Columbia River Bar Crossing and Ocean Transits South… #12 – Part 2

Our journey south, through the Columbia River bar and 60 hours of ocean travels to San Francisco Bay. Get more technical planning in Part 1


We left Ilwaco WA at approx 7 am on Monday morning, with our projected arrival in San Francisco Bay at 7 pm Wednesday evening. We were all very excited but a bit nervous too.  We were planning to get through the Columbia River Bar and out in the ocean for a 3 day/2 night trip safely. We didn’t know how the 60 hour run south would treat us. Would we have engine issues? Would everyone feel okay without getting motion sickness? If anything could go wrong, a 60 hour run in the ocean would do it. As mentioned in Blog #12 Part 1, we know that the weather can change quickly at any time either way.

After all our prep and planning, and the check list completed, our hopes were high to make it all the way. We had our fall back plan in case we needed it. We had decided, Newport or Brookings Oregon were our possible stopping points and felt that after we passed Brookings we were committed to SFO.

We had one additional crew member aboard, our son Chase. He added the extra eyes, ears and help with engine checks throughout the 60 hours. (engine checks info below) We were very happy to have him join us.

Day 2, worn-out faces

As we headed out the mouth of the Columbia River, we seemed to be doing just fine. We only had 2 dredge boats in the channel to pass. All went well because we weren’t juggling multiple boats from different directions. If we had other boats or large freighters coming or going at the same time it could have been much more difficult. In that case we would have opened the conversation on VHF channel 16 and establish direction, passing plans and to which side we would pass on. Just telling the other boats what the plan is helps and they all are thankful to eliminate the confusion that can lead to mistakes. We just followed someone out and turned left and started our adventure.

First day was about what we expected with waves that were predicted 4 to 6 foot from northwest. We had an additional 3 foot swell straight from the west over lapping the waves, this was unexpected. It didn’t cause any issues, just created a bit of odd movement as we traveled.

On our first night watch, Dan took the evening shift at around 10 pm and I slept. Around 2:30 am I took over from Dan, he did his turnover on what had happened, where we were at and anything to watch out for and then I sent him off to get some sleep.  We took turns sleeping on the sofa in the Salon, so if there was an issue, either of us could easily call the other to help. Chase spent time late at night with Dan and than early in the morning with me. This was the first time I had completed an overnight watch by myself with radar, AIS (Automatic Identification System) and Garmin chart as my only tools, no visual. My experience for the most part was pretty boring. I did have one radar identified object ahead about 4 am that wasn’t moving. It was straight ahead, I kept moving slightly to my port side as we got closer to it. As we passed it I could see the tall mast with bright lights on it in the dark night and fog. I had just passed a fishing boat on the starboard side of me. I was far enough away, but it is kinda intimidating when everything is so dark and black and I can’t see a thing and then all of a sudden BAM…a bright lights appears, it was a shock even though I knew something was there. I did my turnover back to Dan around 6:30 and took some more sleep.

I would like to mention that eating is just as messed up as sleeping, you are hungry at odd times. I found it nice to have something to drink and snack in the middle of the night to help keep me awake and alert.

Second Day we had lots of fog. By the way…. fog is our friend! It might not seem like it but, fog equals little wind which equals good water conditions.

Angela at Helm with about 1 mile visibility

We did have a small amount of wind that was going with us which gave us waves from our stern. (Perfect conditions) Visibility was variable from a 1/2 mile to 2 miles. This was the foggiest day of all three days.  We saw a lots of fishing boats off the Oregon coast, we also had pretty good cell coverage for most of the day, which wasn’t the case on the third day. We were approximately 20 miles off land at the dips and 3 miles off land at each point, considering a straight shot down the coast.

There isn’t much to watch all day long except the large birds that are either sitting on top of the water or flying around. Sometimes the birds will wait a long time before moving as we were heading towards them, kind of funny. Mid day while cruising Chase and I saw a very small bird on the window. He looked like he was trying to stay put on the boat but was getting blown off. We found him an while later on the side deck and took this video. He didn’t seem to be too frightened of us and hopped around up to us.  He flew off shortly after this video.

It was a little bit of entertainment with a lot of sitting and watching. A few hours later we saw the same small bird on our back deck. He had flown in the open window on to the deck and was hopping around, calm and just enjoying our deck. We just couldn’t believe this small bird was so far away from land. (20 miles at the time)

We enjoyed the distraction and Dan thought Chase and I were too funny getting excited and entertained over the small bird. We really did need to keep focused on our jobs and get to our destination. Chase was responsible for the hourly engine checks. These are extremely important, so much can go wrong when the engines run for a long time. If something does go wrong you want to find it quickly which reduces the damage or clean up caused by the issue.

An engine room check log was made and Chase would check hourly, with exception of a few hours in the middle of the night. They had baseline measurements from previous cruising to compare against. We watched:

  • Engine operating temperatures such as
    • coolant
    • exhaust
    • power steering
    • transmission
    • hydraulic pump
  • We also would check
    • oil pressures
    • transmission pressure
    • fuel filter vacuum
    • voltages
    • inspect for oil leaks

All these were done on both port and starboard engines and the generators. A lot of inspecting to assure we stayed in good shape.

The second night Dan and I did the same switch off as we did the first night. It seemed to work well, so we kept it. Happily as the hours passed, the waves kept getting smaller. All went well.

On the third day early in the morning Dan and I had a scare. Dan was driving and we both heard this horrible noise. We both jumped up and started looking at the controls and it sounded like engine noise was increasing quickly and it was a very loud roar. We had no idea what was going for about 45 seconds.  We then could hear what the issue was. It was probably an F-15 jet flying over us on full afterburners!! We couldn’t see them or hear them well because of the regular engine noise and maybe the fog & ocean changed the tone. Our hearts were pounding and we were grateful it wasn’t the boat making the noise. We can giggle about it now, but we were both very frightened that something big was happening to our engines.

The day was still filled with fog as we passed Mendocino point CA. All of a sudden, the water became as still as a lake. No swells, no waves, just easy running. It was very welcomed but an odd feeling of such calm water.

Later that day we spotted the bird, he was still on the back deck, we were so surprised. Now he had a friend. There was a not-so-colorful bird of the same variety that had joined him. OR maybe we just didn’t see him before. Dan suggest that they might need some fresh water. So I tossed some out on the deck and he quickly drank up some.  We knew we were going to have to say good bye at some time. We were still quiet a few miles from shore, so we let them stay for a while longer. But as we were a few hours from San Francisco and much closer to shore we put them out the door and off the enclosed back deck in hopes that they would fly to shore. They could have easily stayed with us on the top fly bridge or on the side decks. But they didn’t, they flew around the boat a couple times and then they were gone. Our little stowaways from Oregon were now California bird residences. I hope they had a nice time with us. We enjoyed them, it was something else to think about and watch while we were cruising the ocean blue.

We had a good cruise into San Francisco Bay. As we got closer to the Golden Gate Bridge the fog lifted and gave us an awesome view and nice pictures as we moved underneath her.

Heading towards the Bridge
Heading under the Bridge
Looking back at the Bridge

We were very proud and happy that we made it with out any issues. Dan made Chase and I cute little certificates for our successful run. I was glad we made it the whole way and we were safe with no issues.

We docked in Sausalito for a few days and had a nice time before moving to a private Yacht Club, St Francis Yacht Club right in the city. Thanks to our sponsor Jaren Leet for getting us the awesome moorage for a week.

I will certainly feel more confident with the next long run and know I can do it.

Thanks for your continued support! I hope you all get a chances to stretch your comfort zones with challenges. You will amaze yourself with the accomplishment and feel good after completing it.

Enjoy your adventures and conquer your fears, whatever they might be!!

Cheers, Dan and Angela on Angelique.

8 thoughts on “Columbia River Bar Crossing and Ocean Transits South… #12 – Part 2”

  1. After staying in California for a while, I bet the Oregon birds 🦅 will want to come back to Oregon. Or, maybe California is home? 😊. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  2. Congratulations on making your overnight watch. Such skills you are acquiring. I was really happy to hear that you made it safely over the bar. I have been over it a number of time, one of which was crap your pants scary but I did not have to do anything but watch thank goodness. Proud of you girl.

    1. Thanks Ty. If you plan the bar crossing at the right time, it’s a breeze. The long nights were the hard part!

  3. Angela thank you for keeping us all posted on your wonderful trip…. Sounds like you needed a nice cocktail and some rest… Keep up the wonderful blogs…

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