Great Ambition, TWELFTH 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 eleventh year.


Sunrise on the 12th anniversary of Great Ambition!

A tight shot of the sunrise showing that it has crossed the gap in the trees and is now rising in the next tree on the opposite shore.

I got a text from my buddy Barry from my days at Maxim. He was on a yacht making a circumnavigation of Sauvie Island and said he would be passing by us soon. And here he is!

Sunrise in the first day of our 13th year.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

We see this boat once in a while, she's named the same as a relative of mine, sister-in-law of a cousin. She sure is a pretty boat.

We are leaving Sigler's Cove for an extended stay at Caterpillar Island!

And here we are anchored at Southend! It's been a while!

The geese remember us! They brought us their goslings so we could feed them.

A bigger bunch.

A cutie pie.

A much younger cutie pie.

A doe and young buck on the island.

They decided to swim to the Washington shore.

A kiteboarder going out of Frenchman's Bar.

Bald Eagles nearby our boat.

A nice Wood Duck shot.

Another deer swimming across the channel.

A Beaver comes out every night, but he is hard to get because of the low light level.

Another Bald Eagle.

Me on plane in my dinghy.

Great Ambition and Lil' Ambition on anchor at Southend. We love it here!

A Sternwheeler.

A Goldfinch perched near us.

The ship American Song.

The military test boat out for another test ride. This is the one that got me a call from the FBI when I posted a video of it in the river.

A nice shot off the front deck.

The Chinese junk we used to see all the time. But now we know they guy who helped build this boat!

The ship American Song coming back downstream.

A really nice shot of a Bald Eagle.

The dredge ship Essayons.

A nice shot of the sun in a tree near sunset.

Sunrise from Southend.

As we prepare to go back home we have to put away Lil' Ambition, so I'm driving it and the Yf is getting some practice with the dinghy.

I don't know what this was all about! This fawn was chasing this goose for quite a while. It took me a while to get the camera, so this had gone on for several minutes before this! Crazy!

An interesting car carrier. I like the name, DAT ship over there!

A nice Bald Eagle shot.

A nice shot of us at Southend.

Sunrise back home.

A nice tunnel hull boat coming by. I always loved this style although I have never been in one.

A nice sailboat going by. This one has a very high bow and a canoe back, so I suspect it's fast and seaworthy.

I try to get these when I can, a plane going past the moon.

Our first swim from the front deck. It was 98F in Portland, but just 91F here on the river. I'm using a new camera mount I fashioned from scraps of wood to get the camera closer to the water.

Sunrise June 12th, just 9 days till Summer Solstice!

Sunrise June 13th, just 8 days till Summer Solstice!

Ever since we got Great Ambition we've had a problem with the Onan 4KW genset. It was balky, randomly hard to start, and sometimes it would run well. Other times, it wouldn't start at all A few years ago I realized that it needed at least half a tank of gas in the starboard fuel tank to even start. But that is crazy! It has a fuel pump, why can't it run the tank dry? Because, as the manual points out, the fuel must be higher than the fuel pump, and the genset sits on a rack above the deck. So, I came up with a solution. I bought an $8 fuel pump and built a circuit with an IRFB3034 N channel MOSFET to drive it. I mounted the fuel pump on the floor and I drove the MOSFET from the Hourmeter signal that goes back to the remote control panel at the helm station. Now, whenever I prime, or run the generator, the aux fuel pump comes on and sucks the tank from the same level as the bottom of the tank, then pumps it up to the fuel pump in the Onan, yet doesn't overpower it and flood the carburetor. It's a brilliant solution! In this picture you can see the fuel pump, the water separating fuel filter and the circuit board (in the background) that drives the fuel pump. Pretty clever, and now the generator starts and runs great no matter what the fuel level is.

Another sunrise.

A pair of neighbors with Aqua Bikes. They keep asking me to buy one, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet.

The full Moon.

The sunrise on June 18th. A special day, because this morning we leave for Caterpillar Island again!

Now we are underway to Caterpillar Island. Things are going well so far!

And here we are at Southend!

A nice Bald Eagle shot right off the back deck.

A pair of Bald Eagles on the beach. The ugly one is a juvenille.

Another juvenille Bald Eagle on the beach.

The Bald Eagles were attracted by a cardboard box that washed up on the beach. One of them even landed on the box, so after they left I went over and took a look. It was a box full of empty aluminum bottles.

One of the bottles I found. They are aluminum bottles that were filled with Aluminum Phosphide, a fumigant insecticide that is a very, very dangerous chemical. Luckily they were empty, and were partially rinsed out from their time in the river. But they are pretty nasty, and they need to be recycled, they certainly have no business on the beach.

A huge car carrier going back out to the ocean to continue disgorging Korean cars in various US ports. Notice the couple walking the beach from Frenchman's Bar.

Some deer came out of the woods to browse on the beach. Interestingly, there was a head of lettuce on the beach that was lost from a ship loading groceries, but the deer never found it. They just don't know what lettuce is for, they have no idea it can be eaten.

Another nice shot of the deer. Notice the start of horns on one of them, yep, that's a young buck.

While the deer were walking around we were watching the TV show Sledge Hammer, so I had to get this shot of the deer walking around on the shoreline behind the TV. If we don't move around too much, they can't see us through the one-way glass windows.

A Bald Eagle in the tree right off our back deck.

This is a boat we thought about buying at one time. She was a car ferry named Paddlefish. It used to have a paddlewheel propulsion system, but we knew that wasn't going to work out, plus where do you park it? It was anchored in Lake River near Ridgefield for years, but then the Columbia River Yacht Club bought it and renovated it. It's now their floating party barge for all their outings.

And here you can see how the repowered it, with Yamaha outboards. The same outboards we use on our boat. Pretty clever!

Another, or maybe the same Bald Eagle just a few hours later. The eagles love this part of the river.

A juvenile Bald Eagle finds a fish in the river and hauls it up the to beach...

...takes a bite...

...and apparently decides it's a bit too rancid for his taste.

A pair of Bald Eagles flying over the boat. Amazing!

A pair of Bald Eagles in the tree behind our house. They sure like that branch up there.

Three cute little Otter babies swimming around with Mom. She's a little upset they came so close to my boat with me there filming them, but what's to worry?

A little later Mom catches them a carp to share and these formerly cute little creatures turn vicious as they consume the carp as fast as possible.

The Columbia River Yacht Club's Paddlefish, heading back to Portland after a weekend party.

As I mentioned above, they repowered Paddlefish from the paddlewheels to Yamaha 200HP engines. About twice the power of our engines.

A car carrier headed up to Portland to disgorge its load of cars.

The tug boat Maverick. Many years ago we helped Maverick rescue a jet skier who was in trouble. We still have the monkey fist from Maverick left on the jet ski.

A nice shot of a Bald Eagle in the tree behind our house.

An Osprey with a fish.

Sunrise at Caterpillar Island. Tomorrow we leave for home.

Maverick again! That's one busy tug.

I was walking the beach and scared off this pair of Bald Eagles from the beach, so they took refuge in a tree further down the beach. The one on the left is the female, the one on the right taking flight is a male. How do I know this? Before he took flight, I noticed that the one on the right was smaller than the one on the left. Males are about 30% smaller than females.

A Bald Eagle in flight. Beautiful!

The Tidewater tug Deschutes pushing a Shaver tug downstream. Perhaps they both need to be somewhere and the Shaver tug bridge is too low to see over the bridge of the Deschutes.

American Empress.

Sunrise from Sigler's Cove. The weather was threatening to go nasty on us, so we came home. What's that saying, Red sky in morning, sailor take warning?

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Our 7AM waterskier is out again. Hi Lori!

Sunrise.

And...she's back!

We finally found a slip for Lil' Ambition on this side of the river. We are keeping it at Big Oak marina which is just upstream of Sigler's Cove, so it's a short walk or short dinghy ride to get to her. It's a little more expensive here than in Vancouver, but since Washington DNR is about to force all Oregon tagged boats to undergo Washington state registration (and get sales-taxed!) it was time to get out!

We took our first drift down Multnomah Channel aboard Lil' Ambition. First, a shot of Great Ambition at Sigler's Cove.

A long shot of our home.

Floating home for sale! Come be our neighbor!

Casselman's marina. A nice place to live!

Coming back home. She sure loves driving this boat!

Sunrise on the 4th of July.

They had the Foot Traffic Flat marathon on Sauvie Island on the morning of the 4th of July. One brave woman carried an American flag the whole way. What a trooper!

A pirate ship on the 4th of July!

Our "7AM waterskier" that we see almost every summer day.

We took a drift down Multnomah Channel by first going up to Fort William Bend. There we saw another skier trying to get up. This was an interesting learning experience for this gal.

We took a cuise in Lil' Ambition down to Coon Island, only about 5 miles from our house. Despite being the Sunday after the 4th of July, there is not a soul here!

We took a nice walk on Coon Island. I love it here.

We took another drift down Multnomah Channel by first going up to Fort William Bend. On our way home we went past Rocky Pointe Marina and captured this video of some of the homes there.

Sunrise. Got lucky with this one!

Our 7AM waterskier is out even though it's raining!

A Golden Eagle.

Sunrise.

The Golden Eagle again the next day.

A rower.

Rocky Point Marina just upstream of us.

Moonrise.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Our rower again.

Sunrise.

So, one morning I was on the front deck enjoying the sunrise and waiting for my "7AM waterskier" when I saw her coming down the river. Hoping to get yet another nice video of her making beautiful roostertails in the early morning light (golden hour) I started filming...

But suddenly she stopped cutting water and signaled to the driver to drop off plane. I was disappointed, but it's her gig, not mine, so I set my camera down. And then I had an idea! Do I have the time to jump in my dinghy and go meet her? I pondered for a bit, and it seemed like they were just loligagging anyway, so I might have the time. So I jumped in the dinghy and putted out there, waving to make sure they didn't take off and ruin my chance to meet this hero of Multnomah Channel. As I approached I gushed about how much I enjoyed her skiing, while the boat occupants (4 total) were wondering why I was rushing out to talk to them. In fact, I guessed they might be thinking I was going to yell at them for making a wake, but I could care a rats-ass about that, that's why I own a boat and not a floating home. I wanted to meet this fantastic lady who gets up every nice day and says "Hey honey, take me skiing, OK?" I met Lori and her husband Wade who used to work in waterski shows all over. Lori used to do the pyramid ski, ski ramps, all kinds of things. I could listen for hours, but I didn't want to waste their time on the perfectly flat water, so I said goodbye, knowing that I finally met one of my newest heros, Ski Princess Lori.
And Lori, you should read my book where I recount how I met the president of Sanger boats in Kimpo airport in Seoul, South Korea while flying to Japan for a one day visit. He was in Korea to push waterskiing to the Koreans by hosting a waterski exhibition on the Han river. And the amazing coincidence that my mother grew up in Sanger, California, the home of Sanger ski boats! Amazing!

Sunrise on my birthday. You should treat every sunrise like it's on your birthday, for one day, you won't be able to watch the sun rise, you'll be dead.

Ski Princess Lori came by again, she and Wade had stopped by the day before in his other boat to let us know they would be by first thing in the morning, so I was ready. A special treat for my birthday!

And at the end of her run, Lori turned around to give us a wave! Thanks Lori, spectacular show, see you again soon!

A nice birthday present for me, a 2 inch, 22 foot long nylon rope that was hitchhiking on a log that floated past our house. It was really nasty, but after a power-washing, it looks pretty good.

Sunrise on the last day of July.

And the fog is starting to form on the water. That means that summer is fading. I wish I could stop time, but alas, time is eventually going to stop me, so I'll just be happy that summer stopped by for a while.

Sunrise the first day of August.

Ski Princess Lori once again passing by. Her skiing is very consistant.

Ski Princess Lori is teaching a student to ski.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Lori caught me by surprise again while I was eating my Coco-Dynobites and hot chocolate.

Ski Princess Lori done for this round.

A new floating howe with some impressive features. I love the boat garage under the huge upper deck. And the living room windows are to die for!.

One of Ski Princess Lori's students, Diane, learning to ski.

Sunrise.

The tug South Creek.

Ski Princess Lori's student Stacy on her birthday ski run. This time I was ready. Sort of. The sun got in my eyes while filming so I couldn't fine tune her closest pass, but it's acceptable. This is pretty impressive skiiing, not as good as Lori, but give her time. And what a great way to celebrate your birthday!

Our neighbors at Casselman's Moorage have a new toy.

Browsing through my old photos, I found this one of Lori taken last July. I have a lot of good shots of her.

But I like this one best!

I knew it! I knew it!!! The light was right, there was fog on the water, but I had to take a shower. I waited as long as I could, went into the shower and while soaping up, I felt the wakes. Lori came by! My wife was able to get a few seconds of video, but this was the best shot from that footage.

A little later it looks like Diane was out there. The light was OK, so I got what I could.

Just before sunrise.

Sunrise.

Just after sunrise, last one here for a few days becasue we are headed for Coon Island!

But I still had time to catch Lori throwing water as she passed by us. Here she is way off in the distance getting ready for her run. Looks almost like an impressionist painting, but that's the heat waves from the warm water interacting with the cool air.

Nice run Lori!

After filming Ski Princess Lori, we left for Coon Island. As we passed by Paradise Moorage, Lori took this shot of us on our way and texted it to me. She's not just a talented skier, but she's a really nice person too.

At Coon Island, love it here!

The east side docks at Coon Island offer a unique perspective, if you know what to look for. Because Multnomah Channel bends around to the west just after almost joining the Columbia River, there is a narrow spot with few trees that lets you look out and see the ships passing on the Columbia. In this AIS view you can see a ship, Genius Highway (in green) moving north towards St. Helens, and a tug, Clair B. (in blue) moving towards us (the blue dot) in Multnomah channel.

And here she is!

And as predicted by AIS, here comes the Clair B.

My favorite picnic spot at Coon Island.

OK, don't barf! This is not just some sick dog's poop on the island, it's some kind of fungus or lichen. I'm going to have to research it, because who knows, even though it look like poop, it could be edible!

Always looking to make the world a better place, I noticed a deadhead in the upper dock area of the east side docks. These are very bad, as someone could hit it with their prop, causing serious damage. So I tied on to the deadhead and towed it out of there with my dinghy.

The Moon over Multnomah Channel.

The full moon over Multnomah Channel the next night. Our neighbors have left, but I doubt you can tell much difference.

On our way home we came across Ski Princess Lori and her entourage. Fun to see them running up and down the river first thing in the morning!

One of three Catamaran Cruisers Lil' Hobos in the area. It's like a Mini-Me, a tiny version of our 50 foot Vagabond, but it's no slouch. It's a real houseboat, just smaller is all.

Ski Princess Lori came by again and gave us a wave! Yay! You can hear our pesky goose begging for more crackers as she goes by. He can be a pain sometimes, but we would miss him if he left us. And what would we do with all these crackers?

A really big catamaran called Double Wide came by.

Sunrise.

It's a little bit foggy...

Ski Princess Lori let me know she was coming. You can see the hills behind our house over the windshield.

Ski Princess Lori cutting the water like a pro, wait, she is a pro!

And here is the video I got of her going by.

We went up to Fort William Bend and drifted down the river. Lots of people love skiing on this river. Here is a young man kneeboarding. I haven't seen a kneeboard in quite a while. I was never a really big fan. If you fall, you instantly do a face plant and get your sinuses irrigated with 100 PSI water, which IMHO is not fun!

The sunrise is looking pretty promising...

Rain is falling in the direction of Mount Saint Helens.

The sunrise is coming along nicely.

These clouds are just amazing!

One more shot before the actual sunrise. Just amazing!

Sunrise.

And once again, Ski Princess Lori comes by again. I like that name, better than "Unknown 7AM skier."

Poor Lori, she has no privacy as long as I'm out here with my fancy Panasonic camera. It's kind of a cool picture though, you can see Wade in the rear-view mirror!

And off she goes again to thrill residents up and down Multnomah Channel. I'm sure I'm not the only fan!

The sunrise was delayed by a cloud bank.

The sun even higher.

It's a little foggy on the water. I know Lori doesn't like skiing in the fog. Actually, it's Wade who doesn't like driving in fog, and I don't blame him!

As they say on Airplane: "The fog is getting thicker."

Sunrise.

We saw Lori coming, so I ran out to catch her ripping the water to shreds, when Wade turned the boat around and headed back downstream. A few minutes later we saw why. The Claire B. was pushing an empty gravel barge downstream towards her, and skiing on the water after a tug goes by is no fun. Too bad Wade didn't use the MarineTraffic.com AIS app to check first! At least I got a nice picture out of it!

It's pumpout day aboard Great Ambition. The first step is finding the black water tank key. Oh, here it is....

Then we get the Pump-A-Head hooked up to the marina's sewage line. Here is the discharge hose connected to the sewage riser on the dock. I highlighted all the sewage risers down the dock in pink so you can see them. There is one riser for every four slips. These use a cam-lock fitting, so there is no leakage and no twisting.

Here is the Pump-A-Head unit, electrically powered, thank God! I remember the old days of pumping out by hand. So glad I don't have to do that when I'm 70 years old. Notice that my neighbor's slip is a little cluttered with stuff, but he doesn't mind me using his area for this, he's not here today!

And the only other thing to do is hold the suction fitting to the pumpout port on the side of the boat until the tank is empty. That's it! Many of my neighbors do this bi-weekly, so the folks downstream (like Lori) can be assured that you are not skiing in someone else's sewage. All of our sewage is treated up on the land and handled by a Portland city approved facility.

A sailboat being towed in Side-Tow configuration. In many cases, this is the best way to tow. Next time you have to tow someone, try this. It eliminates the horrible side to side drift and other issues, plus you can chat, share a beer, etc!

A strange catamaran float being pushed downstream.

Sunrise.

A tugboat named Norma. This must be the sistership to our old friend from Kadow's Marina, Juneta.

Norma's stern, indicating she is also from Vancouver.

Sunrise.

Hilary skiing behind Wade's boat. You can see Ski Princess Lori inside driving.

Hilary is pretty darn good!

/p>

Sunrise. So beautiful!

And Lori went by but the water in our area was too rough to ski on, so she just told Wade to keep going, go find some smooth water. I think that is a wave to us too.

Sunrise.

I got a text from Ski Princess Lori, Chantel is up.

This is Chantel starting out.

Lori getting ready to do her run to towards Fort William Bend and beyond.

Now Lori comes down past Sigler's Cove.

We had a nice thunderstorm come over us and I went out on the front deck to try to get some video. Unfortuately, my camera can't focus in Auto Focus mode in the dark. So I tried using Manual Focus, but it's hard to focus on distant things in the dark, which is the same problem that Auto Focus has.

Hilary skiing past us with Ski Princess Lori.

Ski Princess Lori doing some nice work on the water. If only I could keep up with her, my camera work is severely tested here.

Next Wade has his turn.

We went out to Fort William Bend and anchored for a while. It's pretty here. In the old dead tree we saw an Osprey having his lunch.

This guy is trying to sink his pontoon boat!

Continued...