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Old 07-05-2020, 12:01 PM   #1
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PNW Boating Season

Having recently sold the “Hattini” we are beginning our search for the replacement. Having lived our entire lives on the Texas Gulf Coast we are very familiar with the waters and boating year round.

Our daughter recently moved to Bellingham, WA so that presents a possibly new idea concerning part time relocation for the wife and I. We are looking for information from the PNW boaters as to what is considered your “comfortable” boating season.

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Old 07-05-2020, 12:07 PM   #2
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Old 07-05-2020, 12:08 PM   #3
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Wait for it........

You'll get every thing from "year round" to "the last week of July and the first week of August."

What is your desirable boating lifestyle?
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Old 07-05-2020, 12:49 PM   #4
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Ha...I knew that question was too vague and general!

Let me try a different approach. Who boats year round versus those that don’t? For those who do not, why not and when do you stop and start back again?
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Old 07-05-2020, 01:11 PM   #5
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We consider ourselves all year boaters. Fortunately we have a nice pilothouse and good heat...BUT

For many reasons, we have slowed down from about 1 December to 1 March. Walking the dog down an icy dock in the rain, in the dark, gets old. Taking the wet tender to shore in the rain, in the dark, gets old. Short, dark, days; cold/wet/snow/rain; and the boat being cold soaked (we leave heat on very low), dampen the enthusiasm for us. It has taken some time to be OK with not boating much for 3 months or so. We keep the boat ready to go, and we do get off the dock to exercise everything. When the winter weather permits, we will take a weekend in the islands.

Pre-COVID, we were 300-hour per year boaters. We spend nearly every weekend on the boat (sans the times mentioned above), even if we don’t go anywhere.

So comfortable for us is really 1 March through November. It turns out that the 3 months off is a good time for bigger projects, and we are more excited to get back out once the days get longer.

You are probably aware, but there are some good charter options up here that could allow you to get a sample of what is available for destinations.
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Old 07-05-2020, 01:20 PM   #6
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We boat year-round but definitely defer to the weather. We take an annual trip down hood canal (about 60 miles from Seattle) over Christmas and have spent long, quiet days where we're the only people out on glassy smooth water. That said, we've also gotten hit by rough seas that forced us to ditch to nearby marinas.

Fall and winter cruising up here gets you away from the crowds even in busy areas like the South Sound, but it takes a bit more caution and a willingness to be flexible (i.e. cancel a planned cruise). Spring and summer, needless to say, are glorious weather-wise. But, some of the more popular anchorages and marinas are packed wall-to-wall. You're often trading off beautiful weather and crowds for more unpredictable seas and (relative) solitude.

Obviously, learning about the local waters and weather helps planning. The NOAA forecast is often for the whole Sound, so it could be blowing like crazy up in the Straight but perfectly calm down Colvos passage. I should also note that all of our winter cruising is in South Sound, which is (mostly) sheltered from some of the worst of the winter weather. Weather coming in off the Straight and from Frasier River Valley has scared me off of North Sound cruising in the winter.
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Old 07-05-2020, 02:40 PM   #7
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Hi Dave,
You will not regret making the move to boat in the PNW area. It offers some of the most beautiful and varied boating opportunities that you could find anywhere (however, not tropical).
As others have stated, with some compromises, you can boat all year around. However, in the winter, late fall, and early spring, we usually have wet, cold weather. Not cold strictly in the temperature sense, but in the "how it feels" sense. Cool and damp means cold feel (sometimes to the bone). Most boats in this area have good heating systems, often diesel fired. However, a boat "lived on" in the winter up here can often suffer from condensation (dampness) issues, if not dealt with properly. The days can be dark and wet (lots of rain) in the winter and early shoulder seasons. However, as a bonus though, there are not many boats out, so you can have your pick of spots. We experience more and more severe winds in the winter and shoulder seasons, so that must be dealt with as well.
Personally, I get enough boating in the summer and my wife and I usually (not this year due to Covid issues (and family)) go out for 3-4 months straight and put on about 200 plus hours on average. I do go overboard and "winterize" the boat, but could get underway with a day or so's work if we decided to go out in the winter. We have done it in the past, but did not enjoy the winter boating experience "all that much". But, each to his/her own.
There is literally thousands of miles of explorable coastline in BC, Washington, and Alaska to visit with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and the summer, late spring, and early fall are mostly good weather for boating. Much of that coastline experiences little boating traffic at any one time, so if solitude is your thing, even in summer it can be achieved on BC's mid to northern coast, in Alaska, and on Vancouver Island's west coast.
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Old 07-05-2020, 03:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by firehoser75 View Post
Hi Dave,
You will not regret making the move to boat in the PNW area. It offers some of the most beautiful and varied boating opportunities that you could find anywhere (however, not tropical).
As others have stated, with some compromises, you can boat all year around. However, in the winter, late fall, and early spring, we usually have wet, cold weather. Not cold strictly in the temperature sense, but in the "how it feels" sense. Cool and damp means cold feel (sometimes to the bone). Most boats in this area have good heating systems, often diesel fired. However, a boat "lived on" in the winter up here can often suffer from condensation (dampness) issues, if not dealt with properly. The days can be dark and wet (lots of rain) in the winter and early shoulder seasons. However, as a bonus though, there are not many boats out, so you can have your pick of spots. We experience more and more severe winds in the winter and shoulder seasons, so that must be dealt with as well.
Personally, I get enough boating in the summer and my wife and I usually (not this year due to Covid issues (and family)) go out for 3-4 months straight and put on about 200 plus hours on average. I do go overboard and "winterize" the boat, but could get underway with a day or so's work if we decided to go out in the winter. We have done it in the past, but did not enjoy the winter boating experience "all that much". But, each to his/her own.
There is literally thousands of miles of explorable coastline in BC, Washington, and Alaska to visit with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and the summer, late spring, and early fall are mostly good weather for boating. Much of that coastline experiences little boating traffic at any one time, so if solitude is your thing, even in summer it can be achieved on BC's mid to northern coast, in Alaska, and on Vancouver Island's west coast.
+1 to everything Firehoser said - great summary.
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Old 07-05-2020, 07:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by dkasprzak View Post
Our daughter recently moved to Bellingham, WA so that presents a possibly new idea concerning part time relocation for the wife and I. We are looking for information from the PNW boaters as to what is considered your “comfortable” boating season.
Thanks
Dave
Let me suggest a plan, at least for a year or two until you make your own assessment of the weather:

We live about 450 miles from our boat in a place with markedly better weather, but we have a daughter in Seattle and a son near Tacoma. The boat serves as accommodation when we fly or drive to town to maintain family unity without imposing on the kids' households. If the weather serves, we do boat stuff, if not, we have a cozy waterfront second home.

As others have said, weather "windows" will occur at nearly any time. A trip which seems mundane in July becomes an adventure on a sunny 40 degree day in January.
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Old 07-05-2020, 07:58 PM   #10
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Let me suggest a plan, at least for a year or two until you make your own assessment of the weather:

We live about 450 miles from our boat in a place with markedly better weather, but we have a daughter in Seattle and a son near Tacoma. The boat serves as accommodation when we fly or drive to town to maintain family unity without imposing on the kids' households. If the weather serves, we do boat stuff, if not, we have a cozy waterfront second home.

As others have said, weather "windows" will occur at nearly any time. A trip which seems mundane in July becomes an adventure on a sunny 40 degree day in January.
Thanks so much for all the responses. We have been researching charter companies and plan to do a week long charter next year (thank you COVID). I am open to recommendations for companies. For the near future our plan will be to visit and become more familiar with the area, experience the different seasons and try to learn as much as we can about the region.
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Old 07-05-2020, 08:04 PM   #11
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NW Explorations | Charters, Marine Services and Yacht Sales
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Old 07-05-2020, 08:10 PM   #12
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If you don’t have heat on the boat your cruising season is mid July to Mid August. If you have heat then it’s easy to cruise from May 1 to Sept 30. Around Oct 15 the park services pulls most he docks so now you are restricted to anchoring or harbor hopping. Weather gets rather nasty for boating from mid Oct to the end of March. However, there are some weather windows that pop up that can be like summer. It gets dark early up here in the winter months so we tend to do short 1-2 hour runs from Nov to April. After that it’s easier to make the 6 hour runs and in the summer you can make 14 hour runs.
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Old 07-05-2020, 08:19 PM   #13
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...If you dont have heat on your boat...
They dont have the boat yet; heat...good quiet heat should be a minimum requirement.
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Old 07-07-2020, 10:09 PM   #14
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They dont have the boat yet; heat...good quiet heat should be a minimum requirement.
Well said, be mindful of the quiet part...
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Old 07-07-2020, 11:16 PM   #15
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http://sanjuansailing.com

San Juan Sailing has a powerboat charter fleet as well, we found them very good to deal with. Bellingham base was convenient to the San Juan’s. A week in that area goes very fast! I would go for 10 days if I had the time.
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Old 07-07-2020, 11:24 PM   #16
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We are also all-year boaters. We have reverse cycle heat/AC (previous owners) and as noted, Nov-March is weather window dependent. Sometimes those windows last for days! Also as noted, mind dampness control in the cooler months. If you’re “messing around in boats” kind of folks then being at the dock during a winter blow can be a very cozy experience. We’ve even done a few winter “dock cruises” when friends were scheduled but the weather changed. Buy a copy of the Waggoner Cruising Guide and read and dream!
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Old 07-07-2020, 11:36 PM   #17
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You missed it. It was last Tuesday.
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Old 07-08-2020, 12:13 AM   #18
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Honestly, with climate change we have some of the most pleasant weather in the continental US! My family in Pensacola and Atlanta have seen more freezing weather for several winters than we have, and forget about insufferable heat and humidity. The weather here comes from two places: the Pacific Ocean (moisture, warm "Pineapple Express" systems) or interior British Columbia (hot highs in summer, bitter winds in winter). With the geography of mountain ranges and alternating basins and bodies of water, straits and archipelagos, microclimates abound. Some generalizations do hold true: our high latitude gives spectacular long summer days and very short winter ones. Fleece and GoreTex are used year-round. Chilly nights and mild days are common for almost half the year. Plenty of locals wear shorts year-round.

Many commercial fishermen fire up their diesel stoves in late September and let them run continuously through May. This may be only a slight exaggeration, and is typical of how we use the diesel stove in our former fishing boat. Oil heat is common, whether a diesel range, bulkhead heater or diesel forced air furnace; solid fuel heaters are also popular.

Storm season really comes in November; it's a classic PNW phenomenon to have a big storm at Thanksgiving. I once spent four days stranded on a small island because such a storm kept the boat from the university's marine lab from picking us up while on a field trip. On the other hand, you usually have the vast San Juans and BC Gulf Islands largely to yourself for trips during periods of absolutely beautiful winter weather. Nights in the low 40s and highs in the 50s would be common. Yes, some ice and snow...not a lot.

It's like going to the mountains: watch the forecast and plan accordingly, but be prepared for anything. We don't let the rain stop us, or else we would never get out. It's why trawlers are common and sportfishermen rare, and why almost all smaller outboard fishing boats have at least a cuddy cabin.

Also, no one pulls their boats for winter storage (other than little trailerable jobs), so even though you may not leave the harbor, evenings and weekends aboard are a treat, as was mentioned above.
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Old 07-09-2020, 01:03 PM   #19
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I think the point about boating all year long here is the experienced boater will always take weather into consideration. While the summer squall is fairly rare, we still have to contend with wind vs tide and other natural elements. It's just that in winter, though we can have weeks in a row of mild weather, we're more likely to see weather windows of 3-4 days to a week or so.

So yes, we boat year 'round. Just more carefully from about November to April.
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Old 07-09-2020, 01:31 PM   #20
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Boating year around is definitely in the cards! Yes, to good diesel heat, and yes winds can really kick up in the late fall and winter. Another factor that might not be on your radar is that daylight hours are really short in the winter (The price for the wonderful long days of summer). The short days force the boater to consider alternate, shorter routes. Boating at night here isn’t recommended due to the amount of wood debris in the water. That said, boating in the PNW is wonderful!
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