Lady Washington-Part Four (Wednesday)

Wednesday Morning March 15th, Crossing the Bar at Eureka into Humboldt Bay

Read Part Three HERE.

Eureka Harbor

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 End

Read Part One HERE.

Read Part Two HERE.

Read Part Three HERE.


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Read Part One HERE.

Read Part Two HERE.

Read Part Three HERE.

7 Responses to “Lady Washington-Part Four (Wednesday)”

  1. Susan Mitchell says:

    Great description of life aboard. Thanks for sharing! Our daughter Nicole (the purser) was part of the crew during your voyage.

  2. Nena Cook says:

    Thank you for the wonderfully vivid and historical story of this beautiful ship and your voyage!
    You’ve helped give me a first hand look – along with much emotion – as to what my daughter Shawna (the galley cook) is experiencing on her first real adventure!

    “Here here” to all of you on board in following your passion for adventure and digging deep for the courage it must’ve taken to persevere this PASSAGE!

    I love you Shawna.

    “Adventure is worthwhile” Amelia Earhart

  3. Bret Wirta says:

    Susan, I can’t say enough about your daugter Nicole and the rest of the crew on the Lady Washington. They were so fearless! It seems to me that after climbing a mast to take in sail in the middle of the night during a storm, other challenges life won’t seem nearly as scary or insurmountable.

  4. Bret Wirta says:

    Nena, your daughter is one of the most courageous young women I’ve ever met. I watched her cook in that cramped, pitching galley, throw-up and then go right back to work. She is somebody you can count on!-Bret

  5. Russ Anderson says:

    Thanks Bret for the play by play account and the videos of the trip to Eureka. I’m sure my daughter Nicki will remember her first sailing voyage forever and your daily account brought us along for the ride.

  6. Bret Wirta says:

    Russ, I enjoyed my time at watch chatting with your daughter, Niki. She has a fearless sense of adventure. She was so exhilarated after her first time up the rigging in the storm. Though all I did was stand on the deck, her excitement was contagious. Her sparkling personality will take her far-Bret

  7. Ann Meyer says:

    Thank you for sharing the story of your passage. Brilliant writing! It took me back to my time aboard the Lady Washington. – former crewmember

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