To many, Washington State University is a landlocked university. But Tom and Barbara Wilson beg to differ. The Seattle sailors covered 1,700 nautical miles last summer aboard their 53-foot boat powered by twin 700-horsepower Caterpillar engines. The Wilsons started their “Cougar Country Cruise” in Shelton and ended it at Clarkston, before returning home to Seattle. En route they visited WSU Vancouver and WSU Tri-Cities via the Columbia River. And came within 25 miles of the Pullman campus at Wawawai Landing on the Snake River.

Tom Wilson’s goal as 2003-04 commodore of the 300-member Cougar Yacht Club is to put on a CYC event in all of the state’s 26 “waterfront counties.” Along the way, the couple hosted open houses aboard the Toba, had potlucks on docks, and dinners at nearby restaurants.

They met “hundreds of wonderful Cougars from all over the state,” Wilson says, and signed up 100 new CYC members. The five o’clock receptions varied in size-from six at Starbuck to as many as 40 in Portland, Walla Walla, and the Tri-Cities.

The exciting thing about the Cougar Cruise, Wilson said, was that it was “a way for the University to expand its connection with alumni, parents, and communities.” He attended WSU in the mid-’60s.

The itinerary was planned in January. One concern was navigating the eight locks en route-four dams on the Columbia, four on the Snake. The Wilsons were on the water 12 hours a day along the Washington coast, and one to four hours daily on the rivers. “There was always something to do, Cougars to do it with, and new geography to see,” says Wilson, president of Emerald Marketing, a manufacturer’s rep firm. Barbara, a retired clinical psychologist, kept the cruise log, excerpted below. For more information, contact Wilson at 206-784-6297 or