|The Dalles, OR to Umatilla, OR|
Coming out of The Dalles Dam was like motoring into a hurricane. I would have never
believed such swells and breakers could exist on the Columbia were it not for the sights we were
witnessing. The only saving grace was that the wind was from the west and we were in a following sea.
So we motored on.
The weather was taking a toll on our speed and it was doubtful that we were going to make the scheduled lock-through time. We called the John Day Dam lockmaster to plead our case, but were welcomed with the reply that he was filling the locks for a barge coming downriver and that we could expect to lock through 30-45 minutes after the prescribed time of 3:00 P.M. This was very welcome news as it would fit our speed perfectly. In fact, the way our speed began to pick up, we would probably arrive a bit early, so we adjusted the throttles and our speed accordingly.
Ah, but Murphy was either on board or running the locks. And when we arrived, the gates were still closed, and the weather was worse than any we've seen in years, winds sustained at 25-30 knots and gusting to 40 or more. So we were faced with the worst case scenario, circling in those 4-5 foot waves. Turning became a nightmare, not just because we would place our boat beam to the swells, but because the windage was so bad that once she was broadside to the wind she just would not turn, not without the judicious application of differential thrust and a rudder hard over. Rolling in the swells took its toll on us and the cabin was absolutely trashed. Not a single shelf held it's ware, not a single piece of furniture remained in its original position. It was a disaster comparable to the worst we saw on the ocean! (OK, granted, we weren't as well prepared as we had been on the ocean, but this is a river
The wind continued to howl as we awaited our chance, and somewhere in that maelstrom, I'm sure I heard laughing.
We finally got our chance to enter the locks about two and a half hours after we had planned to get in there. And again, when I gave the starboard engine reverse thrust settling next to the mooring bitt, that damn shaft came out! By now I had become pretty proficient at getting it back in, so it was ready by the time we lifted up to Lake Umatilla and the gate was opened.
The river conditions coming out of the John Day were just as bad as coming in. We were so beat from the awful ride that we decided to call it a day and tie up at a dock just inside the John Day River. Doing so required us to pass underneath a bridge of questionable height. We probably could have made it with a foot or so to spare, but because of the swells, we elected to lower the radar mast before proceeding beneath the bridge. This again, unfortunately, required us to circle a bit while I dropped the mast before proceeding in. Since there was nothing else to shed within the cabin, all that was at risk was our (questionable) sanity.
But we made it under without further incident and proceeded to tie up to the dock (with the wind blowing on our beam, away from the dock - a touchy maneuver in any circumstance). Only now it became clear that Murphy was with us, because just as we approached the dock, and I dropped the starboard engine in reverse, yup, you guessed it, the shaft pulled out one more time! Arrggghhh!
We got it close enough to get some lines on the dock, then pulled hard against the wind to get her reasonably close and called it an exhausting day.
Gawd I love boating! Ilwaco definitely had more appeal at this stage of the game!
I don't know why the bolts are loosening up on that shaft, but I counter drilled the shaft to give the bolts a little more bite and I reefed down on them that night with Herculean strength, assured they would not come loose again. We have hundreds of hours on this boat without this problem, why it chose to manifest itself on this trip will forever remain a mystery.
NOAA radio told us the weather (particularly the wind) would get better, so we decided we had gone this far, let's continue the journey.
Waking up in the morning greeted us with a pleasant breeze, calm(er) waters, secure shafts, and a renewed feeling that things couldn't get worse. So off we went.
It was a bit breezy as the day progressed, but not so bad as it had been, and the trip up Lake Umatilla was actually pleasant. We made fair time and decided to call it a day when we reached the Oregon town of Umatilla, just a mile or so before the McNary dam. Josh, Debbie, me and Captain (my dog) went to the shore and played in the water for a bit, forgetting our troubles for a while.