Sunday September 7th we made the second passage of our descent south the Pacific Coast. It was a relatively short hop, but it was filled with elements to stir our anxiety up.
The forecast was for rainy weather in the region between Monday and Wednesday. While Westport was not bad, it was also not nice enough to stay for almost a week waiting for the rain to go. Besides, we still want to keep gaining South. Autumn is catching up with us and temperatures falling, as you could see on our previous posts.
So, we decided to leave Westport on Sunday. There were two options:
- the next approachable harbor, the Columbia River, some 65 miles away or
- Yaquina River, just over 150 miles down the coast
The latter is by far the easiest to approach, but it was too long a passage to take on the face of a potentially changing weather. We were also still a bit tired from the previous 100-ish mile passages to Neah Bay and to Westport. So we turned our attention to the former.
The entrance to the Columbia River is not a trivial approach not even for the most seasoned sailor. This infamous place is considered the most challenging harbor entrance of the west coast. The more than 2,000 large vessels that sank there since 1972 doesn’t help improve its reputation. The names of certain milestones along the way – “Destruction Island”, “Cape Disappointment” – just add insult to the injury. The problem is that the river is a very large body of water, and its mouth is disproportionately narrow, thus dramatically accelerating the outflow of fresh water into the ocean. When this coincides with strong ocean tides, wind and swells, very bad conditions can spawn quickly.
It is not all doom tough. When conditions are right, it can get quite approachable.
And that Sunday, September 7th, conditions seemed OK. Nearly flat seas, very light winds, and the tide’s slack timed perfectly for us to leave Westport and arrive there both during daylight. It was a Go for us! The fact that it would be overcast, cold, with a chance of light rain was really just an unpleasant detail.
We planned the passage milimetrically, in order to reach the river bar PRECISELLY when the tide was at its slack, which is when the seas get at its lightest there. Like in a rally, we had to hit certain milestones at exact times for this to happen. And right at departure, we had a little drawback: the chain and anchor were covered in sticky kelp. Adriana and Raquel came to help, but it took us a good 20-30 minutes to clean it properly for stowage.
We had departed late.
Luckily, we have Pesto, and being the powerful boat that she is, we were able to accelerate out of Westport and reclaim the lost time by the next waypoint.
The rest of the passage was tranquil. We even had two whale sightings.
We arrived at the river entrance at the planned time. Seas did get a bit confused, but nothing that Pesto can’t handle easily. There was a little tango dance with a ship that was approaching the entrance at the same time as we did (I told you we tend to attract these things), but within an hour we had made it through safely, and 45 minutes later we were moored in the secluded waters of the West End Boat Basin marina in Astoria, a few miles up the river.
Another important achievement for Adriana and mine curricula.
And it is not just Pesto that takes us places – so do we to her. It is a new US state for all of us – we are now in Oregon!