Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Adventures Downtown

Got the boat in the water around 11 on Monday. Shannon the Real Sailor was planning on meeting me for a little lunch cruising and I thought I'd go out and sail around a little before that.

The wind was very gusty and very shifty, clocking all over the place, but primarily coming downriver, from points South.

I ran downwind the quickest I've ever sailed that direction and even had apparent wind in my face when I looked back a couple of times. That was a new one for me, too. I'll have to look into a spinnaker for this thing.

I made the turn near the Greenway Boat Club and tacked back and forth across the river for a half hour, making no upriver progress at all. The wind was blowing hard enough, although not steady, but the current and tide seemed to be working against me.

Even though we are upriver from the Pacific somewhere around 100 miles, we are still subject to tidal flows. I think an outgoing tide, coupled with runoff from the weekend's rains created a big flush and this narrow little chute the river passes through at this point magnified the whole thing, resulting in me making no way upwind, even though I was creating hella wake behind me.

As always, my skill level may or may not have been a contributing factor.

I made a command decision at this point to head downriver and do the lunchtime sailing closer to downtown.

So, I fell off, raised the centerboard and double-winged it down river. There were a couple of stretches where the wind picked up and I was really moving, including some more of that apparent wind hitting me from behind. Around the bend I shifted the jib across and was able to point downriver on something more of a broad reach.

As I went by the Spaghetti Factory, I saw that their massive flag was so straight you could count the stars. Woohoo!

Astute readers will note the lack of photos from the early phase of this trip. If you check wind charts for the day; if you have recollection of the relative skill level of this blogger; and if you have the compassion to care a bit about how this adventure turns out, you'll put two and two together and arrive at the conclusion that I was busy. Too busy to bust out the iPhone, select the camera app and shoot pictures.

I was a bit nervous, too. The boat got up on the rail once, and I dived across, saying 'Oh no you don't!' as I got her back on a more reasonable heel.

The winds calmed as I got closer to downtown and I sailed into the little marina at Riverplace, where I debated staying put to wait for Shannon.

I decided to sail across the river to the PFD dock and hang out. I knew there was a Benson bubbler I could get some water from, and the car-parking is free on that side of the river, which would make it easier for my sailing mates.

They are hard to pick out in this picture, but just above the handrail are two PFD jetskis; one of which attended the initial capsize of this dinghy. I thought it was nice to get them together again today.

You also may note that the water is pretty glassy at this point. My crazy gusty day of squalls turned into the part between squalls and got very flat.

Eventually, Shannon showed up and helped me sail across the river to the floating bar/restaurant. We annoyed the hell out of a fisherman as we tried to make way up the dock on that side. I'm sure he thought we were intentionally harassing him as he tried to get dinner for his family, but it's all you can do to stay out of the current in very light air, while also trying to make way up the river. We finally made it up to the marina entrance, tied up and went inside, where we took refreshment and considered our options. Shannon had to go back to work, so I took a little more refreshment and considered my options a little more.

After hanging for a bit, I saw the wind had picked up again, so I launched. This shot is just upstream from the Hawthorne Bridge. I was able to make decent way until the Marquam Bridge, where the wind died on me and I drifted back under the bridge, headed downriver again.

About this time a group of rowers came out and lined themselves up, facing upriver from the Riverplace marina. I was drifting right in the middle of their course, apparently. They were very polite, without acknowledging me, and didn't show too much annoyance, as I shifted back and forth trying to find some wind.

The wind picked up slightly again, and I was able to make way under the Marquam again. I was sitting on the leeward side of the boat to help the sails fill out, when I got a strong upriver gust and I shifted to the windward side, pulled the centerboard up and set myself up for a downwind/upriver run.

I shot up to the Ross Island Bridge in less than five minutes, covering twice the ground I'd covered in the past hour.

Just as the wind picked up, my phone started vibrating. I ignored it until the wind slacked off again, just the other side of the Ross Island.

Shannon's voicemail said he was heading over to WSC to see if they'd lend him a Boston Whaler to come tow me. I took a picture of the sunset and a couple more of the river, as birds flew by.

The iPhone camera doesn't capture the details that well.

I tacked back and forth, slowly making way up the river. The wind was coming directly downriver, so it was difficult to cover too much ground direclty upriver.

The joys of river sailing.

The phone rang again and Shannon said the WSC guys were in the middle of a membership meeting and were willing to come pick me up, as long as I filled out the membership application they were bringing with them.

There was much laughter in the background and I suspected a lot of refreshment-taking was underway.

Eventually, Shannon and Dave from WSC showed up and asked me if I wanted a tow. It was still light out, but I was going to need another 2-3 hours of light at my current pace, to make the launch.

So, L and C got her first tow!

What started at 11a, ended at 6p, as I was cast off and slipped into the boat launch at Willamette Park.


Dan said...

The current and tide issue suprised me. One time I was helping to deliver a boat from Puget Sound to Portland. The new owner told us about the river current backing up and sure enough late at night after going against current all day from Astoria, it went practically slack!

O Docker said...

If you're drifting about in a river under sail in winds that tend to disappear, you may want to consider going high tech.

They make these devices now that have a storage tank on top and this screwy thing on the bottom that will actually make the boat go when the wind fails.

Of course real sailors don't need these, but I did when I had a boat like yours. It saved my butt a few times on the Sacramento River and in a few other places. I sailed without it most of the time, but it was comforting to know it was an option if things were iffy and help would be far away.

I got it for our trip to the San Juans, where winds can be light and currents can get educational in a hurry. It was the smallest one I could find - one handable - and I never regretted having it.

I think some of them come with free hats.

Greg and Kris said...

Yeah, I thought about one of those things. The other thing I thought about was a bike lock. Leave it where I end up at the end of the day and call a compassionate soul to pick me up.

Next time it's blowing out of the South, I'm going to make sure I have my airhorn so I can blow it at the Steel Bridge lift operator. I'll just sail on down to Swan Island and use the launch there to extricate myself from the river and the situation.

David said...

Nice adventure! Sometimes the lamest days sailing are the best days on the water.

Smilicus said...

I recollect ones walking next to the Thames in London, watching the yachts go by. Looked like they were going like the clappers, but actually sailing backwards as the tide were stronger/faster than the wind.

Silly question, but what do you sail?

Greg and Kris said...

We've got a Hunter 170. There are a couple of pics on here in earlier posts. It's fun.