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by Dan Rogers - Diamond Lake, Washington - USA

Granted, most of the sensible people whom I asked to come along, didn't see the apparent wisdom of heading out for just-one-more boatrip, at the tag-end of this rapidly degenerating season. In fact, there was only one "sensible" boat to show up. The other three boats, show up even when there's snow on the ground; so I can't vouch for their sensibilities.

The Third Sunday in September. I've had the "September Surprise" cruise on the calendar for about a year now. The big idea is simplicity itself. Real Simple. Meet me for breakfast, bring a boat and food for a few days. I'll have you back to the starting point at the end of those few days. Just don't worry about it. "It" as in, where we're going, how we're gonna' get there, and nettlesome details like that. Anyhow. That's the pitch.

Sunday became Monday. That was so the sensible boat could get here with the rest of us. AJ's café in Priest River, Idaho. We talked about how the chance of rain is most certainly DECREASING. We talked about how the HIGH temperatures and the DECREASING clouds would make for a decent cruise. We absolutely DID NOT dwell on the fact that there has already been snow at the higher elevations. Nope. None of that.

The "last cruise" of the almost-over 2016 boating season. And, so it began. One more last time.

It probably takes a special breed of small boat sailor to just sort of "show up." Well, it gets a bit deeper than that. Bob and Jan and Magic Bus had to drive over 400 miles for an omelet at AJ's. Chris, about 35. Phil, closer to 45. And, yours truly, only about 12. And, we were still about an additional 50 miles from the launch ramp, and all the stuff we have to do to get small sailboats into the water and ready to support minimal bodily needs for a few days off on a semi-wilderness adventure.

And, that was literally the last element of "Plan A." From there, on in: Improvise. We changed the cruise location about 150 miles from the middle of Washington State to the tip-top of the skinny part of Idaho. We changed the day, to meet up for breakfast. Then.

We changed the launch ramp, direction of travel, camp site(s), distances travelled, and a few other things. Nobody got a shower. The weather was both abysmal and quite lovely. The wind blew Really Hard, and not at all. It POURED DOWN RAIN. It hailed! It snowed, just uphill. And the most spectacular display of the Milky Way came right after the moon was obscured by clouds as it ascended from behind Chimney Rock.

But, the morning sunbreak over the Selkirk Mountains did a pretty good job of filling in for Ol' Luna. In the space of two or three days, leaves had completely changed on hillsides far and near. We crowded into Miss Kathleen's cabin for a dry place to eat and cook. And, we sat on the beach, enjoying the morning sun, with camp-cooked scrambled eggs and fresh perked coffee - while contemplating the new snow on the mountains across the lake.

Another September Surprise Cruise is in the logbook. All in all, a good gig. Let me tell you a little about it.

All hands had already participated in the July "Howl at the Moon" cruise on Priest Lake. All of us had agreed to a change of scene for the September run. Hunters, WA on Lake Roosevelt was the agreed target. At the last minute, we changed the destination, and day. God changed the weather. And NOAA told the fables. Something for everyone.

We went back to Priest Lake. Not all bad. Especially if you like surprises.

There was the usual fall doses of fog and sea smoke. But, we had our night stopovers all to ourselves. Campers, tourists, jet skis, and even the camp hosts have fled. Just us.

I believe this is about when NOAA had forecast "light winds and clear skies." We actually spent the first night at an opportune stopover to gain a bit of a lee from a very determined southerly. Winds had kicked up a very prodigious following sea and had all of us making sustained surfing runs over a period of an hour or two. Chris in his Paradox had both heavy rolls/heeling and surfing speeds well above hull speed. Jan and Bob in their SCAMP reported several controlled gybes and finally a "chicken gybe" as things started to get squirrely. Miss Kathleen managed to squeeze 8 knots out of turns rung for 5. And, we were towing a partially filled dinghy.

As I was saying, Bob and Jan (right) were the sensible ones. They actually PLAN stuff, and show up with a full list of required and optional equipment. And, somehow, it all fits in that eleven-foot-eleven-inch cutie, Magic Bus, from the board of the legendary John Welsford, and the skilled hands at Gig Harbor Boatworks.

Chris (left) settles into the cockpit of his 'dox like an Indie driver. Short and narrow, that little kit can haul all the essentials-and point and foot like a much bigger boat.

Phil came with the biggest sailboat of the fleet. A Potter 19. Quite a capable boat for the conditions and for the location. Phil is a Priest Lake regular.

And, my well-travelled wagon train had only been home for about 36 hours - from Puget Sound - and it was time to head out again. Fortunately, this ensemble has had lots and lots of practice with long-haul towing, launching/recovering, and long on-water transits. We do get around!

And, while the rain pelted down outside, the first-night clatche convened aboard.

This was, foremost, a cruise. We sailed both ways: on the wind, and on a wild run, over a very long fetch. As the only member from the Dark Side, I stood by to stand by, and took pictures.

When it comes to "essentials," this is Miss Kathleen's Navigation Equipment Room.

I suppose it was about 30-50 miles by sea for our little coterie. There was ample time beached and pierside. When it didn't rain and blow-it was sunny and calm. And, one continual surprise.

One more last time.

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