Last weekend, Candace and I had a rare treat of a weekend away with each other, thanks to Grams watching the kids while on loan from Arizona. It was a long overdue (years?) and welcome break from the kids, love ’em though we do.
We decided to go to Hood River, an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca about an hour east of Portland. We’ve been there many times, but always as a stopover enroute to or from some kind of activity on Mt Hood: snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, hiking, apple-picking, or just tour-guiding with visitors. So we decided to spend a couple of days there and booked a room at the Oak Street Hotel.
As with most towns in this part of the country, it is chock full of coffee shops, restaurants, brew pubs, outdoor gear shops, and now even medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries (if only we cared). It’s also in the middle of a huge variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, e.g. hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing… you name it, it can probably be done within a stone’s throw of Hood River. But what really puts this place on the map is its position near the top of the Columbia River Gorge, which acts as a natural funnel to concentrate the region’s typical westerly winds, making it one of the premier windsurfing and kitesurfing locations on the planet. (Sadly, I don’t know how to do either… I’m kind of dependent on a keel / dagger board and rudder.)
Fortunately, I didn’t try to turn this weekend into one of my typical adventure-fests, where I haul out nearly every bit of gear we own in hopes of getting a chance to play with some of it. Instead, I embraced the opportunity to relax. This weekend was about food, drinks, rest, and the sanity of our marriage.
After checking in to the hotel, we headed straight out, in search of food and beer, but someplace other than Full Sail Brewery… we love Full Sail but we’ve been there countless times and we wanted something new. We settled on Double Mountain Brewery, highly recommended by friends and by the Internets. Contrary to the expression on my face, it didn’t disappoint… great pizza and non-IPA beer… we’ve really burned out on IPA recently… but of course they have IPA, too.
This is beginning to read like a sad attempt at travel writing, which is not the purpose of this blog, so let’s cut to the chase. After dinner we did what any wannabe cruisers would do, we wandered down to the marina to look at boats.
As one would expect, access to the marina was restricted, so we could only look from across the water, but there was something much more interesting to see. No, not the kiteboarders… there are always kiteboarders and/or windsurfers on the water in Hood River, even on mild wind days like this one.
No, what caught our attention was this boat. Beats me what kind it was, but she looked to be the longest in sight (50+ ft) with very low freeboard… a really cool looking sailboat… S/V Topaz.
We sat and watched her maneuver around for a while. It soon became apparent that they were having difficulties of some sort; they kept traversing back and forth over the same relatively shallow patch of water about 30 meters in diameter. I would have thought that they’d snagged their anchor had I not already seen one of the crew already attempt to haul the anchor up onto the bow roller manually… he had it out of the water but couldn’t get it all the way up on deck. So we were puzzled… had they snagged their keel or rudder on something?… were they stuck in a sandbar corral of some sort? (More on the mystery solved, later.)
It was getting dark and Candace and I were catching a chill, so we decided to head back into town to grab another drink somewhere warm. We wished there was some way we could have offered help to the distressed crew, but they were beyond shouting distance and we had no radio. On our way out for a hike the following morning, we noticed that Topaz was still in the same spot, but the dinghy was gone and no crew were visible. We presumed they had gone ashore for the evening.
When we got back from our hike on Mt Hood that afternoon (and from our stop at Draper Girls to get some apples), we noticed that Topaz was gone. We were relieved they had manged to address whatever problem they had encountered. But it got me thinking, when we first saw that boat the night before, I developed a mild sense of ambivalence… part of me wished we could be on that boat for the weekend, while another part of me was perfectly content with us sitting on a rock, watching that boat. And then I noticed the troubles they were having and the building frustration evident in their body language and maneuvers, at which point all ambivalence evaporated… that rock was exactly where I wanted to be at that moment. Though at the same time, witnessing their troubles in no way triggerred any sense of dread regarding that part of the cruising lifestyle… things go wrong on boats and you have to figure them out… that’s part of the fun in a twisted sort of way.
On our final morning, we stopped to sit at the river for a few more minutes before returning home to the kids (can you believe we were really missing them?). While sitting there staring at our shadows in a patch of grass, I realized how fortunate I am to be able to both look forward with great anticipation to a new life that is still in the distant future, and to also be perfectly content with where I am now. Granted, I’m not immune to grass-is-greener moments, but for the time being, all grass is looking pretty green to me.
While writing this, curiosity got the better of me with regard to Topaz, so I googled her. Turns out she has her own Facebook page, Topaz Sailing Adventures, which includes a brief account of what happened. Seems it was as simple as a snagged anchor. I guess maybe it was a spare, since I had seen them trying to haul one out, or perhaps they were traying to haul out the spare, who knows. But it also looks like it might now be for sale… interestiing.
And finally, if a public restroom near the river displays a sign that says “Closed for Winter”, try the handle anyway, just in case, before you squat in the rocks around the corner. You might get lucky.
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