Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Independence Day Weekend - Lake Oroville, CA (July 3, 2011)

It had been an eventful few months (another story) since I'd been out on Kokomo, and I was excited to be trailering the yacht to Spillway Launch Ramp on the Oroville Dam on July 3, 2011. I'd just completed a fill-up of her tanks - ouch! -and left the station headed for the ramp, when the truck was smashed into by another pick up that failed to stop for a red light.

If you know me, you know how I take care of my things, and the truck is no exception. It was heartbreaking to see the extent of the damage to the bed, rear door and passenger door. The other (elderly and unwell) driver said he "hit the wrong brake pedal", had no insurance, couldn't "remember" his address or phone number, etc. It was 103F on the pavement in Oroville, and we struggled with what to do. We decided to call the police to get a report, were grateful that no one was hurt and that we had good insurance. We were also thankful to note that, if everything had happened a split second earlier, the damage to my truck could  have been much worse (cab and engine compartment), and if it had happened a second or two later, the boat (with a fresh filling of 120 gallons of gasoline) would have taken the brunt. The truck, damaged cosmetically as it was, proved the tough friend it had always been, and took us on to the ramp, and later home, safely.

The Sunday before the 4th at the launch ramp was busy and crowded, but the launch went smoothly (while fascinated onlookers watched) and before long we found ourselves leaving the crowds behind and heading up the Middle Fork of the Feather River and into the wilderness. We found a quiet cove for the night and dropped anchor. The temperatures were mild (Lee Ann even got cold during the night) and we slept well.

The next morning (after getting her coffee in bed) I enjoyed Lee Ann's breakfast, a delight I don't usually get when on board (because Lee usually isn't present), on deck and was ready to go by the time the sun was peaking over the mountain to our south. We motored up the river and marveled at how beautiful everything was. The lake was full after our rainy winter and the river and waterfalls were at their most gorgeous. We passed several waterfalls on our way upriver, and just before the waterway proved unpassable (great log jams of driftwood, from whole trees to stove-sized chunks, littered the river and blocked it completely far upstream) we arrived at the distant foot of Feather Falls, the third tallest waterfall in the country. We watched the falls a long time before turning and heading downstream.

A distance downstream, we discovered an older boat, full of people that looked like they'd been camping out (their gear was everywhere in the boat) who had their engine cover off but weren't doing anything. We stopped to ask them if they needed assistance and they said they'd run out of gas ... and that the gas gauge in the boat didn't work. I couldn't help but wonder (1) why they didn't fill-up their fuel tank before heading out, and (2) what were they doing 20+ miles up the river with women and children (no one in life vests) when they didn't know how much fuel they had. Nevertheless, we discussed their problem and I resolved to carry fuel for situations that might arise like this one in the future. Though I wasn't going to tow them in the opposite direction we were headed - except as a last resort - I told them I had about 1/3 gallon of gas as a last possibility, and that we'd take it upon ourselves to seek out the few boats we'd seen on the river and ask if they had gas cans (our gas fill is a no-siphon type, or we might have had another option) and get back to them. We found two other boats in the early morning on the river, but neither had gas. One of them, however, took a line from the disabled boat and began the slow tow downstream ... around 30 miles to the Spillway Launch Ramp. I was glad we could assist them and that the folks in the Crestliner could tow them, but I couldn't help thinking that some elementary planning would have avoided the inconvenience for all. I saw them after the fireworks that evening, so I guess all ended well. I hope the tow-er was reimbursed, or at least offered reimbursement, by the tow-ee.

We headed south once we got back to the lake, after stopping at a particularly beautiful waterfall, and put into a busy Bidwell Marina for a couple items the boat needed from the store, and an al-fresco lunch at the grill. Then we set our course for the South Fork of the Feather River, where we swam (water was 81F!) and then followed the river all the way to its navigable limits before turning around and making our way back to the lake.

Lee Ann made a yummy fruit salad and we had some baguette and spread and relaxed on the afterdeck. Then, another quick dip and off to pick up the Stewarts, who were meeting us at the Bidwell Marina launch ramp in time for fireworks. Tom & Kim have been friends for many years now, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. The girls wanted to swim, so we went back to the confluence of the Middle and South Forks, where Tom and I chatted onboard and Lee and Kim swam and visited. They climbed aboard just in time for us to set off to see the fireworks, arriving as the first salvo of Oroville's annual fireworks show lit up the night sky.

Following a spectacular fireworks show, we joined the 900+ boats shlogging towards the ramp at Bidwell. Boy was that an adventure with the Rosborough. Between several curious 'examiners' who'd discovered us after the fireworks and wanted a close look (enroute), and boaters who were an accident waiting to happen, we were lucky to get Tom and Kim safely on the dock and get out of there without colliding with another boat. But we successfully motored to the other end of the lake, under the Bidwell Bar Bridge, and to a spot near the confluence of the Middle and South forks of the river, where I wearily dropped anchor and (before double-checking that it had set properly) fell into bed and was soon asleep.

I'm not sure what woke me. Probably the wind or beam waves we were taking, but I remember looking out the v-berth window and seeing the north tower of the Bidwell Bar Bridge looming above the boat. It took a minute, in my sleepy fog, for it to register on me how wrong that was, but I sprang up in time (just!) to start the boat and avoid the rocky shoreline on the Berry Creek end of the bridge. It was foggy (boy was I thankful for the MFD!) but I retraced what was probably the float route the boat had taken (in the past 4.5 hours) and found a different place to anchor, double-checking (then triple-checking) that the anchor had set before drifting off to sleep once again.

Morning found the anchor still set and the fog cleared. Lee Ann and I enjoyed her home-made granola and dried fruit for breakfast, and set course for the Spillway Launch Ramp, where I'd drop her off and spend the day alone on the lake. Once she'd departed for her work day (I missed her immediately) I engaged the autopilot for a long trip north, determined to go all the way up the North Fork of the Feather River in the same weekend (or trip) that we'd done so on the Middle and South Forks. The hours passed and the boat motored on flawlessly, and before you knew it, I was further up the North Fork than I'd ever come (in the 21' lake boat we love) and looking down at a string of bouys that blocked me from going any further. I could see the powerhouse breakwater in Yankee Hill about 150 yards ahead, so I had reached the navigable limits. I knew of the treacherous rocks that, on this day, lay under some 63' of water beneath me. This  was possible due to the high water ... who knows if or when we'll see the treeline and waterline kiss this way again.

I spent some time in a sort of grotto at a waterfall (fading fast, but still flowing) on the way downstream, then couldn't resist a swim in a side bay when the MFD told me the water temp had risen to 84.5F an hour later. By the time that was done, it was time to again head for the dam to pick up my sweetheart for dinner (which she'd picked up) and a swim as the sun went down, then to pull the boat out and head home.

I had resisted putting the boat in at Lake Oroville since that's where we've enjoyed the smaller boat for 11 years now, but we had a wonderful time and realized quickly that you do very different things with the Rosborough than on a 21' open boat. We felt like we were on a different lake because we were aboard a decidedly different boat. We won't hesitate to visit Lake Oroville and it's three feeder forks of the Feather River again.

San Quentin Prison

San Quentin Prison
One of the more 'captivating' sites along the Corte Madera channel . Rowers from Corte Madera are practicing in the foreground.