Friday, August 15, 2014

San Francisco Trip: Port Orford, OR to Fort Bragg, CA

Day Six & Seven - Overnight and around the corner to Fort Bragg - 217 Miles

I mentioned in an earlier post that when cruising the Coast you need to be flexible, and this crew is!  You may have noticed that this post covers days 6 & 7; we made the decision on the water as we neared Eureka to press on overnight around Cape Mendocino.   

4:00 AM - The alarm bell rings.  We planned a long 135-mile day from the anchorage in Port Orford to Eureka in Humboldt Bay, CA.  We have been cruising between 7.25 to 10-knots depending on water conditions and ocean current.  In general we have enjoyed a positive 1/2 to 1-knot current helping us southward down the coast.  The current, along with prevailing NW swells and NW wind lays down a smoother course for southbound boats. 

4:30 AM To achieve 120-mile days at our conservative speeds we need to get on the water as early as practical.  Engine running, anchor raised, radar is still pretty dark.  Port Orford is well protected from northerly & north westerly wind and swell.  The anchorage was a good stopover.  Easy to get into and a straight shot out and back onto our southerly route.

Just after sunrise outside Port Orford, OR

Grey Whales off Brookings, OR

9:10 AM - Whale HO!  More whales on the Oregon Coast.  This was a large pod of the resident grey whales working their way north.

9:30 AM - We cross the dotted line that separates Oregon & California.

The Saint George Reef Lighthouse

11:10 AM - The Saint George Reef Lighthouse is an intimidating sight along the coast.  This very remote abandoned monument is a beast.  After seeing her, we read about her history; including her construction and the stories of some of her keepers.  Wow!  The keepers were a tough lot.

Limited visibility with coastal fog.

1:00 PM - We hit a spot of fog.  Fog came & went for much of the afternoon.  It is good training for running with the marine electronics; useful later in the evening.

5:30 PM - Called the USCG on the VHF radio and requested an updated report on the Humboldt Bay bar entrance.  The radio operator had a 2 PM report and promised an update by 6 or 6:30.  Our running conditions were good with 2-3 foot swell and no wind.

6:45 PM - Passing the Humboldt Bay entrance with updated weather data, and still no updated entrance report we made the unanimous decision to skip Eureka and continue around Cape Mendocino.  Enjoying favorable weather & sea-state; we could make it to the Cape in the last of daylight and then run the remaining 70-miles to Fort Bragg overnight. 

Rounding Cape Mendocino

9:00 PM - Rounding Cape Mendocino at twilight. We prepared the boat for running in the dark with the instrument lights turned down low, counter tops cleared, gear stowed and fresh waypoints plugged into the chart plotter.  The wind is only blowing 5-10 knots and the water is mild.  It will be very dark for several hours until moonrise.  These are good conditions and what we had been hoping for.

Time exposure of the pilothouse - The instruments are dimmed much more than they appear and we have blacked out others with covers or tape to preserve our night vision. 

1:00 AM - The moon has risen and it is lighting up the path.  Visibility improves.  Nice sea-state.

Arrival at Fort Bragg, CA - Noyo River entrance

6:00 AM - Entering the Noyo River at Fort Bragg, CA.  First light. Calm conditions. The entrance is dramatic with the high Noyo River Bridge and the bending river channel slowly unveiling this small port.

US Coast Guard Station Noyo River with two 47-foot Motor Lifeboats

6:15 AM - We are tied up at the Noyo Mooring Basin.  This is a safe entrance port with a preponderance of smaller commercial fishing trollers and remnants of a busy past. 

We found a great breakfast place named David's just up the hill from the marina and adjacent to a nice grocery store.  Fort Bragg is boater friendly.  Now it is time for a mid-morning nap!

Thanks for following our coastal cruise.  Steve