Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We’re on our way south!

By Nicole

Yes, we’d planned to go straight to San Francisco from Neah Bay.  But one of the fabulous things about cruising is the ability to be flexible and go where the winds take you.  And with strong winds and heavy seas forecasted off the California coast, we changed our minds and decided to make the town of Newport on the central Oregon Coast our first stop.

One of the milestones boaters in the Pacific Northwest often joke about is making “the big left turn.”  When traveling from Seattle or Vancouver, boats must travel about 100 miles west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca before turning left and entering the Pacific Ocean for points south.  Here’s what the making that turn looked like for us:

Bella Star making the big left turn and heading south

The excitement was running high as we headed onto the Pacific Ocean and left land behind.  This was our first offshore passage together and it represented a huge accomplishment for us – we were really on our way south!

I’ve been thinking about how to describe the passage, and I’m not quite sure how.  It was thrilling to watch the shoreline melt away and only see ocean for 360 degrees.  It was magical to see the stars move across the sky and the phosphorescence sparkle in our wake.  It was mesmerizing to watch the huge black albatross swoop and fly between the waves.  And it was powerful to know that Aaron and I were out there on this grand journey together.

But it was also tedious running nonstop through the day and night.  It was frustrating listening to the sails slat back and forth as we rolled over the swell without enough wind to keep the sails filled.  It was challenging to even heat water on the stove with the washing machine-like waves rolling the boat back and forth and back and forth.  And it was hard on both of us for me to be unbearably seasick for a good chunk of the trip.

Without experiencing the lows, however, the highs wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.  Seeing land come back into view on the radar display, navigating over the Yaquina River bar on our way into Newport and then tying up at the dock after a successful passage was immensely satisfying.  We’d done it.  We’d made our first ocean passage together.  It was an amazing experience that built our confidence and reassured us that yes, this is exactly where we’re supposed to be.

Under the picturesque Newport Bridge. We made it!

And how better to celebrate such an achievement than with burgers and beer at the Rogue Ales Brewery, conveniently located on the other side of the Newport Marina.

The entrance to Rogue Ales Brewery and “beerquarium.” Love it.

My taster tray before…

… And after. Good stuff. Real good.

Aaron hard at work tasting his samples.  Chipotle Ale?  Single Malt Ale?

We are absolutely loving Newport and the beautiful Oregon Coast.  Stay tuned for more!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

California Dreaming

By Nicole

After following us on our 3 ½-month journey around Vancouver Island, you may be wondering “What’s next for Bella Star?”

Well, we’ve been doing some serious California Dreaming lately.  And by “lately,” I mean ever since summer decided to skip the Pacific Northwest this year.  It’ll feel so great to finally put on shorts and a tank top, swim in water warmer than 56.7 degrees (the water temperature right now in Port Angeles) and go a day without donning one of my well-used fleeces. 

So here we sit in Port Angeles, waiting for the right weather pattern to set in to send us off the coast of Washington and south to California.

The goal is to take the offshore route, which means traveling about 100 miles off the coast.  This route *should* give us more consistent wind while keeping us away from the fishing boats, freighters and crab pots that populate the area between 35 and 50 miles off the coast (the inshore route).  Of course there are pros and cons to each, but after careful consideration, we feel most comfortable with the offshore run.  But if things get really hairy, we have the option of ducking into Crescent City or another town along the Oregon or California coast.

We’d originally hoped today would be the day, but the weather just isn’t quite right yet, so we’ll keep waiting.  What are we waiting for?  Glad you asked.

  1. A nicely developed Pacific high pressure system
  2. Winds blowing from the right direction that are strong enough to keep us sailing comfortably and quickly  (NW 15-25 knots)
  3. Moderate swell heights from aft of the beam (that is, from behind us)
  4. No rain. =)

So when we see consistent forecasts matching that general description, we’ll make the big left turn and start the 7–10-day southbound passage to warmer waters.  Ahhh.

Until then, though, we’ll be California dreaming on such a summer’s day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

In Pictures: Barkley Sound and the Broken Group

Driftwood beach, Benson Island

Mossy trail, Clarke Island

Mountain views, Chalk Island

Sea star, Chalk Island

Beach swing, Fleming Island

Sea arch, Tzartus Island

Almost tropical beach, Dodd Island

Foggy day, Ucluelet Inlet

Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

Rugged coastline, Amphritrite Point

Tseshaht statue, Benson Island

Sunset, Nettle Island

Lucky Creek, Vancouver Island

Lower Lucky Creek falls

Upper Lucky Creek falls

Calm morning, Northern Broken Group

Seaside boardwalk, West Bamfield

The Evelyn May, The Wreckage, Ucluelet

Evening sky, Effingham Bay

Holes in rocks

By Aaron

In the process of completing our goal of landing on 100 islands during our shakedown cruise, we decided to make the long dinghy ride over to Hankin Island from Joes Bay.  We heard from Al on SV Louise that there was a nice sea cave over there.  We found it on the north side  and spotted a tiny beach in the back - it definitely looked like an inviting place to land the dinghy.


IMG_1881View of the entrance from the inside, the hole in the roof makes for a very green light on the inside

Our other favorite hole was over by Robbers Passage.

IMG_1860We actually had a sunny day for this stop.  Otherwise we might have tried to anchor in there to get out of the rain.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lucky Creek

By Aaron

After our second visit to Nettle Island we left on a calm clear morning and headed up to Lucky Creek.  Since swimming was potentially involved we wanted to make sure we went there on a warm day.

IMG_1983Leaving our anchorage at Nettle Island

DSC_0491Flat calm looking west down the Broken Group to the Pacific

Lucky Creek was highly recommended by anyone we’ve talked to that’s been there.  It did not disappoint.  The creek itself is at the head of a tidal inlet that’s about a half mile long.  About an hour before high tide you drive the dinghy through the winding inlet until you come to the first set of falls.


DSC_0507This is as far as you get with the dinghy

The recommendation for a 30’ painter came in handy (thanks Jason!) and Nicole scurried up the rocks to tie us off.


DSC_0513Our best dinghy parking spot so far!

DSC_0517At the top for the first set of falls you get your first view of the creek with several deep pools of gin clear water

It was a warm day and we wore our swim trunks, but it’s been a cool summer and the water was COLD.  No way in hell was I going in first, and it took a bit of coaxing to get Nicole to do the first canonball.


DSC_0537I was hoping she’d chicken out.  Now I’d have to go in for sure.

I could tell from the shocked expression on her face when she popped out of the water that it was indeed as cold as I suspected.  But I made a promise to go if she did.  So in I went.

DSC_0541Hark!  What is this in the air made of light and grace?  An angel above Lucky Creek?  No, just me so pasty from lack of sunlight that it throws off the exposure on the camera.

Of course we had to try out the rope swing.


Lucky Creek

We had a ton of fun here.  We got back to the boat and had a couple beers out on the foredeck while we warmed ourselves in the sunshine.

Not bad for a Monday. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Bamfield Boardwalk

Quaint and charming Bamfield, with it’s seaside boardwalk and rustic buildings, was one of our favorite “city” stops.  We’d only planned to stay overnight to say goodbye to our friends on Three Sheets, but we liked it so much we decided to hang around another day.


The town of Bamfield is divided into western and eastern sides by Bamfield Inlet, which we heard is called “main street” by the locals.  Only East Bamfield is accessible by road (and dirt roads at that), so if you’re going to West Bamfield, a personal boat, water taxi or sea plane is the only way to get there.

A wooden boardwalk meanders along the West Bamfield shore, backed by timeworn houses, some with gardens spilling roses and hydrangeas onto the walkway.



Cottages are tucked into the hillside here and there, some a little shabby, but in a well-worn, homey sort of way.  From the look of things, many have been around for quite some time.


Along with the houses and summer cottages, there are other unique points of interest, like the place below.  See the path leading to the bright yellow door?  A tiny sign points out that it’s Penny Lane.  And yes, the entire thing is paved with pennies.  We never did figure out what it was supposed to be.


And then there was the cat habitat.  Little kitty houses, kitty barns, kitty lighthouses and other custom-built kitty shelters where the local feline population apparently lives.  We saw a few cats snoozing the afternoon away here.  Not a bad life for a cat!

Part of the cat sanctuary in West Bamfield.  I guess there are a few cat ladies in town…

Always looking to save money where we can, we anchored out instead of staying at the dock.  And as usual, I’m glad we did.  Floating on the hook has such a nice feel about it.  We spent a few peaceful hours on deck in the sunshine, bobbing with the waves and enjoying our books.  It’s a good life.