Our area has many communities centered around our two big rivers: the Columbia and the Willamette. It has become a tradition to run the Christmas Ships on different parts of the rivers for the viewing pleasure of different communities. These are local boat owners who decorate their boats (and ships, if they’ve got ’em) with Christmas lights, and then float on the river, just for fun. I did not know the ships would be in my tiny town of Rainier, and so I was surprised to see the river awash in coloured lights on Friday night, as I headed down the hill from my house to the highway, so I could go spend the weekend in Portland with Pedro and his kids.
As I drove down the mountains to Highway 30, which is right on the Columbia River, I tried to think of the best place to see the ships. They were heading West, toward Astoria, and it was possible I had missed them completely. But just in case they would come back, I drove to the Rainier Marina and parked. It began to rain as I got out of the car, but I went out onto the docks and walked as far into the water as the docks would allow. I had not anticipated a nighttime event, so I did not have my camera, and carried my iPhone with me. The ships slowly, beautifully, floated away from me.
I stood in the rain and watched the light reflect on the rippling river water. I always enjoy the look of the lumber and pulp mills across the river, in Longview, Washington, and the steam rising from the stacks. It adds so much light to our rural community and really looks like it’s a bustling city, though it is not. Small waves lapped against the dock, and one of the boats was playing classic Christmas songs, that made an aqua echo across the water.
I decided it was time to head back to the Jeep before I got too wet in the light rain (in authentic Oregon fashion, I had brought neither an umbrella nor a raincoat.). I walked back along the dock, then as I began to climb the ramp back up to the shore, I looked back and saw the ships coming closer! I turned around, and one more time walked all the way back out to the end of the dock. There were people on shore watching. I do not know why none of them wanted to walk out onto the docks, which I thought were the best place for viewing ships.
My tenacity paid off and I got better photos. It was a quaint and festive scene, and made me half an hour later getting to Pedro’s house, but it was worth it.
Once they had all cycled past me, I was happy to get back on the highway and head through Cornelius Pass to go find my love. The rain had made me cold and wet, but it was an hour’s drive, and by the time I reached him, I was warm and dry again.