Monday, December 31, 2012

Morning sky for a few minutes

I was not anticipating rousing myself out of bed at 7:32 this morning when I opened my eyes to check the time. After all, it's still holiday vacation and I was up till 2 a.m. reading Alexander McCall Smith's "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" from The No.1. Ladies' Detective Agency series.

But I happened to notice the gorgeous tangerine clouds and dragged myself up and outside to take these photos. By the time I was done shutting down the camera, the colors were gone.

Heron envy

Photo: Mary Forst

I have lived here more than a year and have not seen a single heron on my deck. My neighbor Mary sees them all the time on hers, and on the log of her next-door neighbor. Once I saw one on the float deck of the houseboat to the left of me, and that's the closest I've seen.

Land here, herons!

Photo: Mary Forst

Ultimate Flotsam: Oslo's Hoegh Marlin life preserver

After I declared myself the "Flotsam Queen," named for my newfound hobby of collecting interesting flotsam from my paddles, Dave Fouts (see previous Purple Martin posts) said that he had something he wanted to give me, and one day he brought it over.

It's a life preserver that he found on the Columbia River side of the island in the early 1980s and has kept at his house since then. Ever since I'd seen a life preserver hanging up on my neighbor's houseboat I was thinking it would be a good idea to have one on hand, and now I do. It needs a little repair work and Dave thought I could get the "tape" to patch the covering at West Marine.

Fascinated, I googled the Hoegh Marlin from Oslo to see what I could find out. On a "shipspotting" website, I found this photo from 2011, so this ship may still be cruising the Columbia River. It says this vessel was built in 1966 in Osaka, Japan.


Another web site gives additional information:
Hoegh Marlin (bulk Carrier)
The Sudbury II played a major role in another salvage operation about three months later, when the 22,000-ton Norwegian bulk carrier Hoegh Marlin stranded in Active Pass. Hoegh Marlin, partially laden with woodpulp bales, fell victim to the powerful tide races of Active Pass in the early morning hours of May 4 and ran hard aground on a reef off Collinson Point, suffering considerable hull damage. The resources of Island Tug were summoned and Sudbury II, (3,800-horsepower), Island Monarch (1,800 horsepower) and Island Warrior (1,600 horsepower) were dispatched to the scene. An effort was made to refloat the 586-foot motor vessel on the next high tide, but it was several feet lower than the previous high and the effort was unavailing. The 2,400-horsepower Island Sovereign was summoned, augmenting the aggregate horsepower of the tugs to 10,000, and the Hoegh Marlin was successfully refloated on the following tide. After undergoing hull repairs she loaded the remainder of her pulp cargo and proceeded to Oslo.
Citation: Tacoma Public Library

It's quite exciting to have a piece of history. It's certainly the biggest flotsam in my growing collection and I doubt that I'll ever find anything from a larger source. 

Second year bald eagle

                                         copyright Wildlight Images/used with permission

On December 19th, I was at my desk and heard a loud screeching. I looked out and saw two large birds across the channel, at each other in the air. Both landed in trees; one flew off, and one, I could see, was perched. It was a big bird, and seemed like some sort of hawk. I looked with the binoculars and then with the spotting scope. It had an unusual mottled brown pattern on the wings, and the rest of the body and tail looked almost black. It didn't have a tail like a hawk. I got out my Nat'l Geo "Field Guide to Birds of North America" but couldn't find it.

Next I emailed a neighbor who's an excellent birder to see if she was around and could see this bird and if she knew what it was.

Then I got out my journal and drew an image of it, that was quite wretched. Then I went and got out Sibley's bird guide and there I was able to identify it -- a second year bald eagle. I'd never seen one before.

In the meantime, my neighbor had written back: "Sounds like an immature eagle-- could be last summer's chick as there was a nest behind there. I can't see it but I've seen immatures as well as some adults flying up and down the channel in the last week and they make sounds like that.  They are over at the Nude Beach, too, circling around and complaining."

Yesterday I went for a paddle and spotted an eagle's in a tree on the mainland side next to the confluence of the channel and the Willamette. Farther downriver I saw an adult bald eagle in a tree. My cousins live in Savannah along a waterway and have talked about watching out for alligators. I was thinking that I much preferred living in eagle-dom.


                                                                           copyright Wildlight Images/used with permission

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Ships Parade

There's not much that's more magical than Portland's Christmas Ships Parade, and there's no better place to see the boats than our decks. They come right past, and we get to see both fleets, the Columbia River fleet and the Willamette River fleet. The boat owners are volunteers who bring this treat to the world. All up and down the channel (and the rivers) people gather to watch the boats float by. We ooh and ahh, delight at ones we've seen before and go ga-ga over new ones, singing Christmas carols all the while. Along the moorage, most people have parties and you see the silhouettes of people on the decks on either side.

When I moved to the houseboat last year, I'd only been here a few weeks when it was time for the Christmas Ships. My place was a construction zone and boxes were piled high everywhere. I decided I would just go to Mary's party, where I've been going for years. This year I decided I would still go to Mary's party. It turns out that I know the people who are moving into the houseboat two doors away, but they won't be closing on it till later this week -- so I invited their family to have their first moorage houseboat party at my place. It worked out great and I came home to sweet thank-you notes from them all.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas ships -- daylight prelude

This dull-in-daylight boat with its skeleton decorations is a prelude to the delights of the Christmas Ships that will pass right in front of our houseboats this Sunday, December 9th. It's fun to see them go by and imagine what they will look like lit up in the dark.

Monday, November 12, 2012


In the December 2012 issue of Outside magazine, there's a piece titled "Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning: The Nature Cure." It's a story of how Japanese researchers are "backing up the surprising theory that nature can lower your blood pressure, fight off depression, beat back stress -- and even prevent cancer."

One of the philosophies is called shinrin-yoku, literally "forest-bathing, inspired by ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, to let nature enter your body through all five senses.

Part of the piece are six sidebars of advice, "The Outside Rx," and one of them is GO BLUE. It says, "Greening our lives is a good start, but we need to blue them, too. New research suggests that water may be a key element in the natural world for psychological well-being." It goes on to say that "Similary, a 2010 review of the mental-health benefits of being outside concluded that any exposure to natural space improves mood but that proximity to water significantly magnifies the effect. The more blue you incorporate into your life, the less blue you may feel."

When I moved here, with a view of water out of every window, many people told me how calming it feels, and now it's fascinating to know that the benefits are more than any of us imagined.

"Soft fascination"

Another part of the piece describes research at the University of Michigan led by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, who noted that modern-day psychological distress was often related to mental fatigue from sustained attention on tasks. What rests our brains? "Soft fascination" -- what happens when you watch a sunset or butterfly.

I realize that all my long paddles are "soft fascination" -- awareness of sights, sounds, smells without other distractions. I shall close down the computer and plan a paddle for tomorrow ...

... and John did a dive for the moonstone ring

This is a continuation of the "Mary fell in ....." post, and I am unlikely to ever have a more delightful living-on-the-river story.

After Mary put her sopping wet clothes in the dryer, she realized that while her glasses had not fallen off, her beautiful gold ring with a moonstone had!

It occurred to her that maybe John Glenn could dive down and try and find the ring. John Glenn is a profesionnal diver and houseboat expert. I'd hired him to do a dive inspection of my houseboat before I agreed to buy it, and he has done underwater work on many of my neighbors' floating homes.

Mary called John and left him a message and he called right back and arranged to meet her at 4:30 p.m. -- so he would be diving when it was dark above the river as well. He estimated that the river in the backwater there was about 25 to 30 feet deep.

John marked the spot with a long, heavy, pointed metal pole, then put on his wetsuit. Other neighbors gathered to watch. He dropped down underwater, and as he described later, was careful not to put his feet down, which would have stirred up the silt and covered everything. He hung onto the pole and shone a very bright light all around. About 7 feet upstream from where Mary fell in, he spotted the white stone glinting back. Within just 3 to 4 minutes, he came up holding Mary's ring!

Mary said, " I truly felt like I had called Superman and he came and conquered! And he wouldn't take a penny - said he hadn't done it for money, he wanted to help, and enjoyed it.'

Since John wouldn't take any money, Mary told him that she likes to cook for friends and could she cook him a dinner and if so, what would he want. John agreed to a dinner and asked for pot roast and lemon meringue pie. So last week, Mary invited John and another neighbor over to dinner, for thanks and a celebration.

(Photo of John in his wetsuit to come from Mary)

Later, John told me about someone at another moorage who lost a very expensive ring to the river. These folks tried to use a metal detector, which stirred up all the silt so the ring may be impossible to find. He suggested that what they might try now is to use a dredge to suck up the silt and then shake it through a screen.

Mary fell in ..........

GUEST BLOG -- by Mary Forst

This is a guest blog incorporating an email from my neighbor Mary Forst, who wrote on October 26, "I fell in the river today!"

Mary wrote:
" No kidding. I was just walking (okay, I was hurrying, but still) across to my tenderhouse, when I suddenly found myself toppling over to the right - away from my handrail - and knew I was going in! I went under face-first, but my feet were still on the boards, so I had a hard time getting my face out of the water. So I pulled my feet off and went in all the way - looked around to see if anyone was available to help - saw no-one, and started hauling myself out. It was amazingly hard to do.

"I started to go into my house but realized water was pouring off me. I took off my fleece jacket (boy, can that stuff hold water!) and shoes, slipped inside, stripped next to the washer and tossed everything but me and the shoes in. That's when I realized that while my glasses had not fallen off, my beautiful gold ring with moonstone had!
"Took a quick shower and of course the phone rang and the guy from Closets to Go arrived at the door that same instant.

"So now my clothes are washed and dried, and my ribs hurt when I laugh (I got an emergency chriropractor appointment tomorrow), I am so grateful to be alive.

"You just never know . . . everything can change in an instant."


The photos above and below show the narrow spot where Mary fell in. The "stripes" below are part of the reflection of her tenderhouse siding and window. I went out to look and see if I could fall between the walkway and my tenderhouse -- no, mine are closer together, but there are three railroad-type spikes stiking up and I'm not sure which would be less awful -- falling in the water or getting impaled on rusty spikes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Alder Point Restoration Project

Alder Creek Lumber has been operating at the southern tip of Sauvie Island as long as I've lived here. Now some of its land has been sold and it's about to undergo a major restoration project as mitigation for the superfund sites at Portland Harbor -- a fine reminder that we are all downriver from the superfund sites.

According to a website of the Portland Harbor Natural Resource Trustee Ecological Restoration Portfolio ( it says  "Proposed restoration: Restoration efforts at this site could include regrading the river banks to create a shallower slope, increasing interaction between the river and the floodplain. Restoration could also include adding native vegetation to floodplain and upland areas. Additional restoration options could also include removing portions of the private levee and restoring a diversity of riparian, marsh, mud flat and off‐channel habitats across the site. Benefits: Off‐channel, shallow, slow moving waters provide refuge and productive foraging areas for lamprey and juvenile salmon. Shallow areas can also serve as important hunting areas for bald eagles, osprey, spotted sandpiper, mink and other species. Natural beaches serve as foraging areas for mink and staging areas for spotted sandpiper and other migratory birds. Regrading the shoreline will reconnect this area to its historic floodplain and encourage the use of off‐channel areas by fish. Adding native vegetation along the banks will improve habitat complexity, increase sediment retention, provide an invertebrate food source for fish and some wildlife, and create perching and nesting habitat for birds and other animals."

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation notes that Wildlands PNW is a for-profit corporation that is developing the "Alder Point Project" as a Harbor mitigation site.

The website for Wildlands is although I don't see where it lists this project.

Last week at the Sauvie Island Community Association meeting, Michael Karnosh, the Ceded Lands Program Manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, talked about this project when asked. (The Multnomah tribe that lived on Sauvie Island are recognized as part of the confederated tribes). He said they are on the Trustee Council and explained that "Portland Harbor needs cleanup because it's been damaging fish and wildlife. This is to compensate the public; a way to make the public 'whole' is to restore habitats."

I don't know how soon these lumber company structures will be gone, but I wanted to document them.

As I was paddling by on Sunday taking these photos, three mergasers flew off in front of me, and I spotted these two great blue herons (if you look closely at the last photo (or enlarge it) you can see one on the piling and one on shore -- a good omen, I thought, for what's to come.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

"The Dagney" and "The Labrador"

Part of my passion for my "Adventure Paddles" (see previous post) is going past some large, unusual craft upriver. I thought perhaps they were there for repairs. What I learned about the two largest was quite a surprise. 

The Dagney

What I have found so far about The Dagney is from this 2007 website: It's a 1904 fish tender from Juneau, Alaska that "Trub's" friend lives in. He notes that now the hull is encased in Ferro-cement. If I see the owner sometime when I paddle by I will surely be inquisitive to learn more of the craft's story.

The Labrador

Who would imagine this is an art gallery? It's called 12128 BoatSpace and once I discovered that I learned that some of my neighbors had heard about it and hadn't a clue where it was.  Here's a summary of the info I found at the FortPort website noted below: The Labrador is a WWII crabbing vessel from the Bering Sea. It's 135 feet long and weighs 200 tons. Kyle Thompson, Lewis Feuer, Caitlin Ducey, and Zoe Clark are the folks who maintain the ship and operate the gallery. The gallery has been hosting shows since May 2010 and photos and information of the works exhibited are on the website. I'm told the next exhibit will be in January, 2013. An artist was at work inside when I paddled by yesterday but it was too rainy and late in the day for me to stop and say hello and find out more -- but I will.

For more information and ship photos:
To see exhibit photos, find out about past and upcoming shows or to get on the mailing list:

The ferries of NW Ferry Road

My moorage's address is NW Ferry Road and the the road dead-ends in a boat ramp. It began literally as a ferry road -- landing for a series of ferries that carried islanders to the mainland before a bridge was completed in 1950.

According to the history on these photos hanging on the wall in the island Grange building, Multnomah County began ferry service in 1910 across what was then called the Willamette Slough. The unnamed craft was described as "a slow box on water." Dewey Charlton began as a pilot in 1917 and continued until the ferries were discontinued.

It was replaced in 1919 by the Walter H. Evens, with a six-car capacity, which operated until 1932. The hours were listed as 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., except Mondays, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on Saturdays it ran all night. (When I get to the Oregon Historical Society I'll replace these with better photos.) It was guided by a trolley with a cable running through and ran in reverse on the return trip.

The third ferry was The Burlington, which operated from 1932 to 1945. This wooden-hulled boat had  its pilot house in the middle and a propeller at each end. An incident occurrred where a 35-ton crane was set incorrectly onto the deck and the ferry capsized (and was righted and in back in operation 11 hours later).

The last ferry was called The Sauvies Island and crossed the channel from 1945 to 1950. It was a steel ferry that carried 16 automobiles and averaged 200 trips a day.

According to The Story of Sauvies Island by Omar Spencer, before the county ferries were established, people traveled to and from the island by steamboat, towboats, and private ferries. Some of these were through-boats to Astoria, others carried a combination of passengers, freight and the occasional load of cattle.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Head of the Dog Scull Regatta

            Crew with tiaras                                       Crew with cowboy hats

             Crew with wolf or dog hats                      Crew with prison stripes

I had house guests for the weekend and Saturday morning I was talking about how entertaining it is to live on the water. No kidding. On a typical day, amongst the craft going by are a few rowing sculls, coming from a boathouse just above the island bridge that belongs to a group called the Portland Boat Club.

This Saturday was an entertainment jackpot day. First, a couple of scullers came past. Then more. Then more. Then two-person sculls. Then more. Then more. Then four-person sculls. Then more. Then more. Then four-person sculls with coxswains (an extra person facing forward calling out directives). We also couldn't help but notice lots of them were wearing costumes: see above and below.

I, still in my pajamas, walked out on the deck and yelled out to a couple of guys in a double, asking them what was going on. They said it was a race, although they were headed downriver randomly and no one looked like they were racing.

After awhile they started coming back upriver, and this did look like a race -- moving in multiples and faster with seeming intent. I went out and started taking photos.

Today I looked on the web to see what this was about -- it seemed like every sculler in the Portland metropolitan area was rowing past. It was the Portland Boat Club's second annual HOTDog or Head of the Dog Regatta. It cost $20 a head. Here's a link to their website and some information about the group:

"About PBC

The Portland Boat Club is a group of dedicated rowers, mostly scullers, in Portland, Oregon. Up until 1994, we were the Portland Rowing Club, a revival of one of the oldest rowing clubs west of the Mississippi, but following a legal split from a houseboat moorage of that name, we are the Portland Boat Club. We offer our members the benefits of belonging to a competitive club. We offer camaraderie with a focus on improving sculling performance, use of club boats, as well as moorage for privately owned boats. The Portland Boat Club is a member club of USRowing."

            Solo sculler in blue suit and bow tie     More solo scullers

           Doubles                                              Quad avoiding barge and tug

            Three sets of quads                              Route relative to deck

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hronk! Hronk! Goose scratch! Hronk! Hronk!

This is a follow-up to the Hronk! Hronk! earlier post.

I did my duty and went to Linnton Feed and Seed to buy cracked corn, as I had read about on line, to feed the geese, instead of bread.

But when I got there, I saw there were two bins, cracked corn labeled "Hen Scratch" and another one with mostly white "pebbles" labeled "Poultry and Duck food." Both were 60 cents a pound. Huh?

So I went and asked the person at the counter. She told me that cracked corn is like candy -- a snack for the birds, and not very nutritious. The "pebbles" in the other bin are dried soybean milk, which has a lot of protein and nutrients and is better for the birds. Since they were both the same price, she offered to give me a mix of the two -- nutrition and a snack (not hard to convince a most-health-food conscious chocolaholic) and I bought eight pounds' worth. The other option was to buy a 50-pound bag of one or the other.

Now I've got my super-duper goose food but when they came hronking and I threw it in the water -- it mostly sank, and by the immediate splashes, I figured the carp were getting it. At one point a carp must have come up right below one of the geese who screeched and flapped his wings and hurried away.

Okay, now what? The geese would get a little bit of it, but most of it sank. Then I discovered that there were some depressions in my float logs below, and that I could put a couple of handfulls in two different places, so two birds could eat at one time. The one that is all white (I'm guessing that one's the male) is more aggressive than the other and unless they had separate spots, the bird with gray on its wings wouldn't get anything.

I thought I would have to make sure to rinse the wood off every day so as not to attract rats, but not only do the geese eat every morsel, I realize wakes from passing boats wash it off continually, too.

I've now had to buy my second eight pounds, and also bought a small plastic container so I could keep the feed on the deck. I don't think this batch is going to last that long. Before, this pair used to come by maybe once or twice a day. Now they come by hronking VERY LOUDLY four or five times a day. I am going to have to go back on line to find out how many ounces a goose ought to eat a day and feed them accordingly.

(By the way, I got the above photo only by waiting very patiently until the goose got comfortable with me and my camera leaning way over the deck.)

Mystery of the mudded golf balls

First I saw one, then a second one, then another one. As the river level got lower over the dry summer days and months, I would spot more golf balls along shore as I paddled. Most of them were across from Bridgeview Moorage. I didn't know enough about golf to imagine someone could be driving balls from clear across the channel. Was someone up above on the dike playing golf? That notion seemed a crazy irony, since I was one of a gang of rabble-rousers who had stopped the development of a tournament golf course on the island in 1989.

I could not resist collecting each and every one that I saw. Some are white, some are yellow. Most of them I was able to pry out of the mud with my paddle, but a few were far enough from the water that I had to get out and squish through the mud.

I started asking people and learned that yes, a number of houseboaters -- including my neighbors two doors away -- do in fact drive golf balls off their decks for amusement. Were these golf balls worth anything? This neighbor pays his grandchildren 10 cents for each one they find when he takes them across the channel in his boat for golf-ball hunts. He offered me the same 10 cents for mine.

One day -- the jackpot day -- I found 13. I now have a total of 28. I thought my hard-pried collection was worth more to me than $2.80 so I have kept them.

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of The Houseboat Book by Barbara Flanagan. It looked quite wonderful, and besides, one of the houses in it is my neighbors'. Portland was one of the places where the author did a lot of research because, it turns out, Portland has more houseboats than anywhere in North America (pg. 146).

I almost rolled on the floor laughing when I read this description on page 76: "In Portland, Ron Schmidt has three platforms... on the deck, Schmidt has installed a patch of artificial turf to help him drive used golf balls across the river." Was a certain Ron Schmidt the originator of most of my golf balls? I googled him and discovered he lives at a different moorage at least 10 miles away.

I could email my friends who live at Bridgeview Moorage to ask who might have driven all these golf balls I unearthed, but I think I won't -- it will be more fun to learn some day serendipitously.

In the meantime, the river has gone even lower and I've not found a single other golf ball since the jackpot day a few weeks ago.

Not only is there a mystery golfer -- what causes the golf balls to land and stay stuck along just a few waterlines along shore and nowhere else?

UPDATE: As of October 19, 2012, I have thus far found 54 golf balls -- 11 yesterday.