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  • Capt. Eric

Oregon. Done and Gone

As soon as Di left for Puerto Rico, I started jumping from bar to bar.

Not the liquid refreshment establishments of course. The dangerous river meets ocean type.

A bar usually forms where a river empties into the ocean. The combination of river current, incoming (or outgoing) tides and oceanic waves can make for very dangerous navigation. The best is usually to time passage when the various currents and waves don't work against each other.

Unfortunately, pretty much all the ports in Oregon are on rivers, and therefore only accessible through bars. The most famous of course is the Columbia River bar, with its thousands of ship wrecks and famous large waves, but that doesn't mean the other bars should be considered easy. On the contrary, some of the smaller bars present additional dangers due to the proximity of dangerous rocks, shallows, or just how narrow they are.

Keeping an eye on, I could see a beautiful weather window for the next 5 days, allowing to start my push Southbound in the best possible conditions.

First stop, Garibaldi, in Tillamook Bay. An easy trip, with larger swells than expected. Luckily I had given Princess a calming pill before leaving, which helped her relax. Once the pill took effect, she found her favorite spot on the settee where I'd laid out her cushions, and spent most of her time there, waiting for this silliness to end.

Safely tucked in Garibaldi

The bar and entrance to Tillamook Bay

A long day for Princess and me, and we enjoyed a long walk that evening, exploring the harbor and its surroundings. I made sure to walk Princess extra, letting her enjoy all the smells of the new place, meeting all these new people. She even managed to grab a couple bits of fish off the docks when my attention faltered. I pretended to be unhappy, to keep my training standards where she's not allowed food outside what Di and I give her, but in reality I figured she'd probably deserved that fresh fish.

Princess, resigned to the swell

We left for Newport early once again, with radar and fog horn going in the usual dense morning fog.

Soon however the fog lifted, making way for a beautiful day on the ocean with moderate seas and small old swell. Just a great day to be making progress in the open ocean.

Fishing boats zooming past me, Newport entrance

A long, but uneventful day followed, and we arrived at the bar at slack time, just in time to see all the local fishermen rush back in. Dozens and dozens of small boats zooming around to get to their marina.

Newport marina

Newport was a hive of activity. Thankfully I had called ahead and knew where to go. I counted 17 boats waiting at the boat ramp's dock to be pulled out, but 2 hours later the number of boats still hadn't changed, despite boats being pulled out one after another. They just kept coming in, one after the next, the trucks and trailers creating a huge traffic jam all around the marina. I can't remember having ever seen anything like that.

Fresh catch being prepared

It was all about fishing of course - an activity I know nothing about - but apparently today was a big fishing day. Everywhere we looked there were fish being weighed, cleaned, and fillets being cut. Princess wanted to check every one of them and greet everybody of course.

I'd been wanting one of these to get rid of my used engine oil

Newport also had something I'd been looking for for quite a while now: A waste oil disposal station. Funny what a cruiser can find exciting in a new place, but I'd been carrying 5 gallons of used oil ever since I'd done an oil change on the main engine, so was happy to get rid of it.

A short night followed, so we could leave early to time the exit at the bar, and I set Enfin's nose towards Winchester Bay.

With the weather window holding, the passage was once again easy. As usual so far, winds came up in the afternoon, but the bar remained very passable.

On arrival we saw the famous sand dunes. They are much bigger in person than what a phone photo can render, and soon we were safely docked at the transient guest dock.

The marina had an automated payment machine, not dissimilar to those you find in certain car parks. You can use any credit card. A real simple solution to make sure guests like Enfin can pay even when the port office is closed. I wish other marinas would copy this excellent idea.

Sand dunes on arrival Winchester Bay

A dredge was maintaining the channel but not displaying any markers to show if any side was closed. That normally means both sides are OK to transit, but to be extra safe I called them on VHF, and we agreed I'd run South of them.

The operator seemed genuinely pleased and thankful someone actually paid attention to his Restricted in Ability to Maneuver day marks, and sought to clarify the best way to go about.

I'm sure boats dart by him all day long without asking anything, so it must have been a nice change.

Winchester Bay entrance. Princess is alert since she knows the signs that we're docking

The marina was old and derelict, with a few very sketchy boats, but the Harbor Master was real helpful, the dock was safe and I had 50 Amps electricity. All for a reasonable price: What else would I ask for?

Arrived Winchester Bay

After long days at sea, I decided to take a day's rest in Winchester Bay. In exchange, and to continue to make the best out of the great weather window, I decided to forego a stop in Coos Bay and jump directly to Bandon.

Bandon bar. Things got too busy to record any longer.

Leaving early to time my arrival once again, we had almost perfect weather with calm to moderate seas. As usual the winds came up as the day progressed, with about 20 knots in gusts. Yet, even in those good conditions, the Bandon bar entrance was a little sporty. Good sized rollers were forming on its North side, so I hugged the South side. Even there the waves were big enough to surf, and I had to manually steer Enfin, adjusting the engine revolutions to time the waves well and avoid broaching. Anticipating the waves and keeping Enfin on track reminded me of my racing days when I'd be volunteered to do the tiller during heavy downwind runs, mostly under heavy spinnaker. The guys just trusted my intense focus, and we'd often fly a lot of sail, way too close to the limit. Fun when it's not your boat!

I have great memories of those heavy mistral days in the South of France, surfing the boat in big rollers, with my fellow crew telling me not to look back, and staying hyper focused on speed, anticipating each wave and keeping things going the right way. Overdo the tiller and you're slowing the boat down, letting the rollers catch you at the wrong time. Under-do it, or fail to anticipate, and you're broaching.

Once, in about 35 knots of wind, carrying our strong medium spinnaker we decided to swap helmsman after hours at the tiller. The on-coming helmsman took minutes to get the rhythm of the waves and the boat, then said "I got it. My boat".

He didn't have it! We broached in one of the most spectacular figures a sailing boat can ever do, and for the next never-ending minutes, the boat laid on its side, top of the mast hitting the waves, before we finally managed to lower the spinnaker and regain control of things.

It is one of the 2 events the naval architect who'd built the boat suspected of having twisted the hull. All top of the mast electronics lost. Let's not do that with Enfin.

Bandon's harbor proved quiet once inside

I can only imagine what that bar would look like in bad weather. Certainly not something I'd want to take lightly.

Once inside the jetty, and past the big rollers, the channel is easy if a little shallow, with a 90 degree turn to enter the harbor. I had called ahead and the port had assigned me a long dock (90 feet) with starboard tie-in. On arrival I found the spot they indicated was already taken. I figured they'd probably meant to put me on the other side of that dock, unfortunately a port tie-in, so had to back into it. With wind gusting at more than 20 knots and a slight current, the solo maneuver was interesting. Luckily I know my boat well by now, and I was able to get Enfin spot on where needed.

As I went to pay for the spot, the Harbor Master asked me to move the boat, which I politely declined in the conditions, if he had any other solution. He did, and didn't push me to move.

Bandon is a rather neat little town, touristy in this period, with a nice board walk and plenty of restaurants everywhere.

Bandon Main Street

The weather window looked like it would hold another day, max two, so I decided to keep going, leaving very early the next morning.

My first inclination was to leave around 03:00 in the morning, the best time for the bar, but I didn't like the idea of running it in fog at night. So I left at day break, first light being just after 05:00 in the morning. I was immediately glad I'd done so, as during the night the rollers at the bar had grown bigger and steeper. It would have been unpleasant at night, and even in the coming day light it ended up being more eventful than I'd prefer. Nothing major: Enfin's bow is high, well protected and has a great shape to negotiate such rollers with ease.

The rudder is huge and very responsive, and the engine with its big propeller is always ready to give me extra push when I need it. Nevertheless I had to manually position the boat for each wave, reducing the speed so as to not smash through the rollers, and pushing fast on the way down to keep full control.

A dozen waves, maybe a couple more, and the worse was behind us. Soon the sea was calm again, and within an hour the fog lifted to reveal a beautiful sunny day.

The fog is never far on the coast

We arrived in Brookings where the Harbor Master kindly met us at the dock. Brookings is the last port in Oregon and almost at the border between Oregon and California.

We'll rest here while bad weather forms outside and will move again once the forecast shows perfect conditions once again.

Brookings marina is rather industrial, with mostly fishing boats and is surrounded by industrial buildings. The nearby beach is beautiful though, and attracts many tourists, mostly of the RV type. Maybe one day, when we're done with our cruising adventures, Di and I will give the RV life a go?

Brookings beach. Dog friendly and lots of fun for Princess

Well deserved ice cream in Brookings

With Oregon pretty much all behind me, I'd say I've earned an ice cream.

Next: California and San Francisco as soon as the weather allows.

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