September – October 2006

Big Bear to the Pacific Northwest

It has been too long since we sent out our last log or updated our web site and a lot has happened since then. We have traded our bikinis, tank tops and shorts for long-johns, turtlenecks, and sweatpants. Our feet, that barely had anything but an occasional sandal on them, are now covered with socks and warm practical boots. That’s right we have made our way from the warm water and sunny skies of Mexico to the cool often rainy - yet beautiful - Pacific Northwest.

After being on land for most of the months of July and August it was time to re-enter life on the water again. We began our trip from San Diego up the coast to the Pacific Northwest the first part of September, with plans to cruise the Puget Sound, Washington’s San Juan Islands, Canada’s Gulf Islands, and Vancouver BC before making our way to Alaska next spring where we will spend the summer of ‘06. Sister Joanne & Adie have purchased a new beautiful boat, which will be delivered to the Seattle area in December. They too will be cruising to Alaska and we look forward to romping around with them over the next year.

In keeping with the Saville tradition have chosen the path less traveled and are going north (upwind) while most others are going south (downwind) to warmer waters. As always, weather dictates much of where you go and when you can travel vs hunker down. The trip up the Pacific Coast is no exception. There are several capes where the wind and waves build (coming all the way from Japan unobstructed!?) hit the land then curve around creating turbulent waters. Timing the capes so that you pass them in decent weather is ultimately very important if you don’t want to be tossed about like a rag doll. Then you have areas like Big Sur and the Oregon Coast where there are long stretches with no places to duck into if the weather gets bad. Along most of the coast there are a number of Harbors to pull into along the way; however, most of them have “bars” to contend with, and I am not talking about drinking bars here! As an ocean swell approaches the harbor entrance, the water piles up and forms increasingly steeper seas at the entrance. Depending on the size of the swells, the force and direction of the wind, the depth of the water, and whether the currents are coming in or going out, the conditions at the bar change dramatically in relatively short periods of time. This can create rather tense moments for boaters entering or exiting the harbors. At times the waves get so big that the harbormasters or Coast Guard actually close the bar and will not allow anyone to cross until the waters settle down. Many of the small towns we visited have Mariner Museums that often include a list of ships that have been destroyed while entering their harbors and crossing the bars in the past – very comforting to say the least!

This may sound a little corny, but we don’t think we ever gave enough thought or appreciated what an important roll the Coast Guard plays in our oceans until we came up the coast – not only do they look good in their uniforms, they play a critical roll in keeping us safe out there! There is nothing much more comforting at night, then seeing that distant lighthouse marking a point and/or a buoy marking a rock or channel. As expected, most of the harbors that we visited on the way up the coast catered to commercial fishermen. In Oregon there were no less than 100,000+++ crab pots that lined the shorelines waiting to go into the water once crab season opened November 1st. We were lucky we came up the coast before the season began ….. trying to dodge tens of thousands of crab pots in the ocean makes for an interesting trip. All of these harbors also had some type of memorials for local fishermen who were lost at sea…. and there have been, and continue to be, many! It is a much more dangerous profession than we ever realized and we heartily toast those fishermen, who tend to be out in rough weather risking their lives, to bring us the seafood that we all love!

We again believe the weather gods were with us coming up the coast. – guess we’re living right!? Although we got our share of big waves and winds we didn’t have it too bad and we were often able to take advantage of some decent weather windows by driving day and night to avoid storms. The only downside to that, is having to bypass a few really cool areas (like San Francisco?) in order to get around some of the capes at the right time. We will have to wait until we return next year to cross under the Golden Gate Bridge and spend a little time in the coveted San Francisco area.

It continues to surprise us how small the boating world really is: In Dana Point we saw friends from Calgary that we cruised Mexico with; In Redondo, we ran into an old boyfriend of Dottie’s who she hadn’t seen in almost 20 years who now lives on his boat; in Los Alamitos we had dinner with Dave & Liz and ran into more friends we met in Mexico (& it turns out that Dave used to work with them); in Los Angeles we spent a night moored next to Ed & Sandra Stringer, who built their 50’ boat in Lucerne Valley and launched it at the same time we launched ours (it was interesting to note that everyone thought Ken building a boat in the mountains, and Ed building a boat in the desert, were both crazy and yet after six years the desert and mountain boats sat moored next to each other in LA Harbor!); in Half Moon Bay we met up with our 29 year boat building buddies (Leland & Cecily) from Poway, who are now living on their boat near San Francisco; in Bandon, Oregon we moored next to a fellow who knew my sister and had a boat next to them in Sausalito; and now that we are in the PNW we have spent a lot of time with John from Maestra and other boaters we met from this area while cruising Mexico last year. Boating definitely has more than its share of colorful characters and each one has an interesting story to tell and rules to live by!

Most of the coastal ports we visited along the way had something unique and charming about them. Many had an “old town” section while a few had a Victorian feel about them. Some, like Crescent City left a little to be desired, and others like Eureka, felt like we could move there tomorrow and be perfectly at home. The one thing that is consistent everywhere we go, is the increasingly high price of waterfront property …… Seems that it doesn’t matter whether it is an ocean, river, lake, or even a swamp Water ’s!

Brookings was the first port we came to in Oregon and the town was reminiscent of Big Bear 40 years ago - fun place to visit! In order to time the weather, tides, currents and bar crossings right and to assure we would arrive at our next port at the right time, we left Brookings before sunup a few days later. From land, the more jagged a coastline is, with massive rocks scattered about, and the harder the surf breaks against them, the more beautiful and dramatic the ocean becomes. Although it’s beautiful, rocks and waves are not what you want to see when crossing a bar and coming into a port. Bandon, our next stop has a reputation of being one of the toughest bars to cross. As we approached, we could see why -- rocks surround both sides of the entrance and waves break right in the narrow channel. Between the waves and the current it can easily push you into the rocks - it is an e ticket ride to say the least! Once you commit to crossing the bar and give it full throttle, there is little if any opportunity to turn around safely if the waves are too big. We stayed in the little town for a few days. The harbormaster took us under his wing and drove us around to see the area for a few hours. We ended up at his house, which sits high on a bluff that overlooks the Couquille River. As a hobby he made jewelry from beautiful gems, stones, fossils, and things he collected while beachcombing. He was a fascinating man and had no less than 5,000 necklaces, many of which were showpieces, plus many thousand more pieces just waiting to be “sculpted” into works of art. He gave me a pair of fossilized walrus tusk ear rings and a big chunk of fossilized whale bone that I could cut up and create my own masterpiece! Our departure from that little town was rather exciting - just as we were starting to cross the bar and waves were coming at us, we blew a turbo hose on the engine and had to turn back – the adrenalin was on overdrive for a few moments there! Ken fixed the hose and 30 minutes later we crossed the bar but only after facing a few 8 footers on our way out.

On October 11th we left Gray’s Harbor, and the little town of Westport, which is one of the last U.S. ports in this portion of the Pacific Coast. It was not quite sunup when we rounded the northwestern corner of Washington, headed around Cape Flattery and turned from open ocean into the Straights of Juan de Fuca (which separates the US from Canada.) Ken was positioned on the bow of the boat with a big floodlight scanning the waters looking for “deadheads” (large logs that have become waterlogged and sit vertically just below the surface of the water waiting to hole the bottom of an unsuspecting boat.) It was there that we were reminded that we had officially entered the weather world of the Pacific Northwest. We were welcomed with fog, rain, strong currents and wind! Ken hollered back to me (who was driving the boat from our nice dry pilot house,) “Dorothy... I don’t think we’re in Mexico any more!! After two days of non-stop driving we arrived in Port Townsend at sundown on the evening of October 13th. We were so proud of ourselves for making it all the way up the Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada with no major issues that we walked ourselves to town for a celebratory dinner!

Tom & Kathy, friends we met in Hawaii when Ken sailed there from San Diego last year, live in Port Townsend and came down to greet us the first morning we arrived and showed us around. The wind was too wicked to anchor for the first few days so we stayed tied securely to the docks in spite of the high $32 per night price tag.

For the last few weeks of October we cruised much of the Puget Sound area from Port Townsend to just above Tacoma, exploring places like Mystery Bay, Bainbridge Island, Gig Harbor, Seattle, just to name a few. There are enough beautiful places to visit and coves to anchor in; it would take us years to see it all. It doesn’t take long to see why boaters are drawn to this area – the sheer beauty of it, even in the winter time is amazing. The trees were changing colors and many areas made us think we were actually watching the fall foliage back east. Locals tell us that we have not even begun to see what this area has to offer - that the San Juan Islands, Vancouver and Alaska are where the real beauty is! Although the majority of people tell us we are crazy to be cruising up here at this time of year, we have found it to be beautiful and exciting ….so far anyway! Seeing that we have not had to chip the icicles off the boat or ourselves yet, we think its wonderful - ignorance is bliss?

We joined the West Sound Corinthian Yacht Club in Washington - for less than $100? Between Big Bear Lake Yacht Club and the local club, we have reciprocity with many Yacht Club/Marina’s in California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and even one in Alaska! Reciprocity being that cool thing that allows us to stay in a marina for free for a few days … all the more money we get to save for diesel to get us to the next stop along the way?

As expected, cruising in Washington in the winter time is not nearly as “social” as Mexico cruising was; however, we’ve still had opportunities to spend time with people we know along the way. We visited with my old boss, Dr. Jackson & Sharon when we stopped in Poulsbo for a few days. Another day we were preparing to pull into a cove off of Bainbridge Island to anchor when we called friends Bill & Robyn that we met on a boat in Mexico (who we knew lived somewhere on the island.) Turned out that their house was on the water about a mile from where we were at the time. An hour later we were tied up at their dock in an incredible Bay for the night and spent the evening visiting with them in their fabulous house (which Bill designed and has been featured in Architectural Digest magazine) and eating a gourmet meal that Robyn prepared! John, one of the “Trawler Trash Gang” we cruised with in Mexico, came home to his place on Whidbey Island for a few weeks; we were able to hook up with him and share several evenings together the first part of November before he returned to Mazatlan. John & his wife Gaye own the infamous Toby’s Tavern, right in front of the wharf at Coupeville which tends to be the gathering place for most of the town - where everyone seems to know everyone - from all walks of life. We met several folks in this cute little town of about 2,000 people.

Since leaving San Diego in September, Dreamweaver has taken us to: Los Alamedas, San Pedro, Redondo, Morro Bay, Capitola, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Eureka, Crescent City, Brookings, Bandon, Newport-OR, Grays Harbor, WestPoint, Port Townsend, Mystery Bay, Port Ludlow, Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Port Orchard, Gig Harbor, Des Moines, Whidbey Island, and Dreamweaver has logged 5600 miles to date; all at the speedy average of about 6 kts! Good thing we are not in a hurry?!

Plans are to pull the boat out of the water to do some work/maintenance on her for much of December. Before then, we will be going back to California to pick up our car so that we can do some inland exploration while we are in this area. We hope our friends down south are appreciating and enjoying the warm weather and hope to see some of you on our brief trip home in November.

Love and dreams...
Ken & Dottie

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