Some Days … Other Days

I have been thinking of writing this post for some time, using a popular saying to compare and rank our passages so far. But it was getting nowhere …

The saying goes that Some Days Are Better Than Others. U2 even wrote a song on it (interestingly enough, the song’s opening phrase is “Some days are dry, some days are leaky”). I like both, the song and the saying. The former has entertained me countless times during my commutes back home from work, whereas the latter has helped me endure though days, knowing that they just happen, like ships.
I thought of using the saying to compare our passages (as in “Some passages are better than others”), but up to last week, it was getting pointless. A catchy title waiting for a story.
Sure, each passage had had its ups and downs, but in the end, each had a charm of its own.
Starting from Port Ludlow to Neah Bay, yes it was long, rainy, the wind and current were on the nose. But it was our first passage on this trip, and the first long one together – all four of us. And everything worked well, and our arrival to Neah Bay was very pleasant. We went to sleep with a sense of accomplishment, and woke up the next day confident to take it to the ocean.

Port Ludlow to Neah Bay: Putting our act together on our first long passage aboard Pesto.
Port Ludlow to Neah Bay: Putting our act together on our first long passage aboard Pesto.

 

Then came Neah Bay to Greys Harbor. The departure at 2am with confused seas off Neah Gay was a bit of a shocker, but everything after that was smooth, we had a beautiful day, the navigation worked well, and at the end of the day we felt good for having crossed a notable cape of the West Coast – cape Flattery.

Neah Bay to Greys Harbor: our debut on the open pacific ocean. A passage decorated by beautiful views, despite a rough start.
Neah Bay to Greys Harbor: our debut on the open pacific ocean. A passage decorated by beautiful views, despite a rough start.

 

The next passage, Greys Harbor to Astoria, had the fear factor of the Columbia River Bar. The grey skies were an annoying detail. But seas were flat, we had an easy motor-sailing down the coast, spotted some whales on the way, and in the end we crossed the infamous bar unscathed and reached Astoria exactly as planned – our major confidence builder so far.

Grey Harbor to Astoria: despite the grey weather, it was a tranquil passage, and we negotiated the Columbia River Bar with no issues.
Greys Harbor to Astoria: despite the grey weather, it was a tranquil passage, and we negotiated the Columbia River Bar with no issues.

 

From Astoria to Newport, Raquel felt pretty seasick, but we had some fantastic sailing along the way.

Astoria to Newport: the fantastic moonlit-bathed departure precluded the greatest sailing yet to be had
Astoria to Newport: the fantastic moonlit-bathed departure precluded the greatest sailing yet to be had

 

So, really, it was a wash, and my post was getting nowhere.
Until we left Newport on the early hours of Monday, September 15th, en route to Coos Bay.

We woke up at 4:30 am as planned. It was cold as expected, but the skies were clearer than forecast, and it was dead calm inside the marina. We untied Pesto from the docks and at 5:15 am had made it to the Yaquina River’s bar. We were still well within the two jetties when the fog hit. Within seconds the clear night disappeared with the thick fog. The water particles in it stuck to my glasses immediately, making them useless. We could barely see Pesto’s bow from the cockpit, let alone the navigation lights that were supposed to guide us through the narrow passage between the two breakwaters. We could hear the waves breaking on them, but couldn’t see them.

Luckily, we installed a new and reliable navigation equipment on Pesto before leaving Seattle, and used it to keep on going. It took some time to adapt to “fly by instruments” mode, but shortly our zig-zagging became more of a straight route and we left the bar. Next, a ship appeared out of nowhere, giving surprisingly little upfront notice on the radar and AIS (yep, they keep happening). The next two hours were spent watching for the dangerous crab trap buoys (their lines can tangle around the propeller and shaft, rendering the engine useless) until the light of the day improved visibility a little.
The fog eased some 3 hours after departure, and with it came the wind. On the nose. Throughout the trip the wind intensified steadily to 15-20 knots. Wouldn’t be much if it weren’t exactly from where we were pointing, making it unviable to set any sail (unless we were willing to approach Coos Bay at night, which was totally out of question). The seas started to build along the day, and we spent the last 3 or 4 hours of the trip slamming against a short wave pattern which made Pesto move up and down in a very uncomfortable rhythm. And then seasickness settled in. To all four of us, at different degrees. To add insult to injury, it was also the wettest and – by a wide margin – the coldest passage so far.
When we reached the Coos Bay entrance marker, a few miles north of Cape Arago, we felt utterly alleviated. And Adriana and I agreed that this post was of order.

Newport to Coos Bay: clear and still conditions right before departure. They didn't last more than a few yards out of the marina, unfortunately
Newport to Coos Bay: clear and still conditions right before departure. They didn’t last more than a few yards out of the marina, unfortunately
The day broke and it was still foggy and wet. From then on, it was all downhill (as in "getting worse", and not downhill sailing).
The day broke and it was still foggy and wet. From then on, it was all downhill (as in “getting worse”, and not downhill sailing).
Adriana and Paulo having a hot cuppa underway, trying to break the cold.
Adriana and Paulo having a hot cuppa underway, trying to break the cold.
Raquel resorted to her tried-and-true tactic to try to fend off seasickness: to cocoon under a warm blanket in the cockpit
Raquel resorted to her tried-and-true tactic to fend off seasickness: to cocoon under a warm blanket in the cockpit and sleep through the passage
Not quite the greatest day for sailing outta here
Not quite the greatest day for sailing outta here.
Approaching Cape Arago. Despite it's menacing appearance, we were all pleased to see it, as it marked the arrival to Coos Bay.
Approaching Cape Arago. Despite its menacing appearance, we were all pleased to see it, as it marked the arrival to Coos Bay.

 

We are now safely moored at the Charleston Marina (this post was written on wednesday, Sept 17th) and will stay here at least until Friday (Sept 19th – we didn’t. We left Coos Bay on Thursday, Sept 18th, as per my previous post), waiting for a weather system to pass and for the winds to shift back again to a favorable direction.
As uncomfortable as this passage was, I can’t and won’t say it was miserable, since conditions can get much worse. In fact, we are probably enjoying the mildest of conditions within this infamous coast’s repertoire – knock wood.

It was just uncomfortable, that’s what it was. And a vivid evidence that some passages are indeed better than others.

And like this, voila, I got my post 🙂

5 Replies to “Some Days … Other Days”

  1. Hello fellow adventurers! I am writing to you from…Coos Bay. To let you know what a difference three days can make. Last night, at Cape Blanco, the winds and seas were way more than forecast…and than the reports on the weather channel on the vhf radio. Finally we (old salts) were working too hard for too little, gave up and back tracked to here…tired of adverse winds and seas. We were late for the weather window that you were on time for. According to the forecasters, we will have to wait a few days for favorable winds. So be it. “The most dangerous thing in passage making is…a schedule.” We can wait. And hope to see you in the bay area. You’re doing well indeed.

  2. Hi Jon, wow – we almost crossed paths. We left Coos Bay on Thursday afternoon, just on time before the incoming N winds built the seas. When we got to Crescent City on Friday morning, the breeze was already picking up and the seas were confused. I can just imagine how tough it must have been for you coming the other way.
    It seems like we may stay at CC a few more days as well waiting for a window to go to Eureka, which shall be our last stop between San Francisco. When are you planning to be there?
    Be safe
    Alex

  3. Hi Alex and family, actually we are south bound. (easy to confuse – i had two Seattle deliveries, one north from San Diego and then this one south to San Fran). It sounds like when you rounded the capes you had north winds, three nights later we had south winds, 30 knots of them at times. We plan to depart Coos Bay tomorrow, arrive San Fran Sunday or Monday…shall see.
    Happy saaaaiiiiillls to youuuuu.

  4. Hi Jon – good to hear from you. Sounds like you had a sleigh ride on your way up the coast 🙂
    We were just reviewing the weather and some other commitments, and decided to stay in Crescent City until Saturday, and then go to Eureka, staying there at least unit the next weekend. Should you cal it there for any reason, do let us know.
    Safe travels!

  5. Alex and family, i applaud your pace. Deliveries rarely afford the luxury of such time and touring. When we go by Eureka, if the hour is reasonable, i’ll try you on the vhf radio. With this Coos Bay delay, the owner of the boat has asked us to carry on past San Fran and to Monterey Bay, so it looks like we will skip that iconic entry. I trust you’ll enjoy it…and Montery. Keep up the good vibes.

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