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Lower Columbia south shore

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  • Lower Columbia south shore

    We had intended to ride the south shore 2 years ago, but life happens so here we are.

    Pre trip the day before.2 machines on this ride.
    Weighing in at 550 lbs. dry a 1998 Yamaha XL 760. For you youngsters this model has a built in cooler, and lots of storage.
    And at 365 lbs. dry a 1992 Seadoo nicknamed the Project. Here's a link if you'd like to know why. Kawasaki engine in a Seadoo GTS ( The weight of these machines will be an issue later on.

    Each machine is packed with some version of this list.
    Stainless sheath knife
    First Aid kit
    Fire Extinguisher
    Marine flares
    Charged phone and cord
    Charged battery jumper and cables
    Waterproof floating GPS
    Waterproof floating marine radio
    Spare AA batteries
    ID, money, etc.
    Insect repellent
    Tent, Sleeping Bag, full change of clothes, sweatshirt in a Dry Bag
    Air Mattress
    Full Wetsuit, Life vest, Windbreaker coat & pants
    Pop together Kayak paddles-Hey it's better than aimless drifting when broke down.
    Small collapsible paddle-I have no reverse or neutral.
    2 full gas cans-2 gallons each
    3 lines
    Floating tow rope
    Basic tools-sockets, ratchet, screwdriver, vicegrip and waterpump pliers
    Spark Plugs
    Spare driveline bearing-a Seadoo weakness
    24" steel rod with hook for cleaning trash out of a pump
    Personal snacks as we plan to buy dinner.
    Last but not least the "As seen on TV" hat.
    All of this plus the rider, and fuel can easily add another 350lbs to the machine

    We used this map to plan the route. Lower Columbia River Water Trail | Estuary Partnership Be patient as this is very slow to load. Wait for the zoom tool bar. It shows in detail every camp spot, marina, and ramp on the lower Columbia. Click on a symbol for more info. It was made for paddlers but unless otherwise stated is open to all boating.

    We had no ability to carry maps, but as it turned out this one would have been worth it. Chart 18521 (

    Tomorrow adventure awaits.
    Last edited by pacificmariner; 08-02-2022, 03:16 PM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    Re: Lower Columbia south shore

    Already fueled we met up for trailer transfer at 8am and after a pleasantly uneventful drive pulled into the Hammond marina at 9:30. $20 got us secured parking till the next midnight. Slipped the machines in the water and we're off. Immediately past the break water and a right towards Youngs Bay. A day that's as good as it gets. Warm, blue sky, pump wash behind, unlimited riding ahead, engine purring at its mile eating pace of 4800rpm.

    Youngs Bay is long enough that it really needs a day to do it justice, so we circled under the bridge and pushed on to Astoria. Past downtown with the recently sunk ferry then around Tongue Point between Matt Island and the mostly empty wharfs of an old Navy base. Even with re-purposing the buildings still have that distinctive military look. Across from Lois Island under an abandoned center pivot railroad bridge is the entrance to the John Day river.

    Back on the river past Fern Hill to Biddle. Left on the channel between Russian Island and Grassy Island then right between Russian/Mcgregor Islands and Green/Seal Islands. Use the map to focus in on Seal Island. You'll see a line of white dots. An interesting little community of floating homes. From here we crossed a long stretch of shallow water past Marsh Island. Then right between Marsh Island and Brush Island. Left on Clifton Channel. Left again at the end of Horseshoe Island. Thru a narrow channel between Woody Island and Tronson Island. Across to Grassy Island and right at Quinns Island. Back on Clifton Channel we stopped for a break at the tip of Tenasillahe Island. It's 2:30. Been riding 4.5 hours and easily spend another day here. Time is an issue however as the pumps close at our fuel stop at 3. Also I've noticed that the water coming from the weep hole is getting less. From Clifton Channel we cut across the river to the Washington shore. The wind in the open raised some tall wind chop and we missed the Cathlemet Channel. Circling back cost time and fuel but we made it.

    Elochoman Slough Marina in Cathlemet is the same place we stayed before. Paid for a site, fueled up the machines, and took off for Longview. Fuel dock doesn't open till 9 tomorrow, and we planned an early start so we limited ourselves on distance. Water out the projects weep hole slowed to nothing and the engine was making strange noises. We figured out it was the overheat sensor. Something had plugged the inlet hole on the pump. Side creeks, waterfalls, kite boarders, ships, barges, busy river. Jumped a barge wake here, and not everything strapped on stayed where it should. Back to the marina by 7. Pizza at a picnic table watching the sun go down over the river. Can't get better than this.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Re: Lower Columbia south shore

      There's something about a harbor that lends itself to peacefulness at the end of a day. Camp set up doesn't take long. Both machines have removable containers, and any items of personal value are tucked out of sight. Tent up, mattress pumped, last check on machines, bedtime.

      The breeze off the river slaps lines against a sailboat mast and shakes my tent. A pair of dueling Bull Frogs croak in the reeds, and some creature chirps at the water's edge. Without intent we have the same site as 3 years ago. It occurs to me that it's as if time stood still and nothing has changed. Same harbor. Same boats. Same walk to the pizza place. Same counter help. Same bench to wait on. Suppose this is one of those Twilight Zone places? It's not of course, but much hasn't changed.

      The new Nylon sleeping bag and plastic air mattress had a conflict. Most of the night was spent sliding off one side or the other. Woke up at 4am. A halo of fog around the dock lights. Fisherman trailering their boats down the ramp. Some are after Steelhead others are fishing for Pike Minnow which can pay a few bucks.

      Strike camp at first light. Pack the gear. Checked the fuel level. We may have pushed it a bit yesterday as the Yamaha is too low to make Hammond according to estimates. It's the price of 2 carbs, and a heavy hull. Took both cans and even then not full. The Seadoo took a can that raised it too 9 gallons and saved the other just in case. We're taking a chance but didn't want to wait for the fuel pump to open. 6:30. Fog low on the river. A cool breezy morning. Engines instantly come to life with a push of the button. Past the "No Wake" zone. Planeing out on the river. The start of this day couldn't be better.
      Attached Files


      • #4
        Re: Lower Columbia south shore

        That water does look good. Awesome ! 'Merica ! little swed/nor look too.
        '88 550-ride plate,intake grate,intake manfold,carb
        '96 GTX-1mm overbore,F/a's,intake grate,port timed for mid and top end
        '95 FX 1- usually take this motor to 753cc with exhaust porting and reeds


        • #5
          Re: Lower Columbia south shore

          Down river bound along the Washington shore.
          Wind chop, wispy fog, and suddenly bugs. Zillions of bugs. BB's with wings. My partner suited up like a Ninja warrior. I was happy to have glasses. Because of fuel concerns we weren't planning any side trips, but Skamokawa is worth a short stop.

          We came up this way last time and saw things we missed before. The abandoned town of Brookfield is now a Quarry. Pillar Rock has a fish eagle nest on it. In fact every channel marker had a nest platform bolted to it. Remnant of an old cannery with a steam engine that turned its last revolution a long time ago. The islands we cruised yesterday are a gray smudge way off to the left. Scattered about are pilings from old fish traps. At Altoona with Miller Sands on our left we set off across Grays Bay to Knappton. It was to prove our undoing. The water was like glass, with the tiniest of ripples disturbing the surface. Astoria bridge, a dark line in the fog, was miles away. One of those times when everything is perfect. Zen and the art of jet ski riding.

          My partner was slightly ahead and about 100' to my right. I glanced to the left at something and when I looked back, he was standing on water. with the Yamaha on its side. A moment to react. Chop the throttle, look down. Oh no sand. Too late. Slid to a stop. look at the map and you can see where we stranded. No worries, I said, the water is moving up Grays Bay. That means the tide is rising, and we'll be 'outa here. My partner pointed out that the water was not coming in, but rather running downhill. And so it was as we were on the top of a sandbank. 10 minutes of discussing options and we had none left.

          The water retreated to the edge of a channel about 300' away and mostly held there. Might as well be a mile as far as we were concerned. The Yamaha is the heaviest, so we took it first. Me in the front harnessed like a mule. Him pushing from behind. Gasping, heaving, churning the sand. May as well be the Queen Mary for all the good it did. Only choice is to crab it out. Not just wiggle in the sand, but physically lift it.

          At the bow. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. Till the bow is pointed to the channel. Now the lighter stern. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. Till it faces the water. Back to the bow. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. One more lift, pull drop. Back to the stern. Lift, pull, drop. Lift, pull, drop. Hey look progress. We've moved 10' An hour later, strained aching muscles, permanently bent back, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, vultures circling overhead, and the bow is in the water. Back to the rope boys we're almost there. Oh frabjous joy floating again. Cheers all around, but what about the Project?

          The Project is lighter, but you couldn't prove that by us. Still, we crabbed onward. It is our destiny. Toward the end I strained at the rope while my partner lifted and threw the stern falling down in the process, and so eventually we made it. One of the pictures showed how far we had to go. With a wave to whoever might have been watching we left that desolate place.

          With the center of the bridge as our goal we fairly shot down river. At least at the best pace the Project can manage. A gentle sweep to the left paralleling the bridge and we're crossing the east edge of Desdemona Sands.
          Water occasionally brown, but no sand. Suddenly the Yamaha does a 180 barely missing a sand bar hidden by fog. So what's to do? Can Barely make out Astoria ahead, and the big ships anchored off to the left. Decided on a long "U" around the bar. Sucess as we're back in the ship channel.

          Without warning my partner sprints toward shore a mile away. It means something is wrong, and he's headed to a beach. I hardly get started when the Project sucks up a bunch of seaweed vibrating like the pump bearings are gone. A moment of panic. I've just replaced the driveline bearing, it's seized to the driveline, the rubber coupler spun on the fiberglass breaking it, and I'm sinking in 50' of water. Stop. Take a breath. Pop the seat. Everything looks normal. It's just a pump blockage. No big deal. I chose to hobble to shore and found a place on a weed covered mud bank amongst the pilings of a multistory apartment building.

          My Partner called. He had to switch to reserve and as the engine stumbled it sounded the same as when exhaust blots fell out and the machine filled with water. He landed behind the stern of the American Pride Much to the joy of tourists who took pictures while he swapped out fouled plugs. And where am I anyway?

          While he was motoring along the wharfs looking for me the Marine Deputy showed up. They stuck around until we got the project tipped, cleaned the pump, fed the Yamaha the last of the gas, and got back on the open water. The river bar was closed to boats under 30', and there was a noticeable swell crossing Youngs Bay along with a nasty wind chop. Past the Skipanon river to Hamond, around the breakwater, and we're back in the harbor.

          Long road home yet, but in spite of it all it was a great ride, and we're ready to go again.
          Attached Files


          • #6
            Re: Lower Columbia south shore

            A last detail for those that might be interested. Total trip was 120 miles. Our moving average speed was 17mph. Our maximum speed was 33mph. All according to GPS.

            If you have an interest in traveling this way don't let the age of your machine stop you. These 2 strokes have done well by us. It doesn't take a pile of cash to have a good time.


            • #7
              Re: Lower Columbia south shore

              Rip Mike you will be missed


              • #8
                Re: Lower Columbia south shore

                Wow, what a trip!!!! Well done....thank you for sharing...wish I was still up in the PNW....had an epic ride from Everett/Marysville to Victoria for the day...under LA Dawg if you want to check it out...was awesome trip, hope you guys get a chance to do that one....cheers.


                • #9
                  Re: Lower Columbia south shore

                  Originally posted by LA Dawg View Post
                  Wow, what a trip!!!! Well done....thank you for sharing...wish I was still up in the PNW....had an epic ride from Everett/Marysville to Victoria for the day...under LA Dawg if you want to check it out...was awesome trip, hope you guys get a chance to do that one....cheers.
                  He won’t get a chance he’s no longer with us.passed away gone to soon he was a great guy.


                  • #10
                    Re: Lower Columbia south shore

                    Man ! what a role model for live life ride pwc !! He WILL be missed ! Dang !@*#!
                    '88 550-ride plate,intake grate,intake manfold,carb
                    '96 GTX-1mm overbore,F/a's,intake grate,port timed for mid and top end
                    '95 FX 1- usually take this motor to 753cc with exhaust porting and reeds