Breaking bamboo on Lake Washington

Bamboo spar split
Split bamboo at bridle point

A 25 knot gust snapped the lower yard on our mainsail during a cruise on Lake Washington last weekend. Annie was at the helm and I was on the main sheet with the kids down below with Mazey (on her maiden voyage). Tacking out of Juanita Bay in Kirkland was going pretty well, though it was difficult to find the balance between pinching and sheeting in the main. We had nearly made Juanita Point in the 15-20 knot steady southerly, but had to make one more tack in 0.5-1m chop.

Conveniently, we were watching the main as we crossed the mouth of the bay on a starboard tack, talking about how it seemed most tight right across the middle while the luff was luffing. I had just told Annie that Mike thought the bamboo spars were too flexible to maintain the delta wing shape, while I wondered if it was a good feature for the bamboo to flex and spill the wind, when — CRACK — the lower spar folded about 30 degrees just forward of the forward bridle attachment point. I let out all the main sheet and was able to drop the sail by brailing first (though it was threatening to billow out near the broken bamboo) and releasing the halyard. By the time I had the rig secured over the port main hatch, we had run half way back into the bay with the dodger acting as a mini-spinnaker.

We motored over to Magnuson without further incident and unloaded a bunch of gear. We cleared the decks and unloaded a bunch of cruising gear so that Liam, Mazey, and I could stand a chance of motoring back to the UW through the waves and upwind. It was easy going in the lee of Sand Point, but the chop was intense at the point and all along the western shoreline of the Park and Windermere. A squall hit us near the Windermere-Laurelhurst boundary with gusts up to ~30 knots, but the chop declined as we approached the 520 bridge (less fetch). We both enjoyed the spray and watching the paddles fly 0.5m up off the tramp as we bounded over waves, but I wished we’d locked the center platform panel down as the waves and motor occasionally lifted all three sections up 5cm and slammed them back down!

Juanita Bay
Anchored in the weedy Juanita Bay

The cruising on Saturday was very pleasant though the weather was torn between sunny for swimming and windy for sailing. With Mike’s clan aboard, we all enjoyed dips in the middle of the Lake, led by Molly who leaped off as we passed the dog park beach! We motored into Kirkland Saturday afternoon for a great dinner at Cactus and gelato/ice-cream dessert, then back to Magnuson to drop Mike et al., then back to Juanita where we anchored in 3m of water with our danforth, 7m of chain and 8m of rode.

The forecast was for strong winds after midnight, but I foolishly didn’t pay enough attention to their direction — from the south:

SEATTLE
330 PM PDT SAT SEP 24 2011

.TONIGHT…MOSTLY CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF RAIN AFTER MIDNIGHT. LOWS IN THE
MID 50S TO LOWER 60S. SOUTH WIND 5 TO 15 MPH.
.SUNDAY…BREEZY. RAIN LIKELY IN THE MORNING…THEN SHOWERS LIKELY IN
THE AFTERNOON. HIGHS IN THE 60S. SOUTH WIND 15 TO 25 MPH.

In retrospect, it would have been wise to head for an anchorage in Cozy Cove, despite the added distance from/back-to Sail Sand Point. As it was, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. to rising winds. A squall hit at 4:00 and we clearly began to drag anchor. Annie popped out about the time I was getting on deck and we began deliberating about what to do… Ended up getting warm clothes and life jackets on, using the motor to reduce the load on the anchor, trying a couple times to deploy the second anchor (that should have been prepped in advance) without much luck, and ultimately watching from about 4:30-5:30 to be sure we were holding steady as the wind moderated and backed to the southeast (giving us some protection behind the big cottonwoods on Nelson Point). It was a relief to run up on the sand at Juanita Beach Park and stretch our legs before having breakfast on the boat.


View NW Wharram gunkholing in a larger map

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