Tuesday, May 10, 2016

North bound - Fort Bragg to Eureka

May 10, 2016
Humboldt Bay (Eureka)
Anchored at: 40 45.49 N 124 13.09 W

Slipped out of Fort Bragg about 15 minutes after the 40' Eagle motor yacht 'Copper Star', we'd enjoyed the company of long time sailors Mike and Rae whom had circumnavigated and racked up 100,000 ocean miles.  Most of the day I was slowly catching up to their displacement trawler and near Cape Mendocino I finally slipped past when I cut the corner a bit.

Nearly no wind today, so motored along the 50 fathom or (300 foot) contour to stay clear of crab fishing gear.  North setting current help push us along at times, but also created havoc at Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino where the wind blown 10' seas at 10 seconds stacked up against north bound current.  Much of the time it felt like a carnival ride as we launched off seas and Lightspeed lurched providing that stomach in your throat sensation.  I'd guess some of the seas at the capes were in excess of 20' and the period was super short.

Arrivng at the Humbolt Bay bar I headed in with out delay.  The tide was ebbing and the Coast Guard was calling the bar conditions dangerous.  I felt confident that Lightspeed would just happily surf big and ocacionaly breaking waves and she did, but I was a little frazzled by the time we got through several major surfs of nearly 16 knots with breaking seas on the stern.  I was worried for Mike and Rae as the Eagle 40 was a new to them boat and conditions on the bar were very much scary.

Across and into safety I repeatedly hailed 'Copper Star' whom was quickly aproaching the enterence.  Nothing heard!   I was getting no response and wanted to warn them off crossing Still nothing heard!  From the get go, it didn't look good as huge waves were closing out the enterance and then as they fully committed, their boat was almost immediately broached as a big wave spun their stern to port.  During a broach the boat is dangerously exposed to a rollover.  Mike righted the course, but seconds later another over taking sea broached them again.  Each successive wave was pushing them closer to the breakwater and I was really nervous as huge seas broke behind them.  A rollover would mean certain death from exposure in the chilly 50 degree waters for these 80 years old sailors.    Helplessly watching them be tossed by the seas was really stressful.

Gunning the throttle to correct their course with crashing waves on the jetty they negoiated the last of the huge waves and I siged in relief and grabbed a beer.     My plan was to anchor just inside the bay and out side the main channel.  I was dropping anchor as they passed by Lightspeed, but I still couldn't raise them on the radio.  About 5 minutes later Mike called on the VHF and I asked why he didn't respond to my hails... apparently the radio got switched to CH30!  I'm glad they made it across, that Eagle 40 is a sturdy little trawler.  Tomorrow the seas should be considerably smaller and with a longer period, so I hope to make some miles.

 Happy to be anchored after a 96nm of lumpy seas.


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