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Old 04-24-2013, 05:01 PM   #1
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Criteria for going to sea

So, what is your criteria for going to sea? For me, getting to the cruising grounds of Canada involves a 100 mile run down the Columbia, stopover in Astoria, crossing the Columbia River Bar, 130 miles up the coast, past Tatoosh Is, 60 miles up the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Anacortes for fuel, then another 20 across to Canada. Trying to avoid lay days I try to look for a good 3-4 day window.

My basic strategy is to cross the bar during a new moon (less tidal exchange) going out at high slack current, coming back on return trip at low slack current, ideally a sea state of 4&2 ( swell and wind waves) wind of 10-15. It's supposed to be pleasure boating after all! Unfortunately I'm still looking for one of those days of real calm, which happens infrequently off this coast, and at 70, I'm not as inclined to be macho as I used to be.

So the question becomes, at what point do you delay. Last year for example, our early morning radio check gave us small craft advisories with winds of 20-25 from the SE, which put them broad on our bow to our beam at times. We had an improving forecast for the Northern coast and the straits, so we decided to go for it, which tested our comfort level. Buried the bow a few times and a couple of nasty snap rolls until we could begin to make a turn north, had an uncomfortable ride that day and commented that we would definitely not want to run south into those conditions. Had a good crew, and the weather did improve once we turned the corner into the Straits so we made the trip OK.

Coming back, we had dead calm at Tatoosh with a nice sunset, but within about an hour we had a wind front develop with about 1/4 mile vis in fog for the overnight trip, so the sea state with no real set to it had us banging into an uncomfortable overnight. I've decided to avoid overnighting on the coast, although I have a full suite of electronics, and running outside the 30 fathom puts us close to the tow boat lanes and out of the crab pots, but there are now reports of tsunami debris beginning to appear (things that go bump in the night!).

So any thoughts on what keeps you in port?

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Old 04-24-2013, 06:12 PM   #2
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Wind over 15 knots.

We berth in Campbell River, and to get across to cruising heaven (Desolation Sound and beyond) we have to cross the top end of Georgia Strait, and if the wind has been blowing for any length of time, particularly from the SE, it can be quite nasty out there, as much of the run would be in the trough.

It's not the wind of course, but the seas it creates.

Berthed in
Campbell River BC
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Old 04-24-2013, 08:29 PM   #3
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15 kts for me as well. Depending on the direction, duration, and my exposure it may be less than 15! But I live on the water with my boat in my back yard so I can be choosy and I have lots of protected water to choose from as well. But 15 knts on a mile wide section of river fighting the tide/current can make even "protected" waters uncomfortable.

I wouldn't willingly take my old 34 into open waters with 25knts predicted..period. Though I may be able to run a quartering or head sea there is nothing guaranteeing something wouldn't cause that to change. That could turn a decision made with trepidation to full on foolhardy.
TIME well wasted
1984 34' Mainship III
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Old 04-25-2013, 02:10 AM   #4
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We are on a semi-protected gulf, but it is rare to have less than 10 knots of wind and 5ft swell.
The forecast today is for a southwesterly at 15knts, and 10ft swell @ 15 second intervals. I'm ok with that. My main issue is getting in/out of the marina with single engine & no bowthruster. Any more than 15-20 knots and it becomes too challenging for my present skills.
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:31 AM   #5
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Less about wind for us, more about rain. Skinny Dippin' doesn't "handle" rain very well. There's no covered exit to the flybridge, the doors allow water into the salon, and piloting from the lower helm is far from ideal. We want to enjoy every inch of the trip and prefer sunny days over rain. In fact, we had every intention on going to Morehead City this weekend for no particular reason, but now, cloudy and the possibility of rain will likely keep us in our slip doing projects or at home... errrm... doing projects. ;-)
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:06 AM   #6
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When we cross the Dixon Entrance between BC and SE Alaska, we listen to the forecast, and current conditions at the Central Dixon Entrance buoy. If seas at the buoy are 1 meter or less, and wind is forecasted to be 15 knots or less we will probably go. But it also depends on the timing of the tidal currents. Even only 15 knots from the west can make it pretty unpleasant for our small boat if it's been that way for a while and there's a considerable ebb tide opposing the wind when we're out there.

We use a similar combination of criteria for "Crossing the Queen", rounding Cape Caution.
Richard Cook
Dream Catcher (Nordic Tug 37-065) Poulsbo WA
Previously: Bounty 257, C-Dory 22 Cruiser
"Cruising in a Big Way"
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:29 AM   #7
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During the summer in the Puget Sound and San Juan’s the thermal winds start about 10:00 AM at the highest between 12 and 4. So I like to leave at 6:00 AM so by noon we are at our destination. If you will take not big boats tend to leave early and dock late I the evening when the winds are down. Tide and current are also a factor, but the wind seem to be the primary.
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Old 04-27-2013, 06:16 PM   #8
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Red, I'm guessing you're about 225 miles further down the Columbia from where I am, and I've pondered that same question. We may be headed to Canada next summer and I've wondered about crossing the bar and heading up the coast.

Where we boat, 15mph winds aren't too bad. The only tough part is getting it backed into the slip at the end of the day. 20mph and up makes it a real beatch.

When you are heading that direction, don't overlook stopping at Neah Bay for fuel. It's my understanding there is an Indian fuel dock in there that's cheaper than some of the other places on the Straits.

Also, when you get ready to go, check out this website for up to date fuel pricing. They update the site every Thursday.
Mike and Tina
Beachcomber 1995 Sea Ray 550 Sedan Bridge
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Old 04-27-2013, 10:30 PM   #9
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Here's my local wind & wave forecast (waves measured in metres). A fairly average week for this time of year.
The Seabreeze website color-codes it for me, making it simple.
In the green, I'm ok to single hand, in the yellow I need a hand to dock, in the red I stay in the slip.
I take the waves into account when others who get sea sick are on board, but I love a good clean swell when it isn't accomanied by wind. Its a bit like skiing moguls.
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Old 04-28-2013, 08:00 AM   #10
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Sea breeze is a good web site, I see you have changed the colours around, makes more sense that way, ie red strongest.

Our boating is pretty easy in my neck of the woods, apart from the summer southerlies it's all good.The only proviso is what is called West Head. It's where a large river enters the sea at a place called called Broken Bay. When wind is over tide the swell can be quite nasty as it's very shallow, no more than 15 feet in places. The photo shows the bay on a 'friendly' day.

However we also have good protected anchorages, so even with some big winds there is plenty of protected bays.

Still, I'd love to boat up in the Pacific Northwest for a while, it looks to be an incredible part of the world.
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Old 04-28-2013, 08:45 AM   #11
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For traversing the West Coast north, lots of buoy data is available showing five key criteria - wind, waves, barometer, swell period and wave direction. It is common to get a 3 to 5 day very nice PNW offshore weather window with lower winds and waves. Weather routers to advise on coastal trips are useful. All sorts of pleasure craft do the CR Bar every day as they head out for fishing - drive to the CG or shore stations and watch, great fun from what I see on UTube. But be prepared for offshore rigors, big swells with 5' cross waves are more common than not even in calm weather.

I've met dozens of Columbia River boaters in WA, BC and AK. Not heard of any bad things but of course they made it !!
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Old 04-28-2013, 10:22 AM   #12
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When I had my Albin 25 a friend (also w Albin) said he had a rule that if 25mph was predicted he didn't move.

One day I was highly motivated to get to an Albin gathering in the BC Gulf Islands on Friday and the forecast was 25mph winds. Was from the south and I was heading north and all went well. The Albin has a pretty big rudder. A head sea would have been less arm work and a rougher ride. A beam sea would have made me a believer in my friends rule. Of course I told my friend it was a walk in the park and his rule was silly and for old women.

So many variables. West bound through Deception Pass (150' wide)) w an ebb tide and a westerly of 25 and it would be crazy. Boat w no water under the hull coming of the crests crashing into the next wave. 25 mph NO WAY! 25mph on Lake Washington (in Seattle) .... walk in the park.

For the most part I threw out my friends rule but was always evaluating the variables and was generally apprehensive when going out on a 25mph forecast. My success was largely due to the excellent Albin boat.

Then we switched to the Willard. Ballasted keel, four times the displacement, two foot more beam most of the time it was "night and day". The Willard NEVER slams into head seas. She greets every sea w a soft landing. With the double end hull and big rudder following seas are no problem. If the wrong spacing of waves comes along abeam it's terrible. But relatively small course changes solve that problem completely or nearly so.

So I usually go forth on a 25mph forecast but mostly w friendly geographical features where I'm going and better weather predicted ahead.

And re what Cook says I'd NEVER go forth on the places open to the sea up the north coast on a 25mph forecast. But even then I've been known to poke my nose out and see what it's like. I guess I'm not a "rule person". I'm a "P" type personality and we like to keep our options open.


North Western Washington State USA
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