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The Voyage of Krogen 42 Sea Waltz: Waltzing Through The San Juan Islands
— Clara and Bill Blanding, Alexandria, VA Photos by Robin Roberts



New experiences
Cruising in the Pacific Northwest is different than in our home cruising ground. For example, tides range from top to bottom by over 16 feet in some areas. You seldom see nice tall dock pilings to casually drop a dock line around.  Instead, you see ground-level bull rail docking bars, and at other times only dock cleats. There are floating docks in the middle of an anchorage leading nowhere, linear moorings in the middle of quiet coves, and lots of mooring balls. There are currents ranging over six knots that can cut a trawler speed to almost a standstill. Combine that with eddies, rip tides, hidden rocks, really deep channels, lots of commercial traffic, locks, ferries, and seaplanes taking off and landing around you, and the challenges are many. Fortunately, we had been introduced to most of these during our hands-on training that included the magic technique of walking a single-engine boat sideways.

We had planned our first day of the cruise to be our longest day underway, going all the way from Lake Union to the lower portion of the San Juan Islands. This would allow us more time in the islands and subsequently shorter cruising days. After a chilly sunrise eased by some hot coffee, Clara, Jim and Robin loosed the lines on Sea Waltz and the gentle wind eased her away from the dock as I kicked the stern out a bit more and we were on our way.  We headed down the ship canal towards the Hiram M. Chittenden locks (commonly called The Ballard Locks) to Puget Sound. The water levels within the locks rise (east bound) and fall (west bound) anywhere between six to 26 feet, not large in the grand scheme of locking, but enough to be frightening to the lock novice. While Clara and I had previously completed two round-trips through the locks, we weren't experts. My heart was racing and my palms were sweaty as we entered the small lock.  Fortunately, we were in and out of the lock smoothly without giving the spectators a demonstration on how not to lock.  We clicked on the radar and autopilot and settled the boat and ourselves into a quiet graceful waltz up Puget Sound.