Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 3: Crossing the Westport Bar and Reaching Aberdeen

16 September 2009: Wednesday
All night the crew moved the LW back and forth off shore about 20 nm. The winds and seas were building out of the southwest. Often, there were 3 on the helm and the boat rolled heavily during the night and early morning. Several crew were ejected out of their bunks, the noise down below was incredible with things being thrown around and rolling. I got up once to try to find the source in the head and the galley. All seemed secure. In the aft cabin, a drawer slid out crashing on the cabin sole and breaking to pieces throwing all the contents into the cabin.

I get up at 0630 hrs and go on deck to see the morning. The seas are about 10 feet on the big ones, I look to the east and there is a window opening revealing a golden sunrise with the Olympics in the foreground and a small coned mountain in the distance which is Mt. Rainier. How gorgeous is this? In minutes it is shrouded in storm clouds and rain.

"A" watch eats at 0745 and I'm a happy camper, protein is the order of the day. Bacon and eggs stir fry hits the empty spot in my stomach and a soothing energy disperses through my body. I am ready for my day. Captain Dave is at the helm, First Mate Kyle is barking out the orders for all to get in position to furl the sails. Up they go on the windward, starboard side, the seas are still 6-10 feet and it is raining hard. No one complains, everyone is performing their role with focus and determination and with safety being the number one priority.

Once the sails were furled, Captain Dave turns the LW on a north easterly course towards the Bar and the entrance buoys to Grays Harbor. The bar report states 8-10 ft seas from the south west, the tide is flooding and there is diminished visibility. Catherine is on port watch, Kyle on starboard watch and we are beginning to pick up the entrance buoys. Most everyone is on deck keeping some type of watch. Whales surface on the port side outside the buoys and are breeching and tail and fluke slapping. It appears like it is a mother and calf. The rain is pouring down and our visibility in altered.
0830 hrs: A fishing vessel appears on the port side. A fishing vessel is also coming out of the harbor and it is not certain if he is passing on our port or starboard side. It turns out that the small fishing boat crosses in between both bows of the LW and the outbound vessel and then cuts diagonally across the channel. Another vessel is outbound and passes us on our starboard side. Later it turns back down on us and returns to the harbor. It looks like Grand Central Station at rush hour. Captain Dave sees that we are not going to make the second green buoy and he asks for immediate support on the helm to turn the vessel. 5 people are on the helm instantly. He speeds up the Lady's engine and we pass the buoy safely on our starboard side and then cut back into the marked channel. It is not long before we are inside the harbor with flat seas, but the rain continues.

We continue up the channel toward our destination of Aberdeen(about 15 nm). Lookouts keep up with buoys, markers and the local fisherman, as they dash and dart in front of the Lady Washington. The Coast Guard comes out and greets us and returns to their dock. It time for some coffee to warm our bellies. Crossing this bar during these conditions gives us all confidence that we can do it again when necessary.

The Chehalis River Bridge is opened so we can pass and the Captain takes her upriver a bit and turns her around so he can see the effects of the tide and current, before he makes his turn to starboard up a small river. This looks impossible to dock this vessel in such a tight space. The docking team performs that beautiful ballet again with throwing fenders, lines and someone swings out from above and jumps on the dock to retrieve those heavy lines.
Captain Dave performs the impossible, as he turns her again, in an even smaller river, and gently docks the Lady Washington in her home berth at 1130 hrs, without a hitch. The ramp goes out, an awning over the hatch, the garbage collected, the heads cleaned and lunch is served. Ann and I pack up our gear and say our goodbyes to all. The crew departs and Ashleigh from Gig Harbor volunteers to stay on deck watch for some peace and quiet.

What a spectacular voyage. Passages are not always easy and there are moments in the trip you wonder how much more you can do, how much more you can tolerate, and then the pause comes and you realize you can do alot more. You could make another voyage, because you have become stronger by looking deep within and tapping that great resourse called resolve. It is always there, waiting to be tapped, waiting for the next voyage. I was not disappointed at all that we did not get to sail. The trip was filled with so many inspiring events, but the best part was being able to see so many young men and women filled with fortitude and ambition to go to sea to learn all about life's precious skills that will support them throughout their lives. What a grand future lies ahead for us all. Thank you Lady Washington for building character in the lives of our youth and for revitiliazing the lives of my slightly older generation.

The chart below shows our general route, but not our exact courses. The mileage is approximate and total miles for the trip is about 220nm, but that number does not reflect the mileage of standing off all night. Roughly we were at sea for 47 hours.

I just looked on Google Earth to follow our voyage. You might find it interesting and there are some nice photos of the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain in Grays Harbor. Also, please visit the Lady Washington link listed at the botttom of my blog.

Stay tuned, as I am leaving this Saturday to pick up a new crew and Shatoosh will be plying the waters of the Columbia again next week. See what is in store for this next adventure on the low seas.