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Old 02-13-2010, 05:47 PM   #1
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Alright, as a newbie, I have a simple question. With an experienced captain (and a low experienced owner/crewman) when would be the best time to sail my 35' sloop from San Fran to Seattle. She has a small Penta MD11C diesel for backup. Thanks for any responses from vessels that have made the trip. Cheers!
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Old 02-13-2010, 07:53 PM   #2
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The trip can be made any time of year but will be entirely dependent upon a weather window when you arrive in SF and want to go north. I've not made the trip but have many friends who have done so. You will likely motorsail--your small engine will need to be employed. I don't know anyone who has sailed it without a motor.

Taking a look at the swell/wave sizes and going up when they are smaller rather than larger is of course a good thing. Look at the publication 108 Atas of Pilot Charts for the North Pacific Ocean to get an idea of what average currents/winds are each month of the year. Also look at the movement of the Pacific High on average each month. Pub 108 is not yet available online. Other Atlas of Pilot Charts are available LINK You can get pub 108 where you find charts. I purchased my copy at Seabreeze Books and Charts LINK and they do ship worldwide if you cannot find another provider.

Many folks have told me that late spring is the best time to make this trip. All depends upon the year and the particular weather that year. When it's a good time to go south (late summer into fall) is unlikely to be a good time to go north The smallest boat I know of which made the trip (motor sailing, btw) was a Rawson 30 by the name of Seaya. The fellow who owns that boat is a member here SVSEAYA, perhaps he'll come along and talk about his experience. I know he went in the late summer early fall timeframe and it all worked out just fine!

Good luck in your travels.
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Old 02-15-2010, 08:49 PM   #3
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Alright, as a newbie, I have a simple question. With an experienced captain (and a low experienced owner/crewman) when would be the best time to sail my 35' sloop from San Fran to Seattle. She has a small Penta MD11C diesel for backup. Thanks for any responses from vessels that have made the trip. Cheers! /unsure.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='' />" border="0" alt="unsure.gif" />
No disrespect to Redbopeep's opinion, but Having actually made this trip various times, in from 28' to much larger sailboats during spring, summer and fall, AND as chief engineer on 1000' long container ships at all times of the year, I would respectfully disagree with the above post about making this trip during October to March, EXCEPT by truck. Headed north from SF, there are three major obstacles, Arena, Mendicino and Blanco. These all have major weather issues even during the most settled weather time of the year during summer, and the harbors/anchorages nearby can become untenable or very dicey even with excellent ground tackle. Wind strength of 20-25 can easily be double within 20 miles of these capes, (and have weather report areas that are only 20 mile squares North and South of these Capes because of these 'cape effects', take a look at NOAA forecast areas) with corresponding increase of sea state (BIG CHOP ON BIG WAVES) Remember there have been thousands of shipwrecks on this coast.

Decisions you need to make are do you want to harbor hop? The trip could easily take you several weeks or more waiting for benign weather, and if paying a captain and harbor costs/provisions, be quite expensive. Do not count on motoring up the coast, your engine and fuel capacity will not make a substantial difference in your favor as the prevailing NW winds and swell do not often subside and lay down for calms.

Or do you want to, are you comfortable with, sailing further offshore, away from these points/capes? Early spring gives the most opportunities for riding the southerlies from a low pressure system north versus slogging upwind and against the prevailing NW wind and swell that is the usual condition on this coast. The third, and for some, heretical choice, is drop the spar and for a few thousand dollars, truck I-5 north to Seattle (or above Cape Blanco where conditions become much easier) at 60 mph with maximum time to cruise the NW and much less risk of damage to your self and boat and gear. Sails and rigging particularly are going to see more wear in this 900 miles than in five years of recreational sailing, so if you do not have really good condition gear, old baggy sails will make this a SLOW trip no matter how and when you do it, and you will find water coming in from places that you never had a leak ever.

My personal preference is get a good weather window, sail out as far as it takes to get away from the hard NW wind and swell, getting as much north while going west, as much as 135W or more, and then getting around the high (weatherfax capability is REALLY useful) and then having a nice sail to Tatoosh and down the straits. Any time from late spring (April onward to a much more settled N pacific high later summer) works for this strategy. The 100 fathom line makes a MARKED difference in how lumpy it is, outside is much smoother. Typical boats stir up dirt in fuel tanks in lumpy seas and chop, and diesels that have been perfectly reliably suddenly stopping from fuel/filter/injector issues, which makes the 'harbor hop' or 'ride a southerly north' strategy less appealing than otherwise might be.

Charlies Charts is a really economical investment, just to read about, and look at the sketch charts and descriptions of the various harbors and river mouths that are available as stops for this trip. Take a drive up the coast and look at the harbors and the entrances, keeping in mind the size and direction of the swell can close many of these on relatively short notice. Your boat, well handled, should be capable of this trip if in good condition during reasonable weather.

If you have any questions, I would be pleased to answer them should you wish to drop me a line.

Robert
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Old 02-16-2010, 06:42 PM   #4
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Louie-you are correct in stating extreme caution in the winter months for this passage. I wouldn't want Shieek or anyone to think this is a trip to be lightly contemplated and taken without a good study of the weather and back up plans. But, I would NOT exclude winter months from consideration simply because of season. One has to consider the ocean conditions at the time of passage being taken.

I've been watching all sources for west coast wind, wave, swell heights all winter long this year and note that while we had horrible So-Cal weather in December and January there were a couple wonderful weather (wave and swell included) windows for going north from SF to PNW. It's been interesting winter weather this year. The norm for the Oregon coast is dismally high winds and unsuitable swell/wave action though and I wouldn't want to count on making a trip in late summer, fall or early winter. Anyone planning a trip needs to be flexible, I think, with their plans.

We will be going to the Pacific NW ourselves late this spring/early summer (that's the plan) We've looked at "all" the options--from going to Hawaii and then up to the PNW, going offshore several hundred miles and up...harbor hopping and so on. At the moment, we're tending towards a plan to go from here to SF in late April, do a haul out there and then go from SF to PNW in May. But, our own plans are constantly changing...we'll go with whatever seems right at the time.

In September 2007, we drove up the coast from San Francisco to the Olympic Peninsula--checking out harbors as we went up. We learned at that time that harbor hopping was NOT the way we'd want to do it. Too many bars and too many small harbors to be stuck in. Though we know numerous folks who have done it. We also know a couple who spent 9 weeks total time getting from LA to the Straits in 2008 because they were stuck in little harbors for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks--several times. Another couple spent 7 weeks getting down the coast from Washington to San Diego for the same reason last fall.

We know a boat from Oregon that has cruised up and down the west coast (Alaska to Mexico) extensively. We met them here in San Diego this fall. They are presently in Mexico. They begin their trek back up from Mexico this month and will be back in Oregon in March. Their travel back is planned to be mostly offshore, btw, very little harbor hopping. Much of their travels involve winter treks up and down from their home and they've not had problems. But--they're very flexible with their schedule it seems.

The experiences of many people we've talked to are about the same--you can get stuck in those little harbors if you plan on harbor hopping. Further, folks who've stayed off the coast by AT LEAST 150 nm have been much happier in the passage from So Cal or Northern California to the PNW.

We don't personally know of anyone who's purely sailed it though, Louie. Is that what you're suggesting? I don't think it is. We also don't know of anyone doing that passage who had the kind of fuel contamination problems that can happen with rough seas as you've mentioned. If someone doesn't have a fuel scrubbing plan and doesn't use their engine much they might have problems, yes. We do know of folks jostled about in the Gulf Stream who had bad problems...another story another time...

It is not a trip for the feint of heart. It is not a passage to make with questionable gear. With a sloop or cutter rigged sailboat less than something like... 10T, and if I were uncertain about the seaworthiness of the vessel, I'd consider trucking from SF to PNW. The cost benefit will very likely go away with a larger or more complexly rigged vessel though--larger boat, just get it in shape and make the passage.

Good luck to Shieek
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:53 AM   #5
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Brenda,

Now you do know someone who has done the trip purely sailing, multiple times, because we would go down and race the big boat series on the bay, and then go home, plus coming back from our various cruising trips, round the world, Oz and back, Tonga and back, etc. I would reiterate, The trip during Oct-Mar is a really bad idea for small boats and if in doubt, just try to get insurance for that trip during winter.

The rest of your points are well taken, and after you have made the trip a few times, let me know how it worked out for you.

all the best, and fair winds!

Robert
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Old 02-17-2010, 04:40 PM   #6
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Hi, Louie,

So, you've always sailed it rather than motor sailing? And--straight up the coast (or close offshore it sounds like). That's amazing. Conversely, a friend of mine who's been a delivery skipper for 30 years here on the West Coast always motor sails it. Of course, his goal is to get the delivery up the coast done asap for the client. Sailing up the coast...you probably would want to avoid late summer/early fall as well then? So, my mental image of your preferred time is late spring-early summer for likelihood of best sail?

I'd imagine that your trips to other parts of the world including So. Pac would have you returning to the PNW via Hawaii or anywhere that allows you to skirt the Pacific High west side to north side rather than east side? I'm very interested in this point because so many folks have done the whole HI to PNW trip with ease over the top of the Pacific High.

Fair winds,
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Old 05-16-2011, 02:00 AM   #7
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I just registered, so hopefully I am replying, or asking a question in reference to your comments below. My dad just turned 95 and I just retired a year ago and so I thought how cool it would be to motorsail his Westsail 32 to my brother in Seattle (from S.F. Bay) - but now I'm thinking - "NOT". My dad did sail to Hawaii (with a couple along to help - who he actually flew home when they arrived in Hawaii) and single-handed back to S.F. He used to teach celestial navigation at the Coast Guard (so the story goes), but I guess he plotted his course so well, that he arrived just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. I think for us to do another voyage before it's too late for him to sail would be wonderful - but now, time is of the essence as they are re-doing the whole Marina Greens and the yacht harbor there, so they are in process of finding a temporary home for his boat during this big project. Otherwise, the plan had always been my brother would get the Westsail and I get the cabin at Clear Lake, where I've been living since July 1, 2010. So, now is as good a time as any to go ahead and get the boat to my brother - he currently pays almost $3000/year just to have the boat sit there (he does still drive and is in excellent health, but this past 6 months or so, you can see him slowing down & needing naps every 2-3 hours if working on something and he can no longer lift everything he used to, so I help him allot. Just wanted to tell you this before asking - do you know of companies who would truck his boat from San Francisco to Seattle and the approximate cost of same. The boat has to be moved, either way, by June 1, 2011, so he's driving (from San Jose, where he lives) to Oakland/Alameda tomorrow to find out what they charge to haul the boat out and get the bottom cleaned, etc.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:12 AM   #8
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I just registered, so hopefully I am replying, or asking a question in reference to your comments below. My dad just turned 95 and I just retired a year ago and so I thought how cool it would be to motorsail his Westsail 32 to my brother in Seattle (from S.F. Bay) - but now I'm thinking - "NOT". My dad did sail to Hawaii (with a couple along to help - who he actually flew home when they arrived in Hawaii) and single-handed back to S.F. He used to teach celestial navigation at the Coast Guard (so the story goes), but I guess he plotted his course so well, that he arrived just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. I think for us to do another voyage before it's too late for him to sail would be wonderful - but now, time is of the essence as they are re-doing the whole Marina Greens and the yacht harbor there, so they are in process of finding a temporary home for his boat during this big project. Otherwise, the plan had always been my brother would get the Westsail and I get the cabin at Clear Lake, where I've been living since July 1, 2010. So, now is as good a time as any to go ahead and get the boat to my brother - he currently pays almost $3000/year just to have the boat sit there (he does still drive and is in excellent health, but this past 6 months or so, you can see him slowing down & needing naps every 2-3 hours if working on something and he can no longer lift everything he used to, so I help him allot. Just wanted to tell you this before asking - do you know of companies who would truck his boat from San Francisco to Seattle and the approximate cost of same. The boat has to be moved, either way, by June 1, 2011, so he's driving (from San Jose, where he lives) to Oakland/Alameda tomorrow to find out what they charge to haul the boat out and get the bottom cleaned, etc.
Welcome aboard. Enjoy the forums.

About your dad-- it seems that he can always move the boat to a different marina in the SF Bay area. There are numerous inexpensive options there--and most marinas have empty slips right now, too.

I'm with you on "NOT" regarding taking a 95 Y.O. who has to take naps anywhere lengthy and tiring on a sailboat unless it's your sailboat, you know it inside and out, you're a great sailor (and your crew is great, too) and Dad's just along for the ride. Suggest you get your brother--whose boat it will be--to foot the bill for a mover. There are numerous reputable boat movers. Just google "boat mover" California to Seattle and you'll find them; you can also ask local boatyards that have alot of boats coming and going. Get a price, interview, references--call the references.

Regarding sailing with Dad--why not do some good Bay sailing with him while you still can? Again, numerous marinas all around the Bay. Closest ones to San Jose are down around Redwood City, Oyster Point, etc.

Good luck.
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Old 03-06-2013, 07:46 PM   #9
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Default Sailing from Ilwaco to Seattle this spring

Hello all.
I am also new to this forum and would like to get some advice on timing and weather conditions on the Washington coast.
I just purchased a Mariner M40 ketch that I need to sail from Ilwaco, out through the columbia river bar, to Seattle as soon as there is a weather window.
I have not sailed outside of the strait before but I will be bringing another experienced sailor with me.
Considering this season and weather conditions, what should I expect and how far out should I go from the coast when I sail up? The yacht has a good running Perkins 4 cyl diesel that I can motor all the way if needed.
Thanks for the advice.
Rob
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Old 03-07-2013, 12:05 AM   #10
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Your experienced sailor who comes along will likely have opinions on it.

Watch the weather (and waves) on passageweather.com and sailflow to plan your trip. Also contact USCG regarding bar crossing as your planned trip gets closer.

Decide the conditions you're willing to motor sail in--for example, looking at both SF and PW right now, if you were right there, at the ready, right this minute, now, you'd be able to get up the coast (motoring) in light or no winds and reasonable wave state until Friday mid-day, (so 36 hours of good motor/motorsailing at even 4 knots would be 138 nm) and then you have another 36 hours of running with a mild southerly (so, lets say you still make 4 knots, that gets you another 138 miles or so). That should get you well within the Straight...but if not, you still have another higher wind (southerly) before you get into a strong southerly with gale force winds (wouldn't want to be there at that time) on late Sunday-early Monday. Then, it's back to OK conditions for a couple days. Even the nasty gale which appears later on Sunday shows its face as a southerly wind in that area, so you'd be scooting up the coast rather than fighting the winds.

Fair winds and following seas,

So--watch for the weather window you want--and then go for it
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Old 03-07-2013, 01:33 AM   #11
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Thanks alot for the advice, and the web link, passageweather.com is much more user friendly and informative than NOAA. I will wait for a longer weather window, but you gave me some good information to start with
Rob
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