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  • Capt. Eric

Port Angeles and Neah Bay. Going South.

Sequim Bay to Port Angeles was a quick and easy hop. We arrived early enough to check if the public docks downtown had been reinstalled: They hadn't, so we pushed West towards Port Angeles Port Haven marina.

We've been to Port Angeles before, and to Port Haven marina. It's a practical stop when transiting the Juan de Fuca Strait, even if the marina is a little further away from the shops than we'd like and in an industrial zone. We saw no reason to extend our stay.

Enfin at Neah Bay. We were the only recreational boat in the marina

We left early the next day with over 50 miles navigation ahead of us, aiming to arrive in Neah Bay before the forecast late afternoon winds had time to materialize.

We left the marina in very restricted visibility, our navigation lights on and sounding our automated fog signal as required. Luckily Enfin has a very good open array Furuno radar, so with senses all alert we were safe despite the port traffic.

Find the small fishing boat

The Port Angeles to Vancouver ferry left just as we were coming to the end of the spit, and we could both hear his fog horn and see his echo and track on radar. We also had him on AIS but that is delayed by just enough as to make it impractical for anti-collision work beyond giving identifying information.

Now it's a game of spot the ferry!

Soon however the sun started burning off the remaining fog and we hugged to coast in beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Perfect weather to transit an area that locals know as being sometimes temperamental when big Pacific Ocean swells find their way inside and interact with the various tidal currents.

A perfect day to transit San Juan de Fuca Strait

We arrived just as the predicted winds were starting to come up, and were welcomed by the usual gang of large sea lions. They were our constant companions during our stay and one evening in particular we enjoyed their very active halibut fishing runs in the port. Each fish caught was brought back up to the surface and slammed against the water in a loud boom, to kill it or stun it.

One or many sea lions would then honk their joy, displeasure or jealousy -regrettably I don't speak sea lion!- in a loud klaxon like "honk". Just a fun spectacle to observe from real close, and very exciting for Princess too!

Sea lions welcome

The marina accepts recreational vessels, but is mainly a commercial fishing port, run by the Makah Tribe. A lot of the fishing boats have seen better days, with 2 even having sunk at dock, but many were being worked on in preparation for halibut season.

We're told the waters around Neah Bay are famous for their halibuts and boats come from far away for the season.

Our neighbors had just bought their boat and were finishing outfitting her, installing a new side rail, tweaking their fishing gear, stabilizers and more.

They were not used to having neighbors at their dock, but it was real fun comparing our boats. Nordhavn clearly have a fishing boat DNA in them, even if hidden deep under a shiny hull and luxurious accommodations

For example Enfin shares a similar passive stabilizer system as these fishing boats: Simple mechanical fish are towed from long poles, with no complex machinery or hydraulic systems. As simple and as reliable as things can get.

In a similar vein, our main engine is a small commercial heavy duty rated engine. It is as simple as engines get: A specially marinized small tractor engine, 6 cylinder inline. No turbo, no electronics, nothing fancy. Just a strong and known to be ultra reliable and economical engine found on many fishing boats.

Our neighbor. Comparing boats is always fun

It is even installed in a similar way, with engine cooling being done via a keel cooling loop. This means that contrary to typical yachts, no seawater is used for cooling purposes, so sea water related corrosion problems cannot happen. The exhaust is "dry", a long funnel going all the way up our mast. Most yachts have a water cooled exhaust solution, which while very efficient when things work well, carries huge risks of flooding your engine with sea water if anything goes wrong.

Our installation, being more commercial than "yachty" is more expensive and takes more room in the cabin where the exhaust stack comes up. For Di and me these are compromises that are well worth it in exchange for overall simplicity and reliability.

Our first outdoor restaurant in a long time. Seafood doesn't get much fresher than this

We really enjoy Neah Bay. Nice people, a convenient shop across the marina and a feeling of being at the end of the world, when in reality large cities aren't that far away.

The nearby waterfront restaurant had even opened for the season, so we got our first outdoor meal in a long time. With my weird immune system we still do not eat indoors in restaurants, so terraces are our only options. The additional advantage is that they often accept Princess too.

I observed the weather using and other sources, seeking the best possible weather window for our 28 hours run down to Astoria that would position us in the Columbia river for my trip to France.

At first, it looked like the end of the week would provide a nice window with almost no wind and small old dying swells. Unfortunately as the day approached and forecasts were becoming more precise, that window started closing. Instead the end of the window was now getting uncomfortably close to a forecast 40 knots gale that would raise huge waves in the Columbia bar and would likely take days to settle down.

Di's turn in the big chair

I went to pay for extra nights, and realized the nightly rate had doubled from $40 a night to $80 to coincide with halibut season. That, the closing long term window, and improved short term forecast made us rethink our plans.

Refreshing the forecast with every update, I soon became confident we'd have a good window to Astoria. Not as perfect as I'd like, but with the gale and huge depression on the horizon, we risked being stuck here for a long time otherwise.

6 feet dying swell with cross 2 feet wind generated waves, all against 10 to 20 knots winds.

Trivial for Enfin, but not as gentle as I had hoped.

Most importantly the Columbia bar forecast if we made it in time showed about 4 feet at the bar, which is about as good as it can get.

Timing the bar would be the most important aspect of the trip, and a short calculation based on our usual 6 knots average speed showed we needed to leave at 06:00 in the morning the next day.

We spent the day finishing up preparations for our first true ocean passage in a long time. Not much to do, but just checking that everything is in place.

Princess enjoying her stay in Neah Bay too

To the great amusement of our fishing boat neighbors we set our alarms at 05:00 in the morning. What's the point of being retired if you still wake up for the tide they grinned?

Of course they did fully understand the importance of timing the Columbia river bar, one of the most dangerous spots in the world.

At 05:45 I cast off to begin my solo watch. We had decided to let Di sleep in so she'd be rested to take over the watch later in the day and into the early evening.

This time we're off South for good.

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