a campsite for Renee and the girls. We think pirates stole Glen’s dingy and set it adrift. The crew went on full alert and retrieved the drifting dingy. Brisk winds gave us a few tense moments and a lost boat hook as we raced to retrieve our mooring before another anxious boater camped on it. Barb was the hero of the day. She had the brilliant suggestion of getting the mooring line on the buoy from the dingy instead of leaning out and down from the bowsprit.
Next day we went on to West Sound Marina to pump out and buy some supplies. Glen mastered the day this time by turning the boat in tight quarters in spite of its reputation for being somewhat hard to back and turn. We did some delightful sailing in West Sound and motored through Pole Pass to stay overnight at Deer Harbor Marina.
Montana Sapphire at Deer Harbor

Montana Sapphire at Deer Harbor

On Wednesday we did some sailing but discovered there was no reefing gear for the sails and we were reluctant to sail when the winds started piping up. We moored in Friday Harbor and filled up on ice-cream cones. Renee and the girls caught the ferry back to Anacortes.
Wednesday night we spent at anchor in Otter Bay at the end of North Pender Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands. Our somewhat fearless captain, Glen, checked the anchorage periodically throughout the night but it held well.
The next night we intended to stay in Ganges Harbor. No moorages were to be had and the anchorage was rough and crowded. We decided to go on to Montague Harbor.
Rock-n-Rollin to the Hummingbird Pub

Rock-n-Rollin to the Hummingbird Pub

Not only did we get moorage, we also took the bus to Hummingbird Pub. What a gas! When the International School bus stopped it was literally bouncing to the refrains of a Beetles song. As we boarded each rider was given a rhythm instrument like a tambourine or shaker. As we rock-n-rolled down the road the driver informed us that we were going the wrong way! Actually a few hundred meters further we stopped at the Provincial Park and picked up a few more revelers and turned around for the final assault on the Hummingbird Pub. At any odd moment the bus would halt and even back up to let the driver showcase some local celebrities such as the twin little girls having a birthday or two retired sulky horses.
Next day we sailed to Thetus Island. We intended to anchor but we stirred up a bit of excitement with the dingy painter and elected to stay on the float instead.
Next day with considerable skill and careful maneuvering we slid the Montana Sapphire into a slip that was barely wider than the hull plus the fenders. We wandered around town for a while and had supper at the Fox and Hounds.
Sunday evening we finally got a berth at Ganges and the winds were much calmer besides. No showers, however, busted shower timer.
Monday we returned to the US through Roche Harbor. They assigned us a berth in the “big boy’s row.” It was so long that they placed another 35 ft boat behind us. Evening colors is always fun at Roche, and we had supper at the Hotel.
Our next-to-last night out was to be Fossil Bay on Sucia Island. We were crossing north of Skipjack island in light winds and strong rip currents when the engine started to drop off in rpm’s periodically. Finally it quit cold. We hoisted sail quickly and with full sail were just making current.
Montana Sapphire Under Tow

Montana Sapphire Under Tow

A call to the charter company confirmed that we needed a tow. Vessel Assist took an hour to get to us. Meanwhile we sailed in place, just making current. We were towed back to Friday harbor. A mechanic was standing by and replaced our fuel filters.
Wednesday we reverted to plan “B” and headed for Hunter Bay on Lopez Island. We had just cleared the harbor entrance and were in the process of setting sail when the engine quit cold again. A quick peek at the sediment bowl confirmed that the fuel filters were plugged again. We finished hoisting sails and carefully sailed back into Friday Harbor and came to anchor under sails only.
That was the final straw. We threw in the towel and took the ferry home. The charter company will retrieve the boat this week. Glen got up at Oh-dark-30 and rode back to Anacortes on the ferry and returned with the pickup on the 11:00 am ferry. Believe it or not. The rest of the crew had the luggage and supplies all staged in the parking lot. We loaded the truck and made it back in line in time to get loaded with the outgoing traffic and left on the same ferry Glen came over on.

Yes we were disappointed that our plans were altered and our trip cut short, but I am super proud of the crew of “this tiny ship.” We all worked together to solve the particular problem that beset us and never put ourselves or the vessel in danger.

Skipper Emeritus.

Meanwhile check out this youtube link to my video of the Montana Sapphire and my rendition of Midnight in Moscow.

Followup: Here are a couple of photos of the fuel tank taken by the mechanic who cleaned the tank.

The Way it Was

The Way it Was

The Way it Should Have Been

The Way it Should Have Been

3 Responses

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  1. A harrowing adventure indeed! Thank you again for coming along and being my chief navigator!

    By the way, you forgot to mention Barbara’s Salmon. Who knew you could troll from a sailboat under sail!

  2. Sue O

    Thanks for sharing your adventures. Gosh, it sounds like a normal charter! The fun of the unexpected and the excitement of the unexpected. Why is that? (-: It sounds like you had a great crew with creative solutions and no children went a drift with the dingy. What more could one ask for? Well, maybe a whale sighting or a shower every night might have been a bit over the top, but one can always hope.

    On land in Portland.

  3. Holly

    wow, you look like it was all fun even with the drama!
    are you back at work now? at what park?

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