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.
Down Down Down
Blowout of the Blowout
The Graveyard of the Pacific