Launched and underway

First day’s destination

Monday, July 6, 2020

Departure day, at anchor near Hell Gate Canyon

5 miles cruised

Not quite 7am and we’re in the truck, easing down the driveway, boat in tow. Beautiful sunny day, and the extended 10 day forecast for Lake Roosevelt is my favorite: sunny and pleasant. Hope that forecast holds. It’s a 2 + hour drive, down the Wenatchee River Valley, then up the Columbia’s east side to Orondo, next pulling up the long, curvy, uphill Pine Canyon grade to Waterville on US Highway 2. We then travel eastward, across the rolling wheatfield country of the Waterville Plateau, crossing Moses Coulee, passing Banks Lake, which is a key part of the great Columbia Basin Irrigation project, it being filled with Columbia River water, pumped up by the great turbines of the Grand Coulee Dam. About 18 miles beyond Banks Lake we reach the town of Wilbur, where we turn north, toward Keller Ferry, at Lake Roosevelt. The final 3 miles of this drive is extremely steep and twisted, with several switchback turns posted at 15 mph. The blue expanse of Lake Roosevelt is in clear view during this descent.

We reach the boat ramp parking by 9:30 and begin the work of rigging the boat. Despite the fact that I’ve rigged the boat a hundred or more times, I’ve never yet done it perfectly. I come really close today, and get the mast raised, boom installed, and all gear set up, even launch and tie to the dock. It’s only when I start the engine and turn the GPS on that I realize I’ve forgotten to lower the transducer. It’s really long, so I stow it in the upright position, but it doesn’t work a darn in measuring depth when pointed parallel to the water’s surface. This oversight is easily corrected, and shortly after noon we’re underway. Sandy has prepared lunch in advance, so we enjoy our first meal aboard while lazily motoring up Lake Roosevelt.

All is not perfectly well, however. Before leaving the dock I tried to lower the centerboard and, to my consternation, it refused to drop. Stuck tight. Ironically, this problem has been a topic of the MacGregor internet forum just last week, and I’d even offered a post of how this had happened to me once before, while cruising on a large lake in the British Columbia interior. That time I got under the boat with my shorty wet suit, face mask, and weight belt and, using a chunk of moose antler I found on the beach, managed to pry it free. It seems that good old Chinook was eavesdropping on this exchange, and decided to replay that trick.

We pick out an inviting cove about 5 miles uplake from the ramp and drop anchor. I tie a long line to the stern of the boat and dinghy ashore. While Sandy pays out anchor rode, I pull on the stern line, and secure the boat in 3 feet of water, just off the shore. No moose antlers around here, so I grab a piece of steel rebar which I keep on board for knocking the bottom out of wine bottles when we’re out in deep salt water. Bottle sinks to the bottom and provides habitat for crabs and such. Right now, my rebar is ideal for popping the centerboard free, and after going under a couple of times, I find the hole in the end of the board and pop it free. It took very little persuasion, but I’ll be careful to not slam it up hard, just in case some debris has found its way up into the trunk.

Ready to pry centerboard loose

Since I’m already in the water, Sandy decides to come ashore and we go on a walk/wade along the shoreline. Lots of interesting driftwood, curious items such as oyster shells, and way too much plastic. Even here.

The evening brings an challenge to my attention. Stove lights right up and is cooking away, but abruptly quits. I don’t know what to think about the stove. I’ll give it a try in the morning and see what happens. And to think, just 2 weeks ago we went out on a 4 day shakedown cruise and everything worked perfectly.

After dinner we watch 4 deer browse their way across the little island which gives our anchorage its protection. After munching away for a while, they wade out into the water and swim to the mainland. This place feels very different from our usual Salish Sea cruising grounds. No tide, no currents, very different birds, very different boats. Instead of cruising sailboats and large motor yachts, here we have aluminum fishing boats, pontoon party boats, speed boats and jet skis. The traffic is fairly light. Most are intent on playing highly amplified music on their sound systems. Music of amazing clarity and volume travels across the water. Fortunately they tend to stay well out in the lake, and don’t linger for long. The long twilight has finally given way to darkness. It’s very quiet and peaceful here.

Swimming back to the mainland

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