Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Puget Island resident has a raft adventure

At 73, Puget Island resident Ron Wright still knows how to have a bit of fun.

On Friday, Wright left his East Sunny Sands home on a raft made out of items he found on beaches over the last few years.

It wasn't his first raft, and it wasn't his first adventure.

He rowed in a slough along Whites Island to the top of Puget Island, making his way upriver along Jackson Inlet into the Cathlamet Channel, crossing over toward town, and traveling along the high cliffs to his final destination, the Elochoman Slough Marina.

It took him seven hours.

Wright was taking part in the annual Wooden Boat Show, and his raft, Flotsam III, was his entry this year.

The voyage home took a little longer. He left the marina Sunday around 12:30 p.m. and arrived home at 1:30 a.m.

He started back the way he came, but the tide and the wind had different ideas. After getting all the way to the Puget Island bridge, Wright realized his efforts were becoming futile, and began sailing with the help of his umbrella into Birnie Slough. He made his way to the western tip of the Island, and started downriver in the shipping channel, hugging the beach.

"The current was against me," Wright said. "It was a lot quicker to get out of the boat and push. It was a lot colder too."

He pushed for about a mile and a half, talking to people he met along the way, letting them play a little on the raft too.

The tide changed around 10 p.m. and then he was able to row and drift home. Another blessing came as he found himself with a front row seat to the Perseid showers, seeing 20-30 meteors streak across the sky.

So tired after the long day, he was asleep within 10 minutes of arriving home.

Flotsam III is made of several items Wright found on beaches over the years. Foam blocks that came from a dock, a big orange navigation sign that floated all the way down the Willamette and the Columbia rivers from Oregon City, a bucket to hold water and food, his chair, ropes, and a 2 by 12 to fashion the oar locks.

The screws used to build the dock were purchased, and the oars came from another boat he owns. The umbrella? A woman handed that to him a couple years ago when he was sitting on an earlier raft. "You need this more than I do," she said.

Wright would like nothing more than to turn this into some kind of competition, people building the best rafts they can out of items they found on the beach, and maybe holding races.

Why does he do it?

For the same reason he is the mentor and coach for local robotics teams.

"The kids keep me young," he said. "I get to play, This is the same thing. There is no responsibility in this except to me. People worry about it, is this safe? Yes, I'm not going to do anything stupid but it's just fun."

He just wants to make something cool happen.

Pretty cool, Ron. Pretty darn cool.


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