Sausalito to Sidney BC
The last stretch of the trip took us two weeks but we packed in quite a bit. Cruising up the coast of California, Oregon and Washington can be nasty and we wanted to avoid as much of the rough stuff as we could. We looked at windy.com every day and also L-36.com used by most of the fishermen in Oregon. Compared to the weather we had from Cabo to Ensenada this was like a lake…well maybe not quite. The three eventful places north of Sausalito are: Cape Mendocino, Cape Blanco and the Columbia River. But really all the bars we have to cross because we were hop-scotching our way up the coast have to be considered thoughtfully. These are our stops: Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg, Humbolt Bay, Crescent City, Brookings, Bandon, Coos Bay, Newport, Astoria, Victoria and Sidney.
We had very foggy conditions between Sausalito and Newport Oregon and much of the time we had only 200-300 yards visibility. When I was a kid only very large boats or commercial guys could afford radar but in this day and age even small boats enjoy the technology. We have a Simrad Halo digital radar which allows us to have two ranges displayed and a 10kW radar which seems to look through rain a little bit better than the Halo. In fog or night I usually have half of one display showing a 12nm view and half of another screen with a 1.5nm view or closer as we get close to other objects. I feel fortunate todays technology makes these situations much safer.
Speaking of safety, lets talk about crossing bars on the coast of Oregon (and Washington but not this trip). Going into a harbor with a river bar is usually harder than going out. This is because the swell from the ocean is pushing the stern trying to make it broach. Going out you tend to ride up the wave into the air but reducing power at the right time will keep you from crashing down. The best time to cross a bar is high water with slack current. More depth is better and at slack you only have to deal with the speed of the swell. The worst time to cross a bar is at low water and max ebb current. The ebb current combines with the speed of the river and stacks the incoming swell into a breaking wave. When you hop from different harbors or bays along the coast you have to time the bar you are leaving and the bar you are entering. I worry more about going in than coming out so that is the critical time. There was only one bad crossing as we travelled the coast and that was compounded by two mistakes that I made.
We crossed the Bar and Bandon (Coquille River Bar) at low (high) slack. Surprisingly this was not the mistake. The pacific coast has a high-high, a low-high, and a low-low and high-low. The high-low was nearly the same as the low-high so we had good depth. The weather was calm and the bar was open to all traffic at our time and I confirmed with the Coast Guard on VHF-16. The two mistakes were slowing down and increasing the sensitivity of the stabilizers. All the single engine trawler captains are cringing now. Slowing down decreased the effectiveness of the rudder because there would be less thrust from the prop. Increasing the stabilizers actually counters what the rudder is doing. The the stabilizers try to level the boat they turn the fins in the direction that makes it want to steer the wrong way. Needless to say I will never make that mistake again. We had a 4’ breaking wave between the two jetties. I had to work my tail off to keep us going the right way.
There doesn’t seem to be the abundance of sea life north of Sausalito as we found south to Mexico but we did see Humpback whales, Sunfish a few Orcas and one shark. It looked like a Blue Shark but it was all by itself. While we were in Bandon Oregon Emmy’s brother and sister-in-law came for a visit and spent the night. Steve and I drove up to Bandon Dunes to have a little putting contest. Not much of a contest since Roxia doesn’t have a putting green. Emmy and Jeanie got in some much needed Retail Therapy. In Newport Oregon Emmy’s dad and middle sister drove out for the day. We had time to go visit the two lighthouses near Newport. I finally learned where the expression “Sleep tight” came from. There was a bed in the light keepers house with ropes stretch across the bed frame to hold the mattress. The ropes had to be tightened from time to time to keep the mattress from sagging. So now you know…
The next stop was Astoria Oregon. We purchased Roxia in Australia nearly a year ago and have not yet paid sales tax in Washington. Our plan has been to cruise BC and Alaska for the next year or two. I spoke with the Washington Department of Revenue and they said as a Washington resident we would owe tax upon our first entry in the state. An entry is triggered by a stay in a marina, anchoring in a bay, or rafting along side another vessel in Washington waters. We decided to bypass Washington on this trip by making a non-stop run from Astoria Oregon to Victoria BC. This is only a 215 nm run so it would take about 25 hours. Emmy decided not to make the overnight trip so I enlisted the help of my brother and two friends. I had been watching the weather and two days after my brother retired looked to be a perfect window to make the transit. Brad, John and Eric arrive Astoria around 2pm, shopped for a few groceries, swapped drivers on the rental car with Emmy and we departed Astoria Marina at 4:30 pm. High Slack was scheduled for 7pm and we would arrive approximately 6pm and would have a little flood current as we left. Perfect!
We had long rollers as we went out which were very nice. As we made the turn we had calm seas within an hour of leaving the Columbia River (“The Graveyard of the Pacific”). I had been following the weather but this was unexpected none the less. We had 5’ swells on 20 seconds, no wind and unlimited visibility. As we changed watches my brother woke up and said he thought we had stopped because it was so smooth. Brad and Eric teamed up to take both watches before my 2am to 5am shift and to let John get some needed rest after waking up at 1am that morning to get to Astoria. The Johnman relieved me at 5am and I stayed in the pilothouse to nap and help when needed. John took on chef duties and prepared some great meals for the crew. We made great time to Victoria with the good weather and averaged 8.6 knots for the trip.
As we headed for the entrance to Victoria we were tracking the Holland America lines ship Eurodam which was catching up to us quickly. They radioed us and asked us to maintain course and speed because they were going to make a hard turn and cross our stern and head for the North Cruise terminal in Victoria. In order to dock at the North terminal they would have to cross our path again. I asked if they would like me to slow down after their cross an wait for them to go in front of us. They said that would be great if we were willing to wait for them. At that point I did have the right-of-way as they were overtaking but was more than happy to let them go ahead. It was cool to watch them from so close!
It was Symphony Splash in Victoria so it was difficult to find a spot in Victoria Harbour. Fortunately for us we are over 65’ and the Victoria International Marina just opened on the north side of the harbour which only allows boats 65’ and over. It was nearly empty and totally first class. We all slept well and had a lazy morning in Victoria. With a couple extra days before the three had to fly home we made a quick trip to Montague Harbour to anchor for the night then headed to Van Isle Marina in Sidney BC. Enjoy the pictures. Many of them are courtesy of Eric Clark, photographer extraordinaire and Astoria-Sidney Crew member.