Sunday, October 2, 2011

Showers, Sheets and Sailing through Portland

Sailing through Portland, Oregon

For my birthday, my sister, Nina, gave me a sailing trip. Not just any sailing trip, but sailing on the Willamette River right through the heart of Portland. The kind of trip you see others taking on a hot, summer afternoon, when they glide past, sprawled on deck in bathing suits, jaunty little sun hats poised atop stylishly windblown hair, and sipping piƱa coladas with festive little umbrellas peeking over the rims. They are always smiling, without a care in the world.

That kind of trip.

We met for a Sunday brunch at the floating Newport Bay Restaurant, wedged between a boat-filled jetty at River Place and the I-5 bridge. My sister had brought Gore-Tex pants, jacket, hat and water boots. I glanced out the window. Something was amiss. Was that rain, coming down in sheets and spilling off the gutters of the restaurant?

I patted my pack. It contained a light jacket, and a wide-brimmed summer hat.

After the meal, we pressed against the glass doors and stared out at the dock. The rain eased until it was a fine mist, then stopped. We ambled outside and watched a 26 foot Hunter sailboat approach, its sails furled and the passengers huddled under tarps and jackets, their stringy, wet hair stuck to their heads under sagging hats.

After they disembarked, we boarded and sat on wet seat cushions in the cockpit. Within minutes, we shoved off, motoring out under the I-5's Marquam Bridge.

"Are we going to sail?" I asked Captain Shane St. Clair.

He glanced at the clouds breaking up overhead, and at the little ribbons hanging from the rigging.

"Well, I guess so," he smiled. "We'll set the jib, first, and see how that goes."

It was at that point he pressed Cort into the crew, assigning him the task of taking the helm, while he jumped up and unfurled the mainsail and checked the lines and sheets. Cort seemed perfectly happy to become a first-mate, however, and steered clear of any misfortune.

The sun came out and steam rose from the deck, and the squishy seat cushions. We raised the mains'l. Nina had arranged for a band to stand under the Burnside Bridge and play for us as we sailed past. She is so organized.
Burnside Bridge (with the little Bavarian Village tower)

The Burnside Bridge was designed by Joseph Strauss and built in 1926. His next bridge was the Lewis and Clark Bridge. After that, he designed a little bridge called the Golden Gate.

The Portland fire boat came out to greet us. I think Nina arranged this, too. They waved to us, and probably thought we were visiting celebrities.
Portland Fire boat

I was so busy doing the celebrity hand wave that I almost didn't see the Portland Spirit until it was on top of us.
Portland Spirit and Portland Fire

In the below picture you can see the Steel Bridge in the foreground. It may not be the most beautiful bridge, but it is one of the busiest. Across its spans run cars, buses, pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, railroad trains and light rail trains. Just beyond the Steel Bridge is the Hawthorn Bridge, and beyond that you can see the graceful arch of the Fremont bridge, the highest of the Portland bridges.

Steel Bridge, Hawthorn Bridge, Fremont Bridge

When we arrived back at the dock, and furled the sails, the sun was just about to be swallowed up by clouds. I expected to see newspaper reporters, longing to interview us, but they were curiously absent.
By the time we got back to our cars, it began to rain.


  1. What a marvelous birthday present! Not many people get an adventure to celebrate. Wishing you many more adventurous and fun birthdays; thanks for sharing your special day!

  2. Sorry I missed it, but happy birthday anyway, m'lady. You are awesome.

  3. Ashling,

    It was a great present. Much better than a yard ornament. Thanks for visiting.


    I kept waiting for you to show up.

  4. Golly, I miss those bridges. Thanks for letting us be part of the party, and thanks for the wonderful photos of the bridges and boats.

  5. Kathy,

    Wish you were here. You'd have enjoyed it.


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