Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Around the Bouy

The tiny harbor at Depoe Bay, Oregon is one of very few sanctuaries from the Pacific Ocean on the northwestern coast of the US. Over the years, fishermen have enhanced the approach to this harbor, as humans will, by blasting out the channel and adding a concrete breakwater. Still, the channel is small and the prevailing winds blow on shore, so most of the year waves break across the mouth, making access dangerous.

The fishing fleet that operates out of Depoe Bay utilizes powerful motor boats capable of breaking through seas to get out and surfing the rollers on the way back in. During the recent small boat festival, the weather was calm, so a number of fools rowed outside to get a taste of the open ocean.

In the morning the sea was relatively flat, but by the time Doryman made his voyage with his friend Andrew (Doryman in a 15 foot skiff and Andrew in his 8 foot pram!!!) the winds from the northwest were building and also the swell. The waves were breaking onshore from both sides of the channel, the mariner's dreaded lee shore! The swell was eight feet high and some of the bigger rollers were curling menacingly and beautifully at twelve feet or more. As is often the case, nature was both threatening and poetic at the same time.

Off shore a couple miles is a bell buoy that marks the man made channel, since inclement weather renders the entrance invisible most of the year.

We took it as a challenge to round that buoy under oars. Andrew brought his camera to document the event. Pictures do not capture the depth or height of the swell. At the bottom of a swell that size, in a boat the size of a small dingy, the horizon disappears and you have to wait to rise on the next crest to get your bearings. The scale of the surroundings is sobering and humbling.

I'm sorry we didn't get any pictures of those big curlers breaking just to the south of the harbor entrance. Another quarter mile down wind and I wouldn't be here to tell you about it! I was so enthralled with the view, that Andrew felt compelled to call to me a warning that I might be getting too close.

It's not always you have the opportunity to stand on the brink and see the beauty and horrible majesty of nature!

As Doryman returns to safe harbor...

Foolhardy you say? Possibly, but also incredibly wonderful.


Unknown said...

Hey now, you forgot to mention how I made the same trip in the same boat an hour before you did. Some pioneer... Are you related to Columbus?

doryman said...

Sorry Cootliveaboard,
I also didn't mention that Andrew made the same trip once before earlier that day. He had a moment of indecision the second time though, since the seas were building. I made him do it. (you won't go for that one, will you?)

Also not mentioned; I built the boat that carried you safely on your intrepid voyage.

Fact is, brother... this is my show, so I'm the hero ;-)

Haven't heard from you in a while! Welcome back!

No Spanish in my background, but I think maybe Jack Aubrey is a distant relation.