Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2,700 lbs of lift/Lowering the tenderhouse logs

On the water, buildings need to be balanced, floating even front and back, left and right. When I moved in, my tenderhouse was off-balance, the right side riding high so that the float logs were out of the water. This is not good because the logs will deteriorate and get ruined – not a good thing when they’re supporting your building.

I was planning to move three heavy file cabinets from the left side to the right, and was hoping that would even things out. Finally this summer I got around it, but it didn’t solve the problem.

So I called the trusty John Glenn of Mainland Diving Services (503) 803-1459, who had done the dive inspection of my houseboat when I was looking to purchase it. It turns out those inspections don’t include the tenderhouse so who knew what a dilapidated mess it was under there.

I’d called him and he was going to get back to me but I was eating lunch on my deck and his barge floated past on the way to another job downriver so he stopped to see what was going on with my place. He dove under to take a look and we discussed my options and decided he would try to take out some of the styrofoam float cylinders.

He dove under and was able to dislodge one cylinder, which is a size that provides 750 pounds of lift. John’s helper, Keith Tice, lassos it when it pops out with a big splash. John tries a second cylinder but can’t dislodge it. They need to bring the barge around, lower an 850-pound weight, which John dives and attaches to the cylinder. He doesn’t know if the river is deep enough for the weight to pull the cylinder down as far as it needs to go to emerge from under the tenderhouse. It works. John notes that this second one provides 1,000 pounds of lift, and it’s a size that they don’t even make anymore. John thinks he needs to get out another cylinder, this one closer to the walkway.

That involves squeezing the barge in the narrow space between my and my neighbor’s tenderhouse to get the weight closer to where it’s needed. This one works, too, and the third cylinder emerges. People have asked me if these cylinders can be re-used. Not if the plastic around them is gone (in this case, it is) because otherwise beavers or objects floating downriver could break off the styrofoam to pollute the water). Now the tenderhouse has had 2,700 pounds of lift removed and it sits lower in the water, enough that the logs are half-submerged. They will soak up the water and this will keep them from deteriorating and I hope last a long, long time.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cajun Music Jam

Floating on the water always feels pretty magical, and music makes it more so. On Sunday a neighbor invited us over to his place in the afternoon. The Portland Monthly Cajun Jam was going to meet there this month and we could come and listen, and dance if so inclined. Bring a chair.

For 2-1/2 hours the musicians played, some a variety of instruments. For any given number there might be four to five violins, 2 to three guitars, plus a Cajun accordian and an autoharp.

It was quite the treat. If you want to hear the group or – if you’re experienced and would like to jam with them – check out It’s a “moving house party” the third Sunday of every month.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ospreys en route

Quite an osprey experience on a paddle last week. First I saw the two young on their nest on top of a piling I passed upriver. On the way back, I came quite close -- I didn't see it at first its coloring blended in so well -- to an otter on the rocks on shore with a fish. After I took a photo it flew off and landed, still holding the fish, on top of the piling. I passed a distance away and zoomed in for another photo just as it was taking off and flying back to the nest with its catch.

Knock, knock -- otters calling

One morning a few weeks ago it wasn't "knock, knock," it was "ring, ring" -- my neighbor Bruce was ringing my doorbell to let me know there were otters down the way. This time I was quick and grabbed my camera. At first they were around logs in the backwater, and we watched them diving, playing and eating. Then -- they came up on the deck (and pooped) -- a mom and three babies. For otter fans, a darling sight.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Green heron gossip

In some neighborhoods, people gossip about other people. On our moorage, we gossip about wildlife. The latest has been a green heron sighting. Some people had never seen a green heron and wondered what that unusual bird was on a log in the backwater. Then this person or that would say that they had seen it, when and where. It was here on and off for a few days but I haven’t seen it at all in the last three days, though I keep an eye out. I had been able to spot it from my guest room window.

Wake Watch

I saw these “Wake Watch/Please Don’t Wake Me” signs last year as I was paddling past Sauvie Island Moorage and noticed that they were produced by the Oregon Marine Board. I contacted the OMB to get one and found that they had been giving them away but ran out and didn’t have funding to create more. I asked if they could send me an attachment with the artwork, which I could put on a flash drive and take to Kinko’s and have one or more made.
I didn’t hear back and this year when it became recreational boating season, I tried again and it turns out the OMB found some funding and produced these new, bigger signs. They sent me three, which I distributed around our moorage. If you are interested in getting one, contact Cyndi Bolduc at the Oregon Marine Board at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rising Tide: civil disobedience, fossil fuels and the rivers

A few weeks ago I attended a sold-out gathering at Clark College to hear the ever-inspiring Bill McKibben (author, “The End of  Nature”) talk about climate change and stopping fossil fuel exports. The event was sponsored by, among other groups, Portland Rising Tide. Bill spoke of Vancouver, Washington as the choke point for proposed fossil fuel exports – coal trains and river barges from mines in Montana, and now a 380,000 barrel/day oil export terminal at the Port of Vancouver.
Bill told the story of getting arrested during the Keystone Pipeline protests in Washington, D.C. and mentioned that we can’t just ask the college students to do this. In this terrible economy where getting a job is hard enough, it’s not a good thing for the kids to have an arrest record. He said it’s time for us older folks who have less to lose to start acting like elders. I signed a card that I would be willing to take part in acts of civil disobedience for this cause even it it meant going to jail. We should look good while we do it, too, Bill advised  -- guys should wear a shirt and tie and women a skirt (which I most always do anyway).
There was a large river action that took place July 27th, a day I was out of town, and I was sorry I wasn’t there to support it – part was a blockade by kayaks and small boats across the Columbia River. In today’s Oregonian newspaper there is a story and photo of protesters, including Native Americans from the Nez Perce tribe, standing their ground against transport of 644,000 pound “megaload” oil shipments headed across Lewiston, Idaho for oil fields in Canada. Two protesters were arrested and charged with misdemeanors for disturbing the peace.

The Dagney, more about ...

I received a blog comment from Rich S., who wrote, “I worked aboard "The Dagney" as a deckhand June and July of 1970. Bristol Bay for sockeye, then down to Ketchikan for Kings, Silvers, Chums. Company was Red Salmon Cannery, and the Captain was Nick Scrivanich.”

I can't figure out how to respond to people who comment on the blog, so this is an invite to Rich, if he's checking in again, to be a guest blogger and write more about what it was like to work on this boat, and send photos if you've got some you'd like to share. I'll post whatever you'd like to contribute.

In the meantime, the next time I paddled past The Dagney I took these photos. I still have never seen anyone on the boat, but it's funny to see a gold-poled living room floor lamp inside. I can't imagine something like that there when the boat was thrashing about in big waves in Alaska.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Weeding -- the walkway logs

One of our tasks as moorage renters is weeding the logs. Vegetation -- mostly invasive species -- floats downriver and attaches itself to the logs on the walkway and the mostly-underwater logs that hold up our houses. They flourish iin the water and warm summer air. If we don't remove the weeds, the roots dig into the logs and break them apart so they end up destroyed -- and expensive and hard to replace.

Most of the weeds come out pretty easily. I spent maybe a half hour doing all this weeding before an Open House party last week. There's a fence along one side of my houseboat and the only way I can access those logs to weed them is by kayak -- I have to bring gardening tools with me to get at them.

Then we leave the vegetation along the walkway to dry out and eventually toss them as far as we can into the flowing current. I am going to soon be on a "best practices" committee with the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District to create a handbook for moorage owners. It will be interesting to see if the result is that we shouldn't toss these weeds in the water where they might go downriver to invade some other place where they're unwanted.

The great baby purple martin rescue

How many humans does it take to rescue a baby purple martin? In our case, six. My neighbor George spotted a small bird floundering and wildly splashing its wings in the river outside their houseboat. He and Monica got their rubber raft and a net from their aquarium and went out to scoop up the bird. They got it on their deck and it turned out their was another bird that had been on a log float that came up and hid under a planter. We later called this the “companion” bird because it didn’t seem big enough to be the parent but kept close.
They called over to me and I went to see the bird and recognized it as a baby purple martin, surely one of “mine.” It was late evening and George wrapped it in a towel and brought it over to my place. He set it on my glass table thinking that maybe the parents in the gourds above would come and help it. I watched as the sopping-wet martin tried to flap its wings but couldn’t fly. It moved around in a circle, went backwards and fell off the table onto a chair and then fluttered its way underneath the wooden glider. I sat a bit aways and got out my binoculars to watch what would happen. That’s when I noticed the companion bird was there under the glider and the two were snuggling.
It was almost dark and we’d all agreed it would not be a good idea to leave the bird on the deck overnight lest some predator got it. What to do? I phoned Carol and Don on a neighboring moorage who have gourds and told a story about a martin that fell from the gourd and they took it to the Audubon Care Center. Don said the preferable choice would be to get the bird back into the nest, otherwise, put it in a shoebox overnight, open it in the morning and see if it flies off, it not take it to Audubon.
By now it was dark. I went back over to George’s and he thought we shouldn’t be trying in the dark to get the bird back into the gourd. I came back and got both birds and put them in a box with a towel below and a lot of holes punched in the tops and sides, and set it in the guest room.
I woke early, 6:30 a.m., and worried about the birds and hoping they were still alive. They were. Next I was concerned that I would open the box and the bird would fly off and land in the water again. Then what I do? So I prepared first. I pumped up a rubber raft, got a paddle, put on kayaking clothes and a life jacket and tied the raft up to the deck. I was ready for another water rescue.
I opened the box and one bird flew out, while the other clearly still couldn’t fly. It was crawling up my arm, its feet clinging to the fleece of my top. I put it back in the box and closed the lid.
Next I sent out an email to all the people I knew on the island who have purple martin gourds and said I needed to leave for a meeting at 8:15 and if someone could help me put the baby back in the nest before I left that would be great, otherwise I would take it to Audubon. Then I went up to get the newspaper. On the way, I saw my neighbor Jim, who has gourds. I asked him if he could help but he was concerned that since I have four gourds, we might put it in the wrong gourd where it might be unwelcome and who knows how the other birds might react. He thought it best to take the bird to Audubon.
Just as I was ready to leave the house, the doorbell rang. It was Rita, who has 16 gourds. She rolled up her sleeves and said, “Where’s the bird?” She single-handedly eased down the heavy gourd setup and opened the screw-off caps on the gourds one by one. The first three were empty. The last one had babies in it. “That’s where this one came from” she said, and put the bird back. She said they get probably one bird a year falling out of a nest. She said they either lean out too far or are just too curious.
Later I would go out and look up at this bird sticking its head far out of the gourd and admonish it, “Don’t you come out again until you know how to fly.”

Monday, August 5, 2013

Flotsam high fashion

Here's Steve's great-nephew Wyatt modeling the flotsam finds he inherited from me -- the hoodie with ear pieces and a music jack, and oversize red sunglasses.

The Labrador -- 12128 Boat Art Gallery Show

In late June and early July, the fabulous shoreside boat The Labrador came to life in its incarnation as an art gallery, 12128 Boat. I went to two of the three events and talked to Kyle and Caitlin. Ever since I found out a bit of history of the boat I was curious to learn more.

The Labrador was built in 1942. I hope I can read my scribbled notes: It was built in Napa, CA and it was a U.S. Navy "body boat." The hold was built for bringing returning World War II bodies from Europe and the eastern seaboard. A lot of Navy boats -- big and solid, and could be rebuilt with a lot of machinery -- ended up in Alaska as crabbing boats.

In 1977 The Labrador was fitted for crabbing. Kyle's father, Dave Thompson, was its skipper for 30 years. Kyle worked on the boat with him for five years. His dad is 55, so he was working on the boat from his 20s. The boat worked the Aleutian Islands and was used for crabbing and other fisheries.

At one point The Labrador was moved to Seattle, and it arrived at its current location at the Multnomah Yacht Harbor in 2009.

It was certainly a fascinating setting for an art gallery show -- Kyle and Caitlin are both artists. I especially liked seeing the pieces in combination with windows that brought in river views that seemed to make it part of the exhibit. Having paddled past that boat regularly now for more than a year, I was thrilled to be on board, looking it over from its decks. Kyle said, "New crabbing boats don't have quite the same character of the Navy boats." How lucky we are to have this piece of history in our river backyard.