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Monday June 27- Astoria, Columbia River Maritime Museum

My editor sent me 4 more articles to revise, so I was busy working again! I finished one early in the morning. I had a hair appointment at 10, so I headed into Seaside for the appointment. After having the same person do my hair for the past 25 years, it has been difficult to walk into new salons, when I need to have my hair done. I lucked out this time, it was a very nice place and reasonable priced.

I completed a second article revision, we ate lunch, and then went north to Astoria again. Our destination, after a quick stop at the bank and Post Office, was the Columbia River Maritime Museum. We were glad that we had saved this for today, as we woke up to a steady rain this morning, and it has rained all day.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum was very interesting.

Frommer’s lists it as the best museum in the state of Oregon. The museum was founded in 1962, and is the official Maritime Museum for the State of Oregon. The museum features interactive exhibits that combine history with cutting edge technology. We started with a movie titled “ The Great River of the West” about the Columbia River and the sandbar. The mouth of the Columbia River is known as “ The Graveyard of the Pacific” due to the high number of shipwrecks on the sandbar. The area is the meeting place of the Columbia River, which is the fourth largest river in the US, and has the greatest flow of any North American river flowing into the Pacific. All of this water flowing, at great speed, hits the incoming Pacific Ocean at the Columbia River sandbar. This violent meeting of the two large bodies of water, causes the sandbar to move constantly.  The worst time is in the winter, with the frequent cold winter storms.

Large, ocean ships are tossed around in this area, and easily run into the bar or the rocks along the ocean. All of the ships that cross the bar, are taken across by ‘bar pilots’. There are only 12 of them, and they make the decision as to when a ship may cross. They take a small boat out to board the ship, either in the river or the ocean. Returning to their boat is extremely hazardous. They climb down a rope ladder, then swing on a rope, onto their boat. A miss, and they could be injured or killed. Just watching it in the movie was fascinating. Once a ship is in the harbor, they turn the boat over to a ‘river pilot’ who then takes the ship through the treacherous river basin. Because the sandbar is high, and the ships are loaded with cargo, the ship’s clearance minimal. Without the ‘bar pilot’,  most of the ships would not make it into the river basin. One little mistake on the part of the ‘bar pilot’, and the ship/cargo are in real trouble!

There was a large exhibit on the Coast Guard. The Cape Disappointment Coast Guard station has the National Motor Lifeboat School, which is the top Coast Guard school in the country, possibly the world. The training is tough, but these Coast Guard personnel save about 600 people per year, just in this area. They showed some videos of the ships out, crossing the sandbar, and I would not want to do that job for all the money in the world! Many times there are 30ft. waves!

The museum had a lot of history of the maritime activities in the area. They also had a ‘tatoo’ exhibit, which was gross, but interesting. No pictures were allowed inside the museum. We were allowed to take pictures on the “Columbia”, a light ship. In front of the ship is a buoy.

Light ships are essentially a floating lighthouse designed to serve where a major aid to navigation is required, but where the depth of the water or other conditions make construction of a lighthouse impractical. The lightship remains anchored in one place to mark the entrance of an important river, dangerous reef or shoal. From 1892-1979, a lightship marked the entrance to the Columbia River. The ship is a small town, anchored 5 miles out at sea. In the winter, the crew might be out there for weeks without supplies, so they took a lot of supplies with them. One of the old lightships, in the late 1890’s lost its anchor, and ended up on the beach. They had to build a railway to push the ship back into the ocean. It worked, and with minor repairs, the ship was back at work. The crew on the light ship, was supposed to work 2 weeks, with one week off, but sometimes there are such bad storms, they are out there for a lot longer.  So this was a boring, but essential job!

We returned to the motor home. There was a happy hour scheduled for 4:30, but it was pouring rain!

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