28 September 2011 | Spud Pt Marina, Bodega Bay CA
photo courtesy Wade Biggs
21 September Wed Well, in the last blog I wrote that we were going to leave Newport that afternoon, to try to stay in the benign weather bubble, ahead of really crappy weather coming in from north of us. We got underway about 1500 that afternoon; came out of the yacht harbor, under the bridge and turned the corner into the entrance channel, and there was a 16' breaking wave, with a nearly 100' steel fishboat surfing in on it and another wave, broken and reflected off the north jetty heading toward our starboard side about 10' - Yikes! Nothing to do but increase power and meet the waves. We got out OK, but I would not have wanted to come in under these same conditions. With the right kind of boat and enough power, one can come in through breaking waves, and our Diesel Duck is a great boat, but it's not that kind of boat. Offshore again we had fog, big swells and little wind; by midnight the fog had cleared somewhat, speed 7+ knots, 400 nm to Bodega Bay.
22 Sep Thurs harbors up and down the coast from Grey's Harbor (south of Juan de Fuca) to Noyo (Fort Bragg) are reporting closure or dangerous conditions. The big swells being experienced all down the coast are the fore-runners of the big storm out to the NW and coming down behind us. Our best choice seems to be to take a line offshore of Cape Mendocino and run for Bodega Bay.
I heard Coast Guard Humboldt Bay talking to S/V Wings of Dawn (Rob, a retired fireman from the Tacoma area we met on the dock in Tofino BC). It sounded like Rob was asking about entrance conditions.
Approximately 250nm to Bodega Bay, Wade suggested slowing the boat to save fuel and arrive in daylight. It made sense but after thinking about it for much of the day, I've defaulted to Don McIntyre's advice to not dawdle when there is an opportunity to make miles during an offshore crossing. Or in our case, on an exposed coast, where we cannot go to shelter (all closed or dangerous to enter) - it might as well be a blue-water crossing.
23 Sept Friday 0300hrs rounding Cape Mendocino; swells, wind out of north, not yet kicking up the surface, thin fog. Cape Mendocino > Pt Arena > Bodega Bay 157nm (23hrs @ 7 kts; 25hrs @ 6.5kts)
0400 dolphins on the bow - seen only by their outlines and trails in bioluminescence. Fog is thinning, can now see moon and stars.
Prior to dawn the north wind stiffened up, but once around to the south side of C. Mendocino slackened to about 10kts. Boat motion a bit crazy in the vicinity of C. Mendocino due to conflicting currents, swells and wind off the point, but moderated noticeably by 1000hrs - 157nm to Bodega Bay
During the afternoon, the wind picked up again; head sail up giving us 5-6kts at engine idle forward. Ever since dawn we've had periodic visits from groups of dolphin (12-20) surfing the leading edge of waves as the waves came from behind. I'd look out the open pilothouse door and there'd be a dozen happy faces just off the starboard side of the boat as they surfed by.
So many memories on this northern California coast:
Trinidad and Patricks Point camping with the kids, rock climbing and rescue classes; Arcata and Eureka POST training courses and some of the lunacy that occurred up there during a residential training week; Sinkyone "Lost Coast" and the Great Camping Extravaganza in '82 when brother John and I took my kids - Pat & Kate - and nephew Victor hiking and camping (which they remember as a major childhood trauma!); Shelter Cove, Bear Harbor, uncounted kayak trips to every bit of coast from that area south to San Francisco and beyond; surf fishing Alder Creek with Old Bob; Pt Arena where my old sergeant and mentor lives; Mendocino County coastal deputies I've known and respected; my years as a Sonoma County north coast resident deputy - Sea Ranch, Annapolis, Hollow Tree, Kashia, Stewarts Pt, Timber Cove, Sea View, Kruse Ranch, Tin Barn, King Ridge, Timber Hill, Fort Ross, Cazadero & Jenner, all the little coastal communities where I worked from land, sea and air; hundreds of rescues, dozens of resuscitations, auto accidents, heart attacks, suicides, murders and births - triumphs and tragedies, the ghosts of which remain with me today; the cabin on the ridge we sold to build DavidEllis where Dorothy and I spent many happy hours with friends and family and I spent many days recuperating from various job and sport-incurred injuries - it was our sanctuary; the people, officers and pilots I worked with along this coast from my first (1972) wet-suited ride-along in Angel 1, Sonoma County's first helicopter to my last marine patrols on the coast 33 years later: Corky RIP, Wayne, Ed RIP, Brent RIP, both Dennis', George RIP, Brad, Paul, Gary RIP, Keith RIP, Tom, Joe RIP, Erne and Bill; the Banzai Bozo kayakers - Jim, John, Rick, Mike, Larry & Kirk and our arch-rivals the Tsunami Rangers.
I started diving this coast in high school and hope to emulate my old friend and diving mentor Frank Carli, who continued to dive here until 88 years of age and died in his sleep - can it get better than that?
Jenner mouth of the Russian River where I've spent years of my life, Goat Rock (many rescues; many hundreds of hours kayaking), the many south Sonoma Coast beaches, Bodega Head, Bodega Rock "the dinner plate" where the Banzai Bozos surfed like maniacs along with the sea lions and the white sharks. So many memories...
24 Sept Saturday Sometime around midnight the auto-pilot gave it up - working too hard keeping us on course in big, following waves; we're lucky to have gotten almost 3000 hours out of it. So we hand-steered in a following sea, in the fog for most of the next four hours. 0430 hours we crept in alongside the RW buoy outside Bodega Bay past Bodega Rock and dropped the hook in the outer bay off Doran Beach (where Dorothy and I had our first date January 1, 1967). A couple hours sleep until the fog clears and we can find our way into the bay. We motored in about 0800, where Dorothy, Rusty & Rascal and my old partner Mike Ferguson waited on the float to take our ropes and tie-off.
Three years a-building (many years before that dreaming and planning), five years since taking delivery in Hong Kong, 19,000 nautical miles under our keel, more than a few new gray hairs, 7 countries, and many many new friends later - we're home...