Vancouver to San Diego Part Seven

Sept 12

7:30 am awake

It’s sunny but cooler; around 55° F. I had a lovely cup of fresh ground coffee then headed off for a shower.

At the last couple of ports I have noticed the fisherman’s memorials. In Newport it was names, dates and vessels inscribed in blocks set into the sidewalk along the old harbourfront leading to the commercial docks. They were right-reading heading east until we passed the entrance and then switched the other way.

Here in Charleston it’s a fenced-off memorial at the head of the docks looking out over the breakwater with a beautiful bronze sculpture and a few little alcoves and benches. The names are inscribed in the base of the sculpture. The inscriptions differentiate between ships lost with people aboard and people simply lost at sea.

There are plenty of dates in the ’30s and ’40s but more significantly there are still many with dates in the 2000s. It’s a sober reminder that the sea actually is a harsh mistress and there are still some livelihoods that come with a steep cost. Something to remember the next time we enjoy our fresh sushi dinner.

Back from shower. Donna and Mark are off for a run, and Tim is doing housekeeping, or is that boat keeping, chores. So I decided to walk up to the friendly neighborhood wifi hotspot and check in with the Internet.

Opposite the restaurant there is a drying mud flat. Last night I saw a bunch of teenagers out in their gumboots searching for clams. It is so different here and obviously not overharvested as the Salish Sea. It’s too bad that nature rarely seems to be able to keep up with man’s voracious appetites. But at least here on the Oregonian coast she seems to be making a go of it.

I’ve packed up everything and I think I’ve got a load of laundry. So it’s time to head up and get it over with since we have a down day. I think Donna’s planning on something similar as well.

Rings and stuff

I “lost” a ring just as we were leaving Victoria this spring. I still have it but the shell inlay had started to fall off so we packaged it away to get repaired. Didn’t get that done yet. Then I broke one of the three intertwined rings on my puzzle ring. And now the outer spinning ring on my third ring has finally worn its way off and I’ve lost it off my finger twice. I think I’m going to have to put it away and I’ll be down to just one piece of jewelry…I’m not sure what to think about that since I’ve worn multiple rings constantly for over 20 years.

WB V is tied up here as well. She is an older Nordhavn 46′ that was tied up briefly in Victoria. She had just been offloaded from a ship that transported her from the east coast. We tied up behind when we returned from that short trip with my parents and had to tie up on the outside of D dock for a night. He has been all the way up to Juno, Alaska since then and is now heading south.

Laundry goes quick as mostly I have synthetics and they dry pretty fast. I get a few more pages in but this month’s book totals look pretty dismal so far.

Tim is still cleaning up some stuff in the bilges and Donna has been visiting all the other boaters so it looks like the walk across the bridge into the other part of town is off. I popped into the local bar and grill for a drink and some wifi but it was stuffed to the gills. After waiting around a bit a few people wandered out and I snagged a spot.

I noticed Leslie posted a picture of her book on sale on reading with a pencil but I couldn’t figure out how to like it as me. So Leslie, take the like as given 🙂 I am so excited and proud.

I grabbed a burger and coffee from an efficient and totally awesome waitress with purple hair. I have to say that none of the burgers in the US have impressed me: a bit dry and overdone. But the fries were good.

I wandered back to the boat to read a bit. Tim was just finishing up and Donna was back with her laundry. So Donna and Tim wandered off to go shopping for boats bits and I hung out.

A couple of hours later they were back and we headed over to Sea Esta for a happy hour beer. While we sat in their cockpit, Endearing, a 52-ft Ocean Alexander that we had last seen in Newport, came in in winds gusting to 26 knots. The transient dock is full, but Tim hailed them and found out the dock master had invited them to use the commercial side. So Tim scoped out a slip and they headed out to get their lines and fenders adjusted. We met them on dock and helped get them tied up before resuming happy hour.

More weather by committee followed. After a bit of round and round, we decided to go at 7 am and tentatively committed to a 20-24 hr trip to Crescent City. Then we headed back to Northwest Passage to start dinner and relax even more. I think I am going to be relaxed out soon, although the alternative seems to be stressed out. A bit of reading and a bit of Candy Crush and a hint of writing before a late supper pretty much rounded out the evening.

It’s a cold night. It doesn’t bode well…

Sept 13

6:15 am awake

It didn’t sound like anyone else was up so I got dressed and headed for the washrooms. Along the way I encountered both WB V and Endearing making read to cast off. So I hung around and helped with the lines.

Back at the boat everyone was up and around and we started readying the lines and firing up instruments and engines.

7:05 am off dock
Leaving Charleston Marina, Coos Bay

Sea Esta was off first but we caught up to them in the channel and turned out towards open water. WB V was still in the bay putting out his outriggers. He’s single handing so I imagine that it is all a bit of a challenge.

We motored out between the breakwaters and got a bit of a ride crossing the bar. WB V behind us had some serious rolling action going; one of the downsides of a powerboat.

8:15 am
43° 19.9359′ N,124° 26.2058′ W

Donna served a delicious breakfast of toasted egg sandwiches, and the local sea lion greeting committee was out to wish us a good voyage. The sun is out and the air is thankfully warm; the nights have been so cool I was anticipating shivering all day.

We are motoring along with moderate swells. As we get further out we will be able to turn so they are on the stern and the rolling will stop. Winds calm down a bit.

We’ve left WB V behind but heard him chatting with Endearing, who is about about 3 nm ahead. Sounds like it will calm down even more, and everyone is predicting a good trip, at least for the first part of the day.

We spotted a big pod of sea lions porpoising up and down like they were, well, porpoises I guess. They sure are beautiful to watch when they are on the move.

Then I discovered my sunglasses were broken 🙁 I managed to wedge them back together and stuff them between my nose and my toque. I guess it’ll do until we hit port.

11:15 am
43° 1.4346′ N,124° 37.7308′ W

Got a text from Leslie unexpectedly; that was nice but I hope our plan covers roaming text messages. Everyone is chatting on the radio about AIS and positions. Seems Serafina is also out about 20 nm ahead, having left from Port Orford.

11:38 am
42° 58.8745′ N,124° 39.0276′ W

Tim spotted whale spouts close off starboard. A little later I saw another further off the port side. The gray whales have a much smaller spout and a smaller arch of their back when they surface.

12:23 pm
42° 54.0119′ N,124° 41.4244′ W

The winds shift south suddenly. We’d been tracking a fog bank off Cape Blanco for a while anticipating the end of our nice day and just when we reached the leading edge of the cape we entered the dense, dense fog and the winds suddenly swung 180° and built to 20 plus knots. This made for some very, very confused and uncomfortable seas.

We radioed back to Sea Esta to give them a heads-up as they had a lot of sail out.

Then we spent the next hour or so bashing into wind and waves overtop an opposing swell with boat speeds as low as 2 knots. It wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the fog and mist.

2:43 pm
42° 46.0733′ N,124° 41.3344′ W

The fog lessens and visibility finally improves. We turn east around Cape Blanco and the confusion in the waves also diminishes a bit. But it certain doesn’t go away.

We are treated to hot brownies and man, do they ever hit the spot. We are considering sailing in 13-15 knots of wind. It should help cut through the waves and really, we couldn’t go any slower.

3:00 pm

Killed engine. Sailing 5.5 knots on jib alone.

42° 43.0764′ N,124° 34.5846′ W

The engine is back on. The winds is 8-9 knots from SE, which is essentially on the nose.

5:30 pm

Finally some sunshine. But we are burying the bow into waves as we come sailing down the backsides. Tim is starting to wonder how waterproof the $70 green LED nav light he just installed is.

This is the most ‘uncomfortable’ we’ve been on this trip. Still, we are better off than Sea Esta. It’s a great boat and as long as we brace ourselves we ride it out pretty well. Donna, who is susceptible to seasickness, generally stays below and has the worst of it, in my opinion. But thanks to the miracle of sturgeron (a medication apparently and unfortunately not available in the US and Canada), she has a fine time. She has a future as a spokesperson for the brand, or as at least a pusher as she’s been sharing the secret and the drugs with all the boats we’ve met in the way.

8:00 pm
42° 29.6911′ N,124° 32.8025′ W

I’m off watching and heading below to rest. This is an all-night passage and we are going to try 3 hour watches this time. I shed my outer wear and try and arrange it so I can find it again in the dark and then just crawl under my sleeping bag, which I am using as a comforter.

We are still crashing up and down in the waves and I experience some significant air time and negative G’s as I am launched upward as the bow dives and then eased rather forcefully into the mattress as the bow rushes back up the next wave.

So I mostly just dozed. It wasn’t the worst sleep I’ve ever had but if I wasn’t so stubborn I would have rigged the lee cloth in the main berth for a smoother ride.

11:00 pm
42° 18.3211′ N,124° 29.5536′ W

It so cold and more damp than you could possible imagine outside of my snug bed. It feels like a light layer of moisture is covering everything I own.

A few minutes later I am dressed and back on watch again. The moon is out so night vision is less of an issue. It’s amazing how bright the moon is when there are no competing sources of light.

It’s also much calmer and while we are still roller-coastering, the crashing has stopped. My knees actually ache from bracing myself and having them smash into each other as I was bounced up and down. Isn’t boating life absolutely fascinating?

Tim heads below and I am alone except for Sea Esta’s lights off in the distance.

Sept 14

1:00 am
42° 10.5778′ N,124° 26.8353′ W

Some fishing boat lights appear off to starboard; I figure they are 10 to 11 nautical miles away.

I am spending some time reading. With my ereader’s backlight on dim and providing I glance up and scan the horizon every few pages it works out pretty well. The touch screen even works with my gloves so I stay pretty warm.

The winds are 11 knots on nose, so sailing is not all that fruitful since we want to make time.

Tim comes back up 2-ish and I head below to grab a few hours of much-needed sleep.

5:30 am awake
41° 50.2823′ N,124° 16.9496′ W

The water is glassy when I come up. Tim is wrapped up in a blanket to keep the water off. The condensation is incredible. Some time in the night we have crossed the border and now we are in California.

We round the reef off Point St.George ducking between the rocky shore and a mass of rocks offshore.

6:30 am
41° 45.9228′ N,124° 16.1740′ W

It’s dawn and we are side by side with Sea Esta as we turn toward Crescent City. It’s odd timing for our arrival and we are wondering why we decided to arrive so early in the day.

There are rugged shadows from the huge pinnacles just offshore. Giant monoliths that warn us away from shore with their foamy bases.

7:30 am
Crescent City, California
41° 44.6138′ N,124° 11.3469′ W

We round the breakwater following the buoys in and pull up to the fuel in front of Sea Esta. This fuel dock is a big wharf (which means it is fixed on pylons and does not ride up and down with the tide). We pull up alongside a row of tires with our fenders out and I toss the lines up to Mark, who is already up on the wharf. Then we scramble up the ladder and wait for the fuel boat to show up.

Now we talking about continuing to Eureka, which is 58 nm away. That puts us in around 8 pm and we can just sleep then rather than wasting a day and a half here in Crescent City.

We hit the washrooms and then fuel up. The hoses are lowered to the boat and we have to use a nozzle adapter to get the massive commercial fuel nozzle to fit our tanks.

Then we move over to a temporary dock and wash down the boat while we wait for Sea Esta. It seems we had scooped fuel dock spots from a lovely Valiant 50 who had been waiting patiently at the admin dock. Then they had to wait even more as Jim couldn’t get the adapter to work on his Catalina and had to fill jerry cans and transfer the fuel by hand. Tim got the boat pretty clean while we waited.

It was after 9 so I wandered across the harbour parking lot and grabbed some new sunglasses from Englunds. $14 USD later, I was back in business.

The longer we stand on the dock the warmer it gets and eventually I have shed three layers and am considering losing my shoes and socks. Welcome to California, I guess.

Sea Esta finally finished fueling and floated over to fix their f*cked-up furler. And that turned into a big production as one of the screws was seized and ended up stripped by the time they were finished.

I decided to wash my neoprene gloves. Something had been smelling tres, tres funky in my cabin and it wasn’t me or my socks. Turns out neoprene gets pretty rank. Anyway I washed them in soapy fresh water and we will see how that goes.

10:00 am depart dock

The winds 4 knots from the west and we are motoring in glassy conditions. It’s sunny again and I leave my gloves (both pairs) out to dry.

11:05 am
41° 40.0314′ N,124° 11.9380′ W

We’ve actually got full sails out with the engine off; that hasn’t happened much on this trip. We are making 5.2-5.5 knots, which is decent.

At 11:30 or so Tim goes back to bed to catch a few z’s.

1:00 pm
41° 30.5122′ N,124° 14.0545′ W

The winds have swung and died, so I decide to start the engine and furl the jib. I spend some time fussing with the main to try to avoid having to drop it, which would entail waking Tim. Eventually I get it so it’s not banging around although it really isn’t providing much to our forward progress.

2:15 pm

It is hot enough to actually be seeking shade. A glorious day!

2:30 pm
41° 22.4249′ N,124° 15.6578′ W

The weather changes. Again. Cloud rolls in just as Tim is up and about, and we have to describe the beautiful weather we were experiencing as it sure as hell isn’t anywhere in evidence.

2:45 pm

Due to our delays in Crescent City we decide to skip Eureka. We would be getting in pretty late and the conditions seem good to do Cape Mendocino. That’s the big bugaboo on this trip where conditions are often fierce and highly changeable. Sort of like what we experienced at Cape Blanco, but on steroids. It means another overnighter, though, as the next stop would be Fort Bragg and that’s another 70 or 80 miles away.

3:00 pm
41° 3.8875′ N,124° 22.8007′ W

I hit the sack since I am going to need my rest. I read for a bit and managed to doze.

6:00 pm

Back on deck the weather is foggy with visibility limited to 100 yds or less. It doesn’t look like we will we doing much sightseeing.

We drop the main for night and motor on.

8:00 pm
40° 52.4445′ N,124° 27.1351′ W

Visibility is even less than it was before and it’s almost dark. Tim heads down for his rest break.

8:50 pm

Sea Esta hails us on channel 16. They seem to have shredded most of their alternator belt but don’t want to stop and replace it. It’s still pretty calm out, but Jim wants to try Mendocino and then duck into Shelter Cove and change out the belt at anchor. They are running under reduced revs so I slow down as well; I can see them about a mile and a half back on the radar. We will try and hang back in case they lose the belt prematurely.

11:15 pm
40° 36.9148′ N,124° 35.5308′ W

Tim is back up and I head below for rest time. Man, is my berth ever chilled and damp. So I crawl completely under the sleeping bag and try to sleep.

Sept 15

2:00 am
40° 24.5536′ N,124° 39.7523′ W

I’m awake again after an ok sleep. Time to suit up and head up. Once again it’s wet, wet, wet.

2:30 am

Before Tim headed below, the winds started to climb to 16 to 18 knots behind us so we rolled out the jib and started sailing downwind. It sounds like a lot of wind but since the boat is moving at 6 or so knots the apparent wind (what we feel) is only 10 to 12 knots. If we were going the other direction, we would add the boat speed and it would feel more like 20-24 knots.

Since we were at the turning point at Mendicino we decided to leave the motor idling in case the winds dropped again in the lee of the cape. Yah. Right.

40° 16.7987′ N,124° 34.7160′ W

So Tim sets the sails and leaves, and 10 minutes later the winds increased. And now I am sailing away in 24-28 knots of wind making 7-8 knots of speed over ground.

I had said semi-jokingly after our first all-night passage that I wanted to do at least one more so I could try sailing at night. But all by myself around Cape Mendecino in winds in the mid 20s was not actually what I had hoped for. Manageable, but a little less than desirable.

But the boat sails well and other than the quartering seas slewing us from side to side every four or five waves it’s not excessively intimidating.

3:45 am

Tim popped his head up and reminded me to kill the motor. It’s really rolly now with us burying the port rail on the downward slide and then rolling completely over and burying the starboard rail as she tries to recover and the next wave hits. Fun stuff. And the few bits of things not secured have gone flying below, making quite the racket; but Donna seems able to sleep through it. Funnily enough she did pop up before the weather and waves went nuts wondering if we were ok. I guess she took our assurance to heart and just went back to sleep.

I am now seeing 30 knots of wind in gusts and the speed surfing down the waves is consistently over 8 knots. So Tim leaves again.

4:30 am
40° 10.4821′ N,124° 30.5549′ W

We’ve cleared Mendocino and the winds are lower at 18-25 knots. I lost Sea Esta on the radar hours ago and there was no way for us to hold back our speed.

And Tim is back up because of a squeak. A noise on the steering system is being transmitted right to where his head lies and he was worried that something was wrong. We can’t diagnose it but determine it’s not critical.

So he disappears below again.

5:00 am
40° 10.4634′ N,124° 30.5414′ W

My shift is over and I hit the sack, Cold damp straight through and dozy as all hell.

8:00 am awake
39° 56.0163′ N,124° 17.0930′ W

I didn’t get much sleep.

Everything is even more cold and wet and so very damp. I really, really didn’t want to emerge from my cocoon.

But I stoically geared up and hit the deck anyway and was greeted by a little morning whale. Lovely. I guess it’s worth it. A coffee and breakfast pancake almost had me feeling human again.

The sails are down and we are motoring again. The fog continues to come and go.

9:00 am

Tim heads below to seek his bed and whatever sleep he can find.

I decide today is a data day so I turn roaming back on and connect to the sporadic Internet. Then I sent my mom a happy birthday message and a picture of me huddled in the cockpit. Aren’t I a great son?  🙂

It looks like after 50 or so hours we still have 5 to 6 hours to go.

10:21 am
39° 46.5728′ N,124° 6.1650′ W

We are motoring at 5.5 knots in a not-so-dense fog. There is nothing out here but us and Sea Esta, who magically appeared sometime during Tim’s watch. They decided to forgo the stop at Shelter Cove and forge on.

Right after I note how empty the seas have been I spot a funny marker: it’s a bright yellow float with brown flags on 4-foot poles with two other floats, one blue and one yellow, attached by a line. I have no idea what it was doing floating 10 miles offshore.

11:00 am

What I am calling an albatross is circling the boat almost as if it was looking for a landing spot. I refrain from making any rhymes just in case.

It’s a grayish bird slightly larger than a gull with a huge wing span and the wings are long, narrow and sleek. They soar about 6 inches off the water hardly flapping at all. It has big feet that splay out when it lands on the water. So it’s an albatross…right?

11:20 am

Tim is up again and we finally get a sunny break in the fog.

A fishing boat crosses our bow, drops a big orange float and then cuts between us and the trailing Sea Esta. No idea what he was doing but we are still 10 nm off coast and the water depth is over a thousand feet.

2:00 pm
39° 30.8216′ N,123° 53.2163′ W

I spend some time splayed out in the aft cockpit reading and relaxing in the sunshine while we continue motoring at 5.5 knots.

3:30 pm
Noyo River Basin Marina, Fort Bragg, California
39° 25.4530′ N,123° 48.1041′ W

We turned into the wide river mouth with one eye on the depth gauge. Northwest Passage draws almost 8 feet and the guide book say this places is only 7 feet at datum. We are an hour before a low tide of 1.4 feet so we should be ok. Tim tries the Coast Guard for more up-to-date info but they aren’t much help except to say it should be fine according to their book

It’s a lovely entry under a big bridge that spans the narrow river. Docks and restaurants line the first part of the river as we turn south and follow a fishing boat named Dottie about half a mile up the river to the boat basin.

It’s a really pretty harbour that we are too tired to appreciate.

5:00 pm

We are all tied up and signed in and head up for a shower. It’s probably the most disgusting shower I have seen in a while. But it was wet and hot, and I had my sandals.

We gathered on Sea Esta for a beer and a dinner of pulled pork that Donna had been working on in her pressure cooker. It was great, but I think we would have been appreciative of any hot food that didn’t move.

Everyone was a bit loopy and we had some laughs at each other’s expense. It turned out that Sea Esta had not managed to get their main down before the big winds hit off Mendecino. So they spent a bad couple of hours completely overpowered and running before the wind. But they survived and it was all good in the end.

Then it was back home and off to bed for a much-needed, uninterrupted sleep. I think I was zonked out before 8:30.