We left Astoria on Tuesday, knowing that we had a short weather window. The forecast was calling for strong contrary winds starting Wednesday and continuing through Thursday. The wind wasn’t that much of a concern, but the forecast seas were – up to 15 feet when counting the wind waves and swell. That didn’t appeal.
However, waiting a week in Astoria didn’t appeal either, so we left Tuesday figuring we could get to Newport before the seas built too much. We knew we had another river bar to cross, and didn’t want to get caught in bad conditions.
The plan worked pretty well – we had a nice downwind sail on Tuesday with our colourful gennaker up, and we made pretty good time even in the light winds. However, around suppertime the winds eased and we bagged the chute and fired up Ol’ Blood and Guts (our name for our 64 HP Perkins engine). We resigned ourselves to another long motor.
After about 24 hours, we neared the entrance buoys to the Yaquina River bar. Though we’d had reasonable seas overnight as the winds backed to 20-30 knots straight on the nose, by now the seas were more… interesting. We called the Coast Guard to get a bar report, and were told that the conditions were about 3-4 foot seas and the bar was closed to recreational traffic under 18 feet in length. We decided to go for it, as staying out in the increasingly building seas didn’t seem like a good idea.
We turned stern to the seas to head in, and throttle back the engine while sending our reefed main out. We ran in toward the very small seeming channel between two rock breakwaters at over 6 knots, surfing the breakers all the way. At one point the Coast Guard tower called us, but didn’t respond to our answer. We wonder if they were trying to warn us off, then decided it was too late and didn’t want to scare us. Shortly after that, they upgraded the bar warning to limit access to recreational boats over 30 feet. Regardless, while it was a wild ride, Steven’s helmsmanship was impeccable, and as we sailed under the bridge, he throttled up while I wrestled the main down.
It had started to rain by then, but I stayed above decks getting the main down and preparing the anchor. We first tried to anchor by the moored Coast Guard boat on the north shore, but found the holding poor, and moved across the river to where the chart indicated the bottom was sand. We held fast after bumping around a little, and the 30 knot wind helped ensure we set. As the only anchored vessel, we dumped out a lot of chain, and after a change of clothes for me, set in for a relaxing night and a good sleep.
Overnight the winds abated, the skies cleared, and we woke to a lovely view of Yaquina Bay and the area around Newport.