Just when you think you’ve uncovered all of the jewels in Portland’s funky crown, along comes an abandoned boat shaped like an alien spaceship that sits on a nude beach. We’re talking about a local landmark fittingly dubbed the “Collins Beach UFO Boat.”
If it sounds like something from a Keep Portland Weird treasure hunt, that’s because it is — sort of. Finding this peculiar site requires some adventuring… in more ways than one.
A quirky quest
The old boat is stranded on Collins Beach on the Columbia River side of Sauvie Island. Part of the beach is clothing-optional, with signs clearly marking the area where you may glimpse a lot of skin. The boat is tucked among the trees somewhere between the second + third parking areas. You likely won’t be able to spot it until you’re about 200 ft away.
How’d it get there?
The front page of a Jan. 5, 1973 issue of The Oregonian featured a photo of the “floating saucer” bobbing on the Willamette River in West Linn, complete with two large sails and a paddlewheel. Engineer Richard Ensign built it at a cost of $10,000 and was taking it on its maiden voyage to the Pacific Ocean.
Four-year-old Charlotte Smyth and her family joined Richard on the trip; 40 years later, KOIN 6 News tracked down Charlotte to ask her about the three-month journey (which included a brush with some curious military pilots). “It was like a giant fort that floated,” she told reporter Tim Becker, “it was so much fun, it was an adventure — the adventure of all of our lives.”
The boat ran aground on Sauvie Island during a flood in 1996. Today, it’s an empty shell covered in colorful graffiti that’s best admired from the outside, because the interior is littered with debris (from past alien visitations?) and isn’t safe to enter.