Shooting cannons and sailing tall ships in the Columbia

Shooting cannons and sailing tall ships in the Columbia

I went on a battle sail event near Astoria in the mouth of the Columbia last weekend and I got to sail tall ships we shot cannons at each other.  It reminded me of the last scene in the movie Goonies in which One-Eye’d Willy’s ship sailed off into the sunset off the Oregon coast.  It was an amazing experience and I was very surprised by the maneuverability and agility of these ships.  It was great to see the crew in action too.

These events were put on by Gray’s Harbor Historical Society:   They maintain the ships and do lots of educational programs.  They travel up and down the West Coast doing sailing, demonstration, and battle events just like this.  For the cost of a ticket, you too can ride along.  There are two ships full of 20-somethings that are all living aboard and spend their days sailing, doing tours, and maintaining the ships.  What an interesting lot to say the least.

The entire adventure took 3 hours.  We all met at the dock and sailed out into mouth of the Columbia from Ilwaco, WA.  While at Ilwaco, I decided to run out and stop at a humorously named location:

This name came (purportedly) from the Lewis and Clark expedition.  They came to this cape regularly to look for ships to take either them, or at least their logs, home.  Unfortunately, no ships appeared in the many long, rainy, wintery months they spent on the coast.

But back to sailing.  We met the ships on the dock.  After lining up and picking which ship we wished to ride on, we motored out of the harbor.  I chose the Lady Washington – which was a much more period accurate ship.


After heading out to the opening of the Columbia we unfurled the sails and started shooting cannons.


Here’s some of the actual battle sail footage:

After about 2 hours of sailing around shooting cannons at each other, we decided to head home.  On the way back, as the sun set, we started singing sea shanties:


Overall, it was a fantastic time.  I completely recommend it and it was totally worth the price of admission.

Probably one of the most cool moments had to be when we were in the middle of the battle sail.  A large freighter was making its way out of the Columbia River.  We’re talking a huge container ship freighter.  What in the world must they have thought passing by 1700’s era tiny wooden sailing ships shooting cannons at each other…

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