Northbound – 2008 Final Leg
Newport to Port Angeles, WA
May 9, 2008
We departed Newport, OR, Friday, May 9, 2008 at 0530. What a sight it was, too. We haven’t had an escort out of town before today. We were surrounded by scores of small personal fishing boats. Today was the second day of halibut – any depth – fishing. The day before, being the first day of the opening, did not make the fishermen happy, as apparently, there were few fish caught. I guess the Game and Fish Dept forgot to invite the halibut – all the fishermen got their invitations!! Not only was there a couple lines of boats headed out, there was a couple very long lines of pickups/RV’s and boat trailers in line to launch. We found out what Newport gets up early for these days.
The first twelve hours of the voyage were a real slog. We were in a counter current and had to work hard just to get 6.6 or 6.7 knots! We had the RPM’s up to 1800, too. Once the current changed our speed changed and we really made up some time, with speeds of 7 to 9 knots, with the same RPM. It pains us to have to crank up the RPM, as it means more fuel usage, and you all know what that means in this day and age of high fuel prices. We topped off in Newport the day after arrival at $3.959. We felt that was “cheap”! And it’s the last of those prices anyone will most likely see.
This voyage is to be our last ocean voyage for the foreseeable future. We know we have one last overnight, and then that is it, too. We are both quite excited to be done with our coastal ocean voyaging. This trip was one of hurry up and wait. We have never had more than a 30 hour window, with almost two weeks of waiting in between. We watched some big conditions with high winds and big seas pass us by. We just want to get off the ocean. We know we have several options if the conditions change sooner than forecasted. Our hope is to make it to Gray’s Harbor – at least, but we really just want to keep going and get through Hole in the Wall at Cape Flattery, and be done. It was dark as we passed Gray’s Harbor. We kept going, so our die was cast.
Conditions during the first day had been good. Though it wasn’t sunny, it was an easy day. The picture is “the calm before the storm”. Isn’t it beautiful? I love the patterns you can see on the surface. I have felt like that is where weaver’s get their ideas for patterns. There were few crab traps, today. Conditions seemed good, when I came on at 0030.
So, I was unprepared for what I saw on our radar! The first thing I noticed was what turned out to be a rain squall pass over us. I don’t believe we have had rain on a night of an overnight voyage. That was very interesting to see on radar. I could see squalls surrounding us, some had no affect on us. And, there were many commercial fishing boats on our screen. In our last trip north, there had a been a long string of fishing boats, but they were way off to the west. In this case they were peppered on our screen. I didn’t have any problems staying awake, with all these boats around. Some of the fishing boats have huge halogen lights on their boats that really light up the area surrounding them. And these same lights made it confusing, to me, as to how close they were. I know what radar was saying, and I trusted the radar, but they sure seemed closer. Of course one boat had no big light, and though it was definitely on my radar, and we came within .67 miles, I never actually saw it! I had to make several course changes to avoid the fishing boats. I was very happy when the Captain came back on watch.
Awhile after I went back to bed, I felt conditions change. All of a sudden we were doing a little rolling. Rolling, if you remember, is when the boat moves from side to side, due to winds on the beam or quarter. When it was time to relieve the Captain, conditions had changed significantly, the front moving in about six hours sooner – a not uncommon experience on this voyage. The conditions made things a bit uncomfortable. We had winds up to 25 knots out of the southeast, and swell ranging from 5 to 8 feet out of the southwest. So, we had opposing swell and wind. No wonder we were rolling. The winds would push one way and the swell would push back. Do you have your rubber ducky or toy boat handy? Remember what I said, about pushing on an after corner or the stern? The autopilot has to work much harder, the bow gets pushed to and fro with over compensation in order to correct the situation. So pretty soon, the bow of the boat looks like it is turning right, oops, no it is turning left, wait, we are going back to the right…and all the while the autopilot is whining about all the hard work it is doing. The good news was the autopilot was doing a pretty good job, considering conditions, but the noise got to be nerve racking. So, to give Auto Pilot, our ears, and nerves a rest, Captain started hand steering. He ended up hand steering for over 5 hours. The first four and a half were the most animated. It made for a stressful time for the Captain, but the noise went away, and so did the sashaying of the bow. Our speed picked up and we were enjoying a nine knot ride, “surfing” the seas.
When hand steering, you use your magnetic compass, and based on your heading, keep the boat pointed to a heading that will keep you on course. It takes a great deal of concentration to keep the boat within a ten degree range, so it takes another person watching the seas for hazards, etc. So, for about six hours, we both were on watch. Captain was steering and I was watching. Imagine our delight, when we slipped through Hole in the Wall, between Tatoosh Island and Cape Flattery. The seas on the other side of the hole were tiny little choppy seas – nothing to speak of, and just behind us had been the SE’ly winds and the SW’ly swells. And the really good news? We were now on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and we had made it off the ocean – finally!! Yeah!!
Our thoughts were of dropping anchor in Neah Bay, getting a bite to eat, and then going to bed for about ten hours. But, as we were checking out the conditions of the Strait for our next leg, we discovered that there were to be big swells coming into the Strait from the ocean, as a result of the conditions we had just experienced, which would be building more. And, since we didn’t want to be stuck in Neah Bay for days, we bit the bullet and kept going – for another seven hours!
We did get that bite to eat, and then Captain went down for a much needed nap.
It was a piece of cake to be on watch for that while. The conditions had continued to mellow out, to the point they were flat, satiny seas. It was very easy to see any hazards in the water. It was a nice, calm, and fulfilling watch.
We had also considered waiting it out in Neah Bay because the currents were going to be on the ebb, against us, as we headed further into the Strait. But then on further investigation, this day’s ebb was the least of several days to come. So, we felt it was another reason to keep going. We did outfox the ebb, though. We stayed fairly close to the Washington shore, and caught the counter current, and the speed just kept climbing until we were doing 8 and 9 knots. So, the seven hours went a little faster than we had expected.
We knew we had arrived in the Pacific NW, when the rain and wind caught up to us, just as we were in the process of docking and tying up the boat in Port Angeles, WA. We shrugged our shoulders, smiled, and reminded ourselves that we had made it, we were so glad to be here, and we just didn’t care about “a little rain”. And this ends our series of Northbound. We spent a total of 109.2 hours underway for a total of 788 miles. We refueled twice for a total of 817 gallons.