WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT
It's hot — face-melting, fry your chicken on the sidewalk hot.
But the cool thing is, Portland's Willamette River is ripe for boating.
We're not talking kayaks, rafts and stand-up paddleboards — which are blissful ways to recreate, but still require work.
If you're looking for something bigger, faster, more of a joyride with more of a social atmosphere — perfect for friends, families, work parties and special events — here are six great bets for these dog days of summer:
BrewBarge — You've heard of the BrewCycle, where you pedal a giant bicycle-like vehicle through the streets while drinking beer and listening to music with a bunch of your closest friends. Now picture that on a boat, and you've got the BrewBarge, for ages 21 and older. Up to 14 riders may bring or buy and consume up to 36 ounces of beer, wine or cider per person during the 1 1/2-hour trip along the Willamette. The beer (available for purchase) comes courtesy of BrewBarge's own brand-new BackPedal Brewing, which opened recently in the Pearl District with three rotating house beers. Pair your favorite beers with your favorite ride. Rates start at $35 for rides Sundays through Thursdays. Info: www.brewgrouppdx.com.
Scovare Expeditions — Ever dream of setting off on a sailboat? This family-run operation, Scovare — which means to unearth or discover — let's you do just that, with private sailing tours, pontoon party boats and other custom adventures for groups up to 12. Choose from a city lights and bridge cruise, 90-minute sailing tour, 45-minute island and bridge powerboat tour or private sailboat or party boat cruise. Rates start at $49 per person for the 45-minute tour. Info: www.sailscovare.com
Portland Boat Tours — Set off on your private tour of the river via a vintage wooden boat, as you soak up your guide's narration of a nesting bald eagle or 10 of the 12 major Willamette bridges. Learn about the river's wartime shipbuilding past and the site that used to be a floating brothel. Enjoy the serenity of a sunset cruise, to catch that pinkish glow in the sky from the water, or customize your own half- or full-day tour to someplace magical, like Willamette Falls in Oregon City or the Multnomah Channel near St. Johns. Rates start at $79 per person for 75 minutes. Info: www.portlandboattours.com
Willamette Jetboat Excursions — See the bridges, the history, the wildlife, gorgeous waterfront homes and the majestic Willamette Falls at a thrilling pace, ideal for any adrenaline junkie. These boats are large and can seat more than 100 people, so it's a party-like atmosphere. A three-hour jetboat adventure heads up to the Columbia River and includes lunch at The Deck. A two-hour scenic tour cruises down the Willamette, and the one-hour tour zips around the downtown bridges and harbor. Rates start at $31 per person for the one-hour tour. Info: www.willamettejet.com
Portland Electric Boat Company — Have a bunch of friends, and want to play captain for a day, without burning a ton of fuel? You can rent a 21-foot Duffy electric boat for up to six hours and cruise along the water at 5 miles per hour, not much different than golf cart speed. No boating experience is necessary, just a driver's license is needed (drivers must be 21 or over). You bring the music and up to 10 friends; they'll provide the sound system, comfy seating and tour maps to chart your course. Rates start at $125 per hour, two-hour minimum. Info: www.portlandelectricboatcompany.com
Portland Spirit — A mainstay in Portland for decades, Portland Spirit has added a ton of different flavors to its river cruises. Hop on board for dinner, lunch or brunch, or perhaps a Flashback (1970s, '80s and '90s) Dance Cruise on a Friday night. Thursdays through September, there's an Early Escape Concert Series, featuring a live local band on board with snacks and drinks. Also through September, check out the city tour, the sightseeing cruise or the spectacular Heart of the Gorge jetboat ride from Portland to Cascade Locks and back at 45 miles per hour, with lunch at Locks Waterfront Grill. Cyclists may opt to bike 45 miles of the Columbia River Highway and bring their bikes on board for the return. Rates start at $20 for the Flashback Dance Cruise. Info: www.portlandspirit.com