Departed San Fran 10th Aug 2016 for somewhere in Oregon!
Sat 13 Aug 2016 19:57
This was going to be our most difficult passage thus far up the Pacific coast; we were going against the NW trade winds and the current! We did’t want to get ‘hammered’ in the process, so we waited patiently for the best weather window to appear. We were waiting for at least a 3 or 4 day window to get us round the notorious Cape Mendocino (the most western point (exc. Hawaii) in the USA and then onto Cape Blanco (the most western point on the Oregon coast). The weather systems generally provided a window to get past one, but not the other, but with this window, there was an opportunity we could make both before the next gale appeared.
After saying our goodbyes; we slipped early to get Nimue filled to the brim with diesel and then we headed across the Bay to anchor again in Sausalito (the exact same spot we dropped the anchor on 4th July).
As we tried to sleep, the wind piped up and started to gust around 20 knots and we both knew from ‘that’ noise, our exit out of San Fran. may be lumpy.
All ‘togged’ up we lifted the anchor around 0700 and were soon navigating under the Golden Gate Bridge. We had planned our exit at HW to avoid the 'wind over tide conditions’ and we were more than happy that we had a fairly smooth run out and across the San Fransisco bar. By 0900 the engine was off and we started to sail towards Drakes Bay, where we had planned to drop anchor for 12 hours to await more favourable weather conditions to head up to Cape Mendocino. We soon began to realise we had a southerly wind, which wasn’t likely to change all day; this would make anchoring in Drakes Bay a lee shore and riding out quite uncomfortable conditions. With the added disadvantage of a weed over sand bottom; we decided to bypass Drakes and press on round Point Reynes and on to Mendocino.
This was a good plan, although it wasn’t too long before we encountered a 2-3 metre mixed swell every 7 secs; but at least the wind conditions were favourable. Fortunately, we initially encountered a slight positive current assisting our Speed over Ground (SOG); but this changed once we rounded Cape Mendocino. With land temperatures in the high 90’s and early 100’F, it’s a no wonder there is plenty of sea fog, which made up 90% of our trip. Occasionally in the afternoon’s the visibility cleared to around half a mile, but all that allowed us to see was more SEA! Due to the foggy conditions, Nimue’s radar was on 24/7 and we both kept a close eye on the red blips on the screen as they come closer to Nimue. Knowing that most of these blips were fishing boats, we did have to be careful and took avoiding action when ever necessary. One did come quite close, but all we saw was a dim haze of lights, as it passed by.
At Point Delgarda we started to notice the larger swells with a confused sea, which we knew would last for at least another 20nm until we were north of Cape Mendocino. At least there were no breaking waves on their tops and Nimue rode them perfectly apart from the occasional bump and bang down one. After over 200nm we were safely round the Cape and pressed on for Brookings, a further 40nm. We had intended to go into this port if the weather had turned nasty, but on checking the weather it appeared we still had time to round Cape Blanco and make for Coos Bay (where we wanted to take on more fuel). As forecast, the wind did pipe up a little as we were south of Cape Blanco and the seas looked menacing building to 3 metres every 8 seconds with the odd white cap on top. This only lasted for a couple of hours and then we were on our last leg to Coos.
Having spoken with the coastguard earlier in the day, they advised the bar into Coos had a 2-4ft swell and occasionally 6ft. They can easily close the bar if conditions worsen, but as is always recommended it is wise to enter on the last of a flood tide. As it happened our ETA at Coos is 2130 (the last of the flood tide) and a further conversation with the coastguard revealed the swell was consistent at 2-4ft, but the visibility was down to 100 yards (what’s new; we’ve not seen hardly anything for the last 400nm, so why should the entrance be different?).
By the time we arrived at the outer entrance buoy it was dark, so along with thick fog we had all we wanted for our first bar entrance on the Oregon coast. We made our way slowly to the first green and listened for a whistle and when we saw it’s faint green loom, we turned onto the leading entrance line and listened for either a whistle or bell of the subsequent red and green channel marks. This plan worked and the most tricky part was the right angle turn to head down a tiny channel to Charleston Marina. There was just enough space for Nimue to tie alongside on the transient dock, which wasn’t easy with running current from behind.
Anyway we made it safe and sound and pleased to have rounded both Capes in one hit. Only 450nm to go!!!!