Vancouver to San Diego Part Six

Sept 10

4:50 am awake

Newport, Oregon

I head out to the washroom and the stars are amazing. Orion is shining so bright you can see all the stars in his sword. Not something you ever see in the city. The cats are still there skulking around; I imagine they are truly nocturnal in this environment. No one is interested in scratches, though.

Back at the boat everyone continues to dither with the revised forecast not helping much. Seems the weather farther south is going to increase to gale force and although that shouldn’t impact our sail to Coos Bay, it does mean our backup plan of going further to Port Orford is off the table.

6:05 am depart

It’s a go and we slip our lines and head out just as the sun starts to lighten the eastern sky.

6:30 am

As we cleared the bar and exited the channel Tim decided to give the mainsail a try as it will be downwind the whole way. On our first try at raising it, we (I) get a batten caught in the lazyjacks. So I had to drop it down again and clear it before hauling it back up. Then the headboard got tangled in the top of the lazyjacks (or so I think) but it won’t uncatch as I lower the main and so I have to pull it down by hand.

You have to imagine me up the mast about three feet in 20 knots of wind and 4 or 5 foot swells. You have to hold on tightly with one hand, literally hugging the mast, and try and get some leverage to haul down the sail with the other. Somewhere along the way we realized that the headboard was not in fact caught on the lazyjacks but the person who’d reattached the main halyard yesterday had failed to centre it between the two jacks and had just threaded it through the starboard one. The main wasn’t going anywhere like that.

So I had to carefully unscrew the main shackle and walk the halyard aft, thread it back through the lazyjack and then climb back up the three feet of mast so I could screw the shackle back on. Of course I also had to hang on, not let go of the halyard, thread the pin through the hole and tighten the screw, all at the same time.

So inevitably, my hand slipped, the halyard jerked out of my hand and went flying away. I growled a very inappropriate expletive as I slid off the mast steps, banging my shins and watching the dangling halyard head downwind like a not-so-colourful streamer attached to the top of a very tall mast.

Tim and I took turns lunging for it as it swept back and forth wrapping around every other line in sight but eventually I grabbed it as it swung around the backstay for the second time. All this, remember while the boat is pitching and rolling and we are still tethered to the damn thing, limiting our mobility. In retrospect it was likely quite comical to watch.

The thing one needs to realize is if the halyard had started to withdraw back into the top of the mast then someone would have to go up to get it; otherwise we would have no mainsail. Climbing a 50 foot mast is not a fun prospect when you are not tied to a dock. But we did snag it and it was all fine. Except now I had to unwind the rat’s nest of crisses and crosses around the topping lift, the backstay (which is completely enclosed by the solar panels) and the brand-new running backstays on either side Which seemed custom designed to make this situation an even bigger clusterf*ck. Eventually, however, we got it untangled again, centred between the lazyjacks and ready to be attached.

Being of somewhat moderate intelligence and capable of learning a lesson, this time I took a huge bight of the halyard and tied it to my pfd. I wasn’t losing that sucker again. Back up the mast, trying to line up the shackle with the hole, tighten the screw and not get pitched to the deck, I eventually got the shackle attached securely and climbed down to pant heavily in the cockpit for a while.

Back when Leslie and I chartered the Shearwater the charter company had left a list of extra charges we could incur if we were careless or negligent. One of them was around $100 if we “skied” the halyard. We both read that as rhyming with treed and had no idea what it meant. Eventually it dawned on us it was “skied” as in the past tense of “to sky”. Then we wondered what kind of idiot would do such a thing. Now I know.

Oh, and it turns out the careless bugger who didn’t thread the main halyard correctly through the lazyjacks in the first place was also yours truly. Not my day. But Tim was pretty good about it. And the only real downside in the end was a bruised shin and that we are at least an hour behind Sea Esta now.

7:10 am

Back on course with reefed main but still motor sailing.

9:45 am
44° 20.8114′ N,124° 14.3912′ W

It’s sunny and clear and the wind is almost directly behind us at 15-18 knots. But with the swells on our quarter it isn’t easy to keep the sails filled, so the motor stays on so we can make time. We are making 6-8 knots surfing down the swell which will keep this under a 12-hour day. Every sixth or eighth swell is super huge or comes at a weird angle. The autopilot can’t comfortably handle it and keep the sail filled, so we are hand steering. But it’s a beautiful day and pretty warm so no one minds.

11:30 am
44° 10.1770′ N,124° 18.5607′ W

The fog rolled in from offshore and our beautiful day has turned foggy, misty, even soppy. Visibility is 100 yards or less and now we have to keep a sharp lookout in every direction. Thankfully we are more than 7 miles offshore and crab traps and other traffic seem to be nonexistent.

1:46 pm
43° 55.6199′ N,124° 21.9027′ W

Still foggy. Still have to hand steer due to that pestiferous following swell.

Somewhere around 2-ish Donna joins us up on deck and suddenly we get a little ray of sunshine, both metaphorically and literally, peeking through the fog.

2:30 pm

We drop the sail (without drama) since the wind is down to 12-ish knots and to keep the sail filled we are having to head too far inshore. The sun slowly burns the fog away and once again we have warm sunny weather.

3:30 pm
43° 45.4541′ N,124° 21.1710′ W

The swells are almost gone (or so I thought) so Tim rolls out the headsail to see if we can sail again. I respond by eating an apple and closing my eyes for a rest in the sun.

5:00 pm
43° 36.1513′ N,124° 17.4745′ W

The damn fog is back. I blame Serafina. They hailed us on the VHF as they exited Reedsport just off our beam and enquired if we were in any fog. We weren’t. And then we were.

I’m back at the helm and keeping an eagle eye out for everything as we are now about 3 miles out. But it seems that Tim had just turned us further in and the seas are following us, which changes the rolly motion to a gentle up and down. But now we have to follow the coast so it’s back to the rolly-bouncy motion.

7:52 pm arrive
43° 20.7960′ N,124° 19.2681′ W
Charleston Marina, Coos Bay

It was still foggy when we hit the first entrance buoy to Coos Bay. It came looming out of the fog less than 100 yards away before we got a Mark I eyeball on it. I could see it on the chart plotter and the radar and Tim has his famous eagle eyes so it was all good.

We followed the line of red and green buoys in and eventually spotted the north breakwater. The channel gets narrower and narrower as you get further in so we bounced visually from buoy to buoy trying to hug the starboard side to avoid any possible outgoing traffic. Just inside the mouth of the river I picked up an AIS target and a few minutes later a big tug and barge passed us in the fog on our port side. Eerie.

The entrance to Charleston marina is a zigzagging channel and it was a lot of fun to navigate. The problem is that the navigable channel is dredged but there is still lots of water on either side that is all a big shoal. If we wander too far to either side we will run aground. It’s a bit tough on your nerves at the best of time. When you can’t see the next buoy it takes your alertness to a whole ‘nother level.

But eventually we rounded the last red marker and spotted the marina. Sea Esta had let us know there was a space right in front of them, so all we had to do was find them. Luckily the transient dock is right on the end and it wasn’t much hassle to pick them out in the dim light and fog. We were the last ones in.

When we arrived we were both wet and damp. The moist air had penetrated throughout pretty much everything I was wearing and a chill had started to set in. I was glad to have a chance to go below and start shedding clothes and drying out.

We tidied up the boat and then had a beer. Dinner was soup and biscuits and soon after I hit the sack. There was some talk of trying to get one more short leg in tomorrow but I am doubtful. Serafina is saying they are going but I don’t see the percentage as the weather is still going to crap a bit further south at least until Tuesday.

Sept 11

6:00 am awake
It was pretty obvious we weren’t going to go but it still took a bit of discussion to arrive at that conclusion. Weather routing by committee…I guess it’s a thing.

So I had a coffee and settled in to enjoy the morning.

Both Tim and Donna didn’t have internet on their phones last night and still don’t this morning. So they called the helpful people at T-Mobile to find out why. Turns out their unlimited North America roaming package has some fine print. If T-Mobile doesn’t have towers in a particular location, say Coos Bay, they switch to one of their many partners like say AT&T. But the partners, while they will honour the phone and text packages, won’t extend that to the data package, and subsequently impose limits. In the case of AT&T that limit is 100 mb each month. So when you hit your roaming limit for any given partner they cut you off with no option to acquire more…not even if you are willing to pay for it.

Thus Tim and Donna’s mega data plan is currently useless until the 19th or until we find a different set of towers somewhere down the Oregonian coast that are either T-Mobile or anther partner besides AT&T. As Tim would say, “Nice.”

I also learned something about mildew. While Tim and I were talking boat he mentioned his cored hull below the waterline helped prevent moisture buildup. When I mentioned mildew in unreachable places as being a concern of mine, he said mildew wouldn’t appear on fiberglass; it needed something organic to grow on. That’s why it would often appear on pillows because it grew on the oils and detritus from people’s scalps. Ah ha! That makes so much sense. He also said it is one of the reasons that doing things like cooking bacon etc. can be a bad thing on a boat because the oil gets everywhere and provides a base for the nasty black growth that is a boater’s bane.

Dock Life

The transient dock here at Charleston Marina is the local favorite hangout for people who like to crab from the dock. And there are a lot of them. It’s like a tailgate party with lawn chairs, coolers and lots of families joining in. Apparently when Sea Esta came in yesterday they had to evict a bunch of crabbers and their pots to get a spot. They were all gone by the time we arrived but they were back in force this morning starting as early as 6.

In general this coast certainly has crabs galore. I wouldn’t have believed the crabbing in and around Newport was sustainable. Hundreds of fisherman were bringing in dozens of crabs each. One fellow I talked to with a couple of dozen crab had actually been fishing. The crab traps were just an afterthought. In the PNW a couple of crabs is considered a good haul.

In the early afternoon I spent a couple of hours writing below to stay out of the wind. While the sun is out, it’s also windy and cold and not really outside weather–unless you are a crabber, I guess. But there is no way we really wanted to be out sailing in that. Serafina, however, did pull out per their plan around 6 am. Hopefully they made to their anchorage at Port Orford before the winds built.

Then I went for a walk. It’s a small fishing town with not much to see. And the combination of it being a Sunday and September 11 means everything except the corner store is closed. I did find free wifi outside the Portside Restaurant and Lounge and spent almost an hour texting back and forth with Leslie and checking in on all my social media. I’ll go back later and post some blog stuff.

I also saw a bunch of huge piles of oyster shells across from a sea food store. Some of them were also bundled in netted bags like they were for sale. I wonder if there is a market for them. There was a momma and 4 kittens hanging out under a table in front of the local store. I got in some good scratching time and sent off a picture to C so she could be jealous. The black one had this lovely hint of auburn in his fur. So cute and mom was so ready to let them go.

Back on board I read for a while and snacked on cake. Donna made some tea and she and Tim headed up for showers after their run. I had one bright and early with lots of hot water. Turns out later in the day the showers are a lot cooler. Lucky me.

Winds are now 25 knots at dock so it’s a bumpy day. One boat, Selkie a Jenneau 42 DS, came in having done a straight shot from Victoria. We heard them call in on the radio to the Coast Guard and later Tim called them back to let them know about the strong cross wind and the now empty spot behind us that had held Serafina.

Then T&D headed into town to find a wifi hotspot and I continued to blog. As of this point I am actually all caught up. I wonder what will happen next?

Well the Customs saga continues. When Selkie came in they contacted the Coast Guard since they couldn’t get hold of the CBP. So when the Coasties came down Tim mentioned he also couldn’t check in since they had no contact info. He’d even contacted Bellingham early in the morning but they’d given him a number that was out of service. So while T & D were out looking for wifi, the Coast Guard guy came back and asked for our cruising license info and our IDs and gave me the cell phone number for the local customs guy. He recommended we call just in case.

When I got back from posting a blog entry I let Tim know and he called in. It was all good but still were told we needed to call in at the next port and “No, we don’t have a contact number for that port.” Seriously, you’d think it wasn’t a federal agency with the little amount they seem to know about each other.

I spent an hour reading below. It’s a cold wind today and impossible to stay warm on deck. Eventually we wandered over to Sea Esta for happy hour. Mark mentioned his blog is, or at least his blog entries are, entitled Running Down the Coast — get it … he’s a runner and he’s running down the coast … clever eh — so I will have to look it up later. 7:30 found us back on Northwest Passage and smelling the delicious dinner in the oven.

It looks like another late dinner and early evening. And there’s no gimlets in sight. Sigh.