Return to the Gorge

After my yearlong hiatus to the Bay area, with months of commuting before and after, it's been most of 2 years since I sailed the Columbia River Gorge. The long weekend after the 4th of July had a promising weather report, and after days of oppressive heat (over 100°F) with nights not getting cool like they're supposed to, it seemed like a good time to go.

I got a late start on Thursday, driving north and west under grey clouds full of water from the Gulf of Mexico, and few tentative rain drops coming out over the Blue Mountains. The blowing dust area between Pendleton and the river had just a hint of breeze, Boardman was virtually flat, 3 Mile had just a stipple, all in the toasted basalt hills. The big bends just before John Day dam were starting to whitecap, though, and there were sails at Rufus.

Rufus, after sailing it out on a 5.1
Rufus, about time for a kite
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I rolled up to the front line on the round gravel, checked with a couple forlorn sailors who had been out on 4.5s, rigged my 5.1 without hesitation and got on the water in what seemed like record time. (The short wetsuit seems to make everything go faster!) It was just right for the opener, rolling waves left over from the bigger wind, but still plenty for a good hour. As it started to lighten up and turn into a struggle, I eked out a few more reaches, got out and packed about as quickly as I'd gotten in and headed west for more.

5.0 conditions into the evening at Rowena
Rowena evening sail
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Rowena, duck jibe?
Going for a duck jibe?
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Doug's and Rowena were still going, and plenty of parking around dinner time. As I rerigged the 5.1, one gal coming off with a 4.7 thought I was making a mistake (too small), but it seemed just right to me. Until it seemed too big, with a little sunset boost coming in. 4.7 would've been better for me, but I toughed it out until I was tired enough to quit.

I love the evening over the river in the desert.

Chop hop at the Hatch
Chop hop at the Hatch
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The next morning, Tom Caviani encouraged me to get going sooner than I probably would have on my own: "It's already blowing at the Hatchery!" Yes, indeedy, and blowing good. If I'd had a good sail around 4.0, I would've rigged that, but between 3.5 and 4.7, the smaller seemed the wiser choice. It worked pretty well, but the wind was gusty, up and down, and left me slogging in a lot of holes, even as I was hanging on in survival mode in the gusts.

I lasted until a little after 1:00, took my time packing up, and then watched the hotshots in the main viewing area off Kodak Point. They were on mid-4s, "just an average day at the Hatch," throwing loops left and right, jump jibing, tacking, all sorts of wild stuff.

Carving a jibe at the Hatchery
Carving at the Hatchery
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I saw one "no hands jibe" that was a wowser - full speed turn into the wind-shadowed "jibeatorium" in front of the gallery, and he just threw the rig forward and at the water. I figured he was coming in for a break, but was still in the straps, carving the turn. The rig stopped just short of going into the water, on the trapped cushion of air, and as he turned through, the wind got under the rig, and popped it up enough for him to grab it and sail off on the new tack. Like a lot of the maneuvers, I had to think about it a while, and/or see it a bunch of times before I could even figure out how it was being done. I guess he must've jibed the sail as he threw it forward and at the water. Nice trick.

Hatchery traffic
Playing in traffic
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After a little shopping back in town, and a short nap, I came back with my camera batteries charged up, and tried taking some pictures of the evening shift. Every time I try, I gain new appreciation for the people taking pictures for those glossy magazines. It ain't as easy as it looks!

The pictures are all of "unknown sailor," unless you recognize someone and tell me about it.


Jump jibes...

Created with the help of Thotor - photo thumbnail generator

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Sunday, 08-Jul-2001 14:41:35 MDT