Charleston, Coos Bay and Toga Video #2

It started to rain during the fitful night we spent anchored at Port Orford.  We weren’t planning to leave particularly early from there because we needed to wait to cross the Coos Bay Bar on the flood tide, and that wouldn’t be until early evening.  We thought about waiting out the rain, but the calm weather window beckoned, so we put on our foul weather gear, hauled the anchor and took off.

We spent the first couple of hours getting around two reefs off Cape Blanco.  We probably weren’t out for 30 minutes before we had our first whale sighting, about 200 feet off the port side of the boat – a very large whale surfaced.  We saw many more whale spouts during the day and several whales close enough to see fairly well.  They appeared to be blue whales and/or fin whales.

We crossed the Coos Bay bar at about 6:30 pm, and the conditions were as calm as we could expect.  The course to the marina is sort of confusing, with twists and turns and many submerged obstacles, so we were watching the depths, charts and our reference materials constantly.  It wasn’t long before we spotted a very large dredging operation going on, and it appeared to be right in the channel where we were headed.  As we got closer, we confirmed this and we couldn’t see a way around it, so we called them on the radio.  We got a vague response, but waited for about 20 minutes while some other boats came out of the marina.  Finally, we decided to go for it and we passed the dredger without incident – it was stressful though!  Since we have been here, the dredging operations have moved closer to us until last night, when they were right next to us.  They seem to be moving back out to the channel now. 

We’re docked at the guest dock at Charleston Marina, which is a working harbor, as most have been since we left southern California.  While we’ve been here we got some locally caught fresh albacore, which we seared and ate with a soy wasabi sauce (yum!) and a live Dungeness crab that we greatly enjoyed for dinner last night (in the interest of full disclosure, I have never cooked shellfish before, but it went OK.  The only hard part was putting the guy in the pot – he really didn’t want to go). Fresh, inexpensive seafood is sold just two docks over from us.  I really don’t think that I have understood how much better really fresh seafood is.  I am committed to supporting our local fishermen now, wherever we are.

The dock we’re on is popular with local people for crabbing.  Every day there are several families on the dock and they’re usually successful catching crab that are big enough to keep. I found out today that a yearly crabbing permit is only $7 if you’re a local and $10 if you’re not.  That’s pretty cheap.

Today we restocked on groceries in town, which is about 6 miles away, and we plan to eat some more fresh seafood while we are here, because it’s just wonderful.  There is currently no indication of when the weather is going to let up so we can head north, and we expect we’ll be here for several more days.  It’s OK with us – we’re really enjoying the people here and the laid back atmosphere.  Also, it’s been sunny every day!  Not really warm, but the sun is very welcome.  Within the next couple of days we plan to go hunting for fresh blackberries and hike to a couple of local beaches.  We also have more mundane things to take care of, like laundry, filling our propane and a couple of boat projects.  We discovered on the way here that both our mechanical and manual bilge pumps are not working, so we are tracking down those issues; luckily there is a marine store only a mile away.  Bilge work is one of the less fashionable parts of boating, but we do what we have to do! 

Here, also, is some video from our week. http://youtu.be/S5qbBckwQqk

 

Cool looking sea cave

Cool looking sea cave

Destination in view

Destination in view

A tiny bit of sailing

A tiny bit of sailing

Passing reefs

Passing reefs

One of my terrible whale photos

One of my terrible whale photos

Fisherman cutting up Albacore

Fisherman cutting up Albacore

Entering Coos Bay bar

Testing the pump

Testing the pump

Bilge and pump

Bilge and pump

Albacore dinner

Albacore dinner

Our mess of tools

Our mess of tools

Oyster shell pile at the oyster farm

Oyster shell pile at the oyster farm

Crabbing on the dock

Crabbing on the dock

Giving the crab a hot, salty bath

Giving the crab a hot, salty bath

That's a big crab!

That’s a big crab!

Cooked crab

Cooked crab

Coos Bay view

Coos Bay view

Dressed for the rain in our foul weather gear, affectionately known as "foulies"

Dressed for the rain in our foul weather gear, affectionately known as “foulies”

Port Orford

Port Orford

We enjoyed our time in Brookings.  It was calm and relaxed there, and the people were friendly.

We left this morning at about 6:30 am and had a great day on the water! The conditions were calm, as predicted, and we even got some sunshine.  We had several whale sightings.  The first we saw, I’m pretty sure was a humpback.  Later on a very large whale surfaced on our starboard side, perhaps 600 feet away.  I think that and the others we saw in the afternoon were fin whales because of their size and shape of their dorsal fin.  We also saw several small dolphins, seals and sea lions, jellyfish and an identifiable animal that was slapping a long, thin fin on the water.  We tried our hand at fishing today, but didn’t catch anything.

We didn’t have much fog until we got close to Port Orford, but it did clear up as we approached the anchorage.  It’s foggy again now.  This is a really pretty place, very rugged.  One interesting thing is that the fishing fleet here is always dry-docked.  They haul the boats up with cranes every day and store them on the wharf.  Tomorrow we head to Coos Bay.

 

Leaving Brookings

Leaving Brookings

Looking up at the clouds

Looking up at the clouds from the deck

Fishing

Fishing

Another whale

Another whale

Whale in the disatance

Whale in the distance

Half foggy

Half foggy

Having fun

Having fun

Pretty sky

Pretty sky

Fin Whale?

Fin Whale?

Port Orford

Port Orford

Pulling in to Port Orford

Pulling in to Port Orford

Anchorage Area

Anchorage Area

Port Orford Fishermen hanging out

Port Orford Fishermen hanging out waiting to be hoisted up to the wharf

 

Port of Brookings, OR

Port of Brookings, OR

We left Crescent City in the fog yesterday morning at around 7:30 am.  It was a fairly short trip here, we arrived by lunchtime, but we had to round Point St. George, which has an extensive reef to avoid with many rocks and shoals.  I was hoping for the fog to clear before we needed to cross the Chetco River Bar to get to the harbor, and happily, that’s what happened.  Although we read a lot about entering here, it was no problem at all. It was exciting for us to cross the State line.  I know it’s arbitrary, but it’s a milestone, I suppose.  When we got close to the river entrance we saw a whole bunch of kites off the beach; it turns out that the Southern Oregon Kite Festival was happening this past weekend.  Lots of people here for that. The guest dock  had a couple of other sailboats on it, and we met Captain Tom and his crew member, Laurinda from Black Swan after we tied up. Tom invited us over for drinks last evening, and we had a lovely time.  The sun came out and we sat in the cockpit of Black Swan and basked in the warmth.  Black Swan is also headed north, to the Washington area, like us.  The other boat on the dock, Cheyenne, is also heading to the same place.  Both of these boats left early this morning. We took a short walk yesterday to scope out the area.  Today we have finished several boat chores, and decided to stay in for the day because it is cold and gloomy outside.  Tomorrow morning we plan to head to Port Orford, an anchorage that is 45nm away and the next day to Coos Bay, which is another 45 nm – there is a period of very calm weather happening, so we want to take advantage of it.  

We made stove top popcorn last night - it was so good! If you haven't ha real popcorn in a while, you should have some soon.

We made stove top popcorn last night – it was so good! If you haven’t had real popcorn in a while, you should have some soon.

Brookings commercial harbor

Brookings commercial harbor

Approaching the Chetco River Bar, Brookings - fog lifting

Approaching the Chetco River Bar, Brookings – fog lifting

Toga docked at the guest dock - Coast Guard station across the way

Toga docked at the guest dock – Coast Guard station across the way

Beautiful afternoon and evening

Beautiful afternoon and evening

Rounding Pt St George in the fog

Rounding Pt St George in the fog

Rough Bar - this has a different meaning at river entrances!

Rough Bar – this has a different meaning at river entrances!

   

Crescent City

Crescent City

We had our early morning wake up on Wednesday and exited the Eureka Bar at high tide, 3:30 a.m.  I was very happy when we woke up and there was no fog!  It’s busy enough in the harbor without having to deal with visibility.

After we were past the bar and on course, I was feeling tired, so I took the first rest and Ralph kept watch.  After I woke up I got to see that last of the sunrise, really pretty.  My watch was great, once again I enjoyed it.

We had good weather on the trip, as forecast.  It is still cold on the water, I guess that won’t change.  Both of us keep updating our outfits and are wearing several layers – I think we have it down and are feeling pretty comfortable now in the elements.

Around mid-morning we both noticed some small floating objects that weren’t familiar to us – at first they looked like bubbles.  Upon closer inspection, they had a kind of sail above the water.  We decided that they must be creatures and, in the interest of science, we had better catch one to get a better look.   At first I tried with a bucket attached to a line, but that just got me wet.  Then Ralph rigged up the bottom of a plastic bottle taped to the boat hook (this is a plastic hook on the end of a telescoping pole).  I caught one right away and after we inspected it and took photos we let it go.  I suspected it was a kind of jellyfish, and I searched on that when we got to Crescent City.  Turns out these things are a jellyfish called Velella velella (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velella) – we saw many thousands of them on our way here. We also caught a glimpse of a whale, the first one we’ve been in a while.

Crescent City has a brand new marina because of damage suffered from the 2011 Tsunami.  The design of the supports is pretty impressive – they are large and there are lots of them.  We noticed that they aren’t as tall as the high water mark from the 1964 Tsunami, which was even more devastating.  There are a lot of details still under construction here, and we are not finding the city very interesting (Ralph says it reminds him of Barstow – so there you go).  There is a grocery story close by, which is always nice.

We are planning to leave on Sunday for Brookings, OR (at the Chetco River).  It’s only 18nm away, so it will be a short trip, but it’s supposed to be a quaint place and the weather north of there isn’t so nice.

Pretty sunrise

Pretty sunrise

A prettier shot a little later

A prettier shot a little later

This is how we first saw the Velella

This is how we first saw the Velella

Ralph rigging up our jellyfish catcher

Ralph rigging up our jellyfish catcher

Top of Velella

Top of Velella

Velella Velella

Velella Velella

Thick carpet of Velella

Thick carpet of Velella

Approaching Crescent City

Approaching Crescent City

Seeing the red buoy is always reassuring

Seeing the red buoy is always reassuring

This is our new carrying system for groceries, besides our backpacks

This is our new carrying system for groceries, besides our backpacks

Sign depicting the high water mark from the 1964 Tsunami

Sign depicting the high water mark from the 1964 Tsunami

The guest dock at Crescent City Marina

The guest dock at Crescent City Marina

Eureka!

Eureka!

On Friday morning we headed out of Shelter Cove and passed the navigational markers at about 2 am in light fog.  The time to depart was primarily based on trying to get the calmest weather conditions and also what the conditions would be at the entrance to Humboldt Bay harbor, called the Eureka Bar.  There are tidal flows in and out, and at times they clash and make entry or exit challenging.  We were aiming for the high tide, around 1 pm.

The conditions on the ocean were calm, as predicted.  We decided that we would both stay up for a while and watch the conditions together, since the conditions around Punta Gorda are unpredictable.  I am glad to report that the entire trip went smoothly, the waves were small and winds light.  We each took a 2 hour rest before we neared Eureka. Somewhere along the way we passed the halfway point for our trip in miles. A milestone to celebrate!

We haven’t seen any dolphins in quite a while.  We saw some whales in the distance at Shelter Cove, apparently it was a pod of Orca that frequent that area.  The only wildlife sighting I can report from this trip is that the Murres (sea birds) have babies – I saw several mothers (fathers?) and babies about.

Entering the Eureka bar was fairly calm; there were some waves that developed at the entrance and pushed us along.  The trip from the harbor entrance to the marina is about 5 miles, and we passed the lumber and paper mills on the way.

We tied up at the marina after calling in to secure a spot and checked in at the office.  The next order of business, after our celebratory beer of course, was a hot shower!  What a joy that was.  We had a nice dinner at the restaurant here in the marina – we were both starving and it was nice for a change.

We’ve been to Eureka twice, which is across a bridge from where we are (Woodley Island).  The first day we walked to the marine store, a natural food co-op and the Lost Coast Brewery.  We shared several things, including a sampling of all of their beers on tap.  We had fun – and a 5 mile walk!  Yesterday we rode our bikes over and went to the marine store again and then to Target to stock up on some things. We were able to buy a plastic box to secure to the back of my bike to be able to carry more stuff when grocery shopping.

The commercial fishing season for Salmon opened again today, so for several days there has been a lot of activity at this marina.  It’s interesting – some of the boats here are only crewed by a couple; the one docked next to us is a father and daughter.  It looks like a tough way to make a living, but these are obviously tough people.

We plan to head out of here early tomorrow morning when the tide is high (around 3 am).  We are going to Crescent City, our last stop in California.  It will be a 12-14 hour trip, depending on the weather (predicted to be mild!).  We’ll see.

Mansion home of a logging baron, William Carson.  Now home to the Ingomar Club, a private club that's main function is to preserve the mansion.

Mansion home of a logging baron, William Carson. Now home to the Ingomar Club, a private club that’s main function is to preserve the mansion.

Toga side tie

Toga side tied at Woodley Island Marina

Lost Coast Brew sampler - happy campers

Lost Coast Brew sampler – happy campers

Boat name I like

Fishwish (boat name I like)

Clouds lightening

Clouds lightening

Eureka logging operation

Eureka logging operation

Eureka logging operation

Eureka logging operation

View of Woodley Island Marina

View of Woodley Island Marina

Entering Humboldt Bay

Entering Humboldt Bay

Murre family

Murre family

 

 

Eureka – oops, I mean Shelter Cove

Eureka – oops, I mean Shelter Cove

Apologies for the long post!  Get some coffee or snacks – better yet, a beer.  OK here we go!

We left Bodega Bay on July 5th at 6 am.  Even though we were anxious to head north, we really enjoyed the extra time with our family and hanging out in the relaxed area of Bodega Bay.  Bodega Bay was planning it’s annual fireworks display for that evening, and we would have had a front row seat!  But the weather is our new boss, and we have to mind it.

The predictions looked favorable for a few days; 5-15 knots of NW winds with average wave/swell conditions.  We thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the mild weather and take an extended trip and head to Eureka (Humboldt Bay).  With our average motoring speed of  5 knots, the trip would take about 36 hours.  It would be our first real overnight passage and we were ready.

The weather was somewhat foggy as we left Bodega.  There were at least 10 sport fisherman who zoomed by us on the way out of the bay – a good sign.  The commercial fishing fleet has a mandated closure right now, until July 15, so they are all in port.

The conditions were what we expected during the day, and we were able to put the sail up to give us a boost and add to our stability (less rolling) for a while (I did take some video with my gopro camera, I will post as soon as I can, still learning).  I made quesadillas for lunch, which is high end cooking for us while we are underway!  We experienced a beautiful sunset.  We decided on 2 hour watches through the night, and Ralph took the first watch at 9 pm.  I went below and tried to sleep in the sea berth we’d set up, which has a lee cloth attached so we wouldn’t roll out of the bunk inadvertently.  The conditions had gotten more lumpy and although I’ve felt good for quite a while, I got pretty seasick.  By the time it was my turn for watch at 11 pm, I was feeling awful, but felt better after relieving my stomach of the day’s food.  Ralph looked at me with concern – “are you going to be OK?”, he asked.  I said yes and pulled myself together for my first night watch. (Side note – Ralph said that he could see the Ft. Bragg fireworks show through the light fog during his watch.)

I had packed a snack grab bag before we left and I had my ipod packed with my favorite upbeat tunes.  I noticed right away that there was a lot of phosphorescence in the water, and that really mesmerizes me.  The fog had rolled in, so really all I could do was watch the radar and make sure our course was adjusted correctly on the autopilot.  I cranked up the tunes and my two hours went by really quickly – I really enjoyed myself.

When Ralph went below to rest, he suggested that we try to sleep in the quarter berth, which is in the rear quadrant of the boat next to the engine room and is where store things like extra sails, our storm sail and extra bedding.  He had made a place to lie down with things on either side to wedge us in.  I tried it out and was able to conk out pretty quickly after I set my alarm for 3 am.

I woke up on time, got dressed and fixed some soup quickly for both of us.  Ralph took his turn sleeping and again, I enjoyed my watch time.  I listened to a book on tape and music, watched the water for phosphorescence and I enjoyed seeing the sky get lighter.  I even got a peek at a few stars and Venus when the flog lifted for about a minute.  After Ralph got up, we had some oatmeal and talked for a while and then I went to take my rest.  Before I went to sleep I saw the sun shining through the port light and I smiled.  I have to admit that I am pretty tired of fog.

The next thing I was aware of was Ralph waking me up and saying that we had to “talk about the conditions” – well, that didn’t sound good.  I got up and out to the cockpit as quickly as I could.  In the hour I had been sleeping, the winds had doubled (it was about 8 am at this time) and we were nearing Punta Gorda, but it was still 10 nm away.  Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino are known as the most significant navigational challenges on the west coast, at least as stated by the US Coast Guard.  Ralph said that he was concerned about how much worse things might get, since it was still morning and was supposed to be calm.  We decided to watch conditions for a while, but within the hour we had winds up to 40 knots, a few large waves and fresh chop that was killing our speed – at times we were down to 1 knot progress.  We decided that we had to turn around, so Ralph pulled a big u-turn and we headed south.  Meanwhile, our dinghy was trying to get away from us, so we spent some time re-securing it to the swim step on our stern.

It’s a big difference going with the wind!  We discussed heading for Mexico.  Instead, we scooted to Shelter Cove and were there by noon, in the fog again, with about zero visibility.  We decided that we would need to get more fuel for the next attempt to round the cape, and our guide book said there was some available on the bluff of the cove, above a boat launch ramp.  We anchored and settled ourselves, and then I called the launch ramp facility on the VHF to inquire about fuel availability, still not really able to see anything on land.  The dispatcher informed us that fuel was 5 miles away (turned out to be round trip) and there was no sort of delivery service or anything.  We have two fuel cans on board that are 5 gallons each – they are pretty heavy when full.

We decided to just hang out and get some rest before deciding what to do next.  We could head further south to Ft. Bragg to get fuel, but that seemed like a bad choice.  There was no cell coverage in the area, so I couldn’t get to any of my weather applications, but we listened to the NOAA forecast on VHF.  The weather would be too heavy to head north for several days.  Additionally, as we witnessed firsthand, the conditions around Punta Gorda are typically more severe than forecast due to it’s unique undersea geography (the meeting of 3 tectonic plates, forming undersea canyons), so we would wait for the mildest conditions forecast to attempt again.

That afternoon, two fisherman approached us.  It turns out that they had heard our radio call and were offering assistance.  We told them we were still trying to figure out what to do, and they wished us luck.  Later on we took the dinghy to the beach and walked up the hill.  Shelter Cove is essentially a vacation town, where people come to wind down and fish.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous area.  While there we saw several black tailed deer wandering around.  On top of the bluff there was a small store and a restaurant, so we knew we would be OK here for a while.  I called our family at home, collect, from a pay phone to let them know that we were OK, but wouldn’t be in Eureka for a while.

The next day, while we were still trying to hatch a plan, the same fisherman came by and asked us if we had resolved our dilemma.  I said we were planning to take our fuel cans to the beach and get a ride to the gas station, and they said, “Let’s go!”.  We met Gary and Tom at the beach, and headed off, sitting 4-across in the front seat of Gary’s pick-up.  We stopped by Gary’s home so that they could unhook their boat and set aside their catch for the day – king salmon and ling cod.  To our delight, they cut up a couple of fillets for us!  What wonderful guys – we were floored by their kindness.  We got to the gas station and there was also a small grocery store there.  I filled up my backpack with fresh fruit and veggies and we headed back to the beach.  Once back aboard Toga, we emptied our fuel cans into our fuel tanks.  Gary and Tom offered to pick us up again the next day for more fuel, and then we got to meet their lovely wives as well, Nan and Betsy.  Nan gave us a tour of the area, including the nearby black sand beach and the beginning of the Lost Coast trail heading north.  She even drove us around so I could try to find a cell signal – no luck – by Betsy let me borrow her phone so I could check on our kids.  Back aboard Toga again, we repeated our fueling.  Gary and Tom even checked on us the next day, Wednesday, but we were OK on fuel.  We can’t say enough about these people; we are very grateful to them.

The weather was lightening, and we decided we would leave on Thursday or Friday.  We were puttering around aboard on Wednesday when I heard an “Ahoy there!” outside.  I went above and was stunned to see our friend Sue from San Pedro on a kayak!  I shouted to Ralph and enjoyed the puzzled look on his face when he saw who was visiting.  It turns out that Sue and her husband, Dick, were on their way down the coast from Canada when they saw a post on facebook from my aunt that we anchored safely in Shelter Cove.  I was so surprised and delighted that they decided to stop and visit.  Sue even brought us beer in case the situation was desperate aboard!  That night we met on the beach and we all had a great pizza dinner together in town.  It was so nice to see our friends.  Meanwhile, we planned for an early Friday morning departure.

On Thursday, Ralph was giving me some engine maintenance lessons when I saw a sailboat behind us in the anchorage – we had been alone all week except the fishermen coming and going from the launch ramp.  Right away I recognized Andante and her skipper, Dennis, who we met on the way to Bodega Bay in the fog.  After Dennis got anchored, we rowed over and invited him to dinner.  It was really nice to catch up over tacos, and Dennis was planning to head out early Friday, like us.

We went to bed early and roused ourselves at 1 am.  The evening had been unusually warm, and it was still warmer and dryer than usual and there was only light fog – yeah!  We pulled up the anchor and took off to the north.

Goodbye Bodega Bay

Goodbye Bodega Bay

Snack Bag for passage

Snack Bag for passage

Ralph taking down the sail

Ralph taking down the sail

Hello! This is the last image of my favorite hat.  It blew overboard shortly afterward. :(

Hello! This is the last image of my favorite hat. It blew overboard shortly afterward. 😦

This is my tether - so as not to fall overboard

This is my tether – so as not to fall overboard

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

Shelter Cove unveiling itself

Shelter Cove unveiling itself

Shelter Cove beauty

Shelter Cove beauty

Toga at anchor

Toga at anchor

Our new friend Tom filleting our dinner

Our new friend Tom filleting our dinner

Our delicious dinner - probably the freshest fish we've ever had.  It was wonderful.

Our delicious dinner – probably the freshest fish we’ve ever had. It was wonderful.

Shelter Cove Sunset

Shelter Cove Sunset

Shelter Cove Fog

Shelter Cove Fog

Black tailed deer fawns

Black tailed deer fawns

Dennis and Andante arriving at Shelter Cove

Dennis and Andante arriving at Shelter Cove