Friday, June 23, 2006

Dory Boats and Bald Eagles

First up, the Dory story; Pac City is famous for its Dory fleet. These are small fishing boats that are deceptive and quite a sight to watch. I got up just after 5:30 this morning and made coffee to take to the beach. I was walking the sand before 6:00 just in time to watch the end of the morning launch.

These boats are about 20 feet long with a high bow and gunwales (a navy term pronounced gun-els, which is the side of the boat that sticks out of the water,) an inboard-outboard motor and a flat bottom. They use them for fishing charters and launch them right off the beach, not on a ramp.

The 4x4 pickup or Suburban/Bronco (most of these are old with V-8 engines) backs the trailer (usually a tandem wheel) out into the surf…just far enough so the pulling vehicle does not get too far into water. He then jerks the boat off the trailer into the surf stern first. When the boat hits the water it broaches (turns sideways) and one person stands in the water about knee deep and holds the Dory in place while the vehicle driver parks the trailer and rig on high ground and runs back to help with the rest of the launch.

If they have passengers, they are riding in the boat during the launch sequence so as not to get wet.

Then, the two persons in the water turn the Dory so that the bow is pointing out to sea and then they wait fro a wave to come in to lift it up off the sand (float it) and they push it into the surf. Sometimes it goes as planned and sometimes not. If all is ok on person jumps in the Dory and fires up the engine while the partner steadies the craft so that it does not broach in the surf again.

As I watched, two boats out of about twenty had problems. The first one had trouble jerking the boat off the trailer. He kept backing out and backing out until (you guessed it) he got struck. Not to worry, however, another Dory trucker scurried to his rescue and attached a very long strap to the stuck truck and the two jerked the Dory off the trailer and got the first truck to safety.

The second sight was not as successful. Another boat was not as successful in turning the bow seaward. They pushed and pushed and finally it began to come around so one of the pushers jumped up into the boat to get the motor running. As he was climbing up he lost his grip and fell into the water and went under. He came right back up, but instead of heading to sea, they turned the boat around toward shore brought it in as far as they could pull it. The trailer was dispatched and they called it a day. Keep in mind the ocean temp is in the 50s…so I am sure he was cold.

Aleene and I went to a neighborhood restaurant for breakfast…mostly locals in a place 1/3 the size of Jackie’s Place and equally as crowded.

Next we headed up the road to Cape Lookout State Park for a hike to the furthest westerly point around here. We have tried on two other occasions this spring/summer to make this hike, but either we did not have enough time or it was fogged in. Today it was perfect.

The hike is 2 ½ miles along the ridge that juts out into the ocean just north of Pac City. Two point five miles does not sound like much, but I can tell you it was as challenging a walk as one would want to take unless you were much younger. We walked up and down and switchback and narrow and muddy and over tree roots all to catch a glimpse of the ocean below (about 500 feet.) We had our binoculars with us and Aleene had her film camera, but I did not carry the digital camera…drat. On the way out to the point we say seals fishing around a kelp bed, and we drank in the sight of Pac City from 5 miles north and 500 feet up. The walk out took us just over an hour. We were alone going out save one older couple who was on their way back. We were about 15 minutes from the point and they said it was worth the effort. So we kept walking.

We got to the end of the trail where we found a wide place with a fence, a bench and no where else to go. We stopped long enough to shed our jackets for the walk back and I scanned the horizon for ships. We had had glimpses of ocean on the way out, but mostly you are walking in the woods, so we took our time at the point.

We started back about 100 yards and perched in the top of a Douglas-fir (which was eye-level to us since it was growing out of the side of the hill about 150 feet down the bank) was a pair of Bald Eagles. I have never seen anything like it.

These two birds were close enough to see them in detail. They were huge, especially the male (we presume). They watched us like a hawk with their eagle eyes as we gasped, studied with the binoculars and Aleene tried some shots with her non-telephoto lens.

We did not see them when we descended the trail since they were behind some limbs, but going back they were fully exposed for their entire height. They were sitting side by side on the same limb…amazing.

We walked the hour and five minutes back and slithered into the Jeep for the return to camp still talking about our eagle adventure. We came to the conclusion that we would probably not make this trip again any time soon. It is not for the faint of heart since you are looking straight down on some places and it is a fatiguing route. But I can tell you, today it was the right decision. Any time you can catch the attention of two giant birds who allowed us to look right back…it was well worth it.

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