Three Weeks Aboard


Our heroic efforts paid off. Gypsy did leave the dock. We had the sink installed, the refrigerator turned on and the auto pilot had been tested. We filled the water tanks and it was time to go. Now to load the boat.

Three carloads latter, food, cushions, clothes, guitars and books were loaded.

Food and books waiting to get stowed.  Wine bags are very handy for loading and carrying food.
One hour later it is all gone and two beautiful Costco-stan rugs have appeared.

4:00 pm on Wednesday 7/26, its time to start the engine and cast off. We leave the dock and head out into the Columbia River. The first thing we do is steer the boat in three and a half circles so the auto pilot can calibrate itself. Then it is down river to St. Helens. Our destination for tonight.

The first obstacle in our way is the Vancouver Washington Railroad Bridge. It is just down river from the I-5 bridge and it is too low for us to clear. We need to have them open the bridge.

We were in luck and the bridge was able to swing open for us after just a few minutes wait.

We now were west of the bridge and there were no more obstacles between us and the Pacific Ocean. So what do we do? The answer is we keep watch. There is a fair amount of freighter and barge traffic on the lower Columbia River and we want to stay clear of them. There are several ways to do this. The channel is the part of the river that big ships use. It is at least 43 feet deep. We can stay out of the channel in shallower water and that will keep us clear of most shipping. We also keep watch, noting when a barge or freighter is approaching. If there is any doubt we can call the ship on the VHF radio and ask where they are going.

This is a freighter coming up river. You can see by the big red stripe of bottom paint that is is empty and is going to pick up a cargo. You also can see the open hatches on deck, ready for cargo.  You can tell it is moving by the wake: the white water at the bow and stern.

We got to St. Helens, Oregon and tied up for the night at the docks on Sand Island. We were the only boat at the dock Wednesday night. Thursday morning we were up early since we had a long day heading down river. We wanted to get to Cathlamet, Washington where Rose City Yacht Club was having a potluck in the evening.

We were passed by this ship as we went through Longview Washington. You can see that this ship is deep in the water, fully laden. Heading down river to the bar and out into the Pacific Ocean.

We made it to Cathlamet by early afternoon. We had time for showers and a trip to the grocery store before the potluck. We had a nice turnout of twenty some boats at the potluck.  Friday morning we again were up early to catch the tide to Astoria.

This is the view as we headed around the bend from Cathlamet to Skamokawa, Washington. Skamokawa means smokey waters and the fog this morning was keeping the name alive. The boat ahead of us is Sierra, a Cascade 27.
You will also see freighters like this, at anchor with the Astoria-Megler Bridge in the back.
West Basin Astoria. Here you are 13 miles from the Columbia River bar.

We spent Friday and Saturday in Astoria. Saturday was the Astoria Open Studios, so we toured several artist’s studios. Astoria has an active arts scene. We also visited the Maritime Museum and the library. The library gave us a internet pass so we could check on weather and tides.


Sunday we left for Warrenton, since we had not been there before. The marina at Warrenton is set up for small fishing boats. Gypsy was way too long for her slip. They only let us stay for Sunday because the Buoy 10 fishing season was starting Tuesday and they were sold out.

We walked into town for groceries. We stopped by the library, but they were closed on Sunday, so we were not able to get a free bible or internet.

Monday saw us underway again. We had wanted to go to Ilwaco, Washington. After our Warrenton experience we phoned ahead to Ilwaco to reserve a slip for Gypsy. They told us we had gotten the last slip they had. Needless to say, we spent two days in Ilwaco and the place was empty. That is too bad because it is a fun place to visit.

It was a very calm motor over to Ilwaco.
Gypsy at the dock in Ilwaco. The dock is an improvement over the Warrenton docks. By most other standards it is a dump. Just behind us is Joysea from Rose City.  We like to visit Ilwaco, but the docks are not why we come. As non-fishers, Jessie’s Fish Market is the real reason.  There’s also a nice book store on the waterfront.
Hiking the Discovery Trail to the ocean. It goes from Ilwaco to Long Beach.

One of the benefits of going cruising is you have a hard time staying connected to the internet. Not knowing everything that  is happening is not so bad. We were quite happy to not be following Donny Johnny’s every twitter. We were also not following the weather news too carefully. So Tuesday morning the weather radio keep mentioning smoke. We realized that all the haze we were seeing was smoke from forest fires.

Freighter and fishing boat in the haze by Tongue Point.

We anchored behind Tongue Point to spend a couple more days at the relatively cool coast. 90 instead of 100 plus degrees. Not much wind but humid.

Rowing around.
Old railroad bridge at the mouth of the John Day River.
Gypsy at anchor. The electric windlass worked great. Nina no longer has to hand crank the anchor down and up.
Friday morning heading up river again. Osprey nest on top of a buoy.
Sailing to Cathlamet. Up to now the wind has been on our nose or calm. Now it is behind us and we start using the spinnaker. The autopilot is steering. This is the way to sail.
Nina is keeping watch.

We pulled into Cathlamet Friday afternoon. As we were docking Gypsy a guy on the dock was asking us if we here for the boat show? Bill just thought he was a smart alec commenting on our paint job. Once Gypsy was tied up we found out that there was a boat show and Gypsy could be in it. It was the Wooden and Classic boat show. We decided it would be fun and we said yes (plus a deal on moorage for the weekend).

Salty Lady is a Captain’s gig circa 1940s. She would have carried the captain and officers from a navy ship to the shore or other ships.
Salty Lady won best motor boat.
Nina’s favorite boat, a San Francisco Pelican.
This is a bow pudding, a fancy rope work fender. It is on a restored Coast Guard surf boat, MLB 36391, Point Adams.
Gypsy in the show. The most common comment was, she does not look 45 years old.
Nina rowing in our wooden boat, a chameleon nesting dinghy designed by Danny Greene.
Sunday afternoon. The show is over and we are heading up Cathlamet Channel. We are sailing with our genoa, and keeping up with a Willard 30.
Another freighter. You can see she is empty and moving.

Sunday night we spent at Walker Island which is near Longview, Washington. Monday we sailed to Martin Slough. Just up river from Kelso we saw the river boat American Pride. They were waiting for their passengers to return form their excursions. Just like riverboats of yore, nosed up to the bank with the gang plank down.


We spent Monday and Tuesday in Martin Slough. Very peaceful except for some traffic noise from I-5.

Wednesday we continued our homeward sail. We decided to go down Multnomah Channel.

This gravel barge followed us at St Helens.

We tided up at Coon Island. We noticed that there were gates at the top to the ramp to the island. We discovered goats. They were quit tame and friendly.


Thursday we headed back to Portland.

This is not what you want to see on the railroad bridge. We had to wait for four freight trains and an Amtrak train. It took about an hour to get through the bridge.

We stopped at home Thursday night and headed back up river Friday to a club cruise at Government Island. We found lots of ripe blackberries and made a cobbler.

8 thoughts on “Three Weeks Aboard”

  1. I enjoyed this blog post. Great photos,
    as we expect. 😊 It all made me feel a bit homesick, actually. Just a bit, though. We are planning on leaving Savusavu tomorrow. Aiming for Koro Island, about 25 nm away. In the namesake sea.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. It was fun. Everything worked. Now we are waiting for the starter motor to be checked out/rebuilt and we to can be on our way again. Well, at least to Beacon Rock. Smooth sailing and motoring, Nina


  2. What a great way to start my day – reading this.
    Fun and educational.
    I’ll get you a bible or equivalent.
    Gypsy looks fantastic


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