Sailing breeze to Kettle Falls

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Nez Perce Creek to Kettle Falls

35 miles cruised today; 151 miles for the trip

Chalk cliffs, west shore of Lake Roosevelt

We both slept well last night, not awakening until after 8am, very unusual for us. This in spite of something thrashing in the water near the boat in the middle of the night. It woke us both. I grabbed the spotlight, expecting to see a deer or elk wading along the shore. All I could see was a wake on the water and occasional vigorous splashing. Nothing like a beaver’s behavior. This morning we both agree that our midnight visitor was most likely a group of otters, out for some nighttime fishing. I eat a quick oatmeal breakfast and then hop into the dinghy to see if the otters left any fish for me. I troll back and forth a couple of times with no strikes, so climb back aboard and make ready to depart. I keep my walleye rig in the water as we exit our little cove, and finally manage to hook a walleye but, alas, it is a mere baby and so I release it to swim another day.

Assist from a south wind

This is a traveling day. I’d initially planned on a short run to the vicinity of Inchilium, followed on the next day by an equally modest run to Kettle Falls. Instead, we’ll go all the way to Kettle Falls today, which will give us a bonus day on the upper waters. By lunch time a light breeze out of the south kicks up, so I pay out the jib. This breeze soon builds to a nice, steady wind of 15 to 18 mph, almost dead astern. I stabilize the jib with the whisker pole and we motor sail, averaging 7.5 mph at 2800 rpm. Above Inchilium the lake widens out and we enjoy a nice 11 mile long straight run. We’re in moderate whitecaps, with 2 to 3 foot seas. As the seas build I begin to notice cavitation with the prop from time to time. I attribute it to the following seas, and occasional strong steering corrections by the auto pilot when we get slewed off course. However, after seeing that my depth sounder loses the bottom I look down, over the stern, at the transducer. I discover that we’ve picked up a piece of driftwood. It’s been snagged by the port side rudder and has tipped the transducer up. It’s also likely responsible for that cavitation I’ve been noticing. I shift into neutral and raise the rudder. My hitchhiking stick immediately floats free. I reset the transducer with the boat hook and we’re back in business. Before throttling up, though, I glance at our speed on the GPS and see that we’re doing 5.5 mph just with the sail. The heck with motor sailing. I shut down the outboard, tilt it up, and enjoy the silence. We end up sailing with the jib for 15 to 20 miles, with only occasional help from the motor when our speed drops below 4. It’s a great run, and we reach the Kettle Falls Marina shortly after 3pm.

Rare sight – another sailboat

We tie up at the fuel dock to fill gas tanks, buy ice, and arrange for a night’s slip. We take on 18.4 gallons, which works out to 8.2 miles per gallon. This is very impressive, helped a lot by the sailing we were able to do today, and also aided by a fair amount of lower speed operation. The repair of those 2 burnt exhaust valves from last summer also played a big role.

In the process of tying up, we discover that we are “across the dock” neighbors with another MacGregor 26X. The owners are aboard, and we quickly get acquainted. Their boat was made same year as ours (2002), and being newer owners, they are very interested in seeing how we’ve got ours set up. Jim and Cara tell us they have new cockpit cushions on order from a local fabricator. I’m quite interested in seeing how theirs turn out, since ours are original equipment and definitely showing their age.

Scenic slip at Kettle Falls Marina

After squaring the boat away in the slip, we return to the store, which has a small grill. We order burgers, fries and drinks, and enjoy eating out for a change. After dinner we go for a nice hour long walk on an attractive trail which leads to a lovely community park. By the time we get back to the boat, our new friends have gone home, but they’ve left their card at our boat. Maybe we’ll see them again.

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