Log #61q Down the Oregon Coast

November 7, 2016 in Log Series 60-69, Logs by Series, Series 61, The Logs

Newport Beach, Los Angeles, CA

Nov. 11, 2016

Hi Folks,

We are just passing Los Angeles on our way down to San Diego, our last stop before entering Mexico. While in Long Beach I took this picture of the original Queen Mary still afloat there as a tourist attraction, conference centre, and I believe even a bed and breakfast. I saw the original Queen Mary, built in Liverpool in the late 1930’s, at sea when I was an officer cadet on my first crossing of the Atlantic in 1957, and sailed on the Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton in 2010. Beautiful ships!

 The Queen Mary

We are down in warm climates now, wearing shorts, and leaving the hatches open at night, with palm trees and pelicans. We haven’t been in swimming yet.

This Log #61q Down the Oregon Coast gets us from Neah Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca right down the Oregon coast ready to enter California. See the chartlet below. My next log will probably get us into San Francisco. I am trying to get caught up on my logs before we enter Mexico in a week or two.

All the best,

Aubrey


Log #61q Down the Oregon Coast
Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles
Nov. 7, 2016

Sept. 9 we left Port Angeles for a 54 mile passage along the north coast of Washington in the Strait of Juan de Fuca to anchor in Neah Bay, our stopping off point before rounding the notorious Cape Flattery and heading down the Pacific coast. (Incidentally the moorage fee in Port Angeles was only $0.75 a foot, and anchoring in Neah Bay was free.) We spent two nights in Neah Bay waiting for suitable weather. While there we dinghied over to a Dutch boat, Anna Caroline, and were invited on board to have tea and cake with Weitze and Janneke. While chatting we found they knew Sharon and Randy of Uhani Kai, whom we had last seen in 2002 in Turkey, and originally met in 1999 in the Azores on our Atlantic crossing. While in the Azores, Judy worked with Sharon who was an Emergency Room physician doing CPR on another sailing friend who unfortunately died of a heart attack while in Horta. We got their E-mail address and really appreciated being able to contact them. Small world! (See Log #11h Horta – A bitter-sweet experience from July 1999 on my website at www.veledaiv.ca.)

On Sept. 11th we hoisted the main with a single reef, and weighed anchor at 1250. Less than two hours later we rounded Tatoosh Island off Cape Flattery, and headed on a long SE course of 153 magnetic for 235 nautical miles. By 1600 (4:00 pm) we were able to unfurl the genoa and sail, wing on wing, for three hours before the NW wind eased, causing us to put the engine on to maintain a speed of 5 knots, still wing on wing. This sail plan can be used when the wind is coming from aft, and the main is held out one side with a preventer block and tackle to prevent it from accidentally gybing if the wind were to catch it on the wrong side. The genoa is held out on the opposite side by a whisker pole to catch the maximum stern wind without it flogging.
 

These two sails held out on opposite sides give maximum exposure to catch the stern winds. This sail plan also stabilizes the boat, as the long Pacific swells and a quartering sea can make things quite uncomfortable.

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  The genoa held out by the whisker pole

It was a very clear sunset across the Pacific at 1941 (7:41 pm), allowing us to see a green flash as the sun went below the western horizon. The green flash is a momentary green gleam from the last sight of the sun as it slips below the horizon, an interesting phenomenon.

A few times during the evening I turned the engine off and just sailed, but when the boat speed dropped below three knots I would put the engine back on to maintain a five knot speed. (We are not sailing purists.) Shortly after midnight the wind shifted to NE and we gybed both the main and the genoa. This required furling the genoa while the whisker pole is attached. The pole is then still attached to the sheet of the furled sail, and pointing forward. Then I go up to the bow to disconnect the pole and put it on the other sheet so it can then be unfurled on the other side. Judy was up for this evolution, as no one gets out of the cockpit at night unless we are both up, and whoever goes out has a safety harness attached to webbed jack lines running the length of the boat from fore and aft on both sides. This is not the easiest evolution especially at night, and in 12 foot swells.

However within an hour of having switched the sails around, the wind went even more easterly, causing me to furl the genoa and continue motor sailing with just the main up until 1025 next morning when the wind shifted to SE at force 4, about 12 knots. At that time we dropped the pole and unfurled the genoa to go on a broad reach with both sails out to starboard. We were able to shut the engine off and sail for the next 15 hours. Late that first morning we were favoured by six Pacific white-sided dolphins playing around the boat for a few minutes. Later we saw a few whales surfacing and diving. By noon hour the wind shifted to the northeast (actually NNE) and we went wing on wing once again.

By sunset at 1936 the second day, the wind increased from the NE to a stronger force 5 to 6 gusting from 18 to 25 knots. With the genoa still wung out to port with the whisker pole, we furled it to 50%, and put a second reef in the main sail. Facing 20 to 25 knot winds at night for us was a bit disconcerting, However a couple of hours later the wind eased to force 4, and I let out the full genoa. Shortly after midnight this second night out, we took the whisker pole down and continued on a broad reach. The wind was dropping and the sails were flogging by 0130, so at 0230 we furled the genoa and removed the preventer on the main to haul it in tight and continued motoring the rest of the way to Newport, Oregon. On a clear sunrise at 0652, on Sept. 13, we furled the main by 0745, and arrived at the fuel dock in Newport by 0837, completing a 242 mile passage in 56 hours. Across the channel we secured to our slip ( 44 37.439N, 124 03.131W) and got a few hours sleep. The marina fee was economical at $0.75 per foot.

There was no trouble crossing the bar, though transit into river mouths or estuaries along the Washington and Oregon coasts can be disturbing to hazardous. The large Pacific swells can pile up as they approach the shallows and create dangerous standing waves, especially if there is a situation of an ebb current combined with a strong inshore wind. The Columbia River Bar is notorious for its dangerous surges even far offshore. We bypassed the Pacific coast of Washington and the northern coast of Oregon, proceeding directly to Newport which is on the central coastal area. The entrance channel had a few standing waves, but we entered the channel safely and reached the marina just beyond the arched bridge.

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   Newport Bridge & marina                                     Entrance channel
We stayed in Newport for three nights, primarily to see my high school chum, Dallas Platt and his wife Hazel. They live in Canby, Oregon where we left our trailer for a season on their property. They came down one day to see Veleda for the first time and to have lunch aboard. It was a nice visit.

Another day we rented a car and travelled inland to see the covered bridges for which the area is noted. Many of these were built in the early 1900’s,or re-built during WW II when steel was scarce. They have a standard design, and are covered as the protection allows the wooden structures to last for up to 80 years, whereas without the cover the wooden planking would have to be replaced every 8 or 9 years. Most of the bridges are still in use, spanning creeks leading to farming areas, while others are no longer used, existing across dry stream beds. There are over 51 well preserved covered bridges in Oregon, and are protected by heritage organizations such as The Covered Bridge Society of Oregon (www.covered-bridges.org). For example the  Hayden Bridge below was originally in built in 1918, rebuilt in 1946, and “redeemed” or repaired as late as 2005.There is a pleasant simple charm to these bridges, worth preserving.

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         Harris Bridge (1929)                              Chitwood Bridge

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Hayden Bridge(1918)
 

Inland was well forested and quite hilly or even mountainous. The roads were in good condition. The shoreline has several large sandy beach strips and sand dunes, as well as several inlets. We stopped for bird watching at Ekman Lake and Slough near Waldport where the Alsea River enters Ekman Lake and into the Pacific Ocean. After we returned the car, next day, I thought of renting a dune buggy to play around in the dunes, but transportation to the rental offices was a problem, so we cancelled that trip for now. Two more “Bucket List”  things I would like to do are driving a dune buggy, and tandem sky diving.

The marina has a large RV park, on asphalt, and a triple launch ramp and large parking area for the boaters  going out fishing and crabbing. There are water hoses available after the boats are hauled out to wash them down to avoid carrying organisms to other waters. There is also a large cauldron crabbers can use to boil their catch.

The extremely good Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Centre were only a 10 minute walk from the marina. The aquarium had great displays of all kinds of tropical fish, including sharks and sting rays gliding silently around below and above the 200 foot  glass walkway in this 1.32 million gallon exhibit. The smaller fish tanks held a wide variety of specific species with informative panels about their characteristics. A glowing tank bathed in purple light artistically displayed dozens of translucent jelly fish gently wafting up and down the water column in an aquatic ballet.
 

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There was also a “touching pool” where people, children as well as adults could touch or handle other sea life such as star fish, sea cucumbers, sand dollars and barnacles. Knowledgeable volunteers were available to explain and encourage the touching to help people get over their squimishness in regards to these underwater inhabitants. Outdoors there were scheduled feedings of seals, sea lions and sea otters with staff to talk about these creatures. A netted aviary had a wide assembly of sea birds including the colourful puffins. It is an extremely good aquarium.

There is a courtesy bus which goes over town, but is inconvenient to get back to the marina, as it goes across the bridge and all the way through the town OK, but rather than completing the circuit, stops mid way back at the town hall for an hour layover. Frustrating! The one time I took it, I caught a cab back from the town hall instead of waiting around for an hour. Unfortunately I lost the cell phone hanging from my belt while I was over town! As we were ready to leave Judy went up to the office to return the washroom keys, and while there asked about our missing phone. The office called the bus company, and yes, a phone was found on the bus, and the driver would be down in a few minutes with it. Whew! It would have been a great loss, not only to replace it, but as we had over 1500 minutes of prepaid time on it that we would have lost.

Our next destination was Charleston in Coos Bay on the southern coast. As it was to be an 82 mile passage, we left at 1400 (2:00pm) for an overnight sail to arrive (43 20.794N, 124 19.258W) at 0720 next day (Sept, 17). At this time of year, any passages over 60 miles we cannot do in daylight hours and so have to calculate a departure time to allow us to arrive in daylight hours, as entering a port for the first time in the dark is risky. The passage was uneventful, motor sailing the entire way in light NW breezes.
 
Coos Bay is a good harbour of refuge, and the largest deep draft coastal harbour between San Francisco and Puget Sound. Free anchorage could be had anywhere outside the marked channels, and down below the bridge in the slough. We elected to go to the town marina at the transient dock, just across from the fuel dock.

As we approached the transient jetty, we saw many people on the dock crabbing. This is a popular past-time with people bringing down lawn chairs coolers, and making it a social outing, talking to friends and comparing fishing stories. A couple had to move their traps to make room for us to come alongside. The crabbing was good in that after 15 to 20 minutes in the water beside the dock, a trap would be hauled up with a dozen or so crabs. They had to be measured and only those of legal size would be kept, and the others thrown back. From the dozen or so on each haul there might be only one or two or none of legal size.  Several people would have two or more traps in the water  at one time. The most common bait used in the traps was a raw chicken leg and thigh. Even in rainy, grey conditions some would still be out there as this intrepid soul below huddled on his beer cooler, fiddling with his cell phone, with his trusty dog beside him and white bucket to hold his catch.

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 The two yellow lines in the water are his traps, the sea weeds scattered on the dock are the remains from the crabs that were thrown back.

We stayed three nights alongside there. One day we took the dinghy through the bridge into the slough for bird watching. Nice scenery, but few birds. We didn’t actually go into the interpretive centre and the trails of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. There was a boat anchored below the bridge, free of charge in the slough. The bridge can be opened on demand by calling on Channel 12. We considered going down there with Veleda, but decided not to as the depths in the slough were not charted.

We found a nice pub where we went for lunch a couple of times and had access to the internet for E-mail and reading Canadian newspapers. Our favourite sites are the Globe and Mail and the National Post. We also access the CBC radio news services and I consult Al Jazeera periodically. Judy will frequently go on our Toronto Library site to down load E-books free with our East York library card.  Happiness is access to good internet from the boat, which we rarely get. So, we lug our laptops up to the marina offices, or find a pub or coffee shop with free WiFi.

All the bays and inlets along the Pacific coast have warning lights, which when flashing indicate hazardous wave conditions at the entrance. This is for information for boaters leaving the bay. The lights were flashing all the time wewere in Charleston. By noon hour the third day, the lights were still flashing! I said, “Let’s try it anyways”. No problem. We encountered one of the large timber barges in the channel on our way out, and were requested to stay on the south side of the channel as it passed us. There was plenty of room, but we had to alter into its wake after it passed.

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Timber barge in the channel leaving Coos Bay  

There were long steep swells 12 to 15 feet high, but Veleda bobbed over them without difficulty. We wallowed parallel to the waves once we were on our southern heading. We initially thought of an overnight passage of 120 nautical miles to Crescent City, CA, but the wallowing waves were getting to us and so we altered into a wide open bay of Port Orford, OR. The complication was that we would be entering it in the dark at 2140!

It is a wide bay, open to the south, and thus protected from the north winds. We didn’t want to anchor over by the main town docks. Boats do not stay in the water, but are hoisted out onto the land. There are shoals and rafts of kelp, which could not be seen at night. As we approached the lights of town, I steered to a bay just west as there were recorded shoals near town. However as we approached the black shore line, there were no lights ashore, and we could not tell how close we were visually. We knew we had lots of water, but I didn’t want to drop anchor where we could swing onto the shore or onto charted nearby shoals. We dropped anchor (42 44.207N, 124 30.184W) in deeper water (40 feet instead of 20) than initially planned, but I didn’t want to go closer to the black shoreline. We could hear waves crashing, but could not see the shoreline. Night entry is … challenging! It is then interesting to see where we are next morning. The high cliffs of the cove towered above us. The anchorage was OK, not as rolly as our passage was. We left at 0720 next morning for a 68 mile passage to Crescent City, in California at last.

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Neah Bay, WA to Charleston, OR