Portland to Grays Harbor

My last two updates were about preparing for our cruising season. I suppose you may have been wondering where we were going to be cruising. In some respects, I have to admit, we do, too! Oh, we know we are going up the Inside Passage, and we THINK we are headed to SE Alaska for this season. However, we also think about the wonderful summer in Desolation Sound last year, and ponder giving up a “real” summer for an awesome Alaskan experience. So far, though, our minds are still focused on Alaska.

We missed the perfect weather window of a couple weeks ago, and finally saw another window coming. It was finally time to make sure that all provisions were aboard, all contents secured properly, park our car at friends’, and say our last goodbyes. This departure was noticeably different than many other spring departures. We made new friends, renewed friendships, and had lots of departure dinners and events. By then we had to go, as we were exhausted from all the fun! So, it was a first time for me, that I was a bit choked up at leaving. We had friends waving us off and even my son was there to let go our last lines, and I really hate leaving a child behind. Well, he knows I didn’t leave him behind, but it was a bittersweet moment seeing him waving us off from the dock. <sniff sniff>

We departed Portland May 8, 2009,  bound for St. Helens to refuel, and then on to Astoria, OR.  It was a pleasant ride, though breezy, and a bit chilly. Weather reports hinted at sun and warmth, but the wind won out. Everything was bursting out in shades of green. I love this time of year as you see all the new growth and about 90 different shades of green. We saw several waterfalls that we didn’t see in October. Of course then it was still the dry season.
CR Spring Green CR Twin Falls CR Eagle

We planned to spend the night in Astoria, then catch the remaining ebb and then slack out and over the Columbia River Bar.  And it all worked like a charm.   The bar was pretty easy, with nothing much to report.  However, as soon as we were beyond the bar the seas were quite confused and doing about 5 ft square waves, most of the waves being wind waves. (Remember we call a square wave one that is about the same height and period.) The winds were probably up to 18 knots (already!), instead of the very little/no wind we had expected. And as a testament to the conditions, there are no pictures. I was too busy hanging on!  This was one of the few times when all our weather sources never came to an agreement on the conditions.  Well, now, who should you believe?  We believed the one with the forecast we wanted – of course, and why not? 

It was a very uncomfortable experience with a lot of hanging on, and not worth fighting for five hours.  Also, we expected the winds to pick up and that would have made matters even more untenable.   We were buddy boating with M/V NIRVANA, and we all decided we could have a better time at the dock than out on the ocean slogging it out. We opted to go into Ilwaco, WA, rather than back to Astoria. Astoria is about 14 miles from the Columbia River Bar, and that is 14 miles we didn’t want to repeat. We had never been into Ilwaco Marina, so it was a new experience for us. There is a long and narrow channel you follow to get into the marina. It is obviously narrow because there are drying flats on each side of the channel. You must stay in the channel. The marina turned out to be nicely located and we were put on the new docks that had 30 amp power. Our friends on M/V ARKAYLA had mentioned 20 amps and I was not really looking forward to the low amperage, but we got lucky. Next time in Ilwaco ask for a slip on “C” Dock. We were excited to see all sorts of tents up on the shore. It happened to be Saturday Market. Yeah! We all walked through the market and then had lunch at the Imperial Schooner – nice juicy burgers, crispy fries, and great service.

We gave it another try on Sunday, (May 10, 2009), and off we went over the Columbia River Bar – again. We had our own sort of wave off this time, too. Well, we didn’t know them personally, but we see their relatives often!
Cormorant Sendoff Seal Sendoff
The trip over the bar was probably slightly less bumpy the first time, with long swells, but I hadn’t minded that time either. Once we got beyond the influence of the river the ride settled out very nicely and is basically flat. There was a swell, but on such a long period that it ceases to be an issue to us. There is no wind and that really makes a difference to the sea state, and thus to our riding conditions. CRiver InfluenceIf you look closely at the picture you can actually see two different colors of water. It was amazing to actually see where the river influence ended and the ocean began. The river is the green water, and the ocean is the blue water.

Our destination is Grays Harbor at Westport, WA. We know we will most likely spend the entire week, waiting for the next weather. We were pretty disappointed at having to abort our trip yesterday. If we could have made the voyage yesterday then today we would be headed to Neah Bay, just around the corner from Cape Flattery and inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Our voyage to Neah Bay will take about 11 hours. It is a run we want to make in daylight hours, and so now we wait for the next weather window. By the way, you can see us sitting at the dock via the Westport Cam at http://www.westportcam.com. We are just to the left and below the big white building on the right.

The good news is that we are on our way to – Cruising 2009.

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