Inspired by the memory of ideal conditions, I summoned the members of the Portland Sail & Oar League for a summer solstice messabout on the Columbia River.

“I’m itching to get out on the river and enjoy the longest day of the year with an overnighter on Row Bird. Perhaps you’d like to get away in your own boat too? Then let’s think about heading out together, apart. Maybe we’ll gather distantly around a fire as we watch the longest day of they year come to a close?” I e-mailed.

With the pandemic on, I didn’t expect a lot, but I hoped at least one person would join me (in their own boat) for at least an afternoon on the water. Then slowly, but surely, like seeds sprouting on a warm day, two guys said they’d come, followed by one more yes, and a strong tentative, making five sailors, five boats. For the first time in weeks, I had something to look forward to.

But as the days got closer, a shiver went through the fleet. One guy* had to change the litter in his hamster cage, another suddenly remembered his grandma’s birthday, a third couldn’t find his oars, and the fourth sailor simply decided that sailing under corona might be a bad idea. (*Stories have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Still buoyed by previous solstice fun and a need to escape my captivity, I vowed to go out alone and enjoy the longest day and the shortest night. There was no wind forecast and I didn’t have to coordinate with anyone else, so I decided to do an overnighter with an open itinerary. I would close the last section of free-flowing Columbia River between the ocean and Bonneville dam that I hadn’t yet sailed.