Neah Bay Swells

by kfrego

Our family took a vacation to visit the Olympic Peninsula at the NW corner of Washington State. We were going to visit Olympic National Park and Dad wanted to try salmon fishing if the weather was good. We traveled from Spokane to Seattle, caught a ferry across Puget Sound, and drove north through Port Angeles. It had been a long ride and all of us kids were wound up like eight day clocks.

Mom and Dad rented a beachfront cabin south of Neah Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Neah Bay is the small northernmost town on the Olympic Peninsula. It had a sheltered harbor with access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca which is 12 miles wide between Vancouver Island, British Columbia and the Olympic Peninsula.  You would never convince us kids we weren’t on the ocean. We had a sandy beach, waves rolling in, and could see an occasional whale if you took the time to watch. It was fairly cool weather and the water was real cold, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time. Dad inquired and received directions to a marina in Neah Bay that had rental boats.

Dad had me up at four in the morning and we headed to Neah Bay. The operator at the marina assured Dad he would have no problem navigating the breakwater at the mouth of the harbor if he was proficient in operating an outboard motor boat. Just keep nosed into the swells as you navigate between the buoys into the strait. We got our gear into the seventeen foot aluminum boat, checked and warmed up the motor, and waited for the sun. Several boats went out ahead of us. Dad wanted to keep them in sight so we could fish close to them.

The ride across the harbor wasn’t bad. As we got closer to the harbor entrance we could only see the other boats once in a while. The swells started getting increasingly higher. It was like we were on a roller coaster. The motor could barely push us to the top then we would sail like a rocket to the bottom. You could see landmarks on top, but only the swell in front and behind the boat when inside the trough. The swells were exceeding twenty feet. When we broke over at the top the outboard motor propeller would come completely out of the water. Dad negotiated a U turn in a large trough and we returned the rental boat. Our adventure was over.

We didn’t get to salmon fish…………but we sure got a wild lesson about breakwater and swells.