Great Ambition, ELEVENTH year

This is the continuing story of our new life as River Rats on the Columbia River aboard our Trimaran Transporter houseboat we named Great Ambition.

If you want to see how we got here (and hints on how you can do it too) see Great Ambition, the beginning.

Click here to go back to our tenth year.

Twelve years ago we visited the Catamaran Cruisers factory with a crazy dream in mind: Living aboard a houseboat on the Columbia River. It was a long hard road, cleaning up and selling our house on land, downsizing to the bare minimum, and of course getting a job that didn't require travel. But it was worth it. We've now lived onboard for 11 years, and while it hasn't always been easy, it's lived up to our dreams. Now that we've been forced back to Oregon, we have a whole new life once again, and we are really loving it. It's a rough life, but somebody's got to live it!


We are filling in the "V" at the head of our slip. Many people on the marina do this, but we are trying to do it a bit different. I want to do a cantilever deck so that I can service the engines without having to float a boat in the "V".

The dock fill-in project is coming along nicely.

The dock fill-in project is done. Everyone who comes by says it looks like an arrow.

The cantilever feature will allow me to gain access to both sides of my Yamaha outboards for servicing.

A motorglider flew over Multnomah Channel. It sure is an elegant craft.

The water is up so I found my way into a lake alongside Mutnomah Channel. Here is this beautiful tree in the middle of this very shallow lake.

Sunrise. Notice that the sun is now north of that tree. It sure has moved a lot over the course of the year.

A Bald Eagle swooped in and caught a fish not far from us, then he turned back and flew right past us. In the following shots you can see the fish grasped in his talons.


I needed a cleat to add to our new deck to keep the boat centered in our slip to keep the engines from banging the dock. I found a used stainless steel cleat at Dike Marine Services and bolted it to the deck with stainless steel carriage bolts. I think it came out really nice!

Sunrise. Based on the cloud cover I almost didn't get up to catch this, but I took a chance and was richly rewarded.


Bobbette. Such a cute boat!

We went back to Kadow's to get our porch swing/glider. We had to disassemble the rusty bolts to fit it in the back of my van for transport to Sigler's Cove, but we did it without breaking anything or losing any bolts, washers or nuts. Now we have a nice patio on our new deck behind Great Ambition.

First good sunrise of June. Might end up with a lot of these.

A Bald Eagle checking the river for fish to eat for dinner.





The Yf decorated our long suffering glider/porch swing. It came our really nice!


Sunrise on June 15th. We are getting very close to Summer Solstice, so the sun is not going to move much further north than it is now. In a week we start the slow march back to the south, and that will be a sad thing!


A nice hot weekend brings out a constant parade of boats. Sitting on the front deck watching the parade is just so relaxing!

Waterskier at 7AM.

And she's back again the next day!

This is the closest we are going to get to a photo of the sunrise on the Summer Solstice. The sky was clouded over on the 21st, so now for the next six months the sunrise makes its way back South.

I finished the movie of the sunrises from January through the Summer Solstice.

Here is an interesting little houseboat. Aluminum pontoons, full length top, outboard motor.

Moon over Multnomah Channel, so beautiful.

Now that we are past the Summer Solstice, I'm not getting a shot of every sunrise, but if I'm up, I go ahead and catch it anyway. Here a Swallow got himself into the shot, just off to the right.

Another nice sunrise.

Someone's deck being moved. Who would built a concrete structure on a floating dock? Seems insane, and it puts this push in danger of being submerged or worse.

A hard cabin beats the crap out of a fabric dodger! Nice little boat!.

This house is getting moved, but I would not be happy with the front of the house being nearly submerged as it gets shoved upstream. The very first boat wake will cause the deck and probably the floor to get soaked. It should not have been pushed this way, but maybe the owners didn't have a choice. Pushing from this side would have meant pushing on the AC units, and that's not good either.

Sunrise July 1st.

Another house being pushed upstream. Once again, the front edge is barely above the water, one boat wake is all it will take to get the wall soaking wet.

Sunrise. This one was a challenge. I got out on the front deck and started shooting, but my camera didn't warn me that I had left the SD memory card in the house in my Mac. It must have some small amount of internal memory, because when I conntected it to USB I found the missing shots that could not possibly have made their way to the SD memory card. Lucky because in this shot a Swallow flew right into the frame as I squeezed the shutter.

Sunrise on the 4th of July. Really glad I got up for this one, WOW.

I found a cool new lighting product! LumenBasic 12V standard base 4.5 watt/470 lumen DC/AC LED light bulb. 470 lumens is equivelent to a 40 watt incadescent, so they are very bright for one tenth the power usage. I ordered Warm White but they also offer Day Light which is a cooler light. One of the really cool things about this light is that it works on 12 volt DC or AC, meaning that it's not polarity sensitive. Think about how lighting fixtures in boats and RVs might have been wired in the olden days. 12 volt incandescent bulbs are not polarity sensitive, so who knows how those fixtures were wired. But if you try to change to a polarity sensitive LED replacement, who knows what's going to happen! But these lights don't care which side is positive and which side is negative, they will take it either way!

And of course, the greatest thing about these lights (besides the color being perfect) is that they can be used in any standard base household lighting fixture. That means I'm not stuck with whatever West Marine tries to sell me, I can go to Home Depot, the local lighting shop, the hardware store, whatever and come home with a light that I like, wire it into my 12 volt system, screw in one of these LumenBasic LED lights, and still save electricity. This is a Westinghouse light I found online at Amazon, but any standard fixture will do! Just wire it to 12 volts instead of 120V and you are good to go!

A Bayliner 2452 Ciera Express mini-cruiser just like we used to have!

Very similar to ours, the only difference I could find is that we had a JRC Radar and they had a Garmin Radar and we had a Oceane anchor and they have a plow. They also have a BBQ on the stern and a kicker. A kicker is nice, you can always get home even if the main motor poops out on you.

Just before sunrise the sun is casting cloud shadows into the dawn sky.


A Catamaran Cruisers Lil Hobo loaded with people. Not sure I would cruise with all those people up top, with only an 8'6" beam, that boat can get pretty tippy with a load up top.

Slowly and sadly the sunrise is moving south. Winter is coming, albeit a long time from now, but of course now we have proof, we can't escape it!

Another Bayliner 2452 Ciera Express mini-cruiser!

A full load for Bobbette.


Bobbette again.

Sunrise. Boy, that is flat water!

My neighbors in the morning light.



A waterskiier behind a Jet Ski.

A floating home being moved in next door at Big Oak Marina.

A Paraplane flying over Sauvie Island in the twilight.


I re-topped the roof with Henry Tropicool roof coating. This stuff is amazing! It goes on like thick cream and then turns to silicone rubber in just a few hours. It's been three years and it was time to make a few repairs and give it a recoating, and now I am so pleased with it, I'll be carefree about the roof for the next 5 years!

A nice big catamaran! Wow!


A nice shot of our neighbors downstream.

A new floating home. I love the window layout!

While we can't see sunsets anymore, we often get the "fallout" from the sunsets. So beautiful!

The Moon!


A cool pontoon boat.


A rower enjoying the early morning flat water.

A nice looking pontoon boat. Am I wrong of are there more pontoon boats out there?

The Moon coming up over Multnomah Channel.

The Moon is getting really pretty.

Sunrise with a Swallow that found a way to get into the picture.

Our 7AM waterskier came by and I was ready.

A capture from Google Maps from last year with us in the slip. It's got some damn fine detail, pretty amazing from that altitude.

A sailboat with a Chinese Junk style rig.

The moon.

A nice ketch. What do you say when you fall off your ketch? "Yawl come back now, ya hear!"

The moon the next night.


The sunrise was pretty amazing this morning.

Our 7AM skier came by again.

A cool floatplane came by, but he was just crusing by, he never took flight.

A cool catamaran came by. Such a competent boat!

Twin anchors, a spade anchor and a Bruce anchor. It's nice to have a choice.

A nice boat, with a nice layout!

Sunrise with a little fog.

And a few minutes later you can see the fog wafting up off the water.


We see the coolest boats here. This is a hovercraft. A very intriguing vessel, even if it is impractical. Turning is the big problem, because it doesn't have a "grip" on the water, it doesn't make turns very well, it just yaws, and over time, eventually makes the turn. But if you are in a hurry to turn, you are screwed!

A reddish sunrise.

Smoke in the air colors the sunrise red. So pretty!

I can't get much of a shot of the sunrise with all this smoke in the sky, the photo has to wait till the sun is higher in the sky, but you can tell that the sun is moving southward.

Here I am resorting to shooting the sun while in the trees. Still, it's a beautiful shot.

The constant boat parade is endlessly entertaining. This boat puts styrofoam floats under floating homes. I love the name!

The Lil Hobo came by again. They like to come close and wave, since they know we are the only other Catamaran Cruiser in the channel. Notice that it looks like they lost their water heater cover on this side. Gotta get that fixed!

A nice full disk shot of the sun. That smoke is thick!

I got tired of the spring-driven bathroom fan timer switches that keep failing after a year, so I designed an electronic switch to replace it. You can buy electronic timers, but they require 120VAC to work, and this fan is 12V run off my house wide solar power system. The minium time is 2 minutes, the max time is 23 minutes, all adjustable by the knob. To trigger it, you hit the blue-lit button. At that time the blue LED will go out and the fan will start. That way it's always on so you can find it in the dark. When time is up, the fan will go off and the LED will light again.

This is actually an earlier version that used a different switch, but basically it's the same. I had to rebuild it once because I had to make modifications that eventually destroyed the circuit board.

It uses a standard LM555 timer chip in a mono-stable multivibrator configuration to drive a high power N-channel MOSFET, the same one I use for the watermaker pump switch. That way I only need to keep one kind of spare MOSFET on the boat. It works really well and it should last the rest of the boats life.

A nice shot of a seagull on top of our "speed bump" or no-wake bouy.

A neighbor took off from the marina so I caught a photo of him.

The sunrise has dropped back to the big tree across the channel. Last time it was there was back in April 20.

The smoke from the wildfires in Canada is really clogging up the sky. In case you can't tell, that's the Moon.

The sun rising the next day. Notice that I caught a Swallow in the disk of the sun in flight.

An hour later the sun is a little brighter, but I'm shooting this without a filter, which you normally can't do without burning up the camera.

A nice yacht with a nice name. Wet Dream is also the name of a comical song by Kip Addotta. "I was driving a rented Stingray in downtown Atlantis, and it was overheating. So I pulled into a Shell station, they said I'd blown a seal. I told him, 'Fix the damn thing and leave my private life out of it, OK pal?'"

Sunrise the next day yields a little brighter sun. You can see all the Swallows patrolling the sky for bugs to eat for breakfast.

Our 7AM waterskier came by and I was ready this time. She's really carving up the glass!

I love the thermostat I setup in the living room, so I came up with a way to do the same thing in the back room. I built a circuit in a perforated hobby box I got from It contains a high power AC solid state switch, a cooling fan and a 5 volt power supply to activate the switch whenever the Honeywell thermostat commands it to.

The thermostat is a standard 5-2 day Honeywell programmable thermostat. When the thermostat notes that it's time to turn on the heat, it flips a relay which is connected to the hobby box and that turns on the high power switch that turns on power to the internal fan and a space heater plugged into it. That way the temperature is remotely sensed from a draft free location on the wall instead of right on the heater. This will make the temperature more stable in the back room, mirroring what I have in the living room. That way the whole house will be warm in the day and cool enough to sleep at night.

Sunrise.The fog is starting to really come up in the morning.

Sunrise. The sun is really moving south now. Only a few weeks till Equinox, and it has a long way to go.

A neighbor came by on her Aqua Bike. A pretty cool unit, but pricey!

Several years ago my wife April creasted a joke graphic about me getting new speakers in our yacht, Arecales for Christmas. Kind of cute. You'll notice that the map shows Caterpillar Island including Vancouver Lake and the confluence with the Willamette.

The Moon just before sunup.


A ship heading out to sea named after my wife, April.

The moon the next day.


I had to make a short video to show how my new bathroom fan timer works. The blue LED is a great nightlight. It runs all the time that the fan isn't running, but it only consumes 1mA of current from my 500AH battery array so I think it will be fine. Push the lighted button to start the fan, adjust the timer knob as needed. If you need more time, push it again and it resets and starts again. When time is up, the light comes back on. Easy to find in the dark and unlike the mechanical spring wound timers, it should last forever.


The moon. It's soon to be new.

Our 7AM waterskier came by in the sunrise light. Beautiful!

Scapoose Oregon commemorates September 11th with a huge flag flown from a ladder truck.

Our Rocket Pump failed, again. The hand operated pump that we use for our drinking water is ubiquitous in boats, but has issues, like leaky pump lever seals, leaky diaphragm which reduces pumping effcieny over time, etc. I bought a new one as a spare, but I also bought one of these Chinese made electric pumps meant for pumping from a 5 gallon water jug. It's meant to fit over the neck of a standard water jug, but I built a stanchion from 1 1/2" PVC pipe fittings and it works really well!

We've seen this guy do a lot of taxiing, but he's never taken flight.

Sunrise. I don't have to get up as early to catch these as I had to in the early summer.

A nice shot of our neighbors through the fog.

The fog was a little thicker the next day.

A fisherman cruising by in the sunrise. Beautiful!

A comparison: Sunrise back in March 21st, the Spring Equinox.

And sunrise exactly 6 months later on the Autumn Equinox. It's hard to see because there were no leaves in the spring and there are now, and they are obsuring the sun, but it seems that the sun is rising in about the same place, as it should be.

Sunrise. Today I got my first of (hopefully) many Social Security checks! Auto-deposit of course! It's a good day!


A Bald Eagle catches a fish right off the front deck.

Our neighbors.


Our 7AM waterskier came by and I was ready.

And she came by again the next day!

A boat with an interesting name.

I did a favor for a neighbor. We did a double side-tow to get this sailboat into Jeff's slip from Happy Rock marina. Side tow is much better than pulling from the bow, and double side tow gives you ultimate control, kind of like driving a bulldozer.

A pair of Bald Eagles savoring a dead fish on the beach across from us.

I noticed a funny cloud formation and took some video. It turned out to be a funnel cloud! I posted it on YouTube and emailed the link to KPTV Channel 12. A few hours later, KGW, Channel 8 asked permission to use it.

That night KPTV Channel 12 and KGW Channel 8 both ran the story on their evening broadcast. Around 1AM, I got a message from KOIN Channel 6 asking for permission to use it, and I agreed right away (I keep my phone near my bed at night) so I assume they also ran the story. So I appeared on 3 different TV stations with this video. Pretty good huh?


Classic wooden boat.

Google Maps finally caught us at Sigler's Cove in Oregon.

A slightly tighter shot. Notice that just below the RADAR radome shadow on the roof are two dark spots. Those are holes I cut in the roof where there had been a leak from the RADAR cable. I pulled out the wet insulation and then put a pair of fans over the holes to blow hot dry air through the roof while the weather was in the 90s by day and 70s overnight. After a week of doing that, I replaced the insulation with new dry blown in insulation and glassed it over, then recoated the roof with Henry's Tropicool. Now all is well!

A nice boat with a nice name.

The Moon and Saturn. It's not a coincidence that they are close to each other, they are close to each other once a month because they share the same orbital eliptic, just like all the planets in the Solar System.


A cool little sailboat.

Bobbette in the fog.

I love fast boats, and this is a beauty.

I caught a jetliner flying past the Moon on its approach to PDX. It's hard to see, but it's just above the Moon.

The Moon rising over Multnomah Channel.

The Moon in the water.

Our view from the front deck.

A floating home being moved to a new slip.

Apparently the journey to the new slip is a boring endeavor.

A really interesting floation boat built on a pontoon boat base. Notice that it has extra foam floation underneath because the structure really sets the boat pretty low in the water.

Bald Eagle flying over Multnomah Channel.

Sunrise. Not many this time of year, the fog and clouds make a clear sunrise very rare.

We got a nice rainbow.

A boathouse being moved.

Sunrise in the fog.

A boat we call Big Ugly because it doesn't have a name. She gave me a toot when I waved, so they are alright.

Finally, a sunrise not cloaked in fog!

What is the Vancouver fireboat doing deep in Oregon waters?

A very tight shot of Venus. You can actually see that it's not just a point of light, you can see the dark limb of Venus (towards the upper right) is facing away from the sun, the lower left is facing the sun and lit very brightly.


Our waterskier came back! It's friggin' November!


A nice shot of Venus. You can clearly tell that it's a crescent facing the Sun towards the lower left.

A very nice sunrise.

I'm keeping track of where the sun is rising as we are just one month from Winter Solstice.

The sun rising.

The sunrise was decorated with crazy jet contrails that come from Seattle traffic control putting planes into holding patterns over Portland. We watched one plane go around 4 times and gave up counting. This is one reason I hate flying, once you get to the airport, you are as good as a prisoner until the moment you can finally get out of the airport.

It's been foggy for quite a while, but finally we got some clear weather!

A nice shot showing where the sun is rising.

I was checking for the Christmas Ships near PDX and found this cool image. It's the shadow of a jet taking off from PDX airport. I looked around, but couldn't find the plane. Chances are the image of the river and the images near the airport were taken at different times, but it does make a pretty picture!

Ice on the fuel tank box on the stern in Macro mode.

The sun peeking over Sauvie Island.

The sun is creeping up on the power pole.

Now that all the foliage is down, I can see Mount Hood off in the distance over Sauvie Island. The camera focuses on the trees instead of the mountain, maybe someday I'll try manual focus to try to clean up the image.


A bunch of Christmas Ships, by day and by night.

We got a great show from the Christmas Ships on Sunday night. They did a fantastic job! Thank you Christmas Shippers!

A Comorant resting on a new deadhead that showed up in front of the moorage.

I added white LED stip lighting to the blue dock lights I had before. This helps light our prefered entry on the stern deck for our guests. I love LEDs!

Sunrise. We are very close to winter solstice!

The Moon rising over Sauvie Island on Winter Solstice.

Mount Saint Helens on Christmas Eve.

A juvenile Bald Eagle on Wrestling (Boxing) Day.

A tree in silhouette.

A dog towing a skateboarder on Sauvie Island Road, about 1/8th of a mile away. How far is your house from the nearest road?

A junk floating home being pushed upstream. Can it be saved? Of course! It is still floating, so anything is possible.

A guy on the floating home. I think he's there to make sure they don't crash into anything, but he's busy playing with his phone.

Geese in the fading light.

Sunrise. The sun is moving north again, here comes summer!


Yep, the sun is moving north. It's been a mild winter, but I still want it to end!

The January 20th lunar eclipse started in the clouds, but after the peak, the clouds parted and I got some nice shots.

A pair of Bald Eagles in the tree across from our slip.

Here comes the sun! It sure has moved north.

Another nice sunrise. The sun has moved quite a bit north again!

And about a minute later, it's moved towards the south.

The Moon and Venus in the sky together. I was hoping the sky would be clear for this event and it was!

You can see how much the sunrise has moved to the north in this shot compared to the one a few back.

But of course from this vantage point, both sunrises look identical.


The waterfall on Highway 30 has roared to life since the heavy rain started.

The Moon rises above Sauvie Island.

Sunrise over the slough.

Bobbette pushing a barge in the fog.



Sunrise through the trees.


The Moon and Venus, again!

The Moon and Venus with a tree in the twilight.

The Moon all alone.

A Bald Eagle overlooking our moorage.

Sunrise through the trees. At this point, the sun is rising over Caterpillar Island, 5.28 miles away from us.



Sunrise through the trees. I love these shots!

Sunrise. It's nice to be able to see the sunrise after months of getting almost no sunrises!

A guy on Sauvie Island walks his dog with a skateboard. Here he is with Mount Saint Helens in the background.


An airboat coming down the channel. This is the least effcient boat made, but it's the only boat that could hope to ply the waters of Sturgeon Lake which averages just a few inches deep.


Sigler's Cove from across Multnomah Channel.

A floatplane from a nearby marina comes by. He has flown this plane, but sometimes he just likes taxiing. Basically the world's most expensive dinghy.

A pano of the slough from the front deck. Just a wonderful view, especially compared to our homes in Aloha or San Jose.

Daddy, Mommy and Baby turtles.

Closeup of baby turtle.

Sunrise one day before Equinox.

Bobette pushing a barge.

My Last Boat VII. I think this guy has trouble committing. I wonder how many wives he's had.

Sunrise on the Equinox.

Another floating home being moved. This is probably one of the floating homes that was burned in a recent fire at one of the local moorages.

The Moon rising over Sauvie Island.

Another burned out hulk from the fire at the moorage nearby.

Moon in the early morning sky.


We took a drive over to Vancouver and took Lil' Ambition out for a cruise, first one in over a year. Here we are at Southend. I do miss this place, but I don't miss the DNR threatening to deport us day after day.

Sunrise. The Sun has really moved north!

We bought a new deck swing/glider from Walmart. After two and a half weeks of shipping disasters, it finally showed up and we put it together in about 2 hours.

A nice sunrise.

April on the new glider.

The back folds down to make a bed, which is great for the grandkids.

The moon rising in the twilight sky.

Nice shot of Mount Saint Helens taken from our front deck. I removed the powerlines that cross in front of it, they don't look very nice.

Sunrise. I got up a little late, but still it came out pretty good!

One of our neighbors has his ducks in a row.

The sunrise. This morning is special, because...

...we finally left the slip after a year and a half. Our destination?

Coon Island!

Here is our view from the front deck.

Great Ambition taken from Coon Island.

The south meadow in the center of Coon Island.

My favorite picnic spot on Coon Island.

Sunrise from Coon Island.

Great Ambition at the east side docks on Coon Island.

There are lots of fisherman here at Coon Island, and sometimes they catch salmon!

"A wonderful bird is the pelican.
His mouth can hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week.
I'm darned if I know how the helican."

Coon Island is swarming with Bald Eagles.

And a few Golden Eagles.

And... we're back! Happy to be back in the slip for a while where we can once again capture beautiful sunrises like this.

The waning Moon.


The road to our marina coming down from Highway 30. I love having those hills right behind our house!



A little later we have super nice sparkles on the water. I love the view here!


Geese and goslings for this year. We don't get as personal with these guys as we did at Kadows. But that's OK, my 90 power zoom brings them right to you anyway, even half a river away.

Just a minute before the sunrise. Beautiful!

And a minute later...


This sure beats the depths of winter when we went weeks without a visible sunrise!



Bobbette, the cutest boat on the river.