Leaving St. Helens

March 22, 2003

On passage from St. Helens to Astoria (along the Columbia River)

Right:  S/V Sequoia crew on departure day.  L to R: Craig Johnston, Jim Van Gorder, Barbara Johnston, Reggie Good and Barbara Bates.

Departure day  
Hello to friends and family!

I've gotten several messages in recent days with such subjects as "I assume you're traveling by now..." or "have you left yet?" or "still there?" I was almost embarrassed to say, yes, three weeks after our "bon voyage open boat" party, we were still at the dock in St. Helens. The last good sunshine we had was, indeed, the day of the open boat -- March 1. We've been looking for a weather window ever since, and only now is one on the horizon. Apparently we're going to have northwest winds -- the best kind -- for about two days, starting tomorrow morning. So we gave word to our crew, and everyone appeared, and in theory we were going to start down the river this morning. But of course there were many small bumps in the road, even this morning.

There was the wrong bolt for the outboard mount, there was the forgotten half gallon of milk, and there was the car to put in storage for the next year. We finally pushed off at 2:00 p.m., and as I write, we're about half way down the river to Astoria. There's still quite a lot of weather to contend with -- winds up to 20 knots, and occasional heavy rain squalls.

Craig, packing scuba tanks and extra coils of line under the quarter berth Of course, to be truthful, even if the sun had shone from March 1 until now, we might not have started until now. I don't know how we could have ever thought we could be ready to go on March 1. I had visions of being totally organized -- everything in its place, etc. etc., and it's really a lot of work to make it all come together. I thought, somewhat naively, that I could wait to do the provisioning and food stowage until Craig was done with all his projects that involved interior modifications. But it became apparent that Craig's projects would never be ended. He does each with such care and consideration that each takes a great deal longer than seems possible. Those three fans, which we bought two years ago, are still uninstalled, packed away once more. I assume that once we're in the tropics there will be strong motivation to prioritize that particular project. Finally I dove into the provisioning, finding new, previously untapped spaces to store vast quantities of canned goods.


In the meantime, it's been interesting living on the dock in St. Helens. The raccoons come around, scurrying under the dock, scrounging for food. The blue heron, missing for part of the winter, is back, walking around on the roof of covered moorage at night, and occasionally taking to the air with an unearthly squawk -- looking for all the world like a prehistoric pterodactyl. We've been taking baby steps toward cruising each day. There was the day we finally gave up the garage at the apartment, and moved the timpani into the shop. There was the day we finally removed the last "boat" box from the shop. There was the last time (for awhile) I logged onto hotmail. There was the last time we visited our favorite Japanese restaurant (Shogun, in Hillsboro). We got all the address changes done, sold the Explorer (but didn't sell the Acura), delivered the van to Ian, returned the rental car, and finally this morning became utterly carless, when we left the Acura at the St. Helens mini-storage. Because this involved so many baby steps, it seems only one more tiny baby step to actually push off from the dock and head down the river. I'm sure the reality that we're going to be gone for 18 months will hit sooner or later.

Our crew are Reggie Good and his wife Barbara Bates, from Montana -- we met them on the internet! (Don't worry, we checked their references, and met them and liked them, before we agreed to this whole thing.) Our other crew is Jim Van Gorder -- a member of the Sauvie Island Yacht Club, who raised his hand one evening when we announced we were looking for crew to the Marquesas. So far (without any real stressful events to test the relationships), we all seem to get along fine.

It seems very odd and disquieting to be leaving just as this war starts. We both have serious questions and concerns about the United States using preemptive force against Iraq, and it seems somehow unpatriotic to be leaving, when we ought to be staying here, participating in the dialog and expressing our opinions. We've become news junkies over the last several weeks, listening to continuous NPR broadcasts, and sometimes going into wartalk overload. I think we'll suffer from media withdrawal once we get offshore.

This afternoon, as we were only about an hour into our trip, we were stopped by the Columbia County Sheriff's patrol, for a safety equipment check -- and I'm sure to check us out and make sure we're not terrorists. They told us to expect that we'll be stopped many more times before we leave U.S. waters. Columbia County Sheriff alongside for safety check.
Best wishes to all our friends and family!

Craig & Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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