We left Newport yesterday morning at about 0730. Our friends Jay and Judy were there to handle lines and see us off. It was pretty placid when we left so we were surprised to hear that the bar was restricted to recreational vessels over 26′. For the past week or so it’s been unrestricted. Maybe we should’ve taken this as a clue and turned back but we really wanted to get going.
The bar crossing was kind of lumpy but not too bad although I wouldn’t have wanted to do it in a little sportfishing craft. However, once we got outside we encountered those 10’+ seas we’d been reading about in the weather forecasts. The waves were rolling in from the NW and we were heading SW to get away from land and pick up our southbound route. Consequently, we were taking the seas on the beam which meant for a very rolly ride. Occasionally I’d turn a little south and things calmed down some so I was looking forward to things easing up once we turned full south.
I don’t have any way of measuring wave height when we’re out there. Everything changes so fast and here’s nothing to bet a perspective on. But I do know these were the highest seas we’d ever encountered. And they never let up. Sometimes they got bigger but they never got smaller.
Within a few minutes of clearing the bar, we found everything that hadn’t been stowed good enough. Guess that’s why they call it a “shake-down” cruise. Fortunately, more things made the ride without becoming unsecured than did. But we still have to solve a couple of issues. Mainly I need to put toggles on the behind-the-seats lockers, a positive closure on the anchor chain locker, and a restraint on the wastebasket. Oh, and we need to be a little more circumspect in stowing miscellaneous little odds and ends. Since it was so rolly and, therefore uncomfortable down below, we just left everything lay where it landed. No sense trying to fix it now.
Matter of fact, it was such a job steering the boat that nothing else got done. One hand had to be on the tiller at ALL times. I couldn’t even set up the windvane or autopilot because I couldn’t let go of the tiller long enough to do it. And I had my doubts about the autopilot anyway. It’s worked great before but these seas were taking a lot of effort to maintain some semblance of a course and it could be more than the autopilot was built to handle. And, since it works great in lesser seas, I saw no purpose in taking a chance on destroying it now. As far as putting the windvane into use, no way was I going to be leaning out over the stern pulpit in these conditions. And, not only could we not get any self-steering connected, we also couldn’t get a sail up. I know this sounds like a lame excuse. After all, I could just have Lulu steer while I did whatever else needed doing. But I’m telling you, the ride was so rough that it mostly took both hands just to hang on. We made sure that we were both strapped to the boat, even in the cockpit.
And then, as if the big seas weren’t enough, Lulu got seasick. This was in spite of using the scopolamine patch. Having had a poor reaction last time she used one (all she could do was sleep), she opted to use just half a patch this time. Well, apparently it wasn’t enough. Eventually she put the other half on and, although it didn’t keep her from being sick, it did make her very sleepy. So I told here to do whatever would make her feel less bad. She decided that crawling into bed and getting warm and stationary with her eyes closed might work.
I continued to steer and Lulu went below. She popped her head up every so often to see if I needed anything. What a trooper. I did have her come out one time to spell me long enough for me to take a leak. Note: I will never buy another pair of foul weather pants that don’t have a fly. I had to get half undressed (remove life jacket, remove foul weather jacket, then undo the straps and such on the foulie pants just to take a leak. Unacceptable! I realize this is everyday life for you women and I feel your pain. But my plumbing doesn’t normally require all that so my clothes shouldn’t either. And another thing about foul weather gear: the cargo pockets on my jacket are closed with velcro and have a little flap to keep the contents fairly dry. However, I found it nearly impossible to open the flap and then hold the pocket open to put my glasses away using one gloved hand. It was very frustrating and a good example of how the seas were so rough that doing even minor things was a major undertaking.
So anyway, we are bouncing along the coast, about 5-10 miles out. It’s foggy so the range of vision was limited to maybe a 1/2 mile radius. Fortunately we saw no other boats or ships out there and now I’m not surprised.
We got pooped once (took water over the stern) and took water over the side numerous times but, as far as I could see, we never took any water over the bow. Of course, the waves were going in our direction so it sort of stands to reason. And my goodness, did we roll. The compass has marks on it that show how much off level it is. During most of the rolls we’d go maybe 20° side to side. About once every 10 minutes or so we’d go over 30°, occasionally hitting 35°. Then, late in the day, after the wind piped up and the waves got bigger, we would hit 40° every so often. But, inspite of this, I don’t think either of us were ever scared. We have such faith in our little Westsail 28 that we know she can take whatever is dished out. She can take far more extreme conditions than we can. It’s a great feeling to have implicit confidence in your boat. We’re even more confident in her now.
When we got pooped, some water must have washed up into the engine control panel because right afterwards the warning buzzer started sounding. This buzzer goes off on a loss of oil pressure or if the engine temperature gets too high. Fortunately, besides the buzzer, we have actual gauges. I looked at them and all systems were still normal so we pressed on with the buzzer for background noise. It eventually quit but, as soon as we took some water in the cockpit from over the rail, it started up again. This time it ran on and on and on and on. And, even though the gauges were saying that everything was A-OK, it still makes you worry just a little bit. It would have been such a bummer to lose the engine in these conditions. I was also hoping that the fuel filters wouldn’t clog up and need to be changed. Of course, I do have dual filters now so I could have just switched to the new set, but what if they plugged up? My scopolamine patch was working fine as long as I stayed topside. No telling what would happen if I had to go below and change a filter. And it would be a major job with the boat rolling 30-40 degrees side to side in a very erratic manner. Fortunately, the engine never faltered so maybe cleaning the fuel tank combined with using a 30 micron filter followed by a 2 micron filter is the way to go.
We had originally intended to sail straight through to SF but now, with Lulu sick, the cabin a mess and no way to connect the self-steering, I made the decision to duck into port. We were about 4-5 hours away from Winchester Bay and would arrive there while it was still light. However, as we approached the harbor, we heard the Coast Guard’s bar-condition report. Due to dangerously breaking seas, the bar was closed to all recreational boats. If it had been an emergency we might have tried going in anyway but fortunately we didn’t have to make that decision. This meant our next chance at a safe harbor was Coos Bay, another 4-5 hours away. We were both really hoping that it wouldn’t be closed since that would mean we just had to keep on going. That would be a bummer. But, like Lulu said, “this is what we signed up for”.
I was a little worried about Coos Bay because I had heard that the Coquille River entrance was also closed. I wasn’t sure whether or not “Coquille River” was code for Coos Bay in the same way that Winchester Bay is referred to as the Umpqua River. Just have to wait and see.
A couple hours before sundown, the sky finally cleared. Not enough to see the horizon but at least enough to see blue sky and the sun. Just about the time the sun was going down, the almost-completely-full moon came up. That helped but, now that I couldn’t see the compass very well (it’s built-in light leaves a lot to be desired), it was really hard to stay on course. The compass on the GPS is useless for steering because it changes so much. It get all these readings and, since the waves are causing the boat to point all over the place, the GPS compass reading are also all over the place. Also, once it was dark it was harder to see the waves and anticipate what was coming.
As we neared Coos Bay, the bar report came on. Fortunately the bar was unrestricted. That made me feel much better. I had already resigned myself to continuing on and was trying to come up with a good watch-standing rotation that would allow me to get a little sleep but still keep Lulu from getting too cold or sicker. The unrestricted bar eased my mind a lot.
Next step was getting in to Coos Bay (actually Charleston) in the dark. The path is fairly well lit with aids to navigation (lighted buoys) and the chart on my GPS seemed pretty accurate. But, man! Coming in and trying to determine which lights were which and then finding some that were not where they were supposed to be was very nerve-wracking. Thank goodness Lulu was acting as lookout since my view from the cockpit is somewhat limited by the dodger and the fact that I need to be down low enough to reach the tiller. She kept me from running in to a couple of buoys as well as a small, poorly-marked breakwater.
And then, entering the marina, it was really hard to tell where anything was. So we just picked a slot and turned in. We found a place to tie up right next to a sign the said “Reserved. Do Not Tie Up Here Without Permission”. Yeah, well, too bad. I don’t know where else to go and there’s no one here to tell us. A liveaboard guy came by and said we were fine just where we were. He said that security would probably have us move tomorrow but for tonight just relax.
We were finally tied up and engine off at 0030 Sunday morning. It took us 17 hours to travel just under 100 miles and since we were planning on 100-mile days, that’s not too bad.
Lulu straightened up the cabin and I just sat around like a zombie. I removed the scopolamine patch because, now that we weren’t moving it was making me feel kind of weird, and not a good weird. Climbing into bed never felt so good.
This morning we got a knock on the hull at about 0830. It was Security getting information and telling us where to move. He agreed to let us wait a couple of hours until we were more awake. As it turns out, neither of us could go back to sleep so we got up made some coffee, walked over to B dock to scope out our digs, then got underway and moved over to B-10.
It’s cold, windy and foggy here but at least we’re here safe and sound and we’re not still in Newport. We’re paid up through tomorrow. There’s a little restaurant down the road with free wifi so I’m going to walk down and post this, get e-mail and check the weather so we can start watching for much better weather window to get out of here. We both agreed not to purposely set out in waters with waves in excess of 10′ again. Should have heeded the advice of our salty friend Keith in Newport.
We’re not disappointed that we took the plunge however. After all, we’re started in the right direction, almost 1/5 of the way to our first goal (SF Bay) and we now have a better understanding of what wether conditions can do to you as well as even more confidence than before in our little Siempre Sabado. But it would have been a bummer if we’d had to keep on going like the Flying Dutchman.
-Make sure everything in the cabin is secured against heavy rolls
-Don’t underestimate the influence that heavy seas can have on your trip
-Don’t put off necessary jobs for “once we’re out there”. You may not be able to do anything “out there” except hang on.
PS: Lulu is right now sewing a fly into my foulie pants.