Wednesday April 25.
All night it had rained and was blowing hard. To cheer me up, I made sausage and eggs for breakfast, hoping the rain would let up so I could sail another day here on Grays Harbor.
Following the Creek south under the bridge and check out the sloughs seems sort of appealing. There was no end to this relentless rain, so I decided to haul out and move on. Packing up the boat for an hour in pouring rain was kind of new to me. I guess normally I would avoid that. Again my rain gear saved me. I drove south on 101 and popped my head out on the beach for a minute. Nothing but gray, wind, rain and lots of breakers, so shortly I was back on the road. Willapa Bay was my next destination and Tokeland seemed like and interesting small peninsula, so I went and checked it out.
Most of it is an Indian reservation and at the very end there is a small harbor with a ramp. It was high tide so lots of shore birds were hanging out in the grass to wait for low tide. At low tide they feed on the mudflats, but at high tide they look for a fry resting spot. There happened to be a small RV park and I was tempted to stay. Somehow this little outcrop surrounded by tidelands appealed to me. Finally I made up my mind and just parked somewhere along the harbor. Sitting in the drivers seat I made a sketch of the harbor scene (don’t have picture of it yet). A bunch of Dowitchers were wading along the waters edge so out came the camera.
My previous Canon PowerShot had finally broken down a few weeks ago, when the lens wasn’t going in or out very well. I bought another PowerShot, this time an SX 150 IS. It has a 12x optical zoom and it brings those birds very close. Besides the (relative) powerful zoom I picked it because it takes AA batteries, since I wouldn’t be able to charge everywhere. Another change I made is downloading my pics on iPhoto instead of on canon software that comes with the camera. I recently discovered how much pictures improve with a little editing in iPhoto. One can do that and more in Photoshop, but that to me is a bit more intimidating. There are so many options in Photoshop that I shy away from it altogether. For now iPhoto works for me. After a nice quiet night there was some sunshine, so I took a walk taking pictures of the scenery.
I thought of launching the boat, but the ramp at low tide didn’t look appealing. Otherwise it’s a good ramp and maybe a good starting point for a group of small boats. Sailing around so many shallow areas can be challenging however. Nothing is marked all that well for someone not familiar with the area. Also with a westerly wind there is quite a bit of exposure and it can get rough quickly. Summertime may be good though.
Driving along the bay I spotted a herd of Elk in a beautiful setting. The north shore of this bay is quite scenic. The town of Raymond however makes a quick end to that. Bay City was another spot I had considered putting in, but I didn’t see it happen there either. Lots of oyster farming in this area. The south end of Willapa Bay at low tide exposes seemingly endless mudflats. Great place for birds, not so much for boats.
Leaving Ilwaco to my right I followed the Columbia River mouth toward Astoria. The high end of the bridge just before town seems to be aiming for the heavens. Under the bridge is a pleasant coffee shop with free wifi. I had a good lunch while catching up on the blog and emails. At Englund Marine I was able to obtain a GPS card for all of the US coast, inland lakes and west Canada. All that on a tiny micro SD card about a ¼” square. My previous card went down as far as Grays Harbor.
Just out of town upriver I found a RV park with a public ramp next to it, so I pulled in and hooked up. I launched the boat at high tide that evening and tied up in a horrendous ran/hail storm. The forecast kept talking about drier sunny weather, but no luck so far. Twenty yards beyond where I tied up, the dock was entirely covered with sea lions. They were a loud bunch, constantly barking at each other. Another dock was almost sinking because of them. Maybe it was the time of year, but there were only a handful of dilapidated sailboats and quite a few fishing boats and other workboats in the harbor. Over the steel breakwater one could see a few freighters anchored in the river. Wine, a nice dinner and good music in the camper made up for all the wetness outside. Before my departure I had acquired a 2” foam overlay for on top of my matrass in the camper. It sure is comfortable now.
Next morning I managed to not notice the sunshine till 8am. The blinds are pretty effective that way. After breakfast I went down and raised the masts to get ready for day 2 on the water. Once out the harbor I found a bit of breeze and had an exciting sail for a while. I was going to sail close to one of the anchored freighters, but as I got near the bow I noticed the anchor chain was being hauled in; oops better get out of here. Around Tongue Point I motored upwind in one of the river arms and spotted a swan. When I got closer it took to its wings, which had black tips. That’s odd, I thought and only then I noticed it was a white Pelican. I had never seen that kind. Later I saw many more and noticed they have this weird sort of fin sticking up on its beak. Makes it look from the dinosaur era. On many occasions I saw Ospreys with nests on tall markers in the channels.
I went in one of the narrow side arms of the river and spotted a big group of Cormorants fishing. As they flew away (because of my approach) a Bald Eagle came in and grabbed something out of the water and within minutes the sky seemed filled with eagles dive-bombing on fish. There must have been ten of them. Amazing how agile these big birds suddenly can become, making tight turns and grabbing fish, stuffing it in their beaks to immediately have another go. The Cormorants had probably grouped the fish together as they seem to do as a team. They sure let the eagles have a ball.
A few miles further I ran aground. The map and GPS showed a narrow through-way, but I didn’t find it. Apparently the deposits of the river have made the channels much shallower lately and the banks are constantly on the move. Another time where there was supposed to be more water I came to an abrupt halt. Fortunately Fetch takes this pretty well. She is very shallow with all boards up, 8 to 10 inches I think. I can click the motor up a bit, so it still propels me without hitting bottom. When get really stuck I grab my peddle and push back to get me off. On an outgoing tide one has to act rather quickly or you have a very loooong lunch. So far this has worked; knock on (ply)wood.
At around 5 I was about to head back when I started thinking about staying on the boat that night. I happened to have brought last nights left-over and still had water, snacks and my little galley aboard. Why head back to sleep in the camper to come out the next day again? I made my way in the sloughs of Russian Island and found a spot where wind at night wouldn’t be a concern. Dropped anchor with enough room to swing and settled in. It was cold, drizzling and breezy, but down inside my snug little cabin life was good. I had my dinner (with a beer from the bilge) and wrote the next blog session on a piece of paper. Just before nightfall I was noticing little shorebirds trying to find a spot for the night, a big fat muskrat (or whatever it was) rummaging around, a Harrier making one last pass and geese bickering about something. In the boat isn’t as royal as in the camper, but it works.
The next morning (Saturday), sipping my coffee, I witnessed a Peregrine chasing two crows. Two eagles were watching the scene while sitting on a stranded log and were probably happy to see the crows being bothered rather than the crows bothering them. Geese were flying overhead in a big V-formation and the muskrats were doing their thing. There was a breeze so I pulled up anchor and motored up current and upwind to reach a spot to start sailing.
By the time I got there the wind had laid down, so I kept on motoring. That 4 horse 4 stroke Suzuki pushes that boat right along at low RPM. I was running low on gas however, so I was constantly thinking of backup plans. For a while, had the motor died, I would have had to sail back going with the current to areas that were getting shallower by the minute (it was out going tide). That was tricky without reliable charting of the sandbanks. To get out of that area I had to go upwind and up current, which wouldn’t have worked under sail, so I better not run out of gas just yet. I made it onto the main river where there was plenty current to move me to my destination. Now if I had run out of gas I would be drifting on the river with tugs and freighters here and there. I stayed just out of the channel to be out of the way but still benefit the main current to get back as quick as possible. Going 8 knots over the bottom I got there pretty fast and never ran out of gas. Back at the ramp I loaded Fetch up and went for another (late) lunch at that café under the bridge.
It was late afternoon, but I was ready to drive down the coast for a while. The 101 takes you by all kinds of amazing coast line. Capes, cliffs, marches, river mouths, bays and funky towns glide by. There are a lot of state parks with viewpoints and trails along the coast. I was aiming for Tillamook Bay for a possible sail. I got there too late to get on the water and the next day the ebb left the bay mostly dry, so I didn’t sail there after all. I could have waited another day, but the forecast was for 30 knot winds and rain so I bagged it. I camped free and took a 4-hour walk in the morning along the water (mud) edge.
After this tiring walk a hearty lunch of bacon, veggies and eggs got me perked up again. Back on 101 it was and visited the lighthouse on Cape Meares. Beautiful views of the beaches and surf from up there. At Cape Lookout state park there were a bunch of para gliders jumping of the cliff and hanging in the sky. There must have been more than 10 of them, some tandem. Their starting point, right on the roads edge, had this amazing view. There was not more than 40 feet of steep grassy runway for takeoff to get airborne or else you would be in trouble. Shortly after that I found an RV park in Pacific City next to a café with …wifi. I had a fabulous dinner at the Pelican pub and brewery.