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Old 02-19-2020, 10:08 PM   #1
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Cruising to PNW

Hello All,
In June we will be taking our boat from San Diego to British Columbia. We have been doing extensive reading and talking to people gathering as much knowledge as we can. I am wondering if anyone has any tips/tricks for the challenging passages around Point Conception and Cape Mendocino. Any other highlights or incite would be much appreciated too.
Thank you,

Joy Dornick
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San Diego, CA
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:40 AM   #2
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I used to deliver along this coast so have made the trip dozens of time. First decision is whether you want to dawdle along with multiple stops as you go, or get to PNW ASAP. Fueling of course may need to get factored in, and your comfort with running at night.

Central coast is more or less Pt Conception to Cape Mendocino. Typical weather in June is almost always winds from NW-NNW though intensity and duration varies. Typical is for the wind to start late morning and build through the afternoon to 25-30 kts. At around 17 kts of wind, small whitecaps start forming. If you see these earlier than about 11, you're probably in for a long day. That said, not unusual for early morning gusts to come up - I recall getting slammed by 45-kt sustained easf winds off Pt Reyes one morning that had me seriously thinking about ducking into Drakes Bay, but they only lasted 5 nms or so - a really localized wx pattern I suppose. But for the normal pattern of afternoon winds, you can knock-down a lot of the seas by taking the beach route - tuck a mile or two off the surf line during the day when visibility is good. At night, drift off 5+ miles into deeper water to avoid crab pots (if your boat doesn't have line cutters in the shafts, recommend you install).

Vast majority of my trips were nonstop as I was delivering strong boats. I happen to enjoy running at night despite the fatigue of standing dog watches. Three people aboard makes for a decent watch schedule - I liked a schedule of 2-hr at night, and two 3-hour daytime watches for each. I also like to keep the same schedule for the trip vs rotating the worst watch.

For SoCal boaters making this trip the first time, a big decision seems to be whether to stop at Morro Bay. Coming from San Diego may mean you need fuel. I rarely stopped because the tides and currents need to be timed which would be disruptive on a delivery. It's a pretty long run to Monterey without any decent anchorages (San Simeon is an open road stead so fine for a rest in decent weather, not a great place to ride out weather). Although the coastline looks pretty straight, for some reason I always seemed to get slapped a bit around Pt Sur and Cape San Martin.

Make sure everything is well secured on your boat, especially for overnight runs. At night, everything is amplified. What was rattling dishes in a cupboard during the day sounds like crashing glass at night - a mental thing, but makes for a long night. Anything on deck needs to be secured with compression straps or cables with turnbuckles, not just rope and knots. I'm not trying to scare you into thinking you'll encounter Perfect Storm conditions,, but after dozens of hours of banging into chop and constant wind, lines and knors slowly loosen. What worked in the protected waters off SoCal will not work for long duration of open ocean running.

Seasickness. It's a personal decision. Because I was delivering, I was often running short handed - often just one crew and myself (I was much younger then). I would often take a half-dose of meclazine as a prophylactic. Seasickness medications work, but have side effects. Half dose walked a balanced mine for me.

There are guidebooks written on this trip that are still worthwhile despite their age and the advent of Active Captain. Don and Rayanne Douglass book by Fine Edge is a great book, and I prefer it to the Brian Fagan book.

But what all the prep and reading can't decide for you is what do you want the trip to look like? Delivery or dawdle? How do you feel about running at night (can be mitigated, but difficult to avoid entirely)?

As far as weather, there is always - always - a small craft advisory posted along the coast (only a very slight exaggeration). You will, within a few days, start to get comfortable with correlating the weather forecasts with what you're actually seeing. For the most part, during this time of year, weather can be chunked into 4-6 hour blocks meaning the lousy afternoon chop doesn't usually build until 1:00 or so, crests around 4-5, and dies down by sunset. As mentioned, taking the beach route (if you're comfortable with it) knocks that down considerably (I'm sure someone will chime in about deep water being better - simply is not my experience, but each captain makes his/her own decisions).

In closing, while Pt Conception deserves respect, in my opinion, SoCal Sailors fear it too much. It carries the same fear that going out the Golden Gate does for San Francisco boaters.

Good luck and please consider posting trip updates to this forum - many armchair Sailors who would take vicarious delight in your travels

Peter
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Old 02-20-2020, 07:21 AM   #3
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I haven't made as many trips as Peter, but in my experience I would take the inshore/coastal route heading up north (nose into the weather) so you could quickly duck into shelter if needed. But when heading south (running) I always headed offshore: about 34+ nm off Cape Flattery and never closer than 25 nm off any coast until tucking into San Fran.

So heading north would be mostly shorter legs but when going south I'd recommend a nice long 5-6 day jaunt to California. South of San Fran the water is wonderful compared to the graveyard up north.
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Old 02-20-2020, 08:59 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by makobuilders View Post
I haven't made as many trips as Peter, but in my experience I would take the inshore/coastal route heading up north (nose into the weather) so you could quickly duck into shelter if needed. But when heading south (running) I always headed offshore: about 34+ nm off Cape Flattery and never closer than 25 nm off any coast until tucking into San Fran.

So heading north would be mostly shorter legs but when going south I'd recommend a nice long 5-6 day jaunt to California. South of San Fran the water is wonderful compared to the graveyard up north.
90% of my treks were uphill. The horror stories of atrocious weather north of Cape Mendocino are winter gale-force storms pushed down out of the Gulf of Alaska and are brutal. A recent TF thread traces someone trying to come down from Puget Sound to Columbia River - he's been waiting weeks for suitable weather. (https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/...and-48382.html)

From Pt Conception to Tatoosh Island where you turn the corner into the Straights is around 1000 nms. There are a lot of river entrances along the coast (i.e. bar crossings) that often need careful timing or may close in bad weather. But the good news is it's fairly uncommon to need one in June.

Staying offshore coming south is fine - avoids the crab traps. Not sure if it still exists, but back in the late 90's/early 2000s, there was supposed to be a trap-free lane about 5-miles off the promontories. Recreational boaters thought it meant crabbers wouldn't lay traps there. What it really meant was commercial traffic would stay in the lane so crabbers were on notice not to complain if their gear got chewed-up. At the time, I found no material difference of trap-density in or out of the lane.

I only picked-up a trap once that I know if - was on approach into San Francisco in a 46-foot sailboat coming past the Potato Patch in middle of night. Spurs made short order if the line.

Peter
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
I used to deliver along this coast so have made the trip dozens of time. First decision is whether you want to dawdle along with multiple stops as you go, or get to PNW ASAP. Fueling of course may need to get factored in, and your comfort with running at night.

Central coast is more or less Pt Conception to Cape Mendocino. Typical weather in June is almost always winds from NW-NNW though intensity and duration varies. Typical is for the wind to start late morning and build through the afternoon to 25-30 kts. At around 17 kts of wind, small whitecaps start forming. If you see these earlier than about 11, you're probably in for a long day. That said, not unusual for early morning gusts to come up - I recall getting slammed by 45-kt sustained easf winds off Pt Reyes one morning that had me seriously thinking about ducking into Drakes Bay, but they only lasted 5 nms or so - a really localized wx pattern I suppose. But for the normal pattern of afternoon winds, you can knock-down a lot of the seas by taking the beach route - tuck a mile or two off the surf line during the day when visibility is good. At night, drift off 5+ miles into deeper water to avoid crab pots (if your boat doesn't have line cutters in the shafts, recommend you install).

Vast majority of my trips were nonstop as I was delivering strong boats. I happen to enjoy running at night despite the fatigue of standing dog watches. Three people aboard makes for a decent watch schedule - I liked a schedule of 2-hr at night, and two 3-hour daytime watches for each. I also like to keep the same schedule for the trip vs rotating the worst watch.

For SoCal boaters making this trip the first time, a big decision seems to be whether to stop at Morro Bay. Coming from San Diego may mean you need fuel. I rarely stopped because the tides and currents need to be timed which would be disruptive on a delivery. It's a pretty long run to Monterey without any decent anchorages (San Simeon is an open road stead so fine for a rest in decent weather, not a great place to ride out weather). Although the coastline looks pretty straight, for some reason I always seemed to get slapped a bit around Pt Sur and Cape San Martin.

Make sure everything is well secured on your boat, especially for overnight runs. At night, everything is amplified. What was rattling dishes in a cupboard during the day sounds like crashing glass at night - a mental thing, but makes for a long night. Anything on deck needs to be secured with compression straps or cables with turnbuckles, not just rope and knots. I'm not trying to scare you into thinking you'll encounter Perfect Storm conditions,, but after dozens of hours of banging into chop and constant wind, lines and knors slowly loosen. What worked in the protected waters off SoCal will not work for long duration of open ocean running.

Seasickness. It's a personal decision. Because I was delivering, I was often running short handed - often just one crew and myself (I was much younger then). I would often take a half-dose of meclazine as a prophylactic. Seasickness medications work, but have side effects. Half dose walked a balanced mine for me.

There are guidebooks written on this trip that are still worthwhile despite their age and the advent of Active Captain. Don and Rayanne Douglass book by Fine Edge is a great book, and I prefer it to the Brian Fagan book.

But what all the prep and reading can't decide for you is what do you want the trip to look like? Delivery or dawdle? How do you feel about running at night (can be mitigated, but difficult to avoid entirely)?

As far as weather, there is always - always - a small craft advisory posted along the coast (only a very slight exaggeration). You will, within a few days, start to get comfortable with correlating the weather forecasts with what you're actually seeing. For the most part, during this time of year, weather can be chunked into 4-6 hour blocks meaning the lousy afternoon chop doesn't usually build until 1:00 or so, crests around 4-5, and dies down by sunset. As mentioned, taking the beach route (if you're comfortable with it) knocks that down considerably (I'm sure someone will chime in about deep water being better - simply is not my experience, but each captain makes his/her own decisions).

In closing, while Pt Conception deserves respect, in my opinion, SoCal Sailors fear it too much. It carries the same fear that going out the Golden Gate does for San Francisco boaters.

Good luck and please consider posting trip updates to this forum - many armchair Sailors who would take vicarious delight in your travels

Peter
Good stuff, Peter! Posts made from actual experiences like yours really make this forum valuable!
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Old 02-20-2020, 10:01 AM   #6
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Excellent advice in the posts above.

Wx evaluation is now much easier than years gone with all the resources available on internet. And cell coverage has improved so that you are rarely without cell for internet unless too far off shore. In addition to the NOAA marine forecasts I use all the common ones, Sailfow, Windy, Ventusky. I literally use all 4 all the time.

In recent years I've had to travel out past the 100 fathom line to avoid crab pots which means roughly 25+ nm out. The crab trap free lanes as noted were never crab trap free.

If you haven't got satellite comms aboard then I recommend something like the Garmin inReach at a minimum. On coastal deliveries I have someone shore side I can trust to track me and stand by. I go so far as to set a time each day by which I will have checked in with my shore side contact. It may seem overkill but when I was DIW out of cell and VHF range it sure was worth the trouble. Your shore side person can also give you wx updates if you are running too far off shore for cell/internet or VHF.

Mendocino and Conception deserve respect, but like MVWeebles the worst arse kicking I've taken northbound was Pt Reyes.


One bit of advice worth mentioning though you've probably already thought of it is fuel filters. Lots of fuel filters. For the mains and the genny. The longer it's been since your boat was in sustained rough water the more important it is you have boxes full of fuel filters.
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Old 02-20-2020, 10:38 AM   #7
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Excellent advice in the posts above.

Wx evaluation is now much easier than years gone with all the resources available on internet. And cell coverage has improved so that you are rarely without cell for internet unless too far off shore. In addition to the NOAA marine forecasts I use all the common ones, Sailfow, Windy, Ventusky. I literally use all 4 all the time.
Weather forecast products is where I'm really rusty. 1-1/2 years ago when I set off from San Francisco to Ensenada, I did a ton of research. I had been out of offshore boating for over 10+ years. I was familiar with Buoyweather, but that was it. I picked-up subscriptions for PredictWind, Buoyweather, and also use Windy. While they all give good information, the missing pieces for me were the synoptic/surface charts I used to get via WxFax. I feel a bit old-fashioned, but I like that a real person has done some interpretation, including predicted path of HP/LP centers. Closest I've seen is passageweather.com, but even that is machine-driven - there is a fair amount of important detail on the NWS/NOAA surface charts (see attached current 48-hour surface forecast - I've circled the Channel Islands (red), San Francisco (green, of course), and Puget Sound area (blue))

Do folks still use Weather Fax? I see the NOAA synoptic charts can be sent via email/FTP, but is it practical to receive via IridiumGO? .

https://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyeslatest.shtml
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Name:	NOAA 48 hr surface forecast Feb 20 2020.jpg
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