Back in the USA – we pulled into Roche Harbor, intending to stay a couple days over the weekend. After a quick trip to the store to provision we decided that the anchorage was just too busy for us, and moved on to our place in-waiting all summer – Blind Bay. We had a little bit of unexpected excitement from our engine room on Sunday morning. The generator was busy charging batteries and I was making a nice breakfast. Captain stepped out onto the aft deck, glanced out to the bay, looked down into the engine room and literally dived into the engine room and the generator died. WOW! What was that all about? It was about an auxiliary belt that died! When Bruce looked out to the bay, he saw white steam coming from our generator exhaust. He caught it in plenty of time to avoid any harm to the machine. A few hours later, using a spare-part belt, on hand for just such an occasion, all was back together and purring away.
We met up with SANCTUARY at Spencer Spit on Monday. Had a great crab feed provided by Steve and Karen. The next morning we were back in Anacortes for a whirlwind dock stay. At the top of the list was to get our ailing inverter repaired and the other updated with firmware. That was one pain-free event. We hauled both units into the Tech Support area of Outback, in Arlington, went and had a coffee, and back in time to pick them up, all repaired and updated – no charge! A big round of provisioning in preparation for whatever we decide to do next and off again and dinner with Mike and Karen in the new land RV. Then on to another rendezvous, the next day, with friends Steve and Karen on SANCTUARY at Orcas Island. Another great visit with friends making for a second rendezvous with them, which was perfect, as we had passed each other twice earlier in the summer, unable to stop and visit. It is always nice to see their beautiful converted fishing boat enter an anchorage. We left them, the next morning to preposition for the trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Fall is in the air, and we had an appointment mid-September for the Captain that should wrap up his health issues of the summer. And that meant we needed to be “somewhere” at that time. I hate it when summer is over. Oh, not the actual season, but there comes a point in our late summer cruising when we start having to think seriously about our winter plans. And all of a sudden we start looking at the ocean conditions and planning an ocean voyage. And, that, my friends, is the sign that summer is over for casual cruising. Though we have hashed over the upcoming winter locations on numerous occasions through the summer, we still didn’t have a “set in stone” plan. Well, most cruisers don’t! There are just too many options and too many if/then results for us – who can be anywhere we want to be. In fact, a month ago I thought about doing an unofficial poll on where our readers think we should winter. But, then I figured I could almost make each of your votes for you, as you all have ideas, varying though they may be, where we should be. And I figure your consensus would reflect ours – which was so scattered we still didn’t know what it is we were going to do.
September 1, 2009, saw us refueled and tied up on the transient dock in Port Angeles. The day before we found out that Bruce’s father fell and injured himself seriously. Now, our plan took on an urgency of its own. Bruce needed to be with his parents, and we needed to get DESERT VENTURE and me to our chosen destination of Portland. The winds on the Strait of Juan de Fuca (JdF) finally died down and we headed out of the harbor, with NIRVANA just ahead of us, with Neah Bay as our day’s end destination. Weather gurus said we had two good days to get over the Columbia River Bar. The next morning NIRVANA and we were underway and headed west out the Strait and then south. Weather gurus modified their forecast later in the morning and for fear of getting caught in Grays Harbor for several days, the captain made the decision to go directly south to cross the Columbia River bar that day. It was a 17 ½ hour cruise – a very long day for the both of us. We could see the front coming in from the west. Timing was perfect and we cruised over the river bar as if it was a lake – totally glassy calm and the moon showing us the way. By then it was about 2200 and dark with the moon messing with our night vision, and though we have digital charts and software that shows us exactly where we are, we confirmed it by watching all the flashing lights – which was tricky as there are many red flashing lights, but we were looking for a particular flash – 1 red flash every 2 seconds, 1 red every 4 seconds, quick flashing red, etc. And among all the red flashing lights there are plenty of other red lights that can play tricks on you. The secret is patience and being able to count seconds <grin>. To add to the stress of a night crossing of the Columbia River bar, and staying in the dredged channel, are the ships that are coming and going. There wasn’t much traffic, thankfully, and some of them were considerate and cautious enough to warn other ships/boats of their impending movements. However, one particular tugboat captain didn’t seem to think it necessary – and of all the traffic this one was critical. The tug had just pulled away from the dock ahead of us, heading west. His barge was broad to us, and with all the other lights we briefly missed the lights on the barge until it started coming into line behind the tug, and about that time it was a serious full right rudder – now. And while we were busy adjusting to the change in our direction and coming back into our track, here came the second barge being towed by the same tug. Fortunately for us, Captain is, well – a Captain and extremely experienced in maneuvering ships and boats and handled it all with no particular sweat. I can’t say the same for me. I had a few choice words for that tug captain, but I had to keep them to myself….grrrrrrr.
We continued on, east, past Astoria and went to an anchorage, we call Tongue Point Anchorage, just east of the Coast Guard Station. It was a fairly long and narrow marked channel back into the anchorage. There were several small boats racing all over and we wondered at the safety of racing like that in the dark. As usual we were on a slow bell – so to speak, easing our way into the anchorage. We don’t like to bring our wake with us and appreciate when other boats leave theirs behind, too. So, there we were taking things nice and easy and the small boats started shining their spot lights on us, to the point that our night vision is now gone. What the ???? Bruce pulled back to neutral and waited to see what was going on. We are watching the boats and finally we can see they are now panning their lights ahead of us and on to their fishing nets – which were strung out across our path! Now wouldn’t that have been just nice?? No radio contact was made, just the lights, which made us wonder just how “official” their night fishing might have been. Well, we survived all the obstacles of the night and pulled into a huge and wide open anchorage. By 2330 the anchor was down, and we were sound asleep. We didn’t hear a thing that night.
In hopes of getting into St. Helens in time to refuel we were underway again at 0800. By now, I have had three WHOLE days of early mornings and I am getting fussy. See, what I mean? When summer is over it gets real crazy. I really miss summer! Fuel prices seemed high and then realizing it was the beginning of a holiday weekend we decided to forego refueling for the time being. We pulled over at Sand Island public dock, just across from St Helens for the night. We got in late afternoon and had some time to wind down and relax and have dinner. By now you should know we don’t go anywhere in the PNW without having a party at a dock – with friends. And sure enough this dock was to be no different, as GYPSY SOUL came cruising in, and pulled in forward of us. We met Chuck and Wendy this past winter at our marina and it wasn’t that big a stretch that we all met up – things like that happen if you cruise.
The next morning we hosted breakfast with Chuck and Wendy, then they headed west to Astoria for the weekend, and we headed east back to Salpare Marina – and that is where I am – At Home Today – in Portland.