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Old 08-28-2018, 10:09 PM   #1
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PNW question

I'm thinking about cruising the Desolation Sound area this winter. Would be leaving from south Puget Sound, hopefully taking a month off. Weather is going to be cold and rainy, I work outside so nothing new. Anyone ever cruise this area in the winter? What have I to look forward too? Been land-locked to long. Thanks, and appreciate all comments.
Eric
PS. the boat is a 35' Eagle trawler
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Old 08-28-2018, 10:14 PM   #2
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I'm thinking about cruising the Desolation Sound area this winter. Would be leaving from south Puget Sound, hopefully taking a month off. Weather is going to be cold and rainy, I work outside so nothing new. Anyone ever cruise this area in the winter? What have I to look forward too? Been land-locked to long. Thanks, and appreciate all comments.
Eric
PS. the boat is a 35' Eagle trawler
Absolutely do-able, enjoyable even. Good cabin heat, foul weather gear, and lots of books are all you need...oh, yeah, an understanding spouse.
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Old 08-28-2018, 11:15 PM   #3
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Wind is different in the winter. Meaning it comes from a different direction and is more violent. All I am saying is you will need to watch your weather more carefully.

Many of the little marinas are seasonal, if you are planning on anchoring then it’s irrelevant. You will have all the choice anchorages to your self.
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Old 08-29-2018, 12:57 AM   #4
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The narrow passages, especially north of Desolation Sound have some dangerous currents with tide changes. If you haven't dealt with those before, planning goes a long way. The weather is as you'd imagine, but there are breaks in the rain and it's really nice in the fall and winter without the crowds.
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Old 08-29-2018, 05:23 AM   #5
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Absolutely do-able, enjoyable even. Good cabin heat, foul weather gear, and lots of books are all you need...oh, yeah, an understanding spouse.
I think I'm 4 for 4 on that one
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Old 08-29-2018, 05:33 AM   #6
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The narrow passages, especially north of Desolation Sound have some dangerous currents with tide changes. If you haven't dealt with those before, planning goes a long way. The weather is as you'd imagine, but there are breaks in the rain and it's really nice in the fall and winter without the crowds.
Yes, I've been there twice several years ago in the summer and early fall so I understand the planning part and actually look forward to it. Probably more concerned about winter storms and/or high winds.
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Old 08-29-2018, 07:23 AM   #7
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I'm a bit envious. If Dauntless was already in the Pac NW, I'd probably join you for some time.
Good advice above, I will only add some thoughts about winter weather in the NW.
During the summer, the energy available for any given low pressure system is limited. Therefore the winds are limited. Even over the open ocean, highest winds will be less than 50 kts. (This does not apply to hurricanes or thunderstorms).

In the winter, the situation is reversed in that the energy can be unlimited under the right circumstances (e.g. The Perfect Storm).

So just be prepared, Always know where safe harbors or shelters are for any given wind direction. Don't base decisions on your safety based on weather forecasts ("fcst says only 40 kts"). Assume any given forecast speed can be double and direction 90 degrees off.
But you have so many islands and places of shelter, just know what works,
Good luck and have fun.
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:26 AM   #8
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Great advice from all. I'll add one more bit of caution. Icing. It's very rare, I've run the PNW waters year round since the 70s and experienced it only one time.

We were departing Friday Harbor in January headed north in San Juan Channel. It was a beautiful morning. Crystal clear skies, the conditions you only see in winter. A northerly was blowing with temps in the low teens maybe even the single digits but I don't recall. Not heavy weather by any means, but spray hitting the house and deck. We began to ice up to our surprise. I didn't let it go on long enough to cause stability issues but after a time the wipers froze and we couldn't see out the iced up windows and I wouldn't let anyone on deck to clear the ice from the windows. We ducked into the lee of Yellow Island to get out of the chop and spray. In the calm we were able to clear the windows, turn around and return to Friday Harbor.

This is not to caution you away from winter cruising, more of a sea story. You will find beauty and solitude in winter that can't be found in summer. Just be careful, everything is more extreme.
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:38 AM   #9
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Another thing to be aware of on Canada's south, central, and north coasts of BC (sorry...pet peeve of mine...PNW is a USA reference to USA waters...) is winter outflow winds.

Not sure of the south coast where Desolation Sound is, but in Douglas Channel on the north coast northerly outflow winds can be up to 50 knots for over a week. These really kick in when temperatures are about -10C (14F) or lower. Bays with creeks will freeze.

Read recently that Gardner Canal off Douglas Channel can freeze for 25 miles at the top end because of fresh water riding on top of salt water.
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:44 AM   #10
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personally I would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place then Princess Louisa inlet in the winter.... If your boat is equipped for winter cruising...
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:48 AM   #11
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Jealous! If we didn’t have to stick around for second grade... One of our favorite Thanksgivings ever was spent on Sucia Island with friends. There was just one other boat in Fossil Bay.

I also remember many years ago reading a great story of a small Grand Banks flotilla that went to Princess Louisa Inlet for Christmas. Couldn’t find it, but did find this article written by our friend Mark Bunzel in Canadian Yachting (that actually referred to those GBers):

The Wonder of Winter Cruising
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Old 08-29-2018, 08:49 AM   #12
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Additional note...outflow winds are strongest in long, narrow channels cutting into the Coast Mountains when cold snaps happen in BC's interior.
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Old 08-29-2018, 09:00 AM   #13
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Another thing to be aware of on Canada's south, central, and north coasts of BC (sorry...pet peeve of mine...PNW is a USA reference to USA waters...) is winter outflow winds.

Got it. And I'll be sure to keep it straight between Canadian San Juans vs U.S. Gulf Islands.

Seriously thank you for pointing that out. Cross border respect matters. I just spent 3 weeks cruising the BC coast. Fabulous place!
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Old 08-29-2018, 09:17 AM   #14
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Murray, As I was growing up I was taught that the PNW went from Oregon to Alaska and everything in between.
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Old 08-29-2018, 09:21 AM   #15
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Got it. And I'll be sure to keep it straight between Canadian San Juans vs U.S. Gulf Islands.

Seriously thank you for pointing that out. Cross border respect matters. I just spent 3 weeks cruising the BC coast. Fabulous place!
Thanks

I shared a north coast outflow blast in the following link. Checking weather data for the Desolation Sound area from those dates might give you an idea of what might happen.

Brrrrr - First real wintery blast

Also, our biggest snowfalls happen when an outflow event is winding down and a strong, moist system is riding over top of it from the Pacific. Bring a shovel.
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:04 AM   #16
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Murray, As I was growing up I was taught that the PNW went from Oregon to Alaska and everything in between.
Hence Murray's (and my own) pet peeve. No attention is paid by your teachers to what the locals actually call the place. To us, from the south end of the Gulf Islands to the Dixon Entrance is NOT the PNW. It is the BC Coast, South, Mid and North. Within those zones are others of course, such as Desolation Sound, Southern and Northern Gulf Islands, the Broughtons, Haida Gwaii, and other local names.
We never refer to Alaska or Washington waters as if they are part of BC, so are Peeved when the reverse occurs, as it does quite often.
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:28 AM   #17
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Hence Murray's (and my own) pet peeve. No attention is paid by your teachers to what the locals actually call the place. To us, from the south end of the Gulf Islands to the Dixon Entrance is NOT the PNW. ...
We never refer to Alaska or Washington waters as if they are part of BC, so are Peeved when the reverse occurs, as it does quite often.
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Old 08-29-2018, 11:20 AM   #18
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If you live in the Maritimes Sidney BC could be termed the PSW.

Now, to me Desolation Sound is vastly overrated. Yes to Princess Louise. I much prefer the VI stops where power, fuel and shore amenities are available in the winter. Places such such as Sidney, Nanaimo, Comox and Campbell River.

But, a well found vessel with good equipment can do it all. Weather is only an issue if you ignore it.
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Old 08-29-2018, 11:27 AM   #19
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Hence Murray's (and my own) pet peeve. No attention is paid by your teachers to what the locals actually call the place. To us, from the south end of the Gulf Islands to the Dixon Entrance is NOT the PNW. It is the BC Coast, South, Mid and North. Within those zones are others of course, such as Desolation Sound, Southern and Northern Gulf Islands, the Broughtons, Haida Gwaii, and other local names.
We never refer to Alaska or Washington waters as if they are part of BC, so are Peeved when the reverse occurs, as it does quite often.

I recall a couple years ago being gently chided for referring to WA and BC waters as the PNW by either Keith or Murray. It was something that I had never considered before but I have since tried to change that US-centric habit. When I am including BC coastal waters I try to be specific about it. It is easy to do, provides better clarity, and why pet my friends peeves unnecessarily?
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Old 08-29-2018, 11:30 AM   #20
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If you live in the Maritimes Sidney BC could be termed the PSW.

Now, to me Desolation Sound is vastly overrated. Yes to Princess Louise. I much prefer the VI stops where power, fuel and shore amenities are available in the winter. Places such such as Sidney, Nanaimo, Comox and Campbell River.

But, a well found vessel with good equipment can do it all. Weather is only an issue if you ignore it.

"VI"?


I have yet to make it to Princess Louisa on my own hull. I want to do it sometime. I imagine that Jervis Inlet could be a rough trip if the wind was ripping down out of the mountains.
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