Vancouver to San Diego Part 4

Sept 6

6:00 am awake

6:30 am up and around

It was a misty morning and the wind was building — it was probably the flapping halyard that woke me– but the boat was still quiet so I tiptoed out and headed for town.

7:00 am

Just down from the head of the dock there was a small cafe so I popped in to use the washroom and enjoy a good old-fashioned truck stop coffee (a $3.26 truck stop coffee–Starbucks hasn’t done us any favours).

It was one of those old rundown, refurbished and then run down again small-town places — I felt right at home. This such a working town; across the mouth of the river there are houses and condos but over here it’s working class and damn proud of it. They did have wifi so I made use of it and checked in here and there.


As I left I ran into Tim and Donna on the quiet street and Donna decided on a cup for herself. I remembered too late to mention the extortionate pricing so she also got to enjoy a very expensive cup of not-so-great coffee. Unfortunately for her she’s a fan of the good stuff and didn’t see the the nostalgic value in sludge-like quality.

Lucky Girl is also also planning on a 10 am departure so it looks like we will all be pulling out together again. They are heading up the Columbia, though, so this will be our last encounter. Our plan is to do the 150 nm trip to Newport, Oregon. That will mean around 24-30 hours of travel time.

Back at the dock Sea Esta reported a bad solenoid. They manage to get the engine going only after the judicial application of a hammer. That’s a bit worrisome if they can’t get it started again once we leave the dock.

Then a bit later as we prepared to get off, we found we couldn’t start our engine either. The starting battery was dead. After a bunch of checks Tim pried off the caps and the battery had run dry. We topped it up and plugged into shore power to get the battery charger going, and 10 minutes later we were up and running. But that battery is likely cooked and we will have to replace it the next time we stop.

Then we moved over to the fuel dock and filled up with diesel and topped up the water. The engine started right up so hopefully it will hold a charge.

10:00 am departure

We motored out into the Pacific and angled out to sea. The winds had died so it didn’t look like we would be doing much sailing. A little while later we spotted some orcas. There were 4-6 of them heading in the opposite direction.

11:00 am

We raised the sails hopefully in 6-8 knots of wind only to have the wind drop to 3-4 knots. So we fired up the engine again and motor-sailed along in the sunny and warm weather. I began shedding clothes and settled in to enjoy the day.

12:10 pm
46° 46.2523′ N,124° 11.1197′ W

We gybe and head further offshore. I think we will stay 12-15 nm out for most of the trip.

Eventually we shake the reef that was still in the main and continue motor sailing at around 6-6.4 knots speed over ground.

1:00 pm
46° 42.4484′ N,124° 14.5002′ W

We finally killed engine and were sailing downwind at a heading of around 205°, making about 5.5-6 knots. It’s so nice to just listen to the wind and the waves.

It occurred to me that trips like this really go much smoother than one has a right to expect. Every one of us out on the water generally has a strong personality and there are a lot of moments when — if you will forgive my regressive terminology — there are too many chiefs and not enough injuns. Certainly the instances of oneupmanship are high when discussing boats, weather etc., but it seems that socially we have a built-in filter so all the bullshit just slides off and we hear the underlying truths and realities. That way we (and by we I suppose I mean men) can actually get things done.

Not that anyone on our trip is outrageously bad or anything but by necessity there’s a lot of alpha out on the ocean blue.

2:10 pm
46° 35.7409′ N,124° 18.3327′ W

Lunch left me logy so I decided to indulge in a nap/rest in the sun. Northwest Passage doesn’t have much cockpit space to spare but I managed to wedge myself in and relax in the rolly seas.

After a while I indulged in a bit of blog writing. I am mostly making notes during the day and revisiting them to fill in the details. The WordPress interface on the phone sucks and really doesn’t like offline editing so I am using Notepad for notes and IA Writer to do the final draft before I paste it into WordPress whenever I can find signal.

I still haven’t recovered from lunch and am feeling a bit like I ate an entire Tony’s New York Style by myself. I am pretty convinced it’s just indigestion but the seas are pretty damn confused and there are some steep 10+ foot swells hitting us on the port quarter so maybe I’m fooling myself.

I keep drinking water and start paying more attention to sailing and less to my phone to see if that helps.

3:13 pm
46° 30.1063′ N,124° 20.6920′ W

We roll in the jib and fire up the engine in dying winds. That takes us from 4 knots to 6.5 knots and we start making better time.

4:15 pm
46° 23.9561′ N,124° 21.8655′ W

We caught up to Sea Esta. They have a monster genoa and make much better time downwind than we can.

Tim spotted some huge spouts on the horizon along our heading so maybe there are some whales in our future.

By 4:22 we passed right by them. There were probably 3 or 4 humpbacks and we got reasonably close before they showed tail and dove out of sight.

I’m not feeling much better, but am still convinced it’s more indigestion than seasickness. I don’t feel queasy and it is definitely centered in my gut. More of a belch-y thing than a pukey thing. I guess time will tell.

5:20 pm
46° 18.9010′ N,124° 22.6823′ W

Well, all the sails are down. The swells are huge and the jib was filling and crashing each time we slid into a trough. Dark isn’t that far away and it seemed better to get it all down and snug while we still had light since it was obvious we weren’t going to do any real sailing tonight.

The swells are easily exceeding 10 feet and the other boat disappears except for its mast each time we slide down. The tips of some of the swells are starting to break, forming little waves that loom behind and above our sterns. While there is no danger of them actually landing on us, it is an eerie feeling to see that wall of water rush towards you before the stern slowly climbs up the slope of the wave and you pop back up on top. Then you do it all over again.

I’m feeling a bit better; not 100% but if I’m focused on something else I forget about my grumbling gut.


Another 5 or 6 whales appear off starboard side. They are generally quite close — less than 100 yards — but the speed differential means they go by pretty fast.

7:45 pm
46° 6.1304′ N,124° 20.5348′ W

The seas are calmer now. And the water is gorgeous in the fading light. It’s so warm I don’t need gloves and standing in the wind is downright pleasant.

8:30 pm
46° 3.3954′ N,124° 18.9869′ W

It is almost fully dark and I am alone on watch as Tim has headed below to lay down. I’m now tethered to the boat and moving back to the wheel is more of an operation but at least that means no one will get lost overboard in the darkness.

We are motoring along with no sail at around 4.3 knots. Last we saw Sea Esta had also dropped their sails although it looked like there was a bit of drama involved in that operation. We found out later one of their lazy jacks broke and they had to dump the sail partially on deck before the could stuff it back into the sail bag.

10:15 pm

I’ve been chatting with Donna for a bit, but she’s headed below to sleep so she can keep Tim company later. Sea Esta is now astern of us and I can see her mast and running lights.

There is no moon and it’s cloudy so there isn’t much else to see besides the far-off glow of some big fishing boats.

11:20 pm

I am starting to notice the phosphorescence in the water. The frothy wake of the boat is all illuminated and there are all these bright sparkles in the water as we zoom by.

Sept 7

12:00 am
45° 44.4749′ N,124° 13.9020′ W

Tim came up around 11:40 and we chatted after he checked our position and the radar etc. Then he sent me below for a 4-hour break, letting me know he will wake me if he needs me.

He had set up the pilot berth (a narrow mid-ship berth) with a lee cloth (a curtain-like strip of fabric to keep you from rolling out) but I elect to head to my v-berth and just wedge myself against the hull with pillows.

The swells have moderated a bit since this afternoon but every once in a while one will send you flying if you aren’t holding on or braced.

I don’t sleep much for the first few hours but inevitably zonk out an hour before my shift and like an idiot I forget to check the volume on my alarm.

4:50 am
45° 13.4465′ N,124° 11.1053′ W

I wake up and my alarm is frantically vibrating on the bed beside me with the volume turned down. So I popped up and went to apologize to Tim. He was all snugged in with blankets to try and keep off the dew and not outwardly irritated with his lax crew. Still it was a rookie mistake.

We talked for a bit, wiped down the foggy dodger and then he headed below.

The clouds had disappeared and the stars were spectacular. Tim had mentioned he’d seen a few shooting stars and been visited by a few porpoises. Apparently they are like glowing torpedoes as they zoom through the water in a phosphorescent streak. But their visits were always short-lived.

It was just a little while before the glow of dawn starred to appear over the shore side. I did spot a shooting star among the myriad stars, but alas no porpoises deigned to visit me.

The rest of the morning passed peacefully, with only Sea Esta’s running lights in the distance to keep me company.

8:00 am

Toast and coffee on deck. Everyone is up and about but I decide to just stay up and catch up on sleep later. No wind at all but still some fairly large swells.

8:40

We are joined by a couple of sea lions for a while but they quickly abandon us to our fates. We are slowly angling back towards shore and spot 8 or so small fishing boats bobbing about.

9:00
44° 48.0360′ N,124° 7.3857′ W

Fog is closing in and we start to keep a sharp watch on the radar.

Several giant orange-and-white jellyfish float by.

10:23

The fog has thickened and visibility is less than 100 yards. So that’s when a humpback decides to surface 40 or 50 feet directly off our bow. If it had been a boat, I would definitely have labeled it a near miss. (A couple of days later we found out it was likely a gray whale and not a humpback.)

The fog gets worse and now we are dodging crab traps, small fishing boats, big fishing boats and the aforementioned large marine mammals.


Eventually we spot the green entrance buoy and can start our run into Newport.

11:46 am arrive
44° 37.4377′ N,124° 3.1479′ W
Newport, Oregon, Yaquina River

The fog was thick. Thick.

The fact is there was 100 yards or less visibility. Tim radioed a nearby AIS target to make sure he sees us on his radar and the large fishing trawler decided to slow down and not crowd us.

We knew there was a dredging operation going on but suddenly this huge dredge loomed out of the fog in the port side. Tim had seen it coming on the radar but it was shocking to me, as I stood on the bow, to see it suddenly appear.

Eventually we were passed by the fishing boat. He must have got impatient because he radioed us to ask if he could pass us. We were happy to let him by, but unfortunately he was going to fast for us to follow him in.

The giant Art Deco bridge suddenly loomed above us and then the fog broke. Inside the mouth of the river the sun was shining and all our worries about trying to find the marina disappeared.

On the other hand, the first thing we did after turning in the breakwater by the marina was run aground. We decided to give up in our designated slip and dock on the outside of the transient peer. We got off the bottom with some judicious wiggling and tied up to the dock.

We had motored over 24 hrs. So far not much of a sailing trip.

We walked up and registered and the I grabbed a roll of U.S. quarters and hit the shower. I needed a shower. It was a glorious shower. Then I just hung out and read and rested.

Dinner was at Rogues Brewery. This is a brewery that shares the same South Beach real estate as we do. I had a flight of ambers along with a albacore fish and chips. Totally delish.

I checked in with the sketchy free wifi. And then wandered back to the boat. I hit the sack at 8 and fell asleep watching Magic Mike on my iPad.