Friday, September 26, 2008

Crescent City CA

Date: 9/24/2008
Location: Crescent City CA
Lat/Lon: 41°44.929'N 124° 11.010'W
Weather: fog this morning, sunny afternoon, calm winds

A pleasant cruise down from Brookings to Crescent City, calm winds, near flat seas, and fog. We had no more than 1/2 mile visibility for most of the trip and could not see any of Point St. George just north of Crescent City that has large rocks extending out 6 miles offshore.

We were in Crescent City in November of 2006 for 3 weeks waiting for good weather when we brought the boat north from Dana Point. We had bought the boat in October and had difficulty finding an insurance company to cover us for the trip north. Insurance in southern CA, no problem. Coverage in WA, no problem. Coverage for the trip up the coast in November, no way! We finally found a company through an agent in Seattle that was willing to issue a policy for the trip as long as we hired a delivery captain and one crew member, in addition to myself, to make the trip. They had to pre-approve the resume of the captain and mate and be informed when we were underway and when we were in port. As it turned out it was an uneventful trip expect for waiting in Crescent City for 3 weeks.

The port here is almost all commercial fishing and crabbing boats, but it seems very quiet compared to Ilwaco and Coos Bay commercial fleets. There is some activity on the boats but most are just sitting idle waiting for the crab season to open after Thanksgiving. We seem to be the only pleasure boat here at this time. We're spending our time working on a broken VacuFlush head and walking the mile into the shopping district and getting some groceries. Maybe we'll catch a movie while we're in town.

Our next stop is Eureka on Humboldt Bay. The bar entrance can be treacherous and should only be crossed during flood tides. For the next week flood only occurs in the mornings, so we plan on leaving here Saturday or Sunday in the late afternoon and arrive in Eureka in the early morning on the flood. Another overnighter but we'll arrive in daylight this time. Linda's starting to really like these night runs.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bandon to Brookings

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body : but rather to skid in proclaiming " WOW - WHAT A RIDE!"

Our 'plan' was to go from Bandon to Port Orford, a bay on the coast on the south side of Cape Blanco. There is a small community there but no marina, just an anchorage that is well protected form northerly swells and wind. We left Bandon at noon and after a very comfortable ride we arrived at Port Orford around 5 PM. The problem here was that the swells were coming from from the south west and the anchorage was rolling with 4-5' swells and the bottom was hard with kelp beds so we didn't feel we could get a good anchor set. So what to do now? What was plan B? The next port was Brookings, 46 miles south which would put us in there after midnight. We could follow our new friends on Voyager to San Francisco but I was low on coffee and wouldn't make it for 3 more days. So it looks like Brookings is the best option, I called the Coast Guard at Chetco River in Brookings and they reported that the bar was calm and we'd have no problems getting across. We gave the CG our boat name and told them we would be there between midnight and 1AM. We had called the Port at Brookings earlier in the day and they said they had lots of room on the transit dock and gave us instructions where to tie up. Being the intrepid adventurers that we are, or are becoming, off we headed into the night and a midnight arrival at a new port.

The trip was non-eventual with a beautiful sunset over the ocean and a nearly full moon rising over the land. When we were 6 miles out of Brookings we called the CG and they reported that the bar was still calm and wished us a good passage over the bar. We had expected the CG to offer the come out and guide us in and were a little surprised when they didn't offer but we felt confident that we wouldn't have any problems. We carefully laid a course for the outer channel buoy and went over our plans for when we would pull the paravanes up and what buoys we needed to identify. Our plan was to slow to an idle and pull up the paravanes between the outer buoy "CR" and buoy "2". As we approached the "CR" buoy there was a loud noise as a paravane fish caught a crab pot and pulled the rigging tight. We immediately pulled the throttle back and put the engine into neutral. I went to the aft and could see we had snagged two commercial pots on the port side and the fish was being pulled tight out of the water as we dragged the pots across the bottom. As the boat slowed I pulled in the fish with the electric winch and fortunately was able to easily unhook the pot floats from around the fish with no damage to the fish or rigging. I then pulled the starboard fish out of the water and went up on the top deck and pulled the paravane arms up. Back in the pilothouse, we both took a few minutes to calm down, let our heart rates return to somewhere near normal and regain our focus on the task at hand in getting across the bar and through the channel.

Brookings has range markers, two bright red lights, one low and close to shore at the head of the channel, the other higher and back a 1000' feet. You line up the two lights, one on top of the other and follow that line straight down the channel. That combined with our GPS and chartplotter made it easy to get a fix on the channel and proceed in. The channel is 100' wide with rock jetties on either side. We slowly made our way down the channel and were able to get in without any problem. What you don't realize is how dark it is at night and how little you can see. If it doesn't have a light on it or directly above it, you don't see it, so things tend to appear right next to you out of the dark. It's a little nerve racking to say the least. We would not recommend entering a port that you have not been to before in the dark and will not do it again unless it's absolutely necessary. Once we were safely tied up we sat down with a beer and a glass of wine and were thankful we had such a tuff little ship that could take 10' 'sneaker' waves and snagging crab pots and just shake it off and keep going. We wouldn't trade Discovery for any other boat out there.

Bandon, OR

Date: 9/18/2008
Location: Bandon OR
Lat/Lon: 43°07.250'N 124°24.693'W
Weather: Sunny, lite winds

Bandon is a beautiful little sea side town with a well kept, quaint 'old town' that has a lot of tourist shops, every 4th storefront seems to be a coffee shop but that's ok. They're all newer buildings with a weathered sea side style. The downside of Bandon for boaters is that the bar is considered the most dangerous on the Oregon coast. We went in there from Coos Bay after a short 4 hour run on a very calm day and had a very nice bar crossing.

The next morning at 8 AM, on the ebb tide, there were waves breaking half way across the bar. We waited until the flood started and the bar looked better with waves breaking only on the end of the jetties. We cautiously proceeded outward, the bar at the end of the jetties had 3-4' gentle swells but in another 100' we were faced with 10-12' 'sneaker' waves that were steep sided and breaking 50' feet on either side of us. I slowed the boat and her bow quickly rose up the face of the wave and down the backside then up and back down on the following wave. Wow! Not a drop of water over the bow just a quick up and down hobby horse motion with the wave tossing the boat like it was a cork.Following this was a period of lower, round swells and then another set of steep sided, sneaker waves. One more set of steep waves and we were out of the worse of it and into deeper water. As the swells move toward shore and the water starts to shallow to under 50' even gentle ocean swells can become tall and steep 'sneaker' waves. We liked Bandon a lot and would highly recommend a visit but by car not by boat.

Once we were out into deeper water, over 100', the swells lowered and we settled into a leisurely cruise. About 30 minutes out we saw, and nearly ran over, a sunfish, Mola mola. This is a large flat fish that floats on the surface of the water, the one we saw was around 3 x 2 ft in size but they get much larger. We saw it's flipper sticking up and then as we passed it we saw the shape, strange fish. We also saw a 6' shark swimming in circles like it was chasing it's tail.

Coos Bay OR

Date: 9/16/2008
Location:Coos Bay OR
Lat/Lon: 43°20.811'N 124°19.332'W
Weather: foggy night and morning, low clouds in the afternoon

After 13 days in Ilwaco first waiting for mail and then the weather, we left Monday 9/15 and traveled 29 hrs and 186 miles to Coos Bay Oregon. We decided to skip Newport and the other small harbors between the Columbia River and Coos Bay because we wanted to get as far south as we could during this good weather. 'Good weather' being low sea swells and mild winds not necessarily sunny and warm weather. We have come to the conclusion that the WA and OR coasts are to be endured not enjoyed by cruisers. The harbors are scattered and problematic in anything less than ideal seas and there is not much to see or enjoy of the coast from the sea side. In a car it's a different story.

We crossed the Columbia Bar at 9:30 AM just after it turned to flood and it was very mild, 2-4' long period swells with W 5 kt winds. We were told by the fisherman on the dock in Ilwaco that there shouldn't be any crab pots out there this time of year but just in case, we should stay outside the 50 fathom line so we stayed in about 350' of water, 6 to10 NM offshore the entire trip and the only pots we saw were a group of very old ones off of Tilimook. Monday evening the fog came in and visibility was around 1/4 mile the entire night. Thank goodness for a good radar. We had to dodge a fishing boat off of Newport, he was heading inward toward shore and would not answer numerous radio calls so we turned 90 degrees to starboard to avoid a collision. We passed about 1/2 mile from each other and all we could see was the glow from his fishing lights. We passed a few other fishing boats and tugs but nothing exciting. The seas picked up around night fall but calmed down in the evening and by morning it was as calm as our entrance into the Columbia. We called the CG outside of Coos Bay for bar conditions which were 1-3' with no restrictions but we did not get inspected when we got in. Coos Bay is similar to Ilwaco in that it's mostly commercial boats although there are 5 or 6 sailboats here, all heading south except for one heading north. The docks here are filthy, covered with seaweed and gull droppings. Locals come down to the docks to crab and when they pulled their pots they just toss the seaweed onto the dock and leave it there to rot. That combined with the cigarette butts and gull droppings make it a very unappealing place.

We did meet another very nice couple, Chris & Judy on Voyager, a 1990 46 Nordy. They had tried to get fuel around 3 pm and then leave for SF but the fuel dock was closed so they pulled in behind us on the dock. We had some tea with them in afternoon and then a glass of wine and then around 7:30 PM the fuel dock opened and they got some fuel, $3.57/gal, and then came onto Discovery for another glass of wine then went back to their boat at 9:30. They left for SF at 6 AM the following morning and we left around 11 AM for Bandon just 20 miles down the coast.

Ilwaco - A nice visit from family

My brother and wife, Norm & Pat, came down Friday with their camper and spent two nights at the state park on Cape Disappointment. We spent most of Friday and Saturday with them and I had breakfast with them before they headed home. It was good to see them and spend some time visiting.

The marina at Ilwaco started to look dirty and run down by the time we left. It was good to get out of there and move on.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ilwaco - The fishing fleet is in port.

Date: 9/7/2008
Weather: sunny

The port is filling up with commercial fishing boats that have been forced off of the coast because of high winds and seas. After dark last night a 55' fishing boat squeezed into the slip next to us with less than 12" to spare. He did an excellent job of bringing his boat in with a 15 kt side wind and he never touched us but we did have a few moments of high anxiety. He came over afterwards and apologized for the noise for having to run his generator and pumps all night but he had fish in the hold and had to keep them fresh. We understood, we're in their house here and we can't complain when they do what is necessary to earn a living.

Fun & Games:
Thursday we went to the local museum that focuses on Lewis & Clark items (it's free on Thursday). Thursday evening was an Art Walk through the local art galleries. Ilwaco has a surprising number of galleries and they were all serving complimentary wine. Fun!

Friday had a classic car event in town. They had what they called a 'slow drag' in the evening. It was a little hard to figure out but it was kind of like shuffle board with cars. They start off on a quarter mile track and then had to start gliding at a certain point and the closest to the line at the end won. No braking aloud. It was fun and there were a lot (30 maybe) of neat old cars to look at.

Sunday: We walked out to the Cape Disappointment light house and state park. It was a little too hot and the walk was a little too long and up and down hills but other than some sore muscles and one blister (on my right foot, second little toe in from the outside) we survived. Bring on the Ibuprofen.

The latest weather forecast is for high winds through Tuesday and then maybe a break. We hope to get out later in the week, we'll see what the weather does. If it's too rough for the commercial guys out there it is definitely too rough for us. We're 'weather wimps' and proud of it. On the other hand, Ilwaco is nice but we don't want to spend the winter here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ilwaco WA

Date: 9/6/2008
Location: Ilwaco, WA
Lat/Lon: 46.3030°N 124.0411°W
Weather: Mostly sunny, windy

We made it to Ilwaco, Wa. Our first leg down the coast, 160 NM and 24 hours non-stop. We made this trip with a buddy boat, Jim & Naty on Nirvana, a 49 Defever pilothouse. They live in the Portland area and keep their boat on the river and have made this trip many times before so we followed their lead. I had been on the coast when we brought Discovery north after buying her in Dana Point CA in October 2006 but then we had a captain and another mate on board. Linda stayed at home for that trip. This time it was just the two of us. Being on the ocean is much different than boating on the inside passage where we have most of our experience and being on the ocean at night is very different from what we were use to. The ocean is always moving with swells from 3 to 6 feet in height, on a good day, and 6 to 10 seconds in duration from peak to peak. With the paravane stabilizers in the water the motion is easy and predictable but in order to walk around you always need one hand to hold on, the boat would lean 10° side to side with some 20° swings when a large swell passed under. During the night we each got a little sleep, me more than Linda. We both stayed awake for the sunset and first couple of hours of darkness getting use to being out at night and then I laid down on the pilothouse berth for 2 1/2 hours while Linda stood watch. Linda then went down to the mid cabin berth and managed to sleep almost 3 hours after which I slept for another 3 hours. We arrived at the Columbia River bar at noon, an hour after the start of the flood tide. You always want to cross a river bar on the flood tide so we timed our departure from Neah Bay to arrive at the Columbia bar on the flood tide. Thanks to the timing and fair weather, crossing the bar was a non-event. Jim & Naty then went onto Astoria a few miles down river and we pulled off in Ilwaco. After tying up we realized how tired we were and after registering at the office we both laid down for a nap followed by hot showers, dinner, and early to bed for a good night sleep.

Before leaving Neah Bay we fueled up at the Makah Mini-Mart fuel dock for $3.75 gal, no sales tax thank you, and then pulled into the Makah marina for the night. We now have enough fuel to make it well into Mexico. Being in the marina made it easier to talk with Jim & Naty about the plans for the next days passage to the Columbia River. The downside was that the marina smelled like diesel fuel and dead fish. The anchorage in Neah Bay is good, the marina is old, dirty, and stinks.

In Ilwaco we are in the land of commercial fisherman. There are only a few pleasure boats here and most of them are sport fishing boats. The marina has filled up as more of the commercial boats are forced off of the water due to the high winds on the coast. Most of them hope to get out on Monday. There is a fish processing plant here where the fisherman sell their fish and buy ice and salt. We enjoy being in with the commercial guys, they are generally a friendly and hard working group.

The 7 day forecast has high winds and seas until late on Wednesday and then starts to calm down so we hope to get out of here on Thursday and get down to Newport. We'll see, the weather can and will always change.

We posted some more pic's on our Web Photo Album, link on the right.

You gotta love this -