Eastern Glow

I climbed aboard the Oscar B as the first light was breaking in Astoria. The tide was coming in, and this ferry was due upriver. Two seasoned mariners — who knew from the look of me I was an inlander by birth — were headed out on the Columbia River, as they’d done thousands of times before.

The Oscar B leaves a sleepy Astoria in its wake en route to Puget Island on the Columbia River Friday morning.
The Oscar B leaves a sleepy Astoria and many a moored ship in its wake en route up the Columbia River on Friday morning. Photo by Brooks Johnson

One was obviously better at talking to the river than talking to others, and the other was less than revealing about the namesake of the boat, his father.

Dave Schmelzer talks about past river adventures while co-piloting the Oscar B up the Columbia River on Friday morning. Schmelzer, a retired tugboat pilot, took turns guiding the ferry with the son of the real Oscar B, Gary Bergseng. Photo by Brooks Johnson
Dave Schmelzer talks about past river adventures while co-piloting the Oscar B up the Columbia River on Friday morning. Schmelzer, a retired tugboat pilot, took turns guiding the ferry with the son of the real Oscar B., Gary Bergseng. Photo by Brooks Johnson
Gary Bergseng said his father devoted his life to the ferry, the only Columbia River crossing between Longview/Rainier and Astoria.
Lifelong Puget Island resident Gary Bergseng, 67, said his father devoted his life to the ferry, the only Columbia River crossing between Longview and Astoria. Photo by Brooks Johnson

So the sound of the engines and the bark of sea lions provided the soundtrack to much of Friday’s trip delivering the new Puget Island-Westport ferry, one of few Washington/Oregon routes remaining on the river — and the last of the Lower Columbia ferries.

It was a routine trip for the pair of retired river pilots, but for me it was an opportunity, a way to craft poetry out of the historical record that may well be referred to in 50 years when yet another ferry takes its place.

A typical view of the sea lion-speckled river ahead Friday morning as the Oscar B made its way to Puget Island. Photo by Brooks Johnson
A typical view of the sea lion-speckled river ahead as the Oscar B made its way home. Photo by Brooks Johnson

Back on dry land in February, Longview got a new city manager and found out its golf course manager was sleeping in the clubhouse.

And then there was the curious case of one man trying to reason his way out of a camera-trap speeding ticket — with science!

Back again to the water, a stink is being raised about the stink that could be caused by protections for smelt limiting the city’s ability to flush a man-made lake in the heart of Longview. (Yes, it would smell worse than the paper mills when it rains.)

Finally, one medical marijuana patient stands up to what he calls a “hostile takeover” by the recreational pot industry and the state Legislature.

Marijuana
Levi Godwin fears his medical marijuana garden will soon shrink should a bill being considered by the state Legislature change the way medical marijuana is regulated. Photo by Brooks Johnson
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