Monday, November 15, 2010

LightSpeed's jouney to Oregon included SWIMMING in 50 degree water!

Weather was good on Sunday so we made a direct trip from Neah Bay, Washington to Astoria, Oregon. Good size swell from the WNW made for a bumpy ride, but not bad for mid-November.

The excitement of the trip was snagging a crab trap float on our starboard propeller. As these things go a line wrapped on the propeller is never good especially when that line is attached to a crab trap 150 feet down. The crab trap acts like an anchor and in rough seas could cause damage the sail-drive mounted propeller. Luckily we tangled up during mid-day so we could see what we were working with and cut away the crab fisherman's trap with one float still attached. The remaining two floats were in a big mass of line wound around the propeller.
The first plan to remove the mess was for me (Dave) to put on a survial suit, jump in the water with a knife and remove the line. As anyone who has ever been in a survival suit can tell you they float really good, but are bulky and render the occupant mostly immobile. The suits are big and designed so that you can climb in fully clothed including boots, jump in the water and float around on your back until you get rescued. The hands include two fingers and a thumb and are clumsy at best and once zipped up only your eyes and nose protrude.

So I climbed in the suit tied a knife on a lanyard to one hand tied a safety rope around and jumped in the water. I was floating like a cork and trying to purge the air from the suit so I might attempt a dive to cut the line of the propeller. In reality all I did was get thrashed around next to the boat in the swells and practically down myself when facing forward as the suit is so buoyant that you can't hold your head out of the water when floating face down. Not fun. I bailed on that plan and climbed aboard the boat panting half choked on sea water.

Turning to 'plan B' Kathy volunteered to jump in and give it a try... sans clothes or wetsuit. We're talking herorics here. Pulling on a swim cap and swim goggles she stripped down and dove in (with a safety line). After a few swipes a the line with our super sharp kitchen knife the line was free and Kathy was onboard and taking a hot shower. An incredible feat considering the seas and 50.9 degree water. This girl is tough and fearless!

The remainder of the trip was uneventful aside from a plugged fuel intake line which was pretty quickly resolved, but left me feeling seasick after a stint in the hot engine room spilling diesel fuel.

We actually arrived at the Columbia river bar about 3 hours early and decided to stand off and wait for first light to cross the bar. Bar conditions weren't too bad and only closed to boats 35' and less, however visiblity was poor in misty rain so we decided to wait. Current offshore was setting us north at 1.2 knots so it was kind of a pain as even though 'hove to' we were drifting pretty fast and had to pay attention to avoid other boats transiting the area. We crossed the bar about 20 minutes before sunrise in 8-10 non-breaking swell in the main ship channel which was a non-issue and hardly discernible from the offshore conditions. Running up the river we stopped in Astoria to fuel up and then headed about six miles further up the river to a side channel called John Day River where we are now tied up to our friends dock.

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