Friday, September 27, 2013

Transient in Coos Bay

I left Neah Bay knowing the weather window I had to travel south comfortably (which is a relative term at sea) was short.  I thought there might be a possibility that I could have rounded Cape Mendocina and gotten far enough south of it to avoid the worst of the weather that is approaching, but that didn't happen.  So what happened was...

The forecast strong south winds arrived in Neah Bay as expected on Sunday the 22nd.  The winds had past by mid afternoon and the rest of the day was nice.  It was forecast as a strong but fast moving system.  Any strong low on the ocean stirs up the seas and so leaving on monday I expected to the seas to be pretty active, and they definitely were.  This was probably the worst seas I left port into so far.  It wasn't serious, but after being on land for a while its nice to have a gentler introduction to the seas again.  After four or so hours I started to get hot and burpy, both signs of sea sickness approaching.  I ate some Trader Joe's candied ginger and shortly afterwards had a large dinner (of Dinty Moore stew and a baked potato added) and everything was just fine.  So far my not-being-seasick run is unbroken which continues to surprise me.

I left Neah Bay and pretty much motored for 24 hours.  There was some nice wind generated by a few rain cells which passed and I sailed a few of those.

By Tuesday at 3pm some W to NW wind had filled in and I was able to start sailing.  On a beam to broad reach I was able to head directly south, which was perfect.  This trip was going to be all about making my way south as fast as possible.  It was all about VMG (velocity made good, a sailor term for those landlubbers among you) south, not just boat speed.  By the evening, long enough after sunset that it was dark, the wind veered north which put my heading more SW than purely south, and I started losing VMG but had picked up boat speed.  The extra speed was satisfying, but as I wasn't heading as directly south anymore the extra speed wasn't useful for my goal.  I jibed a few times that night to keep my distance offshore between 20 and 40 miles.  When daylight arrived I poled out the genoa and was able to head directly south again.  The boat slowed a little as it does when heading almost directly downwind, but my VMG improved, so it was good.

By noon or so on wednesday the wind backed and slowed which put me heading more toward shore than I wanted to be for what I thought was my plan over the next few days.  I dragged the genoa back onto the port side and was on a starboard beam reach making good speed south again.

During this time I had been downloading weather updates via my SSB/Pactor/Sailmail.  The next low was forecast to arrive saturday and sunday and it looked like I didn't want to be in it.  A south gale is forecast with winds up to 35 gusting to 45.  A south bound current of up to a knot meeting gale strength south winds with a NW swell thrown in sounded like a mix I didn't want to experience.  I thought that if I could round Cape Mendocina by early or mid friday and be 20 or 40 miles south then I could stay out and would miss most of the bad weather that was fast approaching.

Thursday evening I had good wind and good VMG south with my plan still on.  By early morning the wind started to fall, but not yet enough where motoring would make a big difference.  By mid morning I started to motor and I saw my opportunity to avoid the weather disappear.

All along, I was thinking of Coos Bay as my fallback plan.  Coos Bay is a: "harbor of refuge, and can be entered at any time except in extreme weather...  It is one of the most important harbors between San Francisco and the Columbia River."  Coos Bay was 44 miles away and it was time for a decision.

A lot of things had to go exactly right for me to make my goal of being south far enough for me to be comfortable about avoiding most of the weather.  If the speed of the approaching gale changed, the winds altered sooner to more southerly which slowed down my speed heading south, or this or that, then I would be out in weather which could have been uncomfortable and which I could have avoided.

I decided to motor directly toward Coos Bay as the winds were down to around 4 knots.  As I approached I called the Coast Guard to ask for a bar report.  All of the harbors along the Washington/Oregon coast have bars across their entrances.  The bars can be exciting when there is swell arriving - you end up with large waves in the entrances which can play havoc with our boats and hence our ego's.  This was my first bar crossing.  I misheard the bar report and heard that the Coos Bay bar was closed to recreational boats less than 220 feet.  When I heard this I thought: crap!  That's serious swell arriving to be closed for boats that large.  I started heading south again going through the scenario of being out in the gale.  I later heard the hourly report on the Coos Bay bar and heard that it was closed to recreational vessels 20 feet or less.  So I changed direction and headed toward it.  As I was heading there I was stressing a little about the crossing - until I realized the bar report was being broadcast at around peak ebb for Coos Bay - so you have an ebb current leaving the bay meeting the arriving swell and there were breakers all up the channel.  I was planning to arrive early in the flood tide and expected the bar to be open to all vessels when I arrived.  It was!  Crossing the bar was completely uneventful.  There were "wrap around breakers on the north jetty" but the channel is wide enough to easily avoid those.

I motored over to the fuel dock where I bought 17 gallons (10 to replace the fuel I had added from my gerry jugs and 7 into the tank.)  I then moved over to the transient dock where I am now and where I expect to be at least until monday, possibly longer.

So far I've ended up motoring for 35 hours and have burned around 18 gallons (after refueling I realized the fuel I put into the tank was probably a gallon or two short of being completely full.)  This puts my burn rate at around 0.5 gallons/hour.  I was surprised by this.  I had in my mind that I burned 0.8 gallons per hour.  During my last cruise I was motoring at around 2200 rpm and as I kept speaking to cruisers I realized that most of them cruised at a lower rpm - so I've slowed to 1800 now and make just over 5 knots in flat water, less in seas, but its an efficient speed.  After slowing I never established a new baseline for fuel consumption.  0.5 gallons/hour rocks.

One thing broke and I noticed a number of things I want to now change.  I started finding ball bearings on deck after being out for a couple days.  I immediately assumed this was my new furler with some sort of problem, and went through all sorts of disaster scenarios of losing my furler.  But after walking the decks for a while I noticed my main sheet turning block at my mast organizer had blown - it was missing its ball bearings.  The block still turns and won't break apart, but I'll go through the spares I have on board and replace it in Coos Bay.

The amsteel lines I have on my Monitor have now been adjusted.  When I did this work a while ago I put knots in the ends of the control lines where they meet the wheel hub lines.  Amsteel is incredibly slippery and the knots were slipping with my ending up with a shorter and shorter lashing between them in order to keep tension on the lines.  I've now spliced eyes into the lines and have a separate lashing line connecting them which is cow-hitched to the control line and lashed between it and the hub line.  This setup shouldn't slip as the eye's all have brummel's which lock.

A lot of things worked really well and boat boat continues be very satisfying out on the open ocean.  It felt really good to be out there again.

Coos Bay doesn't appear to have to have a lot, but the folks are friendly.  The transient dock is used by people who catch crab, a lot of locals and visitors throw their pots in.  A lot of them have stopped by for a chat and I've been talking with a bunch of them as I walk the docks, its nice.  One couple visiting from the interior, Greg and Angela, asked a bunch of questions about my trip, single handing, plans and so on.  Angela later dropped off some salsa she had made along with a number of tomato's from her garden.  You meet the nicest people when out cruising!  I can see a cruise in their future :-)

Angela and I in Coos Bay

Last time heading down the coast I had a much different experience.  There was a strong well established high pressure system off the coast and I could take my time heading south and sailed the whole way.  I was becalmed for a while, hove-to in a gale for a while, went far offshore and generally had a good time for my first ocean passage.  This trip is much different, if feels like its going to be scrappier, with my making my way south in the opportunities which arise with the option of always heading back into harbor if the weather suggests that would be a good idea.

I've found that being offshore 40 miles or so is pretty comfortable.  Its far enough to avoid most of the traffic, and now that I transmit AIS the other boats seem to avoid me - or perhaps its coincidence that all my passings have been so distant.

I've been here thinking a little bit about "what if I had been out in that gale."  I continue to think it wouldn't have been a risky move.  Uncomfortable yes, risky no.  Luckness heaves to well, and I could have easily hove to during the worst of the gale, or fore reached with my trysail, run with bare poles or deployed my drogue (in order of increasing seriousness.)  So I never felt like I would be at risk, but being at dock for a few days is no hardship either.

One of the boats I met in Neah Bay, Juguete with Peter, his brother and a friend aboard pulled into Coos Bay this morning, so I'll have some buddies to hang out with.

The low that's coming.  This forecast is for sunday at 5am PST.
"California here I come!" just a little later than I was hoping.

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