Wednesday, May 18, 2011

200 years for Astoria

Astoria, Oregon, is celebrating its 200th anniversary. That is a very long time for the West Coast; it was founded by fur traders of John Jacob Astor's Northwest Company.

We just got back from two days in Astoria; did the same thing last spring. We like it. It is a working port city. But not the normal kind of port where they are loading and unloading ships all day and night. While Astoria has some of that activity, it is more the enroute traffic on the Columbia River.

Ships pass by. And, even though the river is almost 4 miles wide, the dredged channel is near the shore of downtown Astoria. So dinner in a waterfront restaurant comes with entertainment. Empty ships sit at anchor, waiting for the time their grain cargo is ready upstream in Kalama, Washington, Cathlamet and Portland, Oregon. It's grain that comes down the Columbia from Eastern Washington and Oregon and points farther east on barges.

And the pilots go to board ships and return. There are two sets of pilots: one for the Columbia River upstream and another for the Columbia River bar - which is far more challenging; it is known as "the Graveyard of the Pacific." When a huge ship is traveling at 15 knots (about 16.5 mph) they don't want to stop. So the boat that shuttles the pilots comes alongside as the ship continues steaming and the pilot grabs a rope to swing to the ship and get on its ladder. And these very experienced pilots are in the gray-hair set, not young men.

More at KATU TV Portland.

The photos: California sea lions take over floats at West Mooring Basin, east of downtown - my photo. Second: Astoria in 1868 Harpers Weekly magazine from Wikimedia Commons.

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