I rounded up a crew to help get the boat around to Seattle. Itís going to be about 650 miles and we expect it to take 7 days unless we run into weather issues. There will be 3 of us on the boat from here to Longview, WA where one of the crew (Jim) has to leave to take his daughter to college. Heís had some cruising experience on Beachcomber, having helped me take her to Portland and back.
Jim will be replaced in Longview by Doug who will be on the boat as we finish the trip to Seattle. Doug and I met in 2014 when he and I helped a new friend (Stuart) take his boat from Seattle to Stockton, CA. So Doug has some very welcome open ocean experience in addition to being an accomplished skipper in his own right.
The third part of the crew is Tom. Tom and I met when Doug and I took the boat to CA. Tom is also an experienced skipper, having taken his boat from Longview, WA where he lives and docks it, to Alaska every year. So lots of open water experience plus experience going back and forth over the infamous Columbia River bar.
Me? Iím just along to do the cooking and cleanup. Now you may chuckle at that, but Iím party serious. Iíve just finished a round of chemo treatments to fight off stage IV cancer. One of the lingering side effects is an unsteadiness on my feet. Iíve promised my wife I would NOT go out on deck unless someoneís life was in jeopardy. I also made that unsteadiness clear to the other crew and made sure they knew about it ahead and were OK with taking on my share of the deck duties. All readily agreed to take on any additional load.
So, with this kind of a setup and crew, what could go wrong? Well, my biggest concern is the weather, and not the weather on the ocean. My concern is the winds on the Columbia. We have to pass through the infamous Columbia River Gorge area thatís widely known for being the wind surfing capital of the world. We also have to pass through 4 locks on the Columbia and 1 in Seattle.
The Columbia River locks can be tricky on a calm day. In one of the locks on the Snake River, I had the wind spin my 330 Sundancer (33í express cruiser) in a full circle when they opened the downstream (upwind) gate to let me exit. It acted like a venturi with the wind. To say that I was experiencing a major pucker would be a gross understatement.
Iím going to do all the boat driving when weíre going through a lock or in any docking/undocking maneuvers. Other than that weíre going to do 2-hour shifts with each of us getting a turn at the helm, as a spotter for debris/crab pots etc. The third person will have his turn to rest before coming back on the helm. We did that on the way to California and it worked well.
Weíve also decided that ANY of us has the right to say ďNope, weíre not going out today.Ē That takes the burden off anyone and relieves them from feeling bad about making the call.
Weíre leaving Tuesday, July 7th around 0845 or a little earlier. The first lock we encounter is McNary.
Itís about 36 miles downriver and has an average lift of 183í though that may be a bit higher now because the river is high. All the locks on the river have lock times for downstream travel of 9:30, 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30. We intend to make the 12:30 lock. That letís us out of the lock around 1:00p and itís another 47 miles to our first stop of Arlington, OR. We should be in there around 5:00, just in time for dinner.
So, come on along with us. Weíve all decided this is going to be a FUN trip and the only schedules weíre setting will be to make the lock times at the dams. Please put your tray tables in the upright and locked positions and get ready to go for a lengthy boat ride.