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Old 08-08-2006
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Three Day Cruise on Columbia River



At the end of last week, we slipped the lines on our C&C 27 for a three day cruise on the Columbia River.

On Friday, we motored down the Columbia to St. Helens. This was a surprisingly harsh trip, because there were strong up-river winds almost all the way, directly counter to the current, making for some hobby-horse bashing to windward. We wanted to sail even a short distance, but the swells and on-the-nose wind would have had us going 90 degrees to our destination.

On Friday night, we tied up at the City Dock in St. Helens, walked downtown to an Art Gallery for a berry smoothie, and then bbq'ed chops back at the boat. A classic wood troller tied up across the dock from us and played 1950s movie tunes until about 11 p.m. The kids loved it, but we found it odd to hear "Some Enchanted Evening" over and over, along with swashbuckling movie scores. We could imagine unplanned conceptions happening all over the marina.

On Saturday morning, we had a "heavy" breakfast at the famous St. Helens cafe, which is reported closing on December 31st. I glad we were able to eat there at least once. There was a strong swell from down river, and all the boats were bouncing and being blown about in the marina when we pulled out.

We entered the Multonomah Channel and raised the jib, thinking we could sail down wind for some distance. Turned out to be about 100 yards. The strong wind at St. Helens disappeared as soon as we went up the channel. We'd motor for the rest of the day to Coon Island.

On Saturday at Coon Island, we hiked the 1.5 mile trail around the preserve, read, and kicked our feet in the water at the dock. My son borrowed a fishing pole from a neighboring boat and landed two carp for fun. We all slept well, since there was zero swell or wind at the dock (we were on the east side of the Island).

On Sunday, we motored the rest of the way down Multnomah Channel, past floating homes and beneath the Sauvie Island bridge. In the Willamette River, there was a strong North wind, and we raised sails only to find that we we couldn't beat into the wind because of the swarms of river traffic (powerboaters, tugs, etc.). We motored to the Columbia, excited by the idea of a beam reach home, only to find zero wind there. Ugh!

Right at the intersection with the Columbia, a large tug doing around 12 knots passed us and cut right across our bow, dropping us into a major wake. All of us felt weightless as we dropped in and climbed out. Other boats nearby who were hit broadside even had it worse. Hmmm.

Last fun part-- calling for a "swing" of the railroad bridge to get home. We passed through with three other small sailboats, and motored back to our slip to unload on a hot Sunday. We covered 52 nm, but pretty much none under sail.

We had a great time seeing more of the river and all of the Multnomah Channel, but next time we'll do the trip in reverse-- the channel to Coon Island the first day, and then to St. Helens the second day, and then back up the Columbia on the third day. That way, we could run with the strong up river wind instead of fighting it all the way down.

Good trip-- our boat and crew did well. A photo gallery is here.

Jim H

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