Last leg of the trip

Monday, July 20, 2020

Hells Gate to Keller Ferry

5 miles cruised today; grand total of 316 miles for the trip

Uncharacteristically for this trip, we’re both up shortly after 6am. I guess we’re eager to return to the ramp and get the boat ready for her drive home, before it gets too hot. However, we do take the time to fix a hearty and tasty french toast breakfast with the last of our sliced french bread and fresh eggs. While preparing to get underway, we notice a doe on the shore and, nearby, a little spotted fawn.

Mule deer fawn

Shortly after 7am I raise the anchor for the final time and steer out into the main lake. Sandy is below, organizing gear for transfer into the truck. I climb up onto the foredeck and begin preparing to take the mast down, leaving it to the auto pilot to steer us down lake at a speed of 6 mph. I glance forward regularly, making sure we’re not on collision course with a large piece of driftwood. Small chunks are unavoidable and, in contrast with yesterday afternoon, we’re the only boat underway at this time of the morning. I uncleat the jib sheets and roller furler line, coil them up, and secure them to the furled jib. Next, I use the mainsail halyard to raise the protective cover over the jib. I reinstall the mast raising pole and, by the time we’re nearing Keller Ferry, I’m reconnecting the baby stays which provide stability to the mast when it gets lowered.

The ramp is free of boats as we idle our way in to the dock and tie up. Sandy starts deflating the dinghy while I walk up to the parking lot, where the truck and trailer are waiting. The familiar process of pulling the boat out, lowering the mast, and derigging the boat goes smoothly. We take time to chat with a couple who are also taking the mast down on their 26X. It’s just their 4th time out on the boat, and everything is new to them. It’s nice to see people getting acquainted with their boat, enthused over their outing and what lies ahead for them.

Shortly after 10am we’re ready to begin the drive home. It’s going to be a hot day, and we’re thankful for air conditioning. We stop at a well shaded park in Waterville for lunch. We stop in at a fruit stand near Lincoln Rock State Park to pick up some fresh cherries, cots, and peaches, and drive the final 25 miles to our home. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our explore of Lake Roosevelt, but are also glad to be home.

Lake Roosevelt sunset, final night of the trip

Light air sailing

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Threemile Creek to Hells Gate

22 miles cruised today; 311 for the trip

Wing on wing in light air

A light breeze from the east and brilliant sunshine greets me when I emerge from the cabin at 7:30am. Following breakfast I go out in the dinghy seeking a smallmouth bass. I’m trying a crawdad plug, trailed from a bottom-dragger sinker. I’ve learned that crawdads are plentiful here, and I know that bass love them. It’s a great plan, however, the bass don’t buy it. After a couple tours around our bay I return to the boat and prepare to set sails. The breeze is light, but from a useful quarter, so I put the main and jib to work, sailing down the lake on a reach. Typical speed is 3 mph, top speed 4. As we near the confluence of Spokane Arm the wind lightens and comes more astern, so I set up for wing on wing. We’re going slowly, but we’re going. We pass another sailboat, anchored in a nearby cove. I see him get under way and raise his sails. He’s the first cruising boat (anchored out and trailing a dinghy) we’ve seen in our 2 week tour of Lake Roosevelt. I try hailing him on the VHF but apparently, his radio is turned off. A little further along, we draw near to a MacGregor 26M, who’s out beating uplake in the light air. He doesn’t come close enough to us when we pass for us to say hello.

26M and cruising sailboat enjoying the light breeze

Around noon the wind fails, so I drop the sails and motor up. Our destination is an interesting looking cove a few miles east of Hell Gate. When we draw near, however, we discover that a log boom completely blocks entrance to it. Once again I start scanning the map for Plan B, and I soon conclude that our best bet is to head for the cozy bay behind the little island, just west of Hell Gate, where we spent our first night. Most coves and beaches along the way have been jammed with speed boats, pontoon boats, and houseboats, but we find this place vacant. I anchor in the same spot we used before, set up the sun tarp, and drink a cold beer. This is probably the hottest day of the trip, in the mid 90’s, and the water temperature here is an inviting 72 degrees. It doesn’t take me long to get in the water for a refreshing swim. I come back to the boat and suggest to Sandy, who has a strong aversion to cold water, that she’d enjoy dinghying ashore and wading along the sandy shore. Last time we were here the lake was about 2 feet lower, and we had a narrow sand beach to walk on. That’s now underwater, but it makes for great barefoot wading. Definitely better than walking along a dusty dirt road.

Approaching Whitestone Rock on the way home

Our final dinner is a cashew chicken curry which Sandy had prepared in advance and stored frozen in a seal-a-meal bag. We heat the bag up in boiling water, and enjoy a very tasty dinner. Our 2 week provisioning plan has worked out extremely well, with excellent meals throughout, thanks to our ability to keep things frozen in the Engel refrigerator. The sun is now low in the west, lighting up the nearby cliffs with a vivid glow. The powerboats and jet skis have all gone home for the day, and we can relax afloat, in our little cove.

Our little sheltered bay near Hells Gate

Weekend boat traffic

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Nez Perce Creek to Threemile Creek

22 miles cruised today; 288 miles for the trip

Houseboat in Nez Perce Creek

It’s already warming up by the time I climb out into the cockpit. A small group of geese are grazing at the edge of our pond. Out near the entrance, the scene is dominated by a large houseboat which landed last night, after we’d gone below. They have all sorts of inflatables on their top deck, including at least 2 inflated palm trees. Nice look.

Doing laundry while under sail

We take our time with breakfast, enjoying the serenity of the place: mourning doves calling, Lewis’s woodpeckers busily catching bugs on the fly, a curious but misguided hummingbird who thinks our red striped American flag somehow must dispense nectar. Around 9:45 I raise the anchor and we slowly motor out. We wave at the houseboat crew, which looks to be 3 middle aged couples. No kids are to be seen, which makes their inflatable menagerie seem odd. They actually have 3 palm trees, an inflated swan, several large floatie things hanging over the side (no more room for them on deck), an inflated rattlesnake on the sunshade, but the piece de resistance is the large inflated unicorn which they’ve installed out in front, like a fantasy land figurehead. At $5000 for a week’s houseboat rental, I guess they can be as silly as they want.

Only houseboat afloat with unicorn, rattlesnake and palm trees

Once out on the big water I detect ripples on the water, and I see that my wind indicator is pointing out of the east, thus putting this 5 mph air on our beam. It’s not much, but I declare it a sailing breeze. We valiantly turn into the wind, I raise the main, pay out the jib, and off we go, down lake at between 2 and 3 mph. During this leisurely run, Sandy does a much-needed handwash of tee shirts and solar shirts, since we’re both completely out of such items which could pass the smell test. I hand our laundry out on the lifelines to dry. Since we plan a short run today, we can afford to take our time and play sailors for a change. We stick it out for better than 2 hours, getting a free ride for about 6 miles down lake before the wind completely dies. Time once again to fire up the engine and make miles.

Falls at Canteen Creek

You wouldn’t need a calendar to know that this is Saturday. Boating traffic is the heaviest yet encountered, with boats and jet skis zipping around, enjoying the perfect mid summer weather. As we near Canteen Creek, our planned destination, I soon realize that we’ll need to rethink things. A large group of Colville tribal members have set up group camp on a little flat at the cove entrance. A short way in, half a dozen boats of all types are bobbing around. Kids are climbing a rock on shore and leaping into the water. The party is on, and everyone seems to be having a great time. However, it’s not the type of scene we’ve grown accustomed to on this lake, so after a swing in to admire the little waterfall, we head right back out. I study the map and cross back and forth a couple of times, inspecting coves for a suitable place to spend the night. None measure up. Last on the list is Threemile Creek, and I can’t believe our good fortune. It’s perfect. Long enough to get us well off the main lake, wide enough to allow us to anchor and swing, and best yet, the only other boat here is a small power boat with a couple who are fishing. I drop anchor in 35 feet of water, relieved to have a good place to spend the remainder of the day. There’s enough time for a cooling swim, a bit of book reading while drying off, a dinghy ride ashore for an hour’s walk on the nearby dirt road, a quickly prepared pulled pork sandwich dinner, and a bit of dinghy trolling just before dark. Once again, we’ve packed the maximum into a day on Lake Roosevelt.

Boat traffic near Canteen Creek
Anchorage at Threemile Creek

Bathtub Falls and a herd of cows

Friday, July 17, 2020

Hall Creek to Nez Perce Creek

18 miles cruised today; 266 miles for the trip

Lake Roosevelt totem? (hint: turn head sideways)

It’s special breakfast morning, with the last of our two omelets, prepped and frozen at home, along our final five sausages, supported by toast and juice. What a fine way to start the day. I pull out of our secluded anchorage at 9:30am and we slowly motor

Bald eagle perched on one leg

down the twisting channel and into the main lake. I let out my kokanee trolling rig and try the edge of the shallow flat between Hall Creek and Stranger Creek, but the kokanee are still “no shows”. After a 45 minute effort I haul in and motor up. The lake is nearly dead calm, and the day warm. What little air movement we have is with us, so I can’t even make artificial wind with the outboard. The run down to Nez Perce Creek is uneventful. I head into the main Nez Perce inlet for our lunch stop. We’ve read about another nice

Hiking up to Bathtub Falls

waterfall here, so after lunch I row the dinghy up to where the creek comes in, and see a steep trail heading up the side slope. We can see a falls through the vegetation, and after a few tries, we manage to get close enough for a good view. I go a little further, and am able to stand at the top of the falls. It’s called Bathtub Falls, and the large pool at the top apparently gives it its name. The falls is a series of little cascades, and it’s well worth the effort of getting there. After getting our waterfall fix I row back toward where the boat is anchored. We’ve seen a dirt road on shore, which leads to

Bathtub Falls

a tribal members only campsite. We secure the dinghy and scramble up the bank, so we can go for a walk along the road. The road contours around the side hill, several hundred feet above the lake. It’s not one of our finer walks, with lots of scratchy knapweed growing in the road. However, the exercise is good and we do see some nice wildflowers along the way.

Crawdad parts on the bank, near the falls

Back on the boat, we motor the short distance to our little lagoon, where we spent the night and visited with tribal members on the way up. No one is around as we enter, however, Sandy is delighted to see that the local cow herd has come down for their daily drink. They’re bunched together near the water’s edge, munching grass. A pair of bulls halfheartedly butt heads, and a little calf troubles his mother for some milk. They eye us curiously. While the cattle entertain Sandy, I put my swim trunks on for a cooling afternoon dip. The water temperature is 68 degrees, and it’ really refreshing. When I climb back into the boat, Sandy has a rum and coke waiting for me. I read while she works on genealogy at the computer. Before long it’s dinner time, with barbqued pork chops on the menu. I spend the final hour of the day in the dinghy, trolling. I get several bites, and finally land a decent sized smallmouth bass. Added to the walleye I caught yesterday, we’ll have enough fish for a nice dinner when we get home.

Fritillary butterfly on thistle
Scarlet gillia, goldenrod, and yarrow
Sandy on the bow, Nez Perce Creek
Cows at Nez Perce Creek anchorage

Waterfall hike

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Colville River to Hall Creek (Inchilium)

16 miles cruised today; 248 for the trip

Anchored at Quillisacut Creek

A nearby flock of geese are awake and honking up a storm at 5am, and the racket continues for the better part of an hour before they sort things out and decide where to go. After they take flight, peace returns to our bay, and we sleep in until 8am. I pull the anchor around 9:30 and we head back toward the Colville River mouth for a little trolling. I am dragging a kokanee rig, in hopes of figuring them out. The kokanee have other ideas, however, and I get nary a bite. After one turn in and out, I reel in and motor up. We cruise a few miles down the east side of the lake, toward a place called Quillisacut Creek. Our new friends David and Suzanne, whom we met at Summer Island, told us about this pretty waterfall there, and we just can’t pass up seeing a waterfall. We arrive right at noon. We turn into the cove at the mouth of the creek, anchor, and have lunch before going on our waterfall hike. A dirt road leads up the draw, just above the creek. We can hear the falls from a short distance away, and we follow a worn path to a cool, refreshing viewpoint right at the base of the falls. The stream runs over boulders and drops about 15 feet. There’s just something about falling water that captivates. The walk to the falls is only about ¼ mile in length, so we decide to continue walking up the road. We gradually climb the hillside, through areas that have been selectively logged and thinned. At our turn around point we spot a whitetail doe and with her, interestingly, a mule deer buck in velvet. Both types of deer are known to live in this part of the state, and they do, on occasion, cross breed. It’s a long time till the rut, but who knows.

Waterfall at Quillisacut Creek

Just as we start walking back we get a cell call from our oldest son. We’re high enough up the hill to have good service. He wants to talk over plans for a family camping trip later in the summer. It’s great to hear from him. When we get back to the boat we see a power boat on the beach across the cove. They wave at us as we get into the dinghy and we recognize David and Suzanne and their little dog. They’re relaxing in folding chairs on the shady side of the cove. We row over to greet them. They’re delighted that we took their recommendation to see the falls. Like many people we meet when out cruising, we enjoy great conversation, and quickly get past preliminaries. Maybe we’ll cross paths again.

Mule deer buck in velvet

Time to move downlake. The wind has kicked up and it’s capping out from shore. This is the same stretch that we sailed up a few days ago. Now, that afternoon uplake wind is on our nose, so we bounce our way into it, with occasional waves splashing up to deck height when the bow hits them just right. A couple miles short of our goal for the day, I sight a cabin cruiser which is pulled up on shore, which simply doesn’t look right. In the binoculars I see that it’s at an odd angle, with the right stern corner awash. I alter course and pull in for a close look. It’s quickly apparent that this boat has been there for a considerable length of time. It’s tied to the bank, with a “no trespassing” sign on its stern. The canvass is in tatters, and there appears to be a hole in the hull. No emergency here, so we continue on.

New friends Dave and Suzanne

Halls Creek has a rather wide entrance, and it twists and turns its way for half a mile or so off the main lake. The mouth is flanked by steep chalk bluffs, but the geology changes once inside, and craggy metamorphic rock cliffs take over. The last turn opens up into a quiet pool, with steep timbered sides. I set the anchor in its center, and use my trip line rig for the first time on the cruise. I’m concerned about the bottom here (possible logs or rocks). After I shut the engine down, we can hear the faint tinkle of the inlet stream, a few hundred yards away. We barbque hamburgers for dinner, and then go for a dinghy ride, using the kicker motor. The motion of the dinghy puts a little breeze in our faces. The air is warm, still and humid, so this artificial breeze is most welcome. I bring my little spinning rod along and manage to catch a small 16 inch walleye. Walleye fillet is once again in our frig.

Derelict boat near Inchilium
Anchorage at the head of Hall Creek

Walleye at last

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Summer Island to Colville River

15 miles cruised today; 226 miles for the trip

Houseboat arriving at Summer Island

We sleep in till after 8 o’clock. When I step out into the cockpit it’s clear, calm and warm. This promises to be the warmest day of the trip. While we’re eating breakfast, one of those 60 foot houseboats out of Kettle Falls looms around the point and heads our way. There’s a nice landing shore right next to our dock, and they pull in. Moorage for them is simple. Dad goes ashore with a pair of 4 foot long spikes – they look like giant nails. He pounds them into the ground with a sledge hammer, at angles from the front corners of the houseboat. Bow and stern spring lines on each side go to their respective spikes, and they’re done. He slides a ramp out of the front and everyone on board can easily step ashore. It’s mom and dad plus a pair of teen age boys and a teen age girl. They seem to be having a good time.

First Lake Roosevelt walleye

As we prepare to depart, they worry that we’re leaving because of their arrival. We assure them that’s not the case. I rig up for walleye fishing, and we give the shelf out in front of camp a try, but no luck. I leave the rig out and we troll our way downlake, toward Kettle Falls. It’s a lovely, lazy day, with no hassles caused by biting fish to disturb our leisurely pace. Somewhere around Marcus I give up on the fishing and we increase speed. I take pains to follow the historic channel of the river when we go over the drowned Kettle Falls. Great boulders and drop offs show on the depth sounder, and it’s hard to not feel saddened that the great salmon runs which once leaped past the imposing barrier of Kettle Falls is no more.

Right at noon we put in at Kettle Falls Marina, to fill the gas tank, buy ice, and tend to a few other chores. I take on 10.3 gallons of gas, and calculate my mileage for the run up to Northport and back to be nearly 7 miles per gallon. That’s pretty amazing, considering the hard running into strong current. We submit to temptation and have lunch at their grill, complete with milkshakes. I dump trash and empty the liquid tank from the composting toilet, and we’re ready to go. We’re gassed, lunched, iced, trashed and urinated.

70 degree water at last

We plan on spending the night in one of the bays at the mouth of the Colville River, which is just around the corner from Kettle Falls. I thread a fresh worm onto my walleye rig and we troll our way into the Colville River. Almost immediately I get a strong bite, but the fish fails to get hooked. I let the line back out and continue trolling. Another bite, and this time the fish is on. I reel in a nice 17 inch walleye, just what we needed to go with the one I caught earlier. Perfect for a fish fry dinner. I land the fish with the new little net I bought at Keller Ferry at the start of the trip, clip it onto the stringer, and we fish our way around the next corner, to the head of navigation on the Colville River. I get one more bite before hauling the line in. Time to look for a place to spend the night. I head for a nice looking open bay, surrounded by grassy marsh, which I’d noticed on the way in. I could see picnic tables on shore, and a couple of trucks parked. This means that there is a road where we can go walking later, when it cools off. I lower the anchor and chain into the 5 foot deep water, again not bothering to give it a set. With this weather the chance of wind seems non existent, and I have great confidence in the Rochna. I looked down at it while securing the deck for the night, and it was lying right beneath the boat, with the chain lying loosely in the submerged grass.

Anchorage at mouth of Colville River

The afternoon is hot, right at 90 degrees, and water temp in this shallow bay is up to 70. It doesn’t take me long to slip in. It feels great, and I paddle around, sitting on my throw cushion, for 15 or 20 minutes. There’s still time to read, while Sandy takes a nap. It’s 5:30 and neither of us are hungry yet, so we row ashore and go for a walk. We find a trail and, to our surprise, it leads us to that park we walked out to a couple days ago, while staying at the marina. The mosquitoes are very pesky, though, so we return to the dinghy with a spring in our step. Dinner sounds good now. Sandy prepares an egg batter and dips our walleye fillets in it, then coats them with Panko. Lightly seasoned with onion sald and dill, fried in oil, they turn out golden. A few drops of lemon juice is the perfect touch. We keep things simple and light, accompanying the fish with sun chips, our version of fish and chips. Cups of chilled mandarin oranges completes the meal.

Walleye for dinner

Starting back downlake

Wednesday, July 14, 2020

Little Sheep Creek to Summer Island

26 miles cruised today; 211 miles for the trip

Looking upriver toward Steamboat Rock, limit of lake influence

From a few miles above Northport to its mouth just west of Ilwaco, the mighty Columbia flows for 750 miles across the height and length of Washington State. For all but 120 of those miles, the Columbia is a working river, impounded by 11 major dams which generate an incredible amount of hydroelectric energy. This storied river flows freely in just 3 sections. Below the first dam, Bonneville, the Columbia follows its natural course to the Pacific Ocean. The next freely flowing stretch is known as the Hanford Reach, nearly 50 miles of true river which was only saved from also being dammed up (the intended but never built Ben Franklin Dam) because of fears of elevated groundwater levels reaching contaminated nuclear storage areas at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The free flowing Hanford Reach is one of the most important and productive chinook salmon spawning areas remaining in the entire Columbia drainage, below Chief Joseph Dam. The last free flowing segment of the Columbia River in Washington State extends from the upper reach of Lake Roosevelt to Keenleyside Dam, just north of Castlegar BC, a distance of over 40 miles. When we raise the anchor to begin today’s run we peek around a small island, gazing beyond Steamboat Rock and Deadman’s Eddy, where this uppermost free stretch of the Columbia begins. Alas, the strength of the Columbia, even in mid-summer and well after the higher volumes of spring runoff, is beyond the prudent reach of our boat, so we simply gaze admiringly upriver and then swing out into the current, making an easy descent of the swift water which gave us such challenge yesterday. We’re on our way back down Lake Roosevelt and toward our starting point.

Summer Island wildflowers

I run the boat at under 2000 rpm and still make 8 miles per hour to start. Over the next couple of miles our speed drops, first to 7 and then to 6 mph. I decide to let out a fishing line, using a diver to get the line down 15 or 20 feet. I slow the engine to just over 1000 rpm, and we run a couple miles per hour faster than the current. The rig fishes well, however the fish aren’t impressed. After running too close to a shallow area I pull the line in and motor up, toward Summer Island, our day’s destination. We arrive around 2:30pm, and find an inviting dock and group of picnic tables at the downstream end of the island. A small boat is docked there, but the opposite side is open, so we land and tie up. The couple on shore are locals, out for a day on the water, and we enjoy visiting with

Wild turkey on Summer Island

them. We go for a walk up the island. It’s a nice walk with good views of the lake, some pretty wildflowers, and a large band of wild turkeys for interest, however there is no established path and we return with shoes and socks filled with cheat grass. After cleaning shoes I go for a brief dip in the chilly waters. Dinner features our second steak dinner of the trip, and thanks to our Engel freezer, the steaks have remained frozen for the entire time, until I took them out to thaw this morning. It’s completely calm out here as evening sets in. A couple of boats are way out in the middle of the lake, fishing. We can clearly hear the fishermen chatting at a distance of ½ mile. An eagle must have a nest nearby. We hear him chittering occasionally. Canadian geese and wild turkeys also add to the background music.

At the dock on Summer Island

Feeling the power of the Columbia

Monday, July 13, 2020

Kettle Falls Marina to Little Sheep Creek (above Northport)

34 miles cruised today; 185 miles for the trip

Railroad and highway bridges at Kettle Falls

This promises to be a special day. We’re going all the way up to Northport, where Lake Roosevelt transitions to the free flowing Columbia River. We eat a hearty breakfast of omelet and toast before heading out. Sky is a deep blue, with nary a cloud in sight. We swing out of the marina around 9:30 onto the glassy surface of Lake Roosevelt. We pass a few fishing boats as we approach the highway and railroad bridges. The railroad bridge is the lowest, at 45 feet vertical clearance. We should clear it by 8 feet. I’m always nervous going under bridges with clearance in this range. It looks like we’ll never make it. To be on the cautious side I slow the engine as we approach the span, and I swing into a shallow angle of approach, so that if our radio antenna or the top of the mast should touch, I can quickly veer off. Worries were uncalled for as we clear the bridge with, you guessed it, about 8 feet of clearance.

Waters narrow on Upper Lake Roosevelt

As we proceed uplake, the hills keep getting greener, with lush timber on both sides of the river and fascinating rock formations of various colors, including bright white. We conclude that the white formations are marble, and with a place name of Marble along the lake, and also evidence of quarrying, we’re sure we’re right. Poofy white clouds begin to appear, and they simply add to the quality of the panoramas which unfold as we make our way up. We have the water virtually to ourselves, and only see a few fishing boats in the vicinity of the 2 or 3 boat ramps along this stretch.

Scanning for wildlife
Approaching the narrows in strengthening current

We had noticed current while going under the bridges, and the strength of flow steadily increases with every mile. I’m running at 3000 rpm and most of the time only moving at 5.5 mph. A little while after lunch we reach China Bar and, above there, the current really gets strong. We’re definitely in an actively flowing river from here on. Just above Rattlesnake Creek the river dramatically pinches down, to less than half its previous width at the narrowest. It flows between steep rocky cliffs on both sides, and the current increases dramatically. The river boils and eddies, and I advance the throttle to nearly 4000 rpm. It’s like going against a full ebb at Deception Pass. I rapidly counter the lateral force of the eddies with sudden steering corrections. At times the boat threatens to turn sideways and I struggle to

Challenging whitewater on the Columbia

turn her back upstream. The boils rock us from side to side. Sandy goes below and puts her life jacket on. I’m already wearing mine. Our forward

progress is painfully slow. Despite the aggressive throttle, our forward speed drops, at times, to below 2 mph. Current here must be close to 10 mph. After a battle of 30 minutes, we get above the narrows and the waters smooth, and our speed begins to increase. We’re still in strong current

Halfway through the rapids

though, making around 5 mph at 3800 rpm. It seems like it takes forever for us to reach Northport, but we finally pass under the highway bridge at this little border town. I’ve got my eye on an interesting creek mouth, called Little Sheep Creek, which is less than a mile above Northport. It’s just around the next point on the left. However, I can see white water riffles coming off that point, and off to the right, another stretch of white water stands guard. Between these two shallow, rapid patches of water is a smooth but extremely fast flowing way through. I advance the throttle to 5000 rpm and start to fight my way through. About half way up the run I must turn to the left, to avoid being swept into the white water shoal on the right. I get into a good line, but before clearing the hazard zone I see 8 kayaks rounding the point of the island, setting up for a run down the rapids. I now must navigate the rushing water and, at the same time, avoid running a herd of kayaks down. I can’t imagine what they’re thinking as they witness a sailboat fighting its way up the swift water. They all pass securely on our left, getting a good bounce from our wake as they do. I can’t tell if they’re delighted with the additional challenge, or mad at me for throwing wake at them.

As they bob through the rapids we finally ease above the fast water and into a placid little bay, bounded by lush meadow grass. I drop anchor in the center, in about 5 feet. The bottom is hard and cobbly, however there is no current here, and the weather is fair. I let out 50 feet of rode and count on a scope of 10:1 to take care of us. It’s close to 4pm, so we decide to go walking on shore before the bugs get too bad. We row over to a little sloping bank, with an abandoned little house at its top. We climb up to it, but can find no good road

Abandoned cottage at Little Sheep Creek

or path through the lush vegetation which surrounds the structure. We retreat to the dinghy and row over to the meadow side. There we find an interesting dirt road which winds its way through the bottomland woods, toward the main highway. We turn around before getting to the highway. It’s just long enough to give our legs a good stretch. On the way back we encounter a local who’s out walking his dogs. He’s lived here much of his life, and his wife’s family homesteaded here and owns 2200 acres. He seems happy to be living here.

Colorful vetch

Back on the boat Sandy fixes up a stroganoff dinner, which we eat at the cockpit table. It’s a beautiful evening. Entertainment is provided by a beaver, who cruises by our boat twice, affording us good looks both times.

Resident beaver
Placid waters just off the main flow of the Columbia

Sailing breeze to Kettle Falls

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Nez Perce Creek to Kettle Falls

35 miles cruised today; 151 miles for the trip

Chalk cliffs, west shore of Lake Roosevelt

We both slept well last night, not awakening until after 8am, very unusual for us. This in spite of something thrashing in the water near the boat in the middle of the night. It woke us both. I grabbed the spotlight, expecting to see a deer or elk wading along the shore. All I could see was a wake on the water and occasional vigorous splashing. Nothing like a beaver’s behavior. This morning we both agree that our midnight visitor was most likely a group of otters, out for some nighttime fishing. I eat a quick oatmeal breakfast and then hop into the dinghy to see if the otters left any fish for me. I troll back and forth a couple of times with no strikes, so climb back aboard and make ready to depart. I keep my walleye rig in the water as we exit our little cove, and finally manage to hook a walleye but, alas, it is a mere baby and so I release it to swim another day.

Assist from a south wind

This is a traveling day. I’d initially planned on a short run to the vicinity of Inchilium, followed on the next day by an equally modest run to Kettle Falls. Instead, we’ll go all the way to Kettle Falls today, which will give us a bonus day on the upper waters. By lunch time a light breeze out of the south kicks up, so I pay out the jib. This breeze soon builds to a nice, steady wind of 15 to 18 mph, almost dead astern. I stabilize the jib with the whisker pole and we motor sail, averaging 7.5 mph at 2800 rpm. Above Inchilium the lake widens out and we enjoy a nice 11 mile long straight run. We’re in moderate whitecaps, with 2 to 3 foot seas. As the seas build I begin to notice cavitation with the prop from time to time. I attribute it to the following seas, and occasional strong steering corrections by the auto pilot when we get slewed off course. However, after seeing that my depth sounder loses the bottom I look down, over the stern, at the transducer. I discover that we’ve picked up a piece of driftwood. It’s been snagged by the port side rudder and has tipped the transducer up. It’s also likely responsible for that cavitation I’ve been noticing. I shift into neutral and raise the rudder. My hitchhiking stick immediately floats free. I reset the transducer with the boat hook and we’re back in business. Before throttling up, though, I glance at our speed on the GPS and see that we’re doing 5.5 mph just with the sail. The heck with motor sailing. I shut down the outboard, tilt it up, and enjoy the silence. We end up sailing with the jib for 15 to 20 miles, with only occasional help from the motor when our speed drops below 4. It’s a great run, and we reach the Kettle Falls Marina shortly after 3pm.

Rare sight – another sailboat

We tie up at the fuel dock to fill gas tanks, buy ice, and arrange for a night’s slip. We take on 18.4 gallons, which works out to 8.2 miles per gallon. This is very impressive, helped a lot by the sailing we were able to do today, and also aided by a fair amount of lower speed operation. The repair of those 2 burnt exhaust valves from last summer also played a big role.

In the process of tying up, we discover that we are “across the dock” neighbors with another MacGregor 26X. The owners are aboard, and we quickly get acquainted. Their boat was made same year as ours (2002), and being newer owners, they are very interested in seeing how we’ve got ours set up. Jim and Cara tell us they have new cockpit cushions on order from a local fabricator. I’m quite interested in seeing how theirs turn out, since ours are original equipment and definitely showing their age.

Scenic slip at Kettle Falls Marina

After squaring the boat away in the slip, we return to the store, which has a small grill. We order burgers, fries and drinks, and enjoy eating out for a change. After dinner we go for a nice hour long walk on an attractive trail which leads to a lovely community park. By the time we get back to the boat, our new friends have gone home, but they’ve left their card at our boat. Maybe we’ll see them again.

Uplake to scenic Nez Perce Creek

Saturday – July 11, 2020

Six Mile Creek to Nez Perce Creek

17 miles cruised today; 116 miles for the trip

Chalk cliffs near Nez Perce Creek

Beautiful, sunny morning. We change the breakfast routine of cereal by fixing up french toast and sausages. Yum. I try sailing off the anchor, but the wind is too variable, and the cove too narrow for it to work. With a little assist from the outboard, we jib sail in light air out of the cove, pausing for a little walleye trolling. Tug on rod, heavy pull. I know walleye are light biters and poor fighters, so figure I’ve finally got one one. I reel in a nice wad of twigs. Darn.

Entrance to backwater cove at Nez Perce Creek

We motor up and continue our passage up lake. The hills are beginning to show a little more green in the understory. Grasses aren’t yet completely cured out. Lots of sheer chalk bluffs along the eastern shore. We eat lunch while underway, and arrive in the vicinity of Nez Perce Creek around 1pm. This looked like a good place to spend a night when I was studying the map back at home. Attractive pair of coves, one fairly deep and straight, and the smaller one with an interesting, curved entrance. I head for the smaller one, and find a large houseboat beached at the mouth. However, the little cove hooks around, and there may be just enough swinging room in the inner bay. Sure enough, it’s a pretty, intimate place, very calm, and far enough in that we can’t see the houseboat. Lots of interesting birdlife, including several Lewis’s woodpeckers. I drop the anchor in the center of the pond, not bothering to set with the motor. I rely on the weight of anchor and chain, and the ability of the Rochna to reset, in the very unlikely event of a strong blow. This place is so protected, that we have little to be concerned with on that score.

Quiet backwater pool near Nez Perce Creek

I set up the reflective awning, which drapes over the boom. It provides excellent shade in the cockpit. We follow our now established pattern of relaxing with book and a nap, followed by a nice hour long walk. We are favored by a dirt road which starts at our pond and leads us up a gentle draw. It’s nice walking, with just enough shade to be comfortable. After returning to the boat, I put my swim suit on and go for a dip. Water temp is 66 degrees, and it feels very refreshing following our warm walk.

Scarlet gilia

While getting ready for dinner we hear the sound of chain saws and see a couple of guys cutting out deadfall along the little road we walked. I row over to chat. They’re tribal members, and they’re improving access to this spot. They use it as a camping place, and the fallen pines have made driving to the camp area difficult. I bring them a couple of cans of ice cold lemonade, which is appreciated. I learn that they have good luck fishing in this little pond. I give it a try after dinner. They have also grabbed rods, and they cast from shore while I fish from the dinghy. I have no luck casting plastic baits for bass, so switch to my walleye rig and try dragging it behind while I row. I catch a little walleye, my first. It’s only about 10 inches long, so I toss it back. Next fish is a bit bigger, around 15 inches, and I put him on the stringer. I hook a third, but it throws the hook close to the dinghy. I’ve finally broken through, and we now have two small fillets in the freezer. It would be nice to get 2 more. That would make for a nice fish fry.