Great Ambition, fourth year

This is the continuing story of our new life as River Rats on the Columbia River aboard our Catamaran Cruisers 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 third year.

The eagles have been out like crazy! We seem to see them everywhere, here's one we saw while walking on the island.

When we leave the slip we had one problem that kept us coming home. Water. This week I developed a system that runs purely on Solar Power to create very clean drinking water from whatever body of water we happen to be in. It uses a reverse osmosis system combined with a 12V pump, extra filters and an accumulator tank. I bought a test kit for the resulting water and the results were excellent. They are listed below the photo. I mounted all this stuff under the stairway to the roof, which means that in winter I will have to drain everything to keep it from freezing, but I can handle that.

RO water test results using Columbia River water at Kadows Marina May 21 2010 (Note: A CSO was in effect at the time due to heavy rains in the Portland area)

Parameter Value Units Comment
Capacity 1.7 GPH Gallons per hour
Electrical draw 6 amps at 13.5V
Pump on time 5 Seconds
Pump off time 50 Seconds 10% duty cycle
Effective power usage 8.1 Watts 81W/10% duty cycle
PH 7.0 PH scale 7.0 is perfect
Total Disolved Solids 2 ppm Rain water is 4ppm
Chlorine 0 ppm
Nitrate-Nitrogen 0 ppm Fertilizer residue
Copper 0 ppm
Alkalinity 0 ppm
Hardness 0 ppm
Iron 0 ppm
Lead less than 15 ppb parts per billion
Pesticides less than 4 ppb

And here is a picture of a jug of the filtered water versus a jug of the water we have been drinking up till now. The filtered river water is in the jug on the left.

I took a walk on the island. This shot is looking South, Caterpillar Island is on the left. Such beautiful isolation, not a soul around.

Here is a shot of the water bacteria test after 45 hours. You can read the instructions, pretty foolproof. No bacteria in this water, despite the fact it was purified from the Columbia River during a CSO alert due to heavy rains in the Portland Metro Area. I've had 26 years of experience in test, my philosopy is to test at the worst possible time, under the harshest conditions, and testing a water purification system at a time when the source water is swimming with sewage is the best way to make sure that the system is working well. This system is.

Sometimes we get cabin fever, just like folks that live in suburbs do. When that happens we pack up some drinks and snacks and take the short 5 minute putt in Lil' Ambition out to Caterpillar Island. Here we can fire up the chainsaw and in a few minutes cut up enough driftwood for a huge bonfire. It beats sitting inside watching TV every night.

We took a little drift in Lil' Ambition and came in the North end of Fisherman's Slough. I took this video of the trip through the marina. Note that I point out the location where part of the movie Twilight was filmed.

I haven't updated in a while, mostly because we've been stuck in the slip dealing with social obligations. But now we are ready to head to Vancouver Lake. The water is VERY high, about 10 feet higher than usual. Because of this we used Lil' Ambition to scout the route to Vancouver Lake to make sure we wouldn't be blocked by a log jam or other obstacle, and check the height of the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge bridge. You can see where why we were concerned, the water is nearly high enough to drown this navigation marker.

Here's a good indication of the water level, this ramp to the dock is actually inverted! You leave the land and walk uphill to get to the dock.

We made the trip from Kadow's Marina down to Warrior rock in record time thanks to a 3 knot push from the river current, then turned back up Lake River on our way to Vancouver Lake. On the way I filmed a pair of eagles in a mating dance. Looking closely at this video I doubt they actually mated, but I think it was a mock mating, perhaps foreplay? Who kows, but it is beautiful!

Not such a nice thing to run across is a deadhead. No, it's not a fan of Jerry Garcia, it's a log that's mostly submerged. This one was marked by a kind soul with a bright red gas can. Imagine if you hit this with your boat at high speed? Since the log goes all the way to the bottom you might end up pole-vaulting, or worse yet, having this giant log come up through the floor of your boat!

And here we are at Vancouver Lake in the East Bay shelter of the island.

This picture shows how we have Lil' Ambition mated to Great Ambition. This way the starboard gate on the former mates with the port stern gate on the later. This is why we custom ordered 4 gates on Lil' Ambition.

And at the end of the day we took Lil' Ambition out for a drift to watch the sunset. Beautiful!

On a tree overlooking our little bay, we ended up accumulating a whole family of bald eagles.

We've seen very few Osprey here until today. Now they seem to be everywhere, just Fishin'.

Sunrise over Vancouver Lake.

I love a glassy lake!

We are making lots of water from Vancouver Lake here, the quality of the water is very good, 2PPM Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), no fertilizer residue, no alkalinity issues, no lead, no copper, no iron, no nothing!

Three more eagles!

Day 13 on Vancuover Lake. The hazy stuff you see on the lake surface is cotton from the Cottonwood trees. We have 5 feet of water under us, 6.5 feet total depth. Water tank is full, in fact it has never been less than half full for the last two weeks despite doing laundry, taking showers and living well. This is definately "the life".

Near the end of a fabulous day. We extended the sun shades on the upper deck, piped the XM Radio up to the Bose speakers on the upper deck and we both relaxed on our chase lounges with a cool drink and a book.

The moon coming up over the lake is just gorgeous!

The view out the window of my computer room. You can see the stern of Lil' Ambition just outside. If I feel like a boat ride, I walk 10 feet, jump in and take off!

Our last night on Vancouver Lake, the moon, the island, Portland and the West Hills.

We needed to get some work done on the hull after our trip to Vancouver Lake and we were overdue for service on the outboards so we decided to get Great Ambition hauled out. Schooner Creek Boatworks told us to come on over to "Grandma's Cove" and they would take care of us. They sure did too. A boat this big won't fit just any lift! As it was we barely fit!

And here we are "on the hard".

After 8 days we are ready to go back in the water. Here is Darian driving the lift with Great Ambition hanging from the four straps. This lift is great, it drives just like a car, and the guys at the yard really know how to drive it.

Here is a unique view, just before we get lowered into the water. You can clearly see the center pontoon near the stern.

Underway again! This time we are off to Gilbert River docks and eventually Dead Mans Curve in Sturgeon Lake.

While cruising Multnomah Channel and approaching Coon Island I captured this video of a Bald Eagle being attacked by an angry Osprey, then the eagle dove down and caught a fish in the channel and flew off to Coon Island to eat it. Incredible!

At the Gilbert River docks a crowd arrived, it was the Tomahawk Bay Yacht Club. We've met these folks enough times at Coon Island and Gilbert River that we are all quite friendly. We really enjoy their company and have fun chatting about the happenings over the last year. Unbenownst to me, a collegue from my days at Credence is also a member, so we got a chance to catch up as well. So despite the appearance of a mob at the docks, it really was quite a pleasant surprise!

After two days at the Gilbert River docks we got some water from John on Lazy-B IV (see pic above) and headed off to Deadman's Curve up in Sturgeon Lake. The cruise took us about an hour and a half and was uneventful! Always a good thing.

Sunset as seen from the stern of the upper deck on Great Ambition The second ribbon of water in the background is Sturgeon Lake, the land between the two is a levee that is nearly breeched.

Here the sun had fully set. Off in the distance below the marine layer advancing from the coast you can see the West Hills and Coast Range with lots of Fir trees and some clearcuts. A wonderful scene!

I found a place to get onto the shore to look for Kyron Horman and get some shots like this.

It's nearly berry season here, so I'll be having berries for breakfast quite soon.

On our fourth morning we actually awoke to a partly clear sky. So beautiful.

We made some water today. Gilbert River is very nasty stuff, as there is no inflow in to the lake, all the water does is run out until low tide, then run back upriver until high tide. This oscillation simply sloshes the same dirty water back and forth across the muddy riverbed. However it's no match for my watermaker. Here are three glasses, on the left, raw Gilbert River water. In the middle is the filtered "brine" from the Reverse Osmosis membrane, basically the water the RO membrane rejected. And on the right is the fresh water from the "good" side of the RO membrane. Quite a difference.

Another shot of the same. The good water measures 3ppm in Total Disolved Solids making it 99.9997% pure.

Out for a putt in the dinghy and came across this guy. He was a little upset with me I guess, so he didn't give me his best pose, instead I got him doing a hard bank over my head.

Speaking of eagles, I finally got video of a Golden Eagle who has been haunting us lately. I put it to a tune my oldest daughter wrote and recorded years ago, called Will's Song.

This picture is actually a few days old, but it took us a few days to get a close-up look at these birds to decided that, yes, in fact these are pelicans! I've never seen pelicans in this area before, but it's possible these creatures stay confined to Sturgeon Lake. Certainly we've never seen them around Caterpillar Island, Vancouver Lake or even the swampy and shallow Shillapoo Lake.

I took a stroll in the forest. Here I got a shot of the river back towards the first breach to Sturgeon Lake.

Here is a nice shot of the forest floor.

Look up, beautiful!

Full moon rise from Deadman's Curve.

I took a hike through the woods inside the bend of Deadman's Curve. Here is a nice shot of Great Ambition sitting on anchor.

A shot to the Northeast looking across Gilbert River, across the levee to Sturgeon Lake.

A shot from the second breach across Malarky Lake looking to the Southwest.

The shoreline of Malarky Lake as seen from the forest.

With bills stacking up in the mailbox back home it's time to start heading back, in slow spurts. Here we are at Coon Island in our favorite spot. Of course, we can have any spot we want, there's not a soul here on a Monday.

Caught a floatplane flying directly overhead while at Coon Island. WOW!

Caught the incoming tide to make our way back home via Multnomah Channel. Here is a nice glassy shot of the old girl. This shot shows why living on land is just not all that inspiring.

As we cruised up Multnomah Channel we saw the very same floatplane we saw fly over the sitting on its float. In the photo above you can see it just to the left of center. You can't leave these things sitting in the water, the pontoons get covered in growths and slows the plane down.

Back at Caterpillar Island I took a walk on the beach. This is shot of the sunset, no color or enhancement added. Beautiful!

A ship with a familiar name anchored in front of the island.

Under the right conditions we get an effect I call "Lensing", where two rainbowed copies of the sun appear on either side of the sun near sunset. Since my camera can only see a narrow slice of the sky, here is the sun with its left side image. The one on the right wasn't nearly this pretty.

A stunning sunset.

We finally got away from the docks again, this time we start with a few days at Coon Island. For two days we were all alone. Here is a wonderful sunrise at Coon Island from our second morning at the Eastside docks there.

At high slack tide we did the short 20 minute cruise downstream from Coon Island to the Gilbert River entrance. Then we turned up Gilbert River and followed the tide up onto Sauvie Island. The tides at Gilbert River are delayed, so that high tide on Multnomah Channel causes the tide to rush into Sturgeon Lake. Riding the tide up Gilbert River is a bit dangerous, if something goes wrong the current can drive you into anything and everything and there are lots of submerged trees and logs in this river. Luckily we had a nice cruise and made it across "The Wash" with 3.8 feet of water under us. Now at Deadman's Curve we are anticipating a week of solitude and quiet.

Afterglow of a wonderful sunset from Deadman's Curve on Sturgeon Lake.

We named the old grey bald eagle that haunts this area Archibald. I'm not deliberatly trying to chase him around but when I cruise around in the dinghy I end up disturbing him over and over again. Poor old Archie.

Another afterglow shot from Deadman's Curve on Sturgeon Lake the next day.

Off the front deck forms a bay of sorts as the river curves around back to the southwest. Here it's lit up by the sunrise which hasn't yet peeked over the trees to hit us.

Unbeknownst to us, on this very day, August 15th 2010, flying high overhead a satellite cruised over the Portland area taking pictures of the ground. Those pictures were used to update Google Maps, and using that technology I was able to make this video several weeks later. You'll recognize the photo above in the video.

Took a stroll in the woods looking for Kyron again. While I didn't find the poor kid I did find this fantastic purple flower.

And while walking the shore I was awestruck at the beauty of the virgin shore of Sturgeon Lake.

We moved to Coon Island to get some relief from the heat and to make water. While there I did a little experiment with the video camera to show off Coon Island. This is a time lapse of a walk across the island from the Westside docks to the Eastside docks. You'll note that we are all alone here.

I got up early to catch Orion rising in the East. That means winter will be arriving soon.

Here is early dawn breaking over Woodland Washington taken from the Coon Island Eastside docks.

I had to capture this shot of the moon over Multnomah Channel. So pretty.

Here is a roundtrip version of the video above.

We moved to Gilbert River docks because you're only allowed to be at Coon Island docks for three days. The tides changing at Gilbert River always interest me because they are out of sync with the tides in the rest of the Columbia and Willamette river system. Here is a timelapse showing how the muddy waters of Gilbert River get replaced by the cleaner water from Multnomah Channel when the tide starts flowing in. You can even see the water level rise and a couple of kayakers go by (if you watch closely).

Nice shot of the moon over Gilbert River.

Got up Saturday morning and noticed that the overnight tide had brought in an unwelcome visitor, a nasty deadhead. I took the dinghy out and "dogged" it (pounded a dog into it) so I could tow it out into Multnomah Channel where it came from. If I do it right it will never come back. Certainly could ruin someone's day, but it's especially bad in Gilbert River where it's shallow enough to pole vault a boat on plane and possibly come right through the floor!

Another nice shot of the moon over Gilbert River. Not as interesting becasue the water went totally calm on us.

And the same shot but now with a plane heading right towards us. Notice how the plane's lights are reflected in the water. Amazing.

We left Gilbert River docks intending to spend one night at Coon Island, but as we approached we found that the docks were a little more crowded than we like, so we decided to head on home.

While cruising home on Multnomah Channel we saw a bunch of firetrucks beginning to put out a fire on a fishing platform on Dike Road. It's a shame that people have to destroy public facilities like this after we all paid for it. Eventually the government will stop building these kinds of things, then we end up like a third world country.

Back in the slip. It's a nice place, with lots of water, electricity and access to the store, mail, etc. But sometimes we long for the solitude of remote anchorages.

Summer's over, we have fog on the water.

A nice walk on the island yields a great sunset.

And here comes the Nancy Ann with another empty gravel barge.

The water is going very low at low tide which grounds many of the sailboats with fixed keels. Can you recite that most famous line that describes this picture?

I was lucky enough to capture this Great Blue Heron killing his catch before he eats it.

I setup a webcam to capture a timelapse of the Saturday of the 2010 Labor Day weekend. It wasn't very busy, but we captured a few boats going by. Notice the Great Blue Heron (above) making his way along the bank and the log that drifts up and down the channel with the tide.

Yet another video. I found a battery underwater near a neighbor's house. The problem was that the battery didn't have a handle, so how do you get it up? You can't swim down and pick it up, not something this heavy. Luckily my brain still works even after a year and a half of retirement. It's easy, watch.

A fabulous sunset.

Nice start to a nice day.

A boater at the marina ran smack into one of our security cameras on 9/11/2010. Is it a terror attack or just poor driving?

Another fabulous sunset.

Summer is over, here comes the fog.

I took a short putt in the dinghy to circumnavigate Caterpillar Island. I have the place all to myself, if you don't count the ships.

As I got closer to the ship I took this shot of the ship with the wingdam in the foreground. The ship is pointing direction because the tide is coming in but the wind is also blowing a little. When they anchor the ships have to make sure they have enough room to swing a 360 degree circle lest the end up on the beach, or up against a wingdam.

And as I came back into the slough I have a nice shot of the marina from the North end of Fisherman's Slough.

Sunrise over Shillapoo Wildlife Refuge on the last full day of summer, 2010.

During the sunset of the last full day of summer, I caught this microwave tower on the West Hills. It's 7.2 miles away from the beach here on Caterpillar Island according to Google Earth.

To catch this sunrise, the last of Summer, 2010 I had to ride my scooter the five miles to Vancouver Lake. Using the scooter helped in this case because the parking lot near the lake was full up, only a scooter will do! Click on the picture to see the hi-res version (caution - very large file). This photo has not been retouched or enhanced in any way!

Sitting on the front deck of Great Ambition roasting myself in front of my Mr. Heater I heard a crunching sound, the familiar sound of a beaver enjoying his dinner.

Our front deck on a foggy morning.

We had hot afternoon with nothing to do so we cruised out in front of the island and relaxed on Lil' Ambition. Here April is reading Jessica Watson's True Spirit, the book that documents her record breaking 'round the world voyage at 16 years old.

While cruising down the channel we spied this chair sitting on the muddy bottom. We pulled it up (mostly to prevent a navigation hazard) and after cleaning it up realized we had garnered a valuable find. With guests from Australia coming it would be nice to have at least one more deck chair.

Walking on the beach one day I found an old chrome plated zinc navigation light with both lenses intact buried in the sand. I decided to make it into a night light for the grandkids. Here it's almost finished. Reminds me a lot of the nav light on my first boat almost 40 years ago.

Checking Google Earth we found that both Earth and Maps had updated satellite images! So when we went looking at Caterpillar Island and found that Great Ambition was not in its slip we wondered where we might have been when the satellite passed over. We found it, at Deadman's Curve in Sturgeon Lake, August 15th 2010. Put your mouse over the picture to get a super close zoomed picture.

Here I made a movie of the zoom in from space timed to Brooke's Lullaby with pictures we took while anchored at Deadman's Curve at the time the satellite spotted us. I'm biased but I think it came out pretty well.

Our friends from Australia arrived so we took them for a cruise around Sauvie Island. Here are a few shots from that day. First, Dan driving. Notice the bottles and knick-knacs on the bar behind me. No need to put them away, unlike a monohull boat we don't rock enough to have to put everything away when starting a voyage.

April on the front deck underway on the Columbia.

Allan tying us up at Coon Island docks.

Andrea driving on the Willamette.

The sailboat that we saw grounding a month or so ago tried to get out of the channel to get some work done, it got snagged by a sunken log and was stuck there for 8 hours until the tide came back in.

With the weather forecast promising sunny skies we decided to make one more trip out before the nasty winter weather forces us to stay in the slip. Here we are at Southend, snuggled right up to the beach.

A nice shot from the roof looking out on a glassy river.

Here is a nice way to spend a Monday night.

A fantastic sunset, so glad we're out here to see it!

Geese flying across the sunset.

Our final sunset from this anchorage. That's the New Concord on anchor waiting to get into port. We sure like being able to watch the river from here but the weather is going to turn nasty so it's time to go back to the slip.

We decided to celebrate the election with a bonfire on the beach and to finally try to rid the island of the giant tree that I watched land there almost two years ago.

The fire was intense, and inside the tree was a hollow that burned like a furnace, amazing!

I took an afternoon off from working on security camera installation at the marina. It was a fantastic sunny day. Sitting on the island we could hear sounds so quiet that they could not be heard anywhere in the typical home.

On our cruise back I took this picture of Craig Spooner's house and the marina. The water is nearly as quiet as the air.

Speaking of working on security cameras, here is a shot of my new office. Nothing fancy, but it's heated, insulated and even has double pane windows. It was awfully nice for the Kadows to build this nice office for the new DVR, Steve and Lloyd did a great job!

This movie expains it all. Memorial Day weekend, 1999 we camped on Caterpillar Island with our neighbors from Aloha. It was one of our favorite campouts. That's when we decided it would be great to live where we had camped, and then we found Darkwater Keep. Imagine your favorite vacation. Now imagine being able to live there. That's what we did when we bought Great Ambition.

Going for a stroll on the beach, here's a shot of Southend where I usually leave my dinghy.

Looking North from the "Cliffs of Insanity".

We got a little snow overnight on November 22nd. Here you can see the moon setting in the west over the island. The trees are nearly devoid of leaves. Much earlier than usual.

We've been able to catch some interesting video since installing the new cameras and DVRs at the moorage. Here is one that's cute. In the covered moorage a Great Blue Heron enjoys a nice fishing spot, but he keeps getting interrupted first by a hungry racoon, then later a pod of otters. If you watch closely you can see one otter scare the crap out of him, later after all three show up he keeps a close eye on them! Then a total of five otters show up which is just too much for this heron so he leaves.

On Friday the third of December a quartet of bald eagles arrived looking for a place to build nests. Here's a little video I was able to catch of them flying around the marina.

We've had a breeding pair of Red Tailed Hawks living on the island for the last few years, but now it seems the eagles (above) have moved in too. Watch the hawk like a hawk (!) at 0:46.

After the river rose dramatically we got our first piece of debris, a 60 foot section of dock that drifted in from the river. This is a relatively good find, useful for many things such as moving furniture into a floating home, a new section of dock, etc. It's a little intimidating as a piece this large has a lot of weight and can crush a small boat like the dinghy or roll it over.

The blackberry bushes are in full color mode. Without them the island would be pretty stark and grey.

When the water is very still, but not too still, and the sun is setting, a magical thing happens. The sunlight dances across the beach in beautiful waves. It's quiet too, so quiet I had to turn the volume all the way up and still you hear nothing.

In the depths of winter you can still reap some joy from the sun. Here the virgin beach glitters in the light of the winter sun. Despite its warming influence the beach is frozen solid. Just below the dry surface sand the unyeilding concrete beach makes for easy walking, if you can handle the frigid temperatures!

One day the birds (Starlings I think) came out and filled the tree east of Great Ambition. It was a noisy, yet relaxing three minutes or so. You'll also hear some trains blowing their horns at Felida (in Vancouver Lake) and some people shooting shotguns out in Shillapoo Wildlife Refuge. Just click the Play button below the picture to hear it.

A stroll on the island reveals a critter hole, frozen into the sod. No idea what kind of critter lives here!

You know it's cold when this is the best set you can get on your ground anchor. The beach is like concrete, walking on the beach is like strolling down a crooked sidewall.

Foggy days and nights mean foghorns from ships plying the river. In this audio clip I'm on the front deck with the propane radiant heater blasting (the hissing) and XM Spa playing on the stereo while a ship travels downstream from Caterpillar Island to Willow Point (about 4 miles away). My favorite part is the foghorn reverberating up and down the river at the end of each blast. Click on the Play button below the picture to hear.

More fog, more ships. In this case two ships pass each other right in front of the island, directly across from us. You can hear them get closer, then slide away under cover of fog. Also, during the first minute (at 00:09 and 00:55) you can hear bald eagles "chittering" to each other. Click on the Play button below the picture to hear.

A Mallard was killed (or found) on the island by racoons and eaten. Later, one or more eagles found it and cleaned the carcass. This timeline is revealed by the prints seen and prints washed away (coon print trail partially washed away after a tide change, fresh eagle prints near the carcass show they arrived after the coons). Below is an eagle print compared to the "eagle" side of a US Quarter.

We've seen a bunch of bald eagles hanging around since the the third of December. Still no nest that we can see but they loiter around here and play games, like this pair. Perhaps flirting? Hard to tell, but they are certainly are having fun!

An amazing sunset after a very rainy weekend.

The water is up dramatically since the rain came over the weekend. Here is a rare picture of me next to Pier One to show you just how high the water is.

Here the Glacier gravel barge and tug Rene are trying to negotiate the river full of debris. She's cutting close to the island because the water on this side of the river is mostly from the Columbia, so there's less wood in the water than on the Oregon side, which is mostly from the Willamette. Due to the high water the river is full of logs and complete trees, and running the barge and tug over some of the bigger stuff could damage something, plus it makes a horriffic noise. Put your mouse over the picture below to see the difference between high water and low water.

Speaking of wood in the water, here ya go...

Another amazing sunset, this time with my dinghy in the foreground. This little boat has been a joy to own, she's tough, reliable, safe and dry. In the depths of winter I could always get the engine to start. And she always gets me home.

The crazy stuff I find on the beach. This is a nut, a damn big nut. Not the largest nut I've found here, that was a coconut about a year ago. Still, this is a big nut!

A pair of bald eagles were hanging out around Southend and stuck around as we passed under them. The one on the left is young, probably around 4 or 5 years old. You can see his head hasn't gone totally white yet.

While I was shooting pictures of the eagles we came across Chris Jones towing in a cute little house into Fisherman's Slough.

April driving Lil' Ambition. She's a cutie. The boat's nice too.

A cedar log landed on the island. She's really nice, 40 feet long, 5 feet in circumferance, de-limbed and debarked. I can't quite decide what to do with it but I'm sure I'll think of something.

Another nice shot of the cedar log.

I spent the day on the island tending a fire (can't rightly be called a bonfire) and enjoying being with nature. My camp was near one of the temporary swamp that cuts the island into islets. It was wonderful being so close to quiet water, watching the eagles and hawks, Canadian Geese and Snow Geese, Merganzers and Mallards. It's a rough life...

We spent much of Thursday on the island enjoying the short spat of nice weather. Bring retired it's sometimes hard to remember what day it is, but weekdays are the best, very few if any visitors to my world.

The five-O-clock FedEx guy coming into PDX. Somebody is working, and making good money at it too! Good for him.

And jets in the sky means contrails. Here a contrail casts its shadow on the clouds. Hard to catch with a camera, but I got it!

People far and wide give me endless grief about not fishing when I have a perfect opportunity living on the Columbia. Here's one reason I don't fish. In Australia I could go fishing and always pull up some incredible fish, like this skate I caught in October of 1979. I've pretty much had my fill of fishing, it can't get better than this, and if I really want to fish I still have the knack!

The Shillapoo (shallow-pool) Wildlife Refuge just across the road from the marina has been mobbed by both Canadian Geese and Snow Geese. Here the sun sets causing Mount Hood to go from white to pink to blue in the space of a little over four minutes as the geese constantly rearrange themselves into different cliques.

While coming down the ramp after filming the video above I caught a beaver going under the ramp to the dock. He got a little perturbed by my presence and let me know with a good tail slap.

I pick up a lot of trash to keep my island nice and natural. Here is a pretty scene, but it wasn't this nice 4 years ago. Put your mouse over the picture to see how it used to look. A family built a life out here, complete with drugs and kids, and lived out here in the depths of winter using only an inflatable boat to get here from the mainland. After they left I had the huge task of cleaning it up. I got some help from a friend and we made quite an adventure out of it. Only the barrel remains.

It's hard to know when you are going to get a good sunset and when you're not. This time we were lucky and the sky evolved into a fabulous sunset. Set to Jace Vek's "The Last Sunrise", here is the sunset of February 3rd 2011 as seen from Caterpillar Island.

And here is a still shot for those who don't have the time to watch a 5 minute video.

We were very concerned about how the high water had shoved one of the big logs up against Pier One. Some boneheaded fisherman was sure to set the log and pilings on fire someday, so we decided to take action and move the log away from Pier One. It would be impossible to move the whole log so we chopped a thousand pound slice off it and used a come-along to move it away from Pier One and burn it down. Quite a task, but we were successful.

To see a history of this log click on this link.

We got some snow on the morning of February 16th. Huge flakes, but it all melted within a few minutes.

Sunrise on the same section of the channel. Just lovely.

My yard. Well, a small portion of it. Behind me is another mile of yard till you hit the North end of the island. You can see Lil' Ambition on the Southend beach.

Following deer trails through the forest on the island reveals some fascinating scenes.

Buried deep in the forest are strange looking things, like this fungus living on a dead tree trunk.

We got an inch of snow overnight on February 23rd/24th. In the morning this was the view out the living room window.

We jumped in Lil' Ambition and went out to the island to get some shots. Here is a series.

Shot from Southend Beach.

Pier One.

Forest shots.

The quintessential Northwest shot. You can see three navigation aids in this shot, Pier One (which is a radar reflector) and on the far shore are the two range markers. They are red panels with a large black vertical stripe down them (one to the left of Pier One, one near the center of the photo). They direct the ships to the center of the channel for this section (Willow Range) of the river. On the West Hills is a logging road winding up the mountains.

I made a timelapse movie by taking a photo every fourth step while extracating myself from the forest and heading back home. I really like this one, but because of the tight timing I can't post it on YouTube, which would just decimate the video. During the beach walk you can even see a couple of planes flying by on their way to land at PDX. The music is "Take On Me" by the Norwegian band A-ha. Please give it a few minutes to load, you don't want to break the rhythm!

As we relaxed on the beach of Caterpillar Island we noticed flashing lights near a yacht. The yacht was anchored but his stern was facing upstream, meaning that his anchor line had gotten wrapped around one of his two prop shafts. Apparently he called for help and Vessel Assist came to the rescue. Below is my report.

Now that the weather is getting slightly warmer (at least it's not going sub-freezing on us) the swamps and forests are coming alive again. It's most evident at night when the formerly dead quiet nights scream with life. Take a listen.

After hearing about the big earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11th, 2011 I decided to reassure my friends with a picture I created using GraphicConverter.

Some people were really concerned that the tsunami moving across the Pacific might present a danger to us, but we are 98 miles inland. Still people were concerned so I checked the river levels in Astoria near the ocean to watch for tsunami activity. You can barely discern the tsunami in this plot, look closely at the rising tide on Friday morning, the noise you see there is the tsunami superimposed on the tidal sinewave, the tsunami is almost imperceptible.

Spring Chinook season is here, and suddenly the river is awash with fishing boats. I'd rather have the place to myself as I have all winter, but I wouldn't want to infringe on other people's rights to use the river the way they see fit. If you outlaw someone els's fun, don't be surprised when someone outlaws your fun!

Found a deer skeleton in the forest, wow, look at the cartilage between the vertebrae!

And a skull full of perfect teeth!

I made another timelapse movie by setting up my video camera on top of South Hill and letting it run. You'll see a tanker barge and a ship go by as well as a whole lot of fishermen. Occasionally you'll see smoke drift by from our campfire as we roasted hot dogs.

Finally the sun came out and gave us a nice day. We spent the afternoon on the island relaxing and clearing out some blackberry bushes. They end up taking over large areas where people could be camping or playing frisbee, so we try to keep them down a bit. You can see that the leaves of the cottonwood trees are just starting to come in.

It's mushroom season on Caterpillar Island. So far I've found False Morels and Black Morels. They are pretty tasty, and free, which is a price I like!

We get a lot of ducks around here, everything from Merganzers to Wood Ducks to Mallards. Here is a cute little video celebrating our Duck Diversity with a catchy tune by Weird Al.

Took an after-dinner stroll on the island. Finally the trees are coming to life, winter is losing its grip.

The high water has moved the huge log here at Pier One again. At least its Siamese Twin has left, headed for points downstream.

The sunset. Not stunning, but pretty.

And Southend taken from my dinghy on my way home. See the bridge of the ship anchored in front of the island?

Another crazy timelapse, here I have compressed 90 minutes of forest activity into 9 seconds. The action is subtle as the sun and clouds conspire to walk shafts of light and shadow across the forest. The audio is small snippet taken from the 90 minute filming, preserved in real-time.

Came across a fantastic Western Blond Morel in the forest. In this photo it's on a small dinner plate, the morel is 4 inches long overall. Not enough for a feast, but will be a nice addition to donner tonight!

My new buddie Goldie needed his new boat towed up-river a bit, so I used Lil' Ambition to do the job. She did fine!

We had a wonderful day on the island and while trying to film the river I caught the New Diamond cargo ship performing a fire drill. Watch the crew send the guys in fireproof suits into the "danger zone".

And here is a shot of our camp that day. We had previously cleared out a bunch of blackberry bushes in this area so now we get to enjoy it!

Then on Easter Sunday coming back from the supermarket I noticed this "easter egg" parked in our parking space. This is a Shaggy Mane mushroom, and it popped up right under our car in a dirt and gravel parking lot!

We sometimes take two boats out to the island, just like some couples take two cars to the mall. You never know when someone will want to go home sooner that the other person!

It's not wise to eat a mushroom without verifying what type it is first. The Shaggy Mane mushroom I found yesterday is an "Ink Cap" mushroom. That means that when the mushroom is picked, just hours later it starts turning into black goo, which is the spores to make new fungus colonies. In olden days this goo was used to make ink before modern commercial inks were invented. To make sure that this mushroom was indeed a real Shaggy Mane mushroom I decided to sacrifice it by letting it turn to ink. Here is a picture of the cut open 'shroom 26 hours later. Now I know, the next one I find like this I can eat before it goes black.

Another Shaggy Mane mushroom parked under my car! Looks like the Easter Bunny is getting clever!

Another kind of mushroom has popped up in the forest, this is a Sulphur Shelf mushroom, otherwise known as Chicken of the Woods. It's supposed to taste like chicken or even lobster. I guess we'll find out!

A close up of the new Shaggy Mane mushroom in my parking spot. There was another one nearby that I ran over, it was already turning to ink, so I'm gonna eat this one tonight!

The Shaggy Mane I picked three days ago has turned almost completely to ink.

We had a little excitement on Wednesday when a 56 foot yacht came in Southend (not advised!) and paralleled the docks in order to take the motor yacht Albin in tow. The Albin was previously owned by Craig Weagant who died last year. The guys aboard this yacht had a heck of a time getting the crew off the yacht and onto the docks so we used Lil' Ambition to extracate them from the yacht to get them to the dock.

Finally we are seeing some nice weather. The view down the virgin beach is awe inspiring.

Someone is going somewhere in a fabulous sailboat. Don't you envy them?

Southend Hill, now with leaves!

Here's a puzzler. In this sunset picture you can see Lil' Ambition floating happily out in deep water where the evil ship wakes can't hurt her. But the wind is blowing from the West-Northwest, which should push her right into shore. Why isn't she washed up on the beach?

Here's the answer. I have Lil' Ambition anchored on the upstream (left) side on a double Anchor Buddy. I also have a long line going to my ground anchor on shore so I can pull Lil' Ambition back into shore when it's time to go. Because I only have the back side-covers up on the boat, the wind tends to push the stern toward the shore, but the anchor and Anchor Buddy tend to pull the bow out into the river. With the current flowing left to right, it makes the keels of Lil' Ambition work like a kite, so the current is acting like wind against a wing to push the boat back out into the river, away from shore. When it's time to go, we just pull on the line going from the ground anchor to the boat and the bow swings around and the wind helps push the boat into shore for us. Once onboard the anchor and Anchor Buddy pull us back out into the river so we can lower the motor, drive up against the current and retrieve the anchor! To set this up I didn't have to get even a single toe wet. Remember, boating is a Darwin Filter, it kills the stupid, and rewards the intelligent!

And speaking of the Anchor Buddy, do you wonder how I get the Lil' Ambition back into shore if I need it? Well, ask no more, here's your answer.

And finally, why you need an Anchor Buddy.

Occasionally people reading this photo-blog track me down and send me emails. In this case Eric asked about my watermaker and even gave me a signed liability release, so I told him all he wanted to know. Eric has a Gibson up in Minnesota on the Mississippi. Here is a picture of Eric's houseboat on the upper Miss, apparently during the summer, as winter up there looks a lot different!

And speaking of the watermaker, we've been drinking our purified river water for a whole year, and only this water. The only thing we drink is coffee, lemonade, iced tea and plain water all made from this purified river water. So far we have no health problems at all, and our water always reads 2PPM on the TDS meter, versus 380PPM (parts per million Total Dissolved Solids) for the tap water we get from the marina. That water is fine, it just has a lot of iron as well as a small amount of chlorine which is required by the county health department.

And finally, today is Great Ambition's 4th birthday! Four years ago she arrived here in Portland. Here she is at the truck stop where we first laid eyes on her.

Continued...