I live in Hood
, on the eastern end of the Gorge.
This is a very doable trip, but you're going to have to play it smart.
This is a good time of year to do this trip. River currents are much less (generally average about 1.5 knots) than in the spring and early summer, when they are closer to 3 kn, or even 6 for the mile leading up to Bonneville Dam.
evm is right about the current leading into the locks. Expect a 4+ knot
current. The other locks are not nearly as bad.
This time of year the winds are highly variable, so you can't depend on the consistent westerlies we get in the summer. If there are westerlies, they will start around Beacon Rock, consistently build as you head
east, peaking around The Dalles to Arlington. Today they were 20-25 knots in Hood
River, which is pretty normal this time of year (they are 25-30 in summer).
Occasionally an easterly will come through this time of year, but they are more common in winter. They are strongest around the western end of the Gorge, then steadily diminish as you go east. By the time you get to Hood River they are rarely over 10 knots. In the winter they can be truly epic. 60+ knots out of the east is not uncommon at Crown Point. If you wait too long (until November), you really need to watch out for these.
So, watch the forecasts and take advantage of the westerlies. Hole up for the easterlies.
The river constantly shifts, so shallow spots come and go, especially below Bonneville. Fortunately, the bottom is usually soft mud in this stretch, so you're likely to just scrape bottom paint
. East of the Sandy the river is much more stable and the charts
start matching reality: it becomes a matter of following the charts. That's the good news. The bad news is that above Bonneville the bottom is unforgiving: it's almost always hard basalt and not the mud and sand of the lower Columbia.
Once you get past The Dalles, the river becomes very ditch-like and is easy to follow, but there are few anchorages
. Watch out for the gill nets along the shore, which are everywhere this time of year.
As for motoring: because there are still a lot of westerlies this time of year, you may be able to sail a surprising amount of it. Follow the advice to use your foresail where you can. The boat will be more stable (less likely to round up), and it is easier to depower: just let go of the jib
There is an abundance of anchorages
downstream from Bonneville, but they get less and less as you go upstream. Still, they are around. Try Government
Cove just upstream of Cascade Locks. Or, behind Walker Island just downstream of Hood River. Or, behind Miller Island off of the Deschutes. or Three Mile Canyon above Arlington. You've got a small boat so you can squeeze into some of the small coves that I can only dream about.
Then, of course, there are the marinas
: Camas, Cascade Locks, Hood River, The Dalles, Arlington, Crow Butte, Boardman, Umatilla come to mind.
The recreational lockage schedule ceases to apply after 15 September, so you don't need to worry about that until next May.
Unless you are starting on the Willamette (of which I know nothing) there are only two bridges that you will have to worry about. First is the "Vancouver Railroad Bridge" just downstream of the I-5 bridge. Call on Channel 13 and ask them to open it.
The other is the BNSF bridge just downstream of the Deschutes. Fortunately, this one is almost always open. Indeed, I have no idea how to ask for an opening because I've never had to!
You'll find the lockmaster and harbormasters get friendlier and friendlier as you go upstream. It is almost guaranteed it will be warm and sunny as you go east, at least through the next couple of weeks.
There's something spectacular about sailing through the desert on this ribbon of water, one of the worlds' great rivers! Have a blast!