Wednesday at 2:30 am, Neah Bay, put the blinker on and turn left. In hindsight maybe we should have stopped, collected ourselves, double checked the weather and thought it through. But listening to the weather on the VHF, it was okay, and I was raring to go. And Thursday it was what it was all about, rolling out the big jib, reaching along, 6+ knots at times, whooping it up when the GPS ticked 8+ knots. The excitement rolled into the evening and didn’t really put us on our planned watch schedule, but we made it through. We continued on, around 80 miles offshore with nothing but water in site. Nothing but water and pod of 50 plus dolphins, a couple Dahls porpoises, whales and even what we are pretty sure was a shark or two near the surface.
Yes, there was a swell but it was a gentle roll of up and down, the way I pictured the ocean. Then Friday night, the wind picked up, the waves built up, and the real fun started. We pushed through, with the forecast calling for 25-30 knots of wind. Since I don’t have the wind speed indicator hooked up, all I can say is based on previous experience I would estimate it to be in the 25 range if not a bit more. I apparently am the rare sailor that underestimates wave size, but the highest estimate from a crew member was 14 foot waves. And of course, the wind was from the south, the proverbial on the nose. We slogged through, still struggling with a watch schedule that worked well for us. We eventually hove to and just watched for any of the fishing vessels around us, their bright lights glowing on the horizon, and sometimes actually appearing and disappearing with the waves.
Daylight rolled around on Saturday, and the wind died. The seas were still large and fairly lumpy. We gamely tried to continue, but struggled to make true progress south. I think at this point we were already cheating back east a bit, as the forecast was still not favorable.
As the Saturday light faded, the wind strengthened. We still pushed on, trying an hour on, hour off rolling watch schedule that wasn’t the right answer either. Midway through the dark morning hours we decided to head for Newport, as the entrance was relatively easy and it wasn’t closed as several other harbors on the coast were. We again hove to, this time under reefed main alone, but after I realized we were 12 miles off shore and drifting east at 2 knots, it was time to start moving south along with the east drift. After several nights of being tossed around it was time for the iron genny. We fired it up and motor sailed a course for the Newport entrance. Shortly after dawn I hoisted the storm jib to help balance and give a bit more drive into the waves we were beating into. I will say this, it does take awhile to get to shore from 80 miles out in the ocean!
Finally, midday on Sunday we sighted the buoys for the entrance to Newport harbor, dropped the sails, lined up between the rock jetties and drove in. Ahh, flat water, the wind not blowing everything and the search for a dock. After being told by the front desk of the resort with guest moorage they had no space for 37′ boat we were just starting to head for the other marina which was not as close to town when someone popped out of a sailboat on the transient dock and waved us over. They helped us dock in front of them, told us the woman running the moorage was on vacation and the front desk of the resort didn’t seem to want to deal with guest moorage and offered us use of their card key for the showers. Dock lines were promptly secured, shower bags and towels dug out of their stowed locations, and I soon stood under a shower wondering why solid ground was swaying back and fourth.
So having been 80+ miles offshore, survived two nights of approximately 25 knot winds and 14 foot swells\waves, I have to say it wasn’t that bad for me. I never got seasick, although that may have been in part to starting with a patch on (and for the record, they do wonky things to your vision, I was really struggling to read numbers on the chartplotter). Jenn asked at one point if I was scared, and my answer was “No, I’ve read horror stories by cruisers, and these aren’t the conditions they describe.” Even if Jenn did have some moments of fear, she was a trooper, took turns driving the boat and did a great job staying awake and keeping us company while we drove. The difficulty is that once the bad weather starts, there isn’t a lot you can do but ride it out. And covering 80 miles to shore at 6 knots is a long trip, not to mention you have to hit shore in a place with a harbor you can get into based on the current conditions. Once we did get to shore, the bar crossing into the harbor was not nearly as bad as I was afraid it would be.
We have learned some things – I do need to get the lines run aft to the cockpit and lazy jack projects completed so we can raise and lower the main sail from the cockpit. We hooked up the windvane while in Newport, and while we don’t have it dialed in and steering the boat yet, it will also be a tremendous help. We also didn’t adhere to our watch schedule, and I think doing so would have benefited us. We are here to learn and have fun, and so far both goals are being accomplished.