Off we go down the coast to the mighty Columbia

I’ve recently come to realize that I’m not great about sharing Yahtzee’s future plans on the blog. It’s not purposeful. I guess I just enjoy living it first and writing about it later, rather than sharing what I think might happen months or even years down the way — that seems like a lot of pressure.

But I’ll break ever so slightly from that largely unintended tradition and offer a glimpse into what we’re doing at the moment and what we’ve got “planned” for the next month or so.

We’ve long been intrigued by the cruising offered in the Columbia River and have wanted to participate in the Oregon Offshore International Yacht Race, which takes place every May from Astoria, Oregon to Victoria, British Columbia. So back in the latter days of fall, we decided that we’d start looking for a weather window in late March to get us out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and down the coast to the Columbia River. We had a family trip to Florida scheduled for February and the weather is not notoriously great for a hop down the coast then anyway, so we figured the end of March would allow for a better chance at getting south. Also, our insurance company decided that being out on the coast on or after April 1 was a good date, too:)

Sailing under beautiful sunshine in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Sailing under beautiful sunshine in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

The good news is that it is shaping up to be a heck of week to execute the part of this plan where we get to the Columbia. After leaving the San Juan Islands today on a gorgeous northwesterly, we sailed most of the way across the strait before it died. We’re tucked in at beautiful Port Angeles for the night for some fuel, provisions and exploration and will spend the next couple days pushing westward before taking the big left turn down the coast.

Jill and the boys on deck after the wind died

Jill and the boys on deck after the wind died

The views of the Olympic Mountains grew even more stunning as we approached Port Angeles

The views of the Olympic Mountains grew even more stunning as we approached Port Angeles

Due to this glorious weather opening up for us, it’s looking like we’ll have over a month to cruise the river. We’d like to get as far up as Portland to visit friends and check out the city and surrounding area by water. From there — or however far we get — we’ll turn back downriver in early May to make it to Astoria for the beginning of the race on May 12. From the finish line in Victoria, Yahtzee’s bow will be pointing north farther into BC.

So follow along here and on our Facebook page, as we share as much of this adventure as we can. And now that I’ve written this I’m sure there will be plenty of changes in the schedule along the way!

18 thoughts on “Off we go down the coast to the mighty Columbia

  1. Wow, this is a big change from your San Juans / Puget Sound / BC cruising! I’d be interested in hearing more on your routing and itinerary (how long the trip down will take, and how long the return takes, and how much sailing you end up getting in vs motoring) .

    • Yeah, we figured it would be a nice month and half change of pace from our usual explorations. I’ll put some trip info in blog posts so you can get an idea of the speed/time/distance stuff. Cheers!

  2. Once you hit the mouth – and be careful at “The graveyard of the Pacific” – You can motor in 36 – 48 hours to Portland – faster if you have wind. Portland to Astoria is a 24 hour jaunt if you don’t stop in Cathlamet for coffee.

    The Oregon offshore varys every year


  3. Welcome to the Columbia, Yahtzee. Starbright left the river some 6 years ago to expand our cruising horizon in the Salish Sea and North. We continue to live, however, in Portland and crewing on a friend’s boat inthe Portland Thursday night races reminds us of the many fond memories of nights at Cathlamet, Martin Pond, St. Helens,…. We’ll keep a weather eye out for Yahtzee; and hope you enjoy that great Spinnaker run up the river.

    s/v Starbright W7XV

    • Thanks, Steve. If you’ve got and favorite stops or anchorages on the river, we’re always interested. And maybe we’ll get a chance to join some of those Thursday nights when we get up to Portland.

  4. After crossing the Columbia Bar 20plus times I’d strongly recommend doing so at about one hour after the flood starts for best conditions. Going down from Neah Bay expect it to take 24 hrs at 6 kts to reach the entrance buoy 3 then ride the flood in. You can cross the Bar on the ebb but make sure it at least 3-4 hours before a flood starts to avoid any unpleasantness and this goes for entering any Bar north of San’ll really enjoy the river but make sure you have updated charts and stay in the channels, those pesky sandbars move all around.

  5. There’s a good public dock at Rainer. Or. just a mile or so upstream of the Longview Bridge, close to groceries etc. There’s a nice public dock at Sand Island, just off St. Helens Or. Fuel dock and other services in St. Helens. Up above the I-205 bridge are a couple nice public docks along Government Island. No Services
    There’s a nice dock at Beacon Rock State Park, just below Bonneville Dam, Washington side. No services, but an awesome hike up to the top of Beacon Rock.

  6. Also, lots of commercial traffic on the Columbia, Ships and Tugs. No traffic system like we have here in Puget Sound. All the commercial guys will be on Ch. 13. With very few exceptions all the commercial traffic has AIS.

    If you go above Vancouver you’ll need to get the Vancouver Railroad Bridge opened. Call “KQ9049 Vancouver” on 13 to get the bridge tender.

    Then you’ll need to call the I-5 bridge. That’s “KBM Interstate”. Ask them for “the clearance at the high span”. I can’t remember right off what the clearance usually is, somewhere around 63-68 feet I think, depending on river level. If you don’t fit you’ll need a bridge lift.

  7. Awesome to hear you are headed down to Astoria. We did shipwrights two summers ago but missed the last one due to boat projects. It didn’t occur to me to cruise the Columbia until this post… Hmmm. We will be heading down from port ludlow around the end of April for the race and are super excited to see the coast again, it’s beautiful if the fog lifts enough to see it! We always enjoy the Yahtzee cruising updates.
    Barret and Jillian
    Lady Eileen-Baba 30

  8. Hi Andy and beautiful family.. Although we went to the dark side a few years ago [American Tug 36/5] berthed at cap sante. I truly enjoy everyone of your sailing posts particularly ll the aspects of raising 2 small boys on the boat. on your journey south, may the winds be at your back and may you sail on soft following seas– a pirate looks at 70– steve–the lesser haft of steveandtina

  9. You and your family are so cool! I love reading your adventures. Because my father was in the boat business, boating was always an extension of work. Then I became a sailboat racer and boating was always an extension of rabid competitive tendency. Since I went to the Wooden Boat Festival for the first time last September, I am learning how other people actually enjoy boating! What a concept. Thank you for sharing your cruising experiences.

  10. We have our sailboat in Portland and cruise every year on the Columbia with our boys since they were born . If you send me your email I can send you recommendations, links, etc.


  11. Having gotten tired of retirement, I bought an old 17′ Bayliner cuddy with the intention of exploring the Columbia (I have lived in Astoria for a few years now), followed by a cross-country boat-camping trip. The information in your article, and the replies to your article, is great!
    I expect sailing is again in my future, too.

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