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Old 06-24-2019, 12:38 AM   #1
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Columbia River - Portland to Astoria

My wife and I are making this trip to Astoria from Portland where we recently bought our CHB 34. We want to be out of Portland asap and are watching the weather so we don't have to do it in rain.

Aside from that, and ship traffic, are there any other things we need to plan/watch out for? We are not familiar with the river but have experience on river, bay and ocean from our sailing in and out of Yaquina Bay, which is where we eventually will make home-port.
Thanks,
Mike
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:11 AM   #2
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I have no experience on the river. I would suggest that wind and tide would be much more important than rain. Iíd take a rainy day with calm winds and favorable currents over windy sunshine any day.
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Old 06-24-2019, 08:02 AM   #3
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River is still kinda high but dropping. You will need both sets of eyes to watch out for drift in the river, seems to be a lot for this time of year. Depending on the lighting, can be hard to see. Watch out for wing dams too.

Consider cruising the Multnomah channel around Sauvie Island. Take your time and visit places like Sand Island & Cathlamet, they have a nice little harbor.

Something like this would be useful:

https://www.amazon.com/River-Cruisin.../dp/0945265654

I'm in Columbia City, so toot your horn as you pass by!
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Old 06-24-2019, 08:59 AM   #4
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The biggest difference about the Columbia River vs other rivers is how wide it is. Despite its huge size the channel is often narrow. Never take your eyes off the navigation markers. Often the River looks like it is going one way while the channel is going the other. Tide runs to Portland so for best speed travel on the ebb tide.
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:18 AM   #5
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Will you be staying at Port of Astoria West Basin marina?

https://www.portofastoria.com/West_Basin_Marina.aspx
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:29 AM   #6
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The biggest difference about the Columbia River vs other rivers is how wide it is. Despite its huge size the channel is often narrow. Never take your eyes off the navigation markers. Often the River looks like it is going one way while the channel is going the other. Tide runs to Portland so for best speed travel on the ebb tide.
I had a couple of boats on the Columbia, and had been upriver from Portland to Hood River, and down to Astoria/Warren. The advice "never take your eyes of the navigation markers" is true! The only time I ever touched bottom was on the way into Martin Slough (nice little anchorage on the WA side between Columbia City and Kalama). Took my eyes of the markers and came to a stop. Fortunately, I had slowed to about 3 knots and it was only mud/sand. I was able to kedge off and using reverse thrust. There are so many spots where the river "looks" like you should go one way, but the navigable channel goes another.

It is, however, a really beautiful trip. It can be so placid, with scenery you don't get anywhere else. The lower Columbia River was the subject of the very first video cruising guide I ever made. WAAAAY back in '99/'00. So old it was only ever on VHS tape...
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:45 AM   #7
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Make sure you have the river charts. Watch out for wing dams which might still be under water due to Spring runoff. Many boats get hung up on them. Freighters coming downstream move fast to retain rudder control. The prop wash could be 5 to 6 feet. Expect some rocking. Enjoy the trip!
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:57 AM   #8
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Piece of cake, you’ll get a 2 knot push and follow your charts. We head out ourselves Monday if the work gets done.
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Old 06-24-2019, 11:39 AM   #9
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Will you be staying at Port of Astoria West Basin marina?

https://www.portofastoria.com/West_Basin_Marina.aspx
That's our plan. East Basin or Ilwaco WA are options if we don't find room in West.
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Old 06-24-2019, 11:50 AM   #10
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Piece of cake, youíll get a 2 knot push and follow your charts. We head out ourselves Monday if the work gets done.
Thanks, Everyone, for the advice. We'll keep all our eyes open for debris, markers, dams and the view. We won't be stopping for sightseeing. We want to get to Astoria in a day: estimated time is 12 hours. Our goal is to get down the coast to Newport and the comforts of home.

I'll look around town for a chart/cruising book that covers the river. Our electronic charts on the plotter are over a decade old but we have updated ones on OpenCPN.
Mike
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Old 06-24-2019, 12:49 PM   #11
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Wing Dams, shoaling, large commercial traffic, people fishing in the channel, .....
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:29 PM   #12
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These are our stomping grounds! Youíll get great mileage going downriver. Columbia doesnít have too much debris, flow is low right now. Do keep an eye out behind you, because ships and sometimes barges can overtake.

Cathlamet is a highly recommended stop, but sounds like youíre pushing through. Iím not really a fan of Ilwaco, not much there for cruisers. West Basin is great. Iíd probably go to Chinook or Hammond if not available. Enjoy!
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Old 06-25-2019, 11:41 PM   #13
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I spent 2014-2016 in Newport at Back Bay Marine while finishing the interior of the boat. Lovely place. Other writer is correct, the river is quite low this year. Hard to understand with all the rain and snow. Enjoy the trip down-river.
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Old 06-26-2019, 03:16 AM   #14
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When I leave Portland, I start about an hour before high tide. That way you get the river current and all of the ebb and gain a couple knots. Save some fuel, too. And when leaving Astoria, I start during the last of the ebb, then ride the flood most of the way back. I usually run at the equivalent of 10 knots in still water.
The river is usually deep enough outside the markers for yachts, check the charts. When ships/ barges approach, I usually run outside the markers when I can so it's obvious I won't get in their way.
More info:
Columbia River Pilots: https://colrip.com/
Columbia Bar Pilots: Columbia River Bar Pilots | Astoria, Oregon
A couple web sites that show AIS equipped shipping:

https://www.marinetraffic.com/
https://www.vesselfinder.com/

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Old 07-01-2019, 12:16 AM   #15
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We did the down-river journey yesterday and it took just over 10 hours. We had a 2 knot current with us most of the way so we made 9 knots total. The wind and chop picked up the closer we got to the mouth. It was nasty and we really shook out our new boat. She's a keeper.

We experienced all the things mentioned but I don't think anyone mentioned "wave runners". There were a couple that were having lots of fun jumping over the wake of barge and tug in front of us. We stayed to the side of the channel inside the markers all the way since it's our first experience on the river.

Tomorrow morning we head for Newport.
Mike
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