Un-Cruising Our Way Along the Columbia and Snake Rivers

Un-Cruise Adventures' S.S. Legacy at her berth in Clarkston, Washington this evening. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Un-Cruise Adventures’ S.S. Legacy at her berth in Clarkston, Washington this evening. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Monday, June 8, 2015

Today, we’re being treated to a full day of scenic cruising onboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ S.S. Legacy, as we trade the Columbia River for the Snake River on our weeklong Legacy of Discovery river cruise that began on Saturday in Portland, Oregon.

I love scenic cruising days for two reasons: they let me selfishly focus on the ship and its amenities, along with the unique history that surrounds the places we’re sailing through. And the Columbia and Snake Rivers are just loaded with history.

Guests aboard the S.S. Legacy were treated to a full  morning and afternoon of scenic cruising on the Columbia and Snake rivers today. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Guests aboard the S.S. Legacy were treated to a full morning and afternoon of scenic cruising on the Columbia and Snake rivers today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Everyone knows the exploits of Lewis & Clark, but fewer are familiar with John Jacob Astor’s 1810 expeditions to develop a trading outpost on the Pacific Coast that would, one day, become known as Astoria, Oregon.

Just a few years after William Clark and Meriwether Lewis reached the Pacific Ocean, Astor (the first John Jacob; not the later descendant of the same name who would go down with the Titanic in April of 1912) assembled two expeditions, both of which had the ultimate goal of finding the entrance to the Columbia River and forming a colony there for the sole purpose of creating an easy staging route for selling furs to China.

The seagoing expedition aboard the Tonquin set sail from New York under the command of the capable but ridiculously rigid and unyielding Captain, Johnathan Thorn.

This morning, guests could learn how to tie marine knots with the S.S. Legacy's knowledgeable crew. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

This morning, guests could learn how to tie marine knots with the S.S. Legacy’s knowledgeable crew. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The American-born Thorn had no time or patience for the expert Scottish fur traders that Astor had acquired to join the expedition, nor for the happy-go-lucky French-Canadian voyageurs that liked to pass the time by singing snappy chansons at the top of their lungs. Repeatedly.

Famously, Captain Thorn tried to leave them all behind on South Georgia Island, near Antarctica, as the ship was preparing to round Cape Horn. The stranded Scots and voyageurs managed to row back to the escaping ship, where one member of the crew threatened to murder Captain Thorn if he didn’t let the men aboard.

Snake Reflections. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Snake Reflections. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Re-equipped with a full complement of men, Tonquin finally arrived off the Columbia Bar on the Pacific Coast of modern-day Oregon in March of 1811. Thorn, apparently blessed with the same happy demeanour as Captain Bligh, sent two successive groups of men on what amounted to suicide missions in small dinghy craft. They were to find a safe passage through the Bar, but were overcome by the fast-flowing current and atrocious sea conditions and lost to the churning seas. Finally, the Tonquin muscled her way through the Bar and into the relatively sheltered waters of Cape Disappointment.

Despite the loss of life, Tonquin had arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River, and the first land was cleared for what would become Astoria, Oregon.

The landscape as the Columbia changes into the Snake is endlessly fascinating, and far different from what you might think of when you think of Oregon. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

The landscape as the Columbia changes into the Snake is endlessly fascinating, and far different from what you might think of when you think of Oregon. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report aboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ S.S. Legacy continues tomorrow as we explore Clarkston and Hell’s Canyon! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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