|The Rainbow Bridge in La Conner, WA at first light|
|Approaching the Deception Pass Bridge - Very little current this AM|
The Washington Coast can be very rough in the winter months. When we looked at the conditions last October the ocean swell was a large 17-feet! It was agreed the new owners would enjoy the San Juan Islands and the comforts of La Conner over the winter and we would wait for proper conditions in the spring. I figured late April, but the last few days of March provided a fantastic window; best I have ever experienced.
|Deception Pass at Sunrise|
On Monday I received an email from Bryce, the Owner of "Oh Buoy", he said the weather was looking good. I looked at the Marine Weather app on my phone and clicked on the coastal forecasts for the week...Wow! 0-10 knot northerly winds and 2-4 foot swells and 14-second period on the coast, that is smooth. I then clicked on the Straits of Juan de Fuca; 0-10 knot easterly winds. I then looked up the tides and currents, hoping to find an ebb out the Straits in the afternoon...Bingo! The final research was the tide cycle at Westport, WA and the Columbia River Bar Entrance, this time I wanted flood tides in the afternoon to enter the bars safely...Yahtzee!
|The Straits and Olympic Mountains from north Whidbey Island|
What this predicted weather meant:
Ebb tides on the Straits mean the current is moving west along with us, giving us good efficiency.
Easterly wind on the Straits travelling with the ebbing tide will lay the waves flat, so we have smooth water heading west towards the Pacific. Low wind velocity means very little waves at all. When the current and wind oppose each other the waves will stand up and become nasty.
A northerly wind along the coast means the waves will be going with us towards the south. I generally have experienced a slight current moving south along the Washington Coast in spring and summer. Again this would give us smoother water. The low swell (2-4) with long period (14-seconds) also is very favorable and allows for easy travel.
I prefer to leave at first light if I am planning to lay down very many miles. In the afternoon the land form heats and causes the cooler ocean air to be drawn in to shore, this onshore flow creates afternoon winds that will increase the waves and sea state; getting going early provides calmer waters.
The flood tides in the afternoon allow for a safe and timely bar crossing. We want to enter the Grays Harbor (Westport, WA) bar and Columbia River bars on a flood tide. The ebb can be extremely rough as the water pouring out the river slams into the westerly ocean swells, standing up the waves and making it potentially dangerous, running with the flood is much more comfortable and safer. I want these preferable conditions in the afternoon as this is when I will make the crossings after a day of running down the coast.
This was a perfect forecast for our intended trip, we decided to leave on Wednesday morning at first light. Game on!
|Race Rocks and the Olympics - just beyond Victoria, BC|
With only a day of advance notice of the trip, Cindy helped out and provisioned the boat with breakfasts and lunches, ginger snaps and some fruit. Thanks Cindy. I checked NOAA weather frequently looking for a change in the forecasts, and the weather window just got better as a large "high" was sitting over the region. We also inspected the boat and equipment and made sure she was ready for the Pacific Ocean; nice boat, good equipment and very well kept...Check!
Day One: La Conner to Neah Bay - 92-miles
March 30th at 6:25AM: Engine fired up, shore power off, gear stowed.
March 30th at 6:33AM: Fenders up and under way.
March 30th at 7:54AM: Headed under the Deception Pass Bridge, only a couple of knots current against us (1.8 foot of tide rise on this small cycle).
Noon: Passed through Race Rocks outside Victoria, BC with the current in smooth water and unlimited visibility.
|USCG doing their job|
March 30th at 5PM: Oh Buoy arrived at Neah Bay and was greeted by the USCG and offered a non-voluntary safety inspection. The Coast Guard was very professional and we had all the required gear.
Neah Bay and the Makah Tribe offer a very safe all season port, strong docks and it is always interesting to walk around their community. We ate at Linda's Wood Fired Kitchen and enjoyed the smoked salmon pizza. We double checked the marine forecasts and triple checked the tides at the river bars, all good.
|Rick named this the "Garmoose radar reflector"|
Day Two: Neah Bay to Westport, WA - 102-miles
March 31st at 5AM: Alarm went off but it was just too dark to head out. No help from the moon.
March 31st at 5:45AM: Engine inspected and fired up. Rigged for silent running (gear stowed...)
|Capt. Bryce at first light|
March 31st at 5:59AM: We left the dock. Headed for Tatoosh Island and the Red Buoy marking the northwest corner of the contiguous United States.
|Grey Whale off Tatoosh Island - 45-feet and 45-tons|
|Grey whale migration from Mexico to Alaska|
March 31st at 7:03AM: Whales! We are just off Tatoosh Island and amongst a pod of grey whales. Very cool!
March 31st at 7:06AM: We rounded buoy #2 and make the turn south. Sunrise over Tatoosh Island.
|Olympic Mountains from the Pacific Ocean side - 6 miles offshore|
March 31st at 6:10PM: Crossed the Grays Harbor Bar into Westport, WA
March 31st at 6:35PM: Tied up on Dock #21 in guest moorage.
|USCG drills at Westport Bar - 47 foot lifeboat and helicopter|
|Oh Buoy at Westport Marina - great looking American Tug 365|
Running on the coast - let's talk tugs: Semi-displacement and what it really means
Running down the coast we found the sea conditions and weather exactly as forecast. We had 2-4 foot swells on a long period and maybe another 1-foot of waves on top of the swell. In the ocean you have both swell and waves, the two add up and a boats movement is affected by both of these factors. Light boats get tossed around, heavy boats plow through. On inland waters we don't experience swell, just waves.
With the QSB-380 in an American Tug 365 the economy cruise is about 1350-rpm at 2.1-gph making 7.3-knots in a displacement mode. The American Tug 365 is a semi-displacement boat of 20,000-pounds, it is neither heavy or light but is designed to run in both a displacement or semi-displacement mode, it is not a planing hull form. In semi-displacement trim I generally run at 2,500-rpm, 11-gph and make about 13.5-knots. Top end is about 17-knots depending on load. On a normal summer cruise on the inside of Vancouver Island I would expect to be in economy mode about 80% of the time and use the semi-displacement mode to safely traverse the narrows, bars, and Straits when running faster makes sense or makes me more comfortable. Often running faster for a few minutes here and there can add whole days back into your schedule, or allow a skipper to control his boat safely in challenging conditions.
We chose to run at 1,800-rpm which is just a little faster than the economy displacement cruise. It is a favorite speed of mine in the open ocean. The boats attitude is bow up, stern squatted slightly and it puts a lot of hydraulic pressure from the water across the wide chines of the hull dampening any roll tendency. I would characterize the ride as "locked down" and running smooth. 1,800-rpm provides a 3.5-gph cruise at about 8-knots; not a big increase in speed, but provides a very comfortable ride in 3-dimensional seas. The Cummins mechanics love this RPM as the engine is burning very efficiently and generating full pyro temperature. Modern electronic fuel injection allows the newer engines to run clean at all RPM's but this speed is a natural. A quick calculation says we ran 11-hours from Cape Flattery to Westport and consumed an extra 1.4-gph, we saved 1.25-hours off the trip time for an extra cost of 7.25-gallons of fuel. Net cost of being comfortable was about $20. Way cheaper than stabilizers at $40k or troll planes with their parasitic drag and ugliness hanging off the side of the boat. This is how an American Tug handles water. Now back to the story...
Day Three: Westport, WA to Astoria, OR - 75-miles
April 1st at 6:40AM: Engine checked and fired up. Confirmed weather and sea state.
April 1st at 6:45AM: Departed slip at Westport Marina. We are leaving sooner than necessary so that we depart the bar on the end of the flood tide, it is only 55-miles to the entrance to the Columbia bar where the flood begins at 2:20pm.
April 1st at 7:10AM: Crossed the Grays Harbor Bar and back into the Pacific Ocean. Wind was 5-10-knots. 2-foot swell with unlimited visibility. Exactly as predicted and ideal conditions.
April 1st at 10:40AM: Rick spotted a grey whale off Long Beach, WA. He is getting good at this!
|Cape Disappointment Lighthouse|
April 1st at 2:15PM: Whale surfaced directly in front of Oh Buoy as we approached Columbia Bar.
April 1st at 2:30PM: Passed the North Jetty off Cape Disappointment - entrance to the Columbia River. Bar conditions are good and we verified with regular USCG updates on the VHF radio.
|USCG drills at Columbia Bar - great day for practice|
April 1st at 4:30PM: Arrived at West Basin Marina - Astoria, OR. Safe delivery down the Coast!
|Bryce seems happy to be getting his boat home on the River|
A very big thank you to Bryce and Rick for an enjoyable three days. We had a final beer at the Buoy Brewery in Astoria and said goodbye. I would like to spend some time in Astoria and see the Maritime Museum, ride the trolley and check out the Lewis & Clark history. Coastal cruising is fun.
American Tugs & Trawlers