Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Warrior Rock Lighthouse Picnic

Kayak Portland is a Meet-up. OOPS is a club. But what is the difference really? When Billy and Jimmy and Barbara and I used to meet in the treehouse and not let Bruce in, wasn't that a club? The OOPS people say no. What do they know? Isn't Kayak Portland a club?

No, says my Kayak Portland Friend, Richard. “The OOPS guys have some legal obligations that we don't have in a Meetup.”

“And how can that be?” I ask, “Wherein doth the difference lie?”

“Well,” says he, “They charge dues”.

Ah. And it is clear. And he is right (dammit). By charging dues they are incurring some amount of assumed or stated responsibility. They took my money so they “owe” me some service. Unless they have good lawyers that make me sign a waiver.

But Kayak Portland has no dues. No rules. No (legal) social obligations. We are not a club, we are just a bunch of people that happen to show up at the same place at the same time and have some fun.

View Warrior Rock Lighthouse in a larger map

Today 50 Kayak Portland Meet-up members all randomly and mysteriously decided to show up at Scappoose Bay Boat Ramp at 2:00 on a hot sunny Sunday with our myriad of Kayaks and take our colorful flotilla to the Lighthouse on Sauvie Island.

My partner had knee surgery last wednesday (God, don't let her doctor read this) and we were taking it easy, but she couldn't get her knee wet. So she had to where her skirt (kayak skirt, Doc) to make sure her leg would stay dry. I wore mine too to be supportive. (And because I knew she would flip me over if I didn't. And if someone is going to flip you over, you should really be wearing your skirt). The nice thing about being tucked in like that is when ever you get hot you can just maneuver to someone's bow and use that for a bow assist to flip over and cool yourself off (make sure you are in sufficiently deep water first, you don't want to dip yourself into a tree stump or a muddy bottom).

OH..... In the Boat !!

Time to get Cool

The water is pretty low on the lower Columbia at this time of year. Julie, the trip leader, told me that the dam control guys (damn control guys) had turned off a lot of the flow on the river for a couple of days (“Sort of like rolling power black-outs, only with water”, she said) and so the level of water on the columbia was down about 2 feet. My Partner and I didn't think it was very much different than when we had been out a few weeks ago, but I wasn't sure what the tide conditions were this time out so it was a little hard to tell what was really going on. I know that once we were out on the Columbia there was very little current.

It takes a powerful long time to get 50 kayaks out on a little boat dock, put in the water, people in them, and then heading out. I would say “herding cats” but it is more the opposite. If anyone starts going someplace, EVERYONE goes to follow them. So you can't sneak off for a quick explore without 20 people assuming you know where you are going and following you. Be careful. With great power comes great responsibility.

Guiness Book of world records 3-Bow Flip !!
We milled a bit. Then Julie called us all together, pulled out her new bull-horn, and told us the plan and got us moving. It could not have been a better day for it. There was a hot sun, a blue sky, and very little wind. Mt. Saint Helens was visible through the haze and we just paddled straight for her. The group didn't move very fast, lots of people taking pictures, lots of others new to their boats and trying to figure out how to go in a straight line, but people were patient and we stopped pretty often to allow people to bunch up again (and for me to dip my boat under and cool down).


Mother Goose

We had a very big pause at the end of the bay, where it meets up with the Multnomah Channel. This was the first place where we were hitting big water. We wanted to get the group together here to cross the channel quickly and as a group so that any large vessels coming through would see us and so we would block the channel for as little time as possible.

The Multnomah Channel is officially a channel of the Columbia river, but it breaks off from the Willamette just before the Willamette joins with the Columbia, so I think of it as sort a side channel to the Columbia. In between the Multnomah and Columbia is Sauvie Island. Most of Sauvie is farmland (you can see lots of cows when you paddle the little creeks in the interior) but a lot of the west end is park or forest land and often frequented by duck hunters in season. So don't quack.

Once bunched, we got up our courage, and Bill started across the channel. I joined him and we quickly had all 50 of us paddling madly across. A 40 or 50 foot cabin cruiser had just passed by and it made a nice wake to crash through and then try to surf. I have noticed that my Eddyline Journey has a much lower bow that many other sea kayaks. So where the other boats might broach over a wave, I often get it breaking right over the bow. And when surfing, my bow often gets pushed under more than I think is quite right. All of these are excellent reason for wearing that spray skirt.

On the other side of the channel, we are up against Sauvie. Lots of old abandoned (or at least not currently used) shipping facilities in this area; in various stages of decay. The newest structures look like they could have been used just last week, well, except for the osprey nests in the loading towers. They have conveyor belts and large ship loading faucets. They look like they are devices for loading some sort of powder substance. I was thinking wheat or sand. The problem is that this area used to be all about lumber and logs. So perhaps it was wood dust. At any rate, there have not been any large vessels tied up there for many years. Perhaps since all of the trees were cut down. At other places along the channel are much older setups. Lines of piers long decayed to stumps. Each stump is now a little planter with it's own little eco-system. My partner and I find this one place that appears to be a set of ramps for hauling up flat bottom boats. Perhaps a building or repair ramp. It is out on a place on the island where there is some rock (instead of mud). A place that may be above ground even in a flood (back before the Dams were made).

What was this?

The water is cleaner out here than in the bay. I requested a bow rescue from my partner. We are getting pretty good at this now. I flipped over and stayed in the boat. Slap the bottom of my boat 3 times, requesting a rescue, and then wait patiently (upside down) until she hits me with her bow and I can grab hold and rotate myself back upright. She had me do this the first night I met her. It was a pool practice and she showed me how to come to her aid so she could self rescue. I was very impressed. That was what made me put her on my list of interesting people that I wanted to hang out with. See what adequate safety drills can lead to?

A mile down the channel and we come to the confluence of the Multnomah and the Columbia proper. There is a large section of stumps down there. I don't know if they used to be a dock, a mini stump city or what. Perhaps a Salmon catching and prep area. Whatever, there is a pretty large section of telephone pole size logs sticking up out of the sand. You go can around them or weave through them, but either way you have to head upstream to get to the beach by the lighthouse.

I don't actually know if it is still a lighthouse, but it certainly used to be. Let me check the magic of the internet for you: Ok, it is actually called the Warrior Rock lighthouse. It still works and is one of two lighthouses in Oregon that is not on the coast. You can get to it via a 3 mile hike along the coast, or you can just paddle right up to it like we almost did.

The Beach Below the Lighthouse

50 kayaks on the beach. Pretty cool looking. Such color. We all sat on the sand in the sun and enjoyed the afternoon. I had just finished my sandwich when my friend Bill brought someone over that had a science question for me. It seems that she had one of those clip-on sun-glasses where the clip is magnetic. When she dipped it in the sand (I am assuming the first time was by accident) all of these little metal filings were magnetized to it. She wanted to know what they were (and Bill knew I was an EE so naturally I know everything about sand). Hey. This one I knew at least the obvious part of the answer. Must be Iron !! Iron is the only common mineral that is magnetic. But the iron was EVERYWHERE. Must be a significant part of the content of the beach!! Now, why was that? Was it a natural occurrence, or was it the aftermath of the shipping and construction in the area. Maybe a WWII submarine sank at this very spot....
see the magnetic. The black stripes, the sand.... oh,.... never mind

Ok, my friends at work say “Duh, Jon. Magnetic sand beaches are everywhere. Iron is like the 2nd most common mineral on earth.” Next to (wait for it) SAND !! (well, silicon). So, there you have it. Next time I go kayaking I am taking a big magnet and a baggy. I will be RICH I tell you, Rich !!

Julie likes to have club contests. This time the contest was “Who can stand up in their boat?!”. Would I play? Of course I would play. I can fall out of my boat as good as the next guy. 5 or 6 of us paddled out 10 feet offshore in like 5 feet of muddy water and gave it a shot. The deck was a little stacked, Julie does this all of the time. So she stands up. The secret is to get up on your deck with your legs out to either side. OK. I did that. Never did that before, but I did that. Then get your feet on the bottom. (I think you are supposed to put your feet ON YOUR SEAT. I missed that part) and then.... well, just stand up. This is where I lose it. With my feet on the bottom, I can't get my body over my feet to stand before I lose my balance and dump into the water. Oh well. I turned on my nifty little water pump and tried some wet entries and such. Those didn't work either. AND I lost my water pipe. Donated to the Columbia. It was good wet fun, though. The river water was very refreshing.

Julie Stands up

jon Stands up

Bill stands up

Afterwards a club member had come over on a SUP and I got to try that. It was hard as hell and I hated it. Really. I was on for like 60 seconds and my thighs were BURNING. So I guess it is really good exercise until you figure it out.

Well, I look cool, but I am NOT HAPPY.

Oh OH, the sun is starting to go behind the trees. The beach goes suddenly cold. Time to get going. We got ourselves packed back up and followed the thundering herd back down the Columbia and back up the channel.


This time we came down on the South side of the channel where we could get in amongst some more of those pilings. These had a lot of plants on them and I wanted to take some pictures. My partner doesn't like going in there but she is always game for a challenge. So I have some pictures of me in there. Had some waves come through while we were in the midst and I thought I was going to get capsized up against a piling. But then I realized that I could just put out my hand and steady myself on one. Another genius insight.


Man we were tired when we got back to the dock. Lug the boats back to the car, drive home, and collapse. A good adventure.


  1. Good story. This is a paddle that I'm wanting to do. Two questions: Do you know the distance you paddled? Was the tide a factor?