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Old 07-10-2020, 04:59 PM   #1
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Optimal size/type trawler to split time between Portland and Puget Sound?

The wife and I are back to boat shopping for a trawler/tug that we can keep mostly in the Portland area but use annually in Puget Sound and BC/Alaska. We previously lived in Juneau and owned a series of boats up there culminating with a 27' Seasport Seamaster that we took all over the northern half of SE Alaska for weekend and longer trips. We would like something a little larger and more comfortable for long-term cruising.

Our careers and kids in school mean that we are likely to continue living in the Portland area (Camas WA) for the next 5-10 years. So we need something that will primarily be kept and used on the Columbia/Willamette for at least the next 5+ years with infrequent trips up to Puget Sound.

The biggest obstacle seems to be transport. Trailerable boats make the trip quick and easy as we are 4 hours from Anacortes. Cruising around the outer coast of WA seems like an expensive and time consuming proposition for boats that are too large to reasonably haul up via I-5. Something I might want to do some day but not on any regular basis.

So that leaves us trying to determine what are the reasonable size limits to constrain ourselves to and which cruising trawlers/tugs maximize seaworthiness and cruising space while still being transportable. I don't own a large pickup and don't plan to buy one so either way we would be hiring someone to transport the boat. The only question is whether it will be some guy with a F350 pulling it up on a boat trailer, or a semi truck doing it with a pilot car. And how much difference the cost is between those two options.

Our shopping has pointed us to the Ranger Tug R31 model which looks to be about the largest trawler yacht on the market that can be reasonably towed by a large pickup on its own trailer. Anything larger seems to require a much more expensive semi haul with wide load and pilot car, etc. So...questions?

1. What are some alternatives to the Ranger Tug R31 model. We like the tug style yachts but aren't fixated on them to the exclusion of other trawler style yachts. I very much like the look of classic Grand Banks style trawlers. Most likely looking single engine displacement boats. We will most likely be looking for something fairly late model used that is reasonably turn-key. Not a new boat or a decades-old project boat.

2. Are there Portland area boaters here who regularly transport larger yachts between Portland and Puget sound via semi truck hauls? If so, what is your experience with that and what is a reasonable maximum size trawler for that sort of regular use? Is something like say an American Tug 365 or a Nordic Tug 36 reasonably transportable between Portland and Anacortes via I-5, or are those pushing the limit in terms of cost and practicality if we were to do that every year?
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Old 07-10-2020, 06:03 PM   #2
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I think you have defined the parameters of your boat selection dilemma very well:

* Puget Sound is too far to easily travel on its own bottom for a two week vacation from Portland.
* The Ranger 31 is probably the largest boat that can be towed by a heavy duty pickup on its own trailer. But that boat may be too small for your family.
* Larger boats like the Grand Banks are shippable on a hydraulic trailer, but what you didn't say is can these fly bridge trawlers be shipped without removing their fly bridge.

So I would first answer the last question by contacting some local boat transport companies and see what they say. Also get estimates to ship the boats with no fly bridges.

Then if it is not easily shippable, consider tug type trawlers or downeaster types with no fly bridge like the American Tug that you mention. That or the Nordic Tug 37 would be my choice in your situation. You might also find that shipping a N37 or similar someplace on the southern Puget Sound might not be that expensive since it should be an easy one day trip including loading and unloading.

Spending several thousand dollars on a boat transport company every year or two for a two week vacation in Puget Sound might not be all that bad. I think you will be much happier with an AT or NT 37 or similar than a Ranger 31.

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Old 07-10-2020, 06:16 PM   #3
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Thanks for the input. I'm not particularly looking for a flybridge model but then I've never owned one either. I've always just navigated from the main cabin.

Regarding trailering. I have no intention of doing any trailering myself. I don't own a big truck and have no place to park one or store a boat trailer. We live in a hilly subdivision of Camas that is not conducive to boat parking or trailer storage. In fact it is not allowed by our HOA and my drive way is too steep to even think about boat parking.

So no matter what boat we buy it will be permanently moored on the Columbia and we will be hiring someone to transport it on their trailer back and forth to Puget Sound. I don't see the point of even owning an expensive trailer if it will barely ever get used. The only question is whether it is some boat yard with a diesel dually and their own trailer, or a larger semi truck operation. So I'm not looking for a trailerable boat so much as one that is easily transportable.

We are also not contemplating just keeping a boat in Puget Sound. We want something we can use frequently on the Columbia during the year. The mid-30s Nordic Tugs and American Tugs are about exactly what we are looking for in terms of size and budget if the transport is not an issue. I just don't want to be stuck with a boat on the Columbia that isn't practical to have hauled up to say Anacortes or Bellingham on a semi-regular basis.

All this is sort of theoretical. What I'm really looking for is someone who owns say an American or Nordic Tug in Portland and transports it back and forth like we intend who can say "Yes, it's no big deal, or "NO, it's a giant hassle, don't do it" I know it would be easy with a Ranger. The question is how much more of a hassle would it be with something larger and what are my reasonable upper limits.
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Old 07-10-2020, 06:22 PM   #4
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Ranger tugs are well loved by their owners in the PNW. Not so much by other boaters as they are usually run at speed close by as the friendly owners wave cheerily seemingly unaware of the huge wake they throw out.

They have the advantage of being fast, reasonably comfortable, and cute. They are not a displacement boat and I rarely see them run at displacement speeds. They would work well for you and would be reasonably easy to have transported (provided you owned the trailer) and can could a lot of ground in the Salish Sea in a 1 or 2 week vacation.

I do like the idea of a larger boat that you could have transported via a trucking service. I have used Dudley Boat Transport and was happy with them. Giving them a call and just asking for a ball park figure to transport to Olympia, Tacoma, or Anacortes would give you some ideas.

I think more importantly is what type of boat would you want to use on the river? It sounds as if most of the your boating would be on the river with maybe a yearly trip up North. Something like the Ranger sounds like it might be idea for that but Iíve no experience with river boating.

Finally, you may find that in the long run you will do better to buy a boat to use at home, and then charter a boat for a trips up North. That would be easier, likely cheaper, and ultimately give you the best boat for the application.
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Old 07-10-2020, 06:40 PM   #5
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Ranger tugs are well loved by their owners in the PNW. Not so much by other boaters as they are usually run at speed close by as the friendly owners wave cheerily seemingly unaware of the huge wake they throw out.

They have the advantage of being fast, reasonably comfortable, and cute. They are not a displacement boat and I rarely see them run at displacement speeds. They would work well for you and would be reasonably easy to have transported (provided you owned the trailer) and can could a lot of ground in the Salish Sea in a 1 or 2 week vacation.

I do like the idea of a larger boat that you could have transported via a trucking service. I have used Dudley Boat Transport and was happy with them. Giving them a call and just asking for a ball park figure to transport to Olympia, Tacoma, or Anacortes would give you some ideas.

I think more importantly is what type of boat would you want to use on the river? It sounds as if most of the your boating would be on the river with maybe a yearly trip up North. Something like the Ranger sounds like it might be idea for that but I’ve no experience with river boating.

Finally, you may find that in the long run you will do better to buy a boat to use at home, and then charter a boat for a trips up North. That would be easier, likely cheaper, and ultimately give you the best boat for the application.
Yeah. We don't really know what sort of boating we would most commonly do on the Columbia. I would anticipate occasional cruises up into the Gorge and down river as far as Astoria, perhaps even along some of the outer coast of Oregon to say Newport or some of the smaller ports in-between. I'm not sure how commonly people do that. Also lots of just local messing around on sunny weekends. Doing the annual Christmas boat parade. That sort of thing.

As for keeping a smaller vessel on the Columbia and then chartering larger ones in Puget Sound? I'm kind of a tinkerer and like fussing around fixing things, optimizing them, and generally just tricking out my own boat how I want it. Also really learning everything about it top to bottom. I'd be reluctant to charter an unfamiliar boat to take to remote waters. I prefer something I know inside-out and can work on blindfolded if need be. Although we have talked about chartering a Nordic Tug back in Juneau some summer when we won't have the time to sail all the way up there and back. But that's sort of a different thing.
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Old 07-11-2020, 08:52 AM   #6
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Finally, you may find that in the long run you will do better to buy a boat to use at home, and then charter a boat for a trips up North. That would be easier, likely cheaper, and ultimately give you the best boat for the application.
This makes so much sense. I view the shipping/transport cost as sunk cost (NOT saying it is a bad idea). Apply that cost towards the seasonal charter and enjoy different boats for every seasonís vacation mission. Have a smaller boat for the river, something easy and maybe speedy.
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Old 07-11-2020, 09:40 AM   #7
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Very generally you can transport anything with a 10' or less beam on a trailer with a heavy duty pick up. Over 10' and it becomes a transport Co. Have to check local regulations.

From some other threads on here it seems PNW boaters don't favor flybridges so the height might not be a problem

You say 'kids' plural so I'm guessing 4 or more on board. I believe I'd look at boats 1st that will accomodate that and do what you want then see what it would cost to transport.
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Old 07-11-2020, 10:38 AM   #8
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Cam,
Obviously from where I live, I have never done what you are proposing. However, when boat shopping, I was talking directly to a Nordic Tug 37 owner who lived in the Portland area and he regularly had his boat transported to the Sound. So it can be done. Sorry, but I don't have any additional info, and I have lost any contact info I had at the time.

I would suggest contacting some transport companies, first knowing the specifics of several boats you are considering (eg. weight, height, width, length) and find out if they have experience with that boat/model, can it be done (rules and all), and even a rough cost estimate. The info gathered might help you with your decision.
Edit: Forgot to mention, that in my opinion, a Nordic Tug 37 is a great boat for cruising around the PNW in good comfort, as long as you are OK with travelling at speeds of 7-9 knots. Above that speed, and you push a lot of water, use a ton more fuel, for each knot gained.
Good luck.
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Old 07-11-2020, 03:21 PM   #9
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Cam,
Obviously from where I live, I have never done what you are proposing. However, when boat shopping, I was talking directly to a Nordic Tug 37 owner who lived in the Portland area and he regularly had his boat transported to the Sound. So it can be done. Sorry, but I don't have any additional info, and I have lost any contact info I had at the time.

I would suggest contacting some transport companies, first knowing the specifics of several boats you are considering (eg. weight, height, width, length) and find out if they have experience with that boat/model, can it be done (rules and all), and even a rough cost estimate. The info gathered might help you with your decision.
Edit: Forgot to mention, that in my opinion, a Nordic Tug 37 is a great boat for cruising around the PNW in good comfort, as long as you are OK with travelling at speeds of 7-9 knots. Above that speed, and you push a lot of water, use a ton more fuel, for each knot gained.
Good luck.
Thanks. Yes, the Nordic Tug 37 is right in the sweet spot of what I would consider the ideal boat for our purposes if transport is not completely unrealistic. It is also getting into the size range that I would feel comfortable driving one around the outer coast of WA. A Ranger Tug might be a bit small for that. I chartered a Nordic Tug in Juneau for a couple of dive expeditions to the outer coast and we poked around the open Pacific between Cross Sound and Sitka with no trouble. I think it was actually the smaller Nordic Tug 32, probably a mid-90s model. I also did that run on my Seasport once. Everything changes when you get out of the protected waters into that big North Pacific groundswell, but you get used to it. There are little boats out there fishing in it all the time.

The 7-9 knots is just fine. But it is nice to know you can pick up the pace to escape something nasty if you need to on those days when you can feel things changing for the worse and you just want to get out of it. I don't want some big twin engine Hatteras that burns 40 GPH.

I'll probably give a shout to the Nordic Tug company in WA and see who they use to ship boats to Portland. They must have their favorite shipping companies. And I expect there are some Nordic Tug groups on Facebook or someplace where I can find folks who do the same thing.
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Old 07-11-2020, 04:13 PM   #10
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Very generally you can transport anything with a 10' or less beam on a trailer with a heavy duty pick up. Over 10' and it becomes a transport Co. Have to check local regulations.

From some other threads on here it seems PNW boaters don't favor flybridges so the height might not be a problem

You say 'kids' plural so I'm guessing 4 or more on board. I believe I'd look at boats 1st that will accomodate that and do what you want then see what it would cost to transport.
Kids are in HS and out of college and not super eager to join the boating lifestyle so we aren't really counting on them long-term. We are more interested in getting a really nice couple's boat that can accommodate the kids in the galley if/when they ever want to join us. One is 9th grade and the other is 12th grade and the oldest just graduated college so realistically we would likely only be cruising much with just the youngest. But it would be useful to have something that can sleep 5 in a pinch as there are 3 of them. On something like a Nordic Tug 37 that seems very easy, more cramped on something like a Ranger.

Yeah, I'm not really looking for a flybridge. Most of my boating experience is in SE Alaska where they aren't much used. I suppose the greater visibility is nice for avoiding hitting logs. But I never had that problem when steering from the wheelhouse. Seems like a lot of extra cost and hassle for something we wouldn't use very much in the PNW.
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Old 07-11-2020, 04:40 PM   #11
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As far as the NT 37 goes, most boats are 2 cabin and many are set up with a top and bottom "bunk" in the guest cabin, with room for 2 more in the salon. We use our top berth for storage and have located a portable freezer there as well.
Having a flybridge would be counterproductive for what you are describing. Road height would then become an issue and/or removing items and reinstalling would become a necessity. Not the best idea IMHO. Also, the added windage can make docking a bit more difficult. At the last rendezvous, a few owners with flybridges got caught by wind gusts making for a docking experience that was more exciting than they would have liked.

The AT 34 is a great couple's boat, but limits having only 2 overnight guests at the same time, both in the salon.
If you are looking for direct info from NT owners, try searching SENTOA.ORG or PANNTOA.COM. Sentoa is a bit more active than the PNW list (PaNNTOA).
Personally (and I know I am biased), I don't think you can go to wrong with a NT 37 for these waters. You probably know, but top cruising speed is about 13 knots, but most cruise their boats at 8 knots with a fuel burn of about 2-3 gph.
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Old 07-11-2020, 05:13 PM   #12
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I know a few folks that trailer their boat north. Smaller boats and less range. We are about 50 miles down river from Portland. We go north each year (except this year) and spend the summer in BC and SE Alaska. We go around the horn and stay on the "inside" once we get to Puget Sound.

Good luck in your search. Chartering will also expose you to different boats.
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Old 07-11-2020, 06:39 PM   #13
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firehoser75, that 2 in the salon gets old quickly. I have an AT34 and had the parents of my lady here for a month. I gave up the S/R to her parents, out of respect and the fact I get up early. I guess I slept okay but making and unmaking gets old quickly. One nice thing about the ATs design of the single head is, it has 2 doors, one opening into the S/R and one opening into stairwell area. At night, keep both doors closed and there is both access and privacy to the head.
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Old 07-11-2020, 08:43 PM   #14
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firehoser75, that 2 in the salon gets old quickly. I have an AT34 and had the parents of my lady here for a month. I gave up the S/R to her parents, out of respect and the fact I get up early. I guess I slept okay but making and unmaking gets old quickly. One nice thing about the ATs design of the single head is, it has 2 doors, one opening into the S/R and one opening into stairwell area. At night, keep both doors closed and there is both access and privacy to the head.
That is my one reservation about the standard American Tug. They had a different model at the Seattle Boat show this spring that is the same hull but with a second stateroom tucked under the galley and a less upscale interior that I thought was still perfectly nice. The 362 model I think it is. I haven't studied the plans very closely but I'm guessing they must have shrunk the size of the main stateroom and head to squeeze in a second berth. But I think that plan would be more practical for a family. The storage is more important to me than a really spacious master stateroom.
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Old 07-11-2020, 09:38 PM   #15
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Camasonian,
Iíve got the larger AT 41í and canít say enough great things about Tomco company that makes them, you might enjoy a visit to the Company in La Conner, WA.
AT now makes a 362, 395, 435 and 485 with two staterooms.
Even the small AT has a beam a little over 13í so Iíd say both this and the Nordic likely require an 18-wheeler to move on roads.
You might consider what size boat you want beyond your 5 year mark. Take a trip up to Anacortes and la Conner, maybe charter some of these or at least get a test ride on them. Another option is I think Passagemaker Trawlerfest has shifted their trawler boat show In Seattle to this fall So you might consider attending, great way to see some different boats....
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Old 07-12-2020, 03:08 AM   #16
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Sledge, Another down side of the AT34 and I would imagine the 36 is the lack of ventilation in the galley/saloon area. I solved that with a hood over the range that exhaust outside (super quiet fan on a rheostat). If you look at my pics in the AT group, on a different site, you will see how I solved it. Yup, a bit of an over-kill but, you will get the idea. Trust me, it gets smaller, the longer you have it. I think I added 4 or 5 custom cabinets for additional cabinets and opened up a brand new world when I had installed a hydraulic assist system accessing the under berth storage area. The only thing I cannot not improve is the hanging closet space. Kurt said, "Buy a bigger boat.", ie a 41. Oh yea baby, that's not gonna happen.
I agree with you, the American Tug if a fantastic boat for near shore cruising and ICW. I think I have captured all available space.
I would like to visit their shop but with the C19, I dont see it happening.
LOL I did add a few fun things, 2 more bells to the air horn system (now I sound like a Hatt and a whistle light that lights when the horn is sounded)
Ah because the boat is 30amp, I put an amp meter in the galley area so I can plan as I am cooking. The fridge, added more insulation and a Stainless Lobster. Alas, it still wont keep the ice cream, solid. CHUCKLE
Basically, I have poked and squeezed everything I could to make this 34 a great live-aboard. Ah, I did add a Reverso fuel polishing system too.
I have put a lot of "perfume on the pig" and if the next owner doesn't appreciate it, dont buy my boat.
If I had started with a 41, ......
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Old 07-12-2020, 05:46 AM   #17
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Have you considered hiring a delivery captain for the up and back? Might be cost effective depending on OTR transport costs (haul out, trailer, permits, splash, etc)

You could meet the boat in Port Townsend or Anacortes and then drop it back off when youíre done. Then have it delivered it back to Portland.
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Old 07-12-2020, 12:54 PM   #18
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Have you considered hiring a delivery captain for the up and back? Might be cost effective depending on OTR transport costs (haul out, trailer, permits, splash, etc)

You could meet the boat in Port Townsend or Anacortes and then drop it back off when youíre done. Then have it delivered it back to Portland.
At that rate I would just do it myself. Iím a semi retired teacher with the time. My wife is a senior physician who still works big hours and doesnít. So her schedule controls our vacation time. Iím guessing that the fuel and cost of a hired skipper to run the outer coast would exceed the cost of shipping it via truck. But thatís just a guess.

Iím just trying to get a sense of the costs of transport and max size parameters for those who do it on a regular basis. We are basically just talking a 200-250 mile straight shot up I-5 and I am guessing that there are transport companies that do it regularly.
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Old 07-12-2020, 12:58 PM   #19
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Sledge, Another down side of the AT34 and I would imagine the 36 is the lack of ventilation in the galley/saloon area. I solved that with a hood over the range that exhaust outside (super quiet fan on a rheostat). If you look at my pics in the AT group, on a different site, you will see how I solved it. Yup, a bit of an over-kill but, you will get the idea. Trust me, it gets smaller, the longer you have it. I think I added 4 or 5 custom cabinets for additional cabinets and opened up a brand new world when I had installed a hydraulic assist system accessing the under berth storage area. The only thing I cannot not improve is the hanging closet space. Kurt said, "Buy a bigger boat.", ie a 41. Oh yea baby, that's not gonna happen.
I agree with you, the American Tug if a fantastic boat for near shore cruising and ICW. I think I have captured all available space.
I would like to visit their shop but with the C19, I dont see it happening.
LOL I did add a few fun things, 2 more bells to the air horn system (now I sound like a Hatt and a whistle light that lights when the horn is sounded)
Ah because the boat is 30amp, I put an amp meter in the galley area so I can plan as I am cooking. The fridge, added more insulation and a Stainless Lobster. Alas, it still wont keep the ice cream, solid. CHUCKLE
Basically, I have poked and squeezed everything I could to make this 34 a great live-aboard. Ah, I did add a Reverso fuel polishing system too.
I have put a lot of "perfume on the pig" and if the next owner doesn't appreciate it, dont buy my boat.
If I had started with a 41, ......
What do you mean by hydraulic assist under the berth? Are you just talking about gas struts of the sort that are on SUV rear hatches and common on campers like air streams? Doesnít AT already provide something like that? Or are you talking about some sort of mechanical push button system that raises the berth automatically?
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Old 07-12-2020, 01:11 PM   #20
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Camas,

Hello from a couple hundred miles upriver from you.

A couple of thoughts for you to ponder. When we had a 33' express cruiser we trailered it to Anacortes for a 2 week cruise in the San Juans. I didn't own a tow pickup so I rented one from Budget. We did two one-day rentals. One to take the boat up to Anacortes and drop it off then return the truck to Budget, then another at the end of the trip to pick up the boat and bring her home. When we took the boat to Anacortes we drove up one day and when we got to Anacortes we pulled into a Safeway parking lot and spent the night on the boat. We took the boat to Cap Sante the next morning, dropped it off and headed home to take the truck back to Budget. Easy Peasy with a 24 hour rental with unlimited mileage.

Another thought--you mentioned cruising up the Columbia through the Gorge. Don't overlook the rest of the river. There's some beautiful scenery all the way up to Richland (We're in Pasco) and then there's another ~250 miles of the Snake River. If you come this far you'll see things you won't see anywhere else, and the first round will be on me!
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