Travels with Aquavite
The boat: Aquavite is a 1986 Catalina 34, purchased from her first owner in 1998 with 888 engine hours. We’ve sailed her all over San Francisco Bay, The California Delta, and the Pacific Ocean from Monterey to Drakes Bay and as far out as the Farallon Islands. I upgraded the electrical system when we first bought the boat. Over the past few years we’d performed extensive system maintenance including a new muffler, hoses, exhaust riser, exhaust hose and alternator, as well as the regular preventative maintenance chores.
The Trip: We had moved to Vancouver Island in British Columbia in July of 2016 to support my wife’s father. Many years ago I had read George Benson’s narrative of his cruise on his boat, Teal, and had always wanted to do this harbor hopping trip. When we moved we spent the first three weeks doing extensive landscaping work on my father-in-law’s property. Because we moved north in only six weeks from our decision to go, we did not have the opportunity to even consider what to do with the boat, so we left her in her slip in Alameda, figuring that I would return regularly for my “sailing fix.” The idea of actually doing the trip came about only in the middle of July. Our son, Morgan, agreed to join me, and we started planning. I mapped out the stops on our navigation software, and began to make the lists that are necessary for a cruise like this. The boat was ready to go because I had cruised her locally and had always felt that self-sufficiency was a safety issue. We just needed the appropriate supplies, a few backups, clothes and the right weather.
We left Canada for Alameda on July 28th, arrived at the boat on July 29th, and left for sea on August 8th.
This is a log that I wrote every few days on the cruise north and distributed by email along the way to a group of friends. I put this on a blog because others have asked to see it and this is an appropriate way to share the photos (done on October 9th!).
Sunday, August 7, 2016 Not Yet, But Close
Cory left about 0900. Morgan is helping a lot. Not too much left to do: stow the big jib which we took off the other day under the V berth (DONE), rearrange the cabins (Morgan's been aft, is moving up to the V berth, I get the aft cabin which is fine with me) (Underway as we speak, now DONE by 1900), stow the remaining stuff in the main cabin (mostly paperback books I got from the marina lending library) DONE, measure and mark our primary anchor gear DONE, and finish stowing the gear that is in the cockpit which will go in the port locker (backup anchor & chain and rode, small green propane tanks for the BBQ and the catalytic space heater) DONE. The cockpit cushions are back, and we even had guests visit. Mike & Michelle stopped by, Steve visited, Laurie wasn’t feeling well but she returned our priceless ProFurl manual, Morgan cleaned the aft cabin hanging locker and I filled it up so the hanging stuff is gone from the main cabin. I stowed the BIG bunch of paper towels under the aft cabin and tied down the barge pole on deck. Removed the dodger cover, put up the autopilot, and got ready to go.
Because we need to hoard our limited supply of our CNG cooking stove fuel, Cory & Morgan bought a single burner butane stove and we will use that on the way up; it takes little canisters the size of shaving cream cans, our experience is that one lasts a week; we bought almost a dozen! Once we get there, I'll have to consider converting the stove to propane, which is a pretty big, complicated job, but many boaters have done so. I've carefully checked and CNG is simply not available in Canada for pleasure boats, and is becoming less and less easy to find even in Northern California.
Our checklist is completed --- all two pages, single spaced!!! Our "Ruthless Storage" plan checklist item actually worked: we discarded or stored a lot of stuff that has been on the boat for years and years which took up valuable accessible storage space. When we went shopping we actually filled up an entire shopping cart for the first time since I can remember shopping with my mother back in 1492!!! Much of what we purchased were heavy items, like bottled water, juice, soups, etc., stuff that would be a bear to lug from stores during our trip. I've checked out of the marina, and weather permitting (outside in the ocean) we should be able to leave very early tomorrow morning. There is a small craft advisory today for high winds, but looks like it will calm down for tomorrow.
We had a wonderful evening last night at our friend Pamela’s with our “regular gang” of friends. Really fun, thanks to Pamela for doing such a nice thing and for everything else she’s been so helpful with for us. And thanks to all of our friends who came for a delightful evening.
I called a longtime boating forum friend who has his boat in Bodega Bay, our second stop on Tuesday. He filled me in on the important weather conditions (leave early, since the wind only comes up late in the afternoons) and he’s going to arrange for a slip for us there Tuesday night. We can keep in contact by phone or VHF. Should be fun meeting someone who I’ve known and enjoyed “discussions” with online for many years for a first time meeting. A very helpful new friend.
Monday, August 8, 2016 Day 1 Alameda to Drakes Bay
Departed quietly at 0726. Steve Taylor helped us with our docklines and we puttered out into the Estuary. We were “attacked” by lots of ferries – we hadn’t been on the water this early in a long time, and there were at times more than four ferries visible, with three in close range. Humbug to commuting, but if you have to go to work, that’s the way to do it. It sure worked for us after The Earthquake in 1989.
The towers of the Golden Gate Bridge were wreathed in heavy fog. They are 714 feet tall, so the fog was lower than its usual 1500 feet. There wasn’t any wind as we rounded Point Bonita and headed north. Morgan dropped down into his bunk and slept as we motored north, past Muir Beach, Stinson Beach and Bolinas. There weren’t many crab traps and only a few recreational fishermen, saw two or three commercial fishing boats. Seas were lumpy, maybe 4 feet at 10 seconds.
The wind came up at 1130, a nice 12 knots, would have been great for sailing but it was right on the nose. As we neared Drakes Bay the wind built to its usual afternoon 24 knots. We dropped our hook abeam the old cannery building at 1417. 3066.93 – 3060.63 = 6.3 engine hours 10 + 2 + 22 = 34 nm 34 / 6.3 = 5.3 knots average speed. We were off from 1.5 miles to 3 miles on the way up.
Most of our gear stayed put, but we have to be more circumspect with our storage, which worked fine for motoring and when keeping the boat flat, but some things have to “find their place” to be prepared to sail and heel.
If the wind persists, the fog will most likely roll in again. If the fog holds off, the stars could be spectacular.
A half an hour later, things got spectacular, but not in a good way. Morgan was down below, and I was just heading down when the anchor began to drag. I started the engine and motored toward the anchor, attempting to take the strain off and stay put, but as we started to hold our ground the anchor rode wrapped around the propeller shaft, stopping the engine. I tried reversing it off, but that didn’t work. The rocks were getting too close. Morgan hopped up and we immediately deployed the jib and sailed off the lee shore. We crossed the bay back and forth, but realized that with the anchor line caught on the prop shaft, trying to set the anchor again could do more damage than help. Our conclusion: “There is no other option but to return to San Francisco.” So, we did, sailing downwind with just the small jib, we were doing 4.5 to 5 knots in the 25 knot breeze. We didn’t know if we still had the anchor attached to the line around the prop. In order to minimize the chances of the anchor hanging completely off the strut and prop, I pulled hard on the anchor line from the bow, and ran it back outside the lifelines, attaching it firmly to the starboard stern cleat.
On the way down, we dug out the backup anchor and chain which we’d carefully stowed in the port locker, and dug out the old rode from the lazarette. I dragged each component up to the bow and after assembling them, stowed the gear in the anchor locker.
The sun set at around 8:15, and the 1/3 moon was setting. We rounded Point Bonita as it got fully dark, and crossed to the south side as a containership was leaving port. We were able to sail as far as the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge when the building ebb current and dying breeze stopped us in our tracks. Our intention was to be able to sail to Sausalito, perhaps as far as Schoonmaker Marina, and assess the damage from the safety of a dock. But the dying wind and the ebb compelled us to call Vessel Assist via the Coast Guard, who showed up less than an hour later. Peter did a superb job getting us hooked up for a tow, and when we neared Sausalito, we switched to a side tow. Once hooked up, we went nowhere. The anchor was still attached. We’d sailed all the way down with it hanging off our stern! Peter deployed our backup anchor off the bow and bid us farewell at about 0130 on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016 Day 2 Sausalito
I woke up at 0730, wondering what’s next. I couldn’t get my new Smart Phone cellular data plan to work. But I spied a Latitude 38 magazine on the saloon table with an advertisement for KKMI, a boatyard in Sausalito, on the back cover. Since my phone was working, I called them. Instead of an electronic voice message menu (don’t you just hate those things?), a real live person answered the phone. Her name was Kate Odle. I explained our predicament, being anchored right off the ferry terminal dock didn’t help either, and she gave me the phone numbers of a couple of local divers, one of whom she used on her boat (Dave). She also gave me the phone number of Matt of Fastbottoms Diving, who I know from internet boating forums. Matt is in Richmond, too far away, but he also gave me some other options by text. I left a message for Dave and then talked to Tim who had his entire crew out of town for the day. Dave called back and turned out to be the most helpful person. Once he heard the story, he told me his two guys were due in to the office soon, and he’d call me right back with updates. A few minutes later he called back and said one of his divers was coming in and he’d keep me posted. He called again at 10:30 and said he’d be there within an hour, he had to fill the air tanks for the diver. He and Matt came at 11:28!
Matt dove in, explained the prop shaft had the line wrapped and would need to be cut, but, of course, the anchor was still there. Dave and Matt buoyed the anchor line, cut it free of the shaft and handed up the remaining line into the cockpit. Matt hopped on the bow and we motored up to the backup anchor and he stowed it in the locker. Dave retrieved the main anchor and chain and returned it to our bow. Dave then had me check the engine/transmission and all seemed good. Dave and Matt took off after saying he’d see me later at Schoonmaker to settle accounts. We motored uneventfully to the marina, tied up, checked in and started planning.
Since Kate had been so helpful, we walked over to KKMI, hoping to find some anchor rode, and say thanks in person. They didn’t have any, but Kate offered us a ride to West Marine which was quite some distance away!!! A real pleasure. We got our replacement rode but they didn’t have ½” line so I bought the larger 5/8” in stock. We taxied back to the boat and assembled the new gear. We turned in early for an O’dark Thirty departure on Wednesday.
Good crew work well together in tough times.
Smart Phones ain’t so smart. Their users need to learn how to work them. But cell phones are great tools.
The sailing community is wonderfully helpful.
Given the conditions, it might have been more prudent to continue all the way to Bodega Bay instead of anchoring, since we had enough daylight.
Wednesday, August 10, 2106 Day 3 Sausalito to Bodega Bay
We left Schoonmaker at 0647. It had been quite windy all night long, but the forecasts for outside the Gate were good. Morgan drove out through lumpy seas all the way up the Bonita Channel. “Goodbye Again” to San Francisco. Short of Bolinas he asked me to take over. I engaged the autopilot but it started working backwards. As I hand steered, we got out the manual and I found the section about that. It turns out that in the dark on Monday night/Tuesday morning, I had pushed two buttons together that made that happen. I redid it, and things were fine again.
We passed Drakes Bay around noon, and Point Reyes was spectacular. The lighthouse is built on a cliff, but the mountain behind it goes higher. This day, the top of the mountain was wreathed in low fog, but the lighthouse was in the clear. Clever planning. As we rounded the Point, I called our friend “Chief” who stays on his boat during the summers in Bodega Bay, and his wife answered, we figured our arrival at around 1500. We made it in, went to the fuel dock first and were met at our slip by Jim and Carol. They invited us to their tricked out Catalina 250, and the clam chowder was superb. Jim & I have known each other for about four years as “internet friends” on a boating forum. We got along just as well in person. They were kind enough to loan us their car to drive to town to a restaurant, since the two small restaurants at the harbor close at the civilized hour of 1700. We got back to the boat at 2130.
Thursday, August 11, 2016 Day 4 Bodega Bay Layday
There was down-on-the deck fog as we drove home from dinner. We had agreed last night after dinner that the best course of action was to sleep in, figuring the fog would be with us in the morning. The exit from the harbor is through a narrow 3 mile channel, not advisable without good visibility. The issue is: no wind means low fog, no low fog means higher winds. It’s not a “pick your poison” thing, either. Morgan was up early and went back to his cabin. I got up at the leisurely hour of 1000, made coffee and did some route planning, picking the next few days’ possible small anchorages, based on all the information we had accumulated.
There are no actual harbors between here and Fort Bragg (Noyo). Just as I finished with some preliminary ideas, Jim came by. He had spoken with a fisherman friend of his He said this fellow was one of the more successful skippers who usually came in with the biggest and best catches, and who, naturally, had experience in knowing the small craft nooks for safety. He mentioned Fort Ross, since the Russians had started the settlement and brought boats from there to here. He also mentioned two or three more, all of which showed up on our plans, too. This kind of information is priceless, and also reflects the camaraderie of the sailors along this coast and all others, too.
I went up to the harbormaster and checked in for another night, came back to the boat and got the laundry. ‘Natch, just as I got to the laundry room door, I realized I’d forgotten the detergent back on the boat. Morgan kids me about sailors (especially me!) not walking a whole lot. Wrong for today! I got the two loads started, and went back to the boat to fill the water tanks. Morgan was up, and we headed back up the dock to put the wash into the dryer and went to one of the two restaurants for lunch. Morgan cleaned the cockpit and swabbed the decks. We took off the mainsail cover, getting ready for tomorrow’s run up the coast. While patchy fog is still forecast, the next five day forecast is for very gentle seas and little wind. This is not the cyclic stuff we get on San Francisco Bay, but rather the results of the larger weather picture of the Pacific high pressure system building. Last week’s winds unusually high winds outside The Golden Gate were due to an upper low level trough that dropped down from the Pacific Northwest. Once the low moved out, and the high started to rebuild, the winds picked up. Now that that event is over, we can plan ahead with more certainty, or hope, for more settled weather but only for each few days ahead at a time.
Friday, August 12, 2016 Day 5 Bodega Bay to Havens Neck / Fish Rocks
0747 departure in fog which was up high enough and clear of the day beacons until we got out past the breakwater when it hit the deck. We found the entrance “BA” buoy and then “12” further out to sea. Passed close by a small fishing boat, an “Oh shit!” moment requiring close lookouts in conditions of severely limited visibility. We had planned both worst case/best case scenarios for this leg. The shortest hop would be to Fort Ross, the old Russian settlement. The furthest hope was to get just short of Point Arena to Arena Cove. The down-on-the-deck fog soon lifted to higher 1500 foot cover. Sun finally came out at 1130, and some of the coastline appeared. Passed Sea Ranch about 3 miles out. Fog started returning at 1428, decided to head into Havens Neck, an uncharted (by the US govt.) but recommended stop. As we closed, we were able to confirm both the written descriptions we had and what was shown on the GPS and the hook went down on our brand new rode in 34 feet at 1547, an 8 hour run. The new rode was visible almost to the bottom in the clear water. The new line was cushy and stretchy and felt like a big rubber band compared to our old rode. Sweet.
The fog kept coming and going. The cove was very nice, with cliffs, two small beaches, the huge rocks to seaward and a number of homes up on the bluffs. Soon after dusk Morgan counted 15 big commercial fishing boats further out in the roadstead, and one smaller one inboard of us toward the beach.
I did some trip planning for the next day. We had discovered that the charts that Carolyn loaned us for this portion of the trip were from someone who had done this journey heading north, and today’s section pretty much copied their courses. It will be different tomorrow, since they went offshore bypassing Fort Bragg / Noyo River. I also called the harbormaster for Noyo and got a slip assignment, but neglected to ask him for the wifi password. Never again! The harbor office is closed on weekends.
Saturday, August 13, 2016 Day 6 Havens Neck / Fish Rocks to Noyo / Fort Bragg
Early wakeup after a very rolly night. Arose at 0530, cereal for breakfast, still rolling, heavy fog and dew, donned foulweather bibs. Morgan had to put a lot of effort into raising the anchor. Double the depth we’re used to makes a big difference in the work that is required. We used the rising tide and the swoop and dip of the bow of the boat to assist getting the gear on board. We left at 0647. By then all the fishermen had left, so we didn’t have to weave our way through them. There was no wind, but we raised the single reefed main for its steadying effect only after we cleared the rolly harbor. We rounded Point Arena with little visibility at 0900, passed a few recreational fishermen, and set our course for 335M to Fort Bragg. Morgan took the con for the first few hours, while I navigated and read, then he went below while I took us to Noyo, where we arrived at the harbor entrance at 1347. This xx47 is becoming our “thing!” 7 hours, we made good time.
On this leg, I found that the settings for each individual screen on our GPS that we had used for many years for navigating SF Bay and racing weren’t so useful for open ocean and coastal piloting, so I changed the information on some screens to reduce the need for scrolling and made the data fields on each screen more useful, especially for having heading and bearing on each screen as well as in the same place on each screen. We use the handheld for real time sailing and keeping “tracks” of where we’ve been, which have been useful in exiting harbors in fog, following how we’ve come in. We reinitialized our old Magellan handheld and confirmed that it agrees with our Garmin GPSMap 76Cx. I use the laptop Garmin Map Source charts for long range distance planning. We do have a GPS puck that we could attach to the laptop, but so far have seen no reason to keep the laptop running. Two electronic backups works for us so far, plus hourly plots on the paper charts. I will consider listing and inputing main waypoints into the Magellan for future runs. We use rechargeable batteries for the 76Cx, fresh everyday before we leave, and they last well beyond our daily runs.
George Benson called going into the Fort Bragg/Noyo harbor “like going through a hole in a wall.” The entrance is narrow, only a few boat widths wide. There was excellent visibility under high fog cover, and no surge in the entrance. There was a very old and decrepit wooden fishing boat plodding along ahead of us, which required us to slow way down, while sport fishing boats came zooming by going in the same direction throwing huge wakes.
Once “inside” it was like going back in time. Except for a fish plant and the Coast Guard station on the south shore, nothing in here seemed to have been built any later than 1932. We learned that the fuel dock had been discontinued, sometime after the 2003 guides we have onboard were published, so we’ll have to do some math to assure ourselves of sufficient fuel until our next opportunity in Humboldt Bay / Eureka, two days north.
The harbor has what Cory would call “character.” Rickety wooden docks, a place where old boats go to die, but it has working electricity and water, plus a nearby bathroom but no shower. Once we tied up, Morgan checked Maps on his cell phone and we walked up the hill to the Boatyard Shopping Center. We grabbed a pizza, ate it there using their free wifi, and then did some limited shopping in a very nice Harvest Market. We cleaned up the boat, made some “we’re fine” phone calls, and went out to eat up the hill again.
Yes, sailors do actually walk. Morgan brought his backpack and we had two canvas sacks for our shopping.
Nice quiet, restful, and flat night!
Sunday, August 14, 2016 Day 7 Fort Bragg Layday #1
Woke up shortly before 1000, nice, quiet and still flat! Did the log book and this journal. Had the cinnamon bun we bought at the store yesterday. The sun made a very brief appearance at 1110, and has since gone back into hiding. There is a tad more breeze today. There is also a Small Craft Advisory for the next three days with high winds and heavy seas. We’ll keep a careful eye on that since our next stop, 40 miles / 7 hours north of here is another anchorage. Analysis, based on 20 gallons (of a 23 gallon tank) indicates we have 2½ gallons to spare to Eureka, or 5 hours motoring, without the 3 gallons I’ve always kept “in reserve” in my planning. Looks good.
After a few days on board, we’re finding the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” remains so true. First, it’s easier to find things. Second, being neat counts, because in small spaces, having clean and open surfaces is important. And it just looks better. A few things have been rearranged, compared to original concepts, but not much. The port settee forward is good for piling things like gloves, hats, folded bibs and lifejackets up because we can’t sit there due to the kerosene heater (never used, yet). The forward main saloon seat holds the guitar and is a great place to pile our coats, jackets and bulky stuff, yet still not be in the way. We’re keeping the saloon table clear for laptops and a big navigation station for the main charting & planning. The forward end of the table has just a few small things on it. Morgan’s settled into the forward cabin. I’ve begun to clean off the “stuff” that has accumulated over the years on the shelf over the engine in my aft “stateroom” and still need to rearrange some stuff to make the best use of the space.
We decided today will be a “do nothing” day. We could get good at it.
Yeah, right. The pressure water pump decided to pack it in after a mere 30 years. OK, we have an, uhm, backup. I just need to find the “fixit” manual, but, being dependent on the “web” and not having this particular one in my files, I fired up the wifi hotspot from my new Smart Phone. Only took me five days. But there was no demand at Havens. What can I say? Being technologically challenged is a mere ‘nother hurdle to overcome, like “fixing boat parts in exotic places.” Being ten feet away from the town’s storm drain runoff pipe makes for interesting “things.” Cough, cough… Back to phones: Wow, you can listen to your own playlist while the phone does all the work and lets Morgan watch Netlfix??? The world is good. Oh, Joan Baez, in case anyone is asking. What’s next? The Kingston Trio. I have some classical stuff, too. Just wondering when I’ll be able to find, and play, a baseball game…
Monday, August 15, 2016 Day 7 Fort Bragg Layday #2
Up late last night, noodling around my two “Go To” marine books: Nigel Calder’s Boatowners Manual and Cruising Handbook. I always figured that if I could take only two books, these would be the ones (or two?!?). Not much on the pump diaphragm repair, just analysis. I did find a Shurflo manual on my portable hard drive.
Up well after 1000 to bright sunshine, which means that the marine forecast was right: clear skies and no fog means high winds this particular week, so we’ll be staying put for another few days. I spoke to a returning fisherman last night, who’d taken his boat out earlier in the day and returned – an unusual occurrence. He said the forecasts “have been all wrong the past two years” but he didn’t say which way. I figure if they are conservative, meaning it’s not as bad in reality as predicted, then when they say it’s going to be nice that will be the time for us to go. Much safer that way.
The water pump saga: Was it operator error? Or just plain sheer stupidity? The pump’s working this morning. I’d filled up the aft tank when the pump started suckin’ air yesterday, and then it wouldn’t work. I switched tanks, still wouldn’t work. I did diagnostics, starting with jumpering at the panel to check the paddle switch. Last year, when we were in Canada, our good friend Len introduced me to a better water saver than the old Scandvik wand we used to have on our galley faucet. This new one is a simple pushbutton. Whether it was this button that was in instead of out, or whether the pump needed to reprime after filling the tank, when I “tried it one last time” this morning (before getting out the hammer as the one last resort before replacement!!!) the darn pump worked just fine. I am so very glad I am slow and deliberate when it comes to repairs, and didn’t just helter skelter rip the old pump out right away. Morgan suggests that the slow takes precedence. Can you imagine how much it would cost to pay a “trained marine professional” to rip out a perfectly good pump and put a new one in?
Another “good news” from this episode is this: When we did our “rigorous and ruthless” cleaning up of the boat to make space for all our stores, I had to move some stuff that had been “in the same and right place” for the last almost two decades. One of those was my electrical things – wires, jumpers, and other stuff that was “always” in the middle cubby behind the port settee backs. Well, sure, I could have made a list of where I put that kind of stuff, but noooooo. So, we spent lots of yesterday ripping the whole boat apart searching for it. Finally, a little light bulb went off and I said: “Morgan, it’s all your fault!!!” “Huh?!?” “Well, there’s this lovely BIG black shoebox, from a pair of your skateboarding shoes, no less, that has this label on it: ELEC 3 – Wires, Jumpers, etc. and it is right next to your head in your cabin!!!” Then I ducked! Good news is that the boat got all cleaned up down below. Thank goodness for small victories, and the bigger ones, too.
We’re gonna hunker down and play tourist, even take, gasp!!!, public transportation – a bus – and go see the sights of greater downtown Fort Bragg sometime this week. Morgan wants to go for a run today, and I think, after all my diagnostics from yesterday, that I’m going to take a well deserved (?) break. Just call it a mental health day, if you will. Morgan says I could use more of ‘em anyway.
Here is why we are staying put in Fort Bragg:
Last Update: 846 PM PDT MON AUG 15 2016
16NM WSW Eureka CA
Marine Zone Forecast
...SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING...
Synopsis: STRONG NORTHERLY WINDS AND BUILDING STEEP SEAS WILL PERSIST THROUGH MID WEEK AS HIGH PRESSURE OVER THE EASTERN PACIFIC MAINTAINS A TIGHT PRESSURE GRADIENT ACROSS THE COASTAL WATERS.
NW winds 5 to 15 kt. Waves NW 10 ft at 9 seconds... And W 2 ft at 15 seconds. Patchy fog.
NW winds 5 to 15 kt. Gusts up to 30 kt. Waves NW 9 ft at 9 seconds...and NW 3 ft at 14 seconds. Patchy fog.
N winds 5 to 15 kt. Gusts up to 30 kt. Waves NW 11 ft at 10 seconds...and NW 3 ft at 14 seconds. Patchy fog.
N winds 10 to 20 kt. Waves NW 11 ft at 11 seconds.
N winds 10 to 20 kt. Waves NW 13 ft at 11 seconds.
NW winds 5 to 10 kt. Waves NW 9 ft at 10 seconds.
W winds up to 5 kt. Waves NW 6 ft at 9 seconds...and NW 2 ft at 14 seconds.
N winds up to 5 kt. Waves NW 6 ft at 12 seconds.
We walked over the big bridge to Silver’s Wharf for another nice dinner. The river is very narrow and we had to walk up & down hill 100 feet and a mile each way to get there. Once on the other side, we could see Aquavite. Nice walk back after dinner, too. Been out a week now.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016 Day 8 Fort Bragg Layday #3
Forecasts still for high wind and sea outside, both here and further north around the capes to Eureka.
Took the 1400 bus from the Boatyard Shopping Center (much less than the mile George reported, it’s only fifteen minutes walk away, up the hill to the western end of CA Route 20, which we used to use when we trailered our Catalina 22 to Clear Lake from Ukiah in the 1980s).
Walked over to the Skunk Train terminal. I had ridden the train years ago with Mitra from the eastern terminal to the halfway point. Really rotten weather seems to have kept the crowds down all over town. The sun came out briefly and was warm, then the fog rolled in again.
We meandered south along the main drag, and stopped in for ice cream at a local shop. A mile further down Morgan got a burrito at a local Mexican Restaurant, where a Taco Bell was perched just a tad north. Support local shops!
After this 2.3 miles walk, we got back to the boat at 1600 and crashed. My mobile hotspot isn’t working at the other end (AT&T’s end), the local wifi is weak and intermittent on my computer even with the ALFA booster but works great on Morgan’s computer, my computer charger seems to have developed a mind of its own by charging when first plugged into the computer and then stopping. Gremlins. What the heck, I’ll go fix the two wires that fell off somewhere deep behind the nav station and had cut the power to the main VHF. I’ll feel better having done something. Being stuck in port is not always fun, but there’s always something to do.
I tackled the VHF wiring. On September 24, 1998, soon after we bought our boat, I did a detailed wiring diagram of all of the wires behind the nav station. I keep these diagrams in our “boat book” as well as on files/scans on our laptop. The purposes of doing that particular diagram were to familiarize myself with all the connections, know what was connected to what, learn how it all worked together, and use for future troubleshooting. The future is now. I found two unconnected wires: a black wire which I traced back to the VHF and another red wire. The red wire was from a piece of equipment I had removed a few years ago, but I hadn’t labeled that wire and did so. The other wire was the ground for the VHF, which connected to the analog battery monitor. I removed the monitor to gain access to the screws on the back, grabbed the loose wire, installed a new ring terminal, screwed it all back together again and we now have the primary VHF back in operation.
Most likely because the gremlins saw that success, my computer’s power is back up and working, too. It could have been something as simple as low voltage, since they are still making electricity here by rubbing sticks together.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016 Day 9 Fort Bragg Layday #4
Quiet morning, took a shower at 1410. No hurry, mates.
l was going to take a photo of the boat and text/message it to everyone, but there were too many towels and shit all over the place. Why? Housekeeping Day. Did the cockpit, Bar Keeper's Friend on both galley sinks and the counter, and me. Sunny most all of the day, and windy outside, fog rolled in around 1630. Plans for going out on the town to the Pizza Factory. They have great pepperoni. Another rough day. But look on the bright side: we didn’t have to “fix” anything!!! Still looks like Saturday for departure.
Out to Pizza Factory for dinner. Made the Trip Overview.doc file from prt sc into Word.
Thursday, August 18, 2016 Day 10 Fort Bragg Layday #5
Yesterdsay I sent out the trip overview charts with this: "In answer to a steadily diminishing number of requests," attached is a chart of our waypoints and destinations. (*) - courtesy of Lou Gottlieb, The Limelighters, "Tonight: In Person" Some of you seem altogether too knowledgeable about The Limeliters. Oh well, that means it’s a good crowd. I only have the In Person live album digitally, but have all the rest of their material on (gasp!!!) vinyl. Too hard to make vinyl work on the boat. There’s always YouTube, but my free video converter stopped working just before this trip started. A few other things have conspired to keep me busy enough to put that lower on my things to do list.
Noah wrote: Kidding aside, how many planned stops do you intend? Are you carrying a rubber fuel bladder on deck like I used to do on deliveries or do you have a couple of emergency jerry cans on the rail?
I replied: Fuel: although I was disappointed that Noyo didn't bother to tell anyone who writes guide books that they closed their fuel dock many years ago, I've analyzed our supply and we'll be fine to get to Eureka with 2 1/2 hours fuel to spare, 2.5 X 5 knots = 12.5 nm out of a 100 nm two days appears adequate to me. No jugs. [That 2 ½ hours is based on 20 gallons, but we have a 23 gallon fuel tank, so even more of a reserve.] We did the math together, backwards and forwards including conservative distances and times vs. projected run-time, and we agree we have that 1.5 gallon reserve on that 20 gallon tank, but the actual 23 gallons gives us a bigger safety cushion, about six hours or 30 to 36 of motoring more until we run on only fumes. We’ll refuel in Eureka and do projections for the next stops for fuel as well.
We made reservations for Sunday at the Woodley Island Marina just north of Eureka.
On the charts, the planned stops are the waypoints [and anchorages], some include backup anchorages, just in case, most of the harbors are the ones we plan to enter. The red dots are danger points to avoid.
Food & Provisioning: We filled up with the heavy stuff before we left and that proved to be quite useful, since the distances to stores are not great, but, for example, here in Fort Bragg it’s a fifteen minute walk uphill to the market. Easy for the lighter stuff, but Morgan’s backpack has come in handy for anything heavier. We are eating on the boat and at restaurants. I am eating quite well, too, because if I don’t eat it, it somehow magically disappears!!!
Morgan made the barge board. I installed new clips on all the fenders. We did the oil change together. Easy when one has great assistance.
Talked to two fishermen and the assistant harbormaster, who all agree Saturday would be a great time to go. None of them would go out during the past week, but all want to do so as soon as they can but agree that waiting another day looks better all around, especially for rounding Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino.
Steve Dolling reminded me of Passage Weather which seems stupendous and easy to use. Visuals are great, information very pertinent to mesh with the tools we already have and are using.
When we made the reservations at Woodley Island Marina in Eureka for Sunday, the dock master said that her cruisers were all getting prepared for their next legs, too. Just another barometer of weather patterns, observations from many, and gaining local knowledge.
Breezy (10-15) and clear today, nice in the cockpit and cool enough for the oil change. Fog coming in about 1800.
Friday, August 19, 2016 Day 11 Fort Bragg/Noyo Basin Layday #6
Great eggs and potato brunch from the master chef. The large pot, which I had intended to replace before we left, has finally bitten the dust. Why don’t these Teflon things last more than 18 years? We’ll measure it and see if we can get a replacement at Harvest Market before we leave. Anything larger won’t fit in the pots & pans drawer.
Quiet day today after all the work yesterday. I secured the pantry shelving with a wire tie that I screwed into the bulkhead. We think the “roaming” shelving was the cause of the wire to the VHF getting knackered. I cleaned the cockpit panel cover so we can see the instruments again. Did a tad of writing, and did course plotting for tomorrow’s trip to Shelter Cove. Paid off the harbormaster: $140 for seven nights, that’s $20 a day, power, water and free wifi. Eat your hearts out.
Saturday, August 20, 2016 Day 12 Fort Bragg/Noyo Basin to Shelter Cove
Underway again, even with an early morning departure time to match the tide at the entrance is worth it. Of course, Morgan was right, we should have taken in the old electric power cord last night, and simply turned the fridge off. “When will I ever learn?” It was all an ingenuous scheme to get us to leave at O’Dark 47 – something. The big challenge was for me to not forget the big darned POLE off our stern port quarter – the things that don’t exist in Bay Area marinas, which, of course, Morgan wouldn’t let me forget – if I’d hit it. We used the stern aft starboard breast line and as Morgan played it out, the boat pivoted enough to get us to be able to leave cleanly and smartly. Cleanly? Heck, we’re only going all the way to Eureka to do our laundry.
This is an eight hour leg. We puttered out the marina, and Morgan noted that there was a fishing boat right behind us. Since sailboats don’t have rear view mirrors, this was most helpful input. We cleared the two big turns and went back under the bridge we’d entered almost a week before, heck, it was a week, wasn’t it? We set a course for the northwest, but the fishing boat speeded up and paralleled our course, and then he turned his running lights off. Then he ducked our stern and went west.
OK, finally we get to say this: An Uneventful Journey.
There, that sure felt good. Fog along the coast blotted everything out, but it was clear out to three miles where we were which made for safe cruising.
Eight hours later we entered Shelter Cove, with coming & going fog - mostly coming. The closer we get to the coast, the heavier the fog. Fog, OTOH, means less wind, which is always just fine with us, and upon which this voyage is based.
We found a nice spot to drop the hook in 27 feet (almost twice what we are used to in the Bay Area) but rather shallow for these parts, checked our set and relaxed. A Fish & Game Warden boat came speeding towards us, and Morgan hadn’t even thought about bringing up his fishing pole. Turns out he was after one of the dozens of fisher-kayakers in the cove.
Like Havens Neck last week, this anchorage was rocky and rolly. We set our new LED anchor light, only after Stu admitted that he’d forgotten where he’d “so cleverly stowed it for a better more secure place.” Gotta write those good ideas down. [Psst: it’s behind the trash can.]
Morgan stayed up and reported a bunch of dolphins feeding in the cove at sunset when the fog lifted briefly.
Shelter Cove is almost at exactly latitude 40, so we’re up from latitude 38 in The Bay Area. We’re heading for latitude 48.
Sunday, August 21, 2016 Day 13 Shelter Cove to Humboldt Bay / Eureka
This whole trip was predicated on only day sailing. Have you ever bought a toy for your kid that says “Some assembly required,” and then spent entire weekend putting it together?
Two things determine “when to go” (or, more importantly, when you “can” go):
1) distance, speed and time (those are the first three of the two)
2) WHEN you can “cross the bar” – those narrow entrances to harbors that start here in Humboldt Bay (although Tomales Bay is one of the most southern examples of a “bar” crossing). In these cases, one is required to determine when it is safe to LEAVE the harbor you are exiting, and ALSO when it is safe to enter the next one. See 1).
This, then, should be simple: If you wanna be at X at time Z, then ya gotta leave Q at time W if this is how fast your boat can travel. Yeah, I’ve had those days, too. The beauty is that IT DOES NOT INVOLE calculus. Holy cow, wait!!!, it does involve basic MATH.
Shelter Cove to Humboldt Bay is 60 nautical miles (nm). Our boat does 5 maybe 6 knots = 10 hours. However, we HAD to be at the Humboldt Bay Entrance between noon and 1400. That meant that we had to leave Shelter Cove at 0200 – 0300 to get to Humboldt Bay by noon or 1400.
So Morgan upped the anchor at 0230 and we wove out past three fishing boats that had come in well after we had hit the hay. We had raised the single reefed mainsail before we weighed anchor since there was zero wind. Our new LED anchor light and the spreader (deck) light on the mast gave us plenty of light. There was also a spectacular moon, a few days past full. It was the first time since we entered the cove that it wasn’t completely filled with fog. The first few hours were quiet. It was also Morgan’s introduction to phosphorescence. We rounded the “dreaded” Punta Gorda at 0557 in calm seas, with the moon accompanying us, clear above but with patches of fog on the deck but reasonable visibility forward. As dawn slowly broke, we passed Cape Mendocino, its warning buoy and the headland hidden in fog. Both roundings were with zero wind and a calm almost oily sea.
Soon after passing Punta Gorda, I was down below when Morgan yelled: “Whales!” I popped up to see one of them slowly heading south only a few boat lengths to starboard. My first whale sighting, too. Morgan saw a few more as the morning progressed.
We closed the coast on a straight run from Cape Mendocino to the Humboldt Bay bar entrance. I’d gotten in an hour long nap down below with Morgan at the con. We struck the main about a half an hour out, and I called the Coast Guard for a bar entrance report. While they gave me the “statistics,” another helpful friendly boater replied, “Hey, captain, I just came through there. It’s foggy at the bar and entrance jetties, but super clear once you’re in, seas are calm.” We entered at half flood, following the GPS and the chart’s “Recommended Route” through the center of the entrance. It was very eerie coming into a relatively narrow channel (0.3 nm, 1,800 feet) with almost zero visibility, but once we made out the south and north jetties we knew where we were, and five minutes later we were in brilliant sunshine.
We motored about 45 minutes up the channel to Eureka on our starboard side. The fuel dock was closed on Sunday, so we’ll have to pick up our 18 gallons (for our 23 gallon tank) on the way out. Our fuel consumption estimates were exactly spot on as we pulled into Woodley Island Marina: 3,111 hours! The reserve on the “20 gallon tank” left us the 1.5 gallons, plus the 3 in reserve, perfectly. While noodling around the fuel dock to check their hours, we noted that they’d added a new small floating dock, which means the barge board Morgan built will not be required here after all. We’ll keep it, not knowing if we’ll need it later on.
Getting into our slip was tricky. Very tricky, and it took me three tries. The strong flood current was pushing the boat down into the slip but was also pushing the entire boat away from the dock on our port side at the same time. We had to go around a few times until I realized that the techniques we’d employed in the Bay Area would work here but I had to work a LOT harder “to put the boat where I wanted it to go.” I finally got us close enough for Morgan to leave the shrouds for the dock with the stern line, wrap it a few times without the cleat hitch, and I threw him the already prepared midships spring line to secure the boat first, and only then and much later get the bow line. We usually do the spring line first, but the current was so strong that if we missed we’d have to come around yet again, so I chose to use the stern line first; at least we’d be “connected” to the dock if not as “parallel” to it as we would be with the spring. Morgan was really quick with both lines.
Right behind us across the fairway was the F/V Blue Pacific, our dock mates at Noyo. I hailed Joey as he walked down the dock and he came over for a visit.
A sailboat docked in next to us. Don filled us in on some local knowledge. He also noted and showed me his “rig” for a BIG stern line that he uses first when he comes back into his slip on a flood current.
We ate at the nice but basic restaurant, the only services on the Island.
Monday, August 22, 2016 Day 14 Eureka Layday
Up at 1000 for some coffee and route planning for the next leg. Research in all our guides tells us that Trinidad Harbor isn’t a place that welcomes sailboats. It is full of seasonal floats for small boat fishermen and has a nasty harbor-boat operator who shoos sailboats away. Next stop will be Crescent City, 60 nm north, the last stop in California. The fuel dock opening and the end of the ebb at 1008 at the entrance make for another normal night sleep very welcome again. The Crescent City entrance is straightforward because it is NOT a bar, and is comparable to Half Moon Bay with an even wider entry. Winds predicted to remain calm.
We brought our laundry up and did it. A fellow with his two young girls noted that he comes here from town to do his because it’s cheaper and the huge commercial grade dryer does three loads in one shot, need to give it only a half an hour. As Morgan was feeding coins into it, it kept spitting them out. The fellow came over and said, “Just give it a good whack, right here!” More good local knowledge.
Quiet afternoon, cleaning up, writing and stowing the clean clothes. Paid the harbormaster, $41.80 for two nights, free power, no wifi (unless you pay $5 for a 6 month plan!!!, so we’ll use our wifi phone hotspots for limited connectivity).
The A.C. power went out to the outlet in the galley and the microwave. I mentioned it and Morgan said his outlet had stopped working, too. I had originally thought of having to take the galley outlet apart. But then I realized that when we first got the boat I had installed a GFI outlet in Morgan’s cabin. I hopped up and pressed the Test and then the Reset buttons and we’re back in business, no fuss, no muss. Morgan saved me a lot of unnecessary work. He said he could well have inadvertently pushed the test button, since he spends a lot of time in his cabin. Because of his new foam mattress that Cory bought for him, he says it’s the most comfortable place on board. Darn, I should have gotten one, too, it’s truly amazing. Maybe I’ll get clever and use the starboard cockpit cushion one night.
This is a wildlife sanctuary. Lots of birds, pelicans, seals, everything.
Two weeks out. One week harbor-bound. Not too bad.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016 Day 15 Eureka to Crescent City
We left the Woodley Island Marina after a nice breakfast at the restaurant, although we’ll need to provision at our next few stops in Crescent City and Brookings before anchoring out at Port Orford, and then on to Coos Bay.
Filled up with 18 gallons of fuel. Just as we pulled into the tiny little (and new since Carolyn & Kathy came through three years ago) recreational vessel floating dock with cleats, the large white Coast Guard vessel nosed in behind us. I limited the fuel to 18 gallons instead of trying to top completely off, not wanting to risk even a tiny, tiny spill in front of those guys.
We crossed the bar between 1130 and noon. The CG reported a mile visibility, but they must be on another planet. The width of the entrance is 0.3 nm and we could barely see either side from the middle. Sunny inside, fog right there at the trickiest spot (of course), and clear but with high fog outside.
Pretty straightforward 10 hour trip north on a constant heading of 345M. Not too cold, a tad of sun at 1400, for maybe fifteen minutes. Absolutely NO other traffic, vessels or radio. We saw a different kind of whale, single, no school, big, no tail flapping flukes. Morgan later saw a seal getting attacked by sharks, while I was having my afternoon constitutional. He has eagle eyes for marine wildlife.
The approach to Crescent City is “easy” but with the down on the deck fog and in the dark we were within 0.3 nm of the R2 buoy before it showed, and we followed the buoys into the harbor. The autopilot does a lot better steering than a human. In conditions like these, trying to plot on the GPS and steer in fog is hard. Steering a straight line, even under power, in limited visibility and/or at night is best left to what we call Graeme, our U.K. autopilot. I just need to reset it to the more rapid response, an easy two button task. We have it set for slow response at sea, since it not only uses less power, but is much quieter.
We took down the mainsail in the outer harbor (albeit with a short delay while I had to reclear the line I hadn’t done such a good job with while Morgan was up on the mast --- but it was flat with just a little wind inside). There was plenty of room in the harbor for us, but we ended up picking a spot with only 50A power and had to move the boat by hand after we’d docked. Plugged in, set the heater on, Morgan showered and we ate on board.
Free wifi!!! What a pleasant surprise.
71.7 nm on our knotmeter. 1100 to 2200. Good time, 6.5 knots average.
Now at latitude 41. Once we’re able to be on the move, we actually can get further north.
Oh, I forgot: On our trip out of Noyo, we had a passenger. A few hours out, I saw a land bird laboring mightily coming up on our port quarter. He or she flew closer and landed on the port jib sheet. For the next hour, the little brown bird kept us amused. It hopped all over the boat, came aft, and even hopped up on the steering wheel! I’d read all sorts of stories about sailors who had bird experiences, but I’d never read one about such a small bird not being afraid of people to get this close for so long. After I put out some bread, it flew away. Maybe it didn’t like Jewish Rye!
Wednesday, August 24, 2016 Day 16 Crescent City Layday #1
The harbor is almost deserted, even though the docks are brand new and the pilings and supports are impressive. This place got devastated by a tsunami many years ago in 1964, and then again in 2011, and they rebuilt solidly. The birds have taken over the transient dock because it is infrequently used (by humans). [Five days later, Morgan is still trying to get the soles of one of his pairs of shoes clean.]
We ate at a nice family style restaurant across Highway 101 for lunch. Then we went into town to a Safeway located less than a mile away, all flat terrain this time. The other restaurant we wanted to go to for dinner was closed for just the next two days for renovations (!) so we went back to our lunch stop for dinner. Neither one of us was pleased with our dinners. In fact, they were both horrible.
The sun came out for about 20 minutes in the afternoon. It’s dark and gloomy, but the electric heater and the trawler lamp are keeping us warm.
Thursday, August 25, 2016 Day 17 Crescent City Layday #2
We’d planned to move on to Brookings today, but the head needs to be examined. OK, we’re ready for all the “examine his head” jokes you can come up with. It’s part of routine preventative maintenance, but something we didn’t get to before we left. Since it is not pumping OUT so well as it should, and is definitely not something we want to stop working (!!!), and is certainly not something we can do while we’re underway, we want to put this work behind us.
Back in April I had the distinct pleasure of finally meeting Peggie Hall. She is “The Head Mistress” and wrote THE book about boat odors and heads in boats. She was in town for the boat show in the Bay Area, stayed over an extra day, and we went sailing together. She told me back then I should do the rebuild. I have all the parts, which I sourced from the store and the great folks from www.sailboatowners.com, who have an online store and a really friendly group of skippers on the boating forum that they host. The work requires disconnecting a couple of hoses, disconnecting the pump from the base to lubricate the insides, and replacing two “valves:” the flapper and the joker. Where do they come up with these names? Since I figure it’s an hour’s worth of work, we’re scheduling three hours for it, ‘cuz everything takes longer than you plan on a boat. I even know where the parts are stored! When we fixed the fridge weeks ago, I had saved the box the electronic module came in, and put the head rebuild parts in it, and put the box in the head, right where they need to be. [Head = 1) the thing on top of your shoulders; 2) the “toilet” itself; 3) the “room” that the “toilet” is in on a boat.]
The weather still looks good for the next few days, and the tides are an hour later every day, so this will give us more flexibility in getting into and eventually out of the Brookings entrance. It’s good for tomorrow afternoon because the flood starts an hour or so after noon. It’s better to enter (and also leave) on a rising flood as early as possible to avoid the stronger currents that can occur during the middle of the flooding period. Ebbs are definitely not something to attempt, because the rivers emptying are fighting the ocean, certainly a losing battle that sets up rather nasty counter currents. Another advantage of this is that the weather looks better a few days off for rounding Cape Blanco. Crescent City to Brookings, Brookings to Port Orford (which is an anchorage) and then to round Cape Blanco and on to Coos Bay. Many have reported that they had to transit Cape Blanco in the wee hours of the morning, similar to our strategy at Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino, but Passage Weather is showing NO wind at noon for the next few days (thanks again to Steve Dolling for reminding me of Passage Weather). This gives us a lot of flexibility.
One of the things I recommend to many folks on the boating forums I frequent (Morgan says it’s an obsession) is RTFM. Read The F-ing Manual. So I did. For the head, and almost everything else on board, I have the hard copy as well as a file on the computer. Instead of disassembling the entire unit, I followed the instructions in the manual, lubricated the piston and tightened the cap on the top of the pump assembly. The head is now back to working normally. I know Peggie will repeat her admonishment to lubricate the INSIDE of the pump, too, and we intend to do this sometime in the near future. I also have a replacement ring for the inside piston. Today’s goal was to see what was needed to get it to work properly and we did. The joker and flapper valves appear to be working just fine.
I went to the harbormaster to pay for the extra day, another heavy $19. No sun at all today, but the ground fog never showed up and the higher fog/clouds today are more like the 1,500 foot ones we knew in San Francisco, and we can finally see the hills south of town outside the harbor.
Great dinner tonight. Pleasant change from last night. Chart House (not a chain) overlooking the sea lion docks. Noisy. But fun and good food. Morgan had the steak and lobster, I just had the NY steak, really good.
Friday, August 26, 2016 Day 18 Crescent City to Brookings, Oregon
Out of California
Fuel consumption projections performed yesterday indicate we’ll be fine all the way to Coos Bay. We may top off with 7.5 gallons or so in Brookings if it’s convenient. Depends on if they have a dock or if we have to haul the barge board out, but that could be an “experience,” as long as it’s one we wouldn’t want to endure.
I didn’t plan the navigation so well for this leg of the trip. We needed to round St. George Reef. But all of our reference sources mention a “shortcut” through the reef closer to shore in good weather and calm seas, to avoid having to go further out a few miles. I only realized or remembered this as we encountered some heavy, low fog when we neared the huge tower on the outermost major rock of the reef six miles out. However, we’re very glad we didn’t do the “shortcut” because the tower was awesome as it appeared out of the gloom, with waves breaking and surf flying. It looked like something we’d seen in Brittany. We passed a yellow NOAA weather buoy a mile or so to the north and the fog finally lifted for the straight run to Brookings and we could actually see the coastline for the first time since Sea Ranch in California. This was a “short” (for us) five hours trip; we’d left Crescent City at 0930.
This was only our second bar crossing. The jetties at Eureka (Humboldt Bay) were 1,800 feet apart. These jetties were less than 300 feet apart with a channel only half that width. The sun had come out again and visibility was excellent. We had some difficulty discerning the locations of the two jetties because the south one was a lot shorter than the north one, and with planning our course to line up for the narrow channel, we were also lined up perfectly with the jetties and only got to see the ends of them. Once we slowed and figured it out we had no issues getting in.
The fuel dock was right where the charts said it would be, but there was a big CLOSED sign on it that we only noticed after we had already tied up. Another sign suggested calling on VHF CH 12 and when we did we heard the radio right inside the closed fuel dock shack. We then called the phone number on he sign, and the fellow that answered said: “The girl should be there.” “Uhm, well, she’s not.” “Oh, OK, I’ll call her and she’ll show up sometime soon.” Island Time right here on the mainland! She appeared about ten minutes later and we topped off with 8.237 gallons at 3,127.84 engine hours, right in line with our projections. We moved down the dock and tied up at the transient dock. There was one other boat there, a hippie-dippy looking Newport 28.
We had read that the Coast Guard used to regularly board boats when they arrived in Brookings. Just as we entered the harbor and before we tied up for fuel, the silver CG boat came roaring out, but passed us going up the river. We thought they were coming out for us. When they returned, I hailed them verbally from our cockpit and asked if we could have a safety inspection. Morgan was mortified! So, it seemed, was the CG skipper. He asked where we had come from, where we were going, and how long we were staying. When we said we were leaving early the next morning for Port Orford, he shook his head as if to say “Why would these guys actually want us to board them?” He thought about it some more, and it looked like he’d say: “Forget it !” But he finally asked us if it would be OK if they returned in about 15 minutes and we said, “Sure.”
They returned to their dock across the river, and soon enough they came back across in their big boat, tied up behind us, and a fellow and a young lady came over, hopped on board, and began the inspection. It actually took less time than previous inspections we’ve had from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Coast Guard also has a slightly different form than the Auxiliary, but essentially covers all the same items: registration, safety, securing the head overboard discharge and dates of flares. We passed with flying colors and got a copy of the “Passed” form that is good for a year. It took all of maybe fifteen minutes. It appears that only the Auxiliary distributes stickers that can be placed on the base of your mast. Maybe I’ll get a Sharpie and change our 2012 sticker to 2016.
The hippie-dippie skipper came over and chatted for awhile. “Hmm,” he said, “a Catalina 34. In good shape for her age.” “Me, too,” I replied. He asked about the advantages of our roller furling, and we swapped boating lies for about ten minutes.
After settling in, we grabbed the backpack and one shopping bag and set off for the Harbor Masters Office and shopping. The small store in the newer little shopping center at the recreational marina north of our transient dock didn’t have very much, but Judy suggested we just go “up the road apiece” to the “Dollar Store and market at the Chevron station.” We used the Google Maps on our phones and found it, all the way up (of course) the hill and 1.2 miles away. The Dollar Store was very busy because the market, which we really needed since we were going to be anchoring out in Port Orford the next night, was closed: their computer system had crashed. Just as we walked over to the market it opened again. It was a Grocery Outlet. Did this mean they sold used food? Just big stuff in bulk, not great quality, but good enough for us. After we had checked out with the food, I noticed a small section of electronics. Morgan needed backup ear buds for his iPhone. All they had was a garish purple and a mottled green, but for only $5. He pointed out a small Bluetooth speaker for only $9.99 and said, “That’s a great price, they’re usually a lot more.” So we got both, the black speaker and green ear buds. Now Morgan has a backup set of buds if his do die, and we have a speaker we can use to listen to the music we both have stored on our phones without using the old “tape-in-the-stereo” trick. My boat stereo system is the last of the soft-touch quality car cassette decks, with a 10 disc CD changer and AM/FM radio. Yes, cassette tapes. No laughing allowed. I still have all those MIX TAPES I made back in the eighties.
The little cheap Bluetooth speaker is very good. We were both amazed at the sound quality. This could be a curse though, because while I got to use it one day when we were motoring north and Morgan was down below, I don’t get to play my “Wailing Women” folk music on it when Morgan is awake, and he is the man who never sleeps.
I also wanted an alarm clock, because neither the small battery powered clock nor my Smart Phone works on getting my sorry head out of “sleep mode.” I went into Rite Aide and found their only three alarm clocks. One was 120V but we’re not always plugged in and we don’t want to run the inverter all the time for a dumb clock. One was complicated beyond belief. The final one, though, was right up my alley: a simple manual WIND UP clock, with a winder for time and another one for the alarm. This could have been made when I was ten years old, because it looked almost identical to one I had when I was tasked by my parents to wake myself up to go to grade school.
Between the Bluetooth speaker and the manual alarm clock, we bridged the 19th and 21st centuries. The Bluetooth speakers at Rite Aide were $30 minimum.
I also picked up a three-pack of reading glasses for less than the cost of one pair of Foster Grants. I keep my reading glasses back in my cabin and was forever trying to remember where I put them, and they were never where I needed them to be. Somehow, I can’t explain why, they kept getting lost. Ever happen to you? And I didn’t want to go the route of wearing them around my neck on a string. Now that I have four pairs, I might just be able to find one when I need them. Another case of where having backups on a boat really helps.
We ate out at the Irish Pub. There was a folksinger with a “double 0-18” Martin guitar [thanks to Nanci Griffith]. The singer had Bob Dylan hair and granny glasses, and for his second set he wore a plastic top hat. He sang an old and, to some, obscure Tom Paxton song that I used to know, The Last Thing On My Mind, and I talked with him later and thanked him for singing it. We chatted a bit about the good old days in Greenwich Village in the 60s, although I did have to admit that my times there had to be ten years before his. The food and grog were great. I had a Reuben sandwich that was so big I took half of it home with me and had it for lunch on the way to Coos Bay two days later.
We’re in Oregon. Finally. Latitude 42.
Saturday, August 27, 2016 Day 19 Brookings to Port Orford
This was to be another of our longer runs, 7½ hours, 46.3 nm. I readied the boat myself by taking in the power cord and we slipped away from the dock at 0900 as Morgan was arising. The winds were calm and we didn’t bother with the mainsail. That means I didn’t bother.
It was almost a straight shot to Port Orford, another anchorage. We tucked in close to shore to see Mack Arch, and then headed out a few miles to skirt the Rogue River Reef. The huge rocks off the shore near Port Orford were spectacular. We arrived at around 1600 (3135.78 engine hours from the 3127.84 at Brookings) and wandered around the various possible places to drop the hook. Having experienced the many anchorages in the Bay Area for so many years, and having the personal and local knowledge of where to anchor there in our home waters in so many different places, it is truly different to drop the hook in brand-new-to-you places. Even the guidebooks are somewhat vague as to where “The Best Place” may be to drop your hook, most likely for liability purposes.
There is not a “port” at Port Orford. Instead, there is a long, very high wharf with two big yellow cranes. The fishermen in their small boats, up to 30 feet or so, call in by VHF and the crane drops slings down and lifts the entire boat out of the water onto cradles or trailers up top.
As we circled around, we had to dodge kelp, traps and a fisherman in a tiny catamaran paddleboat. We decided to tuck into a space near the wharf based on the Charlie’s Charts guidebook. The boat was facing south, the wharf was to our west, large Battle Rock was to our east, and another large unnamed rock was to our north directly behind us. It brought a new meaning to being “tucked in” but our experiences at Horseshoe Cove taught us to be comfortable in rather tight places.
Morgan fired up the BBQ after marinating the chicken he’d bought in Brookings at the Grocery Outlet, and we had a great dinner with potatoes and onions that we fried down below. The butane stove Morgan and Cory bought in Alameda is working perfectly and is really handy. We haven’t had to touch the CNG.
We turned in early for our long run to Coos Bay. Latitude 42 degrees 44 minutes, midway between Grants Pass and Roseburg on I-5.
Turns out the Charlie’s Charts guidebook has a nice color photo of Port Orford, showing a boat anchored in exactly the same spot we used. Of course, I only saw that after we weft the next morning. So much for my study habits!
I dropped the new alarm clock on the nav station desk when the boat lurched in a wave, and the alarm function broke. The clock still works. It has screws on the back. Maybe I can fix it. Maybe I’ll win the lottery.
Sunday, August 28, 2016 Day 20 Port Orford to Coos Bay
In order to make the bar at Coos Bay on the flood, we didn’t have to leave Port Orford before dawn, so we had a very nice pancakes and eggs breakfast. I do the pancakes and then Morgan whips us up the scrambled eggs. Who says one burner stoves can’t work?
Morgan had no trouble pulling up the anchor and we saw that it had been buried in a nice dark sand bottom.
Just outside and north of Port Orford are the multiple hazards of Orford Reef, Blanco Reef and Cape Blanco itself. This is one of the last “notorious” capes we have to transit. It has a reputation of developing high winds even when conditions are relatively stable elsewhere.
Orford Reef sticks out five miles from the coast. The most western hazard in its southwest corner is called Fox Rock, which is awash at high tide but shows at low tide. We noticed on the large scale chart that Carolyn loaned to us that there is a clear mile-wide passage between Fox Rock and SE Black Rock. The conditions were calm with four foot seas at twelve seconds, so we took it after carefully checking both the GPS and the danger clearances and bearings between the other rocks, like another Arch Rock and Cape Blanco itself. This “shortcut” shaved about a half hour or more off of our trip.
The Cape Blanco light is on a high sandy colored cliff with the light itself 245 feet above sea level. As we passed it, the sun came out and we saw a hang glider with a red rig flying off the cliff.
A few minutes later I saw a spout and then Morgan saw a second one and two whales swam south about a half mile to our east. I never knew they strayed this far inshore.
We motor sailed three miles off the beach with the reefed main up. We are thankful that the week long stay in Fort Bragg has turned out so good for us for the weather that has followed. We have passed all the dangerous Capes in settled and even absolutely calm conditions, the delay after the full moon has resulted in less tidal height differences and as a result easier bar crossings, and the times of the tide changes are working in our favor for entering the bars in the afternoons and also for leaving in the mornings.
The wind picked up from the south of all directions at this time of year and we picked up a knot or half, making terrific time of 7 knots constant for much of the way. I kept the tach at a relatively high 2,800 rpm to assure a prompt arrival in Coos Bay; we usually cruise at 2400 to 2650 rpm. We edged out to pass the Coquille River reefs at Bandon, and turned the corner at Cape Arago to enter the Coos Bay bar. It was sunny most of the day and Morgan noted that having sun made the trip so much more enjoyable and comfortable. The weather further north here in Oregon has been much better than the cold we had in California.
All day we had seen only one boat anywhere near us and the commercial fishermen were another five miles or more west of our beach-hugging run. As we turned north and then east for the bar entrance, we saw a huge barge and tug moving fast. The VHF announced that this commercial traffic was entering the bar at the same time we were. They went in and we followed by about a mile. When there is an empty ocean and only two boats, they WILL meet each other.
There was no trouble getting into this bar and we followed the red buoys and the range light in, following the twisting and turning route into Charleston Marina. As we approached the transient dock with our midships spring line ready, I noticed that this was the first of the bull rail docks that we will encounter as we head north. Bull rails are raised wooden sections at the edge of the docks with no cleats and are so prevalent in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve had many spirited discussions about the pros and cons of these type of docks with fellow skippers on internet boating forums over the years. I had done some research on how to use them, with one website showing that the lines from the boat should first go UNDER the bullhead, not over it, so as to make it easier to retrieve them when leaving. We rethought our docking technique, and held off on the spring line, with Morgan stepping off with the bow line and I took the stern line ashore. Conditions were dead calm with little current. We eventually rigged the spring line for balancing the boat at the dock.
As we were tending the lines, a gentleman was watching us, and we got to chatting about boats, lines, docks and things. For some reason he mentioned he was German and I said, “So is my wife, she’s from Stuttgart.” Once we were done tying up he wandered away.
We got our backpack and a bag and walked about a half a mile to a convenience store for some beer, snacks and toilet paper. As we were crossing the parking lot with our Hamm’s beer, a car pulled up, and the driver rolled down his window and said, “Stop!” So we did, and the gentleman from the dock hopped out. He said, “I saw you carrying that really rotten excuse for beer, so let me share some real beer with you.” He opened the back of his small station wagon, pulled out a big plastic case and drew out a large bottle of Australian Sheaf stout. “You’ll enjoy this one a lot more than that Hamm’s.” He introduced himself and gave Morgan his card. He is a traveling gypsy/clairvoyant/New Age hippie??? from New Mexico. His name was Michael (Cory’s father’s name)!!! Amazing what can happen as you travel.
We both showered on the boat. I had to switch the water tanks during Morgan’s shower. There appears to be no water on our dock, so I’ll enquire about it when I visit the harbormaster and also ask about the hours of the fuel dock.
Had a nice dinner in an old 1960s décor steak and seafood joint up the road. As usual, we brought some back for next day’s lunch. The fried crab Morgan had was quite good. I might surprise him and order some myself one day.
Monday, August 29, 2016 Day 21 Coos Bay Layday
Our side tie here at the bull rail is across from the fuel dock and also down the fairway to the boat launch ramp, so we get a lot of surge from the wakes of the motorboats coming and going. There are regular slips on the other side of the dock. The posted signs say this side is for recreational vessels and the slips are for commercial boats. I’ll ask if we can scoot over there, since we need to leave the side tie today anyway to get fuel for our early departure to the Umpqua River and Winchester Bay tomorrow morning before the fuel dock opens. We’ll spend another night here because of the times of the tides are better tomorrow both for leaving and entering the Umpqua bar.
Crabbing from the dock seems to be the big thing-to-do here. It’s not only a Sunday thing. This morning the dock was full of families sitting in lawn chairs throwing out traps, and then hauling them in a half an hour or an hour later, usually full of crabs. They check the size out and return the smaller ones. There seemed to be a hit rate of 20% of ones large enough to keep. Just talked to a couple of men from Sacramento. They left to get away from the heat there and got to Astoria and it was 95F there. Much cooler here now.
Morgan noted that all this activity makes for a much cleaner dock, because the rarely used docks allow the birds to hang out, and we all know what birds do after they eat.
There was a bit of rain this morning and it’s still overcast with real clouds, not just fog. There is some drizzle predicted for today and tomorrow. I just noticed a big sailboat over at the fuel dock, so it looks like the fuel dock is in business. I checked with Victoria at the harbormaster’s office and they’re open 0600 to 1430. Water is reportedly available at the docks, although the hose bibs seem few and far between. Our side tie has been rocky so we’re getting a slip for tonight. No marina wifi.
Marina qualities are pretty scattered. Between the neglected one in Brookings and the monumental but unused transient dock in Crescent City, it seems the birds have taken over, and the docks are as white as some of the guano covered rocks and jetties. All of the marinas here seem to be surrounded by RV Parks, and most of them are not beautiful parks, but rather cheek-to-jowl places to park a motor home and never move it again. Pretty sad stuff actually.
Once we got north into Oregon, the pelicans have disappeared. We’ll miss them, always great fun to watch. Harbor seals and crabs are it for here.
Fueled up with 10.7 gallons at 3145.4 hours, projections said it would be 3148 hours. There was an 83 year old gentleman running the hose to us. When I went to pay and gave him my credit card, he said, “I don’t know how to use those things, I’ll have to get my son down from the main building to run it for you. Don’t you have money?” “I do,” I said, “but I can only get it from an ATM and I haven’t visited one this morning.” So his son came down and noted that Dad had charged us $2.15 for the fuel instead of $2.75. “Dad, at those old prices from last year you’re giving it away. Please, get the price right, at least. I’ll teach you how to do the credit card thing again sometime this afternoon.”
That sounds suspiciously like Morgan teaching me to use my phone. Since I don’t (yet) have a case for my phone, the silly slim little thing keeps jumping out of my hands. In Brookings, I dropped it on the dock walkway. On the boat I keep it in the cockpit. When walking, I hesitate to take it out, which makes using that great Google Maps app pretty useless. I’m thinking of tying string around it like a Christmas present, and then tying it around my neck. I’d probably trip and hang myself. Morgan has learned to do a great impersonation of me juggling the phone as I try to prevent it from dropping overboard.
We moved over to C dock, port side double wide slip, empty to starboard. We plugged in, found a hose bib, and Morgan cleaned the cockpit. I visited with a skipper named John, who had come over to say hello when we first pulled in. He has a very nice Ranger 33, blue hull, Garhauer traveler, and a nifty self tacking jib set up with lines instead of the usual track and car on the foredeck. He told me he’s 73 and when I said I was 70 he smiled a bit. I told the story to Morgan and he says it’s because I look so much older, but, of course, I took it the other way.
It’s 1530, time for a nap. Gee, haven’t had one of those since on one of our longer trips up to Crescent City from Eureka (I looked it up, you think I can remember this stuff?). Without writing this stuff and the boat log, these days would all fade into each other. It is, indeed, important to know the day and date for the tides, if nothing else. [insert smiley here]
We’re “scheduled” (by our Chief Chef) to go to a sports bar for dinner tonight. I’ll suggest he keep his backpack on the boat. Never know what you could pick up in an Oregon sports bar. OK, OK, Mom, I promise to keep my eye on him, he might even learn to like baseball!!!
Tuesday, August 30, 2016 Day 22 Coos Bay to Umpqua River (Winchester Bay)
We had to leave early to catch the tides at both this exit and the next entrance, but this was a short run of less than 5 hours. There was no ground fog as there had been yesterday morning; I had noticed even though we weren’t leaving. There wasn’t any sun, though, just high clouds. The bar was quiet and tame and we headed north on another straight shot. The guidebooks advise care with the Umpqua bar and skippers should transit only on flood currents. How the 4,563,927 little fishing boats just outside the jetties managed to get out of the harbor against the currents and be out fishing when we arrived around 1030 remains beyond me. Maybe they have a local knowledge trick, but they were like swarming bees as we lined up for our entrance approach. Most all of them gave way as we played our “Queen Mary entering New York Harbor” big boat impersonation.
It was quite pretty once we got in, with green hills covered with trees. Morgan said, “This is the first time I feel like we’re really in Oregon.” We side tied up at A dock in Salmon Harbor. As we were finishing our macramé mooring line work, I glanced down and saw the “slip” number and immediately took a picture of the boat, the slip number and, wait for it: The SUN!!! It came out for the first time since Eureka and stayed out all day long. I sent the boat picture to Mitra and she correctly guessed the slip number immediately. She was born on a Friday, the 13th, and it’s always been our favorite lucky number.
The Marvelous Analog Alarm Clock --- But, you ask, how could Stu have gotten up so early for this leg of the trip? Being a frugal sailor, I rarely throw things away. Just ask Cory! When I chucked the “broken” alarm clock in the trash the other day it kept calling to me: “Keep Me, Keep Me.” So I snatched it out and put it back in my cabin to see if I could get it to work, even being rash enough to think that if I took the screws out of the back I could even begin to put it back together. I fiddled with it some, and then some more. One of the dials worked clockwise, the other counterclockwise. Same with the alarm and time winding springs. Either they were jarred when I dropped it or the infamous “operator error” and RTFM reared its ugly head again. But My Marvelous Little Toy (another great song thanks to Tom Paxton, here he is yet again) started to work again.
I walked to the harbormaster’s office to check in. The building was on the south side of the harbor and we were at the opposite end. The route took me along the front street of Winchester Bay, a very nice little town. It reminded me of small towns of yesteryear and some of the places I’d visited in New Zealand during my three trips to Antarctica in the early 1990s. Some places are still in 1955 and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Brandy the harbormaster was very helpful, got me checked in, and she recommended that I go to the Winchester Market to see if I could get replacement clips for our fender holders. I’d made a critical mistake when we left San Francisco by buying inexpensive clips at a hardware store and they’d all begun to rust, not open, and scar the lifelines with their rust.
JoAnne at the market was helpful, too. She went over my shopping list that Morgan had advised me to put on my Smart Phone. JoAnne knew how to work it better than I did. She didn’t have anything for the fender clips. But she suggested I go see Olie down at the boat repair yard. “Do you know where that is, hon?” she asked me. “Oh, yes, it’s just down from where we’re docked.” “Fine then, you just go into the brown building and ask for Olie, I’m sure he’ll have something for you.” Since there wasn’t anything else she had that I needed, I bought some beer so as to at least purchase something at her store (support your local independent merchants). On the way back to the cash register, I noticed some sweatshirts on sale, half price and half of others I’d seen at the harbormaster’s office, so I grabbed one, too.
Cory always advised me to not buy anything heavy at the store the furthest away from your destination. I hadn’t brought a canvas boat bag with handles and the beer and sweatshirt were in a simple plain brown bag. OK, it wasn’t very far, but it was at the other end of town. I took one of the back streets to see something different, and came upon a group of very nice homes, well kept, one of them with a sign “Original 1930s Cottage.”
I found the boat yard, went into the office, and told the receptionist my story about the clips and JoAnne. “Oh, you just missed Olie by 30 seconds, he just left. But wait, maybe Rich can help you.” Rich came out of his office, listened to my story, rubbed his chin and scratched his head (literally and figuratively) and said, “Hmm, come with me.” I thought he’d take me out to the huge repair shed, but we headed directly to his own truck. “My wife says I never throw anything away, so I might have exactly what you need.” We shared throwing-stuff-away-or-not stories and he came up with a big handful of fishing thingamagigs that look like huge baby diaper safety pins that were just perfect for our use. “They’re all stainless steel, I’ve had ‘em for years. Never could figure out what to do with them. How many do you need?” “Half a dozen.” “Aw, heck, take ’em all.” “Gee, thanks ever so much, how do we settle on this?” “Shucks, nothin’, just take ‘em.” “Wait, wait,” I said, “come with me,” and we went back into the office. I offered Rich the six pack of Black Butte Porter that I had bought at JoAnne’s and he smiled a big thanks. Glad I didn’t buy “Bud.” I spent time in the afternoon working the old clips off and these work perfectly, even better than the ones we’d been using for many years because they clamp onto the lifelines but still slide with just a little pressure on the clip. This allows us to keep the fenders in between the stanchions a lot better.
Then I tried my new sweatshirt. The one I’d tried on in the market had a front zipper. This one didn’t. So I hoofed it back to the market, taking different back streets (there are at least three), to exchange it, but without a receipt. Unfortunately JoAnne wasn’t there, but the other folks remembered me from earlier and said to just swap out for what I wanted. They said they’d tell JoAnne about my thanks, too.
Next to us at the dock were a Liberty 458 sailboat and a fishing boat. The Liberty had a broken boom, with the mainsail and the inner staysail jib ripped to shreds laying on the deck. The boat looked in good shape otherwise, but appeared neglected and forlorn. Brandy had told me that they had some trouble out at sea a few months ago and had limped into the harbor. Then Randy and his son came over to introduce themselves and chat. He is “boat sitting” the sailboat and another fishing boat on the dock while he is rebuilding his boat that he bought a few months ago. His friend who was to help him bailed for family reasons, so his son came down for a few days to help. Randy said the sailboat skipper had serious problems, because when he went aboard when they first came in there were empty rum bottles strewn all over, and “I didn’t think he just poured them overboard and kept the bottles.” In addition to the ripped sails and broken boom, Randy said they had engine and rudder problems. The skipper and his daughter were taking the boat “down to California, they’re still there now, and I doubt they’ll ever come back until he fixes his drinkin’ problems. He calls me about once a week and he says he’s workin’ on it, but who knows.”
Randy said he’d bought his particular boat because he’d seen it in some of the port’s promotional brochures from years ago, knowing it would be a project boat. He’d searched long and hard for a new name for the boat, and came across Pearl D, a very successful hooker from Illinois who’d moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado and done very well for herself. He plans to visit Cripple Creek and get a photograph of her there, since he’d not be able to find one on the internet but was sure there would be one there. I explained how Cory had come up with Aquavite. [aqua = water; vite = fast in French] Ours was a lot shorter story.
They went back to work and another fellow from up the dock came by to visit. Mike was repairing his friend’s inboard engines. He said his friend had had the boat for a year or so and it had always worked just fine, then one day it didn’t. Mike explained the god-awful electrical stuff he’d found that had been performed by “trained professionals” and we swapped boat electrical stories.
We’d been needing to get some more replacement liquids, having gone through the two cases of Crystal Geyser water we’d bought in Alameda before we left. Our slip was at the end of a very long dock, but there was another market right at the head of the dock that I had stopped in on the way back from Rich, where I met Chris who worked at the store I asked Randy if I could borrow the dolly he’d used to bring down some major bench tools to his boat and he said, “Sure, go ahead.” So I trundled off with our trash and went in to the store with my dolly. There was another fellow at the entrance to the store and as I hauled the empty dolly up the three or four steps, I kidded to him, “Doesn’t the ADA Act require ramp access for us old fogies with handcarts who want to buy tons of stuff?” He smiled and said, “We’re working on getting them put in, but when I bought the building it was grandfathered in,” and introduced himself as Moe. I asked if Chris was in and he popped up from behind the counter and said, “Oh, hi Stu.” Either they’d had no business all day or he actually remembered my name.
I asked if they had any cases of water available, and Chris said he’d just broken a few cases apart and didn’t have any more to sell. Then Moe looked around and said he could “offer me a deal on the Smart water.” I knew Morgan liked it, but it was too costly. Then I saw a case of the same Crystal Geyser water we had just run out of, and asked about that. Moe consulted his Smart Phone and offered the case at a great price. They loaded it and a few six packs of beer/ale onto the dolly for me and I negotiated back down the steps and the dock, now, of course, at low, low tide and steep. When I returned the dolly, Olive, Randy’s dog, started barking, but Randy said, “Hush, he’s bringing it back, not stealing it!” I gave Randy and his son their choice of a few brews and we chatted some more until it was time for them to go move their motor home to their new spot in town.
We ate at the sports bar across from Chris and Moe’s store. I went outside while we were waiting for our food and someone came out and grabbed my arm holding my beer and said, “Sir, did you buy this beer inside or did you bring it with you? You can’t be drinkin’ outside the bar, dontcha know?” I thought it was serious until I turned around and saw it was Chris, just pulling my leg, or arm. Small town humor.
This beautiful day ended very appropriately with the sun going down and a bugle call from the Coast Guard station right across the way.
Thanks for your support: We’ve received loads of emails from many of you and really appreciate them all. Our limited connectivity precludes us from answering them all, but please keep those cards and letters comin’.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016 Day 23 Umpqua River (Winchester Bay) to Newport (Yaquina Bay)
We had agreed to let Morgan sleep in to make the day watches easier, since there was no reason for both of us to be up so early. I slipped the lines for our 0705 departure to make the current at the bar. There were two commercial fishing boats behind us as we left the harbor and turned left and then right to the jetties. As we made the right turn, I could see a wall of white water stretching all across the bar. I slowed to let the fishermen go ahead, to both avoid the standing waves and to see where they would go. They both headed for the south jetty. Within just minutes the standing waves completely disappeared, meaning the flood had taken over the river’s ebb and the bar became passable. It really is critical to do the research and homework to time the bar crossings properly.
That timing couldn’t actually work perfectly for our entrance to Newport, because the tides change every six hours and this was an eight hour trip. This meant we’d have to enter Newport on the beginning of an ebb. We passed Florence around noon and there was light drizzle, but not enough for foul weather gear. We could still see the coast from three miles out under the high clouds.
I had called the Newport harbormaster at 0800, they hadn’t opened yet, although the recording said they were experiencing a high volume of calls and to use their website to register for a slip. So I did. Just as I finished the laborious (for me) task of not-so-good-at-thumb-typing yet, they did call back and were quite friendly and helpful, and assigned us slip J3. Yup, I forgot to ask about wifi again!
When we arrived at the Newport entrance buoy the fog closed down to deck level. The GPS guided us from buoy to buoy to the jetties. It was quite lumpy against the building ebb and we saw our boat speed over ground drop two knots compared to our speed through the water. The conditions were very similar to gong through some heavy tide rips off The Golden Gate.
The fog remained as we progressed east and only lifted just as we got to the historic Newport Bridge. The south end of the span are a series of concrete arches and the main span is a large arch. Gee, just another town on the Pacific Coast with a 1937 signature bridge. This one is painted green.
We pulled in, fueled up and found our slip. Two guys came by who were sailing their Valiant 40 south. They’d arrived in Newport two weeks ago, spent the first week visiting family and the second waiting for a weather window. I asked, “Why wait, the weather is great. It is CALM!” They said they wanted to sail. With the light south winds we had experienced, it would have been a delightful sail south. Oddly, they also said that they didn’t trust their autopilot or their wind vane as they were coming down from Barkley Sound in a straight two week sail. Following seas are always hard for these gizmos, but perhaps they hadn’t figured out yet to use just their jib for downwind sailing. I asked them about wifi, and they said there was service from the marina but it was only strong enough if you stood directly outside the marina office.
The area surrounding this South Beach marina is almost deserted except for what is entirely “Rogue Nation,” named for the famous Rogue brewery. There was a lot of new construction going on that forced us to walk around the site to get to the brew pub, the closest place to find food. The sun came out briefly as we walked over.
8 hours, 62.1 nm, Latitude 44. 3157 engine hours
Thursday, September 1, 2016 Day 24 Newport (Yaquina Bay) to Cape Lookout
We stopped off at the fuel dock to get water, much easier than hauling out our own hose from the lazarette, and departed to ride the start of the flood out the entrance. There was a light south wind and we made good time under high clouds with good visibility. Soon after passing Cape Foulweather and Depoe Bay we saw a small open boat fishing. We both remarked at how two boats could end up getting so close to each other when they were the only ones out there. Morgan was up on the foredeck at 1300 when Aquavite suddenly turned and headed right for the fishing boat. Graeme had died. The display was flashing Cyrillic characters instead of the numbers for the course. We took to hand steering, and eventually had to take down the main because the building south wind was directly behind us and the quartering waves were slamming the boom from side to side. It wasn’t worth rigging a preventer.
The night before I had plotted our options: Newport to Cape Lookout (45 nm), Cape Lookout to Tillamook (25 nm), Tillamook to the Columbia River (Ilwaco) (40 nm); Newport direct to Tillamook; Newport direct to Ilwaco. The last two would require night sailing because of the timing of leaving Newport, so we chose Cape Lookout even though it was exposed to the south. The weather reports had predicted light 6 to 9 knot south winds, so I though we’d be fine. Boy, was I wrong.
As we approached the huge cape, a mile and a half long and hundreds of feet high, the winds built to over 12 knots and the seas became very lumpy. The fog covered the top of the cape and the darkness didn’t allow us to see the caves that the guidebooks had suggested as landmarks for appropriate anchoring spots. We motored around looking for the right depth and found a place close inshore that seemed right. I was wearing my foul weather jacket, a baseball type cap and the hood, with my life jacket on as I went to the bow to drop the anchor. The bow was pitching up and down from the southerly wind waves and the boat was rocking sideways from the west swell. Now I understand what bronco riding is all about. I was glad I had the cap on so I couldn’t see what was coming at me. We got a good set and the anchor held as we backed down on it at a higher rpm than we usually use and for a much longer time. This was no time or place to not assure that the anchor was holding.
The winds continued to build and the boat violently lurched and bobbed and weaved. The clouds opened to the west as the sun was setting and there was spectacular lighting for a few minutes.
Conditions required a full time anchor watch, so I took the first, and Morgan took the second at 0200. The breaking waves all around created their own phosphorescence, and, while beautiful, was no fun.
I recalculated the timing to Tillamook entrance and we decided to leave at 0600 to make the bar at the beginning of the flood there, a four hour journey. I got about an hour or two of fitful sleep down below.
Morgan had a hell of a time getting the anchor up in the rocking conditions. Just as he catted the anchor it let loose and he had to haul half of the 50 feet of chain back up a second time.
We motored out to the west, figuring if the Tillamook bar was closed, as we had been hearing on the VHF most of the day before, we would simply have to return to Cape Lookout, because the Columbia River entrance was too far and not to be done when exhausted. We didn’t even want to think of that return scenario, but it was an option we had to consider.
This night saw conditions far worse than any I have ever sailed in, no less anchored in. It was the worst night I have ever spent on a boat, any boat. Our Rocna anchor (sized for 42 knots of wind) and the new much thicker and “springier” rode did their jobs.
Friday, September 2, 2016 Day 25 Cape Lookout to Tillamook Entrance (Garibaldi)
Morgan headed down below as we rounded the west corner of Cape Lookout and I hand steered us north. The fog remained on the top of the cape, but visibility was good with high clouds. There was a break in the clouds to the east as the sun rose, making for a sight with those rays of sun hitting the land. We rounded Cape Meares about two hours later. Meares has a number of off lying boulders, one was another of the arch type rock. The winds remained from the south with a west swell, but conditions were noticeably calmer than yesterday.
A few skippers inquired about the bar conditions on the VHF from the Tillamook Coast Guard, who repeated their 0615 condition reports as late as 0830, when the flood had already started at 0756. We arrived at 0800, and Morgan popped up in his foulies. We lined up the entrance and watched as the standing waves disappeared “before our very eyes” right on schedule, had an uneventful crossing and were very, very grateful that we didn’t have to go back to Cape Lookout.
There was light rain as we passed Painted Rock in the channel to Garibaldi harbor, about a half an hour up the river from the entrance. We pulled up to a port side tie at the transient dock with the bull rails, no cleats, at 0944. As I was about to step off to the dock to tend the stern lines, a fellow walked by, took the line, tied it up and said, “Hi, welcome, my name is John. That’s my white truck up there. It doesn’t have a key, the door’s open, just turn the ignition to start it. We’re going out fishing, so use it for whatever you need.” Morgan didn’t believe me when I told him, because he didn’t hear the conversation while he was tying up the bow line.
I looked at the chart of the harbor and the harbormaster’s office was, you guessed it, all the way around on the other side, as far as could be. So, we took John up on his offer and got in the truck and drove around.
I asked Claudia if there was a slip available with power and water because the transient dock didn’t have any where we had docked. The one power pedestal on that long dock was already being used by a sailboat and a powerboat. It was too far for our cord to reach anyway, even if we had strung both of the ones we have together. She said she’d have to make a call just as another gentleman entered the office. “Wait,” she said, “here’s Ken. Ken, these guys just pulled in. Can they use your slip for a few days?” “Sure,” he said, “it’ll be a few days before I can get my boat into it anyway.” Ken asked what kind of boat we had, and I told him. He asked if he could come and see it sometime because he’d always been interested in sailboats but had never been inside of one. I gave him my name and phone number.
Morgan drove the truck out and we did some shopping on the way back to the boat, and we left a six pack of beer for John on the seat in his truck covered with one of the many jackets he’d left there.
Because the transient dock was much closer to the laundry than the slip would be in, we elected to do that first. It was pouring cats & dogs by then as all the fishermen were scurrying back into port. We got the wash & dry done and it was still only 1400. The rain held off for the return walk to the boat with the clean clothes.
We headed off to the fuel dock for a predicted 14 gallon refill. The old analog pump display numbers didn’t make any sense to me, and the high volume pump filled up so quickly the fuel vent spurted for the first time this trip. We’d always been careful to not spill any fuel. Sorry. When I entered the fuel quantity and engine hours into the spreadsheet, it appeared that our prior fuel fills had been somewhat less than full because the gallons per hour used calculation had significantly increased. This will be helpful for a check of what full really means. Morgan piloted us over to slip F27, a dock with, gasp!, regular cleats, and we settled in having done all of this before 1500. We both felt that between our departure from Cape Lookout and this calm, now sunny spot, it had been at least two days.
Garibaldi is Latitude 45. The local steam excursion train, which George reported only worked on Sundays back in the early 2000s, appears to be working more often now, although it could be for the Labor Day weekend coming up. The train whistle sound is really great here in the harbor. Trains and boats. Like Winchester Bay, I’m in heaven.
Morgan says I remember the little towns, nice people and trains more than I do the sailing through the tricky bar crossings and the difficult night time piloting and navigation. I think that they’re both great, but nice people are always the best story over exhaustion and anchor watches.
Ken called later in the afternoon, asking if he could come by on Saturday afternoon, and also asking if he could get us anything. I said no, we just needed a hardware store to get some weather stripping that we use to seal rainwater out of our cockpit hatches. He said he’d try. I checked for something inside the port locker this morning after it had rained last night, and it was sure wetter in there than I could recall from all of our California days. Finishing off that job, which we’d started in Bodega Bay and had run out of material, will be welcome.
We ate at a local restaurant at the head of the dock. I shocked, I say shocked, Morgan by ordering seafood!!! Popcorn shrimp, really, really good. Can’t say if the shrimp are local, but the service was good, fast and the price was right.
I turned in at 2200.
What’s Halfway? Ken Heyman and I have been discussing how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. I admit I simply haven’t been keeping track of our daily run mileage and I simply don’t care about that particular statistic. We don’t have a GPS that is constantly hooked into the boat’s power system and can be left on to track this. I’m only concerned with hours for both fuel consumption and bar status. In our conversations, we’ve figured there are really two ways to figure halfway. One is by latitude. We started at 38 and are going to 48. 10/2 = 5 + 38 = 43, which is somewhere before Newport. We didn’t have any celebrations as we “crossed the line” like they do for “shellbacks” who cross the equator for their first time. The other way is mileage. It’s 683 nm from San Francisco to Cape Flattery. Once we turn the corner there, we still have around 150 nm to get to Port Angeles and then north across the border to check in and head for Maple Bay Marina. Say 700 + 150 = 850/2 = 425, which is a tad north of Newport.
So we’re more than halfway, and with good weather should not need to see any more anchorages. There actually is only one left that we should not, and certainly hope not to have to use. It’s aptly called Destruction Island (shown on our Trip Overview document), between Gray’s Harbor and Lapush. George scouted it and the guidebooks mention it as a remote possibility in north winds. After our fun experience at Cape Lookout, we’d prefer not to have to anchor “outside” again. The Valiant 40 guys in Newport said a large power yacht’s skipper had told them that the weather “has been weird this year. It’s never been like this.” Given our experiences, George’s write-ups and the guidebooks, we could either concur or disagree. Agree because of all the non-windy days we’ve thankfully had, excepting Fort Bragg. Or, we’d never been this way before, so weather is whatever nature decides to send your way.
Saturday, September 3, 2016 Day 26 Garibaldi Layday #1
We both slept in late. I felt a lot better after 11 hours of sleep, and so did Morgan. He made another great scrambled egg brunch. The rain last night soaked what we’d left in the cockpit, but the sunshine started to dry it all out.
Morgan commissioned our dinghy. We hauled out the electric and foot air pumps. Aquavite is now 10’-2” bigger. Wider or longer? Your choice.
Ken came at 1600, and we did the “my boat tour experience” and he explained his background with Harleys. We agreed that listening to our machines is more important than music on headphones. He may stop by again tomorrow as he works on his father’s/son’s boat and prepares to get his own Chris Craft 25 ready to pull into “our” slip.
While Ken and I were chatting, Morgan started to install the new weather stripping he’d brought. Many thanks to Ken, who refused payment for the gear.
After Ken left, Morgan and I popped the dinghy into the water. We’ll most likely hoist it up and onto the foredeck and leave it inflated for the rest of our trip.
Morgan found a good sports bar for dinner. A very good one. A prime rib for guess who and chicken and clams for the connoisseur.
A great, and necessary, layday.
Sunday, September 4, 2016 Day 27 Garibaldi Layday #2
Shopping, oops, sorry, on a boat it’s called “provisioning.” I even bought a little blue backpack for all of $9.99 so I could lug Morgan’s “heavy water” back to the boat. He says I now look like I should be back in grade school walking down the street with my little metal lunch box in hand. I was very patriotic near Labor Day: red shirt, white shorts and a blue backpack.
I checked, rechecked, double checked and back checked my calculations for the Tillamook and Columbia River Bar crossings. Then did it again.
We hoisted the dinghy, inflated, onto the foredeck.
Went back to the Hook, Line & Sinker for dinner, prime rib dip sandwiches. The real prime rib yesterday was much better.
Turned in early for the big day tomorrow.
Monday, September 5, 2016 Day 28 Garibaldi to Ilwaco
The bar at Tillamook was scheduled to “turn” at 0931 when the low water ended. We decided to get an early start so that if the bar was passable even at the end of the ebb we’d get a head start on the long trip north and make the Columbia River bar before the end of the flood up there.
We left the slip at 0735 after a nice breakfast. As we turned the corner of the harbor to head out the channel to the bar, the Coast Guard pulled out, too. They slowed down to chat, we hastily put on our lifejackets, and the skipper said, “You know the bar is restricted now.” “Yes, we understand, until about 0930.” “Well, we’re going out to check it now, hang in there and we’ll be back.” We jogged out far enough to see the conditions, which looked pretty good. They motored out at warp speed and as they crossed there was no spray or flying coast guard sailors. We held station by turning upriver and powering against the dying ebb, staying in one place. They returned a few minutes later. “How big is your boat?” Morgan answered, “34 feet.” “OK, you can head out, it looks fine for you.” Very nice and helpful. We were really fortunate with the infamous Tillamook bar. We were the first boat through it on Friday morning and the first to leave today. Good omens are always helpful.
We turned north, instead of using the “South Hole” entrance that we’d used on Friday because the conditions were quite mild, 4 x 10, no wind. We set a course of 330M to the Columbia River bar entrance buoys, and motored at warp speed for us at 2,800 rpm and over 6.5 knots. Cape Falcon’s sheer cliffs were lit nicely by the rising sun, and the 3,000 foot mountains behind were wreathed in clouds at their tops. We passed yet another Haystack Rock, the last one being in sight of our Cape Lookout experience. This one was a lot friendlier. Tillamook Head was impressive with its abandoned lighthouse on the rock just to the west of the mountain on one of the rocks in the water.
Steering by hand wasn’t too burdensome. We didn’t have any “underway chores” to do, so I took the first turn and Morgan catnapped in the cockpit. As the day wore on the sun asserted itself and our layers came off. There was a great back current that boosted our SOG by anywhere from 1 to 1.5 knots, and the GPS said we’d make the Columbia River bar by 1430, much earlier than my projected 1530 and the change of currents at the bar at 1553.
Our course took us further and further offshore to miss the Clatsop reef and the south jetty. Morgan was steering when all of a sudden he jumped up and pointed and yelled, “Dolphins.” I took the wheel as he hurried up to the bow with his iPhone. He told me to come up, too, but I wanted him to have this time for himself. They hung out with us for about 10 minutes and Morgan got some great video of them crisscrossing our bow. One of them was black and white, perhaps not a dolphin at all. We’ll have to do some research on the species.
As we opened the coast Mount St. Helens appeared.
As we neared the Columbia River bar, Morgan spotted a big ship to the west. Naturally, the only two ships out there approaching the bar and they’re going to get there at the same time! We found R”2” and followed to R”4” and R”6” and started to cross well ahead of the ship, but the south setting current was still too much for us to safely cross, so I suggested that we head back to the south side and cross further in at R”10” where the current was less and the shipping channel turned south, giving us a straight shot across to G”11” and the entrance to Ilwaco’s channel. There were tugs and barges coming out, and a ton of fishermen in the dancing water off the Ilwaco channel. We crossed with tons of room to spare, nothing chancy or dangerous at all. Our experience with large ships in San Francisco helped us immeasurably in gauging distances and safe crossing situations. Morgan took us across the bar while I navigated, and I took over entering the Ilwaco channel.
With the beautiful weather, my "Dream Day" of crossing the Columbia River Bar finally happened. Cory and I had seen the upper reaches of the river on one of our return trips from Vancouver Island to Oakland, coming down the Columbia River gorge from The Dalles to Bonneville from Lake Chelan and Kelowna. I don't have a bucket list since I think the concept's only suitable for a questionable Hollywood offering, but it's something I'd always wanted to do. Gee, we get to do it again tomorrow when we leave!
It wasn’t anticlimactic because it was so “easy.” It was an inspiring moment for me personally. Morgan just kinda shrugged and said, “What’s the big deal?” Well, yes, it was another good, safe bar crossing. But Morgan later did say, “You know I thought all of these bar crossings were gonna be hairy things, but I finally figured out they work so well and they are so calm because you’ve figured all these things out ahead of time.” Easy to say, but then I remind him of my wonderful planning at Cape Lookout!
The Ilwaco channel passes the Coast Guard rough weather training school here at the Columbia River bar, and the station has more than half a dozen of the ubiquitous gray 44 footers. Sand Island, still in Oregon, was to starboard and it looked like The Delta. A wooded hill in Washington was to port, looking like the canals in Europe. Guess which way I looked. Morgan straddled the cockpit proclaiming himself “to be in two places at one time.” No mushrooms were involved in the making of this embellishment.
We fueled up with all of 4.5 gallons, and even with running at almost WOT all day, the statistics are back on track of 0.555 gallons per hour. The under-fills and the overfill at Garibaldi have sorted themselves out.
When we finished fueling, we went to find a slip or a side tie on the transient dock right across the way. All of the open slips had little signs on them saying “Occupied.” Morgan noticed a sign saying the marina was full. We trundled around for a few passes, and Morgan also spotted the fact that some slips had blue power connection boxes and others didn’t. I called the office on the VHF, by phone and also tried the emergency number I’d used yesterday when the office number didn’t work but was told then by Mark to “just come on in, there will be space for you.” We finally chose to just pick a slip and tie up, hoping that no one came to claim it in the middle of the night. About two thirds of the slips on the transient dock were empty.
It was a rickety finger pier, only three board widths wide and rocky as heck. It was also low, most likely built for small powerboats or motorboats with low gunwales. During our search for a slip, the sky clouded over and it started to rain, not hard but more than a mist. Sometimes we find that single days turn themselves into two days in our memories and this was one of them. A gorgeous trip up in sunshine with spectacular scenery and then a kinda dumpy marina with no one home in the rain. George Benson wrote about this marina: “The facilities here are first rate by Oregon standards…” Perhaps that’s just a subtle jibe.
Then, during Morgan’s shower, the water ran out. All of it, not just valve management. I’d completely forgotten to refill in Garibaldi when I was explaining to Morgan how to use the valves to switch the tanks over the other day. So I hopped up, grabbed the hose and my foul weather jacket, found a nearby spigot and filled up.
As we settled in, a huge motor yacht came steaming in and started hunting around the same way we had done. They eventually moved around to the other side of the transient pier and side tied way up close to the land end of the dock.
We had picked a slip far out on the long transient pier because we thought those were the only ones with the blue power boxes from what we could see from the water. As I walked up the dock to the office, I noticed other power boxes all along that were cleverly concealed by facing the opposite direction and not visible from the water side. The office was closed, but I picked up a registration envelope.
On the way back, I stopped by the motor yacht as the skipper was on the dock with his wife on the bow finishing up their dock lines. This huge motor yacht was an Ocean Alexander, top of the line of its type, perhaps 55 to 62 feet long and almost as wide as we are long. No envy here, boys & girls. The boat was from Vancouver, Washington, named Endearing. Each of the couple had those duplex headsets with microphones that allowed hands-free conversation, even though she was closer to him than we are when anchoring and all we use are hand signals. Since it appeared they were finished tying up, I asked him if he knew “the story” about the slips and the closed office. He glared at me with an expression that seemed to say “Who are you, you sailboat rabble, to deign to talk to someone with as fine a yacht as mine?” This was not simply a “can’t you see I’m busy with my dock lines?” attitude, since he was clearly complete with that task. He then told me how shabby this place was and “they can’t even get the Guest Moorage signs placed in the right direction,” as he pointed up to one that was obviously angled for folks walking the near the head of the docks and not facing the water, since we had seen many of them further out on the transient pier that clearly marked the dock’s purpose, as did our handy Charlie’s Charts guidebook. I was growing to like this fellow more and more very second. Perhaps his short buzz cut and sneering glances that made him look like H.R. Haldeman from Nixon’s inner circle was another factor. His wife looked like Annette Bening and was much nicer than he, but she said they’d not had luck finding anyone home at the store either. I called them Rex and Amanda. We have no idea what their real names were.
We ate out at a really nice restaurant called SALT overlooking the harbor. It was a nice “room” and the bar and dining were upstairs with the kitchen and a small living room type waiting room downstairs. The walls going up the stairs were covered with charts of different areas, including one of all of Vancouver Island. We got window seats and I again shocked Morgan by ordering clam chowder and a crab dinner. The clam chowder actually had real clams which I shared with Morgan. It was superb.
The seats were next to a little lending library usually found in the laundromats. I suggested that Morgan keep a collection of Edgar Allen Poe, a hard to find volume. Heck, if he doesn’t read it, I will. We went back the next day for dinner and brought some replacement books for the library.
On the way back to the boat, after Morgan had to race back to the restaurant to get the box of food he’d forgotten (again, and he thinks I’m forgetful!), we noticed Rex and Amanda in their sumptuous main cabin with the TV on, working on their tablets AND their phones. They’d taken their headphones off by this time, but Morgan was sure they were texting each other from across the table.
Three weeks out from Alameda. This is a journey, not quite a delivery which requires day-after-day progress, and it is still somewhat of a cruise, but if it was only a cruise we'd be staying longer and doing touristy stuff. But "The Corner" at Cape Flattery beckons, not so much for the homestretch, but for the realities of the ocean as the year advances. Our laydays are chosen to both relax and plan for the next leg, often determined by weather and predicted sea conditions. We have not sailed once (except for that necessitated by that return visit to San Francisco on Day 1).
Tuesday, September 6, 2016 Day 29 Ilwaco Layday
The harbor mistress apologized for the Occupied signs. They are inserted into wooden slats and the back of the signs say “Vacant.” They hadn’t gotten around to correcting them after the season ending fishing tournament that ended on Sunday, the day before Labor Day. We considered “borrowing” one, but then Morgan would have put the “Vacant” sign on my cabin door.
Our busted autopilot needed attention. Although we had had a great day hand steering up the coast from Garibaldi, it was because of the good visibility, great scenery and perfect sea conditions, so it wasn’t a burden on us or on the wheel brake with a light touch. George Benson wrote about his problems with his autopilot in almost the same place! He had detailed his repair/replacement efforts using Englund’s Marine Supplies in Astoria and mentioned a helpful electronics service manager named Steve Rich.
I got up early and showered and walked over to Englund’s with our autopilot in my new handy dandy backpack. Kevin was at the counter when I explained my problem, but he said he wasn’t familiar with this store because he was here for only the day from Astoria. I asked if Steve Rich was still working there. He said, “Sure, Steve’s a great guy.” I asked if he could get him on the phone. “Hi, Steve, my friend George Benson told me how helpful you were for him a few years ago,” and I explained what had happened. “Bad news, Stu, those things are so old, no one I know repairs them,” and he explained the numerous corporate reconfigurations that Raymarine had gone through that precludes repair but rather promotes selling new equipment. I said, “Maybe I should have bought that CPT when I was visiting with Jeff down in Aptos,” and Steve laughed and said, “Yup, would have been a great choice.” It was a pleasure talking to him, and he said, “It’s always the people you meet.”
I purchased the last of their butane canisters and finally found long johns for both of us. I walked further into town and found a pharmacy. While I grabbed a small tube of polysporin, I had to wait at the cashier’s because the only other customer was splitting her purchase of two items into cash and debit card with cash back, which seemingly took forever. So, with my infinite boater’s patience, I wandered around the store. More than half of the floor space was taken up with ambulatory equipment – walkers, canes, strollers. There were two “barcalounger” chairs and on each of them were pads on the seats that were designed to reduce wear on just that section. I bought one in blue to cover the saloon seat at the table, where the repeated use over the years had worn down just that part. I’d been looking for just this type of thing for quite some time, both before and during this trip.
Then I went into the small grocery store, another place that time forgot. While some of the towns we’d visited reminded me of 1955, this town was more like 1905. The camping goods section, though, was a treasure trove. Although they didn’t have any butane, they did have an assortment of pots and pans, both camping and regular ones. We needed a replacement medium sized pot because Morgan made me throw the old one away since the Teflon was peeling off. He, quite correctly, refused to use it to cook his signature breakfast of canned potatoes with his famous scrambled eggs. One pot seemed about the right size, which I had jotted down on my Smart Phone list. The store staff couldn’t find a tape measure but eventually did. Although it was a tad larger than our old one, I bought it because it was a lot less expensive than any we’d seen on this trip or even in the big box stores. It “just fits” into our large pots & pans drawer in the galley. It’s aluminum, which shouldn’t rust, and has a nice clear glass lid.
Ilwaco used to be serviced only by a narrow gauge railroad before The Coming of the Roads (Judy Collins). On my way into town I had stopped to read an historical plaque about those times. The town had two big murals, one on the newer pharmacy building and another much larger one on the big three story building on the corner of what could well have been called “Main Street and Main Street.” This big mural had a nicely done rendering of a steam locomotive coming up the street from the wharf with the same building prominently shown.
I grabbed a cup of coffee in the local waterfront shop. They had exactly the same coffee cup I use on board. IIRC, I got mine at the Dollar Store in Alameda. I called Ken Heyman and we had another of our nice long chats. I went back to the boat, feeling like Santa with all the gifts.
On the way down the dock, I passed by while Rex was talking to a couple who apparently were new to boating and were asking about boats. I overheard Rex saying, “Sailboats have their own attractions, but they’re too complicated. I was on one once, but there was no wind and it was boring.” I kept moving.
Since Steve said the autopilot couldn’t be repaired, I got challenged. I remembered reading about a repair guy or two on the internet boating forums, and then recalled that I had posted just that information on our C34 Forum a few years ago. Because this harbor had free wifi, I quickly found my original 2014 post and others in that thread, leading me to a fellow in Durango, Colorado. I emailed him with our details, hoping to hear back before we left the next morning, since there was a very convenient post office right in town only a few blocks from the boat.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016 Day 30 Ilwaco to Grays Harbor
We pulled out at 0935 after I had gone to the post office with the ST3000 autopilot control head to send to Dan in Durango, who’d emailed me back with possibilities of repair or at least a replacement circuit board. Even the post mistress wondered how someone in Colorado is repairing sea-going autopilots.
The “scheduled” 1039 bar “opening” was delayed due to the heavy rains that had occurred upstream. The local VHF WX channel reported that Astoria had received well over its year to date rainfall amounts. We let F/V Sea Spirit pass us outbound in the Ilwaco channel just after slowing to go past a dredge working on maintaining the channel depth. Sea Spirit warned us on the VHF: “Sailboat, don’t cut the corner, I draw 15 feet and it’s shallow over there.”
When we got out into the river, we turned right past G”11” following them. After about five minutes they deployed first one and then their second outrigger, turned around and passed close by, calling out to us from their flybridge: “Don’t go out there yet, you’ll get creamed. We’re going over near the north jetty inside, and anchor for a few hours.” This was about 1000. There weren’t any breaking waves even at the end of the jetties, nor in Clatsop on the south jetty inside, but what were coming in were large, deep, and closely spaced rollers. The Coast Guard reports as of 0630 said the bar had no restrictions, other than common sense. G”11” was still ebbing strongly and there were a couple of dozen small boats, a few mid-sized F/Vs and another sailboat just bobbing around waiting. I spent some time figuring out the best places to be to balance the current and avoid the waves. This “preferred spot” kept changing as the morning wore on and the currents and back eddies kept changing.
At 1030, Endearing motored out of the Ilwaco channel. They just kept on going, vanishing out to sea appearing to be heading south. Good luck to them.
Eventually, I was forced to begin a decision making process of “Go or No Go” based on the time it would take us to get to Grays Harbor once the Columbia River bar “released” us. I figured that if we couldn’t get out by 1300, we’d have to call it a day and either return to Ilwaco, or even go to the Bright City Lights of Astoria. Somehow, Portland was NOT on our horizon. Been there done that in our trips up to visit Cory’s father, once in a blinding snowstorm.
A bit after 1200 I looked over and Sea Spirit was gone. We started heading out on slow bell because the rollers were still coming in, but the G”11” buoy was now showing slack water at 1220 and within minutes was turning to flood. The further out we got, the smoother the seas were and we could open the throttle a bit more every ten minutes. To get out of the bar and to head north, one has to head west and then southwest to follow the channel and avoid Peacock Spit to the north of the main channel. This is six miles or over an hour against the building flood. Once we were able to turn north, the seas became confused and very sloppy for another hour and a half, finally calming down two hours after we had started out. We did see another whale. We also saw a couple of bunches (flights?) of pelicans. Our research indicated that they disappeared after California, but we have seen them in Garibaldi and now here. This seemed to be a “training group” with large birds followed by a bunch of smaller ones.
The scenery going up the coast was boring. We were six miles out and there is a long low beach that runs almost two thirds of the way up from the Columbia River bar to Grays Harbor. The sun did show up and it was quite comfortable. As we neared Grays Harbor entrance, the clouds showed up again, which made our 1900 approach in daylight more like twilight going to dark.
Gray discovered the Columbia River but they only named the harbor north of it for him, naming the river after the name of his ship, Columbia Rediviva. The big city in Grays Harbor is Aberdeen, more than 15 miles inland from the harbor entrance. It has a large shipping port.
We made the entrance buoys, but saw a freighter inside the harbor mouth and couldn’t tell whether it was heading our way or not. I called the Coast Guard to ask if it was moving. All they could tell us was that this is where ships normally anchor. We continued on as it started to lightly rain, and Cory called just as we surfed into the two mile wide jetties at 1930. The ship was anchored, it was just turning with the currents. As we turned the corner inside to the Port of Grays Harbor a huge car carrier ship, black hulled, came out of the gloom. More of the “timing is everything” mantra. There is no VTS here that I could find on our scanning VHF. The lights into this harbor would have made a night time entrance a bit tricky, but perhaps that was because while it was getting dark the lights on the buoys weren’t yet lit. Once they did appear it became much easier to navigate.
The entrance to the harbor itself is very well protected, meaning a tight right U turn into a narrow entrance, almost as narrow as the south one at South Beach in San Francisco, and then a hard turn to port to get in. By this time it was completely dark. We’d been assigned slip 7L. Charlie’s Charts showed the dock numbers, but the harbor website didn’t even have that information, no less the actual slip numbers. We found the right dock by counting from the entrance, but had no clue about how to find a particular slip. Sometimes they are on the dock, sometimes on the electrical pedestals, sometimes at the ends of the slip fingers. None here anywhere. So we pulled into an empty slip across from a dock that had a huge and menacing looking sea lion hanging out on it, and used the springline with the engine ticking over in forward gear to hold the boat without using the bow or stern lines, and walked up the dock. About halfway up the dock we met a fellow coming our way and asked if he knew where the slip numbers were and if this was indeed dock 7.
He didn’t know because he explained that he’d seen us coming in from the other side of town and just wanted to come take a look at our sailboat! We finally figured out that the slip numbers were cleverly labeled on the INSIDE of each of the power pedestals, where anyone who was walking on the docks could plainly see them. Not so much for anyone coming by boat, this being a boat harbor and all. Morgan had the idea of creating an app for this recurring and numbskull concept of making it virtually impossible for visiting boaters to figure out where to go when they come into a new-to-them harbor. Good thinkin’.
We invited Luke to hop onboard for our short journey around the dock to our slip. He said he recognized our boat because he used to sail one with his uncle back in the 80s. Once we pulled in, we excused ourselves, explaining that we needed to do some chores and make some phone calls, but said he could come by tomorrow if he’d like.
We walked over to a deli a few blocks away that was still open and grabbed sandwiches for dinner, after plugging in and watering the tanks.
Thursday, September 8, 2016 Day31 Grays Harbor Layday #1
I got up around 0900 to partly cloudy sunshine and cool temperatures, in the mid to low 60s, made coffee, wrote and showered. We made our pancakes and eggs brunch and then headed out to do laundry #3 and hopefully our last. I stopped in at the harbor office to pay and experienced toll booth syndrome again, with one fisherman negotiating a complicated long-term slip rental and harbor and fishing license fees. For us? $58 for two nights including electricity.
While I was waiting in the office, I leafed through a book of historical pictures. They showed the development of the harbor from what used to be called “Fishermens Cove” behind a natural sand spit to the north. The fishing boats would come into the cove and offload either onto smaller boats to ferry the catch into shore or later to buildings built out over the water, much like the outside area of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. This is an area that we’ve seen by boat when leaving Aquatic Park but is beyond the view of the tourist area there. The harbor here developed with the railroad coming to town and a long pier was built out at the south end of the cove. Finally the breakwaters were installed starting in the 1930s, and improved in a major way in the 50s and 60s, the waterfront drive was paved as a main one way street and a promenade, now kind of derelict, was built and the museum, a New England style three story building complete with a Widow’s Walk, was started. The rest of the area is industrial with large fish processing plants. This is the largest true fishing harbor on the Washington coast.
We didn’t find the laundromat immediately, so we stopped in a nails & hair salon and asked the staff. One woman said, “Oh, it’s at the Totem RV park, but the guy who runs it isn’t very friendly and doesn’t let people who aren’t in the RV park use the machines, and maybe they’re tokens and you have to go ask him. Good luck. You just go up the street here and turn right and it will be on your left.” With that heartwarming advice, we thought about turning back, but I suggested we just give it a try.
We found the Totem Laundromat, a low slung 1960s blue building with large windows and an unlocked door. There were about a dozen washing machines and the same number of dryers, only a quarter or less of which were in working order. We later found (after loading both dryers with our clean laundry) that of the two working dyers, one wouldn’t accept our eight quarters because one of the slots wasn’t clean enough and the coin stuck up too much to allow the mechanism to work. So we did the two loads of laundry, popped half in the dryer, returned to the boat, retrieved the dry stuff and loaded up the rest for the second round. We got a lot of walking in.
On one of our wait periods back on the boat, Morgan, the eagle eyed one of our group, spied a sea lion down our fairway being chased by seagulls. Turns out the sea lion was feeding in the harbor, and every time he’d come up with a fish the gulls would pounce. The sea lion won all the rounds. Compared to the “friendly” ones in San Francisco, these guys look big and mean.
Ate at a local small restaurant, good cheeseburgers.
Friday, September 9, 2016 Day32 Grays Harbor Layday #2
Up at 0930. Spent the morning checking weather, sea states and tides & currents.
Sunny skies, put the cushions in the cockpit to dry. Fuel #90 (eighteen years of record keeping) for 6.2 gallons for all of $14.45.
Walked to the gas station for provisions, the only store in town closed. Got some duds at Englund’s, along with four more butane canisters. Nice to have a marine store within walking distance of a harbor. Ate out at the same place. Early start tomorrow for Lapush. We’ve already heard all the “push” jokes.
Pelicans are still around.
Saturday, September 10, 2016 Day 33 Grays Harbor to Lapush
0557 departure, 3,188 engine hours, latitude 46.52N
1837 arrival, 3,201 engine hours, latitude 47.52N
13 engine hours, 84.6 nm on the knot meter although I’m not sure it’s really calibrated; the planning on the charts on my laptop showed more like 65 door-to-door; in any event, a long way and day.
As a prudent mariner and navigator, I had to make contingency plans for this next leg of the trip. If the entrance at Lapush was “closed” when we got there due to unforeseen changes to the weather and/or deterioration of the sea conditions, once committed to the estimated 10 to 12 hour voyage time out of Grays Harbor, we would have no choice but to continue on to Neah Bay and the Strait of Juan De Fuca. That distance would be over 120 nm, require at least 20 hours, and be either a midnight or afternoon departure with an overnight sail around “The Corner” at Cape Flattery. This was not a light choice to make. With no local wifi available anywhere in Westport except in a café that we decided wasn’t worth the while, we used the data on my phone to carefully check the weather all the way up the coast.
The NOAA marine forecast was for light winds all day Saturday with some building afternoon winds in the north up to 15 knots, and a chance of showers in the afternoon. Sunday’s forecast was for, essentially, just short of a Small Craft Advisory for 10 to 15 knots with gusts to 20. The predictions for Monday and the rest of the early next week were for improving and quite nice weather. I felt that our chances for getting into Lapush were good, and that the currents at both Grays Harbor entrance and Lapush would be excellent with rising flood currents at both places. This was because of the 12 hour difference in the trip which would enable us to both leave and enter on rising water with the two 6 hour tide cycles of rising then falling then rising water, the same at the end as at the beginning. This would be the longest leg of our entire trip. I did seven pages of index card calculation of tides & currents and weather and sea states. The tide data on our Garmin GPS was cross checked with the local tide tables and was in agreement within 15 to 20 minutes. Sailing into Sunday with the predicted poor weather didn’t make any sense.
We both got up before 0500 with a goal of leaving before 0600. We had a Raisin Brand cereal breakfast and I made my usual thermos of coffee. There was a tad of light on the eastern horizon. Morgan retrieved the power cord and we slipped the docklines at 0557. We followed two sport fishermen out of the harbor, made the hard right and then U turn left out the port seawall and headed north up the channel to the entrance under a gloriously clear morning sky. No “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” for us this day. We kept our eyes peeled for vessel traffic from the east out of Aberdeen, none appeared, and we passed the same anchored freighter at the east end of the entrance.
Last night after dinner we had walked to the northwest end of Westport where the city had built a really fine four story observation tower and looked over the bar at dusk, with the sun setting and the half moon arising (I know there’s a song in there somewhere but it wasn’t in one of my folk music genres). Even after the two pretty windy days here, the seas appeared to be calm and manageable.
They remained that way this morning and the bar crossing on a rising tide and flood current was calm and uneventful. It did get a little lumpy as we headed northwest at G”5”, but we have found this to be true at all the exits from the larger rivers.
The sun popped over the horizon and the coastal mountains and the volcanic peaks to the east were dramatically backlit in a cloudless sky. The sunny skies, warming temperatures and great visibility made for a pleasant morning and early afternoon. I drove for a few hours while Morgan napped, and he took over and I read for another few hours. By midday the almost-inevitable clouds appeared, at times getting down on the deck for ½ mile visibility, but without any harbors along this part of the coast there was no traffic and only a few crab traps spaced about an hour apart. Those traps seemed to have been abandoned because of the heavy growth and fouling on the floats. Except for the fantastic run from Tillamook to the Columbia River, we haven’t seen much of the coastline at all.
The coast was low and featureless for the first few hours and because of our course it fell away to over six miles. Once the clouds appeared, the land disappeared completely for hours. We saw calm seas and occasional winds topping at all of a “mere” 11 knots.
George Benson had written about the favorable current boost he had received along this leg, but we found a foul current against us of a half to a full knot for most of the way. Perhaps he was closer to shore during his voyage than we were. I figured the extra distance involved in hugging the coast would be offset by the shorter straight line course from the exit to Lapush. My 10 to 12 hour trip duration forecast turned into 13 hours.
We raised Destruction Island in early afternoon off our starboard bow. Even at 6.41 nm away, it was huge. It’s 90 feet high and ½ mile long. It seemed much larger. The lighthouse on the western end of the island showed as we closed to about 3 miles in passing. Between Destruction Island and Lapush the engine hours passed 3,200.
We saw little marine life except birds and as we passed Destruction Island the winds rose to between 12 and 15 knots with a heavier swell of six feet at 10 seconds. The building seas were because we were closing the land and shallower water as we neared Lapush. To our west there were low clouds with occasional breaks in the clouds offering that warm silvery glow to the waters. To the east, the high shoreline began to appear, with dark green trees above and around the sand colored sea cliffs. Two hours out of Lapush we began to make out the Quillayute Needles south of the entrance, “rocks of solid granite that looks like a pod of orcas; they are wild looking…”, and James Island to the west of the opening.
I spent a lot of the afternoon checking and rechecking and double and triple checking the harbor guides text, photographs and charts, and entering the very few Lapush buoys as waypoints on our GPS. It was imperative to get the details firm in my mind for piloting through the small bay and the narrow bar entrance.
Doug & Renee Douglass’ “Exploring the Pacific Coast” says Lapush: “…in the authors’ judgment, has the most dramatic and scenic entrance along the entire coast of the U.S.” Charlie Woods’ guide includes: “A sector light marks the channel, which is supposed to be about 60 feet wide but seems narrower.” George Benson called Noyo River back in California like entering a “hole in the wall” because of the relatively narrow entrance under the highway bridge. There is no highway bridge here. This entrance, however, revealed a completely new definition of narrow after all the bar crossings we’ve experienced.
San Francisco and Newport have their bridges. Winchester Bay had its scenery, our first taste of Oregon’s real greenery. Brookings was narrow but we had clear weather. Tillamook had its bar current timing challenges and Ilwaco had the Columbia River bar.
This entrance brought a new meaning to “narrow.” Our experiences racing in San Francisco taught us the advantages of knowing what “close” means, with buoy roundings and competitors being very near. Morgan had driven for the past hour or two from Destruction Island, and I took over as we passed “Q”.
The approach starts with making the offshore buoy “Q” about a mile southwest of R”2” which is a ½ mile due south of the actual entrance in the north end of the small bay. The sun came out just as we made the turn at “Q”, giving us stunning views of the high coast and the Quillayute Needles to starboard with James Island to port. Both my camera and Morgan’s phone chose that moment to run out of battery power!!! Morgan grabbed my phone and started shooting photos and videos.
Charlie’s Charts was extremely helpful with a note on that red R”2” buoy: “Use as range.” Looking aft at R”2” and north to the unlit-in-daytime sector light G”3” inside the bar was extremely critical and very helpful, and found nowhere else in all my readings. The large northwest swell was now just a tad aft of our beam, making for a really rockin’ and rollin’ ride, goosing us up to over 7 knots as we surfed down the quartering waves. The mast was rotating through 35 degrees in each direction. Our experience in stowing our gear meant everything down below stayed put. The movement was like our night at Cape Lookout, but much easier to deal with while underway, not anchored.
The rocks and huge James Island to port was a boat length away. The jetty, with its submerged end, was less than the same distance to starboard. In the pulse pounding moment as we got really close to James Island its lee stopped the swell immediately and the water flattened out completely. We shot through the tiny opening on the flooding current and turned hard to starboard leaving the few green buoys to port and hugged the jetty to our right. There were tons of gigantic tree trunks distributed along the entire length of the twelve hundred foot long jetty from storms over the years. There were no crab traps or fishing nets in the entrance.
The adrenaline rush stayed with us as we motored into the marina. There were plenty of empty slips and we scouted around to find one that would put our bow into the wind so the dodger would keep us comfortable in the cockpit. We tied portside to in a double wide slip that had a small motor boat to starboard with oodles of room.
There are three other sailboats here, one on the commercial dock side tied to the end tie, one across the fairway from us close to the land, and another to our port. The one side tied appears to have crew, the other two appear unmanned.
Morgan said, “You let me steer all the long boring parts and you got to do the fun one.” “Hey, you got the Columbia River bar, there was NO WAY I would miss doing this once-in-a-lifetime one.”
It was the highlight of my entire sailing life. Threading a needle – this needle – was the most fun packed five minutes of a rush of pure concentration I have ever had sailing. The lighting was stunning, the helming was critically challenging, the roaring sound of the swells and breakers was a fitting coda, and the calm once inside was gratifying. Morgan did the lines and by the time I had shut the engine down he was back on the boat with a well deserved beer in hand for us both. I sat in the cockpit and kept saying “Wow!” And here I thought the Columbia River bar was cool!
The backlighting as the sun set beyond the rocks outside the harbor seawall to our west and James Island just to their south was gorgeous. Morgan took a shower and we wandered into town and found the restaurant. Our different guides had disagreed about its very existence. It was a nice place, we had window seats on the great view, and the food was good. Tia, our waitress, got us a box to store the backup autopilot, because on the way up I got an email from Dan in Durango who said he had received and had already fixed our ST3000! For $75 plus shipping. A lot less expensive than a new $1,700 CPT! While we won’t get it back for the last laps of this trip, he’ll mail it to us.
There is no AT&T phone service here, only Verizon, so we couldn’t call or contact anyone about our safe arrival, although we did tell Cory last night about this possibility. I’d sent an email back to Dan while we were out at sea, asking him to send it to our Canadian address and we’d pay him for whatever the shipping costs would be, and copied Cory.
Sunday, September 11, 2016 Day 34 Lapush Layday #1
I got up around 0930, made coffee and started writing. The sun is shining again. Gene, the harbormaster in his Oakland Raiders T shirt and cap, came by and we chatted. He said it was a good thing we weren’t planning on going out today because the forecast I had seen yesterday proved true, with over 25 knots outside. He told me about the travails of a older Columbia sailboat Wild Bill across the fairway, whose skipper, Tom, had had his boat pounded by waves off Destruction Island last September. He had water enter the cabin, flooding and stopping the engine, requiring a tow back by the Coast Guard. Once he got that sorted out over the course of the next year (!) and started out again, his water pump died, again off Destruction Island, and he managed to limp back, only to find his engine wouldn’t start having something to do with the kill switch or cable.
Gene and I agreed that the best course of action is to only depend on the forecast for the next day and no further, even though it says that the weather will improve as the week progresses. He suggested checking the Coast Guard station, in view directly off our bow, for the indicators they use: today there is a rough bar warning with flashing yellow lights and a Small Craft Advisory flag flying stiff in the breeze. Because we have no phone service, he offered to print out the weather forecasts and bring them over. I paid him in cash for the slip: $15 plus $5 for power.
Plans for today are ruthless cleaning, once we both wake up. I’m still feeling the rush from yesterday’s fun & games.
We left San Francisco at 3060 engine hours, 3201 now = 141 hours. It’s 683 nautical miles from San Francisco to Cape Flattery and we’re about 40 miles south of there now. 683 – 40 = 643 miles. 643 nm / 141 hours = “only” 4.6 knots average speed. But we’ve actually had a better actual cruising speed because of the noodling around getting out of the Columbia River bar for that hour or two, plus getting into and out of harbors, hours run to get to fuel docks, and not immediately shutting the engine off when docking. Always fun to think about these things while waiting around during a nice sunny layday.
Gene dropped off the printout for the coastal marine forecast. He didn’t stop to chat, so I didn’t have a chance to ask him about finding a telephone or to pay him the $5 for the power. Monday shows seas at 6 feet at 9 seconds, Tuesday lays down to 4 x 9 and then 3 x 11, which makes it look like another day here.
Morgan cleaned the cockpit and then took a swim! The restaurant let us use their phone to call home, I forgot to tell Cory about the autopilot. We hiked to the store at the post office past the resort, nothing in town. It was a very good and well stocked store, very modern. On the way there we stopped at Second Beach which overlooks the entrance and the rocks. It was more impressive from the water, far more.
Dinner on board, Morgan grilled franks on the BBQ, mac & cheese. Turned in very early, about 2030. Another clear night with a growing moon.
Pelicans are still around!!! Just more Californians heading north.
Monday, September 12, 2016 Day 35 Lapush Layday #2
Up at 0915, sunny, cloudless sky. Checked the tides for here and Neah Bay and the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
It is very windy here this morning, gusts in the harbor from the north are easily 15 knots or more. A good day to stay put. Sunny and clear. There was a “red sky at night, sailor’s delight” sky last evening, maybe if you’re heading south with the wind behind you.
Together we cleaned the overhead in the saloon. We stowed the backup autopilot back up under Morgan’s berth now that our ST3000 is repaired. It was taking up the forward end of the saloon table for the past week, so now we have more “space.” We didn’t use the box, but rather one of the Englund’s heavy duty shopping bags and I taped the autopilot rings together with masking tape.
Morgan cleaned the cockpit, the cushions and the coamings, the “outside living room” looks great again. I retied the bell to the small cleat below it. It had come undone during some heavy weather and I’d had to chase down the nut holding the bell to the bracket. The now very old shock cord I’d used 18 years ago somehow got old and brittle, can you imagine.
Then we went over to Second Beach. Oddly enough, there is no third Beach, but rather it is called Rialto Beach and is on the other side of the river. To get there you have to either have a small boat or drive miles back up the highway to where it crosses the river. We saw the roads on a big map of the northwest section of the State that is similar to the one on the Coho ferry that we take from Victoria to Port Angeles. Second Beach is right in front of the town and resort, and First Beach is a few miles further south. Like the jetty, the beach is strewn with huge tree trunks. It’s a beautiful curving white sand beach, with the Quillayute Rocks to the left and James Island to the right. The ocean appeared calm, but there were some nice waves rolling in.
Morgan brought the wet suit and headed into the water, carefully checking for rip tides. He did some body surfing, found a better spot for waves further down the beach and I got one video that shows him catching the wave, wonderfully backlit from the late afternoon sun. We also got one where one wave wiped him out. Your choice of which one is more fun to watch.
On the way to the beach we left a note for Gene, since we hadn’t seen him yet, saying we’d be staying another day.
When we got back to the boat, Morgan showered while I went up to the Coast Guard station. I met Matt and Aaron, two very helpful gentlemen who gave me a printout of the weather forecast, which looks better for a Wednesday departure than for Tuesday. They confirmed that the building where we left the note is indeed the harbormaster’s office. They asked me to sign the visitor’s log. Under category, I asked what that meant and they pointed out people had included “visit,” delivery,” “business,” and some others. I wrote in “cruise.” The rough bar signal is off, and we’d seen from the beach how calm the exit was, but there was still a small craft advisory flag flying. Matt said they go out around 0630 every morning to check conditions and then again at around 1100, which is when we saw them going and returning earlier today. They said to either call them (“Can’t, no phone service for use here, which is why I came to visit you on foot.” “Oh, yeah, sorry.”) or call them on the VHF as Quillayute River Coast Guard or just Lapush.
On the way back I stopped over at Tom’s boat. As I’d guessed it’s a Columbia 29. He explained that it wasn’t that his engine wouldn’t start but rather that it raced when he did get it started. He has a Universal, but it’s a Westerbeke M320, similar, but different than our engine. We exchanged troubleshooting ideas, and the ones I had brought to share he’d already gone through. He traced it down to the combination stop lever and governor section under the forward top starboard side. He is aware of the springs underneath and is concerned about the danger of dropping one of the small springs once he opens it up. I offered to help if the weather doesn’t calm down and we stay another day. He gave me some helpful pointers about rounding Cape Flattery, and told me about his son’s recent purchase of a Beneteau 46 in Tacoma. He let me use his cell phone and I called Mitra and left her a message.
We decided to go back to the same and only restaurant. Their computer credit card machine was down, so we had to pay with cash. They said the ATM in town is all the way back at the resort’s store/post office, so it’s another hike there today to have enough cash for the slip. Decided to stay another night based on the improving weather reports for Wednesday.
We got the Dremel out and worked on the edge of the head door which was sticking on the companionway steps. It’s much better now.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016 Day 36 Lapush Layday #3
Up at 0945, sunny skies, a lot less wind, but still breezy and cool with the north wind. The wind yesterday was from the north east and coming off the land made for a warmer afternoon.
Gene came by around 1130. I went over to the office to settle up, another $61 plus the $15 I’d paid the other day for four nights. Only $4 for the electricity. We won’t have to hoof it to the ATM after all.
He and his wife are anthropologists. He said he’d studied pelicans back in Montana where he grew up. I asked him if they always got a catch when they dove. He said, “Most of the time, but not always.” He said brown pelicans have always been up here, so the thing about them only being in California was incorrect.
I told him of my discussion with Tom yesterday and he pointed out that they’d moved Tom’s boat this morning because where he was is a commercial dock. Gene didn’t think Tom would be able to get out of here this year because he has a lack of funds to fix his engine and he is on social security. I mentioned that when I visited yesterday Tom was talking to his son in Tacoma who’d just bought a big 46 footer, and wondered why some kids don’t help out their own parents. Gene told me the story of his 39 year old son, who is a tattoo “artist” in Bremerton. “Not the choice I’d have chosen for him,” Gene said. After bailing him out of a house repro because of gambling debts a few years ago (“Son, the bank isn’t taking your house, you’re losing it, it’s on you not them, they don’t want your damn house.”), the last he heard from him was a collect call from the local jail. “What are you in there for?” “A restraining order from my girlfriend.” “What about your wife?” “Oh, she left me.” “Good, jail’s the best place for you,” and hung up. That was the last he’d heard of or from him since.
Gene gave me the 0300 weather printout. Today, Tuesday: N wind 10 to 15, becoming NW in the afternoon, NW swell 4 feet at 8 seconds. Tomorrow, Wednesday: NW winds 5 to 15 becoming 10 to 20 in the afternoon, W swell 6 feet at 12 seconds. West entrance the Strait of Juan De Fuca tomorrow: SW wind to 10 knots becoming NW in the afternoon, W swell 4 feet at 12 seconds.
This looks good for leaving. We should get going earlier than 0830, most likely 0730, since the low to high water here will be 0400 to 1100 and the ebb won’t start at Cape Flattery and the Strait of Juan De Fuca until noon. From 0730 to noon is 4½ hours which should get us most of the way up there before the tide turns around “The Corner.” Gene concurred that it would be a good day to go and thought staying over one more day was wise. We also agreed with Tom’s recommendations to NOT go between Tatoosh Island and the Duntze & Duncan rocks. “Are you planning on sailing?” “Nope, this whole trip was based on motoring all the way, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.” “Good idea for this next leg for you.”
Gene said that “you were lucky that you came in when you did. Usually we’re all filled up, but the salmon season was cut short to mid-August from October for both the commercial and recreational fishermen by the authorities, and the tuna just aren’t here this year because the water is colder than usual this time of year. They’re so far out that the smaller boats we usually get here can’t go that far.”
I did some teak oiling of the companionway and head trim. Tom stopped by about 1600 to bring me up to date with his engine issues. He is getting nowhere with the plate over his kill switch and throttle, which is a little bit different than ours. On the M25 engine, they are two separate connections of these devices into the engine. On his, the two functions work off one spring loaded assembly. I gave him Joe Joyce as a reference at Westerbeke, our C34 forum for his phone number, and Ron Hill as a reference. Name dropping is so helpful in boating.
Before we left I cleaned the rust off the lower lifelines left by those cruddy fender clips from Ace Hardware. The new ones are just great. On the way to the store we saw Gene going home in his truck and thanked him. Morgan did three body surfs, although the waves were markedly smaller today, as we hope they will be out there tomorrow. We picked up two bacon wrapped frozen steaks and I’ll make some pan potatoes. Morgan can have all of the spinach he bought.
Still sunny, breeze from the north at 10 – 15.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016 Day 37 Lapush to Neah Bay
Departed Lapush at 0706 under clear skies with a light NE breeze. Morgan raised the single reefed mainsail, since the forecast was for some wind in the afternoon.
Leaving Lapush was just as gorgeous as coming in without the drama. The seas were pancake flat as we rounded the corner of James Island, and at low water they showed how very close we had been to some rocks which were underwater when we came in. If I had the time, I’d write a guidebook that included pictures of these kind of things, but I’m having too much fun doin’ whatever it is that I am doing now.
As we came out and headed northwest to clear the land before heading almost due north, the gigantic rocks, boulders and mini-islands came into view. We’d only seen these peripherally to our left on the way in and from the beach and restaurant, but with the rising sun providing dramatic lighting, they really put on their finest show.
There was a large fog bank ten miles offshore, and we hoped it would stay just there, or disappear.
The coast between Garibaldi and Ilwaco (Tillamook to the Columbia River bar) had some very good scenery, perhaps mostly because it was pretty much all the scenery we’d been able to even see on this entire trip, and the rocks and cliffs there were just fine. This part of the coast is even more sparsely habited, because it is all Indian reservation land. Each mile brought new crags and indented shoreline with the high mountain backdrop of the Olympic Peninsula. As we passed Umatilla Reef, we finally spotted another sailboat, the first of this voyage. I altered course to pass nearby, but the folks on the southbound Nordhaven 56 motor yacht seemed oblivious to anything around them. The buoy that was supposed to mark this reef was missing. We then adjusted course to Cape Flattery.
About 1145 I got the “feeling” that someone was watching me. I looked to my left and no more than two boat lengths away was this HUGE black whale. I was able to grab my camera and get a few shots, but just as I switched to video mode he swam away. Big, quiet, not ominous at all, but truly impressive. We’ve seen them from afar, but certainly never this close.
Soon Cape Flattery appeared. It took me a while to figure out what we were seeing, since Vancouver Island is a backdrop to the Cape. The Cape itself is a high mountain and it has a small island only a few hundred yards offshore with a lighthouse called Tatoosh Island, and there are two partially submerged rocks called Duntze and Duncan just to the north that we sailed past to R”20” where we turned right about 90 degrees. As we looked back, we saw the fog bank had moved inland all the way across our recent path. Had we left a half an hour or so later, we would have seen nothing of this remarkable coast. The further we went, the closer the fog got to us, and it completely covered Tatoosh Island when we were just a mile past it.
As we headed east, we experienced the first of what will become second nature: major tide rips. This one lasted about 15 minutes and was more of a washing machine than we have ever seen in almost 30 years of sailing in San Francisco at The Gate during the biggest tidal changes. The water welled up, it swirled, it threw kelp and tree trunks around and attracted its fair share of birds. Watching out for deadhead trees is another pastime here.
As we neared Waadah Island protecting Neah Bay, we saw our third sailboat, the second just south of Cape Flattery. We were the smallest one of all, and the only one heading north.
Morgan steered us around Waadah Island and into the harbor and over to the fuel dock, where we picked up almost 12 gallons of fuel. Stats still look good, a tad over 0.55 gallons per hour, all while running at flank speed, not just cruising speed.
We found a slip and did our usual port side to midships spring line, but the bow blew down in the heavy fog wind before we could get the bow line to the dock, so I slipped the stern line and motored hard back onto the spring line and we were in at 1400, around 7 hours.
I went up to the harbormaster to check in. They said limited range wifi is available, but may not reach to the slips. There is only 50A power on the dock, but we’re good for the night for power, like we were anchoring. When I returned to the boat Morgan said the wifi worked! Because this area is a Verizon-only phone place, our phones don’t work here, so the harbormaster let me use his phone to leave a message for Cory that we’d made “The Corner” and were in safely.
He also was kind enough to let me also call the Canadian CBP and the friendly lady who answered said that since I wasn’t a Canadian citizen, we should register the boat in Cory’s name when we import it into Canada. The logistics of making this work started to become burdensome, with limited cell connectivity, trying to get Cory to Victoria at the right time, and even trying to call the CBP and tell them we were coming in. After emailing Cory, we agreed to just come in as visitors and deal with the paperwork later.
We strolled across the street to the General Store, and returned to the boat to water the tanks. Because these are long docks for commercial as well as recreational visitors, and we were at the far end of its length, our hose wouldn’t reach. The harbormaster had told me to talk to Paul, our neighbor in his beautiful light blue Fleming 50 motor yacht, who also worked the huge commercial fishing vessel side tied in front of our slip. I walked over and introduced myself and asked if he could help me with the hose issue, since his fishing boat was using both hose bibs on the pedestal. He brought me onto the fishing boat and un-spooled his long length of drinking-safe hose, saying, “I don’t know why I bought this but figured some day I’d find a use for it!”
His hose reached most of the way and Morgan got ours out, we hooked them together and filled the tanks and the jugs. While we were filling, Paul chatted a bit about his experiences in Mexico for 10 years on a sailboat, living and singing. He’s 71 now, an Episcopal minister in town, a fishing vessel captain and had a fishing charter business out of a harbor on the west coast of Vancouver Island for many years. We returned the hose to the fishing boat and put it back on the reel that Paul had it stored on.
Morgan showered and I chose to wait to shower until after dinner in the only restaurant in town. Not bad sandwiches. Back to the boat around 2000, I showered, there was still enough hot water from the engine running all day, wrote and we’ll hit the hay.
The plan is to ride the mid-morning flood east. If the fog is present and down on the deck, we’ll go to Port Angeles, and if it’s clear we’ll go to Victoria. We’d rather avoid Port Angeles because of the extra distance involved, but if not at least it’s “easting.”
Thursday, September 15, 2016 Day 38 Neah Bay to Victoria, BC
3217.51 59.9 nm 0727 to 1607 ~<9 hours Furthest north 48 30, Victoria 48 25
The fog didn’t disappear, but it did “lift” to about 1,500 feet, and was no longer down on the deck when we arose at 0630 for our 0727 departure. There’s that lucky “7” again.
We had to leave this early even though the ebb was still to run its course for another hour or so to be able to cover the distance to get to either Port Angeles or Victoria (before the customs dock closed). With the fog up, we were able to cut the diagonal, or as Ken and John and I have joshed, the hypotenuse. It seemed like Waadah Island would never leave our rearview mirror. We crossed into Canadian waters at 0900. No fanfare involved.
There was a small freighter coming out, so we altered course to starboard to pass port to port, and then resumed our diagonal crossing course.
At 1145 we saw a Coast Guard cutter coming up from the east, and heard on the VHF “Sailboat off Magdalena Point.” Having no idea where Magdalena Point is or was (we’d just passed it), the cutter got closer and said “Sailboat off my port bow.” Then it dawned on me, so I answered this second hail. “This is the Coast Guard cutter Terrapin. Be advised that we are conducting live fire exercises. You must turn north immediately for about a mile and hug the shoreline a mile or mile and a half off.” So, we did. I knew about the live fire range off the east coast of Vancouver Island, but was unaware of this one. Morgan kept track of the cutter, who later fired one round. They must have been successful, because that’s all they fired. I had made the big hubris mistake of mentioning how dumb some skippers were about not being aware of the one I knew about. Our crew will not let me forget this blunder.
Hugging shore had its other dividends, too. It was flat and I raised the Canadian flag on our starboard spreader. Since the Strait is anywhere from 10 to 25 miles across, and most times during our journey we were from 2 to 5 miles off, being in the middle gave us little sense of speed and progress. Once we got close, we could see houses and roads and cars and trees without having to resort to the “glasses,” what we call the binoculars. We rounded a couple of points and then began passing the Sooke basin. A few years ago the family drove there and had an enjoyable day walking the Whiffen Spit, a long and I think natural sand spit that protects the main basin of the harbor. We could see it clearly and the glasses brought it up close.
We rounded the lighthouse and buoy at the southwest end of the entrance to Victoria harbor in bright sunshine and heavy, heavy tide rips. When the chart says “tide rips” it means the tide really rips, and I’m sure I’m not the first skipper new to this area that’s come up with that witticism. We headed 020M after spending the past seven hours at 090M.
In the 20 years we’d been visiting Cory’s folks here on the island, we’d been taking the Black Ball Line ferry Coho from Victoria to Port Angeles on our return trips to California, and had sailed on it more than 30 times. Within 20 minutes out of entering the harbor, Coho came out. A cruise ship also left port and there was one berthed as we entered.
Finally Morgan’s phone started receiving a signal, so we called CBP’s toll free line, just as the instructions in Waggoner’s guide and the CBP’s own website tell you to do. After a five minute wait, I explained our literal and figurative position. The response was, “Just go in and tie up.” OK, so what they told us to do was completely at odds with what all the written material says one must do. I also called the Great Victoria Harbor Authority for a slip, and they didn’t answer the phone or the VHF. Two for two.
Off our port beam was a mid-sized fishing vessel and we were on converging courses to reach the entrance at about the same time. Within a few minutes it was clear they would enter first, so we followed them in, although we knew the harbor quite well without any guidance. The customs dock at Raymur Point was clearly marked, and the F/V Double Decker, who hailed from Canada, arrived there first. The skipper later told us that he’d gotten fuel in Port Angeles and so had to recheck back in. The dock was new and solid, concrete with both bull rails and huge cleats. There was a telephone to call Customs. And a sign that read: “We have been experiencing difficulties with our phone, so if it doesn’t work use your cell phone to call us at the 888 (national toll free) number.” Double Decker’s skipper tried the phone and it didn’t work. He tried his cell phone and that didn’t work either. I called the GVHA on Morgan’s cell and by VHF 66A and that didn’t work. Since Double Decker’s skipper was actually working, he was not amused. I kidded with him that they planned it this way so that we would be “serviced” after regular business hours and charged for it. Eventually I was able to reach Shannon at the GVHA with the VHF, who said she’d advise the customs agents that we were here, and she called me back and checked us into a slip right in front of The Empress Hotel in the Inner Harbor, free wifi, 30A power and water. All for $71.50 a night including the $6 for power. Can’t stay here too long, and we got sticker shock from the higher rates than we’d had at Lapush ($15) and Neah Bay ($21).
Finally about 45 minutes later two customs agents showed up, a lady and a gruff gentleman named Willifield. I pointed to Double Decker and said, “He’s first.” “We know that.” He handed me a cell phone and said, “Here, use this phone to call the office.” “You mean the 888 number?” “Yes, do it now.” And they boarded Double Decker. I got put on the five minute hold again, and told the agent that we were in Victoria. “Where are you? “Victoria at the customs dock.” “What marina are you in?” “We’re not at a marina, we’re at the customs dock, and we’re calling you because the officer here gave me this cell phone and told me to call you.” “Oh, you’ve arrived in Victoria?” “Yes.” This fella was really catching on quick. He finally got around to the real meat of the information: names, dob, passport numbers, vessel registration number, hailing port, destination, purpose of visit, length of stay, place we’re keeping the boat, etc. Then he gave me the CBP number which we need to display in one of our portlights. I hung up and we sat and waited for Mr. Grumpy to return.
The officer came over by himself about ten minutes later and asked if we’d done our business with the head office. “Give me my phone back.” “Yes, we have our number.” “Do you have any firearms?” “No.” “Do you have any produce, fruits or vegetables?” “No.” “How long are you going to be staying?” “About a month or month and a half.” “Why are you here?” “We’re visiting his grandfather and my father-in-law.” “Where?” “In Cowichan Bay.” Then he smiled, and said, “Welcome, have a nice stay, you’re free to go.” “Thanks.”
We were port side to on the inside of the dock, so I slipped the stern line and Morgan held the bow line until the stern moved out enough for us to back out. The little harbor tour electric boats were scooting around and a whale watching boat went past our port side, cut in front and turned right around directly in front of us. So much for the courtesy recommended in the Harbor Authority handout, a full color three page document. We slow belled into the inner harbor, dodging kayakers and other boats and found the D pier north side. No cleats, bull rails and starboard side to because we wanted the stern to face the harbor. While the hotel is a nice view, there was a big motor yacht further in and we didn’t want to look at that all evening. Plus the sun would set to the west for a much better view of the harbor activities.
It is a far different view of Victoria harbor from the deck of your own boat than from Coho. The sunlight and clear skies made this another magical moment. Having been sailing out of this very harbor for 20 years on a big ferry boat, this was simply way cooler. Morgan could care less, or is that couldn’t care less – I’ve seen long internet chats about that issue. “What’s so different? You could come here anytime you want to and walk around, we only live an hour away.” “Yes, Morgan, but what you might consider is that it is quite different doing it on your own boat. I’ve already walked all over this town. This is a once-in-a-lifetime and I’ll-never-get-to-do-this-again as a first time thing, ever, ever, ever again.”
While this visit here was not in our “itinerary” I’m like a kid in a candy store about being here, “right in front of The Empress Hotel just like in all the travel advertisements for this city.” “Yeah,, but cities are noisy.” “Yes, but you didn’t like Neah Bay much either, did you?” A shower and a shave brightened him up.
The skipper of the motor yacht in front of us, Bob, wandered by and asked what time we were leaving. He was going out at 0900 to, of all places, Cowichan Bay! He said if the small motorboat to our port had left by then he could squeeze by. Another couple wandered over, said they had a Catalina 32 at home. I asked “320?” Yes. I chatted with another power boat skipper one dock over who was grilling on his aft deck, saying “I’d like mine medium rare.” The folks on the Beneteau Oceanis 50 next to us either weren’t there or slipped by without saying hello.
The sunset created that magical evening time, and with the slow sun sets here in the far north it makes them last just that much longer. The Coho came and went, the seaplanes and harbor taxis putted around, the tourists did their thing, the street bands came out and played on the lower concourse, additional recreational boats joined the dock, and the lights came out in the city. The classical facade of the Hotel Grand Pacific next to the Coho’s dock lit up in greens and reds, The Empress was impressive with the partial mansard roof sections lit up like the cowls on old English queens’ necklaces.
We avoided the tourist trap restaurants in the main downtown area of the city and found the Harbor House, a neat old-time restaurant with a motto: “We dress up so you don’t have to!” next to the maitre de station. Our waiter looked just like Bill King, the famous sports broadcaster, complete with goatee and evening wear tux. The room was warm with lots of wood. It was right up the street from the entrance to the Coho entrance lot.
Friday, September 16, 2016 Day 39 Victoria, BC to Sidney, BC
3217.51 to 3221.69 = 4.18 hours 24.9 nm 48 39 north
Magic Morning, Lincoln, NE, the motor yacht in front of us, did, indeed, leave at 0900, on the dot. It appeared that the skipper was a different fellow than Bob who had stopped by yesterday. Morgan and I remember that Bob didn’t have a beard, and this skipper certainly did. The boat was for sale, so maybe he was stealing it. Instead of running out with some forward movement, he appeared to be very hesitant, and used the bow thruster, which only served to slow him down and make the exit a lot more harrowing than it needed to be. He had plenty of room, but made it look hard. There is a lot to be said for sailboats as trawlers, since our keels give us a lot more directional stability than the large motor yachts with half the depth of keels in the water. Now, if they could come up with a trawler with a fin keel, that I might consider. Wait! That’s exactly what we already have!!!
I showered and had breakfast (those bagels we bought a week or so ago in Garibaldi are lasting a long time), and slipped the lines at around 1100. We had a spring line and the two breast lines. I removed the spring line first (dumb idea) then the bow and laid to the stern line, which promptly let the bow turn left with us ending up across the entire fairway even with no wind or current. Not a good move on my part. Why do I do things bassackwards sometimes? At least no other boat was there, and it was almost still too early for the tourists to watch me snafu this departure. The Coho had already come and gone for its 1030 trip, the one we usually take. Once free I just let us drift sideways and out of the slip.
I noticed some fog over the hills to the north of the entrance and as we left the harbor there was a LOT of fog. A fishing boat had pulled out in front of us near the fuel dock, so I kept him in view heading east. In addition to our GPS I had brought with us the chart folio of this area that my father-in-law had purchased years ago back when he had a boat. They were invaluable in being able to see the big picture while the GPS allowed me to input lighthouse and buoy waypoints from point to point. The fog came and went as we rounded Trails Island lighthouse and Discovery Island into Haro Strait. The weather report said the fog would lift later in the morning. I decided not to go through Plumper Passage and Raynes Channel past Oak Bay due to the limited visibility and lack of local knowledge. There was a tug and barge heading north off to our east and I determined that his course was not converging.
I had originally thought of going to Bedwell Harbor for a contrast between Victoria and the rural life, but then changed my mind and headed for Sidney. I’d been to Bedwell before, visiting with Jeff Tancock on his Catalina 34 Stray Cat, back when my father-in-law had his 20 foot runabout with a 70 hp Johnson engine. I’d never been into the marina in Sidney. So I altered course to bring us between Sidney and James Island. Morgan noted that this was our second James Island, the last being the guardian at Lapush. As we entered Sidney Channel the fog cleared giving us a great view of Mount Baker and the American San Juan Islands. We were just inside the Canadian border for most of this leg.
The Port of Sidney didn’t answer my repeated hails on CH68, because I was using an old 2000 hard copy version of Waggoner’s Guide, the new one I have on my laptop says to use CH66A. I used Morgan’s phone to contact them and was given a nice slip instead of the side tie for transients.
This is by far the nicest marina we have ever been to. Ever. The docks are concrete, very wide and the services of water and power and wifi work very well. We’re in slip D3 which is on the south side of D dock and is an odd shaped one which is actually D1 & D3 at the same time. I figure this as another good omen: 1 & 3 = 13!!! It was a little confusing at first when we docked port side to at the blue metal bull rail, but we moved the boat over by hand to our starboard side to the finger dock after I’d been to the office and received the gate key card and the wifi password. A little over four hours out of Victoria and we only have one more day to go. I checked the charts on my laptop and it’s about 13 miles to Opa’s and 21 miles to Maple Bay. It is supposed to rain on Saturday, so we plan to spend two nights here and leave on Sunday when it is predicted to be clear. If we’d sailed past the house in the rain, Cory & Opa would not have been able to even see us.
There are only recreational boats in this marina, no commercial fishing vessels for the first time since leaving Alameda. The quality and condition of the yachts here is breathtaking, like being in a boat show with all the shiny new offerings. Tollycraft, Pacific Seacraft, Carver, Grand Banks, Nordic Tugs (the really big ones!), and a few Catalinas: a C387 with a nifty idea for keeping his dinghy out of the water off his bow rollers; a Catalina 28 Mark II, and a Catalina 36. No other C34s though.
It was clouding over and before long it began drizzling but I finished the outside work just as it started. I cleaned off the starboard gunwale from the shrouds to the transom with Bar Keepers Friend and used stainless cleaner to remove the old rust stains on the lower lifelines from my poor choice of fender clips in California. I’d cleaned the port side off in Lapush. While I was at it, I polished a few stanchions, cleaned the cockpit, and then down below I did the two galley sinks and the head sink. Aquavite doesn’t look too worse for wear after this more-than-a-month journey, but a little soap and water would help big time. Wait! Maybe the rain will clean it all off. I left a few extra stiff dock lines out deliberately, since the last time it rained they seemed to get softened a bit.
We found a really nice pub right at the head of the gangway to the marina. On the way back to the boat after dinner, we looked around a Lagoon 48 catamaran that the local boat dealer has at the docks. There is also a Fleming 55 motor yacht for sale right across the dock from us, for a mere $2,496,786 Canadian. Many folks strolling down the dock have looked at it. It is advertised as having “all the comforts necessary for Pacific Northwest cruising.” I guess that means an inside steering station at least.
Saturday, September 17, 2016 Day 40 Sidney, BC Layday
Raining big time when I awoke at 0730. I found a steady drip from the forward port corner of the saloon hatch, so I got the small pot out to catch the drips, rather than soak the carpet. Looks like I’ll have to rebed the entire hatch again, which I had done a couple of years ago and had contributed a Tech Note article for Mainsheet magazine. The Bed It With Butyl tape I used had held up in the mild California winters, but not here where when it rains it pours. I still have the tarp I used to cover the hole, so we could put that up until I get around to it. Or it could be something as simple as lubricating the seal.
I started hiking the downtown area of Sidney. This is a really beautiful small town, with more bookshops per capita than anywhere else, I’m told. There’s a military history bookstore with a small WWII tank and a Korea era jet fighter on display across the street. There are children’s bookstores, used bookstores, new books, cookbooks, and probably a macramé bookstore. There are some with nautical themed sections, too. I saw my first Starbucks since Alameda, but here local coffeehouses are actually still in business. There are many boutiques mixed in with “useful” stores. There is a market only a block away from the marina. We saw a couple with two full shopping carts provisioning their boat for a cruise. How civilized: you don’t have to walk a mile up a hill to a store with little to offer.
I found a nice local pizza place and enjoyed a wood fired oven pizza and a glass of dark ale. I must have been totally relaxed because a while later the waitress tapped me on the shoulder to wake me up!
Then my phone rang as I was walking down the street and it was Jeff Tancock. He asked me where I was and I told him “the corner of Fourth and Beacon, I’m wearing my yellow foul weather jacket.” “Wait right there, don’t move, I see you.” Jeff had returned from a European vacation the night before and was thoughtful enough to stop by the boat to welcome us, and with a six pack of Blue Buck. Of course, I wasn’t there, but he chatted with Morgan and of all things caught me on his way back home. We sat down outside a coffee shop and brought each other up to speed on our recent travels. What a pleasant surprise.
John Langford has also been in touch via email and it turns out our paths had crossed when we were coming up from Victoria and he was returning to Oak Bay. Small world.
Carolyn and Kathy wrote, noting that while we were in Victoria, they were boarding Coho for their yearly trip to Mexico and their Catalina 34.
The skies had cleared and it was still pretty windy as I returned to the boat around 1700. I called Cory and we arranged for our sail past the house tomorrow afternoon. The waters should be flooding by the time we get to Samsun Narrows for our final lap.
Sunday, September 18, 2016 Day 41 Sidney, BC to Maple Bay
Sunny skies and light winds at 0805. Neither one of us wanted any breakfast. Underway at 1137 into a nice building breeze from the southeast, fluffy white clouds on a blue sky, a regatta going on outside the marina, and “fair winds and following seas.”
We made “some mention” of when we might sail past the house, but this trip had no schedule and we weren’t going to start now.
What we did do, though, was to start SAILING!!! We raised the reefed main, and then GASP!!! unfurled the jib and started scooting along. Conditions were so perfect that we raised the full main for the first time since last April! We identified and passed Coal Island and went through Shute Passage on the way to Saltspring Island and Satellite Channel, gybing to miss the Saltspring Island ferry while two of the “big guys” from the mainland came and went into Swartz Bay. Soon we sailed off our Garmin US charts into a simple-blue-for-water background on the handheld.
We’d caught the building flood and as we turned the corner of Saltspring there was a large freighter anchored pretty much in front of Opa’s house. “Darn,” I said, “he’ll ruin our picture.” Because of the flood his bow was pointing our way and it turned out he was far enough away to not get in the way. The wind was peaking at 15-18 from astern and we sailed by the house, turned around for another pass upwind, then turned back and sailed into Samsun Narrows. The wind died close to the first turn, so we furled the jib, dropped the main and motored to Maple Bay.
As we turned into the fairway to our new slip, we saw Cory, Opa, and Len & Judi, a wonderful welcoming committee. Len was waving a colorful big balloon, making like an aircraft landing director on a carrier. I told Morgan: “We’ll most likely have a few folks there when we pull in, so let’s make sure we make this one of our worst dockings ever. We wouldn’t want any pressure on us here, now would we?”
It was the first time Opa had seen, no less been on Aquavite. Morgan did a great job cleaning up down below, so we “passed inspection” of the welcoming committee. You know, those folks who think that two guys living on a sailboat for six weeks aren’t the epitome of cleanliness.
I forgot to log the engine hours (checked a day later 3,223.97). It was 1600 when we arrived. We popped the champagne we’d bought in Sidney into the most diverse assortment of glassware ever to receive bubbly.
We gathered some of our stuff and headed home. As we prepared to leave we were greeted with a light drizzle. Another one of those two-in-one days. Cory made a stupendous dinner, one of our all time favorites, to welcome us back. We had some more bubbly and a Manhattan ala Morgan.
We’ll head back tomorrow to grab our gear, our laundry and plug back into shorepower. Morgan noticed our 30A service only has a 15A plug, but I looked at our marina agreement this morning and it is only for 15A service. We have an adapter which will work with our 30A shorepower cord.
Only one thing didn’t work (in addition to Graeme): the Raritan check valve I’d installed a few years ago in the shower sump must have been clogged with debris, even though I’d used copious amounts of CP cleaner. It backed up a little so there was always a small puddle right by the head door. I never got around to removing it and cleaning it out physically, so we learned to live with it and got in the habit of flicking the sump switch whenever we used the head.
Once we get our stuff off, I get to make new lists all over again: where to visit next and general maintenance. We had no fuel issues, even with no fuel filter changes and some very turbulent seas. We did an oil change during the trip, realizing later that I’d forgotten to change the filter before we poured in the new oil. Those cheap Fram filters that I’ve been using forever do work. Other than our brain drain issue with the fresh water pump, which was operator error not mechanical, everything else worked. We’d kept the boat in good shape and had replaced the things that needed to be done over the course of the past few years before we even knew this trip was going to happen. To leave, we just added food, clothes, crew and left.
The most enjoyable part for me was the people we met, both internet friends that we can now link faces with names, and the different people at our stops. The scenery, because of the weather, wasn’t all that great except for Garibaldi to Ilwaco, the Lapush Entrance, and Lapush to Neah Bay. Being in Victoria Harbor on Aquavite was wonderful. Having superb weather for actually sailing on the last day was a true and unexpected bonus.
Many thanks to George Benson, who paved the way fifteen years ago and showed me that this journey could be done safely and with a great deal of fun.
Thanks to Catalina Yachts for building a pretty terrific boat. 30 years old and she still keeps tickin’.
We are looking forward to exploring new territory and meeting so many folks who we’ve known over the years but haven’t met yet. Thanks again to all of you for your encouragement and support during our travels.
Oh, there is one more thing: the pictures. I can’t wait to finish up the tracks and assemble some “Best of…” photos.
Monday, September 19, 2016 No Day – Trip Over Maple Bay Marina
I emptied the boat of laundry, my stuff, the fridge and cleaned up. I put on the main sail cover for the first time in a month and a half, and put the covers on the dodger glass. I plugged in with our adapter. I still have to think about a way to run the power cord and attach it to the wobbly finger pier we’re on, and how to set up the dock lines.
Reflections on Stuff
The butane stove worked great. We’ll keep it until and if I decide to deal with a propane mod for the CNG stove.
Laundry was a completely unforeseen issue, and dumb me forgot all about it. We started with a big plastic garbage bag, but that started getting grotty right away, so we switched to paper shopping bags that I’d kept on board, and used when I did trips up The Delta. A big mesh bag would have been much better, and we could have kept it in the lazarette instead of underfoot under the saloon table.
Cockpit cushions didn’t like rain. We’ll have to deal with this issue as time goes by and learn from our friends up here.
Light in the aft cabin: I bought a second clamp on work light at Englund’s in Crescent City, I think, that provided great light in my cabin. The two existing fixtures were barely OK for reading, but when it was cool out I didn’t want to have to get half out of bed to turn them off. With this I just had to reach up and switch it off. I had another work light back there, but Morgan moved it up into the saloon, clipped on the forward edge of the galley counter to starboard that also gave us great light there. I even used the aft cabin work light at anchor with the inverter. Since we were essentially harbor hopping, 120V lights with power saving squiggly bulbs worked great for us.
Paper towels are so over rated! I bought a gross of them before we left, and blundered into buying two more in Brookings when I was really looking for toilet paper! I have a year’s supply of paper towels now.
The shower head hose is dying, but we clipped it with one of those black big paper clips to keep it up and coiled it in the head sink. One fellow in Englund’s suggested using rescue tape, which I will try.
Big black paper clips are really handy. I’ve always kept a bunch of them on board. We use them for hanging hand and big towels on the hooks behind the head and aft cabin doors.
Head ventilation on our boat is from an opening Gray portlight in the fixed portlight. Later boats had the hatch above. I’ll have to get one of those see through plastic “hoods” for that to be able to leave that opening portlight open when it rains.
I have to clean out the check valve on the shower sump. I have to trace down the leak at the saloon hatch. It could need rebedding or just a lubrication of the seal.
When Graeme returns I have to do a sea trial and recalibration. I’m really looking forward to that.
The new fridge electronic module worked just fine. I can now store the backup 15A fuses I bought.
The wind up clock was still ticking over when I went to the boat yesterday. Marvelous!!!
Fuel: We bought 91.99 gallons of fuel on the trip and are about 8 gallons due for a refill. We motored 163.64 engine hours, for a fuel consumption of 0.6 gallons per hour. Inasmuch as we did a lot of 2850 rpm motoring, that’s pretty good. The bigger 3 inch heat exchanger we’ve had on our M25 engine for many years now was a very good and necessary enhancement.
Electrical System: No issues at all. Harbor hopping made power available and the house bank was always topped off. Our four anchorages (Havens Neck, Shelter Cove, Port Orford and Cape Lookout) were fine for power for those overnights.
Navigation and Weather: The Garmin GPS76Cx was flawless. I’d bought the charts from San Francisco to the PNW when I got it years ago, instead of the San Francisco to San Diego charts. I adjusted the screen displays for distance cruising from racing stats during the trip. The large scale charts and books we got from Carolyn and Kathy were valuable assets to see the big picture, and the Garmin and Charlie’s Charts of the harbors made preparation for landings remarkably easy. Between the phone access and wifi on the computer we had all the weather and sea state information we needed on a daily basis. Passage Weather wind charts also helped give us the “looking forward” synopsis of what to expect. Our one bad night at Cape Lookout was all my fault, because south winds were predicted – they just turned out to be worse than the forecasts, but I should have waited a day. We didn’t hit any serious fog, although we didn’t see much of the coastline. It was colder in California than all the rest of the trip!
Anchor: I concur with Steve Dolling’s 1500 Mile Report on the C34 forum: The ROCNA. Saved our butts at Cape Lookout. Sometimes the upside of the disaster at Drakes Bay hits home. We were forced to buy 5/8” rode because West Marine in Sausalito didn’t have ½” line. That larger rode had so much spring that it absorbed all the jerks from the crazy seas at Cape Lookout. I’ve always been a proponent of not over-sizing anything unnecessarily, but in this case I would recommend up-sizing rope rode. It worked for us. The other three anchorages were in benign conditions with no undue stress.
The Boat: Was superb for the two of us. Cory bought some good foam for Morgan, and he actually slept athwartships with his head to starboard all the time. He’d either use the saloon or just hop up and use the spacious V berth for hanging out. I was comfortable in the aft cabin, with stuff stored aft of me. I never did fully clean off that shelf over the engine! Those aft cushions are in great shape because we had hardly used them in the eighteen years we’ve had Aquavite. Each of us had “our own space” in the two cabins, and I used the forward facing seat at the saloon table and Morgan used the nav station. Sometimes we’d eat together at the table when we had a “nice” dinner, but most of the time just ate at our “stations.” There was tons of space under the saloon table for additional storage, and we used the places where we didn’t sit to store jackets and foul weather gear without feeling cramped at all. I never showered on land, preferring, as I always have, to use the one on the boat. Morgan even got into that habit, saying, in Sidney, “We have the nicest marina known to man with the cleanest showers, and I still showered on board.” Water tankage was great, and we, of course, had access to water almost every place we stopped. The weather didn’t allow us to use the “upstairs living room” cockpit very much, but we never felt hemmed in down below. Nice place.
The Trip was not a delivery, but it wasn’t actually a cruise either because we simply couldn’t afford to linger and play tourists in any of the places we stayed. That said, we did enjoy all of the places. Some of the docks were new, some were plain dangerous. Most of the harbors had reasonable access for supplies and services. Definitions of reasonable may vary in their extremes. Marinas should check and try to use their own websites and try to find their slip assignments pretending they’d never been there before – it is truly criminal how poorly documented critical information is for visiting sailors. Having to register online for a slip in Oregon with a website in San Diego when you’re five miles out at sea is pure nonsense. All of the people we met were wonderful, helpful, humorous and delightful.
It was a great experience. We’re looking forward to the next chapters, learning new cruising grounds and meeting new and old friends alike.