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Slow Circles in Taku Inlet

The weather forecast all week had shown light winds for the three race course options, with the exception of a fifteen knot breeze late afternoon up Taku Inlet. It had been several years since the last successful finish of the Jaw Point race and at the pre-race Skipper’s Meeting, all agreed that it was worth trying on the third and final Skippers Choice of the season. The skipper of Haiku voted reluctantly with the others, sharing his experiences of the “thrill” of fighting the Taku River current in light breeze in past Jaw Point races.

Clear skies and a light breeze met Cetus, Thalia, Haiku, and Optiminium at the Marmion Island start line. With Lyric – WR serving as Committee Boat, opting not to race, a loud and extended warning horn marked one minute to start, followed by a call across the radio for the actual race start. Haiku crossed the line in first followed by Thalia, Optiminium, and then Cetus.

As boats made their first tacks away from Point Salisbury, the breeze blowing out of Taku Inlet picked up to a steady ten to twelve knots. The boats stayed close to each other as they tacked toward the east shore of Taku Inlet, the wind bending around Point Bishop. Wind conditions fluctuated, dropping down to seven knots between twelve knot gusts. Once north of Point Bishop, the river currents affected rudder sensitivity requiring a bit more attention paid to the balance of helm and sail trim to maintain boat speed.

All trace of wind on the water vanished as Haiku entered Taku Inlet and was the first to catch the back-eddy behind Cooper Point that would eventually give all the boats that moment of hope and forward momentum before spitting them back out into the main current in a seemingly endless slow spin cycle. Outerwear was quickly stripped off as temperatures quickly warmed up with the lack of wind, and everyone enjoyed the rare chance to soak up some vitamin D. Thalia and Optiminium would soon join up with Haiku, the crews tossing jokes back and forth as they drifted around each other.

Cetus caught up as Haiku managed to catch a current that pulled her around Cooper Point, but another eddy quickly pushed her toward the shore and the crew was forced to fend off the rocks with a boat pole while the engine fired up in reverse to back them up out of the eddy and into the river current. Meanwhile, Optiminium and Thalia attempted to fly their light, downwind sails, hoping to find some momentum, but it would only push them away from the Point, gaining no forward ground.

Optiminium was first to call the race at 3:30 pm, and the others would follow suit within the hour, as there were no signs freshening wind on the horizon. Everyone took advantage of the beautiful day to explore their surroundings, some motoring down to Jaw Point, just to see, others marveling at the large cliff face that seems to continue its precipitous drop below the waterline. Cetus even opted to spend the night on anchor at Sunny Cove, reporting back that the wind never did pick up. They did get to enjoy a beautiful sunrise the following morning over glassy water.

The other crews would eventually motor back to town and meet up back on the back patio of Louie’s Douglas Inn. They would share drinks and stories of GPS tracks that went in big, overlapping circles, but the sunburnt smiling faces told the real story of the day.