I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, and after traveling up the Columbia River, meeting new people along the way and then sharing our lifestyle with our non-sailing friends in Portland, it’s time to finally tackle some frequently asked questions.
We live aboard Yahtzee and cruise full-time without permanent moorage. What that basically means is that we have no homeport to return to. We’re always on the move, hopping from one harbor or island to another and we’re not on a trip or vacation, this is life. And we get lots of questions about how that works for us. So here goes…
Where do you do your laundry?
The quick answer is, wherever it’s convenient. Many marinas or yacht clubs have laundry facilities that we use when we stop to get provisions and take showers. And if those aren’t available, we’ll take it to a regular old laundry mat. With two boys aboard, we try to get it done once a week, but that can be tricky.
Our education on cruising the rivers is constantly evolving, and what accelerates that knowledge growth is only one thing — being out here plying their waterways. So when we decided to make a run up towards Portland before the Oregon Offshore Race it was only fitting that we spend time on its two major waterways.
The Willamette River runs north-south through downtown and the Columbia River runs east-west on the northern side of the city and creates the border with Washington state. Coming down Mutlnomah Channel allowed us easy access to downtown Portland first, and then we moved out to the Columbia River and north Portland the following week.
Arriving in downtown Portland was an exciting milestone on our journey up the Columbia River, and it was also my birthday, so a little extra celebration was in order for the weekend. After getting Yahtzee setup on the public dock at Riverplace, we headed out for dinner in the city and met up with our good friend Annie to toast another year.
The next day we set off to run a few errands and stumbled upon a kids event in Pioneer Square. It was one of those truly spontaneous things that comes with cruising. Porter and Magnus had a blast playing with make-shift musical instruments, oversized wooden blocks, and a big mound of clay and flowers. Magnus also found a couple books to add to Yahtzee’s library. Continue reading A tale of two Portland weekends→
While it was hard to pull away from a fun morning at Batwater Station, we were excited to continue our river cruising adventure. Back on the Columbia, the sun shined once again and before long a nice westerly breeze started helping us towards St. Helens, Oregon.
This stretch of the river got a bit more industrial than the lower Columbia as ships were tied to mooring buoys and industry on the Washington side near Kalama changed the setting. Also, motor-sailing upriver next to heavily trafficked I-5 was quite something. Having driven that stretch many times before it made me glad to be on the river — and to not be a car owner.
When we reached St. Helens, we opted to stop for the night at Sand Island Marine Park, which is a small island across the channel from town that has two public docks. Being that it was happy hour when we arrived, we grabbed a couple cold ones and a soccer ball and headed ashore to, what else? Play in the sand, of course. To get to the beach we walked through a beautiful, fully blooming forest and then played soccer next to the swift flowing Columbia. Continue reading Voyage to the Columbia River: Batwater Station to downtown Portland→
As we motored upriver from Cathlamet, the day warmed to summer like temperatures and the wind slowly trickled in from behind us. Using the assistance of the breeze, we rolled out the genoa and picked up half a knot of speed towards a destination we had yet to decide on for the night.
With evening upon us, we needed to make that decision though and while rounding Crims Island I re-read our reader tips and found Batwater Station. A quick call had me on the phone with Karin Hunt — who owns the quaint river retreat with her husband Michael Tillson — and she said they had plenty of room to accommodate us before texting me a small chart that had pilot notes on it for reaching their docks. Continue reading Batwater Station: A gem on the river→
While outfitting our boat and crew to head off the coast of Washington for a run down to the Columbia River and then the return trip back with the Oregon Offshore Race (OOR), we assessed our personal safety gear and decided to make a few necessary upgrades.
In doing so, we spent time combing through the OORs Safety Equipment Requirement (SER) list and researching all the available options including Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) and personal strobe lights should someone fall overboard at night. We also took stock of our crew overboard devices, life jackets and tethers.
Going through the SER was incredibly useful for helping us determine what’s right for us in both a cruising and racing application. And even if you have no intention of sailing in a race or even heading offshore, a lot of this can be necessary equipment for any boater who plies the cold waters of the Inside Passage. But there’s no perfect solution for every boat and crew, so here’s a little info that may help you decided what’s right for you.
Personal Locator Beacons
Very simply, a PLB is a mini EPIRB that when activated sends a GPS signal to rescue services who are then able to mobilize and find whoever’s at the location of the transmitting beacon. Though PLBs aren’t new to boaters, there are some nuances between them and this was our first time purchasing one, so we wanted to make sure we knew what our options were. We have an EPIRB aboard, but we also wanted to have a PLB that, as a couple who stands watches alone, could be carried by the person on deck. Also, it could go in a ditch bag or with a crewmember into the life raft if need be. Continue reading Deciding on a PLB and other safety gear→
When we landed in Astoria and the sun broke through, our limited sleep over the past few nights seemed to wash away in the shower at West Basin and the excitement of being in the river took hold.
The four of us promptly made for the Riverfront trail, and with a little pep in our steps, didn’t even need to hop on the trolly. We had lunch at the Buoy Brewery where we watched sea lions through the glass floor and then continued on the trail past the Columbia River Maritime Museum before meandering our way back through the heart of downtown Astoria to the marina.
The following morning, “Take Me to the River” by the Talking Heads thumped loudly on Yahtzee’s speakers as the attendant greeted us at the fuel dock. Porter danced with the tune and we were all energized to move on as diesel filled the tanks. All told, it was a great first stop, but we were itching to get up the river and knew that we’d have time to explore the city again prior the Oregon Offshore Race in May.
Acting on a tip from a loyal reader and Three Sheets contributor, we pointed Yahtzee’s bow upriver towards the low slung islands of the lower Columbia. Weaving our way through narrow, shallow channels reminded me of so many miles spent on the Intracoastal Waterway from Maryland to the west coast of Florida. The difference between those mostly featureless waterways and this one, though, was the beautiful green coastal mountains flanking each side of the river. Continue reading Voyage to the Columbia River: Astoria to Crims Island→
With Yahtzee sandwiched between the bright lights of two fishing boats, the three of us turned westward in unison towards the Pacific Ocean and Cape Flattery shortly before 5 a.m. The boat behind soon passed and we had two escorts lighting the way out through Tatoosh Island and Duncan Rock.
Jill and I sat together in the cockpit watching daylight slowly appear and the boys slept as we rode the gentle swell. It was good to be heading out in the ocean again and even more exciting to be doing it as a family. And just like the previous few days in the Strait, it seemed like beautiful weather would make the trip even more pleasant. When we made the turn south around Cape Flattery and shaped a course down the coast, the mainsail was drawing just slightly and the engine chugged along, as any semblance of a westerly breeze was yet to fill in.
Back in the fall when we made the decision to try for a run down to the Columbia River in the early spring, we thought it would be wise to talk with our insurance agent about the idea and realized that our current policy didn’t allow for us to be off the coast of Washington until later in the season. So we asked what would be the earliest they’d allow and after a little back-and-forth we all agreed on April 1 — which was good enough for us.
We are well versed in the weather window song and dance and were hoping to get a good one in the last few days of March and first few of April to get us out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, around Cape Flattery and south to the Columbia River. Well, I guess we did a successful weather dance, because we’ve been rewarded with some incredibly beautiful days of cruising on the Strait.
Our first stop out of the San Juan Islands was Tuesday night in Port Angeles, and the stunningly gorgeous backdrop provided by the Olympic Mountains shined in the morning sun as we strolled into town together. I went to a locally owned coffee shop to get some work done while Jill and the boys went to check out town, drop some stuff off at a thrift store and then grab some final provisions. Continue reading Voyage to the Columbia River: Cruising out the Strait of Juan de Fuca→