Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jetty Island


Since I spend most Tuesdays in Everett for work, I usually try to reward myself for battling traffic and sitting through a day's worth of meetings by grabbing a session at Jetty Island after work. JI is a special place - it's a sandy spit right off the Everett Marina. On most summer afternoons, as the winds fill in from the Straits of San Juan, they get an extra thermal kick here, creating perfect 15-20 knots westerlies - usually accompanied by sunny skies. The kiters tend to own this place; they tend to arrive at the boat launch in droves, pump up inflatable kayaks, paddle accross the channel, walk across the island, then launch on the long sandy beach (or, at low tide, the flats off the beach - that's what you see in the background in that picture on the left). They certainly seem to enjoy the half-mile of shallow water off the beach, and the safety of a nice sandy leeshore.

For windsurfers, JI is mostly a formula kind of place. You can launch your big gear off the boat ramp, sail around the south tip of the island, and be out in open water in about five minutes (which is about how long it takes the kiters just to paddle across the channel). Yesterday, however, the thermal got an extra push from an approaching front, boosting wind speeds to an incredibly steady 20-22 knots (measured on top of the pier at the launch) out of the NW.

Given the conditions, I decided to take a chance and try for a slalom session. I launched off the dock encircling the boat launch and made it across the channel in one tack despite the ebb going with the breeze. Walking across the island with my gear wasn't too bad (the island is only about 1/3 of a mile wide at this point), then I had to walk out a ways across the flats (since the tide was at 0 feet), then wade out into deep enough water. I'd never actually set foot on the island before - it's certainly a bit of a jewel. From the beach and from the water, you can't really see the Everett waterfront (naval station, marina, light industry) too well - you do, however, get to enjoy great views of the mountains all around, and the Sound and islands to the W/NW. Hard to believe it's right there off Everett, of all places.

On the water, it was slalom nirvana. Flat water and steady winds closer to shore for hero jibing practice, more wind and nicely formed swell (and starboard ramps - for some reason I can't jump on port, so this was a nice change from the usual setup at Post Pt. or the Event Site) further out.

I sailed for about 1 1/2 hours fully powered. On the outside, the troughs were lined up for mach-speed broad reaches on port - wish I'd had my gps with me. At that point, I started getting suspicious, since there seemed to be a bit of oscillation in the wind direction - which smelled like oncoming conversion. So I got closer to shore (to kiteland...), sailed a bit longer, then started the trek back. Crossing back through the channel was a bit tricky (the wind had gotten pretty light on the inside). Derigging, I noticed that I'd gotten lucky and timed things perfectly, as the kiters weren't going anywhere anymore in the dying breeze. Great way to finish the work day - especially since by the time I left, traffic on I5 had completely abated.

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