A summer solstice messabout on the lower Columbia

What better way to spend the summer solstice than on the water with friends? Thanks to leaders of the newly formed Lower Columbia River chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association, attendees of the chapter’s inaugural Summer Solstice Messabout in Cathlamet, Washington got a chance to do just that.

The Association’s stated goal is to “preserve and continue the living traditions, skills, lore, and legends surrounding working and pleasure watercraft.” Its three Pacific Northwest chapters cover territory from Eugene, Oregon to the Puget Sound, to British Columbia and provide small boaters with motivation, education, and insurance to sponsor events and messabouts throughout the year.

Located at the upper end of the Columbia estuary, Cathlamet is a gateway of sorts between the narrower winding main-channel and the more sea-like end. The pace of life is unhurried here, and with miles of sloughs, quiet open waters, and a protected marina, it was an ideal location for the messabout, with conditions suitable for all manner of boats and abilities.

Participants took to the water in a diverse range of craft, including a 90-year-old rowboat, five SCAMP sailboats, and a 1930’s captain’s gig. But regardless of the speed, era, or style of the boat, the joy of being on the water with like-minded souls made for a cheerful event.

Much as I enjoyed the opportunity to ride along or captain several of the different boats, simply hanging out with other sailors was one of the highlights of the weekend. Sitting around the campfire, eating a home-made feast generously provided by the organizers, we swapped stories, made new friends, and reaffirmed our love of boating in the Lower Columbia region.

The Lower Columbia River Chapter is open to new members and in August will sponsor an event that might also appeal to folks with larger boats: the Cathlamet Classic & Wooden Boat Festival, to be held on the weekend of August 4 and 5 at the Elochoman Marina. Planned activities include demonstrations and presentations, a ducky derby, a Sunday swap meet, and live boat building. Add a Kiwanis breakfast and food booths, and you’ve got an event that promises to be every bit as enjoyable as the Solstice Messabout.

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Skol!