Coast Guard assists sailing vessel near Ilwaco

SEATTLE – The Coast Guard responded to a sailing vessel in need of assistance near Peacock Spit near Ilwaco, Wash., on the Columbia River.

Coast Guard Air Station Astoria received a call for assistance from the crew of the 30-foot sailing vessel Tzegunka which was attempting to cross the Columbia River Bar in hazardous sea conditions and strong outgoing tide. The crew reported that they were being troubled by heavy weather and were unable to turn around in the rough seas and could not confirm their position.

The Dredge Terrapin attempted to assist the vessel by giving the Tzegunka skipper proper directions to the main channel and out of dangerous waters. The sailing vessel moved in the opposite direction moving further out of the channel and closer to Peacock Spit.

Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment launched a 47-foot motor life boat crew to the scene and took the Tzegunka into tow back to the safety of calmer waters.

The Tzegunka’s skipper had little knowledge of the buoy system, proper navigation or the hazards associated with coastal bar conditions and hazards.

The Coast Guard maintains a recorded bar and weather forecast report at (360) 642-3565. The recording is updated every 3 hours or when weather conditions change. New “Restricted Bar” warning signs and lights have been installed at Chinook, Hammond, and Skipanon boat ramps. If these lights are on… there is some type of safety restriction for the Columbia River bar.


  1. CHINOOK SPUR, UPPER, LOWER AND MIDDLE SAND ISLAND SPURS are built on two rows of staggered pilings. Currents flowing through these pilings attain a velocity of up to 5 knots. A boat which becomes disabled or is maneuvered in such a way as to come in contact with any of these spurs is almost sure to suffer damage or become trapped against them and turn over. Even large boats have been capsized in these areas. Give these spurs a wide berth and never get close to them on the up-current side.
  2. CLATSOP SPIT is the most unpredictable area on the river entrance. During flood currents and slack water it may be calm with only a gentle swell breaking far in on the spit. Yet 5 or 10 minutes later, when the current has started to ebb, it can become extremely hazardous with breakers extending far out toward the channel. You should remain north of the red buoys in this area, particularly just before or during the ebb. The South Jetty has a section broken away on the outer end. The broken section is under water close to the surface. Boats should use extra caution in the area from the visible tip of the Jetty out to Buoy “2SJ”. Peacock and Clatsop Spits are called the graveyard of the Pacific for good reason.
  3. JETTY A which is southeast of Cape Disappointment, presents a particular danger when the current is ebbing. Water flowing out of the river, is deflected by the jetty and frequently the currents reach 8 knots, often causing waves up to 8 feet high. Boats proceeding into Baker Bay West Channel make very little speed against the swift current and are exposed to the rough water or surf for long periods of time. The shallow sandy area should be avoided by small craft when heavy seas are present because of the surf which breaks on the beach.
  4. PEACOCK SPIT: Breakers are heavy in all types of current. Sports craft leaving the river should never be on the north side of the green buoys. When rounding Peacock Spit, give the breakers at least a half-mile clearance. Many times unusually large swells coming in from the sea suddenly commence breaking 1/4 to 1/2 miles outside the usual break on the end of the north jetty.
  5. MIDDLE GROUND: This is a shallow area between the North Jetty and main Ship Channel that is subject to breaking seas when swells as small as 4 feet are present. Conditions here can change in minutes with tidal current changes.


Radio Stations KVAS (1230 kHz) and KAST (1370 kHz) give bar condition reports 15 minutes before and after the hour. In addition Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment can be contacted via VHF-FM Channel 16 for conditions of the bar.

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