Cruising the Columbia in a vintage wooden yacht

Cruising the Columbia in a vintage wooden yacht

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Over 47 years of marriage, Jim and Maila Cadd have owned 14 boats.

“It’s a terrible disease,” Jim joked.

None turn heads — or require as much TLC — as their newest acquisition, which is actually the oldest boat they’ve skippered.

For the past year, the Longview couple have been motoring up and down the Columbia River in the Rinta, a 75-year-old wooden yacht. With its well-polished teak paneling and shiny brass fittings, the 50-foot-long Rinta is a sleek tribute to a bygone age of boat building.

The yacht was built in 1938 in Seattle for a doctor who lived in Port Angeles. During World War II, the Coast Guard commandeered the vessel for picket service. “You can still see the dark gray paint that they used” in a few places, Jim said. After the war, an owner donated the boat to the Washington State Parks department, and it was used to survey potential parks in the San Juan Islands.

A decade ago, Jim Cadd retired as manager of the Georgia Pacific paper mill in Camas, having previously worked at the Wauna mill. Maila was an elementary school teacher in Clatskanie.

“We’ve only been landlocked for two years,” Maila said, in upstate New York while Jim managed the Georgia Pacific mill in Carthage.

“We’d always talked about getting a wood boat,” Jim said. “The problem with buying a wood boat is (that it’s) like buying an old car — you want one that’s done,” he said.

That’s just what they found in Seattle last year. They heard about the Rinta through a nephew who has a shipbuilding business in Anacortes.

Lew and Lindy Barrett of Seattle had owned the boat for 18 years and had spent thousands of hours lovingly restoring it. The craft had won numerous boat show awards and was written up in several books and boating magazines.

“He said, ‘I’m kind of burned out’ and he wanted to travel,” Jim said. Barrett told the Cadds he had put more than $300,000 into the boat over the years — they got it for under $100,000.

“He was really emotional when we bought this boat,” Jim said. “He spent all his time and his money on this boat.”

Considering its age, what was previously the Rita was in very good shape, Jim said. Older gasoline engines had been replaced with twin 125hp Caterpillar diesels, and it had new water and fuel tanks. (The Cadds re-christened the boat The Rinta, which is Maila’s maiden name. In Finnish, it means “bosom.”)

The Cadds turned to Tim Kirkpatrick, a trucking company owner who docks his boat a few slips away from them at the Longview Yacht Club, to bring the boat to its new home.

The Rinta has a fir hull, carvel-planked over steam-bent oak frames. The decks are fir and teak, and teak panels gleam throughout the interior.

One thing visitors notice is that the Rinta is narrower than newer boats. It makes for a sleeker look — but less space aboard.

“We say cooking for six, dining for four and it sleeps two,” Maila said. (On their last boat, a 48-foot Nordic, they could sleep eight people.)

At the bow is a cozy cabin with two bunks, and a head. The wheelhouse is a few feet higher, with the engines underneath it. You step down into the main cabin, where the galley is relatively large for a boat of this vintage. It still has the 1938 Wedgewood propane stove and original plate racks and decorative tile. The Cadds found a period ice box that holds ice, rather than a newfangled refrigerator. They did install a new heating stove.

A sofa converts to a bed. Aft is the cockpit, a covered sitting deck. The original art deco electric sconces light the wheelhouse interior.

Sitting in front of the wheel is the original, round brass compass, which still works fine. Because of modern electronic navigational gear, Jim rarely relies on it, however. A vintage-looking radio holds a tape cassette player never dreamed of in 1938.

Though the Rinta was in generally good shape, there’s been enough to keep the Cadds busy.

“Mechanically, it was pretty solid,” Jim said, but they did have the propellers and shafts worked on at a boat yard in Warrenton.

“I’ve completely varnished the entire boat,” Jim said. “I did all the brass. ... I think we’ve spent more money on varnish on this boat than we have on fuel.”

He estimates that he spends about two days a week working on the Rinta — much more time than actually sailing it. “Last summer, I worked on it every day for about three months,” he said.

“I’m the cook, first mate and the indoor housekeeper,” Maila said.

When they do take the yacht out, the relatively narrow hull provides stability. “We can go through the wash of a freighter and not experience that up and down,” Maila said.

“This boat handles pretty well in rough water,” Jim said. “It’s not a dry boat,” however — waves may wash up on deck and windows during storms.

Though the Rinta is certainly seaworthy, the Cadds have no plans to cross the Columbia River bar and head up or down the coast. “We’ll stay on the Columbia and on the Willamette,” Jim said.

Last summer, the Cadds motored to boat shows in St. Helens and Cathlamet, and the Lake Oswego show which is held on the Willamette. “We spent 10 days on the river, going as far as Beacon Rock,” Maila said. The temperature reached 100, “and we don’t have air conditioning,” she said.

They like to have friends out for dinner cruises in the waters around Willow Grove. “People wave and give us thumbs up,” Maila said — seeing that beautiful craft cutting through the water, elegance from a bygone era.

“It’s like an old car,” Jim said. “People like to look at old cars and old boats.”

TDN Online Editor; email:


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