Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The omgsofreakingawesome part

Suddenly out of the fog, emerged the distinct outline of a lighthouse! No... boat. Lighthouse? Nope definitely, maybe a boat. IT'S THE US COAST GUARD!!! As per our contact schedule, they'd come out to meet us and tow us in over the bar. It was around 8:30 pm, the fog had socked in, and short of our compass and the AIS chart plotter thingee showing us as a little triangle marker near shore... we had no idea where we were, and it was starting to get dark.

From that point on, everything kicked into fast forward.

We dropped our remaining sail, they pulled up and evaluated yelling directions and questions back and forth.

It was absolutely incredible watching that guy handle the coast guard vessel. Twin screw, diesel but it must have had the rudder right behind the prop... he drove it like it had a nozzle. He could make it dance, and look like it was one of those little tugs they use to push the logs together... the ones you can't flip upside down, they always pop up again.

Within a half hour we were set up to be towed in, and every ounce of my attention span was focused on man-handlling a surfing beluga whale through an 8 foot swell doing 7 to 8 knots (slightly more than hull speed) spray flying off the bow.

It. Was. Awesome!

I had to use my entire body to steer, but more or less had it under control by the time we got to 'The Bar'. The Bar is where sediment builds up between the river and the ocean, forming a shallow spot where the waves build up, and break. Anything that is kinda icky, gets really nasty over the bar, which has a rather narrow channel to enter through. Conditions over the bar were worse with around 9 foot swell, and more fog. It was closed to all recreational vessels less than 30 feet in length... and everyone else was to check in with the Coast Guard providing direction of travel, and number of people on board.

This is the part where I'm really, really, really glad they towed us in. Firstly we never would've made it in on sail. Secondly we never would've been able to follow the channel all the way in, it was so foggy sometimes you couldn't even see the glow of the next marker.

Riding in behind them was awesome! It was such a rush through the bar, one second all you could see was the light at the top of their mast, the next it was like we were being lifted up onto the shoulders of titans! A fleeting feeling of being on top of the world, and thenit would suddenly dissolve into a struggle to surf my beluga whale down into the trough and not end up sideways! (that would be very bad) Only to do it all over again! *smiles*

I can't tell you how long we did this for, it seemed timeless, I can only tell you that at some point we were through the bar, and steering became easier... a lot easier, and I began to notice things outside of the orange light on the back of the vessel I was following.

A brief glimps of the moon rising, and the big dipper... a mental note that we were heading NE... a green glow where the channel marker was... the corresponding red glow... red right returning *check*... a pier... the silouette of an entrance statue... lights that were slowly resolving themselves into solid shapes out of the gloom... and the most wonderful smells, a very strong woodstove smell, and I could smell earth, like the dirt beneath your feet, and grass and it all smelled so fresh! :)

The Coast Guard pulled us up into a side tow which was pretty cool, and then neatly walked us into a bearth at the Woodley Island Marina. They were absolutely fantastic, everything went like clockwork, nothing was rushed... it was cool just watching them work! One of the girls Michelle was from Hawaii, and assured us that it was beautiful and we should still go there, despite our 'reconsiderings'.

Finally we were settled in, next to a boat load of beered up fishermen, one of which was a semaphor guy, ex-navy. "Welcome to Eureka!" The weirdest thing was stepping down onto the dock. You know, it's true? That part where you don't immediately have your land legs when you get back to shore. It was like your whole body was anticipating, and trying to compensate for a deck change that never happens. Customs and Marina Security met us at the dock, and everyone was super awesome, especially considering it was now 11:00 o'clock at night.

Best 50 cents I've ever spent, on a hot shower.