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Old 06-22-2018, 08:06 AM   #1
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Columbia River Bar

Here in the Taiwanese Makes section, looking specifically for anyone who has taken their CHB-class trawler across the Columbia River Bar. Iím looking to confirm whether these boats with their square sterns, small rudders, and slow speeds are up to the challenge of tumultuous seas.

Requesting first-hand experience!
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Old 06-22-2018, 09:22 AM   #2
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I've crossed the bar numerous times in many types of boats including square stern, small rudder slow boats. The general concept is the same no matter the boat. Lots of small slow boats cross the bar all the time. Preparation and timing are key to doing it safely.

  • Best to cross in light winds and low swell. Watch the weather predictions for wind and swell, generally mornings are lighter winds than afternoons.
  • Flood tide is best when crossing inbound. Slack before the flood best outbound. You can cross outbound on the flood but it will be a slow trip.
  • AVOID ebb tides and onshore winds. The seas can stack up close together and breakers are common. On some days the change from benign to deadly happens almost instantly as the ebb starts. Especially with an onshore wind.
  • Stay away from Clatsop Spit and Peacock Spit. Both can be boat killers.
I have to say this, you may already know it but I've seen too many people get bit in the back side for not understanding this. Tidal current predictions and tide height predictions have very little time relationship to each other on coastal estuaries. For example the ebb current can run well into the rising tide.

Know your coastal speed over ground, it will usually be slower than calm water. Wind and coastal tidal currents will affect your speed. Have a plan for harbors of refuge on your route. Study the charts. Find those with local knowledge. Have good tidal and weather predictions for your route.

If you have no experience off the PNW coast start with Charlie's Charts U.S. Pacific Coast. Then dig in deeper with any good resources you can find for your intended route.

Probably the most important thing you can do beyond getting prepared and timing your crossing correctly is to have patience and flexibility. If you're headed out and you don't like the looks and feel of it before you get to the bar turn around and try again another day. If you're headed in and the bar is kicking up but you're uncomfortable out there, live with it till the bar settles down.
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Old 06-22-2018, 09:38 AM   #3
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Thanks, Portage. All excellent advice. Iíve certainly been doing a lot of studying, and the point about patience is well-taken.

Still looking for that first-hand endorsement though...!
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Old 06-22-2018, 10:24 AM   #4
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As Portage stated: NEVER EVER NEVER EVER NEVER cross the bar on the ebb.

Only slack or flood. I know from experience.
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Old 06-23-2018, 05:48 PM   #5
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I've only been across twice and both times were non-events. Smaller chop on the bar than we'd had coming down the coast. It's all about the timing.


"NEVER EVER NEVER EVER NEVER cross the bar on the ebb."
Tom, how do you really feel about that?
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Old 06-23-2018, 06:53 PM   #6
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I have never entered the inlet, but have gone down the coast past it. We were 8NM offshore and once we were in it, wished were twice that far offshore. It was impressive.
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Old 06-23-2018, 11:00 PM   #7
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Its all about the timing.

If you respect the bar it will respect you. Exit on a slack, maybe a bit early if your slow like me, enter a bit earlier. When I say a bit, 30 mins or so.

Enjoy but be wise, the bar is a big deal, dont take it for granted.
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Old 06-23-2018, 11:39 PM   #8
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Its all about the timing. ...
No doubt!
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Old 06-24-2018, 07:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Portage_Bay View Post
I've crossed the bar numerous times in many types of boats including square stern, small rudder slow boats. The general concept is the same no matter the boat. Lots of small slow boats cross the bar all the time. Preparation and timing are key to doing it safely.

  • Best to cross in light winds and low swell. Watch the weather predictions for wind and swell, generally mornings are lighter winds than afternoons.
  • Flood tide is best when crossing inbound. Slack before the flood best outbound. You can cross outbound on the flood but it will be a slow trip.
  • AVOID ebb tides and onshore winds. The seas can stack up close together and breakers are common. On some days the change from benign to deadly happens almost instantly as the ebb starts. Especially with an onshore wind.
  • Stay away from Clatsop Spit and Peacock Spit. Both can be boat killers.
I have to say this, you may already know it but I've seen too many people get bit in the back side for not understanding this. Tidal current predictions and tide height predictions have very little time relationship to each other on coastal estuaries. For example the ebb current can run well into the rising tide.

Know your coastal speed over ground, it will usually be slower than calm water. Wind and coastal tidal currents will affect your speed. Have a plan for harbors of refuge on your route. Study the charts. Find those with local knowledge. Have good tidal and weather predictions for your route.

If you have no experience off the PNW coast start with Charlie's Charts U.S. Pacific Coast. Then dig in deeper with any good resources you can find for your intended route.

Probably the most important thing you can do beyond getting prepared and timing your crossing correctly is to have patience and flexibility. If you're headed out and you don't like the looks and feel of it before you get to the bar turn around and try again another day. If you're headed in and the bar is kicking up but you're uncomfortable out there, live with it till the bar settles down.
This excellent advice, beyond the specific local points of interest, applies to virtually every inlet on either coast.
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Old 06-26-2018, 01:44 PM   #10
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I have never entered the inlet, but have gone down the coast past it. We were 8NM offshore and once we were in it, wished were twice that far offshore. It was impressive.
The affects of the Columbia River can be felt 60nm out.
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Old 06-27-2018, 07:28 PM   #11
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https://www.opb.org/news/video/grave...oria-waterway/
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Old 06-28-2018, 09:57 AM   #12
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Thanks for sharing that video.
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Old 06-28-2018, 01:55 PM   #13
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The Columbia bar at normal times is not the danger that most of the stories paint. Commercial fishermen cross the bar almost every day. I've crossed bars along the Pacific Coast hundreds of times. The Columbia Bar at least twice a year. If you want the best ride, Slack water at high tide. Period.
The roughness of a bar is caused by the seas and swells coming into a shallow bottom. And can be made much worse by low tide and the ebb tide going in the opposite direction of the wind. That causes much steeper waves and causes the waves to be much closer together.
In the days of sailing ships, and some idiot sailboaters today, ships crossed the bar during the ebb for the additional speed of crossing the bar and getting the current push offshore. But the plan was to start the crossing early in the ebb while the tide was still near flood (and the water deeper over the bar). The continuing ebb current will help the sailing vessel get offshore.

Late in the ebb or at low tide, the bar is at its shallowest. Causing the highest, steepest waves. Some shallow bars can cause bigger boats and ships to touch the bottom. Touching the bottom can cause pitch poling. I know a fisherman that did just that.
Even though I have a big boat, I plan my crossings by adjusting my speed to hit the ideal time. Or when coming down river, stay at Ilwaco until tide conditions are best.
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