Wetas Swarm Pacific Northwest - Stephanie Taylor

September 17th, 2018

When the Gorge calls, sailors answer. Pacific Northwest, here we come! An extended Labor Day weekend of August 29th through September 2nd brought Weta sailors from North Carolina and Washington State together for the ultimate challenge to conquer their fears of the unknown at Cascade Locks, Oregon. 

Those locals that learned to sail there, see it as the norm. They sail well here. They sail well anywhere with high winds, current, waves and gusty, shifty conditions. For the rest of us, it’s a different story.

After arriving midweek, we quickly notice, it is a far cry from the busy summer season peaking in July, when, on any given day, the outline of sailboats can be seen from one side of the river to the other. Now, it’s much later in the season as September approaches. The quiet all around except for the wind was almost eerie. Besides a few intermittent cars pulling in, looking out at the water and driving away, the Wetas were all alone. The only exception was during late afternoon, a local laser sailor or two would show up when the wind was typically at its steadiest around 15 knots.

Wilson, the infamous WetaFest USA mascot, supervised as the Wetas were rigged. As he was frolicking on the beach, he quickly learned that he prefers goose poop over donuts.

Thursday was Community Sailing night at Cascade Locks. A RIB was out patrolling  as a handful of sailboats including the Wetas were on the water. Afterwards at the social, there were lots questions about the Weta including some from a Portland local who was in the market to buy a multihull.  As dusk fell upon us, food was grilled up with all the fixings. Before departing for the evening, sailors were invited to our Saturday Swarm at Vancouver Lake Sailing Club.

Sadly, the final day at the Gorge approached. Off we went, sailing upwind towards the dam and flying back downwind across the river with the gennaker lit up and spray all around us. Fun ensued as we chased each other, crossing tacks and gybes on our Wetas until fatigue came upon us. Time to go to shore and rest.

Wetas swarmed Vancouver Lake Sailing Club on Saturday, September 1st. Unfortunately, due to an algae bloom that prompted a severe warning from the local health department, the fleet decided not to sail that day. Instead, the six of us made use of our time. The more experienced Weta sailors did a rigging demonstration for the new VLSC fleet discussing specific parts of the boat as well as showing off the new flat top main sail.

On Sunday, a group of eight headed to Broughton Beach in Portland on the Columbia River to get wet.  With six boat ramps, this public launch was full of excitement and activity as the lines of power boats grew longer throughout the day. Seattlite Les joined the crew and was the first to head out and sail on the river. Barges, powerboats and Wetas oh my! Watch out where you’re going…

After meeting the day before at VLSC, two sailors hopped on another Weta. While avoiding all the power boats, they launched from the boat ramp and beat up the river a ways. Chatting Weta sailing, they discussed the intricacies of sailing double handed versus single handed.  The wind was shifty and finally started to pick up as they headed downwind with the yellow gennaker full of wind.  Heading to shore so everyone could sail on their own boat, the plan was to head back out to cross tacks and play as the wind filled in. The remaining crew and family members hung out on the sandy beach to socialize and watch all the river activity.

The Gorge will beckon us back to the Pacific Northwest. Plans are already in the works for this new group of Weta friends to swarm again in Vancouver, Washington next summer. Will you join us?

By Stephanie Taylor

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