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Old 04-05-2018, 04:02 PM   #1
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Columbia River Cruise

I'd like to hear from other forumites with experience going up/down the Columbia/Snake River to Clarkston on the boarder with Idaho. From the charts, it looks like minimum clearance is 39 feet, which is fine, but I can't find much info on currents, marinas, etc.

So, what say you, is this an interesting cruise, any depth issues, are marinas along the way, is anchoring some places needed, can you go beyond Clarkston? We love the area and it looks like it might be fun, but would really appreciate expert advice.

Much obliged.
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Old 04-05-2018, 04:36 PM   #2
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https://youtu.be/f0PGkDY2EXc

This might give you some ideas.
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Old 04-05-2018, 04:52 PM   #3
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Delfin -

That is a trip I've always wanted to do, too! Back in the late '90s I made a VHS cruising guide to the Lower Columbia River (Astoria to Bonneville Dam) and intended to make a second video of the rivers up to Idaho. Alas, moved up here and haven't been back on the river since. It is important, especially in the lower Columbia, to stay in marked channels. The sandbars are constantly shifting outside of the channels, and even experienced locals can get caught.

Have you read Tony Fleming's article and video on cruising Venture to Idaho? While those were pretty good, I recently found his blog entries on that trip and they are WAY more thorough. Tons of great info (including currents, anchorages, and marinas) in a four-part series:

Fleming Yachts - Tony's Adventures

I learned to sail on the Columbia out of Portland and had a couple sailboats there. It's definitely a different type of cruising. Dare I say "narrower" in scope? LOL! It can be quite lovely, though I wonder what the once-beautiful Columbia River Gorge looks like after last year's fires...
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Old 04-05-2018, 05:14 PM   #4
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Pairadice and ASD are planning this trip this summer. We hope to be leaving early May from the Portland area and returning end of June.
We will start another thread as we get a bit closer to departure, sorta like we did last year for the Alaska trip. The wifi should be a lot better this time.
The admiral and I are leaving the “Dirt House” in a week. We are so looking forward to getting back on the water!
Hope to meet up with several “TF’ers” along the way.

Cheers!
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Old 04-05-2018, 05:20 PM   #5
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Can't help with the OP's original questions but we did that trip (including going up the Snake in jet boats) several years ago on a Lindblad Expedition ship. Definitely an interesting trip to do.
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Old 04-05-2018, 05:22 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Moonfish View Post
Delfin -

That is a trip I've always wanted to do, too! Back in the late '90s I made a VHS cruising guide to the Lower Columbia River (Astoria to Bonneville Dam) and intended to make a second video of the rivers up to Idaho. Alas, moved up here and haven't been back on the river since. It is important, especially in the lower Columbia, to stay in marked channels. The sandbars are constantly shifting outside of the channels, and even experienced locals can get caught.

Have you read Tony Fleming's article and video on cruising Venture to Idaho? While those were pretty good, I recently found his blog entries on that trip and they are WAY more thorough. Tons of great info (including currents, anchorages, and marinas) in a four-part series:

Fleming Yachts - Tony's Adventures

I learned to sail on the Columbia out of Portland and had a couple sailboats there. It's definitely a different type of cruising. Dare I say "narrower" in scope? LOL! It can be quite lovely, though I wonder what the once-beautiful Columbia River Gorge looks like after last year's fires...
Thanks Darren! I'll go over Tony's logs - they sound very helpful.
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Old 04-05-2018, 05:54 PM   #7
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Hi Delfin,

Try the MV Dirona web site as well. The Hamiltons went up the river in 2012, I believe.

https://mvdirona.com/2012/04/crossin...bia-river-bar/

Reggards,

Pete
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Old 04-05-2018, 07:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by McGillicuddy View Post
https://youtu.be/f0PGkDY2EXc

This might give you some ideas.
That is helpful, thank you. Delfin draws 2.5 feet more water than Tony's boat, so that may be an issue for us further upriver. He states in the video he touched twice.....
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Old 04-05-2018, 09:04 PM   #9
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Will be following this thread with intense interest. We'd like to do the length of Oregon on the Columbia in our Albin-25 maybe in 2019. Grandkids in Portland would be included in the crew for part of the adventure. We'll tow the boat from Illinois.
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Old 04-05-2018, 11:06 PM   #10
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Delfin, We did it last summer at the end of July all the way to Clarkston from Portland. We went up to Kennewick in 2015 for the Hydro races. Last summer the current was still high from the runoff. The Snake from the Columbia to Ice Harbar dam was really really running fast. It was like a never ending pass up north for going against the current in a fairly narrow channel. We had a great time and will do it again after we have done a couple of trips up to the sound again. The main thing is to plan your lock times with your destination in the evening as ther are not a lot of places to duck out of the river in some stretches. Also stay in the channels on the Snake. One area we were going through showed 20+' on the chart but the bottom came up quick. We looked at the notes, it said shoaling noted 1977 on the current chart 😜. Let me know if you need any info.
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Old 04-06-2018, 12:58 AM   #11
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1. What are the typical head currents heading upstream?

2. How fast of a boat do you need to realistically do this trip?

3. Is diesel available on the way?
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Old 04-06-2018, 08:37 AM   #12
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Cue up several threads by GFC on this forum. I'm surprised he hasn't responded yet, but then again he was about to cruise his boat down to Portland....
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Old 04-06-2018, 09:49 AM   #13
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Pretty cool.
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Old 04-06-2018, 10:08 AM   #14
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Sounds like we need to get a flotilla together and make the trip. We too are interested in that trip.
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Old 04-06-2018, 10:44 AM   #15
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Depending on the time of the year, it can get windy with steep chop. We had water over the flybridge of a Tolly 45 coming down past Hood River. Never happened to us out in the ocean. For a 45+ foot boat there are not many places to get off the river and out of the wind once past the Gorge.

Channel depth is 43' to Portland and 20' above. The Columbia is free flowing below the Bonneville dam (about 140 miles up). There is tidal action all the way up to Bonneville. In a slow boat one would travel with the tides. Above Bonneville, the Columbia is mostly a series of lakes. Make sure you cross the Columbia bar at high slack, then it is usually a non-event.

If you are used to the Lake Union locks, you'll be impressed by the Columbia locks. Definitely not your French canals cruise.

Personally, I think the best cruising is on the lower Columbia and through the Gorge up to The Dalles.
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Old 04-06-2018, 12:25 PM   #16
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Delfin, We did it last summer at the end of July all the way to Clarkston from Portland. We went up to Kennewick in 2015 for the Hydro races. Last summer the current was still high from the runoff. The Snake from the Columbia to Ice Harbar dam was really really running fast. It was like a never ending pass up north for going against the current in a fairly narrow channel. We had a great time and will do it again after we have done a couple of trips up to the sound again. The main thing is to plan your lock times with your destination in the evening as ther are not a lot of places to duck out of the river in some stretches. Also stay in the channels on the Snake. One area we were going through showed 20+' on the chart but the bottom came up quick. We looked at the notes, it said shoaling noted 1977 on the current chart 😜. Let me know if you need any info.
At 7.5', we might be more challenged that other vessels. What do you think? Also, are their places one can anchor? I assume that if you are out of the main current, you have very shallow water, true? Finally, what would you estimate the maximum speed of the current is?
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Old 04-07-2018, 11:49 AM   #17
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Hi all, sorry I didn't get to this thread before now. We're in AZ, got here Thursday evening and have been busier than all get out showing some friends around town.


I've made the trip from Portland to the Tri Cities (235 miles) three times and enjoyed it every time. On one trip downriver to Umatilla, Or we ran into some hellatious winds and ended up turning around. Watch the video I linked to below, then watch #2, #3, and #4 when they come up. That will give you an idea of why we turned around.





Now, having shown you those I will say those conditions are unusual. Most of the time the wind blows, but not like that.
Flywright asked some pertinent questions and I'll answer them below.....
1. What are the typical head currents heading upstream?
--most of the way you will find 2-3kt currents. Obviously they push you going downstream and push against you when you are headed upstream. I've seen currents as high as 4.5kts on the Columbia and up to 10kts on the lower Snake below Ice Harbor Dam. That only happens in early spring when the runoff is high.
2. How fast of a boat do you need to realistically do this trip?
---I would want to be able to do about 15-17kts if you're doing the trip in the early spring. Otherwise 10kts would be fine.
3. Is diesel available on the way?
---Yes. Many places on the Columbia have diesel and a few on the Snake. You have to be more aware of your fuel levels on the Snake.


If you have any specific questions, ask away. We'll be here until 4/12 then headed home and plan to leave 4/13 for Portland.
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Old 04-07-2018, 12:37 PM   #18
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At 7.5', we might be more challenged that other vessels. What do you think? Also, are their places one can anchor? I assume that if you are out of the main current, you have very shallow water, true? Finally, what would you estimate the maximum speed of the current is?

Carl.
We took Volunteer up the Columbia and Snake rivers a number of years ago, Diesel isn't a issue.. especially for you. The current can be a bitch until you lock through at Bonneville, after that its just the wind.
I spent a number of hours with the throttle to the wall to go a couple miles.. most times showing .01 kt trying to get up the last stretch below Bonneville in May.
In my 20,000+ offshore miles it was the most harrowing thing I have done in a boat. It can flow over 500,000 cubic feet per second and its a couple hundred yards wide and max of about 35' in the center of the channel at that point.

We had a draft of 6' and never had an issue.. but anchoring can be interesting as holding can be hit and miss.
We towed our comp ski boat with Volunteer on a lot of the trip and spent the entire summer going over for long weekends and a few 10 day stretches.
AC really helps as it gets rather warm and nights can be buggy and uncomfortable.
The locks are for the most part not too big of a problem unless its windy.. and the lock tenders seem to be less enthusiastic dealing with recreational vessels vs commercial vessels.
We had a grand time at Yacht clubs in Portland and the Tri Cities..
You will really enjoy the folks at the Clover Island Yacht Club, they are our kind of people
We plan on doing the rivers again, probably on a boat that can cruise a bit faster than we did the first time.
A good part of the trip will be in water that looks like this
PM me if you need more info
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Old 04-07-2018, 03:12 PM   #19
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We had a grand time at Yacht clubs in Portland and the Tri Cities..
You will really enjoy the folks at the Clover Island Yacht Club, they are our kind of people
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Hollywood, thanks for the Kudos for our yacht club. We have gained a reputation for being a VERY welcoming and VERY friendly club, and we work hard to maintain that rep.

Reciprocal moorage is always open to visitors from other clubs and if you're there on a Friday night you're welcome to join us for our Friday Night Potluck. If you happen to be there when we're having a party, which is about monthly in the summer months, you're also welcome to join us for that. Parties usually have a theme, a band and are a LOT of fun.

Our St. Paddy's party had about 180 people attend. It started with a BYO Happy Hour, followed by a Bagpipe and drum band performance which was followed by a corned beef and cabbage dinner then casino night.
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Old 04-07-2018, 06:59 PM   #20
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This is going to be an interesting trip for Pairadice and ASD. Summer time fun again....
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