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Whether you have a yacht or a simple sailing boat, the Columbia River offers relaxation and a chance to see a bald eagle.

COURTESY PHOTO: DAVE BAILEY - Robin Scott, from Forest Grove, takes every opportunity he can to navigate the Columbia River. Take it from local boaters: Sailing from St. Helens out to the Columbia River is a great recreational option during the warm summer months.

One avid boater with lots of experience to share is Robin Scott, who resides in Forest Grove but launches his boat from the St. Helens Marina whenever he gets the chance.

Scott, who has a 47-foot yacht, has plenty of advice for sailing newbies in the Columbia County area.

Scott, who once resided in Scotland, recommends that you learn as much as possible about sailing before heading to the water for the first time. There are courses, online resources and sailing clubs where you can get to know fellow sailors.

"You need a team," Scott said of the sailing clubs. "You get to meet new people, and it's all about comradeship. You meet sailors who have sailed around the world. They tell you their stories, and then you get excited — then you want to do it."

If a yacht is not in your budget range, you can take advantage of other crafts to navigate the waterways, including tugboats, motorboats and smaller sailboats ranging from 12 to 50 feet.

"The best thing is just to get in a small boat, hire it for the day or a few hours," Scott advised. "Find somebody who will give you a lesson. There are plenty of people who will take you out."

Scott continued, "The sailing community is a really friendly community. They all work together. I'm always looking for crew. I can never get enough people."

Scott, who has sailed since he was 9 years old, cautions against trying to sail on your own the first time.

"Don't just get in the boat and go, because there are too many dangers," Scott said. "There is a current here that comes through at 5 knots, so you can be swept away. You need to have someone with experience. … There are plenty of courses online."

Walking along the dock, you might just bump into somebody with a lot of boating experience.

As an example, "I've had people walking on the dock, and I've been short-handed," Scott said. "I'll say, 'Do you want to come?' and we'll just take them."

Once out on the Columbia River, there are natural beauties to take in. But beware of the winds, which can be tricky.

"You can get 35- to 45-mph winds going through the river," Scott said. "That's the sort of weather I like to go out in. But that's only for skilled people. Most people only want to go out in 15 mph winds."

While Mother Nature can be fickle, she is also magnificent.

"There is so much beauty on the river," Scott said. "Bald eagles … sea lions. You'll see the fish jump in. There's just so much beauty."

As to those sea lions, Scott added, "Sometimes you'll see them coming out the water with a salmon in their mouth, and you'll see seagulls diving down trying to take the salmon out of their mouths."

Sailing is a sport you can take advantage of year-round.

"It's always good to get out," Scott said. "A sailor is an eternal optimist. We want wind no matter what. If you can't get it, you still have an engine on your boat. You can go out and just motor around."

Sailing is also a great way to forget about worldly problems and stresses, Scott said, adding, "I feel more relaxed on my boat than I feel anywhere else."


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