- Capt. Eric
A River Flows Through it. St Helen's, Rainier and Astoria.
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
We left Salpare Marina early to make sure we'd arrive in St Helen's to pick up some diesel in the morning. Leaving felt a little weird: We have not officially vacated as we want to keep our options open should we need to come back, but if things go well we may very well not come back. My continuing health being the major deciding factor.
The weather was blistery along the way, but we stayed nice and warm inside our pilothouse. We picked up 350 gallons of diesel in St Helen's, feeling the boat getting heavy with each gallon.
We hesitated about staying in St Helen's campground just across the channel, a place we enjoyed a lot during our stay on the river, but decided we'd make our way down to make sure we'd have more options for the bar crossing from Astoria later.
With strong current helping us we made our way down towards Rainier with ease. I programmed the pilothouse navigation computer running OpenCPN software with a route staying to the right side of the channel, and left the computer to control the autopilot.
This was my first time testing the full functionality on a whole route, and there is something weird about the boat following the river curves "on its own", only beeping when the course change is greater than 10 degrees.
Everything worked as it should, and the trip to Rainier was very pleasant, with little river traffic along the way.
We arrived in Rainier in time for Princess' long afternoon walk. The poor dog gets very confused when we cruise all day and has a hard time understanding why she can't get out of the boat for a walk. She'll pace back and forth from the foredeck to the cockpit, trying to entice us to let her go ashore until she tires of it and rests calmly either on deck or on the settee.
With the cold we decided to treat ourselves to a local pizza: We didn't have any nearby pizza place in Salpare, so having one 2 blocks away in Rainier proved too tempting for us.
Picking it up I went in the restaurant (usually in these Covid times Di goes in shops and restaurants) to pay. To my horror, I found out that I had left my credit card at the fuel dock in St Helen's.
So after thinking about it (and eating our pizza paid with another card), we decided to head back up river to be at the fuel dock on their opening.
Going back upriver was slow, but Di and I sat in the pilothouse and rather than spending an evening in front of the TV in the salon, we watched the river go by. Not a bad way to spend an evening.
Fate, and my lack of brain, had decided we would sleep at St Helen's after all.
We arrived at St Helen's after night had already fallen and in pouring rain, but luckily we know the place well so I felt comfortable with a night entry into the docks, with a little help from my friend Furuno radar. With high current we had to approach twice before we got a spring in place. A night walk for Princess (who promptly told us about all the raccoons she could find) and we tucked ourselves in bed.
Early wake up, across the river to the dock just as they were opening: The owner recognized Enfin, and was out on the dock holding my credit card with a big smile. To say we were relieved and happy would be the understatement of the week.
We headed back to Rainier, the computer once again following the same route, arriving late morning. This left us plenty of time to enjoy the town, in particular their riverfront park and also grab a few fresh provisions.
We woke up to snow, and Di wore her "astronaut suit" as we call it to handle the lines as we cast off for Astoria in dismal weather. We saw up to 40 knots on the anemometer, and had a little chop, but river navigation is as smooth as things can get.
We arrived in Astoria just before their marina office closed, securing a couple of nights to await a weather window I've been seeing for a while.
Except things weren't as simple:
Coming into port in Astoria we had strong winds and strong currents. The port entrance was a little tight and I had to gun it to make it. Not a big deal as Enfin responds well and has a big rudder, but it gets your attention.
After that we went to our assigned dock which offered an easy maneuver straight in. Di did a good job jumping ashore and securing the stern line, I lassoed one spring and Di came up the dock to help with the bow line and another spring. Perfect maneuver.
Except things weren't as simple:
Boat safe and secured, I went to the stern line to help Di double it and set another one to get the stern closer to the dock. I was taking all my time and showing Di how to hold the line on the dock, cleat it safely with one hand while working the line with the other. She's still learning those rope skills and now was a good time as ever to work on them. We had 2 lines on the single dock cleat at the stern, so I got one line off, and used the other to bring the boat in, showing Di how to do it safely. I even repeated the move a couple of times as an exercise.
She decided to help me and grabbed the other line. A good idea per se.... But she started pulling the boat in by walking backwards. You see where that ends?
She walked backwards straight off the dock! I had no time to warn her! I checked on her, secured the boat and jumped to pull her out. Luckily she was wearing her flotation jacket and fell straight down, not hitting anything. She was still holding the mooring line so between the flotation jacket and her holding the line she didn't fully submerge. I grabbed Di, hauling her back on the dock in no time. She spent no more than 10 seconds in the water.
She got out grumbling at herself, but otherwise unharmed. I told her to get a warm shower, which she did, and that was the end of that.
In her fall she lost our bluetooth headset, so I ordered one overnight and hopefully it'll get here tomorrow morning in time for our planned departure Thursday if the weather window stays open.