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Old 10-25-2016, 09:49 AM   #1
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Heading around the outside along the West Coast

Although I have a fair amount of sea time I have never piloted a vessel in the open. I am seriously considering a purchase that would require me to take the boat out the Strait of Juan De Fuca around to the Columbia. Is there a best time to try to plan this? I have a six month window before Washington decides I need to register and pay for sales tax. I am not going to rush the process, would prefer to watch and wait but thought I would reach out to some that have done just the same. Thoughts on websites to watch? Boat is 42' long, Grand Banks.
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Old 10-25-2016, 10:06 AM   #2
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Hook up with TF members Alaska Seduction, Bluexxx or GFC. They have been TF posters of same West Coast trip. Bottom line, it is about weather, tides, currents and bar timing awareness. Not to mention a vessel that is sound.

Me, I'd wait until 12 + hour sunlight days are once again the case. Question, can the GB comfortably run at 12 to 14 knots? That greatly eases the trip.
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Old 10-25-2016, 10:33 AM   #3
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There are many potential windows as long as time is completely unimportant. You have places to escape to all along the coast and just go prepared. I'd plan each day as a daylight only run and if at all hesitant to start the next day of the journey, then delay. The CG gives excellent information of conditions, especially of the bars, all along the coast.

As mentioned by sunchaser, speed can really ease the situation. Important to know the speed and range at each speed of your boat. Some days the extra speed will only be something you keep in reserve if needed. Other days it will be an important part of your plan to cruise in daylight.

Then the one thing I would advise is to know the boat in advance. Don't let this be your shakedown cruise. Cruise inside some first until very comfortable with the boat's condition. Then arm yourself with extra filters, etc. and make the trip.

You don't mention crew. I would not want to single hand this initial trip, just because of circumstances that can arise. Doesn't mean the other hands have to be great, but at least able to maintain course while you go check the ER or change a fuel filter.
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Old 10-25-2016, 10:40 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by bshillam View Post
Although I have a fair amount of sea time I have never piloted a vessel in the open. I am seriously considering a purchase that would require me to take the boat out the Strait of Juan De Fuca around to the Columbia. Is there a best time to try to plan this? I have a six month window before Washington decides I need to register and pay for sales tax. I am not going to rush the process, would prefer to watch and wait but thought I would reach out to some that have done just the same. Thoughts on websites to watch? Boat is 42' long, Grand Banks.
Cruising the Wash. west coast isn't a big deal if you are willing to wait out the weather window. When heading south, we stopped in Nia Bay, La Push, Westport and then crossing the Bar into Astoria. The longest for us was from La Push to Westport.
We used Windyty.com for a good picture of weather as well as a few others.
When we headed north in April seas were generally from the south/south west, as was the wind. When heading south in Sept. seas were generally from the North/ North West and wind was SouthWest/West.

What we looked for was swells less than 5 ft. with duration 10 seconds or greater and winds less than 10 knots. Keep a sharp lookout for crab pots the closer you get to Astoria, even in Sept. there was a bunch of them.

Good luck on the trip, and take your time.
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Old 10-25-2016, 11:10 AM   #5
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Hook up with TF members Alaska Seduction, Bluexxx or GFC.
Huh????

I agree with Crusty. Most folks that do this trip will travel April/May and then the latest end of October.

The biggest thing is weather. After October (actually it changes September 21st) the weather windows are few and far between

I am assuming your GB is a 7kt boat. This will be a 28-32 hour trip from Neah Bay to the Columbia River Bar non stop. Crusty stopped along the way which many folks do. We have the speed, so I did it in 12 hours. I travelled 15 miles offshore.

Again weather and timing of the bar is critical.
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Old 10-25-2016, 11:19 AM   #6
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I made that same trip you're talking about when I helped another guy take a boat from Seattle to Stockton, CA.


If you want to read about it, here's a link to that thread.
Journey of a Lifetime


I would not suggest running at night. We encountered crab pots in water much deeper than they were supposedly found. Because we only traveled during daylight hours (except for entering or leaving a port) we were able to see and avoid them. I would not want to be beneath a boat in the dark trying to cut crap pot lines out of the props or rudders.


If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me.
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Old 10-25-2016, 10:58 PM   #7
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Made the round trip from Florence OR to San Juan islands this summer. 48' Tollycraft. Left Florence on June 16 th and came back on Sept. 7. The advice to look out for crab pots is really good advice. The admiral and I had to keep a really sharp look out for the forgotten few that turn black with growth and sometimes submerge for part of the swell only to reappear in the panic zone. To avoid as many as possible we tried to stay in 240' to 300' or water. That kept us clear of most of the orphan pots out there.

We only ran in day light hours, and our speed was a comfortable 8 knots. The Tolly will do 18 knots, but not on my retirement pay. We planned to stop at each port with the exception of Depoe Bay. I don't know if I would fit around the dog leg in the entrance. I always called the Coast Guard before crossing any bar. They will fine you if you cross a bar that is restricted for your length. I would recommend that if the seas are 6' or more that you call ahead on the cell phone and ask about restriction before you start. You really would not want to travel all day to your destination and not be able to get into your destination. Plan your trip to always cross the bars on flood tide. The ports that we visited on the way north were: Newport (good place to fuel up, price is good and fuel fresh), Tillamook (Garibaldi) Really good food at the bistro on the North side of the basin., Ilwaco ( take a left at bouy 11 on the Columbia, England Marine available if you need parts). Ilwaco to Grays Harbor is the longest leg. (really good BBQ half a block south from top of transient dock and also a England Marine chandlery)., La Push is a short day and the port manager there will take good care of you. The channel into the dock was dredged and I had good depth 16' in most places. Nice little restaurant., Neah Bay (be careful going around Cape Flattery, only attempt the hole in the wall pass if weather and visibility are good)., Port Angeles (Run with the incoming tide and the wind will usually be at your back). Then to Friday Harbor. When in the Salish Sea its always prudent to check the tide tables before making a move.

One note, My AT&T phone was useless from Tillamook to Port Angeles. The Verizon phones work.

If more info needed let me know.

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Old 10-26-2016, 12:01 PM   #8
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I agree with Crusty. Most folks that do this trip will travel April/May and then the latest end of October.
The biggest thing is weather. After October (actually it changes September 21st) the weather windows are few and far between
Not so sure about that "April" recommendation. I've made the trip before and when I left in early May I was slammed with dangerous conditions. That's still a temperamental time of the year. Summer would be safer. However I always made the trip 25-35 miles offshore in one long trip, not several short hops like being discussed here.
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Old 10-26-2016, 07:53 PM   #9
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made this trip twice and it was always middle of June because it lays down a bit in June and the day light hours are a little longer. Same thought in September Longer days and sea states are nice as a general rule.

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Old 10-26-2016, 10:34 PM   #10
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Late spring to early fall is the best time. But watching the weather you can make short jumps in the winter. This would be the time to spend a little more in fuel if you have a speed reserve.
I commercial fished from Crescent City to Vancouver Island and also made trips on tugs and navy destroyers.
In the winter there are brief times between some storms. Be at Neah Bay and wait for a weather window. You may need to leave and run while small craft warnings are up. After the eye passes the wind comes around to the NW and pushes you along. Even in big waves, you can run with it. Any newer boat with things tied down should be able to safely transit in marginal weather. Have your tanks full so the fuel/water can't move side to side.
I would avoid LaPush if possible only because in the right conditions the harbor can remain closed for many days. In heavy SW winds and seas if it's open it's tough to get in. Better to run back to Cape Flattery.
Any of the bars, slack water, high tide is the best time to cross. Adjust your speed for that time and you'll have an easier bar crossing. The Columbia bar is famous for ship wrecks, but is easier (in my opinion) than any of the smaller bars. (At slack water, high tide.) Fisherman cross it every day it's open. Some with smaller boats than yours.
That's no lie about the crab pots. Another reason for transiting days is there is a lot of stuff in the water. Logs and maybe some debris from Japan.
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Old 10-26-2016, 10:51 PM   #11
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Great stuff Lepke. Nothing like the advice of one who has lived the waters.
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Old 10-27-2016, 12:09 AM   #12
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If you have never crosses the bars along the west coast you should plan your exit, AND distance to next bar crossing for high slack. Do not consider for a second trying to cross the Columbia or Greys Harbor Bars on any part of an Ebb. Flood only and preferably high near end of flood. At slack flood both bars may be a lake. Ebb may be hell. That's why it's called the Grave Yard of the West. Don't! Stay outside until then.
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Old 10-27-2016, 09:22 AM   #13
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As reported in 3 Sheets Northwest, in early October two good sized sailboats were lost and crews rescued off the OR and WA coasts. Bad weather and big seas were reasons given.
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