First Cruise

July 24, 2011 — Portland, OR

Pearl’s first overnight was pretty anti-climactic but very fun. It was a quick trip to Government Island on the Columbia with my buddy Joe and Jesse and Toni from Wind River.

Joe, ever-practical-both-feet-on-the-ground-creator-of-order-from-chaos was up for the weekend to install radios on Pearl — subject of a different post. Being a longtime boater, and having realized that I wasn’t as familiar with Pearl as I should be, he suggested we anchor out for the evening. A light supper on the river. Test out the anchor. Check out the boat. Figure our what we are missing. Then, prep to cross the Columbia Bar.

Never being one to turn down a challenge, the plan to do this was pulled together in about an hour: beer, food, and other supplies purchased,  Jesse and Toni, off  Wind River, Pearl’s neighbor at the marina were recruited to join and raft up. Cast off the lines! We were off.

Jesse and Toni took the conservative path and motored up the river under the I-5 bridge, and to the anchoring spot. Since there was a light wind out of the west, I figured this would be a great opportunity to try out the asymmetric spinnaker again. What a mistake. An hour later, in the gathering dusk, we repacked the spinnaker after a bunch of spinnaker fouls by yours truly, and chased off after Wind River.

By the time we got to where Wind River had dropped the hook, it was dark. That was when I realized something like a spotlight would be useful to have on board. A flashlight, while handy for not tripping over stuff wasn’t quite enough for setting an anchor. Anyway, we made a close pass at Wind River to check the current (running at a couple of knots) depth and swinging room, and then prepared to drop our hook and raft up.

Rafting up was interesting given the current. What we did after a couple of tries dropping anchor and backing up was to drop anchors parallel to each other,  drifted back, and the use the current to steer the boats together so the anchors were set in a shallow ‘V’. Toni, who’d never done this before (and who later discovered that none of us had either) made the astute observation “You know, y’all are frikkin’ cowboys, trying to do this crap at night?!?” Oddly enough, Jesse used to ride bulls — a bona fide cowboy!

Dinner simple and easy: heat and serve pre-made stuff from Whole Foods. Lounging in the cockpit after, there were relatively few lights, and if one stretched one’s imagination, we tried really hard imagine we were at some exotic anchorage. The freeway noise from the I-205 bridge, however, made that pretty close to impossible. I wasn’t quite imaginative enough to convert the sound of downshifting trucks into breaking surf.

The next morning, Toni cooked up the perfect breakfast: bacon, eggs, and toasted bagels. Joe and Jesse, fortified by Toni’s breakfast decided to check out my inflatable dinghy that Wind River had been towing on the off chance that we wanted to get to Government Island. Interestingly the dinghy had lost some of it air and taken on some water — which Joe verified by stepping into the dinghy and finding himself ankle deep in water, soaking his spiffy new topsiders and drenching his only pair of socks. Joe, let’s say, was not amused.

But, Joe being Joe, made the best of a bad situation and started to bail out the dinghy. Muttering under his breath about how it was that I had managed to “manipulate” him into the dinghy while staying aboard Pearl sipping my tea while he got wet, mutter-mutter-grumble. Suddenly there was a startled squawk from Joe “Dude! Why is your dingy making bad noises? It’s hissing!!! I’m going to sink! Get me out of here!!!” I just about spilled my coffee laughing.

As it turned out, the reason the dinghy was leaking air was because one of valves hadn’t been firmly closed after we inflated the boat, giving rise to a slow leak that was made worse by Joe’s weight in the boat. The problem was easily fixed. No harm. No foul. No one got really wet. It was all good.

Shortly after retrieving a somewhat skittish Joe, we raised anchor and headed back to the marina to install HF radio gear that Joe had generously donated to the Pearl.

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