Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Roll on Columbia

I live in Tiverton, Rhode Island on the east coast of the United States.

At the end of July I plan to do a spot of yachting on the Columbia River, at Cascade Locks in Oregon, way over on the other side of the continent.

The Columbia is the fourth largest river in the United States, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and the river with the greatest flow of any North America river draining into the Pacific.

But I will not be the first sailor from Tiverton to sail on the Columbia River.

Far from it.

If you had asked me who were the first Americans of European origin to travel on the Columbia River, I would have guessed Lewis and Clark.

But I would have been wrong.

In fact the first American of European origin to sail a boat on the Columbia River was a native of Tiverton, Rhode Island - Captain Robert Gray.

Robert Gray was a merchant sea captain who undertook two trading voyages to the northern Pacific coast of North America, between 1787 and 1793, and pioneered the American maritime fur trade in that region.

He also completed the first American circumnavigation of the world in 1790.

Not many people know that.

During his 1792 journey, Gray noticed muddy waters flowing into the Pacific from the shore and decided to investigate whether he might have encountered the "Great River of the West."

On May 11 1792, he ordered a small sailboat launched to attempt to find a safe passage across the sand bars at the mouth of the river. On the evening of that day, his men found a safe channel, so he sailed his ship into the estuary of the Columbia River. Once there, they sailed upriver and Gray named this large river Columbia after his ship.

So that's why the Columbia River is called the Columbia River.

It's also why British Columbia is called British Columbia.

All down to some sailor from Tiverton.

Many years later, Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the Columbia River

And that's all I have to say about that.

Related posts
Down Down Down
Blowout of the Blowout
The Graveyard of the Pacific


Litoralis said...

I wonder if Captain Robert Gray is from the same family that founded Gray's Ice Cream?


Tillerman said...

You think perhaps Captain Robert Gray brought rum and raisins back to Tiverton from his round the world voyage in order to make my favorite ice cream?

Dan said...

Hopefully Cascade Locks will provide you with some nuking winds! There was another ship with Gray named Lady Washington. A replica was built in the late 80's and is considered Washington states official "tall ship". It makes stops around the state during the spring and summer. Gray's legacy also includes a large bay named after him: Gray's Harbor as well as other landmarks.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Dan for more background on Gray's legacy to the Pacific Northwest. He certainly got around!

Captain Gray only sailed up the Columbia River as far as its junction with what is now known as Gray's River just east of Frankfort WA. So he never got to have some fun sailing his ship Columbia in the "nuking winds" of Cascade Locks which is about 130 miles further upstream.

Skippy said...

Grey's harbor is also a safe haven on the Pacific Ocean in Washington.
Welcome to Oregon. Let me know what you need and I am sure I can find the resources here to make it a good time.
There are lots of Lasers in Oregon and Washington.

Love to buy you and your clan dinner if you let me.
John in PDX

Skippy said...

PS I will be racing a C&C 44 tonight and a Cal 20 tomorrow on the Columbia.
John in PDX

Skippy said...


Tillerman said...

Thanks for all the info Skippy. I hope to make a longer trip with my wife to Oregon at some time in the future, but the trip in July is by myself to sail in the RS Aero North Americans at Cascade Locks and I don't think I will have much free time for sightseeing. Thanks for the dinner invitation but I doubt it will be possible to fit it in on this trip. Only passing through Portland briefly.

Skippy said...

Cascade locks is only 45 mins away and I know where all the good eats are.

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