Gale force winds; 40-foot waves!

Sorry—that’s what happens when you use the blog post from the last time you rounded Cape Mendocino.

This time…well, you’ll have to wait.

We couldn’t get into Fort Bragg. The Noyo River, like most coastal rivers, has a bar across its mouth, and this one is particularly shallow. Its charted depth is one and a half fathoms (that’s nine feet to land-lubbers, or just under 3 meters in adult units) at 0 tide (mean lower low water, don’t ask!) and with a .4 low tide as we were going by, Snow Shoo could safely cross. The only problem is that these winds that we’ve been fighting create swells, and when they hit the coast, you end up with breaking waves on the bars. Yesterday, the bar report for the Nolo River bar was 6-8 foot breaking waves. That means that at the low wash of the breakers, there would be only one foot of water over the bar. The dinghy isn’t shallow enough to cross.

So we went right past. Since we’ve been going for a good while, I thought it would be a good idea to take a break at Shelter Cove, a few miles south of Cape Mendocino. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t any worse than what we were doing at 5 kts, so up came the anchor and off we went.

The other time I rounded Cape Mendocino, it was in Sagres, with Martin and Lorelette. The key thing you need to know about Cape weather is that it has absolutely no correlation with what NWS tells you is supposed to be happening. Weather Service was predicting 10-15 kt winds and we got gale force. This time NWS was predicting 10-15 kt northwesterlies, and we got 15-20 kt northwesterlies. Seas looked like the inside of your washing machine on “agitate”, so we had to take things a little easy, but by 6 am this morning we were off Eel River, none the worse for wear. No grand stories of waves tall er than the mast (and that’s a good thing. It would take hurricane-force winds to pile up seas taller than Snow Shoo’s seventy-foot mast. To sum it up. it was a little cold, but a no-big-deal rounding of Cape Mendocino at between 3 and 4 knots.

We pulled into the Humbolt Harbor in Eureka. We thought we’d made to Ballard by the time we found the fuel dock. That harbor is long! Filled up fuel and water, dumped the holding tanks, and rolled out of Eureka at about 2 this afternoon. The southerlies that were predicted haven’t materialized, and right now, all the bouys are showing northerlies or northwesterlies at about 10-15 kts. Great for sailing to Hawaii, but a bit of a PITA when you are heading to Seattle.

Next stop: Newport, OR, on Thursday morning.

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