We left Charleston, OR yesterday at about 8:00 AM after fueling up. The departure went without a hitch. OK, maybe there was one small hitch but it doesn’t really count since everything was under control.
A boat like Siempre Sabado, with a single right-hand prop, wants to start moving to the left when the transmission is engaged in reverse. Once the boat is making way through the water, you can regain control and back up how you like, but when first engaged, she’s going to want to walk to the left. Well, naturally we were tied up in a slip that required us to back to the right in order to have the bow pointed the right way. I know it can be done once you learn all the fine finessing required but, as of yet I haven’t learned how. So, we’re backing out of the slip and of course our stern is pointed the wrong way. If I have lots of room behind me I can get her turned around but there’s almost never enough room. However, by the time we had cleared the slip, I was completely in control of the boat. In reverse. So, rather than start a comedy of errors by trying to turn around in the fairway between dock, I just backed down the fairway like that’s what I meant to do all along. Didn’t have to go that far anyway because C dock (now on my starboard side) was much shorter than B and D so there was a big area at the end that I could use as a turning basin. I turned her around, never giving any indication that I had intended to make the move in any other way, and the rest of the trip to and away from the fuel dock was a non-story.
Fueled up, we headed out of Charleston over a river bar that had no restrictions based on vessel size.
At one point we gained a cool hood ornament:
He made three approaches. The first two were touch-and-goes and then, on the final approach he made a perfect 2-point landing. He stood up there preening himself and constantly adjusting to maintain balance.
But wait. Before this idyllic moment, there were a few somewhat less-than-idyllic ones. As we were heading out, I went forward to raise the main. The sea, although looking pretty flat, had a long ocean swell resulting in a lot of ups and downs. I wasn’t worried, though, because I had my nice fresh scopolamine patch firmly attached behind my right ear. However, after I got the main up and the lines coiled and stowed, I was feeling a little queasy. Back in the cockpit I sat and tried to compose myself. Then, in about as much time as it takes to read this sentence, I KNEW I had to get to the leeward rail AND FAST! I made it and watched as my morning coffee, raisin bran and banana became part of the ocean’s food chain. Felt much better. For a minute or two. Another trip to the rail and what was left of last night’s pizza joined my breakfast. What the hell? This isn’t supposed to happen to a scop-wearin’ man. That little patch has brought me through stuff that was way rougher than this. I decided to supplement the scop with some meclizine washed down with some seltzer. Oh yeah, THAT stayed down a long time. Maybe 15 minutes. All this time Lulu is driving the boat. She said she was good to go so I went below to see if a little shut-eye might help. It did help a little, maybe. Then she gave me the helm which also helped a little. And then I had a brilliant thought. We have 2 packages of Transderm Scop. One was a prescription for Lulu and one for me. They are both the same drug at the same dose so this time I just took one from Lulu’s package. Now, thinking back, Lulu has had crappy luck with scop as of late. Is it possible that hers was a bad batch? Going forward with this line of reasoning, I removed the old patch and applied one from my package. Within a half hour or so I was cured. Lulu’s package went in the trash. Before you say, “could it be that Lulu’s had expired?” let me tell you that I checked that. Lulu’s expiration date was a whole year after mine. Hers should have been good until sometime in 2011 whereas mine expire this year. Anyway, now I’m feeling much better.
Remember this picture when you start reading about how rough it gets later. THIS is what the conditions were like when we left Charleston:
Awhile before this, I had brought the autopilot out to hook up. Except it didn’t work. I checked the plug-in and found the culprit: no juice. Checked the breaker: it was ON. So that means I either connected it wrong when I rewired or there was some flaw in the wire between the breaker and plug-in. Neither of these things was I prepared to deal with in these rolly (gently rolling but still rolly) conditions. There wasn’t enough wind to use the windvane and I had forgotten to lower the paddle before we left. There was no way I was going to hang out over the stern getting it set up. I would later regret that decision.
One more lesson learned: check EVERYTHING before getting underway. Seems logical doesn’t it? I’d make a lousy airplane pilot, what with their pre-flight checks and all. Maybe I’d better make up a pre-flight checklist for the boat.
So, other than having to hand steer, things are going along pretty well. Lulu had to go below a couple times because the meclizine, while keeping her from getting sick, did make her a little drowzy and headachy. But we traded watches every 2 to 3 hours depending on how each other felt. I finally gave up control enough to let Lulu relieve me.
As we were approaching Cape Blanco, the wind started increasing. With just the mainsail up the boat was very unbalanced and really hard to steer. When Lulu came up to take the watch I asked her if she’d prefer we strike the sails and motor through the night or strike the motor and sail through the night. Since neither of us have very much sailing experience and with the forecast that the winds were supposed to increase, we opted to take the sails down. We never regretted the decision. Someday we’ll have the experience and confidence to sail through the conditions we motored through last night but we don’t yet.
Rounding Cape Blanco, all hell broke loose. The wind kicked up and the seas really got going. As I said before, I have no good idea how to estimate wave and swell height but they were big. It was dark enough that we couldn’t see too much which is probably just as well. It was a constant fight to keep sort of on course. At one point we were definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were in a deep trough and laid over a good 45 degrees to starboard. We shipped some water over the side and then we rolled 45 degrees the other way and shipped even more water. Then, next thing you know, we’re back up on top of the waves again.
One of the problems we had hand-steering at night is that the light in the compass doesn’t seem to be very well thought out. It lights from below and most of the time you just plain can’t read the numbers. So, we have the stress of trying to ride this bucking bronco but we were also trying to keep the bronc on the trail, a trail that we couldn’t see.
Sometime in the wee hours, things abated somewhat. The wind died down and the seas, while still large, weren’t as large or violent as before. I took over the watch about 3:00 AM. At about 3:30 I was studying the GPS chart without my glasses (they get so fogged and misted up that they’re worse than having none at all. Anyway, it looked like the next waypoint had the designation CA followed by some numbers. The CA signifies a California waypoint. Well, if that’s the case, then that land mass off to the right must be the entrance to the Chetco River at Brookings. Yikes! We almost passed it.
Having no desire to enter another strange port in the dark and fog (did I mention the fog?), we simply lashed the tiller and turned circles until it got light about 3 hours later. Then we continued to circle until I was pretty sure the fog wasn’t going to lift anytime soon. It had, however, abated enough to see lots of little sportfishermen. Apparently this is the weekend for Brookings’ Slammin’ Salmon tournment. I’m glad we waited for the fog to lift as much as it did. Most of those little sportfishers wouldn’t be stand much of a chance against a 14,000 lb. battering ram.
With Lulu as the lookout, we followed the GPS track to first one buoy and then the next and then, voila, we were in Brookings (actually we were in Harbor, OR) and tied up to the fuel dock. We paid for 3 night’s moorage but, after talking to fellow Westsailor and Brookings resident, Lee Perry, it looks like it may be Wednesday or Thursday before we can scoot out of here. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our stay. We ate breakfast at a The Blue Seas Restaurant this morning before returning to the boat for about 4 hours of sleep. Then we went exploring which is what we were doing when we ran across Lee and his wife, Nancy. I introduced us as “some people who know you who you’ve never met”. Nancy hesitated for a second and then said, “You must be Lulu and Steve.” Apparently they’ve been reading the blog although I first got to “know” them through the Westsail Owners’ Association discussion board. Later this evening, another Westsailor, Gary Burton stopped by the boat to say “Hi” and give me a ride to the gas station to fill one of our propane bottles. It’s great to have contacts in a port before you ever get there.
So, there you have it. We’re finally within spitting distance of the Oregon-California border. And, gnarly as things were in the middle of the night, we coped with them just fine having been there before.