Boat Work in Exotic Locations

They say that the cruising lifestyle is really just learning to do boat work in exotic locations. If this is, in fact, true, then we are well ahead of the curve. We aren’t even out cruising yet and already we are learning to modify our expectations of getting things done, especially when it comes to finding services.  How’s that? Well, we’re moored in Astoria, exotic land of the self-sufficient fisher-people. And this effects us how? Apparently they never need help, unless it’s from the Coast Guard.

The Coasties like to use photos like this to represent the Columbia River bar. This photo for dramatic representation only. Do not try this at home. Or with our boat, thanks.

The issue is this: we need to be towed to the Port of Astoria boatyard. Our boat has no engine, so we can’t get there under our own power. So naturally, being naive and trusting, I called the Port of Astoria to find out about who does these things. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi there! We need to have our sailboat towed to your facility so we can put in a new engine. Who do you know that does that kind of thing?

POA: Well, um, I don’t know. There isn’t anyone around here. I mean there’s really not anyone in Astoria who does towing . Also our travel lift is broken and we don’t know how long it will take to get fixed. Maybe about 3 weeks. We’re having trouble finding parts.

Me (Incredulous): It’s broken? Well, good thing we don’t need it just now. Hopefully it will be fixed in three weeks. The engine is ordered but it will take awhile to get here. Why is it that there are no towing services around? I’m just curious.  I mean, there are all kinds of boats around here all the time! Don’t they ever need assistance?

POA: Well, you know, they are fishermen. They pretty much take care of themselves and if they really have an emergency they call the Coast Guard. I think there’s a guy over in Ilwaco who has a service. I think his name is Capt. Bill. You could call him and find out but I don’t have his contact information on me just now.

Me: Okay, well thanks, I’ll call Port of Ilwaco and see if I an find this Captain Bill. So you think maybe that travel lift will get fixed soon?

POA: We sure hope so, but I don’t know.

Wow. Okay, time to regroup and think about what would happen if we were in Mexico, or maybe the South Pacific and needed to have our boat towed. I mean, we have some experience pushing Moonrise with our dinghy, but I don’t really want to start doing that with a boat I don’t know yet. Plus, I’m pretty sure our little Honda two stroke isn’t going to take this boat anywhere. Not only do we have no engine, we have no steering because that was removed to get the engine out. (Wait, we DO have the emergency tiller, so there is that…) So I called Boat US, our insurance and towing service company. Their website makes it sound like they can assist you just about anywhere!

Except in Astoria. There is no one in Astoria. But they do have Coastal Towing in Ilwaco on their list. Ilwaco, for people who are not from this area, is across the river on the Washington side. Turns out Coastal Towing is run by the same Captain Bill that the Port of Astoria knew about. So I emailed him to get a bid. Seems crazy to get someone from all the way over in Ilwaco to come across to tow us literally about 1/2 mile. But whatever… we have to start somewhere. If Captain Bill comes in at hundreds of dollars, that dingy tow will start to look better and better. Hey, at least we have time on our side! And by the way, the mechanic didn’t know anyone either. He referred us to the port office and to a ‘shack’ down by the boat yard where there is a bulletin board.  river chart

Here’s a link to the Google Earth image of this area. See the letter A? Our boat is just to the right of that, third boat down, next to an empty slip. We need to tow it to Pier 3. We’re on Pier 1. So close and yet so far away. Perhaps we could harness some friendly sea lions? They are huge down here.

I guess the good news is that if the travel lift is broken for awhile, that gives us more time to work on the engine room. The engine will be delivered to the Port of Astoria, and we can’t leave it there, but we can have it loaded onto our little truck and bring it home if we have to. See? We’re learning to be flexible already! Your suggestions are welcome.

14 thoughts on “Boat Work in Exotic Locations

  1. I’d opt for the dinghy. Yes, that’s what boats in Mexico use. I’ve seen heavy 45′ boats moved 40+ miles with a side-tied dinghy that had a 15 HP motor — they could make just under 2 knots once they got going (obviously there was no wind or they would have sailed it). If you only need to go a half mile, that might just be the way to go.

    • That option is certainly one that is in the hopper right now, but we’d have to find someone with a dinghy and motor large enough to do the job. This weekend we’ll be back down there and will chat up some of the boat owners in the marina. We have experience moving our Cal 34 with the help of the dinghy and our little Honda, but it’s not enough engine to budge this boat.

  2. I hate to tell you this, but your link to Google Earth map takes you to Astoria, New York. Yonkers and the Bronx are showing up to the left of the letter “A” :/

  3. We’ve moved our Westsail 32 Chaika using a dinghy with a 2 hp outboard. We tied the dinghy on the stern quarter and since you steer using the outboard, not the boat’s rudder, you should be fine without a rudder on the sailboat. Of course you want to pick a time when the current is slack and the wind is calm. If you had someone in a second dinghy to nudge the bow as needed you’d really be in good shape.

    • If we can get a motor bigger than what we have, we may go that route. At least we already have experience pushing our Cal 34 that way. In Astoria you definitely want there to be no wind, and for the tide to be slack.

  4. The fishermen probably tow each other for a bottle of whisky. Start chatting up the locals. However use your own fenders for a side tie, those guys use old tires.

    • You said it! You know, I don’t even mind it at this point because it just makes things interesting and I figure anything we learn up front will hold us in good stead later.

  5. I’ve towed my Cal 2-46 (35,000lbs) most of the way from Port Townsend to Seattle with a 6hp outboard. Made about 3 knots once it got going, used lots of fuel. It worked. Even towed it through the locks twice with that same 6hp motor. One caution when towing, you probably already know, but, not much thrust in reverse to slow/stop the big boat. If you do find 2 dinghies try having the bow one facing aft and use it to stop and turn.

    Good luck

  6. Melissa: Yikes! Im gone for a few months (They don’t let you read blogs in China) and you have sold your little Cal and have a new boat. When did you sell the Cal? What date do I have to go on LCP to read about it? Thanks, Don
    ps. Good luck with the engine. I worked in Ilwaco and Long Beach, to the north. Nice area.

    • Welcome back, Don! Yes, we have a new baby, but the Cal is still ours. Perhaps not for long, as we have a serious offer on her. We’ll write about that when it’s all resolved. If you haven’t already, go back to October 6 to read the whole story.

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