Ales & Ideas: Graveyard of the Pacific – Shipwreck and Survival on America’s Deadliest Waterway

Join Clatsop Community College and Fort George Brewery for the next Ales & Ideas Lecture on Thursday,May 2nd, 2024 at 7p.m. featuring author Randall Sullivan.

Randall combines maritime history, adventure journalism, and memoir, bringing alive the history—andpresent—of one of the most notorious stretches of water in the world, the Columbia River Bar. Located off the coast of Oregon, the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean and forms the Columbia River Bar: a watery collusion so turbulent and deadly that it’s nicknamed the Graveyard of the Pacific. The deadly history did not deter Randall, who endeavors to cross the bar with a friend in a two-man kayak, just shy of their seventieth birthdays.

Two thousand ships have been wrecked on the bar since the first European ship dared to try to cross it in the late 18th century. For decades ships continued to make the bar crossing with great peril, first with native guides and later with opportunistic newcomers, as Europeans settled in Washington and Oregon, displacing several Northwest Pacific Coast tribes and transforming the river into the hub of a booming region. Since then, the commercial importance of the Columbia River has only grown, and despite the construction of jetties on either side, the bar remains treacherous, even today a site of shipwrecks and dramatic rescues as well as power struggles between small fishermen, powerful shipowners, local communities in Washington and Oregon, the Coast Guard, and the Columbia River Bar Pilots – a small group of highly skilled navigators who help guide ships through the mouth of the Columbia. While their plan to cross the bar in a kayak is met with skepticism and concern. On a clear day in July 2021, when the tides and weather seem right, Randall and his friend embark. As they plunge through the currents that have taken so many lives, Randall commemorates the brave sailors that made the crossing before him – including his own abusive father, a sailor himself who also once dared to cross the bar – and reflects on toxic masculinity, fatherhood, and what drives men to extremes.

Doors to the Lovell Showroom open at 6 pm with food and beverages available via the Taproom window. All ages welcome and never a cover.

The Thursday Talk program is a reoccurring community lecture series every Thursday, October through May. Thank you to our 2023 Partners –

  • 1st Thursdays – Ales & Ideas w/ Clatsop Community College
  • 2nd Thursdays – Wit & Wisdom w/ Philosofarian
  • 3rd Thursdays – Thursday Night Talk w/ Clatsop County Historical Society
  • 4th Thursdays – Nature Matters w/ Lewis & Clark National Parks, National Parks Service, and North Coast Watershed Association

WHERE: Fort George Brewery, 1483 Duane St. Astoria, Oregon 97103 Map