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Old 09-15-2020, 06:50 PM   #1
Sallysea
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Default A story about a bad day at sea

There have been numerous conversations about the adequacy of various boats when going to sea on a bad day. I wrote some stories in NW Sportsman Magazine that talk about some of those days. As a follow up to another thread, I will post this true story about one of my own bad days. Perhaps it will stimulate others to talk about their own experiences. The boat I owned at the time was a 1990 21' Bayliner Trophy with an Alaskan bulkhead. My friend Dale who is mentioned in the story passed away last year and I wrote this in time for him to see it published.
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Old 09-15-2020, 06:53 PM   #2
Foreel
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Won't come up for me?
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:02 PM   #3
Can Man
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Is there more? I got page 1.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:16 PM   #4
syoungs
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Didnt work for me either.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:25 PM   #5
bubbleboy
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Default Re: A story about a bad day at sea

Black Tuesday
I never encourage people to take up Albacore Tuna fishing. If you go one time you will be
hooked for life and there seems to be no cure. Don’t do it! It is what happened to me in 1990
and have been afflicted ever since. I saw the rod go down, I felt the adrenaline surge and my
brain was in another world. I have occasionally looked for help but my fishing friends are not a
support group, they are afflicted too. We talk about it all the time, we go to the boat and get in
for no apparent reason. We listen to weather reports and local fish talk when we know we
can’t go. We go to a sporting goods stores, cruise the tackle racks and purchase new lures that
we really don’t need. I call up my friends and describe the new lures and tell them the lures are
certain to catch fish. They rush to the store to get a new lure also and the phone chain
continues. There is no cure.
Running for Albacore is an expedition, not a fishing trip. We might travel 60 miles off shore in
search of the tuna. As with any expedition, these trips that require a lot of intel and
preparation.
It starts days early with phone calls on the local fishing network, visiting the docks, talking to
commercial fishermen, reading the Salty Dog forum and studying the weather reports. When it
comes to weather, this is not like getting the local news and weather. Everyone knows the
weatherman is not always right on his forecasts, so we do our own forecasting from a half
dozen internet sites.
We look at actual ocean buoy reports and study sea surface temperature maps looking for 60
degree water. Tuna are found in certain water temps all over the world. Albacore in particular
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don’t seem to like water any colder that 58 degrees and are more common in water 60 degrees
or above if it is blue water.
In longitude, the edge of the continental shelf ends at about the 125 degree line west of
Charleston, Oregon. In miles, it is about 37 nautical miles west from port. This demarcation is
important because the underwater currents coming east across the Pacific reach the
continental shelf and push nutrients upward. The nutrients from upwelling feed plankton and
small bait fish that are the staple of Albacore tuna. This is also the limit in miles for many small
boats based on their onboard fuel supply.
How much boat fuel to use before there is a concern is different from what is common with
land-based vehicles. With boats we use the rule of thirds. One third to get there, one third to
get home. If the seas turn on you, the amount of fuel used on the return could be much more
than going out. For example, if you take a string and label the ends A and B, one can measure
the length of the string stretched full length. Now make a series of waves with the string and
remeasure the distance between A and B, it will be considerably shorter. Such is the case when
the ocean conditions worsen while you are out there traveling up and down with the waves.
The miles up and down are much further than the miles over the bottom. In a routine trip on a
good day, a boat might burn 50 gallons of gas. If the weather turns, the fuel numbers go up.
My friends Cliff Lance and Dale Reiber were fish-a-holics. I am sure our wives thought that we
needed counseling based on our excitement to be on one of our adventures. We would be in
pursuit of fish almost every weekend we could escape our household responsibilities.
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It was summer, the weather forecast looked good and we were talking about getting a tuna
trip together, the details yet to be determined. We all had boats but mine was a little more
seaworthy than their boats. It was a 1990 Bayliner Trophy with an enclosed cabin area. At 21
feet with a single 5.0 liter engine and a good sized fuel tank, it was adequate for getting us to
the grounds and back. There was room to fish three comfortably and it had some good-sized
fish holds to stack ice and tuna. The boat had the usual safety equipment that included a VHF
radio, a Loran, compass and a GPS. Enough stuff that we thought we were prepared for the
day. Despite short length of the boat, it was seaworthy.
For several days the weather had been bad, and the ocean conditions were unsuitable for
fishing with a boat the size of my Trophy. The three of us were often talking back and forth on
the phone listing every resource possible looking for a day to get out. Then it happened, it
looked like there was going to be a break in the weather.
It was July, and in our area, the wind blows hard and often in July. But it looked like on the
following Tuesday, there was a window before the wind would start howling again. I normally
know better than to trust the weather man and perhaps my own observations were biased,
but when addicted, so it goes.
The three of us were not alone on spotting this day. Back in the early 1990’s, there were not a
lot of sport tuna fishermen in our area. All total, we had four boats heading out that morning.
None of us could sleep much the night before and I was up several times getting stuff that I had
initially forgotten. It gets daylight about 5:30 a.m. and we were at the dock at 4:00a.m. with
the guys from the other boats. Cliff and I had the boat in the water and Dale was running late.
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On the way to the docks, Dale mentioned days later that he had listened to the weather
forecast that morning and it forecast high wind of 30+ knots late in the day. He did not want to
seem like the weakling in the group and did not mention that update to us.
The recent intel suggested the tuna were 17 miles out to the northwest. That was good news
and close enough to run back if conditions worsened. After all, we had been out there many
times before, we could handle a little wind.
Tuna are sight hunters and require clear water to find food. Inshore the water has algae within
it and the color is green limiting the tuna’s visibility. When you find the tuna water, the water
color is blue. The blue color is the reflection of the sky in clear water. My friends John and Lou
were already pulling out from the dock in their boats when we got there. John was running a
24’ Osprey and Lou a 24’ Sea Sport. My friend George and his wife were launching with us and
they were in a 23’ Olympic. George and his wife Jean were several years older than us but still
loved the challenge of the sea. Little did we know the day’s weather would challenge that love
affair to the extreme.
We were running out the bay in the dark by GPS hoping not to run into any crab pot lines or
logs. Running at night on instruments was a little unnerving as we approached the bar and I
could hear the waves crashing on the jetties long before we got there. Have you ever listened
to the ocean? The sound of waves crashing on the beach resonates clear to the headlands.
When crossing the bar in the dark, one not only listens to the sound of the waves but the timing
between the crashes. This helps in trying to get a mental picture of what is happening before
the boat is committed and it is not possible to turn around. I thought it was runnable. An early
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warning sign we ignored was the swell which was present well inside the channel. Undaunted,
we kept going. On the bar we dropped to displacement speed which is slow and climbed up
and down some tall waves for the next half mile. Can’t see anything, just the rise and fall of the
boat and the sound of waves on the jetties. If you have not tried a rough bar crossing in the
dark, there is a certain amount of pucker factor that goes with it. Wear your life jacket. It was
too early for the coast guard to make a bar crossing safety check and we were on our own.
With the rise and fall of the boat, it was dead silent inside as all three of us tried to make out
any landmarks or buoys that would give feed back to our location and safety. But what the hell,
the other guys made it ahead of us.
In years passed when I lived in Medford, I would run some sections of the Rogue River at night
in my drift boat to be the first one to get in a fishing hole. The sound of the rapids while
running the river by flashlight was intense too. Here we had bigger boats and larger waves.
Are some of us a little bit crazy? Probably. Was anyone going to raise a question about the
conditions? Probably not. We could not help ourselves.
After the crossing, we made good time heading Northwest behind the other boats. I loved to
see the sunrise in the east from the ocean side, it is always beautiful. On this day, looking back
toward land, it was spectacular. The curvature of the earth and the mixed clouds acted like a
prism only showing the longer wavelengths of light. The azure skies in the morning looking back
at the land and the remaining house lights was a view to be remembered.
An old seaman’s lyric came to mind about the color of the sunrise, but we were also there. The
waves were tolerable, the wind was up early but we were making about good time heading out.
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What was a surprise was the view to the South. In the distance we could see a black wall of
weather hanging clear down to the water. Thank goodness we were not going in that direction.
I don’t recall ever seeing a cloud pattern like this one. But to the Northwest, the sky was clear,
we were on our way, the three of us were talking about fishing and the anticipation of “fish
on,” was on everyone’s mind.
In an hour we reached the GPS coordinates at 17 miles. The water was still green. The color of
the water is from a high plankton count. Tuna are sight hunters and need clear blue water to
hunt for prey. John and Lou were into fish about 40 miles out in 60 degree blue water. We
pressed on with George still running in my prop wash. The wind and the waves had picked up
but the possibility of fish kept us on track. Turning around was not an option. I got the
coordinates from the guys ahead of us and we kept on track. If you spend enough time on the
ocean. Your GPS will tell you where you are, the guys will give their coordinates and you know
where they are without any programing. For example, they might say they are at the 23 and
the 46. Those are the last digits on latitude and longitude. *
When we arrived 40 miles out, we were in blue water. Seeing blue water meant the water was
clear. We set the hand lines and had fish on immediately. The fishing was good, In the first set
we had three fish on at once. I marked the spot and we kept running back and forth through
that area at 8 knots picking up fish ranging from 15 to 25 pounds each on a pass. Cliff is a tall
guy at 6’5”and the gunnels on my boat were not high enough for him to brace himself in the
sloppy seas, so he was on his hands and knees getting to the lines. Dale was hanging on the
best he could. But the fish were there, and we were catching. We all could see the sheep was
on the water out there and I knew we were cutting it thin on this trip, but so was everyone else.
7
Seeing sheep on the water is a nautical term used to describe white caps on the waves created
by the wind. In a little over an hour we had 27 Albacore on board. The rear deck was covered in
fish blood and my two deck hands were so bloodied they looked like they had lost a bar fight.
While they ran the lines, I stayed up front and ran the boat, and watched for schools of fish on
the surface. That big black cloud we had seen earlier had moved north and continued to look
bad.
I talked to George on the VHF and said it was getting a little too lumpy out here and probably
time to head for the barn. He had all the fish he wanted and agreed. John and Lou decided to
hang in there a little longer. The fishing was too good to give up just yet.
I looked again to the south and that black wall of cloud had moved between us and shore. It is
not unusual to be able to see all the way across a squall line and this was no exception. It was
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inside us a few miles and the other end was near shore. I took off with George behind me
making good speed under the current conditions. As we pushed ahead, I could see what was
happening with the sea conditions ahead. Some of the waves were out of the northwest and
the wind had shifted to out of the South. Some larger waves were also coming out of the South
in front of the squall causing mixed seas. This wind and opposing wave combination made the
seas stand up on end without an even flow to their pattern. Weather fronts always have a
good wind before the storm hits and this was no exception. The seas were about 6-7 feet when
I set a course for Charleston due southwest. At 32 miles out, we hit the storm.
Visibility dropped in the driving wind and the seas seemed to doubled in size. To consider them
at 12 feet was certainly in the ball park but I was never sure. I have fished in 9 foot seas
reported by NOAA. These conditions far exceeded that wave height. It was unusual in that we
did not hit this storm gradually, we were doing ok, then we were in it minutes later. I dropped
into a trough between waves so low I could not see anything but the surrounding water on all
sides. Then the first wave broke over the bow and up the windshield. To starboard, I was
looking underwater. The boat rocked hard to port as I dropped the throttle to displacement
speed. The wave pushed the bow off course to port as the bow popped up just before another
wave hit. Our course kept changing to East and sometimes north instead of Southeast. I
attempted to steer into the waves to get back on course but that was stupid. Facing into the
waves head on meant they would roll straight over the bow with the potential of flooding the
boat. We were in trouble, when the boat turned sideways from the push of a large wave, we
risked a broach in these conditions.
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For a boat to broach, the bow is pushed parallel to the waves and a wave hits the side of the
boat causing it to roll over. The only thing I knew to do was quarter the seas and continue east
as best I could at a slow pace. I was watching for the waves that breakover like you see in
surfer movies. These waves are especially bad as they are full of air. Air does not float a boat. I
thought it was also raining, but in severe conditions, the wind will blow the tops off the waves
sending sea spray horizontally through the air. It was happening. We had our life jackets on
and were locked in the cabin.
I will openly admit all three of us were frightened. Dale later stated that he was sure he would
die out here. He reflected on the fact that he had been tough all his life. Was he tough enough
to stay alive immersed in these seas if we rolled? In his mind at that moment, he believed he
would eventually swim to his grave if we capsized. Then we were struck hard again, and again.
The seas just kept coming. Our course kept changing to port as I was trying to correct while
watching the oncoming waves.
When I would reach a wave top, Cliff would take a quick look around for George. At one
moment when we were on top, I had a brief chance to talk to George on the radio. He and his
wife were frightened out of their wits and water was coming over the sides of his boat. Their
bilge pump light on, and they had no idea how much water was actually in the boat. The next
time we hit a wave top, I tried to reach the coast guard to advise them of our position and sea
conditions. But I got no response. The VHF radio transmits along line of sight and with an 8’
antenna mounted to the side of the boat, I apparently was not transmitting. I looked back at
Dale only to see a part of my antenna, shattered like a wet noodle, strike his window. The radio
was useless. I grabbed my ditch bag with one hand, found the handheld VHF and turned it on.
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These units only have 5 watts of transmitting power that limited the distance it would send and
receive. Not far enough to reach the Coast Guard.
We had closed the cabin door when we started back toward the port and Dale had pinned
himself between the table and the forward bulkhead. Cliff was on the other side of a table and
tight to the door. He could not find a good position for his size and was constantly jostled in his
seat as the boat impacted the waves. Dale’s eyes told it all, he was sure we were going to die.
Then he said it, “Well Jim, do you think we are going to make it?” “I don’t know Dale,” was my
response. Cliff was silent, if you knew this guy, that was a statement in itself. I had a death grip
on the steering wheel and could not even turn around to look for George, that was up to Cliff.
Cliff asked me at one point if I wanted him to take over the wheel. “No”, I was not letting go of
the wheel at any time soon.
At one point in the first hour with the wipers going in the artificial rain and the high seas, we
had lost visual on George. I tried to reach him again on the portable but no response. Cliff and
I both thought we had to go back. So, I waited a few minutes trying to decide just how I was
going to turn around. I had plenty of power, just no place to use it. Finally, I was overwhelmed
by the need to find George and I did the snow ski trick. As we started up a huge wave, I cut the
wheel and hit the throttle doing a 180 by the time I got to the top. One look at Dale and his
pale face told all. He was sure it was the wrong move. His eyes were wide, his mouth was open,
but no words were coming out. We accomplished the turn just ahead of a following wave that
was rolling just off the transom and lapping at the swim platform. That wave had my attention,
could we outrun it? We found George a few miles behind us making some headway, just not
able to keep up with me. We talked words of encouragement over the portable and I did
11
another fancy turn into the churning seas. Then the infamous words from Dale: “Well Jim, do
you think we are going to make it?” “I don’t know Dale,” was my response. The black clouds
had blocked the sun and it was as dark as late evening. I flipped on my navigation lights but
doubted anyone could see me. As I reflected on our predicament, those historic words came to
mind, “Red skies in the morning, sailor’s warning.“ I had ignored it.
By this time, John and Lou were in the storm too. John got on the radio and said he had
standing waves running down the walkways on both sides of the boat. Lou was a man of few
words, he was busy, he and his crew were not up for talking. With an open windshield boat,
they were bailing.
The only way I could tell we were making progress was watching the distance meter on the GPS
to the waypoint I had laid in for the Coos Bay Bar. The going was slow, the green water was
running over my windshield and I was often looking underwater out the starboard side. Then
we lost sight of George again. Cliff could not get a visual when we topped a wave and I could
not raise him on the VHF. What to do now? Then, we heard George on his VHF and we heard
him contact the Coast Guard trying to explain our dire circumstances. We were relieved that
George was still afloat. I could receive on the portable VHF, just had limited transmission. Cliff
kept looking back each time we reached a wave peak, then suddenly he saw George about one
hundred yards off our port side. Either fear or a knot on his head from his wife had George
applying a little more throttle to keep up with us.
I could hear him but not the Coast Guard. He had a top mounted VHF antenna that gave him
the ability to reach out even in these seas. What I did hear quite clearly from the Coast Guard
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was that no one was coming as long as we were underway. We all felt let down. I was so tense,
I had to pee, but I was not leaving the helm for any reason.
Another hour passed, and it had been a long period of radio silence. At one point, I was sure
the oncoming waves were getting larger and were going to break the windshield. “Hang on,” I
shouted as we held our breath when another large wave struck hard, rocked the boat sideways
and pass over the hard top. We feared the boat would sink, then it would pop up again like a
cork. I heard from Dale again, “Well Jim, do you think we are going to make it?” “I don’t know
Dale.” as I kept quartering the seas. By this time my progress was taking me north of my
intended destination and was worried if we made it, we would end up at Winchester Bay under
impossible conditions for a bar crossing. Winchester bar is far more difficult to cross on
weather days when compared to Charleston bar. Dale seldom ever says a cuss word, but when
we were again struck by a large wave that nearly buried the boat, he stated, “Jim, if we live
through this, I will kiss your ass.” He had to be really scared. As the hours went by, the fear in
me was passing but I was getting very tired. Cliff was getting banged around in the boat as he
tried to brace himself and then there was Dale: “Well Jim, do you think we are going to make
it?”
We had not seen George for a long time and attempts to raise him on the radio were negative.
So, I made another power turn going up a wave and we headed back out to sea. We found
George again, he could not keep up with me without getting beat up by the waves and probably
his wife. He was bone tired and I could tell his voice was weak on the radio. George’s wife
would go offshore with George only because he needed a second person on board for safety.
She was not a seafarer. I wondered how she was doing now. There was nothing I could do for
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them, I had my own problems. I could see the water pass over his bow in the troughs, but it
would lift just in time to wash it away. I told him to raise his outdrive a little and it would give
his bow more lift. He did but it did not help much when the headway was limited. Then
George came back on the radio indicating that his fuel level was getting low. Unlike cars, boat
fuel gauges are not very accurate. The sending units for the fuel gauge is always in the back of
the tank. Underway, the boat bow will lift and shift the fuel to the back of the tank. The fuel
gauge thinks there is more fuel than actually present. But when it starts to drop, it drops in a
hurry. The rule of thirds was not enough and that was a real problem. When running offshore,
never burn more than one third your fuel. In rough seas, you may use more fuel coming back
than you used going out. If he ran out of fuel, there was no way I could secure a line and tow
him. Without power, a broach was a real possibility. All of us knew that, including George, but
not a word of it was spoken.
I looked back at the rear deck and there would be no need for much cleanup at the dock. It was
clean as whistle. As the time passed, I kept checking the engine gauges to be sure all was well.
Then my bilge pump light came on. That meant there was water in the bilge and the pump was
working on it. The boat had scuppers but the water coming in was exceeding the water going
out the scuppers. To do an inspection, I would have to get on the back deck and raise the
engine cover for a look. There was no way I was going to let go of the steering wheel. No one
else was going out there either. We would just have to continue on, not knowing. Ever try to
not think about something important? Ever try not thinking about the water building up inside
your boat in rough seas? It just does not work. Cliff and I discussed tossing out the 27 tuna on
board to lighten up the boat but again we would have to go outside the secure cabin to open
14
up the fish holds. None of us were willing. I tried to reach the Coast Guard on my portable VHF
again but got a negative response. As the hours passed, I lost sight of George but could hear
him talking to the other boats. None of us had ever been in seas like this and it was a fright.
We did have one thing going for us and that was the design of modern-day fiberglass sport
boats. Unlike commercial boats, the sport boats sit on top of the water like a cork which lets
most of the seas pass under the hull. Commercial fishing boats have displacement hulls and
displace a lot more water when underway. Turning around like I did would be nearly
impossible in a commercial displacement boat. I had to admire how well this boat was
performing under these conditions. We would climb a wave, reach the top, then cascade down
the other side like a surfer to the bottom of the trough, then turn up to meet the next wave.
The period between the waves was too short to face head on, so quartering the seas remained
the only course. As the wind blows the tops off the waves it generates a white foam that could
be seen on the water and all over my boat. On most days we refer to this as the sheep were on
the water. But on this day, I could not choose a synonym for these ocean conditions, sheep just
seemed too mild.
Slowly I was beginning to get some hope that we would make it provided the bilge did not fill
with water and kill the engine located under the deck. Again, “Well Jim, do you think we are
going to make it?” “I don’t know Dale.” I had not heard any more from George about his fuel
problem, but he was still under way.
In the late afternoon as we neared shore, the waves were subsiding, and the skies were
beginning to clear. Most of the storm had passed north. Our location now was about half way
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between Charleston and Winchester Bay for latitude and still about 10 miles out. I was able to
pick up speed with the changing conditions and we were soon on the Coos Bay bar.
Here we go again, the swell for the storm was kicking up the bar. The Coast Guard had not
closed it, but I thought they probably should, right after I got in. I studied the pattern of the
incoming swell and waited for the right wave, we were not staying out there. At what I
considered the right wave, I hit the throttle hard and jumped on the back of the next incoming
swell. In an instant, I was at full throttle doing close to 30kts trying to stay on the back of the
swell and in front of the one lapping off my transom during the crossing. The incoming swell
was not unusually large, but the period was short. I don’t think I took a breath for several
minutes during the crossing. Finally, we were across and in the safety of the inner bay. The bay
was flat and this water seemed surreal. We could finally relax, I was dead tired. When we got
to the dock, Dale got out of the boat, laid on the dock and gave it a kiss, seagull poop and all.
Cliff had been banged around so much he could hardly walk but walk he did. We got the boat
on the trailer, iced down the fish and called it a day in near silence. George made it in on fumes
and managed to get his boat on the trailer with the fuel gauge on empty, not even a slight
bounce. I saw his wife walking to the pickup. She was not speaking to any of us. I said to Dale:
“We made it.” Cliff made eye contact with me and we both smiled as we remembered Dale’s
statement about if we ever get to shore. I am still waiting.
The evening news mentioned deteriorating conditions offshore and winds reaching 50-60
knots. I doubt they were that high while we were coming in, but I had no way of judging the
wind speed. The weather service doen’t use the term “Nasty” for conditions.
16
I slept hard that night after telling the family about our adventure. No matter how I tried, I
don’t think I could verbally express the circumstances well enough for them to appreciate the
danger. So, I gave up and went to bed. The next morning, I called Cliff, he said he was stiff and
had several bruises from being banged around in the boat. He was just grateful to be on terra
firma.
Next I called Dale, he had just got up to get a drink of water and was going back to bed. Dale
had loved the sea and the fishing to found out there. We talked about the trip and he said on
the way in he prayed to our Lord that if he survived this experience, he would never go back out
there. He never did.
I kept a St. Christopher medal pinned to my boat headliner and it has been in every boat since.
I am sure in my heart, He was looking out for us on that day. All the boats made it in and
occasionally when we meet as a group, the trip is often a cause for conversation and a beer.
We all learned first-hand that ocean conditions can change on a moment’s notice going from
the fantastically beautiful to deadly. For Cliff and I, the addiction is still there. We realize that
we can never be totally prepared for events like this but if one survives, the experience is
priceless. I know we will never forget that day.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:26 PM   #6
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Default Re: A story about a bad day at sea

Works for me but 16 pages long, my attention span is that of a six year old at the end of the day, I have a 6 year old.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Can Man View Post
Is there more? I got page 1.
Quote:
Originally Posted by syoungs View Post
Didnt work for me either.
Go out of enhanced mobile view . That should work it did for me anyhow. Good like great read.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sallysea View Post
There have been numerous conversations about the adequacy of various boats when going to sea on a bad day. I wrote some stories in NW Sportsman Magazine that talk about some of those days. As a follow up to another thread, I will post this true story about one of my own bad days. Perhaps it will stimulate others to talk about their own experiences. The boat I owned at the time was a 1990 21' Bayliner Trophy with an Alaskan bulkhead. My friend Dale who is mentioned in the story passed away last year and I wrote this in time for him to see it published.
Great read sallysea!
The sea is one tough mother !

You won that battle!

I would leave it at that, which I bet you have!!!

Nothing but respect for me.

Thanks for sharing your experience we can all learn from That.

One question sorry if I missed it. What amount of time did it take to get in from your journey when you pulled gear to port?

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Old 09-15-2020, 07:47 PM   #9
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Amazing story! Scary does not even describe the horror of such a sea. I rode a hurricane in the Pacific while in the Navy. 7 days in a sea state that made a 800' vessel seem like what happened to you.

Glad you are alive to tell the story!

Thanks!
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:48 PM   #10
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The attachment worked for me.

Very nice write up, I hope I never come across that situation!

Thanks for posting the doc.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:52 PM   #11
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Good story! I enjoyed all 16 pages.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:56 PM   #12
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Never been in conditions that bad, but have definitely experienced the pucker factor with water breaking over the cabin and waves that looked like mountains. Thanks for posting.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:59 PM   #13
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Great read. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:11 PM   #14
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Now That is a cautionary tale for the ages!
Thank you for sharing & I too am glad you lived to tell..
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:17 PM   #15
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Great story, Sal. And well told.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:33 PM   #16
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Great story! The trophy haters out there need to have a read!
Thanks for sharing
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:34 PM   #17
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Great story, I really enjoyed reading it - probably won’t show the wife though.

Thanks for sharing
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:39 PM   #18
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Great story, I could feel my blood pressure go up just reading it. Looking back on your experience, is there anything you would have done differently on your journey back to port?
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:41 PM   #19
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Great story! The trophy haters out there need to have a read!
Thanks for sharing
I was thinking that myself.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:42 PM   #20
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Great read! I wish I had the ability to write and be that descriptive. I was a commercial fisherman in the Bering Sea for 7 years on a longliner and have seen and been through some hairy stuff. If I could write like that I would definitely share. For now I just share my stories of 50 walls of water at fish camp.
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Old 09-15-2020, 09:35 PM   #21
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Wow! What a great / terrifying read! Thank you for sharing.
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Old 09-15-2020, 11:15 PM   #22
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Wow. You are lucky to be here.
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Old 09-16-2020, 04:34 AM   #23
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Default Re: A story about a bad day at sea

Thank you Bubbleboy for reposting the story. I am not that great at putting attachments onto ifish. And thank you to those who commented favorably, that is the hope for all who tell out stories.
As for doing anything different, I cannot think of any other choices once I was caught up in the storm.
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Old 09-16-2020, 05:13 AM   #24
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Great story, thanks for sharing it. Glad you guys, and the other boats all returned safely.
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Old 09-16-2020, 05:31 AM   #25
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Thanks for sharing Sallysea. As someone new to running a boat on my own and making go/no go calls it really helps put into perspective of what can happen. I hope to never face conditions like that but will try to be prepared for the unexpected.

I am curious, you mentioned that you saw a window to get out and took it. I’m guessing the seas were predicted rough before and after your trip and wonder how soon after the calm it was predicted to get hairy? Was the storm that hit part of a weather system expected to come in later? Any thoughts?
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Old 09-16-2020, 06:41 AM   #26
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This incident was back in the early 1990s. I don't recall much about the previous weather forecasts. Only that we had the usual wind and waves leading up to this day, then it dropped down to nice weather on that day. The Storm cell was not in the forecast and was unexpected.

On the question on how long did it take to return to port, I have no idea but it was late afternoon and we were all dead tired.

If you look under the thread on "open bow boats on the ocean", I published another story of some problems at sea with an open bow boat as told to me by a person who was on board at the time. If you have problems finding it, I can repost it here.
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Old 09-16-2020, 07:23 AM   #27
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This is nothing like yours but I was fishing with a friend out of Coos Bay many years ago. We were just a few miles off shore doing some bottom fishing. We saw this big front heading our way and we pulled our gear immediately. Running for port we were over come by the front. The seas went to rough immediately. My friend decided to leave the crab pots and just get across the bar. It was a rough one but we made it. The front passed by and it was just blue sky and a nice day behind it. I have never seen anything like it since. A freaky mother nature thing.

Glad you made it out of the situation you were in and thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-16-2020, 07:35 AM   #28
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Works for me but 16 pages long, my attention span is that of a six year old at the end of the day, I have a 6 year old.

I have a 5 year old, and the attention span of a humming bird ... You should make the read! Well worth it.
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Old 09-16-2020, 07:36 AM   #29
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Wow...very intense. Felt like I was there. Thank you for sharing.
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Old 09-16-2020, 08:00 AM   #30
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Good story, a cautionary tale too. Lessons learned that way, the hard way we feel lucky to survive, tend to last.

I’ve had two trips that got pretty bad. The first was about 10 years ago. Winds were forecast to be calm in the morning and to rise to 10 to 15 knots out of the north in the afternoon. I took us WSW out of Newport. We were out west of the 125 line, out to between 10 and 15’ and we were catching some albacore. Sometime in the early afternoon the predicted north wind started as forecast. A bit later it was noticeably higher, but still no problem. I told the crew we’d start back soon. Then the wind started to get brisk and one or two of the boats in the area started back. Ok, time to pull lines and start for home. About 15 minutes later I knew I’d waited too long. The forecast was wrong, the wind had kept rising and the wind waves got big. Tough to maintain a course directly toward port on plane and my 23 ft boat starts to plane at just under 12 knots. So I kept enough speed to keep us just on plane and went as much north as I could as I headed east. Like Jim, I maintained a grip on the wheel and was constantly watching the ww and underlying swell, fortunately the swells weren’t very large but the ww were big and close and steep. I felt like I was battling the ocean all the way back, but didn’t have anyone in my crew of 3 ask if we would make it home. However, only one crew can fit in the pilot house with me, the other two were on the back sitting on a cooler. Fortunately they sit facing back, but the north wind was constantly blowing Heavy spray on them. Water was constantly running to the stern and out the scuppers! Our trip home took over 5 hours, all of us remember that trip home, none of us remember favorably.. I was very tired when we got back. We passed miles south of 46050, but when I checked the buoydata that night, the wind was over 20 knots all afternoon with gusts to 30 knots.

A hard way to learn the lesson that the strength of the North wind in the summer isn’t real predictable. I still go WSW occasionally for tuna, but I’m now very selective about the forecasts for the days I do.

The boats that left after we did that day had an even worse trip back. I think we got injust before dark, they got back after dark, even the boats bigger than mine. I know they remember that day too, Ryan told me this summer his buddy had recently told him about that day and his buddy had mentioned I was out there too.

The other experience was about 5 years ago. Tuna again, also out of Newport, NW out past the corners, so again fairly far from port. North and/or NW winds in the forecast for that day, evening, and the next day and all moderate wind speeds. So no problem, we’ll be fine going home and we’ll be able to make good time, probably 25 knots easy. I remembered my hard learned lesson and had become even more cautious about picking my days. We fished into late afternoon as the fishing often gets good then, overall it’s my most productive time of day for tuna. One of the boats I knew out there started for home and a while later Walter gives me a call on the vhf. “Ron, wanna let you know we’re getting some wind out of the south”. “Thanks for the heads up”. I knew for sure there had NOT been an S in the forecasted wind direction and I pay attention to the wind speed and direction at all times on the ocean. No south wind on us yet, but knowing Walter is trustworthy, I tell the crew we’re leaving soon as we don’t want a rough trip home and home was a long way away. So we start home and sure enough, we get south wind, real wind, not just a breeze. I’m heading basically SE, so I’m quartering into the wind waves and they are too large for me to be on plane. I look at the gps, the chart, our speed, how far to Newport and do a quick calculation. IF we are able to maintain our current speed, doubtable since it’s getting worse, it’s gonna be after 11 when we get back to Newport. Look at the gps again and call Depoe Bay CG, fortunately their bar is unrestricted. One of my crew stays at her mom’s house in Newport when she comes to the coast to fish. I make a turn to port (in both senses of port!) and now we can run just a bit faster albeit just on plane. But we don’t have as far to go, we’re going faster, and we aren’t getting as beat up. Still not comfortable, but a much better option. We get into Depoe just as it gets dark. Some logistics to figure out, but that’s doable and most importantly, we are safely in port. It was still after 11 when I backed the boat into my driveway, we were all tired and the two crew that had been sitting on the cooler were cold. One learned to always bring a complete set of rain gear including a hood, the other learned her jacket was not completely waterproof.

Something I already knew intellectually was burned into my brain by that trip. The forecasts are not completely dependable! We had a strong south wind on a summer day when the wind was forecast to be from the north. Ya always gotta be ready for nasty conditions, DO NOT violate the rule of thirds, if the conditions get bad, much more fuel wii be needed to get home. I think I made the right decision to head for Depoe, it wasn’t the dark that bothered me, it was fighting those conditions and how tough it would be on all 4 of us, especially the 2 sitting on the back deck.

Strangely enough, all of the crew on those trips continued to fish with me. One of them was on both trips and he watches the forecasts almost as closely as I do.

Most things we do in life have some risk associated with them, certainly going on the ocean has some risk associated with it. But we can be smart about managing those risks. I didn’t fear for the life of my crew or myself on those trips, but I probably would have if we’d had a major malfunction such as losing power. I’ve also learned my boat can handle rougher conditions than I want to be in, maybe even than I can handle. These and other situations have made even more cautious since I don’t want to have a serious problem in bad conditions and I believe that often when something goes wrong, it’s easy for that to lead to a cascade of problems. That’s a situation I will try hard to avoid. Think about possible outcomes for Jim or his buddy boats in his story if any of them had lost power that day. That is truly scary to contemplate.

Make good decisions and be safe out there.
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Old 09-16-2020, 08:05 AM   #31
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Great story and well written. I have been fishing off the CR and Oly Penn for 20 years now and have and a couple bad experiences. I learned from both but most importantly I just know my limits and won't press it any more.. Just not worth it. We are lucky now that the weather forecasting is more accurate than it used to be. None the less I usually stay away from any forecast that has a deteriorating sea in the afternoon.
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Old 09-16-2020, 08:11 AM   #32
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Excellent, well told tale. Makes you really appreciate the blue bird days.
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Old 09-16-2020, 08:13 AM   #33
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I agree.........I was sitting on the edge of my chair as I read your account of that day! Ron
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Old 09-16-2020, 09:51 AM   #34
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Great story. Thanks for sharing. My dad & I still laugh at the many times he took me out as a kid in conditions we had no business being out in. Spark plugs failing in the middle of a bar crossing, etc. Miracle that any of us are still alive to tell the tales. Speaking of which, whatever happened to ol’.....
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Old 09-16-2020, 03:35 PM   #35
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Quote:
“Well Jim, do you think we are
going to make it?” “I don’t know Dale.”
Great read, thanks for taking the time to post it.

We sure have a lot more information available today to make the "go-nogo" decision.
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Old 09-16-2020, 06:52 PM   #36
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Thank you for the story Ron, well done. there must be other stories out there.
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Old 09-17-2020, 05:35 AM   #37
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This is not a good example of a discussion on the adequacy of a small boat going to the sea on a 'bad day'. However it is a good story about a comedy of errors and throwing caution to the wind while going ocean fishing when you should have stayed in port. According to your story, all the 'no-go' info was there the morning you left. Glad you all made it!
If it were not for weather we would all be ocean fishing in pontoon boats.
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Old 09-17-2020, 06:13 AM   #38
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Default Re: A story about a bad day at sea

Great story. It's actually kind of surprising to me how few similar tales I've come across in the sport fishing community. I think with today's technology and discussion forums, we have a bit more info than we did 30yrs ago.


I had a turnaround day this year for the first time at 30mi out. Wind and waves that weren't in any forecast that I saw kicked up out of nowhere. Nothing like what you experienced, but making that call to turn around was extremely difficult. It's easier to make that call when you hit it on the way out vs what I imagine it's like having a smooth ride all the way to your destination and a "chance" it gets bad later.
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Old 09-17-2020, 08:01 AM   #39
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Default Re: A story about a bad day at sea

Stories like this that provide information on what can happen are a valuable resource for both new and long time offshore folks.

I've mentioned this before, but for anyone who adventures offshore pick up a copy of Leif Terdal's book Northwest Sea Disasters: Beyond Acceptable Risk. Terdal compiled a number of small boat and commercial boat accidents that occurred off the Oregon and Washington coast. It's well worth the $15.
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Old 09-17-2020, 08:20 AM   #40
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Trust the weather forecasters, the forecast called for N wind to 25 kts in the afternoon, we got up early & it was a flat ocean with no wind, so myself & first mate Kory went out to the Rockpile from Newport for Salmon in my old 19' river boat, it was a great day to be picky, we kept 4 really nice Coho by 10am, still no wind, we decided to go for Tuna by Piggy, about 1/2 way there it blew up, should of turned around than, but nooo, kept going twards the Tuna grounds where the bigger boats were, Popeye, & Kujo were there, caught 1 Tuna about 5 miles from the fleet, it was blowing 20 kts by than, re-deployed the 4 rods, than a 4 rod tangle, Kory had to untangle & reset the lines, as I had to stay at the helm the whole time cause it was too rough, should of turned around than, but nooo, we were so close to the spot, managed to catch 1 more Tuna just as we got to the spot, by than it was blowing the predicted 25kts, & all the boats started headed in, luckily we had the wind at our backs & made it in without incident, Kujo whom launched from Depoe reported what he called a 20' wave that took out his soft top, I can only imagine that if that was us, we would not be here to talk about it today, very stupid skipper call on my part, should of been happy with our 4 Coho, & came in before it blew up, but nooo, trust the weather forecasters.
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Old 09-17-2020, 01:31 PM   #41
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One of the better thread and story's I have seen in a while. Very informative reading between the lines, a lot of lessons learned through your experience sharing with others.
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Old 09-17-2020, 08:12 PM   #42
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I will tell one on myself. I had a 18’ Klamath open tiller boat with a 30 hp Suzuki it topped out at about 20-21 mph in saltwater. My buddy and I went out of the coos bay looking for bottom fish. Nice ocean decent weather. Caught our limit minus lings. He wanted to go home early as he had some things to take care of. So I got the bar report 2-3’ ebb chop. Didn’t sound to bad. So I decided that it was runnable. We were doing good staying with the wave until we got just in side of the tips where we found 4-6’ ebb chop and hit the outflow and got pushed out of the channel. We also could not keep up with the wave. We were pushed sideways broaching. I thought we were going swimming I had a white knuckle grip on the tiller and a white knuckle grip on my handheld vhf. Fortunately the boat was light and floated up and over like a leaf. I got it straightened out and had one more repeat before we got inside.

That was the last time I crossed on an ebb tide. We continued in but in retrospect I wonder if we should of turned around on the first broach gotten outside and waited the tide out. Any opinions. I am still learning.
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Old 09-18-2020, 03:48 AM   #43
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Waiting out the tide is a safe option as long as conditions outside are not deteriorating too. The comment that it did not look too bad from outside would cause most of us to do what you did, go for it. You got the best education on bar crossings available and already will know what to do next time.

You could also take you wife next time, if she values you more alive than dead, it is a sure way to get a new larger boat.
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Old 09-18-2020, 04:53 AM   #44
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I had to sale that boat a couple of years ago. Been boat less since. Starting to look at the possibility of getting a new one. One big take away from the experience is if the boat doesn’t go faster than 21mph I am not trying an ebb crossing again.

That was the only time that buddy got excited enough to yell at me.
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Old 09-18-2020, 06:33 AM   #45
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Good story.

I find that if I’m trying to talk myself into a weather forecast it’s probably not a good idea.

I’ve missed out on some good weather days using that rule but a fish is not worth my life and the people I’m responsible for on my boat.


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Old 09-18-2020, 06:46 AM   #46
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Great story.
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Old 09-18-2020, 07:55 AM   #47
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Yep!, don't take even a light tide for granted, especially at a know rough bar, myself & buddy Ronnie were fishing for Salmon & than rockfish off the Columbia rv in a 19 Trophy CC back in the early 90's, took some time to get our Salmon limits out by Buoy 2, still not windy by 5pm, we decided to fish the south side of the south jetty for bottomfish, good fishing kinda threw off our sensibility, cause I knew there was a light outgoing tide about 5' or so around 6pm, what we did not know cause we were sheltered on the south side was the wind had picked up considerably, anyway started heading in around 7pm, rounded the corner & breakers were all across the bar, without a CG in sight, angled twards the north side, white knuckles the whole time as we had to power around breakers all around us, & managed to get in without incident, meanwhile there was a aprox 25' glass boat attempting to get in on the south side, apparently not knowing it's shallow on that side, they were taking wave after wave over their bow, & easily could of capsized, as we passed them to the north, they saw us, & angled north with us, after reaching calmer water they powered over to us, just to thank us for being there, no other boats were anywhere in sight, & never did the CG come out, seems they should of saw the whole event unfolding? This was my scariest bar crossing, one that I never want to experience again, a 5' outgoing tide can be dangerous, depending on the bar & ocean conditions outside, live & learn.
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