Annual July 4th St. Helens Sail

Dan's picture

Proposed Dates: 

Thursday, July 2, 2015 to Sunday, July 5, 2015


Columbia River

Trip Plan: 

This is only to get the ball rolling for discussing this year's annual July 4th sail on the Columbia River.  I have designated 4 days for this event this year but other sailors may want to shorten or lengthen the time of their participation as desired.

Last year we launched at Ridgefield, WA and did not venture far from St. Helens.  This year Tom made the suggestion that we launch from Longview, WA and do the upstream slog on our way to St. Helens instead of on our way home.  He is looking into marinas and parking in the Longview area.  Any other ideas are quite welcome!

If you plan on joining the fun, please use the "Add my name as a participant of this event" link below the event description.  (You must be logged in to see this link.)  Leave comments when you have something to add to the discussion.

Please consider joining the event, this is bound to be a fun one!



Whether there is another

Beatrix's picture

Whether there is another launch ramp closer to Longview on the WA side, I don't know, but I am aware of one downstream of there, west & north, at Willow Grove Park. From there to St. Helens might be a 4 to 5 (6?) hour sail with good wind; longer without, and definitely a ways if you need to motor. Or, the ramp at Kalama would be an easy 2 to 3 hour sail if the wind is good. If you launch the day before, and stay overnight somewhere on the way to St. Helens, that'd be fine.

For Oregon sailors, there is a ramp at Rainier, though you may ask if anyone has input on how safe your vehicle is when left unattended there. Goble, OR has a launch ramp I've never used, but that'd be even closer. Closer to St. Helens, the ramp at St. Helens Marina is BAD NEWS! At times of the year, the water is too shallow to get your daggerboard/keel down soon enough to steer away from the ramp dock with the ugly steel hinge on the end waiting to scrape along your hull as you attempt turning into the wind from one direction as the current pulls you another way, all with your daggerboard up. They're nice folk that run the marina, and the store at the gas dock is great, but the launch ramp is better suited for fishing boats.

Scappoose Bay Marina, close to Warren, OR and only a 30 to 40 minute motor trip to St. Helens is far nicer for launching. Note the power lines crossing the parking lot further away from the ramp - the lot near the ramp is fine, but the further away you park, check for power lines. It's one $5 in/out fee, PLUS $3/day your towing rig is parked there, credit cards accepted. If anyone puts in at Scappoose Bay and is interested, another trip you can take after returning from St. Helens is on up the Multnomah Channel to Coon Island. Search Google for "jj collins marine park". It has free docks on both sides of the island. Before that, downstream, is a dock (with no land access) up the Gilbert River, but that'll probably be full over the July 4th weekend.

Enough information, or too much, ehh? Thank you, Dan, for getting the ball rolling, and Tom for your research. Let me know if I can help with anything.

Thanks Mark and Ruth!  That's

Dan's picture

Thanks Mark and Ruth!  That's very good input.  I will second your report on the ramp at St. Helens, I had a terrible time getting even my P15 out of the water because it was so shallow.  The ramp at Scappoose Bay Marina is quite nice, and yes, watch out for those power lines.  I have stayed at Coon Island both via kayak and sailboat, and both times the mosquitoes were hellacious, so be forewarned.

I really like the idea of starting downstream this year and then doing the upstream slog on the day(s) preceeding the fireworks at St. Helens instead of after the fireworks as we have always done in the past, and my concerns are limited to the condition of the launch ramp and the security of the vehicles wherever we put in.  I don't mind the slow motoring upstream if that becomes part of the plan. 

I'm a new Potter 15 owner

ChrisB's picture

I'm a new Potter 15 owner (purchased it in January), so I'm a greenhorn to this forum.  The 2014 4th July weekend, I launched my Hobie TI from Goble OR, and tent camped on Goat Island.  I felt secure with leaving my car/trailer at the Goble Marina, but there was an overhead power line which prevented me from stepping the mast until I was in the water.  There are some really nice anchorage/beaches between Longview and St Helens, the downstream end of Goat Island being one of the best.

Thanks for the info ChrisB,

Dan's picture

Thanks for the info ChrisB, and welcome to the group!  I had to look on a map to find Goble OR, that's a new for me.  Having to step a mast in the water for a P15 might be doable, but I would suspect a major pain for a P19.  Goat Island is a good suggestion for a possible overnight on the way from Longview to St. Helens.  Martin Pond is also close to Goat Island, but land access on Martin Island is forbidden so we'd be boat bound at Martin Pond, whereas we could potentially beach on Goat Island.

Hello to all! I am new to the

philmartindale0897's picture

Hello to all! I am new to the potter crew but am interested in participating in the 4th of july sail. I have not spent much time in the longview area or st. helens area on the columbia. I don't have any suggestions on overnights but I would love to participate!

Welcome Phil, thanks for

Dan's picture

Welcome Phil, thanks for joining the group.  Looking forward to having you participate on the July 4th sail.  So far the discussion has been leaning toward launching at Kamas, WA, but nothing has been nailed down yet.  And, of course you could launch anywhere you prefer and rendezvous with us later at some other point on the river.  Looks like we may have a larger group doing the event this year than we have had in the past couple of years.  Cool!

I currently have a 2hp

philmartindale0897's picture

I currently have a 2hp mariner outboard and have not yet used it on the Columbia. Is 2hp enough for the p15's with the current of the Columbia?

I'm not familiar with the

Dan's picture

I'm not familiar with the "mariner outboard" 2hp but Jim Ferguson and I both have the Honda 2hp on our P15's and we have used them quite successfully on the Columbia for many trips.  I never run it at full tilt (unless in panic mode) and can travel upstream at a pleasant speed.

Excellent to hear! I think it

philmartindale0897's picture

Excellent to hear! I think it was made by yamaha at the time. It's from the 80's and is lightly used. 

Hi folks, I am new to the

Stargazer's picture

Hi folks, I am new to the Potter crew, just bought an older P-14  hull #547 in Portland Tuesday 26th! I would love to attend the July 4th shindig but I am extremely rusty on sailing. I have crewed many times but lack the actual sailing skills to captain my own boat. If I did make the trip(from Bend) would there be anyone available to help out an old fart relearn? I guess I could get an outboard and putt around, it would still be boating. :>) Thanks for having such a nice group.


Hi Allan, I just saw your

Dan's picture

Hi Allan, I just saw your comment.  We'd love to have you join us and I'm sure you will learn a lot as I do every year.  The wind tends to pick up quite a bit in the afternoons on the river and I usually resort to the motor sooner than some of the other guys in the group since I'm basically a chicken.  Keep checking back to these comments because that's where we will finalize some of the details of the event.  So far it seems like launching from Kalama is the favorite idea, not sure if we're talking Thursday or Friday.  I plan on launching somewhere Thursday for a 4-day sail.

I hope you have had a chance to get your new boat in the water!

I have fine tuned my weekend

philmartindale0897's picture

I have fine tuned my weekend and am going to end up leaving on Friday morning from Kalama. Where in St. Helens is everyone planning on staying? I have prepped to stay on the boat or to camp. I was on a larger sailboat a few years back and we tied up at the marina. We were only there for a few hours though. I have been out on the Columbia with shark week a few times and I am really enjoying how the potter sails. For learning on a keelboat, I am very impressed with how stable the potter is. Really looking forward to the trip!

Phil, OK on launching from

Dan's picture

Phil, OK on launching from Kalama Friday morning.  I haven't heard from the other participants as to when and where they will be launching.  I'm still cogitating on where and when I'm launching.  I have an extra day (Thursday) so I may end up launching at Kalama Thursday and spending the night there.

As far as St. Helens goes, the free public docks are immediately below the big courthouse and that's where we have stayed in the past.  These docks tend to get pretty full before the fireworks on the 4th but I think if we get there on Friday the 3rd we should be able to find enough dock space for everyone.  One year Jim Ferguson and I rafted up to make room for others.

Here's an aerial shot of the St Helens area, with a red arrow pointing to the docks I'm talking about:

St. Helens Area

What is everyone else planning?

Hey Dan! I have Thursday off

philmartindale0897's picture

Hey Dan! I have Thursday off as well and was planning on heading to Kalama then. I found out this weekend my first mate will not be available until Friday. If I'm not the only one there on Thursday I would be up for some single hand practice, stay the night and wait for my buddy on Friday. I am familiar with the docks you pointed out in St. Helens. hopefully we will all find room. Looking at the aerial view, I realize that's where we stayed on the Pearson 39 for a few hours on the way back to Portland.

Very good Phil, I will look

Dan's picture

Very good Phil, I will look for you on Thursday.  Not exactly sure when I will get there, could be late afternoon.

I was out last Sunday with my

philmartindale0897's picture

I was out last Sunday with my dad and found a broken leaf spring on my trailer. Two new ones for 60 bucks and they are going on tomorrow. Talk about last minute.

Here's the response I

Dan's picture

Here's the response I received from the harbormaster at Kalama:

Good Afternoon Dan,

Our overnight fees are listed at the bottom of our current rate sheet under the Recreation part of the website:

Boats 31 feet long and under are $8 per night at the guest dock.  The guest dock is about 120 to 140 feet long of usable space.  It is a first come, first served dock as we do not take reservations for it.  I would caution you that we have some very low water this year due to the low river levels already, only 4-6 feet of draft in the area around the guest dock from the latest depth survey we had done.  There are no fees for parking or launching at the ramp.  For overnight parking please come to our new office building and get one of the parking passes (also free) for each vehicle.  We don’t allow camping or sleeping in vehicles overnight, but on the boat is fine with no usage of heads on the boat.  Parking does fill up very quickly, especially on weekends this time of year, so the earlier the better to arrive here.  The boat ramp can be quite busy too in the mornings. 

I hope this is helpful information and what you needed.  If not please feel free to email me back with anything else.

Thank you for your interest in the marina,

Erik Swenningson

Facility Safety & Security Officer

I'm planning on launching at

ChrisB's picture

I'm planning on launching at Kalama Thursday afternoon, and I'll pull-out Sunday afternoon, depending on the wind.  I'd like to sail to goat island (about half-way to saint Helens) and drop anchor for Thurs night, and wait until the rest reach this point (Friday).  Looking forward to it, the forecast is for a 8-10mph wind from the NW Smile

Is there a vhf channel to stay tuned too ?

Chris, that sounds like a

Dan's picture

Chris, that sounds like a wonderful plan.  (There is also anchorage at the Martin Island Pond just across the river from Goat Island, but I suspect you know about that.) 

We've used vhf hannel 68 to communicate in the past, how does that sound to everyone?

I will most likely get to

philmartindale0897's picture

I will most likely get to kalama early evening tomorrow. I was going to tie up at the dock and wait for my buddy to arrive on friday. What time is everyone wanting to get into St. Helens on friday? Thank you Dan for getting ahold of the harbormaster about the fees. 

Pancake feed in front of Old

Beatrix's picture

Pancake feed in front of Old Courthouse Saturday morning 7/4.  All, a friend of mine is working on a pancake feed to benefit a local St. Helens veterans program.  It starts at 8:00am in front of the old courthouse.  and includes: pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs and coffee for $7.00 .

Pardon the commercial plug, but it does benefit veterans.

Thanks for the heads up on

Dan's picture

Thanks for the heads up on breakfast! I'll be there. 

Great downwind sail today, wind in the teens, lots of wave action. Jim, Tom and I are safe at the St Helens public docks.  I can see Phil beached on Sand Island across the water, and I heard from Chris that he is anchored on the other side of the island. Hopefully we'll all get together sometime tomorrow. .