Fort Bragg & the Noyo River

Trip Start Jul 23, 2013
Trip End May 31, 2014

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hello from Fort Bragg and the Noyo River Marina.  We had an easy motor getting here with absolutely no wind once again.  It's getting to be our unfortunate mantra.

Fort Bragg is the town here and it sits up high on a ridge.  The marina is on the Noyo River which sits well below the town underneath a very tall highway bridge.  Because of the difference between these two locations they have completely different feels.  The town is like most small towns whose main drag has a Safeway, Walgreens, Denny's, etc.  The marina on the other hand is funky and is from a completely different era - much to our delight.

We're sorry to say we really blew it picture-wise coming in.  The river channel is quite small.  Because of this we both were focused on navigating and didn't get any pictures.  But if you've seen the movie "Popeye" starring Robin Williams you know exactly what the Noyo River entrance looks like so you can skip the next couple of paragraphs.  If you haven't seen the movie let us try to paint a picture ...

As we enter the channel there are boats heading out to sea and others coming in.  Some are impatient with our speed.  They pass us.  They throw big wakes.  These are unnerving due to the narrowness and shallowness of the channel.  We rock violently side to side and bounce up and down, hopeful we don't hit the shallow river bottom with our deep keels.  Then we cross under a towering bridge.  We are out of the sea and coming back to land-based life. 

The channel is narrow and winding.  On each side are buildings built on piles.  These pilings run continuously on both sides of the river.  The buildings perched on these are all functional but most could use a bit of elbow grease.  Some paint wouldn't hurt either.  On the left, or port side, are half a dozen restaurants.  Restaurant is a generous term for some; crab shack is more apropos.  Several have seating right on the water's edge; some inside, some outside.  One has white tablecloth covered tables and is 4 stories above the river.  Diners are sitting behind ceiling to floor glass looking straight out at our mast head fifty feet above us as we pass

On the right, or starboard, it's all working businesses, the fish plants, ice houses, maintenance yards, etc.  There is one tired old tug boat tied up to an equally tired looking building.  It hurts to see a vessel in this condition.  It's so easy to imagine her in better times proudly pulling boats and barges hither, thither and yon.  She's too far gone now and is dying a slow and sure death.  So sad.

Both sides of the river have fishing boats, commercial and charter, tied up patiently waiting for their next trip out to sea.  We turn a sharp bend to port and the pilings begin to wane on our starboard.  The always present US Coast Guard station appears on our right.  Their surf boats stand ready to head out anytime day or night to rescue mariners who need assistance.

We glide on past the "Coasties" and turn into the marina.  It's chock full of commercial fishing boats.  There are a few sport fishing boats and a sailboat or two.  However there is no question, this is a working port.  We pass a bunch of dockless pilings, the result of the last tsunami.  Finally we turn into our berths and pass our lines (no ropes on a boat, only lines) to waiting hands and once again we are on terra almost firma

Ahh, land.  Known to us as the place where the toilets flush with a simple lever.  No need to pump them ten to twenty strokes per flush.  Walking surfaces that don't move beneath you (although for the first day or two ashore we swear they are!) No need to hang on to something as you move from spot to spot to avoid being thrown into something hard.  No need to put on a life vest and clip into a line attached to the boat when you step out of the cabin.  Electricity that's endless and doesn't depend on the sun being out or the engine running.  Hot water also endless without having to run the engine.  No more washing the dishes with a kettle of water off the stove.  And stores!  They have anything you could want.  No need to assemble meals with one item from the forward port locker, one from the locker below the galley floor, some spices from the starboard middle locker, vegetables from the bottom of the fridge, etc.  For Bob they mean Ice Cream!  Amazing.

We've probably noted this before but one of the best things about this lifestyle is that no matter who you run into on or around the docks, nearly every last one is friendly.  The commercial fisherman are just as interested in what we are doing as we are about what they do.  The sports fisherman are more than willing to tell you where the fish are biting and what they are biting on. Even the crusty old shop owner limps over and digs through bins of junk to find the very part you need.  It's very refreshing compared to the "eye aversion" technique that prevails when passing strangers in the city.

Other than the sea lion that lives in the marina that's about all there is to this chapter in our little saga.  About that sea lion ... according to the locals, normally there are a lot of them hanging around.  But after a pod of orca came through the area their numbers seemed to decrease dramatically.  The survivor(s) seem to prefer the safety of the marina on the river over the open ocean.  The closeup shot Patti got was from eight feet away.  Mr. sea lion was not concerned in the least with her presence. 

Next stop Bodega Harbor and a highly anticipated visit with our son Willi and his gal Shelly!

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