"I haven't stopped talking about the Sea Trials trip; it was just amazing. When I tell people it was the best trip I'd been on since 1962 they wonder what could have been so incredible. For me it was the nighttime navigation. Piloting a sailboat 200 miles up and down the Columbia River, sometimes in the middle of the night with huge vessels, barges and oceangoing craft navigating the same waterway is a thrill that is hard to compare. Throw in uncharted shoals (? The captain is unaware of uncharted shoals, though uncharted hazards exist) and fog and there is the making of a thrill of a lifetime.
"While it sounds scary and dangerous, the confidence we had in our Skipper Cliff and later even in ourselves allowed us to feel safe at all times. We learned skills and confidence that I never expected to gain from this trip. Cliff Mason is a seasoned professional, wonderful teacher and a gentleman. I could not more highly recommend the Skipper and Messenger Sailing. It was truly an adventure.
"While motoring downstream would seem to be boring, it is anything but, when you are trying to stay on a particular course, determining the next course, etc., and then it gets dark and we just keep going!...The best thing is that we learned by doing, and you did a great job of teaching with your patience, laid-back demeanor and your consistently positive attitude and reinforcement. It was great sailing on the ocean and then to have the bonus of sailing almost all the way back to Cathlamet, and in the dark again, no less."
"Bonneville is a great trip...The sailing above the dam, as well as the trip up and back, far exceeded my expectations."
"You enabled me to conquer some of my basic fears (sailing at night, plotting a course, and going over the bar into the great ocean blue) yet you did it in a manner that never made me feel inadequate or silly for having such fears...a great experience for me."
"I wanted to thank you once again for an awesome weekend. Our trip was everything and more than what I dreamed."
"A real eye opener and great learning experience. This was perfect for helping me be comfortable with moving up to larger boats and longer journeys."
"Cliff is an excellent guide and teacher, always willing to take the time to explain in detail any aspect of sailing. His patience was endless and much appreciated. The opportunity to see the wonders of our Columbia River from a unique perspective only added to the experience. We are very grateful for the opportunity, and would highly recommend it!"
"Thank you for offering such an amazing adventure, so much was packed into three days!...Sailing on the ocean was just unbelievable, I would like to do more...hope to sail with you again."
"I really enjoyed the Sea Trials this weekend. My interest was in the educational aspect more that the adventure aspect. It turned out that it exceeded my expectations on both counts."
"I'm still absorbing everything that happened on the Sea Trial, and will be for a long while. The Sea Trial is a great concept, it is very thoughtfully planned and was suberbly executed by you. It brought Chart One to life, on one of America's mightiest rivers. The bar crossing and the beat to the radar buoy in a strong breeze, under your quiet but expert supervision, was a major extension of my sailing experience."
"...Spending a lot of time navigating at night was a blast. It really reinforces the importance of (good piloting practices) and working together as a crew. You can bet I will never look at (daylight piloting) in the same way again.
The size of the boat teaches respect for winches/controls one might otherwise be inclined to give little thought to... Messenger is a good platform for this class.
Having the opportunity to use radar, GPS, etc was good experience. Engine and general boat tutorials were good as well. Reading about this stuff is never the same as seeing it done/doing it. A little radio work would be a nice addition."
"For me, someone who hadn't spent more than a couple of hours at a time aboard a large sailboat, "Sea Trials" was the perfect experience. Not only did I participate in the logistics of five people over three days but through rotation of the helm and navigation duties, I logged an impressive amount of hours in a wide variety of conditions. Some of the non-tangible experiences were a fiery sunset from a quiet marina, leaving the Columbia River buoy and the coast behind with nothing but sun, sea and wind ahead (even if it was just for a little while), and piloting under the Astoria bridge in early morning fog. Since my goal was a chartering certification, I completed my trip feeling that I now have the experience to charter a boat with confidence."