Hammond Marina to Fort Stevens, August 5th 2007.

Although our first day paddling the coast of Oregon was supposed to be a short shake-down paddle, we had to get up early to catch the ebb tide out the mouth of the Columbia River. It had been windy all night long and we launched into a breeze that was blowing against us. We paddled around a few sandy spits and soon saw the south jetty of the Columbia River.

We also saw breakers as far as our eyes could see. Looking at the satellite pictures afterwards, it is apparent that we paddled through the middle of a shallow sandy shoal with the ebb tide roaring over it. The fishermen in their boats know to avoid this area and we also could have hugged the shore to scoot past. But by the time we guessed what was going on we had no choice but to plow through the middle of it. It was like launching from a beach over the waves but it lasted much longer. On a sunny day in a responsive and less heavily loaded boat it would have been fun to surf back and forth in these waves but we had to plow over them and endure getting wet.

Eventually we made it over the last breaker and headed towards the south jetty. I had expected breakers over the end of the jetty where an old submerged section of it extends a mile past the visible end. But we just paddled around the end and stopped to look at the stellar sea lions hauled out there. The jetty has some gaps here and it looked like we could have taken a short cut through a gap with no problems.

Our first day was planned to be a short one, 13 miles if we had to go around the submerged end of the jetty. Cutting over made our day only 11 miles and we approached the north end of Fort Stevens State Park before noon. We waited out a few big sets then started in. I skipped over the impact zone between waves and then got a long surf ride most of the way to shore. A second wave brought me into shallow water and I climbed out and barely got my feet wet. Dick timed the impact zone perfectly, surfed close to shore then flipped over and exited in the E-zone (embarrassment zone). I had to get my dry wetsuit wet running into the water to catch one of dick’s water-bags which escaped and was moving rapidly south.

Landing so early we had all afternoon and evening to catch up on some chores. I had to find out why my chart case was leaking, swap out the maps for tomorrow, write in my journal, fix one of my hatch buckles, tighten my new seatback, move the foot-pegs up a notch, plus the usual camp chores! So much to do every evening some of it never did get done over the next week.

Rather than camp in the sand, I stomped a nest in the dune grass above the beach and set my tent up there. I draped the fly over the tent in case in drizzled in the night. In this position the fly sealed all my moisture into the tent. There it condensed on everything but mostly on the underside of the fly. I had to put it away damp and promise to dry in out in the evening. Yet another chore. Dick hiked back into the forest behind the dunes and set his tent up there.

All text and images Copyright © 2007 by Mike Higgins / contact