When you read stories about the Columbia River Bar Pilots, there are usually descriptions of giant waves, boats rolling and near misses coming down the ladder. So I was a touch worried after saying yes to an assignment for 1859 : Oregon’s Magazine that would involve spending time on a vessel picking up and dropping off pilots as they help ships negotiate one of the most dangerous and deadliest bar crossings in the world.
Instead of a rough day at sea, however, things were calm. The Columbia River rolled peacefully past the town of Astoria. And the scary part, where the river meets the Pacific Ocean, had a gentle chop that gave the impression of a big lake. It did not feel like the notorious graveyard of two thousand ships.
My preconceived ideas of waves crashing over the front of the boat as we picked up a pilot evaporated. And in the end, that’s fine. It was another day of work for the pilots, a real day-in-the-life, business as usual. I now pay attention a bit more to the bar warnings that the Coast Guard posts. It’s been closed twice due to 20 to 30 foot swells twice in the past few weeks. Now that would have been a different set of pictures.
all content © Tim LaBarge 2010