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Continuing our cruise on the Columbia River

This column is a continuation of last week’s column on a cruise on the Columbia River.

Sand to Sand. John Bailey left us in Astoria, returning to Seattle by train while the remaining crew — daughter Carol, Peg and I — toured the city.

Astoria is most interesting: must do is the museum with graphic pictures and stories of the Bar, the Columbia Lightship, the climb up Coxcomb Hill and the Astor Tower with its overview of the area. Everything in town is within easy walking distance or city bus.

After restocking ship’s stores and diesel ($1.50) we cast off for our first leg up river to Portland. Although the river is well marked, it is essential to have a complete set of charts. I used EvergreenPacific “River Cruising Atlas,” Columbia, Snake, Willamette, which I purchased at Captains in Seattle. It contains a wealth of information in addition to the chartlets. The aides to navigation are more than adequate, but the river changes by the hour. One must learn to “read” the water.

I found the tug boat Captains most helpful and willing to assist with their local knowledge. Tows and bridges are on Ch. 13 VHF. Many deep-draft ships and commercial tows are on the river and of course have the right of way. It is both wise and seamanlike to hail any traffic to establish passing intentions. Commercial traffic will normally choose the outside of a river bend.

I started out with full canvas, but soon found out that a 150-percent genoa was all I needed as starting in the forenoon the wind would blow upstream from 20-30 knots.

The flood is felt as far as Portland. We chose the river to Portland, but going via the Multnomah Channel which carries about 15 feet would be better as the current is slower. Either way, Multnomah Channel is interesting with its colorful float houses.

We moored at the Rose City Yacht Club — neat, clubhouse on cedar floats, low key, mostly sailboats.

Carol departed at this point as we moved upriver to Beacon Rock State Park. This is a popular destination for Portland boats. Strangely, very few local boats venture beyond the Bonneville Dam two miles upstream.

The assault of Beacon Rock, a spectacular column of rock 840 feet high, is by a marvelously constructed walkway up to its very top where one has a grand view up the river to the dam. Mind, the walkway is not for the faint of heart. We spotted buoy C-91 three-fourths of a mile upriver. This was the critical point cited by the marine superintendent of Tidewater Barge. Before clearing our anchorage, I went below to give my Isuzu engine a loving pat and saying, “It’s all up to you now.”

Midstream, the current was running 8 knots, but by hugging the left bank and working every back eddy with the engine maxed at 2600 rpm for a half hour we finally made it.

From about a mile downstream I called the lock tender on Ch. 14 requesting passage and received a “Come right on in, skipper.” Bonneville Dam lock at 44 feet wide, 600 feet long and 90 feet high is cavernous. The sun is blocked except at high noon.

Next week, we enter the “lakes” en route to Tri-Cities.

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