It is now December 2019 as I write this. This picture was taken on December 15th, 2018. Les and I were at a delightful little Bistro in Astoria named the Bridgewater. We’d taken the day off from stocking up our new boat and drove through a driving rain along highway 30 from Saint Helens to Astoria. Charlie, the previous owner of Great Northern, had mentioned that the Bridgewater would be a place that we would enjoy. He was spot on. It was alongside the Astoria bridge that carries traffic between Oregon and Washington and had a welcoming, warm, cozy, wood fired atmosphere with great food and a fine selection of craft beer. I had a nicely hoppy locally brewed IPA, fish chowder and Caesar salad. Les enjoyed the same. We’d just accomplished a road trip from Portland to Astoria to scope out different parts of the river that we would soon be transiting. If you get to Astoria some day, be sure to stop at the Maritime Museum and spend some time there.
12 short months. Our lives have changed in so many ways…
Never a dull moment preparing a boat for a voyage. And speaking of changes… Les is soldering new LED lights into the standard bulb light fixtures. Oh yes! Les can solder with the best of them All of her tools are there. So far she’s done 20 fixtures and has 10 or so more to go.
The fat tire IPA is mine…
From the rain drenched windows of the Bistro, we saw one of Charlie’s pusher tugs motoring under the Astoria Bridge. The company he worked for the greater part of his professional career, built tugs, barges, and railroad cars. I have a picture of a similar tug in our engine room… I know what a pusher tug is now. Immensely powerful and an essential workhorse on the Columbia.
Since last December, so much water has passed under our collective keels. I’ve fully retired. We moved to Portland to put the finishing touches on Great Northern, and by June 2019 the boat was ready and we left Portland to start our cruising journey. I’ve broken the passages from Portland to Port Angeles, Washington into 3 parts.
Part 1, covers our passage from Salpare Marina on Tomahawk Island to St. Helens to top of our fuel tanks, then on to Cathlamet Washington.
Part 2 will cover the ongoing trip downstream from Cathlamet to Warrington.
Part 3 will cover Warrington, near the mouth of the Colombia to Port Angeles, Washington
Our very first Columbia River passage took place on February 1st 2019. If you want to read about that, it is covered in the post titled The Beginning. It describes moving Great Northern from its pampered boathouse home of 13 years up to the cold and open air Salpare Marina on Tomahawk Island near Portland. How rude of us… But since we were spending time between San Diego and Salpare outfitting the boat, we wanted to be close to the airport and it served its purpose well.
Get on with the story you say? I agree, eh?
The overall picture: Tomahawk – Hayden Island (between Portland and Vancouver on the Columbia River) to Astoria via Saint Helens and Cathlamet. We actually skipped Astoria and went on to Warrington. More on that later.
June 19th, 2019. We cast off the lines at Salpare marina and headed out on the Columbia. Our starting point at Salpare is 100 nautical miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean. We plan on 3 stops on the way: Saint Helens for a fuel topoff. The best fuel price on the Columbia is at the fuel dock there. The second stop will be Cathlamet, Washington, another 45 miles further downriver. Our final stop is Warrington, another 26 miles downriver. The total mileage will be 91 miles or so.
This picture shows us just about to transit under the Burlington Northern Railway Bridge which links Portland via Hayden Island to Vancouver, Washington. The game is afoot…
The fuel dock has hotdogs etc in the summer. For us, we had to settle for the comic art…
The Cathlamet Slough leading to the Elochoman Marina at Cathlamet, Washington. If Charlie hadn’t assured us that the slough was deep enough for us to pass from the Colombia into the marina, we probably would not have attempted it. That being said, Tony Fleming’s boat, Venture, a 65 foot Fleming, made it in there a couple of years ago. If you get a chance you should look at his video of transiting the Columbia River all the way to Lewiston Idaho at: Venture to Idaho
Part of the Cathlamet waterfront. One of the things we found so interesting about many towns that have been part of the ebb and flow along the Columbia is the waterfront, the town epicenter of commerce. In California for instance, every speck of waterfront has been shanghaied for restaurants, hotels and their ilk. Along the Columbia that is not the case. There is so much of it and commerce has been its story from the beginning when First Nation tribes plied the waters. The backwaters on the river’s banks bloom and fade., left to collect the odd sunken boat, the seldom used barge, and lots of old pilings
The town is a combination of restoration and lapse, new businesses and crumbling businesses. Transplanted immigrants from many other places and old timers whose families arrived during the heyday of the pioneers meld into a garden salad of belief systems, old and new. Craft breweries and old saloons, Galleries and churches, mom and pop groceries, and old time hardware stores that have just about everything you can imagine… make up this little town. And… you can stand in the middle of Main Street for a bit and not be too worried about becoming road kill.
Cathlamet is old and new, fading and developing, living and dying, like many small towns along the Columbia. The townspeople we talked to love to live there. They like the old and new and the creative ways the town keeps moving along through time, along the Columbia River that forms the backdrop for everything.