Resting in the calm, sunny waters of Hammond, Oregon, across the river from Astoria, the Columbia River Bar Pilot Boat, Chinook (the yellow one), gives no hint of what it was designed to do when at work on high seas. Both are Bar Pilot boats; I'll try to get the name of the orange one, too. Hammond is downriver from Astoria, and transfers bar pilots to and from the big ships as far as 10 to 15 miles out in the ocean during stormy weather or calm. The bar of the Columbia River is one of the most treacherous river bars in the world, and some call it the most treacherous. Piloting the ships across the bar is a specialty occupation, and the pilots have to understand not only the tides, currents, weather, and what lies below the water line at any given level of the tide, but also the capability, draft, and size, of each ship they board. The distance they navigate is short, but the importance of the job is incalculable. Many ships would wreck here each year if not for the work of the skilled pilots - or I guess we should say, the river mouth would otherwise be unnavigable by the large ships. Once the bar pilots have finished their job, a river pilot takes over, also brought to the ship in pilot boats, which I'll show another day). These green boats do most of their work near enough to Astoria's waterfront that we can watch them virtually every day. Piloting a ship up the Columbia to Longview, Kalama, or Portland, is also a specialized job, and requires about eight to 12 hours from Astoria to Portland, depending on the speed of the ship.
Occasionally we see the yellow and orange boats in Astoria, but most of their work is done on the ocean, which begins several miles further downriver from Hammond. I wish I could have gotten more of the orange boat in the photo, but there was a fence I couldn't get around. The name "Chinook" comes from a local Indian people who live in this part of Oregon and Washington. I've provided some links below that show the Chinook (boat) at work, and other interesting bits and clips. Helicopters have also been used regularly to transfer pilots in the ocean, and there's a video of a helicopter at work below with some informative narrative on the video.
What are the outdoor jobs do you enjoy watching in your town?
. Mellow Yellow Monday (see more pix featuring the color yellow)
. Photos and video of the Chinook at work on high seas
. Chinook clears the water
. Interview with a pilot
. YouTube: Boarding Vessels by Helicopter
. More about the Chinook people