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2013 Columbia 150 - Monday

The Columbia 150 is a serious event and it needs a serious boat. I'd just finished replacing the bottom on my Weekender, and it was time for her to hit the water again - after a 3 year hiatus.

Mike M - a sailing buddy from such adventures as the 2010 Everglades Challenge, 2010 Outer Banks Crossing, and the ill-fated 2011 Everglades Challenge, had come up from Oklahoma to see what all the fuss was about. On the way up to Cathlamet, we stopped in Linnton (named after a man of no relation to me) and had lunch at the Lighthouse Inn.

At Cathlamet, we found Phil, his wife, Ann, and their lovely John Welsford designed Penguin, aptly named the Ann Martin. (pics of Phil and Ann will be forthcoming - just the important stuff now)

Bob L was also in attendance with his 24' Bolger Birdwatcher II - Wave Watcher. To the left you can see the boat that will be captained by Chuck and Shaline, a Leeward 16 (aka Luger 16.)

I'd been telling people about the Columbia 150 for about a year, so we had some visitors at the launch. I cannot remember these people's names, but I do remember they had a Banty rooster, on a leash, outfitted with a diaper.

We put on quite a show in the parking lot - I'm not sure Cathlamet had seen this many homebuilt boats since the last time we were here, in 2009.

In fact, I am sure of it, as I heard someone say "Honey? Remember those funny boats from a few years ago? I think those are them, again." Across the docks was the Arianna, captained by a grandfather and crewed by . . . who else but Arianna? Sure enough, we'd met in 2009. Small world, ain't it?

All this had taken place on Sunday - before the actual start of the event.

A Great Loop today.

Monday dawned early, as Mondays often do. I'd planned this first day to be a long one because I knew everyone would be excited and ready to hit the waves. Sure enough, I couldn't hold them back for a minute. Chuck and Shaline (as well as Bob, Mike and I) are early risers, to at 6am, they were loaded and ready to go.

As we putted out of the harbor, Mike pointed out this shanty boat built on top of lifeboat hull. Some people are very inventive.

We were doing a great, 40 mile loop today, from Cathlamet to Tongue Point and back. Our first challenge was to run between Puget and Tenas Illahee islands. The tide was coming in, forcing water backwards between Tenas Illahee and the Oregon shore while the mighty Columbia was still flowing towards the sea between Puget and the Oregon shore, making it so water was squirting out the channel between the two islands. In dead wind and a low-lying fog, we were motoring along at a painful 1.2mph.

Once in the channel between the Oregon mainland and Tenas Illahee, we got up to a nice cruising speed of ~5mph - like running at light speed after forcing our way to the channel. What's interesting about this picture is the little black boat on the left is a bow picker (pulls its net over the bow) while the white boat is a stern picker (pulls net over the stern.)

The boat I haven't mentioned yet is Jo-joma, captained by Columbia veteran, Tom L. It is a West Wight Potter 19 and is a veteran of many cruises, from San Francisco to the San Juans. You'll be seeing a lot more of the Jo-joma. On this first day, he had his daughter, Mckinzie, and grandson, Jovan (also a Columbia 150 veteran) as crew. They were sleeping. Tom grounded a little after this picture was taken and decided to sail back to Cathlamet.

The wildlife was out and playing this first day - everything from this string of cormorants through eagles, herons, osprey, seals, etc. You name it, if it lives in Oregon, it was putting on a show for us.

As planned and predicted, the winds started picking up in the afternoon and we were able to stow the motor and do some sailing. This is a damn fine picture of Mike.

We'd snuck up on the horrors of Astoria Bay by sliding along the backside of the islands along the Oregon shore. Our intention had been to skim into South Channel, come behind Lois Island (maybe peek at the John Day river) and come out at Tongue Point, but Bob he was having trouble finding a deep enough passage into the South Channel, so we squirted out of Prairie Channel into Cathlamet Bay, where we ran wing-and-wing back towards Cathlamet.

On the Washington side, we saw this fairly well maintained fish packing plant at Pillar Rock (which is just a pillar of rock standing in the river.) Naming your Pacific Northwest company "New England Fish Co" seems a bit misleading.

In addition to hurricane winds and towering seas, one of the much-vaunted dangers of the Columbia River is the ship traffic. To hear the old timers tell it, ship and barge captains get bonuses for running down recreational boaters and one should never enter the Columbia in anything other than a 600ft cargo vessel. As you can see, Mike and I barely escaped with our lives. (repeated observations showed ships and barges never travel more than 10mph and are often restricted to ~6mph on the Columbia - hardly the rampaging death machines of legend.)

Here's the daily numbers as recorded by my GPS. We think the Max Speed came when we had a nice, long surf down the face of a wave - we seemed to be perfectly matched in speed and held the surf for a good 10 seconds or so.

Back in harbor at Cathlamet, we found the rest of the participants safe and sound. A good day had been had by all.

On to Tuesday

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