Three days up the Columbia River
Solid off from Astoria, OR (river mile 15)
I’ve no have to dream about far off unique ports that I’ll by no means see as a result of first I’ll discover my very own again yard, so to talk. We organized for our son to drive with us to the coast. The plan was to trailer the sailboat to Astoria and he would convey the trailer again empty, leaving the three of us to fend for ourselves and discover our method upriver to our house moorage. The boat ramp at Astoria is handy and effectively designed, however the pre-launch space is a component gravel parking zone and half muddy discipline. We parked close to one other sailboat crew that was busy stepping their mast and rigging the boat. Due to the mud and gravel I made a decision we’d get on off the boat as little as attainable whereas preparing, so I advised my 10 12 months outdated to go play on the docks and attempt to avoid the Sea Lions that had taken over one complete float. The Sea Lions are so huge and crowded that the float is itemizing and partially submerged. These are a number of the similar critters that may quickly swim the 130 or so miles up river to Bonneville Dam, the place they are going to feast on returning Salmon that pool under the dam.
Whereas rigging the boat, I can hear the group subsequent to us taking instruction from their skipper. I hope I do not sound like that. In just a little over an hour have been able to again down the ramp and switch our boat unfastened. Launching goes off with no hitch, minutes later we’re on our method, I flip and watch lengthy sufficient to see our son flip the right method in direction of house. He is on his personal and so are we. We quietly float previous the Sea Lions; they ignore us as we motor out into the river. Not trace of wind as we level ourselves up stream. The river is clean and flat; we’re about ten miles from the ocean. Aside from the rising tide you would not know we on the fringe of the most important ocean on the planet. The Columbia is about 4 miles huge at Astoria, with plenty of sand bars, and dust flats. There are two navigation channels going up river, one is the primary channel the place the ships going to Portland should function or run aground. The opposite is navigable by small boats and meanders behind grassy islands alongside the Oregon facet. We’re not oriented but; we now have our chart, however do not know the place we’re, so I level us in direction of what seems like a possible channel with some kind of markers within the distance. We wave to the opposite sailboat as they go by heading for the primary channel. I’m wondering in the event that they suppose have been misplaced. We journey about three of 4 miles and utilizing the binoculars attempt to spot a quantity someplace that we are able to find on the chart. I nonetheless do not know the place we needs to be heading however I’ve been learning the shore and do not suppose we’re any the place close to the place the channel goes. Simply because the charts lists an Island and you’ll see an Island does not imply your boat belongs subsequent to an Island. I believe the river is extra like ten miles huge now, so it is easy to get confused. I am beginning to want we had not left the dock with no higher plan than head east and see the place you go. We lastly are close to sufficient to positively determine a marker and understand we’re heading right into a useless finish. I modify course and reduce throughout an space that the chart reveals as having just one foot of water at imply low low tide. Our depth sounder says about eight toes are below us, however I am very nervous since our keel is down about six toes. Operating aground is not the one fear, working right into a deadhead or submerged piling is a really actual chance, and purpose to go gradual.
Briefly order as we get near the Oregon shore we spot some markers that correspond to our chart and at last know the place we’re. The wind picks up just a little and we’re crusing, I kill the motor and benefit from the silence. I would not describe the view as spectacular however it is extremely fascinating and by no means boring. Birds in fact are all over the place, the ever-present Herons are round every nook standing completely nonetheless attempting to look invisible, and after they take flight, they give the impression of being positively prehistoric. You’ll be able to’t sail the Columbia with out seeing a whole lot of Osprey and their nests, they appear to personal each piling or navigation assist ever constructed. The squawking younger ones are as huge as their mother and father and demand to be fed non cease. We poke our bow into backwaters and coves that appear fascinating, generally we spot deer however extra usually cows. It’s shocking that we uncover buildings out on this space that actually is only a few toes above the water. Most are shacks left over from extra affluent instances on the river, however some are fairly substantial and have rotten outdated docks, a number of are occupied. After we get shut sufficient to see that somebody could also be residing there, you all of the sudden really feel like your trespassing and rapidly flip away. The wind could be very spotty, generally we’re not transferring in any respect. I believe we now have run aground and ask if anybody thinks we now have stopped transferring, Jaiden is certain we’re nonetheless transferring as a result of he can see the present flowing across the boat. I’ve lined up on shore two timber and might inform we’re stopped (caught within the mud) I play the guessing recreation awhile longer and at last announce that somebody should crank up the keel or we’ll be caught all day. Nobody strikes, Linda is studying, and Jaiden is out on the bow. I climb into the cabin and switch the winch deal with one full flip then watch the timber, nothing, one other full flip and have been free, crusing once more, one with the wind, charging in opposition to the present of the mighty Columbia river. Oops, somebody must steer quickly, or I will be cranking the keel up much more. We’ve got been steering by means of these slender waterways for a number of hours and due to occasional markers, we all know precisely the place we’re. We’ve got a GPS with us however utilizing the chart appears extra acceptable and pleasant. I keep in mind to crank the keel again down, it is reassuring figuring out we are able to change our draft from six toes to a few toes when wanted.
Because the solar is heading west the wind picks up and we’re crusing effectively. We clear the final of the islands and make for the primary channel, I believe the port of Cathlamet is simply across the subsequent nook and positive sufficient quickly a forest of boat masts and a breakwater point jaco become visible.
Cathlamet, WA (river mile 40)
I hate to take the sails down, we actually have not had excellent crusing till the final hour and I do not need to give up. Quickly we’re motoring into the moorage; there are fairly a number of individuals round, a number of wave, and plenty of kayakers. Simply previous the gasoline dock, I spot a bit of open dock, and neatly glide into an area proper behind the sailboat that adopted us out of Astoria. We change niceties as if have been outdated pals, they point out they have been there for hours, what a terrific sail. What occurred to us? I inform them we went behind all of the islands, had a good time, did not use the motor till we wanted to drop sail and motor into the moorage. That jogs my memory, have to verify the gasoline, and should need to refill earlier than we go away tomorrow. Our new pals stated they have been staying the subsequent evening on the Longview yacht membership. I believed to myself, I did not know Longview had a marina or moorage, how can they’ve a membership. Cathlamet has a terrific little moorage, and a busy place. We bumped into an outdated acquaintance kayak tenting. They provide tenting, transient moorage or 12 months round. The moorage could be very a lot shielded from ship site visitors, there is a boat ramp and gasoline dock. It is only a one block stroll into city the place there is a couple eating places and shops for buying. We arrived early sufficient that we may tour city and get again to the boat to make dinner earlier than darkish. Within the morning after a leisurely espresso and breakfast, we motored right into a neat little channel behind an Island on the Washington facet. There was plenty of proof of outdated logging operations the place they dealt with log rafts. We smacked into one thing two toes under the floor and found a row or submerged pilings. After a brief method the waterway shoaled all the way in which throughout and compelled us to show round, leaving the exploring to kayakers. The place we cleared into the primary river is Puget Island, the Island is served by bridge from the Washington facet and by ferryboat from the Oregon facet. As we proceeded up river the ferry got here throughout in entrance of us so we ducked into the slough the ferry got here out of and waited for its return journey. I do not know whom was extra amusing the ferry passengers taking a look at us or us staring again at them. To this point at the moment we now have made virtually no progress up river and already killed three hours. No wind once more, identical to yesterday so we settle right into a monotonous 4 mph sleep inducing grind. On the Washington facet, we go by some stunning excessive cliffs. I verify my maps and discover the names Eagle cliffs, Bunker Hill, Oak Level. In Oregon we see largely lowland and positive sufficient fairly quickly we come to a different possible island waterway to discover. After checking the chart I decide that there is sufficient depth right through and switch the bow in direction of Oregon as soon as once more. In minutes, the primary river is historical past and we’re once more surrounded by nature. By some means, 4mph looks like we’re racing by means of, even being disrespectful utilizing a loud outboard motor. I reduce the engine pace to only a quick idle and watch the shoreline slip by. Finally we come to the proverbial fork in street and after checking the chart head into the left passage. It is not very lengthy earlier than “bump”and we’re arduous aground, no warning in any respect. The depth went from fifteen toes to a few toes in half a ship size. We free ourselves and transfer over about twenty toes and do it once more, and once more, and arrrrgain. About now, I see some individuals on shore over on the opposite channel. They’re waving at us to make use of the opposite channel over by them. I’m reluctant to heed their waves as a result of my updated present chart says to go this manner if we ever anticipate to see the Columbia River once more. We free ourselves one final time and motor in direction of our saviors. They’re standing on their non-public dock just a little amused. They inform us that the charts have been improper for twenty 5 years, and all we have to do is preserve to the best from right here on and we may have loads of depth all the way in which again to the primary river. Ah native data what would we do with out it.
The wind comes up once more and we aren’t transferring slowly anymore. With out the motor working, I now not really feel disrespectful as we rip alongside virtually in silence. Regardless that we’re going up river we’re crusing downwind, so we now have the movement of the boat slicing by means of the water and we’re transferring with the wind so it is extremely calm with not a lot obvious wind on board. We’re nearing Longview and the wind has picked up lots. We’re crusing on a broad attain more often than not and now not crusing straight up the center of the river. I am selecting headings to maintain the boat below management and comfy, (not heeling toooo a lot) in any other case my crew could mutiny and by no means go crusing with me once more. We fly by Rainer and Longview. Rainer has a pleasant newer visitor dock we now have spent the evening at a number of instances, and the city has a pizza place. I scan the shore at Longview. I nonetheless have not seen a moorage or marina or perhaps a river to cover in, not to mention a yacht membership. All I see is a giant mill of some type. It’s beginning to get darkish and my hopes of creating it to St Helens are beginning to fade with the daylight. I’m actually torn proper now. Go on or flip again to Rainer? The wind is transferring us quicker than ever; nevertheless it’s getting darkish even quicker. If I push on and the wind dies, we’ll be in for a protracted motor journey. If we preserve going and hit one thing at this pace, it might be a serious downside. At midnight I wont have the ability to get close to shore for concern of grounding and my distance notion is nearly gone together with the sunshine. After all, my crew does not know my ideas, they only need to go within the cabin to get heat and discover dinner. I push on; one issue trumps all others tonight. I am having a terrific sail and don’t need it to finish. Once I gaze forward attempting to make out something that does not belong within the water, I see some industrial lights alongside shore.
Kalama, WA (river mile 75)
We’re approaching Kalama. In about 5 miles I drop the sails and we motor into the moorage. The boat basin is behind a excessive dyke, fully shielded from the wakes of passing ships.. I am hoping Kalama has transient moorage. The workplace is closed so its as much as us to discover a place to tie up for the evening. We’ve got been right here earlier than to get gasoline, however have by no means been past the doorway. I like the numerous boats. Powerboats are largely below cowl, every slip like a private storage. The sailboats all have tall masts so wont match below cowl, they’re largely on the finish of docks the place there are not any roofs. Every parking place has it personal mild and energy plug, shut by are water spigots. The foot ramps resulting in the docks have locking gates with safety programs. When you exit one among these doorways and it slams behind you, getting again inside is not possible with out going for a swim. We want to ensure to not get ourselves locked out. It is darkish however with the marina lights we now have no downside making our method safely. I spot what I have been in search of, an indication with an arrow pointing to Visitor Moorage. The visitor spots are on the very finish, about 100 toes of open dock is designated for visitors so we pull in on the very finish attempting to get as near the foot ramp as attainable. There may be a considerable amount of floating particles within the water subsequent to the dock, apparently the native wind and currents trigger all this flotsam to gather right here as a welcome mat for guests. Among the driftwood and logs are fifteen toes lengthy and twelve inches in diameter. I momentarily put a foot on one as I tie up the boat, huge mistake, I ought to know higher. In a heartbeat, I might be within the water and trapped below this mess. We’re all hungry and meals has been a serious subject of dialogue, so we head up the ramp and are on our method to city. The visitor dock is exterior the safety gate so we will come and go as we please.