Thursday, May 21, 2009

HC and LW's Columbia River Odyssey

The boats have arrived in the Tri-Cities and local photographer Gary White sent us this photo of the Lady Washington (left) and Hawaiian Chieftain tied up at Cascade Marina in Pasco. Ryan Downs, chief mate on the Chieftain, sent us this tale of the boats' upriver odyssey.


Hawaiian Chieftain continues upriver, despite extreme challenges to the ship and crew. We are now in Pasco, and have had quite the epic journey to get here. After emergency drills in Washougal, we prepared to get ourselves through our first of four (!) locks between us and Pasco. After cockbilling our yards so we could fit inside the lock, we enjoyed the eye-opening views of the Columbia River Gorge.

As the current became stronger and stronger, we realized that Lady Washington, Hawaiian Chieftain's consort vessel, was not going to make it to the lock, as her engine was already overworked. In nothing flat, our giant hawser, "Big Blue" was on deck and rigged to tow Lady. We tied the hawser to our mizzen mast, and Lady tied on. We towed her into calm waters short of the lock and locked through. Quite an amazing sight that we would see many times again.

We spent the night in Stevenson, where the "dock" turned out to be a pier higher up than our poop deck. We tied onto bollards, with Lady rafted to us. The winds increased during the night, shifting our fenders, and we were forced to leave early.

Our next port of call was Hood River, and all hands will remember that town for its hospitality. We had hundreds of visitors, successful sails, and memorable nights out. The WAAAM aeronautical museum even invited Capt. Jake and myself to take a ride in a vintage WWII airplane! Jake and I were able to take the stick for a bit as well, buzzing Lady Washington as she sailed on the Columbia. Truly a beautiful sight silhouetted against the snow-covered slopes of Mt. Hood.

On our last sail out of Hood River, we noticed a kite boarder getting close to the vessel, "hot dogging" as Jake put it. On his third pass, he snagged his kite in the mizzen rigging, and we began to drag him. I asked if he was alright, and then thought about cutting his kite ropes. Jake and I figured the best plan, since he was not in danger, was to tow him into port. When he got tired, we doused sail with most of the crew aloft, rigged the Jacob’s ladder, and brought him aboard. He was good natured about the whole affair, as well as accepting blame and commending the crew for their professionalism. I quite concurred.

Our way continued through innumerable bridges and three more locks. In order to clear some of those bridges, we were forced to down-rig our mainmast, something that according to the logs had never been done. Jim, Jenni, Kurtis and myself figured it out aloft, and sorted it out, getting 13 feet shorter.

On our way to Arlington for the evening of the 20th, the winds were so extreme (gusting to 40 knots!) as to cause a five foot swell on the lake. In a hair-raising docking maneuver, expertly executed by Jake and the crew, we were able to tie on. It was determined to be too sketchy for Lady Washington, and she went on to Umatilla.

There have been no incidents in the entire tour which the crew did not handle without a cool, professional air; I am impressed to no end by the abilities of Purser Jenni Clark, Bosun Jim Rich, Cook Ashlee Mitchell, Engineer Nick Williams, Steward and Ed-Co Shanna Weatherby, Engineer's Mate Kurtis Olson, volunteers Grant Ruddick and Siobhan Dolan, and of course, our Fearless Leader, Jake. This crew takes everything that's thrown at it, sorts it out, and does it again the next day.

Irving Johnson once said the "cargo was king" and that if your cargo wasn't properly cared for "you might as well have stayed at home". Our cargo is our passengers, and if emails, small kindnesses and generosities and compliments to the crew are any indication of our dedication to our cargo, we are indeed caring well for our charge. All Hail Hawaiian Cheiftain!


-Ryan "Otis" Downs

Chief Mate,
Hawaiian Chieftain

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