Docking downstream and anchoring antics (8/25)

We are back home now so with reliable internet I will try to catch up on the past week.

After a great sail to St. Helens we spent the night in our marina and took the opportunity to do some reprovisioning. The following morning we headed further down river. It was a glorious day, beautiful blue skies, warm temps, and nice steady winds, it was the most relaxed sailing we’ve done so far. We sailed from St. Helens to Ranier in full cruiser mode – we cooked lunch under sail and even did laundry (in the future I will use less soap, it took way too many “rinse cycles” to get all the soap out of our clothes).

Cooking on our gimballed stove on the way to Ranier.

The laundry drying on the lifelines. Sailing to windward with the warm weather dried the laundry faster than our dryer at home!

We decided to stop in Ranier for some additional ice (the warm weather was melting our ice very quickly – reinsulating the icebox is on the “todo” list). Ranier has a free dock to tie up to, all the inside spaces were taken by fishing boats (salmon season) so we tied up to the outside. The approach was a little hairy, we underestimated the effect of the tide and although we intended to dock upstream we actually docked downcurrent due to the flood tide (much stronger here than in St. Helens). A nice guy on the dock rushed over and gave me a hand with the lines, despite Devon putting her in full reverse we were still moving forward and I wasn’t able to slow her down much. We also had an old salt come over to compliment us on our sailing (not our docking) and to tell us stories of his glory days. Apperently back in the day he was on his way back from Mexico and tried to make it over the Columbia River bar in 80 knot winds but his sails shredded and he ran aground. His advice to us was to stay away from the jetty, we shall heed his words.

Ranier is a bit of a strange town, they have a nice public dock, several restaurants, and even a radio station, yet they don’t have a single grocery store/market and the only place to buy ice is at the Chevron station.

View of the docks from Ranier.

The town of Ranier (Oregon).

The only "market" in town (yes we asked).

Ice in hand we headed back to ‘Imi Loa. The getaway was even more interesting than the arrival, culminating in me climbing aboard at the pulpit as the current pulled the boat away (instead of the usual stepping aboard at the lifeline gate).

Heading back to the boat with the rapidly melting ice.

Having gotten yet another late start we decided that, despite the near perfect sailing weather, we would need to motor to make it to our destination before evening. We were headed to Walker Island, there is a nice anchorage behind the island we had been to once before (the entrance is a little narrow and not something we wanted to navigate in the dark). We arrived without incident and dropped anchor. It took two tries to get it to set, the same thing happened on our previous visit, I think the bottom is rock and you just have to find the right spot. We rowed the dinghy out for a nice photo-op:

'Imi Loa anchored behind Walker Island in the Columbia River

We don’t have a lot of anchoring experience yet but this was a strange night. The current in this stretch of the river flows generally Northwest (except when the tide reverses the current) and the wind on this evening was from the Northwest so the current and wind opposed eachother. We set our anchor by backing downstream. The wind soon blew us upstream past our anchor but without turning the bow. As we reached the end of the rode the bow tried to turn to face the wind but the current fought back and we ended up broadside to the current (and the wind) but upstream of the rode. With the boat perpendicular to the current the boat tried to move downstream but the rode, being downstream, was caught around the keel so we ended up in a strange limbo. We could feel the tension as ‘Imi Loa dealt with the different forces at work upon her, there wasn’t a lot of motion but it did not feel right and the water on the downstream side was  churning in turmoil (to borrow a phrase from a cheap novel). If our anchor was not well set I’m sure it would have drug. We were able to free the keel from the rode by pulling in and releasing the rode but we eventually ended up in the same situation again so we decided to set our stern anchor. Unfortunately we did not have enough scope to really set the anchor so although it helped at first, when the tide came in and reversed the current the stern anchor drug (at least the wind and current were now in agreement). So at 2:30am Devon pulled up the stern anchor and she swung around to face the wind. All was well again until the tide reversed and once again the keel was hung up on the rode. We tried the stern anchor again but this time it drug and fouled the rode for our main anchor. We pulled the stern anchor up again and reset it/redropped it which again helped for a while. By this time we were ready to leave anyway so we pulled up both anchors and headed home. We will be getting some additional rode for our stern anchor very soon!

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