At Anchor

At Anchor
Whiskyjack at anchor in Garrison Bay, San Juan Island

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A trip down the river like no other

Having WhiskyJack at our doorstep (almost) was wonderful.  After a winter of the northwest's dreary and rainy weather, we were ready for an extended trip down river.  So in the summer of 2005 we headed down river for a week.  With an outgoing tide we ran from Scappoose to Beaver Slough in just over 8 hours.

WhiskyJack at the Point Adams Receiving Station

We had scheduled to meet up with Bill and Darlene, a couple that we met a few months earlier in St. Helens, Oregon, to look at the restoration they had done on on of the old fish Receiving Stations.  In this area, it is (or at least was) illegal for a fisherman to off-load fish from his boat at a place other than a cannery.  In other words, he could not throw the fish into his truck and drive them to the cannery he had to take them there in his boat.  Many of the fisherman fished areas that were many miles from a cannery, and thus a good part of the time that they had to spend on the water was the time necessary to run from the fishing grounds to the cannery and back.  The canneries were sympathetic to this and would have "receiving stations" strategically placed up and down the river.  The cannery company then trucked the fish to Astoria (in this case) for processing.

The boat repair shed

Bill and Darlene had purchased an old Point Adams Receiving Station on Anunde Island in the Beaver Slough region where the Clatskanie River enters the Columbia River.  Most of this receiving station had been built by a co-op of Finnish fisherman.  They had a large barn-like shed with hoist where they could repair their boats.  They had a net drying shed at the water's edge where they could bring up the nets out of their boats for drying and repair.  Remember that the nets were not made of synthetic material at that time and drying was essential to keep them from rotting.

The "Longhouse" on the left and net drying shed on the right

But most impressive (to me) was a building the fisherman built to house themselves while they were fishing.  The fisherman in the co-op did not all fish at the same time.  The co-op had a portion of the river that they exclusively maintained and fished.  Not all of the fisherman could fish this area at once, so they had a method of allotting times for each of the members.  So while one member was fishing another would be sleeping, eating, repairing nets, etc.  The co-op build a long building divided into identical rooms.  Each room had a bed, a wood stove, and a table.  There were 9 or 10 of these rooms in this "long house."  In front of this building was the net drying shed with the area in front of each room being the drying space for the member that occupied that room.  Bill and Darlene used this building as their house with one room for a kitchen, one for a living room, one for the bedroom, one for a guest bedroom, one for storage, etc.  And they used the net drying shed as their " front porch."

The "front porch" with net drying racks in the background

From their "front porch", Bill and Darlene had a commanding view of Beaver Slough, Wallace Island, and the Eagle Cliff area on the Washington side of the river.  Bill would sit here and watch the river traffic and the wild life.  If you were a friend, he could see you coming while you were miles away and would come out and greet you in his skiff.  "Follow me in," he would say.

The view (north) from the "porch" with another net shed in the background

We spent a wonderful afternoon with Bill and Darlene.  The buildings had been left without maintenance for some time and were in a state of disrepair.  And according to Bill, the co-op members only did the repairs necessary to get by another season with no attention to long range planning.  Some of the structures were beyond saving and had to be demolished, but what remained had the look and feel of something out of another century.

A great book that provides a glimpse of the life on the river in the early 1900's is "Reach of Tide, Ring of History" by the late Sam McKinney.  McKinney spent time in his youth in one of the now abandoned villages--Chinookville, Frankfort, Knappton, and Cliffton.  He built a small, wooden boat and beginning at the mouth of the Columbia, travels up river as far as the tidal influence (Bonneville) telling the story of his youth and his memories of the past.

This was just the first part of a week's vacation filled with surprises.  Next:  The "Beauty and the Beast."  (One of the most beautiful places on earth and a dastardly error.)


  1. Hira gave me your blog. WJ looks a bit like the Lyle Head design La Paz 25, which I toyed with buying years ago, but went with the Albin 25. Good luck with your blog.

    1. 2 Tall: Thanks for the encouragement. While I have never seen a LaPaz 25 in person, I think WJ looks more like a Fisher because of the pilot house design and the canoe stern. Just my $.02 worth.