One of our first boat reports for the 2015 Coho Ho Ho Cruising Rally!
S/V Manatee crossed the Columbia River Bar using the engine and auto pilot on the evening of July 29, 2015.
The bar was unrestricted with 4 foot wind waves on a 2 foot swell from the North. Wind was NW 15 kn gusting to 25. We encountered dense fog from buoy 2 to buoy 10 (4 nm), then clear sky with sunshine. The approach was timed to hit the bar at slack current (about 7 PM) and then ride the flood in. It took about 2.5 hours to cross the bar because the combined effects of the waves and wind slowed the boat to 1 kn after we turned to head toward buoy 2. We moored at the Astoria West Basin just after dark.
We kept to the red buoy side of the main channel and had one cargo ship call us on the VHF radio to make passing arrangements. The ship passed us at mid channel but we couldn't see him visually—we just tracked him with radar and AIS. We also detoured around a CG helicopter lifting someone in a basket out of the water at about buoy 20 (it looked like a training exercise).
The crew wore full foul weather gear because of the cool air temperatures, regular spray from the bow, and the one odd wave that broke over the starboard gunwale and sloshed down into the cockpit. It was choppy so we also clipped into the jack lines.
The Port of Astoria West Basin Marina (West of the bridge) is the best place to tie-up. It is close to both downtown Astoria and a good marine supply store. The Port of Astoria East Basin Marina is not used much because they have Oregon Sea Lions—sometimes as many as 1,500!
My thanks to the Manatee crew: Ralph Cumberland and Joy Johnson.