Wind Junkies in the Gorge, again
June 20 – July 3, 2010
We went up to the Gorge again a few weeks ago, since on our first trip we didn’t get to sail very much, and everyone always raves about how great it is, especially my friend Dan. We were very excited to go, and had rented a nice house in Hood River for two weeks, to make sure we had enough time to fully experience it.
It takes a normal person around 17 hours to drive up there, with the usual stopping to pee & get gas or fast food, but not counting stopping for meals in restaurants. We arrived on Sunday evening, June 20th, and found the house we rented to be even better that we thought it would be! We met the owners, Kirk & Sherry Zack, who it turns out we had partied with in L.A. about 15 years before, when Kirk was a Neilpryde rep. Small world, indeed!
The next day we went to find some of that famous Gorge wind. Locals had assured me that Temira had the best handle on forecasting the Gorge, and she had said that either the Hatchery or Roosevelt were likely to be the spots that day. I had been wanting to try the Eastern Gorge, as it’s supposed to have more even wind and smoother rollers than some of the spots in the corridor, and Debi had had an unpleasant experience at the Hatchery last time we were here, so we started off in that direction. About ten miles out Casey calls and says that we’re crazy, it’s not going to blow in the East, and that we should sail the Hatchery. Debi says she’s ready to “get back on the horse (Hatch) that threw her” and see if she can conquer it, Casey lives there and he should know, so we turn around and go back to the Hatchery for another try.
We got there very early, and after dropping off a board with Casey, went downwind to the Old People’s Launch, since we’re old people. We ended up rigging 4.8 & 4.0, and gave it a go.
***WARNING!***BLASPHEMOUS CONTENT BELOW!***
Here’s something that’s not talked about much — I think the wind in the Gorge SUCKS! Sure, it’s windy a lot, but it’s so freakin’ gusty it’s nearly impossible to sail normally when the wind is strong. I would go out for a reach, maybe two, then the wind would back off and I’d drop into the water & float downstream for a couple of minutes. I’d finally get a waterstart, and it would nearly blow the sail out of my hands, then back off again 3 minutes later. This is not my idea of fun, and it was repeated every time we tried to sail somewhere else near Hood River. When I’d ask the locals about it their replies would range from “Oh, it’s a weird direction today” or “It’s not normally like this, we had a cold June” or even “Oh, the sun went behind a cloud just then”(yes, really!). Only a few times did I hear what I suspect is the truth; “That’s the Gorge!”, or “Yeah, it’s gusty here”. Watch one of those videos that are going around right now, see anybody sheeted in & jamming? No. I’ll give them credit for learning how to sail in those conditions, it’s very challenging and radical, but survival sailing is not for me, I’m going to spend my next vacation at Rio Vista!
The two places we had the most fun at were Stevenson & Roosevelt, which seemed to be less gusty than the other spots, with smoother rollers. I was having a blast at Roosevelt on a 4.8 one day when my mast broke in the exact middle of the river, about 3/8 mile either way. My friend Dan towed me back to shore, which took 45 minutes of us taking turns doing waterstart/body drag position dragging a broken rig & the other person. Talk about gruelling arm torture! Many thanks to Dan, and a bottle of Macallan 12.
The Western Gorge IS beautiful, it’s like sailing in Yosemite. Lots of trees everywhere, and some of the launches are in parks, with great grassy rigging in the shade, and restrooms, YAY! Hood River is a great little town, too, with lots of excellent restaurants — if you go don’t miss Sophie’s and Stonehedge Gardens, two of the best. The Eastern Gorge is more “desert-y”, with lots of volcanoes everywhere, but still pretty spectacular. Overall we had a pleasant trip, but the sailing conditions were making me wish I were elsewhere for most of the second week. On the way home we stopped at Rio Vista overnight to break up the drive, and managed to get a short session there, ahhhh! Super steady wind, nice warm water, big f-ing ramps sometimes, dang I love it there!
I’m probably going to hear a lot of crap from the Gorge lovers out there. I’d rather not defend myself endlessly on this subject, the above is my opinion, you’re free to reject it and go there if you want to, many people do, every year, and quite a few move there they like it so much.
Just not me.