August 31, 2000
After a good nights rest at Florence we battened down the boat for our next leg, to Depoe Bay, the self proclaimed world's smallest natural harbor.
Going down river is, obviously, faster than coming up, so we made the mouth in pretty good time. The bar lights were on with a restriction of 40' and under. Since were slightly over 40', we proceeded across the bar. It really looked pretty good and the ride wasn't bad at all. We passed over the bar at 10 A.M. and were on our way to Depoe Bay.
The seas calmed down considerably from what they were coming over the bar (6-8') to about 4-6' swells out of the south. With a slight wind out of the south also, we were getting a pretty pleasant ride. And it didn't hurt our speed either, which was averaging about 8 knots.
Passing some of the capes that line the coast of Oregon saw some momentary increases in swell heights, but nothing to be alarmed about. We had a good sea for this leg.
We passed Newport at about 3:00 P.M. and witnessed many boats coming in and out of that busy harbor. The seas remained calm as we slowly passed the area and we had plenty of time to view that growing city.
We were only 12 miles from Depoe Bay at this time, about an hour and a half away from the entrance. In the distance was Cape Foulweather, which, if for no other reason than the name, kept us alert to changing conditions. But they didn't change and our ride to Depoe Bay was very comfortable.
Approaching Depoe Bay we contacted the Coast Guard and asked for a bar report. Their report was that the bar was calm with two foot waves coming out of the west. You can't ask for much better conditions that that.
We made our way toward the entrance buoy - we weren't going to cut any corners here at all. We planned to follow the buoys in and get on the entrance range as soon as we could.
As we approached the entrance buoy we were about two mile off shore. A boat was paralleling our course about one mile closer to shore. It looked like she was going into Depoe Bay also. We watch her closely for hints of what we could expect going in.
The VHF radio came alive with a call to the Coast Guard, from this other boat we believe, asking the Coast Guard to inquire as to the size of our boat. The captain of this other ship relayed to the Coast Guard that maybe we were too big to go in this tiny entrance. The entrance to Depoe Bay after all, is reported to be 50' wide. We were then contacted by the Coast Guard. Before they could ask I offered that we were 40' with a 13' beam, and that I thought the other boat was larger than we were. The Coast Guard offered us a little advise on entering the harbor, indicating that it wasn't too hard at all.
The boat on our starboard side turned well inside of our path and headed into the harbor entrance. We followed, watching closely to see how he did it, while staying on the entrance range.
Depoe Bay harbor is entered by following the range toward the rocks, turning to port for about 100 feet, then turning back toward starboard to enter the harbor. And it is skinny!
The boat in front of us went in with ease and we expected to do the same. As we came to the end of the range and prepared to make our first turn it became obvious that this was much smaller than I had anticipated. Not totally seeing the path of the boat in front of us, I moved a little to the north anticipating that the western swells would push us toward the rocks on the south shore. Wrong! Maybe they bounced of the rocks, or whatever. But as soon as we came to the first turn it was obvious that I was being set on a path toward the north shore - and with only 18' (maybe) on either side of the boat to work with, this set off alarm bells. The ship didn't respond to rudder inputs (at least not fast enough), so I shoved the port throttle forward and pulled back on the starboard. This did the trick. Maybe too well. Now I was headed toward the south shore. I quickly reversed the throttle configuration and spun the helm as fast as I could. Back on course. But.... We made it through the zig, now came the zag. I spun the helm to starboard, pushed the port throttle up again and as fast as that, we were through the channel. The folks watching from the US-101 bridge broke into applause, Debbie released her death grip from the rails, and I pushed my heart back down my throat. Phew!
Of course, it's not over till the boat is tied up to the dock.
Being a small harbor we didn't have far to go to the transient dock. It was right there. It ran in an east-west direction. The wind, as previously reported, was coming out of the south. Looking over the dock I elected to put it on the north side, between two boats. Debbie suggested maybe I should put in on the south side, in front of another boat. We went for the north. (Hey, I'm the captain here, I'll make the decisions!)
We made an attempt to pull up to the dock, but as soon as we turned parallel, the wind blew us away. We tried it again. Same result. And again, and again, and...well, you get the story. I finally came up with the idea that I would get the stern up to the dock, at which point Debbie would hop off the swimboard and put a line around a cleat. Then it was just a matter of motoring the bow around to the dock (I didn't take that Power Squadron course for nothing you know!). It didn't quite go a smoothly as planned. By the time we did get it tied up to the dock, Debbie and I had just about exhausted our resources yelling at each other. Me for the way she tied to the cleat; her for my decision to tie up on the north side of the dock. Yup, coming into this harbor had definitely raised our stress levels. But we kissed and made up in no time at all and got on with the night.