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55 Hours

Posted on Tue 30 August 2011 in Destinations

<Dawn and I both wrote this post>

After staying in Neah Bay for a few days we were itching to start heading south. Neah Bay isn’t the most hospitable of towns to stay for more than a few days. We were originally going to leave Neah Bay and head for San Francisco, but the weather in Northern California was looking rough. Aaron and Nicole on s/v Bella Star suggested heading down to Newport, OR so we could at least bite off some of the sail down and we thought that was a splendid idea.

We left Neah bay around 4pm in thick fog, light winds and low swell. Knowing that we were going to need it we switched on the radar. Not too shortly after that, in thick fog, we came port to port of a fishing vessel squeaking by within one hundred yards of each other. I believe that we were both equally surprised to see each other as we both veered to starboard to keep clear. Immediately Dawn was screaming it wasn’t on the radar! So we deduced that she was too close in our vicinity when we switched on our radar for it to pick the fishing vessel. Lesson learned! We spent the rest of the time calling out visible vessels to hone in the radar. We hailed Bella Star who was about an hour ahead us on the VHF to see if it was clear after the Straits. We were going to head back to Neah Bay if it was foggy on the coast! They said it was clear to horizon at Cape Flattery so we pressed on.

We rounded Cape Flattery, which was absolutely stunningly beautiful. The view was spectacular with high cliffs and strong imposing coast line. Once we hit our mark around 15 NM offshore we did the big turn left. Dawn marked the occasion by signaling a left hand turn signal just to be safe. We were very excited to finally be free of Puget Sound’s grasp. We headed offshore sailing about 5-7 knots with the wind over the starboard quarter and the swell not quite exactly on the beam, but enough so that every 4-5 minutes we rolled from rail to rail which could have not be more uncomfortable. Have you heard the fisherman’s rule: “The 7^th^ wave of the 7^th^ set”? It’s true… very true. Just as the boat settles down after the first few swells another set is lined up to toss you around. But we pressed on through the night with triple reefed main and furled jib as we had to put in the reefing lines anyway, and being new at the whole offshore thing we decided to play it safe. We setup the Hydrovane and sat back for a long night.

Have we mentioned how much we love the Hydrovane??? If not, we do…we are in love with the Hydrovane. As the night wore on the winds died but we stuck with the sailing. Pea took the first watch to 0200, Dawn the 2nd at 0200-0600 and then Pea from 0600-1000. After morning broke we pretty much swapped turns taking naps and kept an eye out for crab pots and fishing vessels. Oh yeah, did we mention crab pots…yep, they suck. In 30 fathoms of water below the keel we had two close calls!

The second day and night we sailed in light winds making 3-5 knots again with a swell approaching the beam. We seemed to be just outside the fishing areas, and we were hoping to stay well outside until south of the Columbia River where we were planning to jibe in and start to make some distance eastward heading in to Newport. At 0200, the start of Dawn's watch we were well enough past Columbia River so we jibed east and remained so until all the night watches were over.

With the day upon us and many miles to go and very light winds we committed to motoring and made a rhumb line course for Newport about 70NM away. The motoring was pretty easy in increasingly fickle winds and dying swell. The water was beginning to flatten out (thank god) and the swells were more aft. The weather was calm and cloudy and the water took on this thick glassy oily texture. It became difficult to differentiate the horizon as it all looked the same mercury gray color. We took up one of Dawn’s favorite past times and began referencing all of the sea birds that were gracefully skimming along the very edges of each swell. We spotted Black Footed Albatross and Short-Tailed Albatross and several others throughout the evening. Albatross are such beautifully elegant birds with long powerful thin wings and short thick bodies and a nubby long beak.

Around sunset the sky darkened and fog rolled in, but it wasn't so thick you couldn't see things close-by. It was just enough to make the things in the distance lose their depth. So in this blur we were looking for our first mark off the channel entrance to Yaquina Bay. Coastal Explorer showed a Yellow light and our charts showed a Red & White light and Charlie’s Charts (which we love) was calling it yellow! We started to get a little nervous thinking that we missed the mark. Because the night was so calm, Dawn was able to make out the whistle of the buoy! But where the hell is it? Oh, it was right off our port side and guess what, it's WHITE!! In Coastal Explore the light descriptions are turned off by default (now fixed) and while the little navigational buoy icon has a yellow light, the description is correct. Not a huge deal, just caused us to do a fly by before we double checked our navigation and headed in the channel.

Dawn’s anxiety level was building because we had difficulty seeing the green buoys. There was this weird large orange light that seemed to be causing our night vision to get out of wack. Dawn had her eyes peeled with the help of the binoculars and soon realized that the orange glow was a fishing vessel trying to leave the very channel that we were trying to enter! After the fishing boat cleared and veered off to port we were able to see the markers much clearer. At 11pm at night in pitch dark with the lights of Newport behind it the channel looked about 20 feet wide. (We both remarked today that after having seen it in the daylight it's about 50 yards or more wide but yet looked soooo very small at night.) It’s definitely still tricky, as the currents rush through at blinding speed. Dawn kept asking why I wasn’t slowing down, we were doing 7.5kts with the engine at idle! After we went under the Yaquina Bay Bridge (pics) we had to make a very fast turn to starboard right in front of marina breakwater at the green buoy in 7.5 knots of speed into the Port of Newport Marina fuel dock. Patrick did an amazing job at handling that turn under such conditions, even though they were probably close to perfect for the seas and weather were calm. I can’t imagine trying to navigate this at night in anything other than perfect conditions. Once we tied up at the fuel dock, we exchanged a quick hello with Aaron and Nicole from s/v Bella Star who were trying to tell us that we were docked at the fuel dock and not in a slip. We told them we were needed fuel and were going to pass out for night and handle it in the morning. We quickly passed-out in our nice and warm cozy v-berth.

The trip was great, it taught us a lot about our boat and our systems (more on that to come) and about ourselves. We both wore Scopace patches for the entire trip. Pea was fine all day and then at twilight on the first two nights he instantly got nauseous, puked and then was fine for another 24 hours. Dawn was fine and was able to eat and quickly warm up the stews and soups she froze for the trip. We both loved having Sirius XM Satellite radio to keep us company and awake at night.

Deep Playa is on J dock (funny we left J dock behind us at Shilshole) docked next to Bella Star and relaxing in Newport for probably at least 5 days or so before we head down the Oregon Coast. There is a nasty low over Northern California right now and gale force warnings. We liked this short hop and thinking we'll stick with this strategy if the bar conditions allow. Our next stop may be Coos Bay if the weather behaves.