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.

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