Wednesday Morning March 15th, Crossing the Bar at Eureka into Humboldt Bay
I awoke just as I was skidding out of my berth and into space. I grabbed the edge of the trim above me before I crashed to the floor. We were rolling in twenty foot swells. Shauna cursed as a dozen eggs leapt out of their bowl splattering all over the galley. Because of the storm’s strong southerly winds we had arrived off the coast at Eureka full day ahead of schedule. Just ahead of us was the shelter of Humboldt Bay. But first we had to cross over the bar of sand that guarded the harbor entrance, the graveyard of many ships.
The captain radioed the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard ordered him to call all hands on deck in life jackets if we were going to try crossing the shifting bar in this heavy sea. ZoAnn Kinsey, one of my fellow transit passengers, pale from days of seasickness, rose from her bunk and shakily climbed on deck. Her Great-Great-Grandfather was Captain Hans Buhne who was a leader in the expedition that discovered the entrance to Humboldt Bay in 1850. Captain Buhne helped settle Eureka and became its first pilot, guiding ships over this same dangerous bar. Marvin Shepherd, another passenger on the Lady Washington, was Captain Buhne’s biographer. Marvin wrote the book "The Sea Captain’s Odyssey". ZoAnn and Marvin were reliving Captain Buhne’s voyages here on the Lady Washington.
We all crowded to the back of the ship on the quarter deck. I stood bundled against the cold wind, nervous as we came about and headed toward shore. Waves with smoking tops picked us high-up and dropped us a long ways down. I held on to the lines tightly with both hands. This was a narrow channel; there was no chance to turn about once we committed to head in. Captain JB ordered the range sighting and for the first time yelled at the crew who didn’t jump to his orders. I looked at the captain’s gaunt face and saw concern and worry as he watched the towering waves sweep over the tops of the rocky breakwaters on either side of us.
The crew repeated each order with a shout. They confirmed the chart’s markings with the buoys and markers ahead of us. Captain JB steered the tiller with a steady hand over the bar, through the narrow channel and into Humboldt Bay. The sun broke through the clouds as we tied up at the wharf. In the end, the captain and crew made our passage over the bar look easy, but I can’t discount the guiding hand of the Old Testament psalmist, ZoAnn’s Great-Great Grandfather and a little bit of luck.
The thumbnail images below can be viewed as a slide show, just click on an image to start slideshow. Click or tap on the right or left side of the image to view the next or previous image. Click or tap outside the slideshow image and the slideshow will close.
To “Pin” an image, click the “Pin It” button and select image from list.