September 10, 2016
I spent a lot of the afternoon checking and rechecking and double and triple checking the harbor guides text, photographs and charts
, and entering the very few Lapush buoys as waypoints on our GPS
. It was imperative to get the details firm in my mind for piloting through the small bay and the narrow bar entrance.
Doug & Renee Douglass’ “Exploring the Pacific Coast
” says Lapush: “…in the authors’ judgment, has the most dramatic and scenic entrance along the entire coast of the U.S.” Charlie Woods’ guide includes: “A sector light marks the channel, which is supposed to be about 60 feet wide but seems narrower.” George Benson called Noyo River back in California
like entering a “hole in the wall” because of the relatively narrow entrance under the highway bridge. There is no highway bridge here. This entrance, however, revealed a completely new definition of narrow after all the bar crossings we’ve experienced.
have their bridges. Winchester Bay had its scenery, our first taste of Oregon’s real greenery. Brookings was narrow but we had clear weather
. Tillamook had its bar current
timing challenges and Ilwaco had the Columbia
This entrance brought a new meaning to “narrow.” Our experiences racing
in San Francisco
taught us the advantages of knowing what “close” means, with buoy roundings and competitors being very near. Morgan
had driven for the past hour or two from Destruction Island, and I took over as we passed “Q”.
The approach starts with making the offshore
buoy “Q” about a mile southwest of R”2” which is a ½ mile due south of the actual entrance in the north end of the small bay. The sun came out just as we made the turn at “Q”, giving us stunning views of the high coast and the Quillayute Needles to starboard with James Island to port. Both my camera
and Morgan’s phone
chose that moment to run out of battery
grabbed my phone
and started shooting photos and videos.
was extremely helpful with a note on that red R”2” buoy: “Use as range.” Looking aft at R”2” and north to the unlit-in-daytime sector light G”3” inside the bar was extremely critical and very helpful, and found nowhere else in all my readings. The large northwest swell was now just a tad aft of our beam, making for a really rockin’ and rollin’ ride, goosing us up to over 7 knots as we surfed down the quartering waves. The mast
was rotating through 35 degrees in each direction. Our experience in stowing our gear
meant everything down below stayed put. The movement was like our night at Cape Lookout, but much easier to deal with while underway, not anchored.
The rocks and huge James Island to port was a boat length away. The jetty, with its submerged end, was less than the same distance to starboard. In the pulse pounding moment as we got really close to James Island its lee stopped the swell immediately and the water
flattened out completely. We shot through the tiny opening on the flooding current
and turned hard to starboard leaving the few green buoys to port and hugged the jetty to our right. There were tons of gigantic tree trunks distributed along the entire length of the twelve hundred foot long jetty from storms over the years. There were no crab traps or fishing
nets in the entrance.
The adrenaline rush stayed with us as we motored into the marina. There were plenty of empty slips and we scouted around to find one that would put our bow into the wind
so the dodger
would keep us comfortable in the cockpit
. We tied portside to in a double wide slip that had a small motor
boat to starboard with oodles of room.
There are three other sailboats here, one on the commercial dock
side tied to the end tie, one across the fairway from us close to the land, and another to our port. The one side tied appears to have crew, the other two appear unmanned.
Morgan said, “You let me steer all the long boring parts
and you got to do the fun one.” “Hey, you got the Columbia
River bar, there was NO WAY
I would miss doing this once-in-a-lifetime one.”
It was the highlight of my entire sailing life. Threading a needle – this needle – was the most fun packed five minutes of a rush of pure concentration I have ever had sailing.
was stunning, the helming was critically challenging, the roaring sound of the swells and breakers was a fitting coda, and the calm once inside was gratifying. Morgan did the lines and by the time I had shut the engine
down he was back on the boat with a well deserved beer
in hand for us both. I sat in the cockpit and kept saying “Wow!” And here I thought the Columbia River bar was cool!
The backlighting as the sun set beyond the rocks outside the harbor seawall to our west and James Island just to their south was gorgeous. Morgan took a shower
and we wandered into town and found the restaurant. Our different guides had disagreed about its very existence. It was a nice place, we had window seats on the great view, and the food
was good. Tia, our waitress, got us a box to store the backup autopilot
, because on the way up I got an email
from Dan in Durango who said he had received and had already fixed our ST3000! For $75 plus shipping
. A lot less expensive than a new $1,700 CPT! While we won’t get it back for the last laps of this trip, he’ll mail it to us.