Eureka, CA to Bodega Bay, CA

After my last post, I decided to wait till the day after before leaving as apparently the sea looked pretty rough and so did the bar. It was also my birthday so I was going to treat myself to a nice meal in a restaurant. However, in the late morning the folks from Sooner, a lovely Canadian family, came to tell me they had phoned the coast guard and the bar had calmed down and they were on their way – making a snap decision I decided to go as well… as always when you follow someone else’s plan rather than your one, it was not a great idea.

Here is a view of Eureka marina as I motored away

It was a pretty easy motor down the river in a nice day

The bar itself wasn’t too bad, just some steep 6-8 foot rollers with nothing breaking inside the channel (though the site of breaking 8 foot waves just outside was a big incentive to keep inside the buoys) but once I got outside the sea was pretty awful – a definite washing machine with 6 foot swells from directly on the beam and some nasty chop from directly ahead. There also wasn’t really any wind, just ~5 knots from directly where I wanted to go so I wasn’t even able to get the sails up to help dampen out the rolling. Oh, also there was THICK fog – I couldn’t see more than 30 feet ahead, let alone the horizon (you can see where this is going)

Anyhow, I ploughed ahead for a little bit, cursing and wishing I was still back in port and trying to ignore the nausea building up when I ploughed RIGHT through a big clump of eelgrass that not only gummed up the prop (meaning I had to stop and go hard in reverse to clear it) but also sucked a big ol’ chunk of it into the engine intake, causing the engine to start to overheat. I had to stop the engine (meaning gudge immediately sat beam on to everything) and poke around under the cockpit and scoop eelgrass, jellyfish and tiny minnows out of the raw water filter.

This kind of put me over the edge and I had just managed to put everything back together before I was heaving my guts out over the side most violently. Well mostly over the side – a good portion went on the side deck where it blocked the scuppers, leaving the remaining vomit to swill merrily around. As my friend Phil would no doubt say, it’s not an adventure unless you are thoroughly miserable.

At this point I still couldn’t see anything in the fog, so I duplicated the chart plotter to my tablet, set radar guard zones and went below to lie there and feel sorry for myself. Apart from throwing up again a few hours later after I took slightly longer than my body could take upright going to the bathroom, the rest of the day passed fairly quickly – and once I got to cape mendocino, the swell started to die down and come from the same direction and once i had passed it, it was pretty pleasant (aside from the lack of wind). The night passed the same way, as my sickness vanished and I became enormously hungry – nothing like a bacon sandwich to set you up right.

The fog continued.

The fog was still just as thick, and combined with night it was like being in an isolation tank – very spooky. The morning dawned, and I approached Fort Bragg my next destination. Using my new sim card I called ahead and was informed they had no room – oh no! I had to continue on to Bodega Bay. another 14 hours. Ugh.

Just at this moment I got a hail on the VHF and turning around I spotted Nannatuk! I hadn’t seen Mike and Heather since just after Astoria, and it was great to see them. Slowing down a little so they could keep up, we chugged onwards. We arrived at Bodega Bay at 1am, and the fog was STILL thick as could be. The entrance to Bodega Bay is a 3 mile 100ft channel cut between mud flats, and doing it at night, solo, after little sleep and in virtually 0 visibility was definitely a challenge (AND SUPER CREEPY). Eventually, I got to the marina and tied up, followed by Mike and Heather. A quick natter to catch up and then we all went to sleep.

The next morning I found I had had a coolant leak, and gudge had been running with no coolant for however long. Yikes. One of the hoses had chafed through and dumped most of the coolant under the engine into the pan. There were no marine stores within 30 miles so it was a bit of a head scratcher until I reran the hose a different way which was a shorter run, allowing me to cut off the damaged bit, and I found coolant at a gas station.

After an hour or so of test running the engine seems none the worst for wear, despite being run without the freshwater coolant for however long. It’s also 40 years old at this point as well – the Yanmar QM series REALLY are built like tanks. Heavy, noisy and vibratey, but tanks.

Bodega Bay hasn’t got much going on, but the fog lifted and I can see some of the landscape for the first time in a couple of days

So far it’s still pretty cold – I’m wearing wool pretty much constantly. I can tell I am getting further South for two reasons – the birds are different (I saw some Pelicans for the first time in my life! They were massive and cool) and also the tides are getting way less – down to 5ft swings now, from the 14ft up North.

I am leaving Sunday to make the short 50nm hop to San Fransico, and then I have to figure out what to do! Keep working towards Mexico for sure (hurricane season lasts till the start of November) and I may go visit the channel islands.



  1. Traveling down in-shore puts you on a lee shore if any weather builds and you are also on the continental shelf; going off-shore (150miles?) may give you better sea conditions, but means sailing overnight(s)… just a thought. Fair winds!

    • I actually went further offshore on the first leg – the problem is there hasn’t really been any wind, And going far off uses a ton of diesel. Out of the 4 overnighters I’ve done I’ve been running the engine for three of them :(. The September NW winds just aren’t here this year it seems.

  2. We came into Bodega Bay around 1 am at high tide. We tied up at the fuel dock and were off again first light…and I was totally freaked out by seeing that narrow channel through the muds flats…I hadn’t even realized that’s what we had transited. And then we touched bottom twice exiting — but we had a 7 foot keel so…

    Looks like you need to start planning ahead a bit 🙂 It does get warm after Mendecio…

    Oh, and I just remembered Fleet Week starts in San Fran Oct 1-8. Which could be a good thing or a bad thing. Its a great show (ships and an air show) but I imagine the docks get a bit crowded than usual. There were tons of boats watching the show from the water last time I was there.

    • Oh noooooo, really? That will really make things crowded – though id only planned on getting a marina for a night or two anyway.

      I haven’t noticed it getting any warmer yet… Apparently round point conception the temperature rises 10 degrees in a matter of miles though

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