At the river’s mouth

On the final leg of our trip along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, we returned downriver from Portland via sheltered Multnomah Channel to anchor in the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. We spent the following three nights at the river mouth: two in Astoria, OR and the third in Illwaco, WA. In Astoria, we visited with friends, visited the impressive Columbia River Maritime Museum, and enjoyed the view from Astoria Column high above the town (pictured above). At Illwaco we toured Cape Disappointment State Park and the surrounding area by bike, and went to another excellent museum, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. This is the first trip where we’ve use our bikes so much–they’ve opened up some sidetrips that would have been difficult or impossible otherwise.

And then it was time to return home. Our return trip across the bar was even more uneventful than our entry–conditions were very calm. We encountered a bit of rough water off the west coast of Washington, but that didn’t last long and soon we were inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the wind behind us.

Here’s our log from Portland to the San Juan Islands. You also can display these on the map view.

05/11/12: Hawthorne Bridge
Passing under the Hawthorne Lift Bridge at dawn.
05/11/12: Samuel Island Bridge
We took Multnomah Channel back downriver. Houseboats, most very nice, and farmland line the majority of the shores, making for a tranquil run. Several parks with docks, and small marinas, also were enroute. Were it later in the day, we’d likely have stopped somewhere along the channel.
05/11/12: Old farm building
Old farm building near Coon Island.
05/11/12: Hanjin Madrid
Passing the Hanjin Madrid at a tight spot in the channel.
05/11/12: 1,800 hours
Just crossed 1,800 hours on the main engine. We’ve used the boat a lot in the past 2.5 years.
05/11/12: R/V Quinnat
One of two NOAA research vessels working near Puget Island.
05/11/12: Miller Sands
Anchored for the night off sandy dunes in the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. The many sandy islands in the area are a nice bonus of river dredging. We quite enjoyed this anchorage. Although we were close to the traffic lanes, the wakes from passing container ships wasn’t a problem. We suspect this was due to the ships slowing slightly for the corner, and the wakes at different angles cancelling each other out, similar to Rich Passage.
05/12/12: Port of Astoria, West Basin
Going to spend a night or two in Astoria.
05/12/12: Cape Disappointment
The Coast Guard motor lifeboat Cape Disappointment entering the marina.
05/12/12: Flat Earth
We were one of three Nordhavns in the harbor. This is Nordhavn 50 Flat Earth.

05/12/12: Susan J
The last Nordhavn 62 ever built, Susan J, was the third Nordhavn at the marina. Steve (shown) and Beverly Creagan previously owned a Nordhavn 40 and a 47 and are one of only two Nordhavn owners to have had boats built in all three PAE boatyards.
05/12/12: Columbia
Columbia Bar pilot boat Columbia. This is one of two two state-of-the-art, 30-knot pilot boats that work the bar. A third pilot boat carries river pilots to and from ships that are across the bar. The Columbia fuels every day, and were normally would fuel at the commercial dock, but it’s closed Sunday so they were fueling at the mooring basin instead.
05/12/12: Another Columbia
This looks like a pilot boat, and certainly has the right name. Possibly it’s out of service and has been restored.
05/12/12: Company
Christine Guo and Mark Mohler, of Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter, flew up from San Francisco to visit us in Astoria.
05/13/12: Astoria Column
In the morning before Mark and Christine flew back home, we all went up to take in the view from the Astoria Column. The 125-foot column stands on a hill above the city with sweeping views.
05/13/12: View from the top
Today was an excellent day to be up the tower. We’ve realy had amazingly good weather.
05/13/12: Enjoying the view
05/13/12: Hanjin Madrid
The Hanjin Madrid heading out to the bar, with another ship visible in the distance. This is the same ship that passed us inbound a couple of days ago–that was a fast turnaround.
05/13/12: Queen of the West
The last day we would see the Queen of the West. A number of its passengers had taken a bus up to the tower from the waterfront.
05/13/12: Heading back down
A tight spiral 166-step staircase leads to the top.
05/13/12: Sunday Market
Astoria has an healthy streetfront Sunday market covering several blocks. Wares ranged from fresh produce and flowers, to prepared foods, to arts and crafts.
05/13/12: In remembrance
Plaque honoring bar pilots lost on the bar–its a dangerous job.
05/13/12: Marking the entrance
The original Columbia River lightship that marked the Columbia River entrance, and the 60-foot navigational buoy that replaced it in 1979. Both are displays at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Tours of the lightship are included with museum admission.
05/13/12: USCG cutters
Two 210-foot Coast Guard Cutters, Steadfast and Alert, also were moored off the museum. And much to our delight, they were open for tours.
05/13/12: USCGC Steadfast
Crewmember Latham took us on an excellent tour of the Steadfast. This is the very large gun on the ship’s bow.
05/13/12: The bridge
We were able to see most of the ship, except the engine room.
05/13/12: The Wet Dog
Time for lunch. We had a good meal on the deck of the Astoria Brewing Company’s Wet Dog Cafe, a short distance from the museum.
05/13/12: Astoria Trolley
While we were having lunch, we heard the distinctive sound of a trolley car. And sure enough, along came the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. The restored 1913 trolley runs back and forth for 2.6 miles along the Astoria waterfront, pushing or pulling its generator power source. Several regular stops are along the way, or you can flag it down anywhere. The trolley has no set schedule, but you can track it via GPS.
05/13/12: River Pilot
The river pilot boat, still running and just pushed into the pier.
05/13/12: Columbia River Maritime Museum
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the impressive Columbia River Maritime Museum. This is a detailed model of the Tidewater tug The Chief, a boat we frequently encountered on our trip up and down river.
05/13/12: Shipwrecks
This display shows known shipwrecks at the Columbia River bar. Details of each indicident are on the board below–you can push a a button next to a ship’s name to light up the location where it wrecked.
05/13/12: Motor lifeboat 44300
One of the most dramatic displays is the original motor lifeboat prototype, 44300, mounted on a sharp angle to depict a rescue at sea. It’s part of a larger exhibit on the USCG lifesaving at the bar.
05/13/12: Riverfront walk
Astoria has a wonderful riverfront promenade that runs from the marina about a mile into and through downtown. This also is where the trolley runs. The walk was most enjoyable and only marginally slower than the trolley, which averages about five miles an hour.
05/13/12: Bridgewater
We had an excellent meal that evening at the acclaimed Bridgwater Bistro next to the marina.
05/13/12: Sunset
Sunset viewed from the flybridge.
05/14/12: Sunrise
Sunrise behind the Astoria-Megler Bridge as we leave the boat basin.
05/14/12: Chinook
The second bar pilot boat, Chinook, returning from the bar.
05/14/12: USCG Cape Disappointment
05/14/12: Port of Illwaco
Moored at Illwaco to bike into Cape Disappointment State Park. Before looking at the charts in detail, we were thinking of anchoring off the park in Baker Bay and running the dinghy ashore. But depths in the bay are mostly less than a fathom, except for a dredged channel into the port. We could still have run the dinghy from the dock, but the bikes give us more flexibility.
05/14/12: Jessie’s
Jessie’s Illwaco Fish Company has been shipping seafood worldwide for over forty years. They apparently are the largest buyer of albacore tuna in the world, with fisherman delivering catch from as far away as Midway Island in the central Pacific.
05/14/12: Cape Disappointment State Park
At the trailhead to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, roughly a two-mile pedal by road from Illwaco.
05/14/12: Old building
Old building along the trail to the lighthouse. We couldn’t guess its purpose–perhaps it was use as a workshop or for storage.
05/14/12: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
At the lighthouse we first saw a few weeks back on our entry to the Columbia River.
05/14/12: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, also in the Cape Disappointment State Park, perched on a bluff northwest of the lighthouse.
05/14/12: Observation room
Four Coast Guardsmen were in this observation hut below the lighthouse. This likely is where the Coast Guard determines bar conditions.
05/14/12: Motor lifeboats
Far below, four motor lifeboats appeared to be doing training exercises.
05/14/12: Binoculars
The men in the observation room were studing the scene with a massive set of binoculars. We’ve been told you can see craters on the moon with them.
05/14/12: Snack
Having a snack at the lighthouse with a view east to Jetty A.
05/14/12: At the interpetive center
After the lighthouse, we biked a short distance to the interpretive center.
05/14/12: View to lighthouse
View to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from the interpretive center.
05/14/12: Fort Canby
The interpretive center is built into the ruins of Fort Canby. Battery Allen, shown, is of similar construction to the Puget Sound forts we’ve visited closer to home.
05/14/12: Munitions room
Underground munitions room.
05/14/12: Lewis and Clark’s journey
The interpretive center had an excellent display of Lewis and Clark’s journey from the east coast through to the Pacific Ocean. We both were quite impressed. Part of what made the display so good was personal anecdotes and journal entries from the various members of the expedition.
05/14/12: Waikiki Beach
From the interpretive center, we biked out to North Jetty. This is Waikiki Beach–yes, that’s really the name–en route. The south-facing cove must take a pounding during winter storms, judging by all that driftwood.
05/14/12: Benson Beach
Soft-sand Benson Beach at the foot of North Jetty.
05/14/12: Lunch
Enjoying the waves over lunch along North Jetty.
05/14/12: Discovery Trail
The 8.2-mile Discovery Trail leads between Ilwaco and Long Beach. We picked up the trail just inside the park at Beards Hollow. The trail is wide, well-paved and immaculate, as if someone trimmed and swept it every day. Much of the trail runs along the ocean with sweeping views–it felt like highway 101 for bikes.
05/14/12: Gray whale skeleton
Skeleton of a 38-foot juvenile gray whale that washed ashore at Long Beach in 2000.
05/14/12: Boardwalk
A wonderful boardwalk runs along the beach at Long View.
05/14/12: Condor scuplture
Condor scuplture at the trailhead in Ilwaco.
05/15/12, 5:50am: Sand Island
Susan Rae following us out of Illwaco. We’ll be crossing the bar soon–it’s open to all traffic with seas 2-4 feet everywhere.
05/15/12, 6:41am: Columbia River Buoy 1
Just passed the first buoy at the bar entrance–we’re through. Conditions were pretty good the whole way.
05/15/12, 5:46pm: Pt. Grenville, 20 miles west of
Conditions have been good most of the way. But a small craft advisory has been issued for NW winds 15-25, and the waves are starting to pick up.
05/16/12, 8:48am: Traffic
We saw little to no traffic between the Columbia River and Cape Flattery, but lots in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
05/16/12, 12:05pm: Approaching Race Rocks
The wind settled down around 2am, and we turned into the strait, so now we’ve been in much calmer conditions with a nice wind and current push behind us. We’ll be in the San Juans in a few hours.
05/16/12, 3:22pm: Mackaye Harbor
Going to spend a couple of nights in the San Juans before heading over to Anacortes to present at Trawlerfest on Saturday.
05/17/12: Echo Bay, Sucia Island
Sucia Island is one of our long-time favorite anchorages in the San Juan Islands. A few early-season boats are here, and the beautiful tractor tug Lindsay Foss preceded us in. We suspect it is waiting for a ship to escort into Anacortes.
05/18/12: Cap Sante Boat Haven, Anacortes
At Anacortes for Trawler Fest. We’ll be presenting Saturday morning.
05/19/12: Padilla Bay
Maersk Cameron at the Anacortes refinery near our anchorage in Padilla Bay


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