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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Cruising & Liveaboard Forum
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  #1  
Old 03-22-2009
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Portland Oregon Columbia River

Hi, was wondering about the sailing opportunities around Portland Oregon.

How good is it? How far upriver can you go? I'm assuming you can go all the way downriver to the ocean, but it looks like from there, up or down there are few bays, and from what I've seen, in summer, it's non stop brutal onshore winds.

I've driven the gorge and it's beuatiful, are there any online guides you know of? Also, what skill level would you recommend for someone doing some summer cruising.

I know it has a reputation for strong winds, but eveytime I've been through it's been pretty light, except for small stretches at a time.

I'm really just looking for any information or experiences I can find. Thanks.
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Old 03-23-2009
S/V Lilo, Islander 32
 
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Hi,

I learned to sail on the Columbia, it has its challenges, but is a great place to sail as long as you have a good motor too. (Or lots of time, for the die hard sailors) We bought a little 21 footer a few years ago and kept it in Saint Helens, OR. We sailed down to Astoria, and in to Portland, but never east of Portland. (No reason not to go east, just never got around to it.)

With the currents, tides (tidal effects can be noticed up into Portland) , and winds always running up or down river, rarely across, you can get some step waves and tough slogs back home if you are fighting all three at the same time.

We now have a larger boat in the Puget Sound and really enjoy sailing there more, there are few places to go and explore on the Columbia, the part of sailing we like best. But I think learning on the Columbia was very good for me with all the challenges it presents.

If you have any other specific questions, I would be happy to answer them if I can.

Thanks,
Bryan
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  #3  
Old 03-31-2009
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I also learned to sail on the Columbia. I lived in Portland my entire life until I moved up here 7 years ago. Back then there wasn't very much in the way of guides to cruising the river, so I went out and created a video called "Cruising the Columbia River - Vol. 1". It covered all the marinas, parks, docks, and fuel docks from the mouth of the Columbia to Bonneville Dam. This was around 2001, so it was made as a VHS. I still have quite a few left, so PM me if you would like one.

Anyway, yes you can cruise from the Pacific Ocean all the way up the Columbia and Snake Rivers (locking through 8 dams/locks on the way) to Idaho! It's supposed to be an awesome trip. As far as skill level, just like Bryan said, the river can throw some nasty wind, waves, and current at you. Especially in the Gorge. I bought a Gulf 40 in Hood River and brought it down to Portland, and the PO said the worst green water he encountered in his 5 years of owning the boat (including two trips to Alaska and back) was in the Gorge! So it would be prudent to be somewhat experienced, and to have hiding holes/places to get out of bad weather known at all times - especially in the more remote areas of the Snake River.
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Old 03-31-2009
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Having made the trip from the Tri-Cities to the coast and back several times I too can vouch for the definate possibilities of getting into some really rough water. Last June I was going down river, on my way ultimately to circumnavigate Vancouver Island and was held up for four days at Cascade Locks waiting for the wind to subside. The waves get very steep. I've buried the bow of my 37 several times and had green water all the way back to the dodger before it ran off of the deck. However with that said some of the best river cruising grounds in the world, IMHO are on the Columbia below Portland. It's another world altogether from that found above Portland. The little ports are quaint and sleepy all the way to Astoria and the town of Ilwaco just has to be experienced.
Going up river past Portland also affords one with a lot of unique experiences but you must have enough engine power to push past the fast currents just below the dams, especially Bonneville Dam, or you just won't make it. Once past The Dalles dam the scenery turns far more desert like but there are still sites to be seen including a large herd of big horn sheep that hang out above John Day dam.
The Snake river is navigable all the way to Idaho as long as your mast isn't too high. 50 feet is just about the maximum you can pass safely but the desert climate is worth the trip.
If you come up, stop in and say hello to us at the Walla Walla Yacht Club at river mile 312 in the Wallula Gap. There is someone home almost all the time and the guest dock is always open.
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Old 07-15-2009
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Hah! It's great to see others that have learned to sail on the Columbia too! I spent almost all my free time sailing the Columbia with my dad when I was a kid and still sail it frequently out of Cascade Locks. I have only sailed the areas between Astoria and The Dalles but would like to take a trip up to the bridge (somewhere along the Oregon Idaho border?).

Like someone said before the currents below the dams and wind conditions in the Gorge can be a bit tricky but the Columbia River Gorge is truly a sight to behold. Surprisingly the sailing can get intense. I have seen quite possibly 5-6ft swells and 40+ knot winds sailing wing/wing up to Hood River. The trip back into the wind was brutal. Motor running and comming out of the water, 2 reefs in the main and the headsail reefed way in. The waves were only about a boat length from crest to crest so we were pounded pretty hard.

It is a neat river to explore really. My only problem is I want to go somewhere other than just East or West on the same section of river I have been sailing for 23yrs! If you do decide to take a trip on the Columbia (especially the Gorge) I am sure you will enjoy it.
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Old 07-16-2009
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you can always sail up (down?) the Willamette River from the Columbia. The two rivers meet on the North side of Portland, Oregon South of Vancuver Washington. The Columbia splits these two cities.
Note: the Willamette is a North flowing river that Combines with the Columbia at the Oregon/Washington border.
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Old 07-17-2009
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I grew up boating on the Columbia and Willamette river. I don't reccomend going further south than Oregon City on the Willamette river unless you have a very shallow draft boat with a powerful motor. There's locks over the Willamette falls, but the river is really shallow and narrow above them.

The Columbia you can take all the way to Idaho and beyond! Just make sure you get a good set of charts- and stay really far from sand bars. There's a lot of sand bars in the Columbia and they move rapidly- you can easily go aground on one that has moved considerably from it's previous location. There's also a lot of logs floating down the river, which can do a lot of damage to your boat if you're not extremely watchful. And then there's the commercial barge traffic- never cross the bow of a moving barge.

The Columbia bar at the mouth is infamous as one of the most dangerous places in the world- a lot of boats are lost there. That said, I've crossed it a bunch of times in really small boats on nice days. Just watch the weather and don't attempt a crossing unless it's extremely calm.

The Columbia is a really beautiful amazing place to boat, but it can be challenging.

Last edited by casioqv; 07-17-2009 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 07-24-2009
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Old 07-24-2009
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Old 05-26-2014
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Re: Portland Oregon Columbia River

Hi there

Please can someone help with a bit of information that I nead. How long + or - would the trip take to sail from Hood River to Lewiston, Idaho, with good weather permitting in early November. And would there be any restrictions during that time of the year.

Thank you
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