No, we are not taking Never for Ever out into the pacific (yet). But yes, I am heading south aboard a friend’s boat.
Ever since we managed to basically motor around Vancouver Island, I have been hankering to get back out “offshore” to see if it is something I actually want to do on my own. Well Northwest Passage, the Baltic 42 we did our circumnavigation on, is heading south next month to Zihuatanejo for a few years and they were looking for a hand for the “crappy”part down the west coast of the U.S. before they join up with the Baha Haha in San Diego. After a lot of humming and hawing I finally decided that — YOLO being the philosophy de jour — I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.
There are generally two options once you turn south after exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One is to head offshore 20 miles or so and head strait to San Francisco. This is the most generally popular option because many of the ports available on the rugged Oregon coast are subject to weather and feature some of the roughest weather around — some say in the world. This means sailing 10-14 days straight. The other option, obviously, is to try and harbour hop down and sleep in a harbour most nights, hoping the weather allows getting in close to shore. At this point we are going to be trying for option 2, but I assume that option 1 is always available if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
After we leave San Francisco, which should be around 2 weeks after leaving Vancouver, we set sail again and make our way to San Diego which is another week away. That leg of the trip offers a lot more options for places to stop. So in a perfect world the trip should take around 3 weeks, with lots of hard sailing and tons of experience for me.
The tentative cast off date is September 1st, weather depending. I will likely fly out the day before and pick up a few personal provisions before board the boat. I haven’t yet decided if I will blog the whole trip or just post a summary when it’s all done. I guess that will be decided by just how much of interest actually happens.
—Captain Why #Posts
Forgive the odd image placement. It’s hard to do on the phone.
53° 16.0117′ N,113° 41.8405′ W
Up at some ridiculous hour and off we go. While it was bone dry at our condo we were surrounded in four sides by lightening. At 6 in the morning it is kind of eerie since your brain isn’t function at full speed yet. By the time we were half way round the Henday (our ring road) the rain had started and we just tried to keep out of the maniacal morning commuters’ way and still stay between the nearly invisible lines.
Still we made good time and arrived at the airport barely 40 minutes after leaving the front door. There was an tender but not so tearful goodbye and L drive off leaving me to my dates for the next few weeks.
For those who don’t already know I am joining my friends Tim and Donna on their Baltic 42 as they begin their journey to Mexico. I am just sailing the Vancouver to San Diego leg and get to miss all the boring stuff in the sunny south.
By the time I got through security and made my way down to gate bazillion-and-one I had barely sat down before they called the pre boarding. Since I had emergency row seats I got to stand right back up and board. We started boarding at 7:10 for an 8 o’clock flight. These things are getting more and more inefficient.
49° 16.2889′ N,123° 8.2490′ W
And hour and a bit later I grabbed my bag at YVR and after a bunch of waffling decided to grab a cab. It took me straight to Granville island with my overly heavy duffle and I waddled down the dock to where I saw Northwest Passage tucked up against a powerboat.
There was no one aboard so I called Tim. They were at Starbucks borrowing wifi so I dumped my gear aboard and headed out. The boat looked like it was still undergoing refitting more than something set to cruise a couple of thousand miles south but then boats always look like that up until the last minute.
After a quick greeting I headed off to visit West Marine while Tim and Donna headed back to the boat. I scoped out some prices and then walked a few more blocks to Steveston Marine chandlers. I picked up an inflatable off with an integrated harness and tried on a few jackets before deciding to buy the WestMarine house brand instead. So back I went and picked up a jacket and a pair of cruising boots (fancy sailing gumboots) and then hauled my loot back to the boat.
The rest of the day was spent doing odds and ends. We installed a 110 plug in the vberth and a twin 12v/usb plug at the chart table. These were fairly simple jobs but involved a lot of boat yoga so I was a tad stiff later.
Next up was bolting deck rails on the stanchions for lashing spare tanks we have 1 gas tank, 4 diesel tanks and 4 water tanks, all 5 gallons each. Along the way I managed to drop Tim’s favourite crescent wrench overboard. Losing other people’s tools seems to be becoming a habit for me.
Once those were done we then worked on a grab rail for the dodger. this involved wonderful the docks trying to find something we could bend this 3-foot piece of stainless steel over so it would match the existing curve. Pretty much every system we came up with was almost guaranteed to kink the thing rather than add a bend but like the manly men we are we persevered. Well actually Tim persevered. I eventually got bored and wandered off after declaring the task impossible. Of course now we have a handy, perfectly curved, stainless steel grab rail attached to the front of the dodger so I guess we all know who won and crushed in that scenario.
Supper was a late night bbq’d steak and that was pretty much it for Day 1. I crawled into my berth and resolved to actually get organized later.
8:00 am departure
I wandered up to the shore to have a lovely hot 6 minute shower and was back on board and ready to go by 8. We were supposed to meet up with our traveling companion Sea Esta X out in English Bay by 8:30. Sea Esta is Tim’s boat, a Catalina 42, and he is also taking it south. His crew was joining us in Point Roberts where we would clear into the U.S.
The winds were South 10-15 knots so of course we were going south. We did roll out the jib and actually had a good sail with the winds climbing over 20 knots at one point. One long tack took us out towards Sandheads.
49° 7.1764′ N,123° 19.0649′ W
We spotted some dolphins around out among all the fishing boats at the mouth of the Fraser River.
A bit later we tacked to get closer to shore but right around Tsawwassen we gave up, rolled in the sail and motored the rest of the way.
48° 58.5899′ N,123° 3.8183′ W
2 hours plus at customs. I’m not sure what kind of bureaucratic hell the CPB officers dwell in but it has to be some sort of punishment. There were multiple, multiple phone calls, visits from at least two different pairs of officers, more phone calls and contradictory instructions. But the only question they asked was what was my job which they decided was irrelevant since I was just heading home right away.
Eventually they did issue us our cruising license although they had to phone us the actual clearance number since their system kept crashing and we were free to cast off.
In the long interim the winds had turned to light so we motored against the current towards Sucia Island. Intermittent dolphins visited along the way and we had a pleasant trip across the bottom of the Strait of Georgia.
48° 45.679′ N, 122° 54.951′ W
After we pulled into Shallow Bay on the north side of Sucia I brought us alongside and we rafted to Sea Esta X rather than dropping our own hook. The Catalina is rather luxuriously appointed so we abandoned ship in favour of a cold beer under their canvas.
An hour or so later dinner on deck was corn and pollock burgers and then it was time to hit the sack.
8:00 am Depart
We got up to a rainy morning and had coffee before it was time to go. Breakfast was toast (Donna has a toaster and isn’t afraid to use it!) and jam and, in Tim’s case, peanut butter, peanut butter and more peanut butter.
Jim and his crewman Mark had talked game about going for a run at 6 am, but apparently that was a fair weather plan as they didn’t emerge until close to departure time. We cast off from them and headed out of the bay. Northwest Passage turned to starboard and Sea Esta X turned to port to go around Sucia. We met up on the south side with us in the lead.
We spotted some sea lions cohabiting with seals on reef off Sucia. Apparently détente is possible.
The wind was 12-15 knots on nose and it was rainy and wet and cold the whole way. Most of the trip was using Auto with us huddled behind the dodger drinking tea and watching the U.S. go by.
48° 36.883′ N, 122° 36.741′ W
Our first destination was Vendovi Island, a nature conservancy whose caretakers were authors of some west coast cruising guides (Pacific Mexico and Sea of Cortes by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer). They parked their boat, Om Shanti, at the dock there and lived in the caretaker’s house on this relatively untouched island…talk about a good gig.
After picking up the books and getting them signed, we all chatted for a while picking up hints from these 7-year veterans of the Mexican coast. Then we cast off and headed the shorter distance into Anacortes.
2:50 pm arrive at Cap Sante Marina, Anacortes
48° 30.8050′ N,122° 36.3141′ W
We followed the buoys down a dredged channel and behind a huge breakwater and pulled up to the fuel dock to top up. We put in 47 U.S. gallons of diesel and then filled the tanks now lashed to the rails with another 20 gallons. We should be good to go now if we get any wind.
We moved over to the Anacortes Yacht Club reciprocal docks but there was no room. Tim magically finessed us into a tight berth along side but it wasn’t actually available for us to use. A lovely fellow from Vancouver volunteered to give us his space and we moved over and snugged right up to the dock with Sea Esta X rafted to us.
I headed into town to check with customs on check-in numbers and buy some beer. Customs for some reason was closed. After exploring a bit I ran into Donna who’d found a buy 2, get 1 free deal and was loaded down with 36 cans of Bud. I offered to buy a case and helped her haul her loot back to the boat.
After that it was some more work on our boards, hacksawing the bolts flush. I also updated the android tablet with current charts for the west coast and Mexico. And then I hit the showers. Pro tip: if the showers are cheap and you are wearing quick dry synthetics, then why not start the shower wearing them and get some clothes washing done at the same time.
Back at the boat Nancy and Ken, who are Mexico cruisers and buddies of Tim and Donna were waiting for us so we could go out and grab a beer and a burger. We ended up at The Brown Lantern Ale House which is a lovely small town pub with friendly people and great service.
I chatted with Mark a bit—he’s the Bruce equivalent on Sea Esta. While he’s retired now, it turns out he was a Guinness comms and public relations guy and has lived all over the world. Talk about a sweet job. He is also on board until San Diego but he has a deadline since he’s got a flight to the UK to catch at the end of the month.
Back on board I did a bit of blogging and uploading with the marinas crappy free wifi and then hit the sack in anticipation of a 5:30 departure.
5:27 am depart
While Tim said I didn’t actually need to get up for our departure I woke up when the engine fired up and headed out on deck. I guess I got an extra half an hour sleep out of the deal.
Turns out the port running light was out. Luckily Tim had a LED patio light that had red as one of the options. He tied it to the port side of the cabin top and voila, problem solved. Later he discovered a bit of corrosion and managed to fix it properly.
Once again the magic coffee appeared and I sipped it as we made our way out the various passages in the dark on our way out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I think the food service in this boat is one of its best features. Seriously, Donna takes great care of us.
48° 26.4301′ N,122° 46.8465′ W
Crossing below Lopez Island, motoring straight into 15 knots of wind.
After we passed the bottom of Lopez Island we rolled out the jib and sailed along quite pleasantly for a while. Eventually we had to raise a double-reefed main so we could point a bit higher but holy mackerel this Baltic goes faster on just the jib than my Hunter usually does with full sails out.
Raised main with 2nd reef. Spotted some orca near the bottom of San Juan Island. We head in a little closer and watched as we sailed by.
10-15 knot winds with a 2 knot push has us up to 9 knots over ground. We sail past Victoria and I said hello again old chum.
48° 20.8495′ N,123° 27.2491′ W
Wind died in the lee of Royal Rhodes since we couldn’t point high enough to clear it. So we rolled in the jib and fired up the engine to clear Race Rocks.
Eventually we killed the engines again and sailed through Race Passage noting that Tim’s Lowrance still has a problem with showing the islets around Race rocks at certain zoom levels. We didn’t quite hit that invisible island but…
48° 18.3264′ N,123° 47.9652′ W
Engines on again and we spot two humpbacks off port side. 2 minutes later several orca appear off the starboard. It’s a whale-apolooza!
We also spotted 3 cruise ships in a row inbound to Victoria—gonna be hopping there tonight.
48° 17.3705′ N,124° 2.7739′ W
Dozens of humpbacks. Dozens! I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were as many as 50 out there but the buggers are hard to count. We are surrounded on all sides. Tim spotted some breaching but I only saw the humongous splashes. But there were some diving and some resting on the surface and some just swimming around in no particular hurry. Every time we passed some by we would see more in the distance and the show went on and on.
We finally lost sight of the last one at around 5:45. Absolutely incredible. I got some great video.
After that it was basically motoring into current and wind, making about 4 to 5 knots for hours. I went below around 6:30 to lie down and read for an hour or so. While I was gone the tide finally switched again and we ended the trip doing around 8 knots.
48° 22.4064 N, 124° 37.1292 W
Neah Bay, Wa
We are rafted up to Sea Esta who made it in an hour ahead (they motored more) while it was still light. It’s dark but it looks to be a fairly vibrant fishing community.
We enjoyed a communal dinner aboard Sea Esta and cracked open a welcome beer and made plans before hitting the sack. It was 11 hours motoring or motor sailing in a 15 hour-ish day, but at least it was good sailing while it lasted. Tomorrow is a short day but it will be our first in the mighty North Pacific Ocean.
6:50 am awake
Get up, get dressed in the semi-dark and try to remember where you put everything night before so you don’t destroy your night vision. But there’s coffee when you emerge so it’s all ok.
7:30 am depart
Its a calm morning and Sea Esta casts us off and we slowly drift away. Then it’s simply a matter of firing up the engine and we are off.
While Sea Esta raised their anchor we take a slow tour of the harbour and docks and then follow them out into the strait.
Cape Flattery. That’s the big left turn moment when we exit the relatively protected waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and head south along the rugged Washington and Oregon coast. As with all these momentous moments in my sailing career to date it was a non-event.
We turned south and continued to motor in a small swell with no winds. Still it’s an accomplishment and we will be in the Pacific for the rest of the trip.
48° 20.5334′ N,124° 45.3532′ W
We spotted a humpback and watched him sound with a flap of his massive tail.
One thing of note is that the U.S. weather broadcasts are quite different than the Canadian ones. Their male voice is much more stern and authoritative but it still has some quirks. The one that got me was the hourly announcement that there was no pleasurable precipitation. I kept wonder what that was. A warm rain? Enough rain for a good shower? Maybe it would rain hard enough to be like one of those massaging shower heads? Eventually I figured out it was measurable not pleasurable which took the mystery out of it and ironically enough reduced the pleasure.
48° 12.0367′ N,124° 47.9520′ W
Nothing happening. No wind, swells, lots of water.
48° 0.9295′ N,124° 46.0987′ W
Sea Esta is zigzagging trying to limit their roll. The Baltic’s deep keel and heavier displacement makes it a gentler boat than the Catalina in Rollin seas. They, however, have a full enclosure so I don’t feel very sorry for them.
Tim whipped out his harmonica, well one of them: he has seven I think (A B C D E F & G), and treated us to some solos. He’s pretty good although like most amateur musicians he insists he’s not so hot.
Be that as it may he did attract a couple of porpoises for our visual pleasure. They didnt stick around long–probably more punk oriented and just not fans of the blues.
The Catalina kept rolling and performed even more zigzagging to try and keep the swell off their quarter and we just plowed steadily along.
Eventually we came in sight of Cake Rock which resembles nothing less than a giant cake. Go figure. It did mean we were getting in sight of the entrance to La Push so that was exciting.
There weren’t even ripples on the water and I spent some time on the side deck watching our bow wake disturb the glassy water of the Pacific. Mesmerizing and beautiful. So I shared it on Instagram.
A little later a couple more porpoises came by but no one wanted to play.
2:55 pm arrived
La Push, WA
47° 54.7037′ N,124° 38.2175′ W
La Push was our first bar entrance but it was a non-event. Beautiful, but other than having to pay attention to the buoyage it was no different than entering any other harbour for us. Most (all?) of the ports in Washington and Oregon are in river mouths. That means there is usually a delta of some sort where the water crashing in from the pacific both suddenly shallows and constricts. This can make for some big waves and dangerous conditions. The Columbia River bar is said to be one of the most dangerous and treacherous in the world. But like the tidal rapids in the PNW, if you pay attention to the weather and time it right they should be no issue. We have plenty more to do so I guess we’ll see.
No one was answering on the radio so we picked random slips and tied up. A Fishery guy did pop over to see if we had caught anything but that was it. We never did find anyone and so ended up with a free night of moorage.
I headed out for a walk as everyone else was talking about going for a run and I didn’t want to get swept up in their insanity. It’s a native community but there is a terrific beach on the other side of the breakwaters and tons of tourists camping and staying in some beautiful waterfront cottages.
I went looking for some sunscreen but they were sold out; huh. Along he way I encountered Jim and Mark staring down the beach. Apparently they had lost Donna. A bit later I found Tim who had likewise lost Donna. Donna is starting to remind me a bit of Leslie who also has a habit of getting lost.
Back on board we had a visit from Lucky Girl who is a Selene trawler (maybe 40-45 feet). Apparently they were in Neah Bay last night as well but we hadn’t spotted them in the dark. They were on their way to Portland and also were planning on stopping in Gray’s Harbor next.
Then it was time for a beer. Jim and Mark popped over and we discussed plans. There was a bit of a heated discussion on safety, pfds and mob drills but it was all resolved in the time-honoured fashion of each to his own.
Dinner was tasty burgers and after we did a few chores like topping up the water tank and engine checks. I will admit sitting in the evening air that I gained an appreciation of Leonard Cohen. Although since I don’t really know his stuff I did embarrass myself by asking who we were listening to. I mean I’ve heard all the songs before by different performers but who actually listens to Leonard Cohen? I guess from now on that’ll be me.
The rest of the evening was spent sitting quietly on deck with the funky disco led lights and relaxing.
5:50 am awake
6:00 am depart
We beat Sea Esta and Lucky Girl off the dock and across the bar but the trawler soon passed us and the two sailboats angled out to sea. breakfast was waffles which Donna did in this cool single-sided waffle pan.
We put the head sail out in winds SW at 5 knots. Pretty soon we were cruising along at 6.0 knots with the motor still running.
Eventually though we had to roll the sails back in, but Sea Esta stubbornly kept her main out and zigzagged back and forth.
47° 37.8264′ N,124° 37.9374′ W
We picked up an AT&T about about 5 nm offshore so everyone immediately checks their phones like a bunch of teenagers.
A bit later we spotted a couple of other boats but they were going the other way.
47° 30.0859′ N,124° 29.5289′ W
At this point we are motoring 3 nm offshore but decide to move in closer so we could at least enjoy the scenery. So Tim had a nap and I played that boater favourite, Bird or Crab Trap. There are a lot of crab traps.
A bazillion birds started flocking to a spot just off the starboard side with dolphins diving in and around them. Then suddenly they all took off and moved ahead of us and gathered again. There were pelicans, cormorants, gulls and and something I am calling murrelets but who the hell knows what they really are. Anyway, we guess it was a herring ball but whatever it was it was cool to see the birds converging.
Speaking of birds, I keep seeing these black stubby gull-like birds swooping mere inches above the water and moving up and down with the swells. It’s a terrific but of acrobatic flying.
47° 8.7814′ N,124° 16.2876′ W
A couple of porpoises came along and were cavorting in the rain that finally caught up to us. I am starting to get wet.
46° 54.7574′ N,124° 10.5088′ W
Still wet but at least we are crossing a relatively benign bar.
6:24 pm arrived
46° 54.6005′ N,124° 6.7178′ W
Westport Marina, Gray’s Harbor
It was a 68 nm day but we are settled in the transient moorage at Westport Marina in Gray’s Harbor, Washington. Tim and I break out the tarp to keep the rain out and sit relaxing and enjoying a Bud.
It’s a huge fishing town, really reminds me of the oil patch. A local deckhand looking for work stopped by to chat and beg a glass of water. Sounds like fishing is another boom and bust industry for the workers.
The transient space is only $25 but the facilities are pretty sparse. I am starting to dream of a hot shower. Dinner was pressure cooked ribs but I too tired to gorge.
9:14 pm Lights out
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7:30 am Awake
I got up and sipped coffee from a real mug. Eventually after savoring coffee at the right temperature, I got dressed and joined the conference over on Sea Esta. Seems Jim didn’t have his reef line installed and was trying to get it rigged. That went on for a bit but I eventually wandered away so as not to keep getting in the way.
There were four other boats on dock heading south. While I was sitting on deck Seraphim arrived; they had been communicating with Tim previously by email as they were also heading for San Diego to join the Baha Ha Ha. Later that night one more Canadian boat pulled in for a grand total of seven transients heading south. One of them (a French boat) was ultimately heading for French Polynesia.
As I was walking down the dock the single-hander aboard Tiger Beetle mentioned our starboard upper spreader seemed to be bent. Sure enough, something had put enough force on it to bend it up 15 or 20 degrees. This was a bit of an issue since the rigging is what keeps the mast up and the sails flying.
Tim was also doing some engine work trying to patch a pinhole leak in the exhaust. It seems the boat wanted to stay in Newport for a while. I was going to go shopping for sunscreen and toothpaste but decided with all the hooplah to just run to local marina store and see what they had there.
There are tons of coast guard boats here. I’ve seen more boats and Coasties here in one day than I think I’ve seen in total in the PNW. Since we are right across from the fuel dock, they all pull in daily to fuel up. One of the fellows on the dock, Cody, a Texan, says this is the coast that all of the members get sent to for training. Supposedly the most rugged waters and challenging conditions in the U.S.
We turned the boat around to relieve some of the force on the starboard shroud and Tim decided a trip up the mast to check out the spreader was called for. So we broke out the bosun’s chair and I belayed him up the mast. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for how the damage occurred, but the stainless steel tang that was riveted to the mast was definitely bent.
At that point it becomes a discussion on what to do about it. Nobody was enough of an expert in stainless to know if just bending it back would weaken the metal significantly, and drilling out the rivets to remove the tang seemed like an excessive solution.
So we called around. Tim called guy who referred him to a local rigger. Turns out he was local to Newport, Massachusetts. I got a number from the guy at the fuel dock for a local marine service guy and he agreed to come down and look. Then it was sit-around-and-wait time for a bit.
After he arrived there was a lot of talking and head scratching and eventually Tim ground him up using a winch to take a look. The consensus was straightening the tang and locking the shrouds in place with some cable clamps would solve the problem. Tim had removed some old wire running back stays and it was also decided that building some new ones out of amsteel (a synthetic line similar to spectra) might help prevent it from happening again.
So Tim caught a ride to the local chandlery and picked up some parts (the fellow, whose name was, ironically, Mike Chandler, was kind enough to lend Tim his 20% discount).
Meanwhile I hung out and chatted with the neighbours and generally relaxed in the sun. As the day went on the winds climbed and the boat had a distinct tilt to it.
After Tim got back we hauled him up the mast again where he installed the clamps and had to resew the leather chafe protection. Something that was a lot more difficult 50 feet above the water in the wind than you would suppose. The chandlery didn’t have all the parts for the back stays so it was going to be another trip to the store and another trip up the mast tomorrow.
So while I was standing around on dock watching Tim dangle from a halyard he shouted to me to go help a MacGregor down the dock. The small sailboat had lost power on its outboard and the strong winds had blown it onto Tiger Beetle. There was only one fellow on board with three small boys. When I got there the master of Tiger Beetle had wrestled the boat into the small space between the sterns of the docked boats and was trying to keep it pinned stern-to to the dock. I clambered aboard and tried to get a line on the stern of the French boat to keep the MacGregor from bashing into the Beetle while everyone desperately tried to get the outboard restarted.
Then another shout from Tim had me abandoning the MacGregor to scurry back up the dock to help fend a newcomer off the dock as he’d mistimed his turn and wasn’t able to get into his slip.
Then it was rushing back to the MacGregor where they managed to restart the engine and we cast off and I rode over to the fuel dock where they could catch their breaths and investigate the engine issue. Then it was a run back to our boat to send up some tools to Tim and eventually lower him back down to the deck. I got quite the workout there for a few minutes.
Then it was a beer and dinner and a quiet night before bed.
7:30 am awake
After a nice cup coffee I headed up for a shower. I ran into the MacGregor guy who chatted my ear off as I attempted to brush my teeth and grunt in response. Nice enough guy but a typical farmer with a typical rural outlook on life. Except for the drawl I could have been talking to someone in Brooks.
Tim and Donna had walked into town early to pick up the new battery and hopefully catch a ride back, so I sat in the cockpit and caught up with writing.
The battery showed up and we got it installed. Then we moved the boat over to the fuel dock to top up the tanks and change slips to try and get out of the wind.
Lunch was a toasted egg sandwich. Have I mentioned how spoiled we are?
The Customs guys (4 of them) show up as we leave the fuel dock. Tim had talked to them the day before and received a mild reprimand for not checking in upon arrival. Sea Esta was stubbornly insisting they had been told at entry they didn’t need to check in so they hadn’t. Since they were away on a run the CPB guys stopped by and reminded us politely that Sea Esta had better call them, but the 4 officers and generally martial milling made the message sound a lot more intimidating than polite.
Then it was time for a long walk across the bridge to the old town docks where Englunds Chandlers was located so I decided to tag along. Of course tagging along with runners Tim and Donna is a bit of an exercise in itself but I survived the 2 mile or so journey.
We crossed the gorgeous Yaquina Bay Bridge, which was built in 1936 and was Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Project no. 932. It’s a gorgeous piece of Art Deco architecture with ornate concrete and metal work. It’s really too bad we as a society can’t afford to build things like this anymore.
Exiting the bridge and turning right we passed the Coast Guard station and entered the old docks area, which has been revitalized as a tourist destination with gift shops and tons of fresh seafood places. What makes it interesting is the fishing docks and plants are still there in and amongst the ocean-view restaurants.
We stopped in to see the source of all the noise we’ve been hearing constantly. It’s a special set of docks reserved for sea lions, and man are they loud. They are a protected species so they tend to take over space and make it there own. We also ran into Mark there; he’d been on a bit of a run and was looking for lunch.
Right beside the sea lions was a familiar sight. The old undersea gardens that lived in Victoria so long is now here looking a little shabby and long in the tooth but still a going concern. It’s still even owned by the Oak Bay Group so I guessed they just decided it would be more profitable here in Newport.
The chandlers was stuffed full of stuff I “needed” but I managed to restrain myself and got away without buying anything. Tim and I headed back to the boat and Donna went off to Starbucks for coffee and wifi.
Back on board I learned to splice amsteel as the lines needed loops in each end. Pretty easy if you have a fid (a fancy type of splicing needle).
Then I belayed Tim up mast again — I say belayed because unlike the fellow the day before, Tim actually climbs the mast. All I do is make sure he doesn’t lose any ground as he inches up. He ran the new blue running back stays from the spreader and then cleaned off all the bird crap and algae while he was there. On the way down he cleaned the first spreaders as well and then we were done aloft … hopefully.
Then it was time for a beer. I wandered up to the Rogue Beer outlet by the marina showers and picked up some Hazelnut Brown Porter. Jim and Mark came by and we started a conversation about whether to stay or go that ultimately lasted until we actually left.
The crux is the weather about 100 miles south is turning bad in the next few days. It’s looking like we can’t get much further until Tuesday so is there any point in leaving beautiful Newport? And there is a small chance that the weather will come early and we would be 77 miles south and not able to come in to port. The range of opinions on the dock is vast and a lot of people are insistent that leaving in the morning is a poor choice.
Personally I think the weather predictions look good and it’s purely a matter of whether we think being one leg closer to Cape Mendocino has any value. That’s the cape that has all the unpredictable weather and marks the end of the “dangerous” Northwest coast. So I think it’s fine to go but think staying is a better choice if we have another three days to wait for good weather.
Later when Tim wandered off I had another long philosophical conversation with Donna. She got a thoughtful soul and is fun to wax spiritual with. It always makes me realize how much I do embrace modern spirituality in my core, but just don’t have any patience with the bullshit trappings associated with “new age” thinking. The Lord’s Prayer had it right: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do we need more than that? There isn’t really any need for God or any other divine presence to be a part of that simple philosophy.
Later, after dinner, when I walked up to the bathrooms by the fish-cleaning station I ran into the local pride of feral cats. There were a few adults and about 6 gangly teenagers, all black or black and white, feasting on the scraps they could get at. Very skittish but they would casually ignore me in that cat way as long as I held still.
Back at the boat it is bed time but there is still no absolute decision; but the votes are such that we will likely be up around 5 am and head out to Coos Bay.
4:50 am awake
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.
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.
Back on course with reefed main but still motor sailing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is hot enough to actually be seeking shade. A glorious day!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
6:30 am awake
Noyo River basin, Fort Bragg, California
I crawl out of my berth, dress and head up on deck. Pretty soon there is coffee and toast: peanut butter and jam on toasted garlic bread–the kind with whole cloves of garlic in it. It was…unique.
We’d scheduled our morning around the imaginary fuel dock opening. I say that because no one actually knew what time the dock opened but everyone was sure their estimate was right. The “consensus” before we went to bed was it opened at 7:00 am. Well it turned out that not only were the hours imaginary, but the whole dock was. Tim chatted up a local as we were readying to cast off and it turns out there is no fuel dock in Fort Bragg. Huh.
7:46 am off dock
I grab the stern line and Tim casts off the bow. Then I give the boat a gentle push and we are backing out of our slip.
The trip down the river is really picturesque with tall wharfs and restaurants lining the shore as we head north. Then the river turns west and we slowly pass underneath the tall bridge and out into the shallow bay.
As we exit we zig a bit to check out the sector light behind us. It shows white if you are on course, green if you are too far to port and red if you are too far to starboard. We saw it last night when we came in but were too busy looking for transits to realize what we were looking at.
There is big swell at the bar and we can see Sea Esta getting tossed around as she heads out.
39° 14.2270′ N,123° 49.9943′ W
A grey whale surfaces closer than a 100 feet off our side. It’s almost starting to get blasé. Almost.
Conditions are calm with a 5-knot wind. But it is misty and damp, so not exactly pleasant.
We are treated with warm cookies. But I only get one. Sigh.
38° 57.3899′ N,123° 46.8057′ W
Currently off Point Arena with its lovely traditional lighthouse off in the mist. We came closer inshore to see the sights and cut the corner; staring at fog gets pretty boring hour after hour.
I spend a couple of hours blogging on my phone while Tim did minor boat repairs. All in all it’s pretty pleasant. Then I talk boat cooking with Donna for a while; she mentioned Pampered Chef products. It is something to look into as Donna has some awesome stoneware loaf pans from them.
A bit later we pick up some current and are motoring along at 6 to 6.3 knots.
38° 49.6612′ N,123° 41.9774′ W
Sailing on broad reach with the engine off. Lovely sailing weather as we zoom right towards the coast of California. We must be in wine country by now. Sea Esta is charging along parallel to the shore, wing on wing, but we should be faster.
38° 46.7317′ N,123° 35.5993′ W
We gybe to keep off the rocky shore and head out in 19-20 knot winds. We are going 7.2 to 7.8 knots now. It is still sunny but Sea Esta is gone in the fog that is gathering offshore, so it likely won’t last.
38° 38.6580′ N,123° 30.9479′ W
We gybe again. The low-lying clouds are back and our sunny day has disappeared. But we’re still zooming along. Sea Esta has pulled away slowly but steadily so I guess theirs was the winning strategy. But we never took the reef out of the main so that’s our excuse.
The California coastal highway meanders along the coast above the cliffs just like in the movies. We really must be in wine country by now. It’s picture perfect but impossible to take a picture of.
38° 36.9647′ N,123° 23.1558′ W
Another gybe. It’s weird doing these big long tacks; not like coastal sailing at all.
Although we were passed by Sea Esta on last tack, it looks like we might now be reeling them in. We are making 7-7.5 knots, just screaming along, but it feels like a gentle breeze. I could get to like this downwind stuff. But soon we enter back into fog and lose sight of Sea Esta. Welcome back to cold and damp.
38° 32.0283′ N,123° 20.3277′ W
We rolled in the jib and are sailing with the main only, pretty much directly down wind.
Tim spotted another of those bird collections we had seen a bunch of days back. It’s directly in our path and we will drive right through the middle. Then we spot a whale heading straight for us maybe 60 feet off the bow. He dives down and swims directly under the boat only to surface again off our stern. Then he dives again and I see his torso twist and tail go sideways as he does a 180 and heads back to the mass of birds we scattered and the ball of fish we obviously just drove through. Super cool.
We spot a few more bird flocks ahead and off to the sides and each comes with its own whale spouts. It’s feeding time in the Pacific. Like I said, super cool.
38° 27.9359′ N,123° 14.9785′ W
Well, it’s dark now. Dinner is pizza up on deck and we are still sailing downwind. I fired off a text to Leslie with my current position just so she a) knows I’m still alive and b) knows I’m thinking of her.
These kind of trips seem to be about diminishing resources. Over time we create a sleep deficit that we never manage to make any headway on. Each day ends with you a little more tired and each morning starts with you a little less recovered. I assume at one point you find a balance. Or maybe you just crash. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Or at least get some continuous, stress-free sleep. But I’m tired.
On a side note, it turns out Tim is as wimpy as I am when it comes to hot beverages. Using these damn thermal mugs means we have to wait 20 minutes before we can drink our tea without scalding our tender mouths.
The winds are dying. Speed is down to 4.5 knots
38° 20.0307′ N,123° 7.0162′ W
We are still sailing with the winds variable, making 4-4.5 knots.
38° 17.3865′ N,123° 2.4109′ W
As we get to the buoy that marks the reef outside our harbour, we prepare to drop the sail. But the engine won’t start. The start battery seems to be completely dead after a full day of just sailing in the fog. Not only that, it made every light in the boat dim when Tim turned it over and shut down a bunch of electronics. That’s not good.
Tim went below and switched the batteries to combine the starter and house bank and hit the starter again. The engine started right up and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
We turned the instruments back on and I steered us into the wind so Tim could drop the main. Then I turned towards shore and hopefully some sleep.
38° 19.8268′ N,123° 3.4835′ W
We are all tied up at fuel dock in Bodega Bay. There are two big breakwaters we had to maneuver between in the dark and then a long zigzag channel marked only by the occasional nav light and day beacons. My night skills are getting a workout. But I managed to get us to the marina without incident and on dock without pranging into anything.
There is no power here, which is worrisome. We decided to forego paying for a slip and will just wait until 8 am when the fuel dock opens, fuel up and move on.
So we hit the sack. Yay!
6:05 am awake
Well, apparently the fuel dock hours we read were for October. The regular hours are 6 am to 9 pm and we were awakened suddenly by the fuel dock guy banging on the hull.
He was pretty good about it and we fueled and topped up the water tanks. He even offered us a spot off the main dock where we could move to if we wanted to grab breakfast at the local restaurant. The cheeky bugger spotted my magic cup of coffee and sent me back aboard to fill his cup up as well. Nice guy in the end, though.
7:15 off dock
I get to go through the channel again but this time it’s visible. There is a huge mudflat that the channel is dredged into. On either side there is anywhere from zero to six inches of water. Wander off of the marked channel and you are instantly aground.
Unfortunately my phone was charging and I’d left my camera below so I got no pictures. But there were herons and white cranes standing in the shallows and tons of pelicans and gulls squabbling in the mud.
About halfway out the 3 to 5 feet we had beneath the keel started to disappear and suddenly we thudded gently, grounding in sand bottom in 0.2 feet of depth. Then about 20 feet ahead we did it again. Thankfully the water got deeper immediately afterwards.
We exited the channel and headed out of the bay. Breakfast was served and we settled in for a shortish day. A few porpoises made a momentary appearance but apparently we really are boring.
38° 10.8732′ N,123° 1.1945′ W
We are motoring into SE wind of about 4-5 knots. Somewhere along the way it is decided our nice short day was a waste of time and “we” decide to bypass Drake Bay and go past San Francisco on to Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.
These people keep reading the guide books, getting me all excited and then skipping the destinations. It’s cruel and unusual punishment and I haven’t even done anything wrong. Much.
38° 1.9750′ N,123° 2.8706′ W
We spot a few more whales and a lot of fishermen. This point can be bad in certain conditions, but these sure aren’t them. There is absolutely no wind.
The point is all rocks and cliffs and look really dramatic but it’s cloudy and misty and we see only a small hint of the majesty that is lurking behind the point at our original destination of Drakes Bay.
37° 56.5132′ N,122° 58.1589′ W
We are entering the start of the southbound shipping lanes to San Francisco. We decide to head a bit east to parallel the lanes while Sea Esta opts to cut across.
It is dead calm. Tim spots what we believe are some tiny sharks/fins in water and we see them again and again for the next few hours. Very weird.
We also spot our first sunfish. At least that’s what I think they are called. I didn’t get a good picture but they are these big white blobs floating near the surface on their sides. We see a bunch more over the next few days. Also very weird.
We have lunch and spend some time troubleshooting battery/charging issue. We don’t really come to any sensible conclusions other than something seems hinky.
It’s really warm and I start shedding layers. And the sun is out and it’s a beautiful day. Hazy on the horizon, though, and although we are less than 5 miles off shore we could be in the middle of the ocean for all that we can see anything.
There are, however, these funny annoying flies that don’t shoo easily. You get “swarmed” by 6 or so at a time and they crawl up your face or arms and won’t leave unless you brush them off.
More sunfish floating on surface. Still weird.
37° 38.0294′ N,122° 37.9002′ W
Tim finally breaks down and decides to raise the gennaker. It lives under my berth so he had to take that all apart and shove it up the forward hatch. This is the giant colorful spinnaker with a charging bull on it that we had flown briefly on our circumnavigation, but he’d taken it into a sail loft and had it cut down.
A spinnaker is loose footed and hard to manage, but it’s like a giant parachute for sailing downwind in light winds. But it is really, really hard to manage without a bigger crew. Having been cut down, it’s now a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker. The foot is attached to the bottom of the forestay and you have to fly it in one side of the boat or another. That means you have to sail slightly off the wind and gybe when you want to change direction.
But it has a long sock that allows you to raise the sail and then raise the sock to release it. To take it down you just pull the sock down and you are left with a long tube, which is pretty easy to a manage on deck. The two of us handled it fairly effortlessly.
Another curious whale showed up but really, we must be totally boring because he was soon gone.
37° 29.9180′ N,122° 28.9948′ W
We drop the gennaker and motored into the breakwater at Pillar Point Harbour, Half Moon Bay. This is about 20 nm outside of San Francisco Bay and about parallel with San Jose.
Sea Esta is already there at anchor but we opt to pick up a mooring buoy. Tim still has that cool mooring ball threader on a stick and a couple of minutes later we were done for the day. We rigged up a tarp to keep the moisture off everything and retired below for some delicious chicken thighs.
9:30 pm lights out
Once again we get to talking and we change the destination at the last minute. Now it’s a 7 am departure of Santa Cruz. We will have to see if we actually get there.
6:30 am awake
The fog horn here sounds constantly but it seems to my unconscious brain to come and go, getting louder and quieter as time passes. I would wake up in the middle of the night and it would be a soft lulling background noise and then I would fall back asleep. Then I would wake up again and it would be this harsh, intrusive blaring. Luckily I would fall asleep again and it would become yet another sound-bite for my sub-psyche to twist into something new.
I slept last night with my damp gloves in the pocket of my fleece pants. The previous night they had been damp in the morning and they never do dry out if you start with them like that. It worked pretty well and I didn’t notice them at all throughout the night. Another thing learned…
We fire up the engine and slip the line from the mooring ball and we are off. There is a massive exodus of boats right now. There are the two of us and about 3 powerboats right on our tail as we turn up between the breakwaters. Up ahead there are two of those sit-on kayaks with fishermen heading out.
About halfway up the narrowing channel a 50-60 foot tourist fish boat loaded with people opens it up and passes us all. A pretty jerky thing to do as he throws up a significant wake and Sea Esta and us are tossed up and down, back and forth by the waves. But at least he went on the outside.
A few minutes later a 40-ish foot motorboat guns it while we are still between the breakwaters, but this one slips between us and the kayak and throws up a monster wake. The poor kayaker had to throw his legs over the side to stay upright and was nearly tossed from his boat. It was so unnecessary, and the twit in the powerboat made even more so by slowing down a couple of hundred yards away and starting to fish. Jerk.
It’s a great day and the bay is stuffed full of fisherman. The sun is shining with almost a full moon out as well. No wind, though, so we slowly motor south.
37° 16.8043′ N,122° 27.7814′ W
We’re still motoring in 4-5 knot winds from the south. Pleasant enough but we aren’t making many miles.
Two other sailboats exited the harbour with us. I can see one of them on the AIS. It is a 40-foot Island Packet called Paradisea who, when I check the website, are also registered for the Baja Haha.
All in all there are 4 sailboats headed south today from Pillar Point. I guess we are going the right way.
I set up the soft keys on the VHF radio so we can call AIS targets from the remote mic now. So Tim gives it a try with Paradisea and has a long chat with them. We pick up a lot of info and suggestions from all the fellow cruisers so it’s always good to reach out. I’m sure we will see them again.
The coastline is beautiful with picturesque lighthouses and rolling hills. Impossible to capture by camera though, which is a real pity.
I sent some messages to my parents letting them know our position and generally making sure everyone knows I haven’t fallen off the boat. Yet.
It’s a pretty glorious day and I start shedding layers. It’s nice to be getting some heat during the day rather than being damp all the time. But calling the weather here changeable is like calling winter a bit cool…
It’s still calm and still sunny. Bonus. The winds are slowly climbing from behind, teasing us with the idea we might get to sail.
It’s pretty lonely out here but we do spot the occasional sea lion and porpoise. There are a few fishing boats about but nothing compared to what we saw in Washington and Oregon.
The winds finally climbed above 10 knots and we’ve got the gennaker up again. It’s such a great sail and these are perfect conditions for it. The swells have diminished for the first time in days and we are doing 7.5 knots just a bit off our desired course. I could get used to this.
We hit 8 knots at one point as Tim maneuvers to try to leave Sea Esta behind.
Donna has been doing a bunch of research and calling around and our destination changes from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing because she found a yacht club reciprocal with the Elkhorn Yacht Club that gives us free moorage, showers and power.
Sea Esta cuts the corner on the north edge of Monterey Bay to cruise by Santa Cruz while we head out a bit farther before gybing onto a direct downwind sail right into Moss Landing.
36° 53.8063′ N,122° 7.7344′ W
The winds slowly build to 15-17 knots, occasionally hitting 20. The gennaker is a huge sail and not meant for big winds as it can easily overpower the boat and send us over on our side so we have to keep an eye on the wind speeds since we can’t really tell in a downwind sail. The swells are also increasing again and the boat is starting to twist a bit too much as it moves up and down. We decide to dowse gennaker to be prudent.
We lose about a knot and a half as we start to sail only on the genoa (down to 6-6.5) but worse than that, we have to point up a bit and are no longer heading straight to our destination. C’est la vie.
36° 52.0717′ N,121° 58.3886′ W
I spend some time catching up on the blog. The wind is up to 18 knots and we are still making 6 knots plus. The swell is definitely back so we are rocking and rolling, albeit pretty gently. It was a nice break while it lasted.
36° 51.0409′ N,121° 51.7723′ W
The winds die about 2 miles short of our destination. As we try to roll in jib, we discover a small issue. It’s stuck! By working it back and forth we get it rolled in but it’s just another thing we will have to look at. It’s been said that cruising is just fixing your boat in exotic locations. So far that seems pretty accurate.
We motor in rest of way. The water here in Monterey Bay has a distinctly brownish tinge; I believe that’s a sign of an algae bloom. We spot some whales off in the distance as we near the entrance to Moss Landing.
36° 48.8039′ N,121° 47.2308′ W
We are all tied up at Elkhorn Yacht Club reciprocal dock with Sea Esta rafted up along side. The two sea otters outside the breakwater became over a dozen floating in the north slough (basin) where the yacht club is. There were also 20 or so seals hauled out in the exposed mud flats merely 15 or so feet from our dock. Add in a bunch of sea birds and pelicans and it’s a real wildlife bonanza. Apparently the whole area is some sort of wildlife preserve.
We receive a lovely welcome at the club house. As soon as we walked up the dock the various members gathered around on the deck asked if we were the Canadians and told us that they’d ordered pizza to celebrate. Nice. Then they ushered us into the bar.
I hadn’t brought any cash up from the boat so Jim floated me five for a beer. Everyone introduced themselves as they wandered by to chat for a bit.
We wandered back outside where, unfortunately, a discussion about politics was underway. A left-leaning Californian made the mistake of asking us what we thought of their election and her right-leaning dock mate jumped in and the conversation soon got out of control. I rescued Donna from the clutches of a slightly inebriated, pro-Trump almond farmer because emailing and nodding wasn’t working. But even trying to have a neutral position with her was an exercise in futility. It’s too bad that people can get so caught up in the rhetoric they can’t see the contradictions in there own positions. And I got another lesson in the mindset of American when it comes to their constitution. It’s a 225-year-old document, people. It really should be more of a guideline, don’t you think?
I eventually escaped to get my jacket and when I returned someone else had taken my seat and the conversation had moved on.
I brought back some cash and had another ale and chatted some more. The pizza never did appear so I decided to grab a (free) shower and then headed back to boat to relax and catch some alone time.
I listened to my music — while I’ve been appreciating Tim and Donna’s taste in tunes it’s actually comforting to be able to listen to your own stuff — and caught up on some blog entries. A bit later Donna arrived and served up the chicken she’s been baking. Turns out the pizza had languished waiting for pickup and was eventually delivered if a bit cold. Tim came by a little later and had his portion and we chatted about the day.
9:30 pm lights out
It’d been a long day and after puttering around a bit I climbed in to my berth to read and fell asleep pretty quickly.
7:40 am awake
I awoke to no changes in plans; that was a pleasant surprise. It’s starting to seem like a day without revising our plans is a rarity. We will hang here for the day and head out tomorrow. I had coffee on deck and enjoyed some morning otter.
A sea otter had just hopped his way onto the dried mud flat about 20 feet away and after having a roll in the sand, laid there grooming and sunning for most of the morning. I managed to get some good pictures and video. They are really ungainly on shore but still pretty darn cute.
I took the time to download the otter images to Donna’s laptop to double check I had gotten something sharp enough. Then, while I was there, I figured I might as well go ahead and download everything I’d shot up until then. I did a rough cull and left them for Donna to do with as she may. I’ve been trying to shoot 20-30 seconds of video everyday so she’s got a load of megabytes to deal with.
The big excitement being here apparently is since we have shore power, we and Sea Esta can catch up on our coffee bean grinding. Apparently we are living the high life aboard the good ship Northwest Passage.
Tim and I worked on the jib issue. The furler at the top was binding for some reason. We fixed it by slacking off the jib halyard a bit and relieving some of the tension. Who knows what changed to make it seize like that, but it’s good to go for now.
Then I got my first ride in a bosun’s chair. I went up to the first spreader to hang a new flag halyard so we could fly the Baja Haha burgee on our port side. It was a pretty easy climb with Tim belaying me. Maybe next time I will get all the way to the top but I’m content with the baby steps.
I took a break while Tim worked on Sea Esta’s reefing again and walked up to highway for a look at the California countryside. It’s a very busy highway with constant traffic; crossing it would be like a really nerve-wracking game of Frogger. I opted not to wander further. The countryside itself reminds me of Kamloops: lots of scrubby hills with patches of green here and there.
I spent the next couple of hours in the sun and read and relaxed for most of the afternoon. Mark commented several times that I hadn’t moved but that was a base lie. I went from one side of the boat to the other several times to follow the sun.
In between times I watched all the seals haul out on mud flats as the tide dropped. They are so lazy and prefer to just stop in shallow water on a falling tide and then sun themselves until the tide come back again. I also watched the pelicans fish and then fight off the various scavenging birds who are too lazy to put in the fishing time. Some of them are pretty cheeky buggers trying to literally take the food out of the pelican’s mouth.
Tim changed the oil as we’d done 160+ hours of motoring. I stayed out of the way and read some more.
We later had a brief meeting about our next steps. The majority want to cast off at 6 am tomorrow and put in a 20-hour day, planning to arrive at Morro Bay at 2 am. This is on account of a weather system moving in Wednesday and Thursday.
The yacht club has a Monday night dinner so we decided to join in. Dinner was roast pork, veggies, salad and garlic toast at for $9. Great deal. They really are friendly people here. It reminds me of a Legion with lots of camaraderie and pride of place. Of course we are, as Donna pointed out, middle-class white people so who knows how it would have gone if we were Hispanic or Arabic. She’s a bit sensitive to stuff like that after an encounter they had driving across the U.S.