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Old 06-20-2019, 08:41 PM   #1
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Transiting Columbia River mouth

Despite the horror stories, transiting the Columbia River entrance/exit can be a piece of cake. Here, June 16, with early-morning fog:
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:18 PM   #2
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I have not entered the river but when we went past it going south I thought we were going to die. Huge breaking waves 8 NM offshore. We should have gone way further offshore. Since we were going downhill we couldn’t see them breaking until we were in it.
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:38 PM   #3
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I have not entered the river but when we went past it going south I thought we were going to die. Huge breaking waves 8 NM offshore. We should have gone way further offshore. Since we were going downhill we couldn’t see them breaking until we were in it.
Seas were calm off Washington and the same the next day off Oregon. Roughest waters were off northern California. Same in opposite direction nearly three weeks earlier.
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:41 PM   #4
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Went through there on an old 1950’s, steam turbine , oil tanker (Engineer, not on Deck so we just answered the telegraph and did as told) almost 35 years ago. If I ever make it up there on the current boat and transit that bar, I would hire a local Captain to help out regardless of what the weather was doing.
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Old 06-21-2019, 12:07 AM   #5
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Any bar along the Northwest coast can be crossed safely. I’ve been over the Chenalis (Westport) bar on 19’ boats in glass flat condition, and been on a carrier that was tossed around like a beer can off the Columbia.

Watch the weather, cross at slack, and know your vessel.
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Old 06-21-2019, 01:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
I have not entered the river but when we went past it going south I thought we were going to die. Huge breaking waves 8 NM offshore. We should have gone way further offshore. Since we were going downhill we couldn’t see them breaking until we were in it.
Yes, we experienced similar. We were 8 to 10 NM out from the entrance, and it was quite rough!
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:38 AM   #7
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I realize any bar can be crossed safely in the PNW, including in small vessels. I have done 30 mile crossings to offshore islands on a kayak, but I knew the area well having grown up There and the associated risks. My comment was a Newb to that area because I boat in the lower half of the U.S. I would either want a friend with me who has been through it a few times, or I would pay someone for their local knowledge of shoaling, best times to cross, etc. Opinions may vary, just my take.
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Old 06-21-2019, 08:49 AM   #8
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The Columbia River Bar is one of the most treacherous in the world. It is where the US Coast Guard conducts its advanced training. Over 2000 vessels have been lost there and the Coast Guard averages almost 600 rescues a year (almost 2 per day!) It can certainly be a challenge for those unfamiliar.

Timing and weather are the two biggest factors to manage. But “knowing your boat” is a tougher one, since everyone must have a first time, when they in fact do not know their boat, at least not for those conditions.

We get a lot of people on here who spout about bars, knowing nothing of the Columbia. We also get a lot of people talking about it being “easy”, though their boat may be blue water rated and able to do 15+ knots. I am always looking for first-hand stories from those with more traditional low-and-slow coastal cruisers. How have their experiences been?
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Old 06-21-2019, 09:04 AM   #9
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My whole life with small boating from Connecticut to the Bahamas to the Gulf and parts of Alaska...then USCG or commercial over many of the same parts and some more....


Some boaters see boating as this highly treacherous thing and others see the simplicity in it. We all are caught off-guard at some points, but most manage to survive from experience and good seamanship.


TF if one of the largest sources of fearmongering in boating I have experienced.


No matter what someone posts, someone has a horror story. Then that is debated ad nauseum. To the point where the simple fact that 100 or more things may have prevented the outcome of the horror story.


Sure the skippers experience and reaction is always a significant factor in outcome of any serious situation. But one or two posted experiences obviously should not sound general quarters for every trip you make...if it did...having been at general quarters enough in my life...I would never boat again.


So read each post with the intent of it being a tidbit and not the whole story.....
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Old 06-21-2019, 09:56 AM   #10
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It is all about timing. On a flood current with decent offshore weather, generally no problem. But even then I have experienced standing waves in excess of 20 feet. It gets your attention when you suddenly lose sight of the 50' fishing vessel just ahead of you.
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Old 06-21-2019, 11:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Timing and weather are the two biggest factors to manage. But “knowing your boat” is a tougher one, since everyone must have a first time, when they in fact do not know their boat, at least not for those conditions.
Wow, I think that is one of the more profound statements I have ever read here. Confirmed my feelings that I do NOT want to know my boat in life threatening conditions for a first time!

That may sound simple, but many of us have been caught/surprised by weather that was either not forecast properly or exceeded the forecast. We're always glad to know the boat can handle more than the crew can. But in more than 3,500 miles our experience has taught us to be very conservative and basically err on the side of being chicken.

That would not stop us from crossing the Columbia River bar. As long as it looked like the pic Mark posted!
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Old 06-21-2019, 12:34 PM   #12
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Wifey B: I read all the "fearmongering" (using pfneeld's term) remarks about the Columbia Bar. I've read similar on 90% of the bars and inlets on both coasts. Every bar or inlet can be dangerous, but all those people cross regularly can also be safe and easily managed. Time, circumstances, boat, and skill and experience all are elements that are important. Also, talk to CG and talk to others on the day of the planned crossing. Pau mentioned Westport. We crossed it more than any other when on the west coast. Day before our first time we walked out to the point and looked and I was really wondering about crossing it, but I watched all the charter fishing boats coming in. The charter captains became our number one source and often we'd follow them out and take the same path. There are plenty of boats crossing the Columbia Bar regularly. The world of boating doesn't end with a wall in Astoria.
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Old 06-21-2019, 08:59 PM   #13
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When I was helping a guy take a boat from Seattle down to Stockton we crossed the bar twice; in then out the next day.


Coming in we were in a 2' chop. Piece of cake. Going out the next morning we were in seas about 1' in height. Easy Peasy.
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Old 06-21-2019, 10:33 PM   #14
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I cross the Columbia often. Usually at slack water, high tide. It's the best ride and the current isn't fighting any wind. Wind pushing against current makes the waves big.
Commercial fishermen with bigger boats cross at all times the bar is open.
The Columbia Bar got its reputation many years ago, before the jetties and when ships were smaller. Most boats that have trouble are either unprepared or crossing the bar in bad conditions when saner people wait. I watch the weather and I adjust my speed to cross at with the best conditions. I've had worse rides crossing the potato patch than the Columbia Bar.
And if you're on the ocean, trying to cross a closed bar is more dangerous than staying on the ocean.








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Old 06-28-2019, 01:35 PM   #15
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So how far out would you go from the Columbia mouth if 8 nm isn't enough?
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Old 06-28-2019, 02:20 PM   #16
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8 miles is really in the mouth of the Columbia. You're within the buoy system. At 8 miles you're in about 40-50 fathoms, not deep enough to avoid the shallow water effect on ocean swells. I usually travel at least 25 miles off the coast. I like to be in 300 or more fathoms. You get a better ride and miss the crab pot buoys.

When the river is high or pushing out a large high tide, the current is effecting conditions many miles out. When going in the opposite direction, the wind can build big waves. Especially in shallow water. And most major rivers usually have canyons whose currents can effect the surface.
It's safer to cruise further out. Even 8 miles is too far to swim.



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Old 06-28-2019, 03:04 PM   #17
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Having done it at 8 nm and having the crap scared out of us when we worked out to about 11 nm it was just exciting. I would recommend at least 15 nm. That is what the CG said they do unless it is an emergency situation. Keep in mind we were not entering the river just crossing it down bound along the coast.
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Old 06-29-2019, 12:40 AM   #18
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Crossing Columbia Bar

Crossing Columbia Bar into Astoria Aug 23, 2017. I did hit a 6-ft standing wave going out in Sep 16, 20014.
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Old 06-29-2019, 11:43 AM   #19
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Vancouver/Victoria sailboaters heading south often budget 100 miles off the Columbia River mouth/Oregon coast as even the swells are less. I suspect there is some break point where going further off shore isn't that more effective so one could be lets say only 25 miles off the coast.
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Old 07-02-2019, 03:11 PM   #20
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Timing is everything

We cross the Columbia river bar usually three times a week in July and August. I try to time our departures to take advantage of either a slack or flood tide. We crossed on a max ebb last week heading out fishing and we had to keep heading west for about eight miles until we could make a turn to start salmon fishing. We did take one greeny that was halfway up my windshield on our 37"CHB.
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