Falling on hard times

Friday June 10 – Saturday June 11 Coos Bay northbound

My good Luck has finally run out.  The Oregon Coast is long and with open ocean and few safe harbors. It’s been a long haul from Humbolt Bay (Eureka) to Coos Bay.   Tommie and I shared stories and had our heartfelt moments, but overall it had been a long often unpleasant (read dis-comfort)passage in which we were ghosts passing each on change in shift struggling to either be awake or asleep. We arrived in the morning.   Tommie continued to deal with his family crisis on his cellphone while sitting on the dock and waving off my invitation to go to breakfast.

Coos Bay

I delighted in returning to this familiar territory after so many stops where the first order of business was to get the lay of the land before taking too many steps from RD.

You may recall our previous experience nine months ago with the restaurant just at the top of the ramp, where the customer service was abysmal, and we were even shooed away for excessive use of their Internet (when no one else was in the restaurant).

Au contrare I later found The Barn, with its combination of a sincerely welcoming owner and good food at a fair price. When we last departed Coos Bay I made myself a bet that “the grinch” restaurant would be out of business and the Barn would be flourishing when we returned.

The Grinch empty restaurant
The Barn – inexplicably closed

But I lost my bet!



The Grinch restaurant was open (but empty) and The Barn was closed. I was dismayed that good (meaning good customer service) does not always win out. Apparently location, location trumps customer service.

While I was at breakfast Tommie texted me as follows:

“the kids have a crisis that required my immediate decision. I have left Coos bay of Eugene to flfy out or rent a car.

Thank you for the amazing voyage. I know you play it safe, so no need passin that thoughtit on. I see a safe departure and a safe return… for both of us! 

Be well my friend.   Make it a great summer!

Kindest regards,

(real name)


I was shocked. I never saw this outcome coming.  First of all he was the best crew I’d had the entire journey. He was competent as a sailor and trustworthy in his actions. It was easy for me to sleep with him at the helm (my measure of a crew member).

I was stunned at his abrupt departure and didn’t know what else to say. All I could muster for a response was:
travel safely, do good work at home, and stay in touch. HE

His departure left me with questions . Did he really have to leave rather than manage the crisis over the phone?   Was the “family crisis” the reason for his abrupt departure, or had I pushed too hard from Eureka, and was I pushing too hard for a departure late today? Or had I asked too much of him? Or was it that he expected a more leisurely passage —   more sunshine, comfort, and less discomfort. Was the prospect of several more days/nights of the rollies enough for him to jump ship, but he couldn’t say so.? We were operating in “delivery mode” which in pressure-packed and lacks the appeal of a leisurely exploration of towns along the way.

I sat in a coffee shop and pondered how I should interpret his abrupt departure? Should I give him credit for being a heroic father wanting to be on site to deal with the ongoing saga of his girls’ alcoholic mother? How could I fault him for that, except to wonder why he couldn’t deal with it over the phone and finish his commitment in a few more days (or even one more leg) and then return home?

Or were there signs that the “family crisis” gave him the opportunity he was looking for to jump ship while saving face? At one point he said “I didn’t sign up for this” and it may have been more prophetic than I realized at the moment.   At another point he admonished me to say “please” before asking him to ready the fenders.   Was I impolite or discourteous?   I don’t think so, But how can I tell how my style is received?

Do I feel resentful? No.  Was I grateful that from Monterey to Coos Bay he showed himself as the best crew I ever had? Yes. Was i Unhappy? Yes. And concerned about how I could now get RD home safely on the longest, most arduous part of the entire journey.

All this chatter was rattling around in my head, along with the problem that the loss of crew presented me.  I wasn’t thinking clearly, so I decided to get lunch, grab some sleep – or at least rest, and depart on the schedule agreed to with Tommie. In other words, nothing had changed. I will simply stay focused and do what it takes to deliver RD safely to Seattle in a few days, single-handing. I will attempt to do a single run (and stay ahead of the weather)all the way to Port Townsend, almost 400 nautical miles. Or I will go to my limit and pull into a port when I can go no longer.

I have not had a storm that severely tested me. Maybe it will be this endurance test that does. In Mexico I had been up for two days/nights with only cat naps on two occasions when I had to sail when the engine failed. But this will require a Herculean effort to sustain my physical and mental ability sufficient to sail RD safely alone for 3 days and nights, possibly longer.

Here is my last look at the boatmans’ activity in this working man’s town.





I set out from Coos Bay at 1700 hours in beautiful weather, with a simple plan: motor, motor-sail or sail about 400 miles to Port Townsend, WA.   And if it appears that I must surrender to exhaustion and that I fall short of this goal, I will pull in to the next safe harbor and get some rest.

While the weather predictions have been favorable for working north (light nw winds and seas of 3 feet) RD responds to the northwest swells by rolling back and forth. This motion knocks everything off the counters, and makes cooking a challenge. The rollies are continual discomfort. After a few hours I begin to negotiate with the sea gods to get just 5 minutes of relief. But the gods are not dealing today. And I must learn to sleep.

Saturday sunset
I have been awake and busy for over 24 hours now. I’m into my second day of a three-day passage to Juan de Fuca and Port Townsend, and then on to a final destination, Seattle. I have not felt tired. I think the antidote is to keep busy. Today I read, wrote, polished recent photos — all this of course all the while being on watch. I saw only one other boat all day. I timed my dinner with the sunset and fixed myself a fine meal of steak potatoes and a fruit compote.

As twilight dims I prepare RD and myself for a dark night. The Radar is on and sweeping the horizon for traffic. So far nothing found.   I do my customary close look at the deck before sunset. If anything needs adjusting I want to do it during delight. I avoid going on deck at night whenever possible.I am showing my first signs of tiredness.

The day has been sunny and the seas calm enough to maintain 4.0 knots. Not great but sufficient to meet my self imposed deadlines. Unfortunatelly I am experienced some of the worst conditions of the past several days. We are motoring directly into the swells and a 15 knot wind. This results is some to the worst hobby horsing and slowest average speed (a shade under 3 knots) that I have experienced. It looks like I’ll be feasting on this diet all night. It’s the kind of motion that one dreads.

RD rolls in a corkscrew fashion. Moving about the cabin is a struggle, and I must hold on at all times moving around the saloon or galley. The motion is hard on RD and hard on me. Our fuel consumption is high and our speed is low.

I do the following to keep my spirits up:

  1. heck all the boat systems each hour.
  2. Keep regular meals even if I don’t feel like   it. Eat small but adequate proportions. Don’t overeat; don’t drink; and don’t snack between meals.
  3. Keep busy and also do something for myself, such as listen to my favorite music for part of the day.

The whole situation is thoroughly unpleasant. Yet we must push on.



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