ESCAPE FROM NEWPORT

Early this morning Truce and I dropped down the Yaquina River from Toledo to Newport on the ebb tide.  Upon arrival at Newport I found the Coastguard had closed the Yaquina River the bar to vessels less than forty feet length.  As Truce is thirty-six feet long we couldn’t depart Newport.  Very frustrating, the weather outside is good and I want to make distance to the south.  Doubly frustrating, my French friends in their larger boat were allow to cross the bar and sailed at ten in the morning.

There is no option to wait until conditions improve.  I topped up fuel from the fuel dock and hung onto the dock waiting.  Finally, just after noon the Coastguard opened the bar to vessels more than 20 feet and I made my escape.

Once outside the bar I cracked on all sail and was soon romping south at six and a half knots.  Two hours later the wind died and I was motoring in a sloppy sea, rockin and rolling.  In the early evening a NW breeze came in and I can just manage to sail under the jib – about three knots.  There is not enough wind to keep the sail full in the seaway so we are crashing and banging along – but moving south.  The Oregon coast is slowly slipping away to port and we are getting closer to San Francisco.

Before dark this evening I am trying to get offshore beyond the hundred-meter line.  This whole place is infested with crab traps and buoys in the shallow coastal waters.  Outside the hundred-meter line I am hoping it’s too deep for traps and I can relax.

These uncomfortable light wind conditions are forecast for the next twenty-four hours, then a strong northerly wind sets in which should take us all the way under the Golden Gate bridge.

RUDDER FIXED

It’s been a full-on sort of day and I feel tired at the end of it – but importantly ‘we got the job done’.  The rudder is good.

Bushing fresh from Machine Shop
Bushing fresh from Machine Shop

At midday Truce was lifted out the water and half an hour later I had the rudder unshipped and hung off.  The bottom bushing was worn and causing the play in the rudder.  Thankfully everything was intact and no damage or wear on the metal parts at all.  I decided to have a new bush machined up and installed.  By four thirty in the afternoon the new bushing had arrived from the machine shop and was fitted.  Shortly after the rudder was back in place.  The bushing is tight and the rudder hard to turn – I expect as the miles go by it will free up a bit.

Rudder Unshipped and Hung Off
Rudder Unshipped and Hung Off

By five in the afternoon I was back in the water and tied up alongside the dock.  I really admire the can-do attitude of the American guys when it comes to engineering solutions.  I had the same experience in Wrangell last year when the shaft strut was cracked.  Within a few hours, a great engineered solution found and executed.  Thank you, Toledo boatyard, especially Asia and Ted for a great job.

In the early evening I took a walk into town.  Toledo is quite a small place, it looks like everybody knows everybody.  Tuesday evening and not much going on.  The main street is an attractive historic place that would be good to visit in warmer weather.

City Hall Toledo. Photo Ray Penson jpg
City Hall Toledo. Photo Ray Penson jpg

This evening I will have a good feed on board and get some rest ready for tomorrow.  In the morning I will take the tide down the Yaquina River to Newport and hopefully be able to head out over the Bar towards San Francisco.  I have a special date in San Francisco so need to get moving south.

Main Street Toledo. Photo Ray Penson jpg
Main Street Toledo. Photo Ray Penson jpg

RUDDER INSPECTION AND SUNSHINE

Heaps of rain last night and this morning and then the sun came out.  Wonderful to feel the suns warmth and the solar cells are charging the batteries again.

Soft Shackles.Photo, Ray Penson jpg
Soft Shackles.Photo, Ray Penson jpg

The diver turned up this morning, a very helpful guy called Carson.  He had a good look at the rudder and made a video.  All the pintles are in place – that’s good news, nothing broken.  However, there is a lot of play in the bottom shoe.  This is what I can feel when I move the rudder.

I will call the local shipyard in the morning.  To see what is going on I need the boat out of the water.  If the problem is general wear and tear then it should be a quick fix but until I can eyeball it I just don’t know.  There is a boatyard a few miles up river from Newport at a place called Toledo.

As it was Sunday today there were a few people wandering the docks, the sunshine probably brought them out as well.  Quite a few of them wanted to stop for a chat.  So, I spent some time today relaxing and chin wagging with the locals.  In between gossiping I finally finished all the small jobs on my list that needed doing before sailing.  Now I can start another list of jobs, this time more on the lines of preventative maintenance.

The weather looks good for a departure south on Wednesday.  The locals agree that the weather will turn on Wednesday – local knowledge is good.  I just hope my rudder is in good shape by then and I can make the hop down to San Francisco.

SUSPECT RUDDER

It looks like I may linger longer in Newport after all.  As I was preparing the boat for departure today and running through my checks I noticed that the rudder has excessive play in the pintles.  I fear that something may have let go but can’t see any obvious cause.  Anyway, I don’t feel comfortable sailing unless I know the rudder is 100% OK.  I have arranged for a diver to check out the bottom shoe for me.

I could not have left today anyway as the bar was closed to all recreational vessels as there is quite a big swell causing rough conditions on the bar.  After my morning chores, I hopped on the free bus into Newport to pick up some fresh victuals and have a look around. 

Yaquina River Bar Status
Yaquina River Bar Status

On the way back from town to the marina I walked over the Yaquina River bridge.  As it is still windy, cold and wet it was a bracing walk so high over the river.  At the centre of the bridge I could feel it moving, vibrating and shaking as the traffic passed by.  The bridge was built in 1936 and looks quite flimsy close up, I walked off a bit quicker than I walked on.

Yaquina River Bridge - Just Walked Across.Photo Ray Penson jpg
Yaquina River Bridge – Just Walked Across.Photo Ray Penson jpg

Back on board I finished rigging the downhaul for the staysail.  This will make life much easier as I won’t need to go on the foredeck to bring the sail down in bad weather.  I then re-rigged the gybe preventer to provide less resistance and simpler leads – looking forward to trying that out.  I also made up a couple of soft shackles for the staysail to replace the current metal snap hook.  Getting hit on the head from a flaying snap hook could be a death blow, soft shackles are much safer.

Coastguard vessel returning from Yaquina Bar
Coastguard vessel returning from Yaquina Bar

Truce is one of only two visiting boats in Newport.  The other is a large French expedition boat that was also in Neah Bay when I was there.  Last night I had drinks on board – a very impressive boat that has been both to the Antarctic and Arctic.  They too are waiting on a weather window before moving down to San Francisco.

SIDE TRIP TO NEWPORT, OREGON

Last night I plugged on in poor sailing conditions, by midnight the mainsail came down and Truce was reduced to staysail only.  Wind was gusting thirty five knots from the South with rain squalls.  The midnight forecast predicted another two days of southerly winds – I was quite disheartened by this news.

Not being able to get south I decided to have a rest and ran north east under staysail at six knots – faster than I wanted in the wrong direction but the staysail is the smallest sail I have and the ride was very comfortable – I had a good rest.

Mr Crab on a plate.
Mr Crab on a plate.

This morning I called the Coastguard at Yaquina Bay and asked if it would be possible for me to cross the bar into Newport.  They advised the bar conditions were deteriorating but currently open for Truce sized boat.  So, at seven this morning I headed towards Yaquina entrance, some 52 miles distant.  We had a sparkling sail with the wind about 60 degrees on the starboard bow.  The wind held steady at around 25 to 30 knots and under triple reefed main, staysail and one quarter jib Truce romped along happily with Micky (wind vane) steering.

Sealions hanging out in Newport Oregon. Photo Ray Penson
Sealions hanging out in Newport Oregon. Photo Ray Penson

The coastguard were helpful as we approached the bar, an ebb tide running and conditions interesting on the bar – considering the small engine on Truce.  We arrived in calmer waters inside the bar at four and thirty minutes laterTruce was tied up alongside the Newport Marina.

As I write this, wind is howling through the marina and we have had two hailstorms.  I feel happy to be tucked up here and not trying to flog south into the wind.  A wise decision to head into Newport.

Well, as I predicted some ground has been lost towards San Francisco.  But on a positive note this is the first protracted heavy weather sailing I have done on Truce.  This has given me the opportunity to try out several different sail combinations – a good learning experience.  I have also tested the gybe preventer I rigged up, it worked well and I will write about in more detail in the future.  I also now know I need to rig a downhaul on the staysail so I can drop the sail from the cockpit without having to go on the foredeck.

Harbour bridge Newport Oregon Photo Ray Penson
Harbour bridge Newport Oregon Photo Ray Penson

Next immediate goal is a hot shower, a change into some clean dry clothes and then to find a local hostelry willing to cater to a weary traveller.

Fishing boat harbour Newport Oregon. Photo Ray Penson
Fishing boat harbour Newport Oregon. Photo Ray Penson

A NASTY DAY OFF OREGON

Last night I was becalmed for the third time since leaving Neah Bay.  I drifted until nine this morning when a wind filled in from the south.  At seven I wrote in the log “ barometer falling and no wind – something will happen soon’.  It did!

At ten I had all sail set and we were moving along nicely at around five knots in a light breeze.  By eleven I had the first reef in the main and the wind was building quite quickly.  Then when furling the jib to a riding turn on the furling drum after two  wraps and it was stuck.  Now the wind was gusting twenty five knots and I deeded the sail off.  First I dropped the main.  Then dropped the staysail.

Then, after some thought, I tied off the fulling drum and stripped off the line, remembering how many turns to put back on.  All the time I was doing this I was running north off the wind and getting very wet.  After a couple of hours I had it sorted, by this time the wind had increased to 35 knots.  The barometer dropped nine millibars in ten hours.

The radio forecast was still giving five to fifteen knots.  I called a passing tanker the ‘Polar Adventure’ and asked them for the wind speed, they confirmed 30 knots.  So, its been heading west all day towards the coast where I hope to pick up a shift to the south west.  Very uncomfortable, noisy, bumpy and wet all day.

Its proving to be very hard work getting to San Francisco.  I fear that we may be further away tonight than we were last night.  Something good will come out of this I am sure.

BECALMED, A 3% CHANCE

Last night at sunset the wind started to decrease.  First I had to bring down the main, it couldn’t hold the wind and was flogging about as if to self-destruct.  Shortly after the staysail came down.  I carried on until one in the morning with the jib, but the wind disappeared and the jib finally got furled.  What a disappointment, I was expecting the forecast fifteen knot north westerlies to hold.  So, we were becalmed.  The last thing I expected on the Washington Pacific coast.

After one I drifted and tried to get some rest.  The residual sea and swell caused Truce to gyrate abominably.  The sort of wild movements people pay good money to experience at theme parks.  At four I could stand it no more and started the engine to see if the movement would be less under way – it was a bit better and we were at least moving and I got to see another sunrise.

I hand steered until eight as the seas were too bad for the autopilot, then stopped for some breakfast and to get the latest USA weather reports.  The forecasters are now calling for light winds in this area for the next two days.  Unbelievable.  I checked my routing charts and there is a 3% chance of calm weather in the month of May!  I just happened to hit it.

Looking at the large swells rolling in from the west is a bit surreal, they are moving hillsides of water, perfectly smooth a and glossy, like liquid glass.  Looking at it from sea level is a beautiful sight and quite unusual.

So I have been motoring all day, rolling along.  Much as I hate motoring at sea there is no option.  The barometer has been stuck at 1024.5 for the last 30 hours.  This must be an unusual weather event for this area.

Any thoughts I had about being in San Francisco on Sunday are just dreams now.  On the positive side the day has been beautiful and sunny and I am starting to feel a bit warmer, time to break out a beer.  Voyage distance 252.1 miles.

CAPE FLATTERY TO SAN FRANCISCO

It’s a month today since I arrived in BC from Auckland, seems less, the time has flown by.  It’s taken a long time to get ready to go south, the weather hasn’t helped, things just seem to go slow when it’s wet and cold.

I picked the anchor up at six this morning, a beautiful calm clear day, by six thirty I could feel the suns warmth.  The forecast is good today so we headed out into Juan de Fuca Strait for the last time and rounded Cape Flattery before shaping course to the south west.  There was no wind at Cape Flattery and for the next two hours I hand steered (the autopilot couldn’t cope) in horrible rough seas left behind by the previous two days wind.  Around ten, things started to settle down as we moved into deeper water past the 100 meter line.  By eleven I had the main and jib set and we were sailing at last, not very fast but great to have the engine shut down.

My plan is to head offshore and to get clear air away from the land and then had south.  Offshore, there is also less traffic and fishing floats to worry about.  Around twenty miles offshore we picked up a nice westerly breeze at four in the afternoon and are moving along at between five and six knots.  If the wind remains favourable we could be in San Francisco next Sunday – but I know how tricky this coast can be so am not making any predictions.

The snow covered mountains of the Olympia National park can clearly be seen to the east.  Apart from that, there is nothing else out here apart from the occasional duck floating around.  I hope this breeze holds as its nice comfortable sailing and in the right direction.  Voyage distance 165.2 miles.

HALF WAY UP JUAN DE FUCA

Just before eleven this morning I let go from the Port Townsend Marina to catch the ebb tide up the Juan de Fuca strait.  Wind was forecast but only arrived for seven minutes sailing, then it was motoring all the way in flat calm conditions.  Quite a bit of marine life about, seals, ducks, porpoise and seabirds.

The weather turned out really nice with the sun making an appearance in the afternoon.  When the cloud cleared the snow capped Olympia Mountains came into view, looking magnificent.  They look pretty from a distance but that’s where the cold wind comes from.

Just as the tide was turning against us we made a small cove called Crescent Bay on the west side of the strait.  We are anchored there now waiting for the next ebb tide around one in the morning.  The anchorage is a bit rock and roll but not too bad and I should get a few hours sleep.

So, now we are about half way between Port Townsend and Neah Bay.  After Neah Bay I will be rounding Cape Flattery, the real departure point for the trip down to San Francisco.  I am looking forward to Neah Bay, it’s an Indian settlement.  My friends tell me there are some interesting things to look at, we shall see.

READY TO SAIL

The last two days have been quite busy and working around the weather to get the final jobs completed for the trip down to San Francisco.  I am berthed in Port Townsend, a place that seems to generate its own wind and rain patterns.  The town of Port Townsend is an interesting place, one of those old towns that has seen a few cycles of economic boom and bust.  Now it seems to becoming a tourist destination, craft shops, antiques, old book shops and organic coffee shops popping up.

Provisions for Pacific Voyage
Provisions for Pacific Voyage

Here I have met up with John and Jennifer from the sailing yacht Caro Babbo, our paths crossed many times last year when I was in Alaska.  They now have a house in Port Townsend and last they had a few friends to dinner, a great time had by all.  John is an excellent cook and the pork roast was irresistible.  Also at the diner last night was Brion Toss, the author of ‘The Complete Riggers Apprentice’, an excellent book that I bought before leaving New Zealand.

Finally got the the mainsail up and finish the reefing lines, topped up the fresh water tanks and we are ready to go.  The tide starts to turn favourable around eleven in the morning for the first part of the voyage up the Juan de Fuca Straits.  The prevailing winds usually blow down the Strait making getting out into the Pacific a bit of a slog.  The Strait also has strong tides and commercial shipping to watch out for as well, it could be a long couple of days.

My plan after departing Port Townsend is to head up the Juan de Fuca Strait to Neah Bay at the Western end.  There I will top up with fuel and wait for a weather window before heading south towards San Francisco.  I don’t know yet if in will take the offshore route of the coastal route, I will decide after figuring out the weather from Neah Bay.

Port Townsend. Photo Ray penson
Port Townsend. Photo Ray penson

I am looking forward to moving south and picking up some warmer weather.

Downtown Port Townsend on a Sunday morning. Ray Penson
Downtown Port Townsend on a Sunday morning. Ray Penson