August 18, 2005

Gray's Harbor-Westport to Ilwaco

After checking weather and bar conditions, we left Westport at 0545.  The bar had some rollers but nothing to be concerned about and we crossed without incident in fog.  Kath is now referring to herself as a Bar Hopper.  The fog seems to be ever-present these days, though the lows have passed.

Ilwaco is about a 7 hour run at 8 knots plus we can expect to pick up about a half knot from the prevailing currents so we should be in Ilwaco about 1230 or 1300 allowing for some slow speed up the narrow channel to Ilwaco from the Columbia River.

The Columbia River Bar is the Mother of all bars on the West Coast and we didn't know what to expect.  We had timed it to arrive at the bar during the last of the flood stage which is supposed to be the best time to cross.  As we approached the entrance buoy, I contacted the USCG to get a bar report.  They indicated 2' to 4' over all areas with an occasional 6 footer with limited visibility (fog again).

The bar crossing was as expected and non-threatening and so we relaxed, poured a glass of wine and toasted our arrival, sipping away while we made our way up to Ilwaco.  The channel to Ilwaco is narrow with drying flats on both sides.  Even though we have digital charting on our computer with GPS positioning (I can't imagine cruising again without these toys!) the little entrance to the channel through a "jetty" on each side (according to the chart) was elusive and we were trying to dodge all the little fishing boats trolling for salmon.  You guessed it.  We missed the jetty cuz it didn't look like a jetty and I went down to relieve myself of excess liquids leaving Kath at the helm steering where I instructed her and we found ourselves heading for a mud flat skimmed over with a bit of water.  We caught it in time, got our bearings and found our way back into the channel skipping the "grounding".

We had contacted the Ilwaco Marina earlier and arranged for transit moorage, so upon arrival, we first looked for a fuel dock, found one with nobody around so went to find our slip.  We found it, pulled in and tied up.  It felt good to be there.

After shutting things down, we gave Dreamer a quick bath to get rid of all the salts that had accumulated using dock water.   A little later, we walked about the shops and stores at the head of the docks and then walked into town to the market to pick up a few things.  It felt good to walk.  We found the market (which also had a small liquor store area) bought a few things including some booze and walked back to Dreamer. 

Kath made a bowl of guacamole with chopped onions, peppers and tomato in it and we had a nice snack with some red wine.  We don't usually eat chips and snacks, but those little corn chips with guacamole sure tasted good!

We just relaxed the rest of the day, had the TV on in the background, did some email and worked on planning our next port.  Part of the problem with transiting the West Coast in Washington and Oregon is that virtually all ports/harbors involve crossing a river bar.  Timing the bar crossings, both departures and arrivals, can be challenging.  Timing crossing the Columbia River Bar the next morning was a bit difficult as max ebb was right when we wanted to leave early in the morning in order to arrive in Newport before dark and during slack or flood.

I checked the weather forecasts and tried to get an idea of what the bar conditions might be during max ebb the next morning.  It didn't look promising so I looked at a later departure for TIllimook Bay which was a shorter run.  It looked good, so we had the two options.