at sea...

Last Wednesday, Ginni and I took a trip down the northern part of the Oregon coast, doing some reconnaissance for Columbia River Kayaking’s upcoming coastal expedition. The original plan was to start out in the morning at the entrance to Tillamook Bay, put in the kayaks and paddle 20 miles or so south to Cape Lookout State Park, which will be one of our campsites on the expedition.


Cape Meares

We spent the night camped out at Revolution Gardens in Nehalem, home to Brian of Cape Falcon Kayak and his land partner Ginger. We borrowed his Toyota truck the next morning and shuttled it down to Cape Lookout and then headed back up to Tillamook Bay with the car and the kayaks. But when we got to the north jetty at Tillamook Bay, the wind was blowing hard out of the north, and the sea was covered in large whitecaps. We listened to the weather report on the VHF, and NOAA was calling for winds between 17 and 20, climbing to 25 later in the day with gusts to 30 knots. Wind waves were out of the NNW at 6-7 feet, with a west swell of 4 feet at 10 seconds. It felt like it was already blowing harder than 20, and it was only 11 AM.

I have spent some time on the ocean in powerboats, and a little time near the ocean in my kayak, but these conditions were right up against my comfort and experience level. Neither of us were feeling at the top of our game, and if we put in here, we would be pretty much committed to the 20 mile trip down to the truck, or we would have to hitchhike to the truck from wherever we decided to bail out short of that.

So we decided to start driving south, do some research on camping spots and potential bail-out options and wait and see if an opportunity presented itself to get out on the water. We had a good time driving around finding little beaches and plugging waypoints into the GPS unit. When we got to Oceanside, conditions looked more favorable for launching, and now we were only 8 miles or so from the truck, so if something went wrong, it was less of a commitment to reach the park.


Oceanside

So we got on our gear and packed the boats, being careful not to forget the keys to the truck, and got on the water at 3 PM. The Goldfish crackers I bought in memory of Tom, who was a big fan of them.


Goldfish crackers


find the paddler...

The wind was still quite strong and the wind waves and swell were pretty much as predicted, but I found that I was not as uncomfortable out there as I had anticipated that I would be. The wind and current were at our backs and we made pretty good time towards Cape Lookout. We got lots of good rides on wind waves and the GPS said that I hit a breakneck 11.2 mph on one of these waves.


getting a drink

I did not get seasick; I usually don’t, but I did discover the limits of having your drinks in a day hatch in seas like this. With waves constantly breaking over the deck of the boat, I really didn’t want to open my day hatch for fear of it filling with water. I finally had to stop and get a drink though, as I was starting to feel a little woozy and dehydrated. I set myself up so I could watch the oncoming waves while I had my day hatch open. I downed a whole bottle of grapefruit juice in a minute or so, and immediately started feeling much better.


me on the sea...

When we were a mile or so from the waypoint I had put in the GPS earlier at the Cape Lookout parking lot, we decided to practice some rescues, so we each capsized and did a re-enter and roll and then a T-resuce on each other. Damn, that ocean is cold!


rescue practice at sea

Now it was time to get ashore, and this is the part that I have the least experience with: surf landings. I have played in the small stuff here and there, and have been rolled around and roughed up a bit by the surf, but what we were looking at now was several sizes larger and rougher looking than anything I had been in before. We slipped in sideways to the shore to get inside of a rough outside break and then Ginni went on ahead and disappeared behind the waves. I came along behind much more slowly, trying NOT to surf as many of the waves as I could, letting them pass underneath me instead. Eventually though, I got into the zone where the waves were breaking very close to each other, and I got caught by surprise by one that towered over my head for a moment, just before it caught my boat and rolled me upside down towards the beach, in spite of my best efforts at bracing to seaward.

The last time I played in the surf, I was reminded that I needed to wait a bit before rolling up, and so I tried to stay curled up on my front deck while the surf shook me and tossed my kayak around. The water got a hold of my paddle a little bit and pulled me part of the way out of my cockpit, but I stayed in and when things calmed down a few seconds later, I scooted myself back into the cockpit and rolled back up again…just in time to get hammered by the next wave!

This time though, I was able to low brace hard to seaward, and I didn’t get rolled upside down, although I was completely underneath a big pile of foamy water. After a few smaller rides and some well braced side surfing, I finally arrived at the beach, where the next challenge was to avoid crashing sideways into the tourists, smiling and wading knee deep in the water, blissfully unaware of the damage my kayak could do to them if we were to collide.

Obviously, I got no pictures of all of this! When I got to shore, my pump that was stowed under the deck lines was all tangled up, and my chart case was wadded into a ball at the rear of my front deck, but I was otherwise unscathed. Ginni had gotten beaten up worse though; the surf tried to pull her helmet off and wrenched her neck around in the process. She was sore, and declared it to be the worst beating she remembers getting in the surf. I was glad I got it easier than that!


after the surf landing...we survived!

We spent the next half hour or so cleaning up, rinsing gear, changing into dry clothes and loading up the truck. And snacking on goldfish crackers, too, before heading north, to return Brian’s truck and head home. What a day!

The expedition starts next Monday morning, and we won’t be landing on that beach again if we can help it!

Last week I went to northern California to visit some friends and to install a small solar electric system for a friend of a friend. I used to live down there, in Humboldt County, about an hour south of Eureka on the coast. It was the first real road trip in the recently repaired diesel Jetta that is featured elsewhere on this blog.

I like going down there at this time of year. Everything is so green and flowers are starting to pop up everywhere. And the coastline is beautiful.


ocean and rocks

On the way into California, along highway 199, the road drops into the Smith River drainage and follows it down towards Crescent City on the coast. I have a favorite stop that I make almost every time, a little turnout where you can walk down and sit by the river.


smith river canyon, california

I took this picture underwater with the little waterproof Pentax. The color of the water is just about perfect for steelhead fishing.


under the surface

South of Crescent City, there are numerous places where you can see elk herds. I actually pulled off this time and took a couple of pictures of the elk and their warning sign. Do not approach on foot! Yeah, no kidding…


do not approach on foot!

While waiting to meet the person who needed the solar panels installed, I took a little drive through one of the many redwood groves, and got out and hiked around a bit. This forest type is very different than what I am used to in Washington. The dominant softwood of course is Coast Redwood, and the main hardwood is Tanbark Oak, not a true oak in the Quercus genus, but it produces acorns like an oak tree. Its latin name is Lithocarpus Densiflorus. It is the only Lithocarpus outside of Asia. I used to work at a small sawmill that was focused on making lumber and especially flooring from tanoak, which is considered by the mainstream softwood industry to be a “trash tree”. We made a lot of really beautiful boards from this “trash tree”. Other hardwoods include oregon white oak, black oak, canyon live oak, bay laurel, and madrone. One of the few things I miss about living in California is the smell of woodstove smoke from all these spicy hardwoods. Lovely!


tanoak and redwood forest

Saturday night, I was all done and headed back to Portland. The car had been running flawlessly the whole trip, and I had done my 1000 mile head gasket retorque the day before. I was zipping along south of Albany, OR when it suddenly started running ragged and quit. I got over to the shoulder and tried to get it going again, but to no avail. It took a $400 tow truck ride to get to Portland, where the car is sitting right now at a friend’s house. I will head over there tomorrow to pick it up. Once again, I curse my failure to have purchased AAA towing insurance!

Initially I was hoping it was just a plugged fuel filter, but it seems to be more serious than that; I wasn’t able to get it going again even after a new filter. I’ll tear into it again when I get it home.

Ah, the joy of owning and working on old cars!


tow truck

Yesterday was a long day!

I started out the day in Astoria, at Shannon’s house, having been there the night before to see Opal’s first band concert at school. She is learning the snare drum right now.

My plans involved going to see my friend Don Beale, in Manning, OR. Our task was to make a few Greenlandic harpoons, for practicing and competing at the annual SSTIKS event. Then I was going to go on to Portland that evening for the OOPS kayaking club meeting where I was asked to come and promote the kayaking business at their annual enticement event.

What I didn’t realize though, is how snowy the coast range actually was.


rear view mirror

My 20 year old VW Jetta was not really the ideal vehicle for this kind of driving, with its old, balding tires and lack of all wheel drive. But I just kept poking along, rarely getting out of second gear, and I made it all the way through the snow without incident. It must have been twenty miles or so of snow covered roads! What a well placed sign this one was. Slippery indeed!


slippery road - no kidding!

But when I turned off the highway, I suddenly was in deeper, softer snow, on a steep winding road. The car started slipping and then, there I was, stuck in the middle of the road. A couple of more tries, and suddenly my transmission was finished. No warning, no reason to believe that there had been anything wrong. It just stopped transmitting power to the wheels, and started instead making an unpleasant grinding noise. I think the ring and pinion actually broke. My $700 car, after 271,000 miles, came to a halt. Bummer!

What wasn’t a bummer though, is that I was actually only about 100 feet from Don’s house, and the driveway I was stuck in front of was his in-laws’ house. He came down and helped me roll the car into their driveway, where it is sitting right now. We went ahead and spent a couple of hours carving harpoon shafts and visiting and then headed into the city to the kayak club meeting. Did I mention that he was also going to the same meeting? What luck!

Don took me out to lunch at Sushi Town, my first experience with one of those conveyor belt style sushi joints. There is a little conveyor belt with different sushi and desserts and so forth that goes all around the restaurant, and when something you like comes by, you pick it off the track. The plates are color coded for pricing, and when you are done, the lady comes by and counts up your colored plates and gives you the bill. It was fun to watch the sushi going around and around. I wish I had thought to take some pictures!

Anyway, we made it to the meeting on time, and afterwards, Don was kind enough to drive me up to Longview, and Shannon was kind enough to come over from Astoria and drive me back home. Tomorrow I head back to Don’s house with the truck and flatbed trailer to haul the poor car home. Whew!

What a day!