Sunday, October 31, 2010

Our Last Night?

When we came into Hood River last night, we intended to be spending today there, withstanding some higher winds.  But this morning when we checked, the forecast had changed.  The winds were now expected MONDAY afternoon. So, we got up and went to Starbucks--can't skip THAT, and were on the way by 10:30.

The roughest water was right there at Hood River, which IS known for it's good sailboarding conditions.  The waves seemed to be building as we went west, but as the river narrowed it calmed.

Al kept me busy being the lookout while he checked more ranges.  (Al promises a blog expounding on this subject soon, so look for it!)  But I took time to shoot a bit of the scenery.

I saw this and said 'THAT'S a cool rock formation!'  And Al said  'It looks like a dog.'  So I took a picture.  We flipped the chart, and saw it IS Dog Mountain.

Things went very well, and we made it through Bonneville dam (our LAST, hurray!) and we are at Beacon Rock.  We can make it home from here.  Our old slip is ready and waiting for us.  We will check the wind forecast again in the morning, but we could very well be home tomorrow.  Which would make this the last night of our cruise.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Day of Delays

The plan for today was very similar to yesterday's--35 miles and a dam.  But the day broke foggy, misty and cool, making the bed seem extra snuggly this morning.

After Al turned on the radio, and just before we were ready to go, we heard two tugs speaking with John Day dam.  The Willamette was just exiting the locks, another vessel was approaching from below, and the Chief was waiting behind the Willamette.

We saw the Willamette pass and started out.  Al has been verifying ranges on our trip and wanted to go around Miller Island by the south channel to pick up three ranges we missed on the way upriver by taking the more scenic north channel (Hell's Gate).

Then just as we were rounding the bend, we heard the Celilo railroad bridge controller on the radio saying the bridge was preparing to close, did any vessels need passage.  The Willamette called and said he did, and the controller said he would hold the train. We called and said that we were 45 minutes behind the Willamette and we would slow down to allow the train to cross before us.  We knew from radio reports that the Chief was about 45 minutes behind us--a BUSY day on the river!  Especially so, since when we arrived at the bridge, it had not even BEGUN to be lowered.  We ended up losing about an hour.

I told Al 'We might get stuck at the dam!  The Chief is going to catch up to us!'  He agreed.  And sure enough, it had taken quite awhile for the Willamette to lock through, and the Chief was rounding the bend.  (Commercial traffic takes precedence over pleasure craft.)  However, the Chief said that as long as we weren't over 110 feet, we could fit along side his starboard side.  Just hold tight while he eased out of the locks because his wash could toss us around a bit.

The Chief eases in

It took quite awhile for him to work his way in, and we felt like we had 'just enough' room, though the picture shows quite a bit of water between us.

Five stories of power!  Six if you count the engine room below water.

The lock is 86 feet wide, and the load is 84....

This whole process took well over an hour, when our 6 previous down locks took maybe half an hour each.  We did note that the lock seemed to empty a whole lot slower than the other trips.  Al wonders if the lockmasters take it easy on the tug-and-barges....

The Chief got the green light to leave the lock and sure enough, the wash started a bit of a whirlpool effect, pulling the stern of the boat out (when our lines slipped a bit) and set the bow on the wall.  (More Cetol work for Al.)

As we were approaching the lock, we had heard the Kathryn B call the dam looking for a lock up.  She was waiting as we followed the Chief around, oh wait, she's moving up already!  Guess we'll pass her port-to-port as we round the green can! (Quickly confirmed on the VHF radio)

It is nearly 4:00, and we still have 20 miles to reach Hood River.  We should make it fine, but darkness may be falling as we arrive.  We plan to layover here tomorrow, as the weather report says winds will gust to 22 mph.  

It's more than mist now.  And one wiper needs it's blade replaced.  Luckily, the one at the helm is good.

We made it!  See that little pink circle?  That's us.  And the line away from it shows the orientation of the  boat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Gorgeous Day!

The Island Spirit, a cruise ship we have seen more than once on this trip, docked in Arlington last night also.  We heard their engine start up at 7AM and we popped up to observe.  We thought of Pastor Dan and how his wife Kathy said Dan would do the same thing on their recent Alaska cruise.

The Island  Spirit made it away safely.  We decided to forego onboard coffee and get a full breakfast at the restaurant in town.  Then we picked up a few items at the grocery store (more of that fabulous hamburger), and headed back to the boat.

Not far down, though it is not technically 'The Gorge' yet, the sunshine between the cliffs seems to beckon us home.

 Soon the dark clouds disperse, leaving fluffs of white at the top of the ridge where the line of windmills peek through occasionally.

Something unprecedented happened today at the John Day dam.  The Challenger and his load were waiting for a lift up as we came out from our ride down.  He had called the lockmaster just after we did and it was determined that we would go down first, since he was over an hour out at the time of our call. We turned up the rpm's just a bit to hurry along (doesn't make a WHOLE lot of difference in our boat, but still.  We were thankful that we hadn't left the dock a half hour later this morning, as we likely would have ended up waiting some time for this tug and barges to lock up!

Today's Stonehenge replica at Maryhill photos turned out much better than the trip upriver, because the sun is shining today!  We COULD have anchored out, dinghied over, walked a mile and a half (as the crow flies) up the hill to visit. Or PERHAPS tied to the short dock at the boat ramp (only 20 feet of dock floating?) and done the same walk.  

 Unfortunately, we would also love to visit the museum at Maryhill, and it is a mile and a half, uphill, as the crow flies, in the opposite direction from Stonehenge.  Al promises that we will do a car trip so we don't miss these things.  (I believe there is also a winery in the neighborhood.)

And as an end to this gorgeous day, we are at anchor  in the northeast nook of Miller Island.  We are doing something we haven't done in for quite sometime--we are sitting on the back deck with drinks and books.  I think we will stay out here as long as there is light, OR until it cools enough to be uncomfortable.   Goodnight!

(note:  All photography today (except for the barges) by Mr. Al Thomason)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Yesterday was a long day.  We were up late the night before and had set the alarm for a half hour later than the time we had usually been waking up.  We were dreaming away when the alarm went off.  So we were looking forward to sleeping in this morning.  But.....

Early to bed, early to rise....I guess we are both quite healthy, we are doing pretty good financially, and the Christmas Shippers DO call us 'The Wise Guys'!

So this morning we called Larry at the marina to let him know we wanted to take on some fuel.  We took 100 gallons at $2.87.  Al checked the log, and on this trip we have motored 95 hours.  So we have used roughly a gallon per engine hour.  For years Al has been telling people that we burn a gallon and a half an hour--but hey!  We do better than that!

We thought when we left this morning that we would be stopping at Boardman, or possibly 5 more miles further at Crow Butte.  But as we approached Boardman, it was only 12:15, and it seemed a shame to end the day so soon.  So we calculated, and determined that we could reach Arlington around 4 or 5PM.  It was raining most of the day, but the winds were light and from the north, no problem at all.

So checking the charts......ugh.  Looks like another long day tomorrow.  Forty miles AND a dam to Miller Island.  Better set the alarm again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wallula Gap, Revisted

Yay, the weather girl was right!  We woke to a beautiful sunrise and calm winds.  (Wow, the sun doesn't come up until after 7:30 now!)

Two days of sustained winds 20-30 mph, with gusts as high at 56 mph was enough.  And we have been in the Tri-Cities area for 9 days.  Two nights at Clover Island in Kennewick, four nights at the public dock at Columbia Park in Richland, and three nights at the Richland Yacht Club.

Our intent was to stay for two or three days.  Al had his regular work phone calls on Monday and Tuesday, and we went to the Ice Harbor Brewery for Monday Night Football and half-price appetizers.  Al got a fit-in dental appointment for 11:00 AM Wednesday morning, in Richland.  Then he wanted a day 'just to relax', so that was Thursday.  Then Friday we were invited to the Richland Yacht Club's weekly BBQ, so we stayed for that, but by then high winds were being predicted for the weekend.  The Yacht Club invited us to wait out the weather at their dock.  How fast the days add up!

But away we go!

Once again we pass through a section of the Columbia River that I consider to be among the most beautiful.

Entering the Gap, look at that sparkly sunshine!

The Twin Sisters, from the other side of the river

A 'wedding cake' rock?  Lots of different layers...

Can you see the livestock path, at the top of the scree, going right to the center of the photo?
And actually, we got a bit further down the river than we had planned!  Literature at the yacht club said that there were mooring buoys installed at various sites on the river, one being at Hat Rock State Park, just above the McNary dam.  It was our intention to stay there tonight.  Though we passed the park on our way UP the river, we were well across the river and missed getting a good look.

Today we were surprised by the number of houses in this neighborhood.  And as we followed the directions to where the mooring buoy was supposed to be, it became evident that there was no such buoy.

Al asked if I would like to continue on to Boardman, where we talked of stopping tomorrow night.  If it had been just an hour earlier in the day, I may have considered it.  But at 4:00, with a dam still to traverse and 25 miles to go, we would not arrive until about 7:00, and the sun goes down around 6.  No, I'd rather be settled before sundown.  So we are in Umatilla again, at one of the most expensive marinas of the trip.

Oh well, we can sleep in tomorrow.  Maybe go out for some breakfast.  It should only take 3 hours or so to Boardman.

The clouds have arrived, and we know it is raining in Portland.  But the good news for today?  Only 3 more dams to go!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Looking forward to May :-(

Well,  Today was a change.  And it has some ups, and some downs.

Today we light the Dickinson Stove for the 1st time this 'fall'.  Now, if you see my prior post about this stove, you know how nice it is.  Warm and Toasty. In this way am excited to have our old friend back with us.  But it also means all hope of a longer Summer is gone.  Yup, the Dickinson is light - likely till May.

Oh Well.  Time to get out the stews and hot chocolate..

Monday, October 25, 2010

Feeling the Breeze, and Feeling Pretty

With colder weather upon us, and now particularly the WINDY weather, I am feeling the breeze more and more these days.  Al DID get the rear hatch weatherstripped the other day.  One night in Clarkston I was disturbed no small amount by the rattling it did all night.  The rattle is gone!  And it has been well tested for the past 24 hours. But Al is not satisfied--he says he cannot tighten down the hatch cover any longer.  So there is still a bit of a draft, particularly with our stern to the wind.

Another location of a noticeable indoor breeze, is around the stovepipe.  There are numerous holes in the wood cabinet around the stovepipe, which will eventually be covered or filled with things like a barometer or a car stereo system.  But there is a hole allowing wires to go OUTSIDE, which also allows sun and wind INSIDE.

But the biggest draft I feel these days is through the doors.  Even when closed, there is a nearly half inch gap between the door and the door frame.  And again, when the wind blows from behind, it can come whistling in there pretty good!
Wood, GAP, Door (Brown/White)

When we finally light the diesel stove (soon now, soon) we will be much less concerned with drafts, and in fact may even welcome them.  If you have come along with us during Christmas Ships, you  know that we would often be comfortable in shorts and tank tops when the stove is lit.  We may have to remove that down comforter I just got out for the bed.  

Until then, that about covers it for the Feeling Breezy part.

But I want to talk a little bit about being a woman living on a boat, and feeling pretty, and how difficult it is to be both, simultaneously.  It takes a whole lot more EFFORT to feel pretty while living on a boat.  Especially one that is still in restoration and does not have all it's 'systems' installed yet.  

Though I am very grateful for the shower on Viking Star, hot water at the moment requires ready electricity from the dock, or a period of time running the engine or generator, or patience to wait 20 minutes for the batteries to heat the water after flipping a switch.  And then, once you have hot water, you can EITHER  wash your hair OR shave your legs, NEVER both.  And no more luxuriously leaving the water run while you soap.  Rinse, turn off water, soap and shampoo, turn water on, rinse.  Leave enough warm water for your partner, unless he is willing to wait to repeat the heating process.

Once you are showered, another important ingredient to feeling pretty is FRESH clothes.  Now, living on an old diesel-powered boat, you never quite get rid of that eau de diesel.  We fool ourselves into believing our boat doesn't smell, but when you get away, we can smell it on ourselves.  We say 'We smell like BOAT!'

And another practice due to limited laundering ability as we have had the past few weeks, is that we wear our clothing 2 or 3 or more times before they are destined for the laundry basket.  (Clean underwear every day, but jeans may  be worn nearly a week--YIKES.)  

Make-up is pretty much a non-issue.  Once I got a decent mirror and hand mirror, I can deal with applying my makeup.

Hair is another issue, though.  I gave up coloring my hair almost 2 years ago, and I am noticeably grey.  Kind people will say it just looks like 'highlights', but I know better.  I just will NOT do-it-myself.  I have never liked the look of all-over color, and I don't like the idea of a different colorist in every port either.  I miss Karla, who has taken care of my hair for 15 years or more.  

But color aside, there is the style.  I have straightened my hair for years, which involves blow drying and then using a flat iron, both of which are 'heating' appliances, and very energy consumptive.  So, I tried to get used to a wash-and-go hairstyle, really I did.  I have naturally wavy hair, so it should have worked.  But, I feel the grey is even more evident and flyaway, and my face looks rounder.  Straight is just more glossy, smooth, and younger looking, in my opinion.

This week, while plugged in to shore power, I got out my hair dryer and flat iron, and I couldn't believe how much better I felt with straight hair again!  I simply MUST continue. No matter how much power it consumes.

A woman has to feel pretty. 

RTFM - True Cause - And yes, I am bored. . . . .

The Wind has really picked up here, getting sustained mid 25's, and gusts to 40 MPH (according to NOAA).  Kristi and I are on the boat, catching up on things.  And yes, I am a bit bored - hence all the posts lately :-)

About 3 weeks ago our Equator Washer/dryer stopped working.  More correctly it stopped drying.  It would start, and then 'fault out' showing an error code of F05.  Digging into the service manual, this combination indicated a failed Water Level Switch.  Now, I really have no idea why the water level would matter during drying, but then I also have no idea why the machines brings in a small amount of what as it begins the dry cycle either.  (and this is NOT one of those condensing units that use water during drying, it is a vented model).

Anyway, I placed the new part on order for when we arrived back to Portland and we have been making do as best we can.  Including Kristi doing some hand washing.  Well, today I was bored and decided to play some more.  1st by running an empty load.  Guess what - it worked!

OK, this was actually a problem for me.  See, while I worked for Epson, I learned the concept of True Cause.  One should never feel comfortable about resolving a problem just by the symptoms - one needs to see the True Cause of the issue.  And in this case, well the problem went away without me discovering the True Cause (I had planned on investigating that level switch more when we got back and opened up the washer/dryer).

OK, so we went ahead and put in a load (actually, Kristi sorted out 6 loads) and guess what. . . .  It did not work this time!  Faulting with a F05 during Drying.

Hum. . . .

Then I had a thought, and checked the dock voltage.  We were a bit low, around 114v.  Under load it got down to 108, 107v, and if the heater was also on, down to 105v.  Well, this is where RTFM comes in:  (Read The F---- Manual).  It clearly says Min voltage 108v.

A few more trial runs, watching the voltage, trying combinations of heater / dryer, etc. and we could get it to fail 100% of the time with low voltage 104 to 107v..  Even more so, we switched over to the inverter and those large batteries.  A nice 117v, and the Washer/Dryer is happy as a clam!

Though do not know the True Cause (failure mode is sympathetic, True Cause would require knowing WHAT inside the machine objected to the low voltage), it does seem promising.

Oh, and there is another lesson here:  Viking Star is equipped with an isolation transformer that could boost the incoming voltage back into acceptable range.  But this is located under the Starboard V-Berth, the one which is serving it's natural purpose not as a guest bed, but as storage. . . .

So, for now we are just running off of the inverter / batteries.  Will recharge over night.

But I for one am VERY happy to have the onboard washer/dryer working again.

Things that - Work: Front Panel Express

Front Panel Express is an online company which allows one to make custom and short run custom panels.  We have used it twice to make panels out of aluminum for Viking Star, and they turned out wonderful!

Key to their service is a downloadable CAD tool which is integrated with their process.  Simply download the tool, layout what you want.  Print out a sample (I then glued it to stiff cardboard) to make sure all is just how you want it.  Once satisfied press the 'Buy it' button, and your order will be sent over the internet and your panel arrives a few weeks later (or sooner if you want to pay for express).

This is a really cool service.  Their CAD tool is simple to operate, and provides many options and pre-designed cutouts.  The material choices are wide, as well as the finishes and engraving fills available.  The tool will cost the panel for you as you design it, and the costs are reasonable (I think I paid $40 and $70 for the two panels I had made).

Way cool, and I am going to be making a few more panels before we are done.

Front Panel Express - Recommended

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Things that - Work: Benmar Course Setter Autopilot

This is a biggie.  Viking Star is a SLOW boat, and when we go anywhere two things are true:  It takes time (as in Hours), and it can be really boring to Man the Wheel.  As a result, we use our Autopilot almost all the time - even when river cruising.

What came with the boat when I purchased her was a motor unit for a Benmar Course Setter 21 autopolot, but no head (despite it being in the sales agreement).  This caused me to look around to see 1) If this was a good unit, and 2) Where I could get another (or a different one).

What I found out was the unit has been produced for 40 or more years, and is considered simple and very reliable.  In fact, the motor drive unit (ours is attached via a chain to the steering wheel) has a reputation for being perhaps one of the most robust ones around.  Heck, the same model is still being produced:

One unique feature of this unit is it does NOT need a rudder position sensor, and hence there is one less thing to break.  In fact, the only trouble I have ever had was at one time the contacts to the internal rotating compass had some contact issues. A simple opening of the control head and a shot of Radio Shack TV Tuner Cleaner fixed that right up.

Now, these units are simple of operate:  Turn that large dial to the compass course you want to go, and pull the Engage lever.  Then monitor it.   Yes, this is NOT an integrated unit that can take its commands from the GPS or Chart plotter, you have to turn a knob to tell it which direction to head.   And to be honest - I like that.  It goes with my overall concern about too much integration of critical navigation components, and it also causes you to keep an eye on the progress and make small adjustments along the way, as well as course adjustments when you reach a waypoint.   It, in effect, encourages good seamanship practices of paying attention to what is going on around you.

And seeing as they are not the 'In Vogue' systems, they can be found for very reasonable costs.  The control head pictured I picked up at a 2nd hand store for $35, and at a swap meet I picked up a control head PLUS a drive unit for $50.  A rock solid autopilot solution with 100% backup for under $100.   Yes, the Cheapness in me just loves that.

But vastly more important:  This thing just works.  It is a dog simple, proven technology, standalone, simple to operate.  That is key, and the Benmar Course Setter passes with flying colors.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where we stayed - Tri-Cities Area

For this trip we used two guides books:

  • Cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers by Sharlene and Ted Nelson with Joan LeMieux.
  • Boaters Guide to the Columbia and Snake Rivers
Both are 'Out of Print', but can be found on Amazon.   We found both books useful, but to be honest I liked Cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers better as it talked not only about stops, but a little about the history as you cruised past it.  Make sure to get the 2nd (revised) edition.

TriCities:  We stopped overnight at three places:  Metz Marina (at Clover Island), Columbia Point Park, and the Richland Yacht Club.

Metz Marina - This is really the Port of Kennewick Marina and the bay hosts a USCG station, a marina and the Clover Island Yacht Club.   Over the past 4 years, this area has been totally refreshed.  I wanted to post some photos from Google earth, but the image is the old one :-)   To get there, your enter the marina bay and motor past all the new covered moorage and to the last row which is boat houses.  Turn a hard right and the guest dock is the back of these boat houses.  Currently there is a large gap of water, and then the Clover Island Yacht Club starts with their rows of house boats.  There is 30A power on the dock as well as water.  Pump out is over by the Coast Guard station on the Fuel dock.  Price is $10 / night which includes power.  You pay at the port office which is at the top of the ramp, if it is a weekend place your money in an envelope and put it into the blue box on the outside of the office.  This is a very clean and very new facility, has restrooms and showers as well as trash and an oil dump.  Perhaps the BEST feature is again at the top of the ramp:  Ice Harbor Brewing Company.  A great local brewery, and they will sell 6-packs out of coolers there!  Groceries are a bit of a walk, about 1.5 miles down 'Washington Street' to the Red Apple.  (Make sure to note 'Two Guys Stripping' along the way - Kristi sure did.).  An Ace hardware is about 1/2 mile down the same road.   There are a couple of restaurant at the top of the ramp, both are OK, but their price reflects their location.  Overall we liked the newness of this facility, reasonable price, Ice Harbor Brewery.

Columbia Point Park and Marina in Red -
 Richland Yacht Club are the docks to the left..
Next we moved up river some to the Columbia Point Marina.  This is actually a public dock at the Columbia Port City Park - But wow...  There are about 35 slips with on-dock power and water!  An issue for us is we could dock at perhaps two places, and in each case we took up 3 'spaces' :-)   This is really designed for 20 - 25'  or so boats.  But what can we say.  During the Summer understand it is busy, but when we arrived there was only one other boat.  As with Clover Island, there has been a LOT of construction around this area in the past 4-5 years - mostly Condo's.  We had plenty of depth, around 8', and it is well protected.  Perhaps the best about this area is a Starbucks is just a 10-15 minute walk away!  Plus there is a WinCo and Dollar Store there as well!  And the restaurats Anthony's is right at the marina, new, well staffed, good food - though it also is priced to reflect is location, I would say it is a much better value than the Clover Island places. Kristi and I enjoyed a good dinner there, and even purchased some Wine that we had sampled during our Wine Tour.  There is a pump out, but we did not try it as the dock was a bit short for us...  And will say the restrooms and Showers, though present, are a bit ruff - we basically did not use them.  Was also able to find a WiFi!  (Not so at Clover Island marina)  Overall:  What can we say:  Price is - get this -  free!  ($4/day during summer).  And this includes electricity!  Walking distance to shopping and Starbucks.  Recommended, though suspect the summer might be difficult to get a spot, esp for larger boats.
Anthony's at Columbia Point Park

Richland Yacht Club:  This shares the same 'bay' as the Columbia Point Marina.  Kristi was stopped by a couple walking their dog - the 'Viking', turns out he was a member at the Richland Yacht Club,  and he invited us to a Friday Night pot-luck.  During that time the folks invited us to be their guests until the storms pass over.  Kristi and I are very appreciative for this gesture as to be honest this location is much better than Clover Island - Starbucks, WinCo, WiFi, etc.  Wonderful new facility, nice people, and we are grateful to them.

There seemed to be several small docks all along the river, mostly private but some seemed to be associated with parks.  Not sure about overnight at them, but would certainly be interesting to stop for  a day.  Also noted several boaters poking around the islands just below where the Snake joins into the Columbia.  Though the charts show skinny water, there were larger boats in there so perhaps some local knowledge would be able to point out some interesting anchorages.

Up to Hanford

Coulda, shoulda?  For all the weather talk of RAIN and WIND, it has been quite nice last night and today.  Last night the predicted winds were upgraded to 40 mph for Saturday night, Sunday and Monday, so we felt good about our decision to wait out the weather here in Richland.

However, we had been on the public dock for 4 nights already, and the sign said '5 day limit', and we really don't like to break rules.  Fortunately we were invited to the Richland Yacht Club for their weekly Friday night potluck BBQ.  A man and woman I had noticed previously tossing a tennis ball for a nice dog told us about it and said 'Tell them the Viking invited you!'  His 40-ft sailboat Viking Spirit has done a world cruise 1998-2002, according to his T-shirt.  As fellow Vikings, we planned to attend.

And we were welcomed heartily to the small gathering of perhaps 10-12 people.  And by the end of the evening, we were invited to bring the boat around, were issued a key to the gate and clubhouse, and escorted down to the dock to scout out the space they had chosen for us.

So this morning we had coffee and bagels at the boat, and we set off for our little tour upriver to Hanford.  It is just over 5 nautical miles in distance to the end of our charts--as far as we can go up the Columbia in Viking Star.

From Wikipedia:
The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, operated by the United States federal government. The site has been known by many names, including Hanford WorksHanford Engineer WorksHanford Nuclear Reservation or HNR, and the Hanford Project. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium productionreactor in the world.[1] Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

The fall colors have really popped out in the past week.

HUGE tractors we believe are used to move materials from what Al calls 'Spook Barges', pushed by TWO tugs and accompanied by a Navy ship. 

Hanford Site
Hum...  Chart continues, Land/water continues - -  but where are the river depths?
Think the Gov guys are trying to tell us something?

As we returned to Richland, we turned into the same bay as the Columbia Pointe Park and the public dock we have stayed, and turned to the yacht club docks.  There were 5 or 6 members on the dock, involved in various projects, and they helped us get settled.

And as we walked to Starbucks for an afternoon treat, the sun was shining, the wind calm, causing us to shed our jackets and wonder 'Perhaps we SHOULD have done our tour yesterday afternoon, and gone on to Umatilla today....'

Thursday, October 21, 2010

There is going to be a Blow!

Listening to tonight's local news brought unsettling news - Summer is Over.  Yes, so long in coming, we have enjoyed perhaps the last nice day for a while.  Forecasted are clouds moving in Friday, Rain by Sunday and continuing through mid week as a series of  fronts pass over the region.

A  bit more unsettling is that there is forecasted strong winds - sustained 10-15 MPH, with gusts from the mid to upper 20's. detail forecast Pasco WA

So, Kristi and I talked tonight about what we should do.  We have enjoyed our stay here in Richland at the public docks, but are starting to come up against the 5-day limit (and we really do not wish to be unappreciative guests).   It is time for us to move on.  Plus, even though Starbucks is a short 15 minute walk from here, not sure how attractive that will be in Rain and Wind.

We COULD start our way down river, dealing with the Wind and Waves. These waves and gusts will be very doable and safe for Viking Star.  Locks might be a bit more effort, but overall we are more than equipped and capable with dealing with these modest winds.  

But here is the bottom line:  We do not HAVE to be anywhere!  So, why push it?  In the US Power Squadron classes we teach that a Schedule is the most dangerous thing to recreational boaters.  Well, guess what! We decided to move Saturday 5 miles  back downriver to the Kennewick Marina and hold out there till these storms pass over.

So, we will be moving on down and sitting it out in our nice and warm cabin.  As the saying goes - better to be at dock wishing you were out, then be out wishing you were at dock.

Navigating the Lower Snake River

We are sitting in the Tri Cities area, where the Snake River joins  into the Columbia; having returned from our trip up the Lower Snake to Clarkston/Lewiston area and thought would post a bit about our travels.

1st off, I really liked the Snake.    Now part of this it likely due to the timing we did the trip in (fall, hence NOT hot), but overall what I liked about the Snake is there IS an ability to get away from things.  It is along the lines of why Kristi and I prefer the upper San Juan’s vs. the more populated area.   Some nights we stopped and did not hear a Train (or perhaps only one at the night).  Little to no cars as well.  And not too many boats on the river, though that did change the last 4 days during our return trip when the river was re-opened for Fishing (and Hunting season started as well).  In running this river we relied mostly on the Electronic Chart Plotter – backed up by a flip book of Charts.  We did notice that the charts were not totally up to date in terms of local features, meaning docks and other land features that had been added might not be on the charts.  We also noticed that some of the depths had changed - especially towards the Clarkston / Lewiston area.  And despite what the current version of the Pilot Chart says, the Blue bridge will NOT be raised for you – even with 24 hours notice 

Ok, here are a few  navigation notes from our travels on the Lower Snake River.

1. There is noticeable shoaling from about River Mile (RM) 130 all the way to the end.  Some of the ledges come out a bit further than noted, and most of the depths are now around 20-25’ as opposed to the 70-80’ as shown on the charts.  We never had an issue,  the main ‘channels’ are still plenty deep, but be mindful for areas that might have a tendency to build up – and note that the charted depths might be less . . .

2. Cell Phones stopped working around RM 15, and did not start until RM134 for both T-mobile and AT&T.  Verizon was a LITTLE better but still during those times inside the canyon walls their phones worked perhaps 5% of the time.

3. Hailing the Dams – All the dams have names, but also Call Signs.  We noticed the several would use a combination of their call sign  with their name.  We also noticed that the locks are not manned full time, but instead you 1st talk to an operator I suspect located in the dam’s control room.  Once contact is made, someone drives out to the lock booth and operates the locks.   Names seems to be:
     a.  “42 Ice Harbor”
     b. “43 Lower Monumental”
     c. “44 Little Goose”
     d. “45 Granite”

4. During the summer there is a posted Recreational Lock Schedule - it is the same for the Columbia and the Snake.  We traveled during the times when this was not in effect, so hailed them on Channel 14  -  30 minutes before our arrival – looking back I think 45 minutes would have been better – giving them time to drive out to the lock station and turn the locks around if needed.  We never had an issue getting through, though we did have to wait for a lock to be turned around a couple of times.

5. The motion in the locks on the Snake can be harsh when filling.  We especially noticed on the Drop Gate Dams (Ice Harbor and Monumental, John Day on the Columbia as well) that a wicked rotating current sets up while the lock is filling (from about 30% to 80%).  This would grab the full length keel of Viking Star (and Maxine, our companion boat) pressing them into the lock wall with great force.  A call to the lock master got them to slow the fill rate to about ½ speed and all was fine.  In timing it, we noticed the wall segments were 5’ high.  If the fill rate was around 15 seconds for one of the wall segments (e.g. 3 seconds a foot), we had trouble.  At 25 seconds a segment (5 seconds a foot) we were OK.  I never talked to a Lock Master to see if asking for a ‘5 seconds a foot fill rate’ would have any meaning to them, but it might be worth a try.

6. Locking Down, no issues.

7. Not sure the Big Ball Fender will forgive me – it had is poor neck about pulled off a few times before we could ask for a slower fill rate.

You can take the Snake up to the Blue Bridge just after RM 139.  We asked about this bridge and were told the last time it was raised was about 5 years ago, and it got stuck up.  So no, they will not raise it for you   No worries, there is not too much more one can do anyway without a Jet Boat.

The Clearwater River takes off at this same place.   We went  through the RR bridge there (it is left up unless needed) for about 1 more mile until we were stopped by a 21’ Fixed bridge.  About a mile after that it again gets shallow. (According to the charts).

TriCities Area (I know this is not the Snake, but talking about it here anyway).

There are three railroad bridges in the area – two on the Columbia and one on the Snake.  Two of them are left in the UP position, and will ‘automatically’ lower when a train arrives.  These two are the one on the Snake, and the lower Railroad bridge on the Columbia (RM 323).   These bridges will call out on VHF 13 when they are about to close (like 5-10 minutes before they close), and the one on the Columbia  will continue to announce every 5 minutes it is ‘Closed to Navigation’.  Once the trains pass and they reopen, they will announce they are ‘Open to Navigation’ on the VHF 13.

The other bridge on the Colombia is above where the Snake joins in - at RM 328.  This is manned and can be hailed on VHF 13 using the call “KQ 9046 Upper Columba River Railroad bridge”.  Or “KQ 9046’ for short.

The Columbia is charted up to the beginning of the Hanford area, and locals tell me it is still navigable about 1-2 miles after that.  But then it turns into a free-flowing river (as opposed to the Lake behind the McNary Dam) and quickly gets into 4-5 foot depths with shifting channels. . . .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Slow Afternoon Cruise

We were told by Clover Island Marina residents and management that there was a nice moorage upriver about 5 miles at Richland.  Al did some investigation, and found a Starbucks, Winco, and dentist within easy walking distance!  So this afternoon, after his work phone call, we headed out.

The Portland Spirit was coming back from their Snake River dam tour, tickets which cost $85 per person.  We hailed them since they went past where they have been mooring, and we wanted them to know we were behind them and did they have a preference of which side we should pass.  Al told them that we were glad to see them up here, and that we would see them back in Portland for the Christmas Ships!

The Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco,Richland) are cities of bridges too.  There are a couple of railroad bridges--you can see one just below the white bridge above.  We are on Lake Wallula of the Columbia River.  The picture below sure LOOKS like a calm lake, but the further north we go, the stronger the current becomes.

There were lots of big, nice houses along the Pasco rivershore.  And another freeway bridge.

Hey, it IS a nice marina.  And only charges $4 a night April to September, so it's FREE to us now.  AND there is water and electricity.  We walked the mere blocks to the shopping center, where we enjoyed an hour at Starbucks, and grabbed a couple bags of groceries from Winco.  Now steaks are on the grill, broccoli steamed, Yukon gold potatoes boiling, fresh French bread sliced, buttered, and half consumed already....

Missing MY People

I have been thinking on this blog post for over a week now, when Al and I had a conversation over breakfast at Lyons Ferry on our way back down the Snake.  I got rather emotional, which always annoys me because it makes it even more difficult to articulate verbally what I am feeling.  But I made a few points, and Al suggested that I write a blog post about it, citing a previous post I made when we were in the Down Size mode, and I said it was kind of like dying--that process of going through all our worldly goods and deciding who should have what.

My feelings had actually been stirred the week before when we attended church in Clarkston.  Attending a Methodist church is always a BIT like coming home, the rythym, the songs, prayers all sound familiar.  The people are anxious to meet the new faces in their midst.  Everyone is friendly and wants to hear our story.  But they don't know US.

I am thinking that I am getting a little tired of having the same conversation everywhere we go.  It is fun being able to go to new places, but we just have that same conversation over and over again.  No one KNOWS me.

The feeling gelled a bit on our return trip down the Snake, and I have to thank Kate at the KOA Lyons Ferry who called 'You're back!' when she saw me at the register that afternoon.  It felt SO good to be recognized and remembered!

So I set down to tell Al about that feeling the next morning over our coffee, and then I remembered another time in my life when I experienced those feelings, I began to cry, and had difficulty speaking for a bit.

I was remembering being a newly-wed who had moved half way across the country to attend college.  I was a stranger and I was 'home-sick'.  The TV show 'Cheers' was popular at the time, and I used to cry every time I heard the theme song:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

I think I have adjusted quite well to living on the boat, the confined space, the rocking motion.  And for the summer, even though we moved frequently, we still were within a familiar community where I could visit friends, my kids and grandkids on a weekly basis.  Facebook helps me keep up on the happenings in friends' lives, but it doesn't replace the hug and kiss of a grandchild, the smile of recognition of a friend, the words of someone who KNOWS my story already.

I wanna be where everybody knows my name.  I miss MY people.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Few Days....

The downriver trip continues to be quite uneventful, thank God.  We did a longer day yesterday, from Lyons Ferry to Fish Hook recreational area.  Hey Patti, here are a couple of pictures just for you, the first from a distance, then a close up of some really cool rock swirls:

I am enjoying the trip downriver more than I thought I would.  I thought 'It's just the stuff I have seen before' but it DOES look different.  Different angle, different light?  I don't know.....just different.  And then we DID stay somewhere different from the trip up.  We did not stay at Levey, which we nicknamed the Twilight Zone park.  Instead, we stopped at Fish Hook Recreational Area.  Very similar to Levey, but smaller, with a MUCH nicer dock.  We pulled up just as the sun was beginning to set.  Then we set off to explore.

I though especially of Troy and Ryker when I saw the dragon.  And Micah, who had nightmares after seeing the movie  Tremors.

We thought we would have the whole place to ourselves, like Levey, but we were wrong.  From the hill we saw the US Coast Guard cutter, Bluebell, coming upriver.

We made it back to Viking Star quickly, just in case they needed us to move back on the dock, but they said we were fine where we were.  We sat on the front deck and watched all the activity.

Once they were all set, there was still enough light to catch the double silhouette with the last color of the day.

It was a nice night, and a very pleasant morning.  There were a few fisherman on the dock.  The Coast Guard left at about 8, and we heard their arrival and lock-through at the Ice Harbor dam, not far downriver.

We enjoyed our Sunday morning with TWO pots of coffee, warm showers, and a couple of TV shows previously downloaded to Al's computer.  Then we were off at about 11.  Ice Harbor is the last dam on the Snake, and we pulled onto the Columbia River at about 1:30.  We are still at the Ice Harbor Brewery on Clover Island in Kennewick finishing up 'linner' (lunch/dinner).

We will be in Kennewick for a couple of days.  Al has some work phone calls on the schedule, and he wants to do a couple of boat projects while the weather is still so nice.  He also needs to find an oral surgeon--he literally has a screw loose in his head.  The preparation for an implant is a screw placed into the bone graft material, and it has loosened.  Need to get it checked out.

Our Portland Spirit is in Kennewick!  They are here for about a week, the first time they have ventured this far.  We may head a bit upriver on Tuesday to Richland.  They say the shopping (and Starbucks) is more within walking distance there.