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Old 08-01-2017, 07:35 PM   #1
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Point Wilson rips

Hi All,

I have been across the Strait of Juan de Fuca a number of times but only once in a power boat. I have learned to be more careful about rough water now than I was in the sailboat.

I'm looking at going North across the Strait on Aug 11th and am looking for some more local knowledge. Specifically, when are the rips the least troublesome? I'd like to round Pt Wilson by 12:30-1:00pm. However, slack tide at Pt Wilson is 1:45. I'd be exiting Admiralty Inlet on an ebb, and likely facing NW winds. Not the best combination.

It is too early to know the winds, but typically they are reasonably light from mid-morning to early afternoon when they build. Because of this, I'd like to start my crossing as early as it practical. Unfortunately, "practical" is dictated by a number of factors, one being that it would be tough to get there much before noon. Unfortunately there will be a strong ebb tide then.

So estimating a 5-10 kt NW wind, how much before slack at Pt Wilson is reasonable? Secondly, if rounding Pt Wilson with a rip still going on, is it better to head west and hug the shore till McCurdy Pt and head North, or go the other way and hug the shore from Admiralty Head to Pt Partridge?

I know a lot of you have crossed this dozens of times, give me the benefit of your experience.
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Old 08-01-2017, 07:43 PM   #2
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I've run north from Port Townsend in a 42' Catalina at max flood in a small craft advisory. When we got to the buoy, we were barely able to motor past it. Waves were 4-5 foot. Wind was 25-30kts out of the SE so it was opposing the current. That was sketchy but it never felt terribly dangerous.

On the contrary, we just last week rode the flood into Port Townsend in our 36-foot trawler; about 3.5 kts of current. Wind was light out of the west. Never saw more than a half-foot ripple on the water. I'm sure there are boaters with far more experience around Pt. Wilson, but it seems to be that as long as it's not blowing a gale, and the current is moving in the same direction you're headed, you'll be fine. Every situation is different though...
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by dhays View Post
Hi All,

I have been across the Strait of Juan de Fuca a number of times but only once in a power boat. I have learned to be more careful about rough water now than I was in the sailboat.

I'm looking at going North across the Strait on Aug 11th and am looking for some more local knowledge. Specifically, when are the rips the least troublesome? I'd like to round Pt Wilson by 12:30-1:00pm. However, slack tide at Pt Wilson is 1:45. I'd be exiting Admiralty Inlet on an ebb, and likely facing NW winds. Not the best combination.

It is too early to know the winds, but typically they are reasonably light from mid-morning to early afternoon when they build. Because of this, I'd like to start my crossing as early as it practical. Unfortunately, "practical" is dictated by a number of factors, one being that it would be tough to get there much before noon. Unfortunately there will be a strong ebb tide then.

So estimating a 5-10 kt NW wind, how much before slack at Pt Wilson is reasonable? Secondly, if rounding Pt Wilson with a rip still going on, is it better to head west and hug the shore till McCurdy Pt and head North, or go the other way and hug the shore from Admiralty Head to Pt Partridge?

I know a lot of you have crossed this dozens of times, give me the benefit of your experience.
Just avoid wind against tide and you'll be fine. If you are heading out on the ebb you'll have no problems unless there is quite a bit of north wind blowing. I have motored past Wilson Point too many times to count and only once was it ridiculous. That said, in the winter it happens that the ferry run is cancelled when the prevailing southerlies are blowing against a flood tide, so your prudence is certainly warranted.

It gets a bit shallow on the west side of Whidbey, so hugging the coast isn't much of an option, but we never worry about it and always just go around the nun buoy before turning north. Keep an eye out for traffic, as you have to cross the shipping lanes heading north. And, if you see a lot of coasties running around in inflatables with 50 calibers mounted on the bow you are in for a treat because that presages the return of a boomer to Bangor.
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:26 PM   #4
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I've run north from Port Townsend in a 42' Catalina at max flood in a small craft advisory. When we got to the buoy, we were barely able to motor past it. Waves were 4-5 foot. Wind was 25-30kts out of the SE so it was opposing the current. That was sketchy but it never felt terribly dangerous.

On the contrary, we just last week rode the flood into Port Townsend in our 36-foot trawler; about 3.5 kts of current. Wind was light out of the west. Never saw more than a half-foot ripple on the water. I'm sure there are boaters with far more experience around Pt. Wilson, but it seems to be that as long as it's not blowing a gale, and the current is moving in the same direction you're headed, you'll be fine. Every situation is different though...


Yeah, I've pounded through the rips at Pt Wilson and Cattle Pass in a Catalina 36 and Catalina 400. Not pleasant, but not too bad with the sails up.

Pt Wilson tends to be the worst on an ebb, with all the water exiting Admiralty Inlet into the wind. I'm just wondering how much of an ebb to avoid.
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:30 PM   #5
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Just avoid wind against tide and you'll be fine. If you are heading out on the ebb you'll have no problems unless there is quite a bit of north wind blowing. I have motored past Wilson Point too many times to count and only once was it ridiculous. That said, in the winter it happens that the ferry run is cancelled when the prevailing southerlies are blowing against a flood tide, so your prudence is certainly warranted.



It gets a bit shallow on the west side of Whidbey, so hugging the coast isn't much of an option, but we never worry about it and always just go around the nun buoy before turning north. Keep an eye out for traffic, as you have to cross the shipping lanes heading north. And, if you see a lot of coasties running around in inflatables with 50 calibers mounted on the bow you are in for a treat because that presages the return of a boomer to Bangor.

Thanks Delfin. That helps. I'll keep an eye on the wind. Too early to get a decent forecast yet. I may shoot for hitting it around noon and taking a look. If the wind is up and it looks unpleasant, I can always hang out in PT until slack.
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:38 PM   #6
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Dave whenever we head north, we make the decision at Kingston whether to cross the straits or go through deception or LaConner.... If you really want to cross the straits and it's snotty spend the night at Ft Flagler and cross early you have the tide with you.. You can avoid the rips off Wilson by being on the whidbey side... The older and slower I get the more often we go the little longe way on the east side of whidbey...besides Oak harbor normally has great fuel prices
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:53 PM   #7
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Dave whenever we head north, we make the decision at Kingston whether to cross the straits or go through deception or LaConner.... If you really want to cross the straits and it's snotty spend the night at Ft Flagler and cross early you have the tide with you.. You can avoid the rips off Wilson by being on the whidbey side... The older and slower I get the more often we go the little longe way on the east side of whidbey...besides Oak harbor normally has great fuel prices


Yeah, last year we went North via the Swinomish due to the forecast winds in the Strait. Nice trip. This time, I'd like to save the time. Unfortunately, slack at Deception pass is not at a good time for us.

Thanks for the thoughts on sliding up along Whidbey. I am used to hugging shorelines to avoid current so shallow doesn't bother me.

I may cross from Marrowstone Pt North to Admiralty Head, then follow Whidbey. As usual, wind and weather permitting.
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Old 08-01-2017, 09:38 PM   #8
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I just came south across Point Wilson yesterday on a flood and pretty much avoided the visible rip by staying on the Whidbey side. I will usually cross on a flood rather than an ebb, as the ebb rips are worse.
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Old 08-01-2017, 09:44 PM   #9
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Also at 12:30 you will be near the maximum ebb. Could be a rough couple of miles. If you can pick a different time, that would be best, especially if there are others on the boat that may get seasick or concerned.
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Old 08-02-2017, 12:59 AM   #10
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I just came south across Point Wilson yesterday on a flood and pretty much avoided the visible rip by staying on the Whidbey side. I will usually cross on a flood rather than an ebb, as the ebb rips are worse.

Yup, hence my asking you guys. The timing of the flood doesn't work well so I am hoping that I can cross near the tail end of the ebb.

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Also at 12:30 you will be near the maximum ebb. Could be a rough couple of miles. If you can pick a different time, that would be best, especially if there are others on the boat that may get seasick or concerned.

12:30pm on Aug 11 the ebb current at Pt Wilson (at least as near as I can tell) should be -1.5 kts. Max ebb will be about -2.7 kts at 10:40am that morning. Slack should be at 1:45pm. 1:45 to 2:00 pm should be pretty good but I'd like to cheat earlier as much as I can. Fortunately, my wife and don't get seasick. However, my wife is not happy in rough water.
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Old 08-02-2017, 08:16 AM   #11
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Point Wilson rips

Just FYI, there are five current stations at Point Wilson. The one at 1.4 miles NE of Admiralty Inlet is slack later at 2:25 and the current at 12:30 is just over 3 knots. Once going north I timed getting here on a dying ebb to catch a favorable current. The pounding we took wasn't worth the slight speed boost. I was on the Whidbey side but could have been closer which may have helped a little. Anyway, unless it's a small tide cycle I don't go on an ebb anymore.
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