Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ilwaco to Newport - Our First Crew!

Crew and support crew picnic on the dock

We splashed on Thurs. Aug. 15th and feverishly packed things away in preparation for our sloppy joe dock picnic (thank you Sonya!) with Jodi’s brother John, Sonya and the kids. The desert for our dock picnic was a delicious raspberry pie (thank you R.!) that was a real treat. Imagine the decadence of having enough raspberries to make a whole pie with! The memory still has my mouth watering. John and three of the kids stayed over as they would comprise our delivery crew for the Ilwaco to Newport leg! After yummy coconut waffles by chef E the next morning we cast off and crossed the infamous Columbia Bar!

Orcas - camera slow on the draw!
There was good wind and we were able to sail for a day which helped smooth the ride.  The first afternoon and overnight we sailed through some overcast and spitting skies. On the up side we did see dolphins, breaching and spouting whales – including four Orcas! – various birds, jellyfish and something that looked like twinkling stars in the water (bioluminescence?, jellies?...) at night. 

 I finally gave up on trying to catch them on camera and just enjoyed the amazing 2 pair of orcas that swam first in front of us then off our port beam and on north. Will have to set the camera to shoot faster next time.

Sunset over the Pacific
The sun we experienced on the second day really made the blue of the water offshore stand out. Once we were a ways from shore the water turned from the normal Oregon coast brownish green to a blue that dazzled. It was the color of a blue raspberry slushy, just a few shades darker. I could nearly taste the sweet-tart artificial raspberry of it as I gazed into the depths. Unfortunately the seas were so crisscrossed that most of the crew succumbed to mal de mer.

C catches a salmon on a tuna rig just off Astoria!
We had grand dreams of sushi every day and sending John and the kids home with a cooler or two full of fish. Despite the majority of the crew chumming for fish (some more heartily than others) we only caught 2 fish on this trip. It started well just off the coast of Astoria where despite being a little close to shore yet for tuna, we had put out ours and the kids’s lines with tuna lures in eager anticipation of hitting the magic tuna area off the coast. Apparently the tuna lures work for salmon too as the first strike was a beautiful coho. You are supposed to be able to pour alcohol in the gills of the fish to kill them without all the bloody bludgeoning so we had a bottle in the cockpit for that purpose. Either the vodka we saved from draining the water lines after winter was too diluted to do the trick or salmon don’t mind a shot now and then. Finally it was cleaned and on ice for John and co. to take home (word is it was tasty!) and we cleaned the cockpit and ourselves of fish scales and goo.
Crew J, E and John sign the duvet
Fisherman J keeps watch

Early the next morning Darren was on watch and saw a tug on one of the hand lines. He pulled the line in all the while wondering if there really was a fish as it didn’t seem to be fighting. He got it close to the boat and started calling for me to get up and get the gaff – it was an albacore! John took over the helm as Darren continued pulling the tuna in and I dug out the gaff then went back below for the camera. Darren got the fish next to the boat and slipped the gaff over the edge for the final haul into the cockpit. This particular school had held lessons about gaffs though, as soon as the tuna saw the gaff he went from being docile as a lamb to jumping right off that hook and swimming away in a flash. Although we sailed through more tuna areas and we repeatedly sang the tuna song that J. composed and led especially for the occasion, we never were able to hook another fish.
 Our sashimi dreams dashed, we had spaghetti for supper.

E & C enjoy calmer seas

Helmsman John
Newport fog clearing

We arrived at Newport early Sun morning but a dense fog blanketed us just as we were about ½ mile from the outer buoy. We decided to wait it out til sunrise and see what happened and were rewarded with a glorious morning of clearing fog.

Thanks to R for the pic of us coming in!

 We met Sonya, R and S on the dock and exchanged their gear for our surfboards, then saw them off. A really tough farewell. I reserve the right not to show the teary pix. 
We will miss our great crew! Love you lots!

Thanks to John and co. for your help in this first ocean passage of this adventure. Your moral support, shifts at the wheel, cooking, baking, shopping, gifts, ground support crew, company and more were extremely helpful in getting us off to a good start. In addition, your depth of practical research in the seasickness realm has given us some ideas for smoother future passages. We love and miss you already and can’t wait for you to join us again.
Sister/Aunt Jodi and Brother/Uncle Darren

s/v Gratitouille

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