Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Brings More Planning

Tulips in the Skagit Valley near La Conner, Wa.

Spring is settling into Washington state and I continue to plan for my trip. The latest planning is focusing around departure times coinciding with locking times. Down river locking occurs at 0930,1230,1530, 1830.
Upriver locking starts at 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800. While I will be at marinas just upriver of a dam or just after a dam which may make a 30-40 mile trip to time the arrival of an afternoon locking.

I spoke with the lock master at Little Goose Dam(Snake River) to answer some questions I had. It seems there are no places to tie up to while waiting for lockage, so one has to stand off. In reviewing all the charts again there are small launching ramps with docks usually preceding the upriver lock which one could tie up to if you had to wait for an extended time. He stated that often they will wait for a group of vessels before locking just one boat and these times would be set for all the locks. Each lock is about 85 ft wide and 650 ft long. While I have been through lots of locks I have never been through any of this size or magnitude. It will make for an interesting time.

The locking proceedures are such:
  • Notify lock master 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to arrival via VHF radio.
  • Wear life jackets while on deck
  • Wait for instructions and green light before entering lock
  • The bollards which you tie a bow and stern line to slides up and down the lock wall,
  • Select your bollard..I've been told that all the water drains and fills from the center bollard so the current is most strong at that point. I want to be the farthest from that one.
  • Wait until instructed to depart lock. Currents may be unusually strong if water is coming over spillway.
  • Tugs and barges have priority

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Progress On All Fronts

Shatoosh, Pashmina and Hira are no longer up in the air about a launch date

The rain has stopped during the night. Its 0400 hrs and I'm awake and rearing to start my day. The kettle goes on the stove, the heater on and in no time at all, I'm bunndled in my down bag, with a mug of coffee and uploading photos into the blog. My car log yesterday was over 700 miles.

Dawn reveals a clear day, so I bound out into the cockpit, attach my usb serial adapter to my computer. Last week I reloaded my driver, so I am hoping things are fixed. I can see the driver is installed, Sea Clear is reading the comm port #8, the gps is sending data. All positive events. I fire up the engine and take a short run up and down the river. The Sea Clear Program is receiving the GPS data perfectly. There is no interference on the screen. I'm happy as a lark. It is amazing when things work.

I tidy up Shatoosh and I am down the dock, up the ramp, over the Dike, and down to the car. I'm off to make a date with the trucking company which is a block away. It is all done. I will be trucked on 14 June 2010 from Scappoose Bay, Oregon to Clarkston, Washington. I am really getting excited.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Large Steelhead At Little Goose Dam

There was a stiff up river wind that didn't dampen this fisherman's effort. A beauty of a catch, nature's best, steelhead trout. This is the biggest I have seen, but they do come bigger the man tells me. I like eating steelhead better than salmon.

The geology of the river gorges are fascinating and my appetite has been whetted by getting to see all the different configerations. My favorite is still the columar basalt. It is amazing to be able to touch it with your hands, so ancient, so powerful. WOW!

I'm back on board Shatoosh tonight. It is raining, but my last 2 days were mostly sunny and dry. My mega Snake and Columbia river dry run was most fruitful and I made lots of connections along the way and peeked into several marinas, taking pictures of approaches, fuel docks, and transient docks.

Lyons Ferry State Park and Marina

As I left Palouse Falls yesterday, I headed down river to its confluence at the Snake River where Lyons State Park precides. The park, still closed for the winter, opens next month. Boats can go up the Palouse river for a mile and then kayakers can go all the way to the falls.

Across the Snake river( mileage marker 60 sm) is the marina, nestled in a small cove and well protected  by a large breakwater. There is a KOA camground, cafe, store and launching ramp. This could be a perfect place to rendezvous with some of my rving friends who want to join me. And could offer my crew an opportunity to take a ride in a vehicle to see the falls. 

As I cross the river there is a large railroad bridge down river and upstream lies The Little Goose Dam.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Dry Run To The Snake River

My trusty Rav 4 heads east out of Puyallup, Washington weathering a forecast of cold weather, rain and possible low level snow. It is chilly going over Snoqualmie Pass with slight, momentary snow flurries and the sun is coming out and stays out until 1400 hrs. By 1500 hrs it is cloudy, no rain and wind has prevailed all day. I decide to slip south and zig until I zag across the Snake River stopping first at Palouse Falls on the Palouse River and then as it enters the Snake at Lyons ferry.

I am not prepared to see what awaits me at the Falls. I drive over the flat top rolling hills and hidden from my view are canyons carved deep within the basalt hills. The signage tells me to leave the highway and travel 2 miles over dirt roads to the Falls. The narrow dirt road dives deep into the canyon. I park and walk down the path, hearing thunderous water falls over 200 ft high. I am over whelmed, I do not know where to look first, as it is all so beautiful.

The basalt basin with green tiered rings surrounding the canyon is breath taking. I feel as though I might be in the universe of Pandora.

As I look down river towards the Snake, I do see a few rapids. I am not certain we could manage to get Pashmina up this far. I would love for the crew to be able to see this. This is far more beautiful than I thought it could be.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My New Crew Gets Her Sea Legs

My grand niece, Flora, begins her first voyage aboard The Minnow at the Denver Childrens Museum.  At 16 months she seems eager to take the helm of this mighty vessel. She comes into this life from many sea faring forefathers and foremothers who landed on the shores of the American continent in the mid 1600's with the Great English Puritan Migration, and the Dutch and French Hueguenot colonization of New Netherlands(New York). The Spotted Cow, The Pumerland Church, The Guilded Otter, The Resselaerwyck, The Coninck David, The Rosetree, and The Waterhound are only a few of the ships that ushered our ancestors across the Atlantic.( the names of the ships have been translated into English)

Prior to their migration to America, the de Forests and the de la Montagnes attempted to colonize the Oyapok River, Guyana, South America, and the island of Tobago in the Caribbean on board the ships, The Pigeon, and The Fortuyn. Over 200 years later, our Scottish ancestors, the Gilmours and the Dunsmuirs, were hired by the Hudsons Bay Company to become the first coal miners in British Columbia. They set sail aboard The Pekin, and after rounding Cape Horn, sailing to the Sandwich Islands, the Captain ran the ship aground at the mouth of the Columbia River. After more than 6 months at sea. both wives, immediately, gave birth to children while on the Columbia River and one was even named Alan Columbia Gilmour. After Gilmour's contract expired and with Mrs. Gilmour pregnant with her 7th child, they returned to Scotland on board The Royal Princess.  The Dunsmuirs stayed on Vancouver Island and became BC's wealthiest coal baron. Their famous, Craigdarroch Castle, sits atop the highest hill in Victoria, BC and is open to the public.(check link at bottom of blog) About the same time the Gilmours were sailing to Vancouver Island, the Reids were setting sail from Scotland to America(New York), going up the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, across the Great Lakes and settling in Lomira, Wisconsin. Our Hewitt lineage from Scotland, were sea farers in the British Isles, the Mediterranian Sea, The Red Sea and the Indian Ocean often stopping at the seaports of Karachi and Bombay from the mid 1800's to the early 1900's.

Her older sister, Georgia age 34 months, seems to be drawing islands in the deep blue sea. As you can see, these girls definitely have salt water in their blood and I can't wait until they can join me on board Shatoosh and Pashmina to explore more waters in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Work Day at Schooner Creek

The crew at Schooner Creek really took great care of me. Thanks Eric, John, Mike and Paul. It seems John and I have mutual marina friends from the Delta. The wonderful Korth family at Oxbow, Pirates Liar and a third marina, that I can't remember the name. We were recalling how well run these marinas are and by third generation family members. If you are ever cruising the Delta make sure you stop in for a few nights and maybe even catch a striper or 2.

I got my oil and filters(oil and fuel) changed and the alternator belt tightened. It was wonderful to see Mike my mechanic working at this beautiful company, as yard manager. The engine is doing well with it's 1500 hrs on it. It still looks brand new and I try to stay on top of things. Mike noticed that I finally replaced my makeshift air filter. It is hard to believe that this little piece of foam cost me $45.00, when my makeshift one cost $10.00. They helped me turn the boat around and with a little help from the current ebbing and the wind from the south-east, I slipped out of their cove in a blink of an eye. Down the Columbia I flew with my engine purring like a kitten.

I make a stop at Fred's on the Multnomah channel and the friendly ladies make a fresh pot of coffee for me and I get a few crunchies to nibble on. They carry the most interesting chili-lime roasted nuts. I have never found them anywhere else. I cruise by the heron rookeries and the eagles nest slowly and take a picture. You'll have to double click the photo and then have great imagination skills to see the nest. Its times like this I really want a beeg camera with a beeg telephoto lens. But today we have to settle for my 2 mpixel camera on my cell phone.                                               

After a stop at Rocky Pointe to top off my tank with 10 gallons and talk with a man who loves my boat/Albins. He has a Norwegian designed power boat in Antacortes, Wa, I head for Scappoose Moorage.
The skies begin to turn very dark and the weather looks like it should rain torrents, but is somehow held at bay until I get into my covered berth. The skies open up pouring buckets. I have decided to stay over night, not because it is raining, but rather because I just love being on board.

I have had a fun time, found a new place, and met new people. My dock neighbor came down to empty his dock box. Because of the economy he is having to give up his slip. I am so grateful for my military retirement,  social security, and  VA. My favorite uncle comes through 3 X a month for me, so I can play and have fun on my Albin. I made some wise choices back when I was in my 20's, but then I worked many long hours rehabilitating our wounded soldiers from Viet Nam. I believe it has been a good deal, as I am triplely blessed and forever grateful.

A Napa River Albin Owner Reads Blog

Its Tuesday morning, 2 March 2010 and I awake at 0300 hrs. I check my emails to find a note from one of the Albin Yahoo Group members. He has his Albin on the Napa River, my old stomping grounds, and has checked out my blog. He emails the group the following note:

Your boating blog is wonderful !! And you seem priceless. I'll be in touch when I have time to think. Anyone else who wants to read a blog about the perfect use of an Albin 25 and a special person should follow her link.
Bob Z
Albin 25
Napa Valley Marina"

Thanks Bob, for all the nice comments/recommendations re: the blog and happy cruising to you and let us hear from you about your Napa Valley adventures.

I took Shatoosh to the Napa Valley Marina for 6 months to make her my own and to find our collective sea legs. I have such fond memories of the marina, the people who helped me, the river and cruising through those beautifully manicured vineyards. See a photo of Shatoosh going aground on the Napa River on the right side-bar on the blog.  It was a 6 hour wait to get off and then I had to run the river at dark. Those sneeky sand bars are bigger than the chart depicks them to be.

Schooner Creek/ GPS Troubleshooting

Yesterday, Sunday, I took a short ride down river to Coon Island to spend the day near the eagles and to troubleshoot this GPS/SeaClear connection. The day was wonderful and met 2 Grand Banks couples, who stated that neither would be taking the up river cruise to the Snake with their yacht club GBYC Portland. Heck, I was going to pick their minds. By the end of the day, as I was motoring back, I could not figure out why nothing was working. My GPS was sending data to my radar, but not my computer. Frustrated, I emailed Dan to update him. I decided that I must have rewired the connections wrong and I would surrender to the Schooner Creek Gods and let them fix it.

I left this morning, Monday, 1 March about 1005 hrs, and slowly begin my journey up river to Schooner Creek Boat Works(15nm). I soon leave civilization above Rocky Pointe and am excited to find my eagles present with their big nest high in the cottonwoods on Sauvie Island. Just upriver is a large great blue heron rookery on both sides of the river. I counted 20 on the starboard side and about 10 on the port side. Many blues are nesting already. Jean, my twin calls me, as she is baby sitting her grand daughters in Denver. I describe the scene with them and tell them I can't wait to bring them on Shatoosh for a boat ride.

I'm in no hurry, so I stop at Hadley's Landing to make me a fresh mug of coffee. The docks are always filled with  Russian fisherman. I don't know what it is about this dock that attracts all these Russians but they come from Portland, hike in from Sauvie island road and fish til dark. Usually they catch carp AND actually take them home to eat them. But, today they are catching and keeping squawfish. In Washington, there is a bounty on them and people actually make a living by turning them in. The coffee is ready, so I take off again and am soon cruising by a nice little floating home community and marina on the Sauvie island side. It is nice and quiet, out in the countryside. I'm told that Sauvie Island is the largest US island in fresh water. It is about 50 nm to circumnavigate it and quite a lovely journey, of part Columbia river, part Willamette river, and part Multnomah channel. It is best to go up the multnomah, then down the willamette and columbia rivers. I have done it several times and always enjoy it.

The rivers are filled with floating wood debris and coho fisherman. I feel like an Olympic Nautical Slalom driver, as I bob and weave between the floatsum and fishing boats. The short run on the Willamette river makes Shatoosh weave between 3 tugs and ride their wakes. My new locking mechanism I put on the laptop tray to secure it on the nav tray holds everything in place. At least something is working.

Once on the Columbia River, I pass an anchored and very tired ship with a bad case of the rust-out. As I get closer, I see it it from Majuro Island, of the Federated States of Micronesia. Majuro is a small atoll, in the mid pacific. I always joke, when I see one of their ships in port; they must be here to pick up Spam, the Hormel kind. Hawaii and Micronesia are big Spam eaters.

I pass under the railroad bridge, but it is too early to go to Schooner Creek, so I continue up river and find the resturant I wanted to go to, closed. I  run into depths of less than 5 feet. Whow, I reverse and I am out of there, returning to the protected cove of Schooner Creek. The marina is full of boats and I don't see an empty space. A dock worker directs me to an old wooden dock and tie up. I go into the yard office and the guys in there, tell me that they will find me a space in few minutes. I'm directed to circle back around to the inside dock and find just enough room to tie up and hook up my electric. I'm all set for the night and Mike, my mechanic, will return in the morning. He has been on a trip to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
I, humbly, inform them that I might need some troubleshooting on my gps/usb connection.

My buddy, Dan, emails some valuable info and I discover my usb driver is now missing, thus causing the problem of my gps not communicating with my computer and Sea Clear. I look to see if the driver is on my thumb drive but it is not. I'll just have to wait and get it off my other computer. I think from now on, I will carry it on the thumb drive, so if this ever happens again, I can reinstall it. This whole project has been quite the saga, but I am in it for the long haul.

I've closed up the boat, and have my feet on the dehumidifier which makes for a toasty foot warmer, as the night settles in. I'm ready to eat some coho salmon and will celebrate in knowing, I did not wire the system wrong. Tomorrow, is a new day and tonight, I am snug as a bug, on board Shatoosh in this beautiful little cove with a sandy beach.