Headed South for the Summer

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Nov 16, 2009
Vessel Name
Vessel Make
Ocean Alexander Europa 40
Last Friday morning I pointed Volunteer West for a different kind of summer cruising experence. We, myself and and innocent victim departed Port Townsend for Neah Bay and points South East. We overnighted in Neah Bay ( no matter how mant times I am there I cannot get over what a dumpy and depressing place it is ).
After a false start Saturday morning and turning back to correct a fuel issue we redeparted just after noon... 5 hours late for my date with the Columbia River Bar. The weather looked great for the trip down the coast with a planned detour to do a little fishing as the state of Washington decided to add an additional Halibut opening on the very day we had planned to depart!. As we rounded the corner of the entrance to the Straits of SanJuan DeFuca I decided to take the short cut and cut inside of Tatoosh Island. As we ran throught the cut between the Mainland.. the rock pile... and the Island we heard a Mayday call from a boat right off Tatoosh Island. Well as we seemed to be the only boat near with a radio, and the fellow being rather adimate he was going on the rockswe sprung into action ( as fast as a 8kt boat can spring ) and headed to the now sighted boat. Luck would have it another boat heading in ran close but and I was able to get them to facilitate the actual rescue. By now the entire recources of the USCG had sprung into high gear and we were asked to stand by and act as the radio relay as the boat with the issue had a handheld vhf and the boat the was doing the pulling didnt even have a vhf!, I consider myself a pretty adventureous guy, but I would never head out 35 miles offshore without so much as a radio. The guys doing the towing.... after getting the boat with issue out of danger had to transfer fuel from the two jerry jugs the had tied to their swim platform.... it was a real comedy act had it not been a relatively serious situation. We assured the USCG the situation was under control and headed out SW to the " Halibut Hole" my intrepid crewman assured me was a guaranteed spot to catch Halibut. I shifted us into the get ready to do an overnight passage mode and promptly headed down for a nap. My intrepid crewman woke me by throttling down and exclaimed "lets fish"!. We throttled down at 1722 and by 1816 we had turned S.E. after boating two nice Halibut!.
The run down the coast was as good as one could ask for, 10kts.out of the NW, 5' WNW swell, and a course far enough offshore to stay out of the crab pots. The night was uneventful with the exception of having to dodge a Sony Tv at 0300 that my crew managed to put between the hull and the paravane!. We managed to make up 4 of the 5 hours we lost on departure and crossed the bar in minimal conditions albiet the river starting to ebb with gusto as we passed Ilwaco. The trip up river was easy with a night in Longview where I dropped off my crew and headed up river solo, Then a night at the reciprocal dock at the Columbia River Yacht Club. The next day I planned to run up to the Bonneville locks but within a mile of the locks the current won and I was forced to retreat ( at 15.5 kts over the bottom ) down river.* The new plan is to leave the boat just above Portland until we return around the 4th of July then hopefully get up river to check out the Gorge and points East.* So any of you guys in the Portland area want to suggest things not to miss if the snow in Canada keeps melting at the speed of heat and we are forced to stay below the Locks??
Happy Cruising,

-- Edited by hollywood8118 on Thursday 24th of June 2010 12:01:56 AM
Excellent post! I wish we had more of these.
hooray for me!

An update..................
we returned to the boat in Portland the morning of the 4th of july... the revelry on the dock we were on was impressive... even had a live band. The fireworks show on the river was the best we have seen in years ( but the last 8 years we have been in Canada on the 4th so that is a lost point ) I had been watching the flow data from Bonneville Dam for the last week and over the holiday weekend they reduced the flow from around 350,000 cubic feet per second to around 200,000. We decided that a second shot at the locks was in order and started the 40 mile climb up river. We passed the spot that I got turned around by the current and still were making 1.5 kt headway. Looking at the chart for the river I was concerned that the tough spot to pass was still up about 1/2 mile and I wasn't wrong. I was asked to try to speed up progress by the lock master as a tug with barges was coming up river behind us so I ran the old girl a bit harder than usual but she was up to the task. We crawled up to the spot that the river bottlenecks and goes from 50'+ deep up stream to 25' and we slowed down from a crawl to what ever is slower than a crawl... but not actually considered stopped or moving backward!. We had a 1/4 mile we never got above .5kt unless it was sideways!. The last reach under the dam took 2.5 hrs to go 5 miles. Locking was a breeze as we were the only boat in a 80'X650' lock. The lock master confirmed that the tug captains call the last reach the "push" and the "hump" as the water actually has a hump at this flow rate that the boat crawls over. The Admiral was more than pleased to get to the lock as she knew I was a bit "concerned" as I actually stood and hand steered the 2.5 miles , I am normally too lazy and normally always use the autopilot. The river current above the dam is about 2 kts in the narrow stretches and it feels great to be in the clear lake water....
That's all for now
Again, very interesting post! Why? probably because it's about "being on the water" and not the 90% maintenance stories that dominate this site. Please don't get me wrong, I've learned a lot about maintaining a boat from info I've received from this site. I've been more entertained, however, from stories about cruising, and being entertained, in this time of self gratification, is where it's at.
So what started as a few weeks on the boat has turned into a summer long adventure....
We are currently berthed at the Clover Island Yacht Club in Kennewick Wa. The club has my award as the friendliest and most helpful bunch of yacht club folks I have ever met. We took a couple weeks to work our way up the Columbia river, spending a few days in the Gorge, known as one of the best places in the world to kite board and Windsurf... most of our time there was in absolute calm conditions... not what the kite boarders want!, and is was in the low 100's as far as the temps go. We did spend about 36 hours experienced* " nuclear " conditions... sustained winds in the 40's with gusts to 53... all while at anchor. We even got to enter one of the tallest locks with* 35kts apparent on the stern.. needless to say trying to get next to a 100' tall concrete wall with that kind of wind blowing is very interesting. After we navigated to the upper end of the navigable part of the Columbia, we turned up the Snake river for what we were promised was
"practically bath water". The Snake has not let us down as the water is in the mid 70's and its really calm, we have towed our comp ski boat on the last trip and lived out our dream to be able to use the big boat as a ski camp... it doesnt get any better. We were even treated to a wildland grass fire up the canyon one night that was amazing to watch from the comfort of out boat .. and being way up wind!. We are home for a couple weeks but will return to the boat for the Labor Day Holiday and then back for a couple weeks to move the boat down the Columbia in September. We have not decided weather to bring the boat back to Puget Sound for the winter.. or leave the boat in Portland and use it there for long weekends this winter as a change... only time will tell.
Best Regards,

a couple of side notes, the locks on the Columbia and Sanke rivers are the highest lifts in the states, and one is the second highest in the world, the expansion joints in the lock pics are 4' apart... that gives you an idea just how high the lock is!
The pic with the Admiral and one or the Admirals in training shows the lower gate, it is a MASSIVE vertical lift gate that is rather creepy to transit under..

-- Edited by hollywood8118 on Wednesday 25th of August 2010 07:34:42 AM

-- Edited by hollywood8118 on Wednesday 25th of August 2010 07:37:32 AM


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Awesome....thanks for sharing....for some reason, the Admiral shots are my favorite!!!....

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