Capt. Gregory C. Daley

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Sea Stories
M/V Chaos - Snake & Columbia River

I managed and was captain of Chaos, a Fairline 66 yacht, for a year. We experienced so many adventures on Chaos. I delivered her from Michigan to Wisconsin and oversaw her decommissioning for travel by truck. I followed the truck from Wisconsin to Clarksville, WA and over saw her re-commissioning. I brought her down the eight locks of the Snake and Columbia Rivers to Portland, Oregon. Then it was up to Vancouver and Victoria, Canada for several months. We made a long passage down the west coast to Marina del Rey for refurbishing. We escorted the Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico sailboat race. We spent a few months in Puerto Vallarta making voyages as far south as Manzanillo. We spent a month in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico during Spring Break. We made a long passage back up the west coast to Santa Barbara, California.

The adventures of Chaos' first cruise were surprising. The owner and guests flew into Clarkston, WA. We sailed down the Snake River through four locks. We then proceeded down the Columbia River through four more locks. We descended a total of 800 feet through 8 locks in all. The theme of the voyage was "It can't get better than this." Yet, it did - time after time.

The pictures on this page are cropped from a full size picture which gives a better perspective to what is being shown. To see a picture full size, simply click on the picture and it will appear full size in a new browser.


Click on picture to see an enlargement. The flight from Denver, CO to Clarkston, WA was uneventful until they reached Clarkston and the airport was closed. A detour to an airport half an hour away provided a challenge for the limo driver.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The plane landed and the limo delivered owner and guests to his waiting yacht in the Snake River.

On the trip from Clarkston, WA to Portland, OR we passed through 4 locks down the Snake River, dropping 400 feet in elevation, then 4 locks down the Columbia River dropping an additional 400 feet.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. First on the itinerary was to show the owner how his yacht had been launched into the Snake River and where the prop strut had been thrown into the river. (See Chaos Transport sea story.)

Cruising the barren Snake River at 31 knots with a huge wake was quite impressive. It can't get better than this. One could not help but imagine what it must have been like when Lewis and Clark made this same passage in their canoes. What a difference a hundred years makes!

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The first lock required life jackets. We were all uncertain as to what was in store for us. No one had ever seen one of these 100 feet River Locks in operation.

The lock was part of the dam which made the river navigable. Paddle wheel steam ships climbed this 800 foot vertical trek in days of old without the use of locks, negotiating river rapids. Locks made it convenient for barge traffic. The dam is used to generate hydroelectric power as well. Some conservationists want the dams torn down for the sake of the salmon.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The upstream doors opened and we were given a green light to proceed. Entering the lock, the bow and stern are tied off to one of the floating bollards. Keeping the vessel off the sides of the lock was the only challenge.

A few valves turned and all of the water within the lock was drained into the downstream side of the lock lowering the water level in the lock and the boat 100 feet.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. As the boat went down, the floating bollard slid down its track as well, keeping the boat next to the lock wall.

At the bottom of the lock, the downstream doors opened and we were given a green light to proceed. We unmoored from the floating bollard and proceeded downstream. The process took less than 20 minutes.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We passed a lot of barge traffic operating into the Lewiston / Clarkston ports.

The contrasts were the key to the beauty. Blue water and sky, barren brown hills and cliffs with mineral formations in them. And a pristine white fiberglass yacht cruising down this hot environment in air conditioned comfort.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Lock No. 2 had a slightly different arrangement for both the lock doors and bits. Each lock was unique in design and construction.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We were quite surprised by the complexity and cost of the salmon ladders. These stair-stepped troughs provided easy access for the salmon to swim upstream to spawn. People are actually paid to sit at a window and count the number of salmon that use the ladder every day. Go figure.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We reached our destination for the first day, a small river feeding the Snake River. We anchored and launched the toys. A large inner tube for sitting and relaxing in a peaceful, pristine environment.

But if you are not careful boarding, it does flip over, sending all on board into the water. So much for your peaceful rest.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. After some careful weight adjustments and warnings about not stepping on the sides, all are on board to enjoy their float in the water.

Some preferred exercising. The Snake is fresh water and very clean.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Seeing our beautiful, luxurious yacht in the stark, barren environment of the Snake River was awe-inspiring.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. There are many mineral deposits in the area. Columnar basalt is very common. The basalt could be 4, 6, or 8 sided depending on the cooling time from its molten state.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Everyone got a chance to steer the boat (under my watchful eye).

Monument Rock was here before there was ever anything to build a monument to, yet it is called Monument Rock.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Another happy guest learning to steer a yacht.

You can hear him saying - It doesn't get better than this.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The third lock was a totally different design with winches and cables to lift the lock doors.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. By this time my "crew" (of guests) became really proficient mooring to the floating bollard.

Each dam was unique. We never were quite sure what purpose these structures in the downstream part of the dam served. This was the only dam that had these.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Reaching the confluence of the Snake and Columbia we ventured into the worst yacht club I have ever visited. There was feces floating in the water. The commandant came on board with an empty glass asking for a drink. The folks we met talked about our women in a most degrading fashion. Manuevering the boat to the fuel dock was as tight of a fit as I ever wanted to maneuver this boat.

We decided that moving was a good idea. We moved out into the Columbia River itself and moored alongside a hotel and restaurant, a much better mooring.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The bridge over the river and the restaurant provided a much more scenic and comfortable environment.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Boat Captains, when your owner tells you that his guests will be the "crew", don't believe the owner. This is the mess you have to clean up behind your "crew", a little bit much after long days of cruising down an unfamiliar river.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We encountered some race boats on a small tributary of the Columbia. We traded rides. Your face becomes smashed into your skull as the boat speed exceeds 80 MPH. It feels like your skin is made out of plastic as it stretches at fast speeds.

Click on the picture to see how far back the rooster tail extends. They had tanks of Nitrous Oxide to give that extra kick into really high speed.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Sometimes only a bowl of chocolate candy will improve your day.

We were all surprised by how hot it is in Southeast Washington state in the summertime.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. This was one of several bridges that we just barely were able to pass under. They were across tributaries. There was always plenty of clearance on the Columbia River for us.

Another couple of inches in height and we would not have made it.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The native Indians still have the right to fish for salmon from the banks with nets.

I came around this large rock only to find a net spread out over 75% of the width of the river with a boatload of Indians watching it to see who would run over it. I managed to stop and reroute in time. I can imagine the number of new nets purchased by unsuspecting boaters like us.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The ballerina was in rare form. She used some of her ballet moves to keep the boat off the walls of the lock.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. One of our more civilized stops was in Hood, Oregon. There is a lot wind which makes this the ideal spot for international wind surfing competition.

The owner and his business partner enjoying a drink on the stern at sunset.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. A couple of group shots on the stern and the bow as we prepared for dinner ashore.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. There is a great restaurant near the marina in Hood. The specialty was wild fresh salmon, the best I ever had.

Back on the boat that evening was a sing along with John Maher. The voices were incredibly good and I will remember this night and these songs for a long time. They got better as the night and the martinis grew longer.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The fellow in the vest is part of an eight man group of singers who don't use any musical instruments. They imitate instruments with their voices. You would swear that there is a whole orchestra behind them. He is giving us a sample of some of his work.

A more serious moment with the owner's business partner who is a direct descendant of John Deere as in John Deere tractors. Quite an interesting family history.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. We had a constant battle about opening doors and windows at night. With the lights on literally hundreds of bugs would gather on the ceiling of the boat. When the party is over they don't leave, they infest the boat. You can see who won the discussion. Oh well, what's a few hundred dead bugs to clean up?

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Proceeding down river, the banks began to green up. The moisture level increased and there were numerous waterfalls. Quite a difference between the dry, barren Snake River.

We are not really lost on the river. There are just several forks to choose from and we want to make sure we go down the right one. The coats indicate a significant drop in the temperature.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. The Columbia River is very picturesque and worth a trip just to see it. I'm sure Lewis and Clark were amazed at the different scenery they saw from St. Louis to the Pacific Coast near Portland.

Railroad tunnels through the rocks near the shore must have been difficult to design and build. Yet again, it doesn't get better than this.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Of course all of that fun has a price to pay. The drone of the engine and the peacefulness of the river made it ideal for afternoon naps.

Meanwhile the captain is shooting range and back ranges ad nausea proceeding down the channel to Portland.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Finally the boat is docked at the Columbia River Yacht Club which should have been the end of the passage. However, the guests decided that we should go downtown by boat for dinner. Never mind, the captain can rest after the group leaves the next day.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. So here we go, up the Willimet River to downtown Portland. Half way there I hear the Coast Guard announcing river closures at certain times at certain locations. My enquiry is answered "because of the fireworks show." It can't get better than this.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Once again we are confronted with a low bridge. We just barely squeaked under by inches.

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Click on picture to see an enlargement. Once we arrived downtown we were greeted by the Portland Symphony Orchestra playing the docking music from 2001 (the Blue Danube) as I docked the boat. The boat became an open house to anyone on the dock who wanted to listen to the Symphony. We poured many drinks and fed a lot of strangers that night. The fireworks included howitzers going off during the Overture of 1812.

You can truly understand why IT CAN'T GET BETTE THAN THIS!

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Captain Gregory C. Daley
PO Box 3826, Lafayette, LA 70502

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