To Hood River and Back

racing lasersJuly 18, 2012

I left you in Cascade Locks last time I wrote, and since then we’ve been to Hood River and now back almost to Cascade Locks.   Hood River was great, with warm winds, lots of sunshine, and clouds of board kites over the river, like a swarm of brilliantly colored mosquitos. The climate there has been a real contrast to the clouds and precipitation of Western Oregon.

When we left Cascade Locks on Sunday morning, the Laser sailing dinghies were racing out on the river. Dozens of them, if not a hundred or more.  (See photo above right). Evidently this was a big-deal regatta, bringing competitors from far and wide. We saw one group with banners proclaiming they were from the Seattle Yacht Club. The racers had good winds and relatively calm waters, under cloudy skies.

windsurferAs we proceeded east on the Columbia River, we began to see larger and larger hunks of blue sky, and the sun finally came out. There was plenty of wind, so we raised our two jibs, and proceeded to have a great sail. But winds increased, and we took down the genoa, leaving only the staysail up. Sustained winds were 35-40 knots and we saw gusts to 50 knots. Boat speed was regularly hitting 9 knots. It was a wild ride – the kiteboarders and windsurfers call this a “nuclear day.” As we approached the town of Hood River, we saw our first glimpse of Mount Hood in all its snowy glory. We began to see more and more of the aforementioned kiteboarders and windsurfers.

Chip, Kit, Craig & Barbara in Hood RiverAwaiting us ashore were our friends Chip & Kit, who would spend two days with us. They were prepared to catch our lines as we came in, although as it turned out we wanted to be on a different dock. Once we were tied up on the first dock, pressed against it by the 25 knot wind, it was very difficult to move. We finally ended up carrying a very long line over to the second dock to pull the boat away sufficiently that we could navigate to the second dock. Our friends on Wind Raven were there to greet us as well – they had left Cascade Locks just a couple of hours ahead of us.

We said farewell to Mark and Fern – Chip and Kit gave them a ride back to their car, which they had left at Beacon Rock. During the next couple of days, we used the boat as a home base, and did car trips, thanks to C&K and their car. We took in much of the “Fruit Loop” tour, taste-testing cherries, raspberries and blueberries, and buying plenty of same. Probably the most spectacular stop was at the Hood River Lavender Farm – fields of fragrant shades of purple, setting off a distant view of Mount Hood.

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  That evening we crossed the river to have pizza at the Solstice Wood Fired Pizza in Bingen. An unexpected bonus was the “Happa Hillbilly” band – violin, bass, guitar, clarinet, mandolin and more – Not usually my kind of music, but they were very good, enjoyable to listen to, and not so loud as to inhibit conversation. And they played/sang “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” one of the few songs my father used to sing. And did I mention the pizza was delicious?hillbilly band1hillbilly band2

Yesterday, after helping us catch up on groceries and laundry, using their car, Chip and Kit departed to resume their busy lives at home. We walked into town and explored. The old part of Hood River is very kitschy, with lots of coffee shops, art galleries, boutiques, hair salons, ice cream parlors and restaurants. Not so much of your every day necessities of life.

sequoia at dockWe talked about continuing upriver to The Dalles, but it turned out you have to give the Hood River bridge 12 hours notice (preferably 24 hours notice) for any opening. Theoretically, there is 65 feet of clearance, and our mast is 65 feet, but that wasn’t something we wanted to risk. The river is higher than usual for this time of year. And a mismatch of even an inch would do major damage. Evidently the bridgetender has to come from Pasco to open the bridge. We thought about it, and decided we didn’t have the extra time to wait 24 hours for two bridge openings, going and coming. So instead, we’d head back home, and maybe get back a day or two earlier than we had originally planned.

In Hood River, the wind was strong yesterday afternoon, and we talked about whether we’d leave to go downriver this morning. It’s one thing to go upriver when the wind is 40 to 50 knots, with the wind behind you , but we really didn’t want to be going downriver against that kind of wind. Local wisdom is that there is less wind if you plan your trip for late at night or very early in the morning, so we planned for an early departure this morning. The wind blew 15-25 knots all night. The forecast this morning was for 7-10 knots of wind, and we assumed the wind we were seeing (still 15-25 knots) was just a local phenomenon. As it turns out, the best forecast was looking out the window. We did head downriver this morning, and it was a rough ride, with winds to 30-35 knots.

We’re now anchored in Government Cove, a couple of miles upriver from Cascade Locks, and back under the cloudy skies of Western Oregon. There are no other boats here (which is delightful). It’s a beautiful spot, a tall tree with an osprey nest guarding the entrance (see photo below), uninhabited islands around us, and plenty of birds, but unfortunately I-84 is right there. If you were to drive by this afternoon – you’d have a good view of us anchored close to the freeway. And mile-long freight trains go by, sounding their whistles and grinding away, about once an hour. There’s not a lot of protection from wind. It was really howling when we first anchored here, and we nearly dragged onto the shore before we realized the anchor was not secure. Now we have the anchor well hooked, the wind has dropped, and we’ve spent a leisurely afternoon. Craig did some needed electronic repairs. I spent an hour playing my cello, and now I’ve written to you!

Tomorrow we think we’ll go down through the locks of the Bonneville Dam. It will be a different experience with only two of us, but we think we have it figured out. Stay tuned!government cove