Sailing an 8

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Here are some amazing stories about sailing and racing eight metre yachts


North to Alaska


This story was published in the first official Registry book by the hand of

John Lammerts van Bueren

Seattle, September 1997

North to Alaska 

Racing isn’t the only thing one can do in an 8-metre. In fact, most eights currently sailing are used more for enjoyable cruising than anything else. Here John Schlagel tells us how his Aurora brings his wife and himself to Alaska and back.

The 8-Metre Aurora, owned by John & Helen Schlagel of Seattle is one of II identical Starling Burgess designed 8-Mere yachts commissioned in 1928 by the New York Yacht Club at the yard of Abeking & Rasmussen. The following story shows the best of 8-Metre sailing. Having raced and crused Aurora for 39 years John Schlagel tells us about sailing his 8-Metre to Alaska.

Picture :

Aurora waits for the tide somewhere around 60° N

This coming May Aurora will depart for the sixth time (!) from Seattle on the ebb tide headed north. Tides are important in the northwest with 14ft at Seattle and 24ft in Juneau-Alaska – the result is currents ranging from 3 to 18 knots in restricted passages. Our normal route takes us accross the straits of Juan de Fuca to the San Juan Islands then into Canada and up to the east side of Vancouver Island stopping in the Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound. North of Vancouver Island it is open ocean around Cape Caut ion (well
named because the 9Oft waves that have been recorded). Proceeding north Aurora takes us along dozens of fjords which penetrate 60 to 80 miles into the snow clad mountains. While sitting at the tiller I study each snow field and, as a skiier, I figure out the ski routes to dream about as I sleep in my berth. The Canadian west coast is beautiful beyond belief. North of Cape Caution little is changed since the 1790’s when captain Vancouver first charted these waters. The occasional Indian villages that captain Vancouver visited are still prospering and the indians are extremely friendly and generous, our favorite stop is at

“Bella Bella”.

On a normal day we are underway by 7am to anchor by noon. Under sail we encounter dozens of dolphins and porpoise which perform alongside the boat. The area has a large population of Wales and once we had a 32ft long basking shark alongside which followed the boat all afternoon even into our anchorage. We usualy take the afternoons to explore the anchorage area using our 9ft sailing dinghy and as she was very friendly we decided not to decline from our usual sail. As we spot a good hike we take a walk into the surrounding snow clad mountains were we often see grizzly and black bears. There is little danger so long as you make noise so we carry bells which jingle quite loudly and ofcourse we avoid getting between a mother bear and her cubs. Occasionally we see mountain lions (cougars) which have become quite numerous during the past 6 years. A pair of eagles can be seen on nearly every headland or island point, sometimes they even pay us a visit and land on the spreaders of Aurora.

After about 3 weeks of leisurely sailing we arive at the friendly port of Prince Rupert (British Columbia, Canada). A ski gondola on the edge of the town take you to the top of mount Hays where at 4000ft elevation you can view the maze of waterways you have come through. 40 miles north of Prince Rupert we sail acros Dixon Entrance and enter Alaska. Another 65 miles and we clear customs at Ketchikan, Alaska. which has become famous for its “Fish Creek” where both salmon and man come to spawn! Continuing north we come to Wrangle and then to Petersberg, Alaska (our favourite port in S.E. Alaska). Petersberg is populated with Norwegianıs, the streets have mosaic tile inlays, and docks are plentiful. The nearby glaciers are “tidewater glaciers”, which means they calve into the sea and it’s here where we encounter our first icebergs. Our next anchorage will be “Scenery Cove”, at the mouth of a tide water glacier 18 miles N.E of Petersberg. In the past we have had snow in-mid June while anchored here, and continuing north there are many icebergs to miss before you come to Juneau, Alaska. Two more days of sailing brings us to lce Strait and Glacier Bay, which alone is as large as Switzerland. We stay a week in Glacier Bay visiting the numerous tidewater glaciers.

A voyage such as this, from Seattle to Juneau and back, will run 2000 to 3000 miles on the log depending on how many inlets and areas we explore. My strongest suggestion for any “Cruising” Eight Metre is to install a working jib with a jib boom. Tacking a 150% Genoa 60 times coming out of an inlet ceases to be fun, you end up powering With a working jibyou just put the helm over and preto, all the work is done. Also when sailing downwind you no longer have to set the spinaker pole.

Good luck to all you cruising 8-Metres. We have had Aurora for 39 years. We raced all of the races for the first 18 years, winning many trophees including the Seattle Yacht Club “Boat of the year”. Four times we have won “Best classic sail boar”. The last 21 years have been devoted to cruising. Our 39 year log shows over 40.000 miles of racing and cruising.


John Schlagel, Seatle USA