PNW Voyage – Day 3
May 2, 2005
I told you we would be in Coos Bay, OR when Day 3 started. By the time we arrived in Coos Bay we had been going non-stop for 48 hours. We pulled in long enough to refuel. We took on 387 gallons of diesel. There goes my allowance for the month!! We took on water, too, and back out on the water we went making our way north. By the way, the same fellow was at the fuel dock as when we were there a couple years ago. He is a Korean War Veteran and, like last time, had tons of war stories to tell us. We loved them all!
Bruce goes to the engine room on an very regular basis to check the machinery and transfer fuel, and again if anything sounds, feels, or acts different. We have a very workable engine room, that is more than stand up height. He has a work bench on the generator. Anyway, that is one place I never go while underway. It is extremely noisy and smelly, with both diesels running and sometimes the generator, too. The footing is unsteady as the boat is in motion and there are lots of moving parts I don’t want to get involved with. It gets very hot in there, though we keep the hatch open as much as we can, it runs close to 100 degrees. We have side vents, but those remain closed if the seas are running in such a way that we would get water in the engine room – just not the authorized thing. He can be down there for, what seems to me, very long periods of time. I will go check down the hatch to make sure he is okay. He has these serious ear protectors on, and couldn’t hear me if I called him. If I want to get his attention, I switch an engine room light off or I slow the engines down, as that gets his attention. I use the engine slow down method when I really need him – now!
This cruise is the first of such a long duration for us, so it was the first time I experienced stopping out on the ocean to check the oil. We stop every 24 hours or so, as long as temperatures remain within limits. We have the normal readout monitors at the helm and we just purchased an infrared thermometer. It is an invaluable tool in troubleshooting. It reads temps with a very high accuracy. Bruce can “shoot” the engines, our electrical panels, what have you, and know if something is getting too hot. It is probably one of our most valuable lines of defense. So, on Day 2, mid morning Bruce stopped the boat, putting the engines in neutral. Then proceeds to tell me I am going to keep the boat going forward, manually, with one engine running at about 1100 rpm and 3 knots. (That was one of the new ideas/fear/brave items that brought forth yesterdays introspection.) It takes a bit getting used to, to steer the boat by compass. I did it, but it was scary at first, as I had this fear I would drift off somewhere I shouldn’t. Or end up going the wrong way (no big deal, we can always turn around), etc., as we were in very deep water, and miles from dirt. Also, with one engine running it takes a bit to steer straight when the natural situation would be to go off to that side. And of course the action of steering becomes opposite when you go to the other engine. Have you ever tried to teach a lefty a new trick and then reverse it immediately?? Well, I did it, and I am told I did a great job. Yeah! And I was relieved that we could check our oil at the fuel dock and I didn’t have to practice my new skill on Day 3.
By day three we were still functioning well, in our minds. I am certain we were starting to feel the affects of going constantly, and trying to deal with limited sleep. The cruise into and out of Coos Bay was quick and easy. In this segment of the cruise and going as far north as the Columbia River (picture is of a Columbia River buoy), it seemed pretty easy, as we had been here before. We had full knowledge of the coast on the water and land, as we have traveled both by car and boat. Names such as Cape Blanco and Cape Mendocino didn’t hold the fear for me, they did on our first cruise. It just seems that Points and Capes have a reputation because they can be a hazard and the sea state is often driven due to their prominent location. We had been cruising further out in deep water, as the seas were flat and it kept us away from land affects and the crab pots that pepper the entire coastal shallow waters. At about 1600 an un-forecasted north-westerly wind popped up. It took just a little time before the flat calm waters started getting more animated. Pretty soon, we were doing up/down and getting splashed with sea spray. Oh goody – all that nice salt all over us. Well, that is something you deal with later, no problem. But what was a problem, is it takes a lot more energy to move around the boat, when it is doing the up/down thing. It wasn’t a scary thing, just irritating and we did need to hang on. I have a cute little elbow bruise and maybe a few other little bumps, as you tend to put your body against the bulkheads to get places if you have one hand full of food or whatever.
This is a good time to talk about sea and waves and wind. Most of you probably know, but the sea can have waves and they are usually timed in intervals. The longer the interval the more boring the wave. For instance, though we have said we had flat calm seas, they were really running about 3 feet swells, but the intervals were 14 seconds or so. That equates to a big fat, boring deal. There are also waves created by the wind. Those waves are noted in feet, too. So here is the full impact of sea swelland wind waves. You add them together. So, we had a 3 foot sea state, and three foot wind waves, now you have 6 foot waves. Now six wouldn’t be that big a deal if it was only sea state at 14 second intervals, but wind – now that changes things. It builds a short chop on top…so that is why we were having the bump, bump, bump, up/down thing going. I guarantee someone more professional could explain this better, but this is the gist of what was happening. The further off the coast the more room the wind has to build up momentum, and so where we were cruising it was more animated. Once we got past the night, we pulled in closer to the coast to get into some smoother water. It came at a cost, as then we both started watching the helm dodging the crab pots.
Which, as you may suspect by now, brought more introspection. We can love and hate the same thing. No, really, you can! It is all about the timing. For instance, I love our engines. They take us and take us safely – but they are noisy. After awhile I seem to get kind of rummy from all the noise pollution (for want of a better word). BUT, if those babies quit running I would really be scared!! So, I love the engines and hate the noise. (It really isn’t that loud, it just starts wearing, to me, after awhile.) Same goes for crab pots. I love Dungeness crab, but I sure do hate those crab pots in my line of navigation. Such is life. Ain’t it great?? For those of you who may wonder – yes, I do manually drive the boat during times like that. I have just about got the hang of it again, and now we should be free of those little pots for some time to come.
I don’t remember when it started, but for most of the trip we have been seeing these little black and white birds. They are kind of cute, but we thought not very smart. They almost looked like penguins to us. Often they were right in our path. Hurry! Hurry! Get out of the way!! Well, their efforts to get out of the way is what made them look like a penguin. They sort of did a frantic swim stroke, where their wings seem to go round and round, splashing lots of water, and it looks like they are doing some kind of front stroke, and their feet kind of drag behind. The bird book calls it pattering. They can move pretty fast, but often their final effort was to dive, dive, dive!!! I finally found them in our bird book. We believe there were a couple different species of Murre. It is interesting that babies drop 30 to 50 feet into the sea, accompanying their parents, swimming first and then flying. Apparently their landings and take offs are a bit challenged, as it takes a good bit of “pattering” to get airborne and when they land they almost fall out of the air! (I am certain our retired pilot friend could explain the aerodynamics.) So, as you can imagine they made for some great entertainment.
So, we made it through a third night. We were very tired and the promised southerly wind had not arrived. My mid-watch had no introspection. I just worked hard at staying awake. Sitting for any length of time became too comfortable. I would open a window and put my face to fresh air. Boy! I recall thinking – Yes, this IS Oregon!! It smelled of ocean and fish and forests. I did a longer watch than Bruce normally had me do, but he was even more tired, by then, than I. We had discussed stopping off in Westport, WA for an overnight, since the southerly was promised for the next day and our weather window was still open. We had one more day left on this weather window. And that will lead us right into Day 4!
I hope you are enjoying our trip as much as we are!!
More to come – Angie