Monday, October 17, 2011

A Whale in Newport

Yaquina Head Light, Newport, Oregon

We pulled into Newport just after sunrise this morning. It is an amazingly beautiful sunny day! So far, we have had incredible luck with the weather (since our inauspicious beginning in the downpour.)

We have also had a lot of marine mammal sightings. We saw our first gray whale off Cape Alava. We saw our second gray whale this morning when we were coming into Newport: It was right in the middle of the channel between the two jetties! Patrick spotted its blow first. We eventually saw its back, flipper, and flukes. We didn't know what to do at first. Should we try to go in and risk the whale breaching right next to the boat? Or should we wait for it to leave? The whale was probably feeding. The gray moved to the far left side of the channel, so we decided to attempt to enter through the center of the channel. As we did, we saw the whale dive (flukes) and head out to sea. A couple last spouts, and it was gone.

Yesterday, when I was on watch, a blow alerted me to the presence of dolphins. There were at least three Pacific white-sided dolphins alongside Silhouette. They didn't stay long at the bow---doing 6.0 to 7.0 knots, perhaps Silhouette was too slow for them to get their cetacean adrenaline on! And of course, we also saw the ubiquitous sea lion on the bell buoy.

Self-portrait in the Yaquina Head Light.
Wow! We are finally reaping the rewards of some of our hard work. We were finally able to sail Silhouette all day and all night yesterday! We had a steady 15-20 knots and again, were able to make 6.0-7.0 knots using just the headsail. I am anxious to try out our new main, but we don't really need it right now; and with my inexperience, it's also safer to use just the headsail at night. What a pleasant experience to shut down the motor and sail along for hours and hours without burning gallons of fuel or listening to the engine noise! Patrick hooked up our Monitor wind vane, and it did most of the steering. We just had to make minor adjustments to the sail and the vane on our watches when the wind shifted direction. We haven't really given much attention to the Monitor (or serviced it) since we got the boat, so we were pleased that it worked so well.

Last night was quite amazing with stars and celestial bodies literally tumbling out of the sky. Stars, planets, the Milky Way, meteors (shooting stars), and a blood orange moon rising over the horizon: There was so much to look at!

It's funny how the minute something good happens, you forget all the discomfort. The first day out of Neah Bay, we didn't have much wind, but there was a lot of swell from the previous high winds. It was a very rolly ride for the first 24 hours, since we were headed downwind and we were beam to the swell. The wind came up right at sunset, just as I was getting ready to start dinner. Once again, I had a major meltdown trying to cook dinner on a gimbaled and gamboling stove. Later, a swell threw me into the medicine cabinet door and I broke the handle off and jammed the door stuck.

The winds are turning to southerlies for the next couple of days. We're not sure if we'll continue on (the winds are not too high) or hang out here for a couple of days until the northerlies come back. Oh, and BTW, the Rogue Brewery is right here in the marina. We'll have to take a tour later this afternoon. But first, nasty jobs and showers. Patrick just changed the oil, and I just cleaned the composting head: lest those of you back home think the sailing life is all romance and adventure! For those who are sailors among you, though, the moorage in Newport is ridiculously cheap! $20 including power and Wi-Fi, and only $180/month for a 40' vessel. 
Fresnel lens, Yaquina Head Light.

This post post-dated from a previous email.

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