How best to deal with Oregon coastal waters - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 09-12-2007
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How best to deal with Oregon coastal waters

At some point I may be boating down from Vancouver BC to Mexico and beyound. An area I don't look forward to is the Oregon coastal waters with large rollers and fog.

Is it smarter to head down, lets say ten miles off the coast and just get it over with, or is it smarter to head out much further west, let's say at least 50 miles or more, to avoid the coastal waters?

I would think the best timing would be around the end of June, but I'm open to hearing other timings and the reasoning.
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Old 09-12-2007
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It really depends on the wind and weather forecast. Being further off shore is generally give you more options and be a bit safer, since most of the ports along the PNW coast are relatively poor choices if the weather gets nasty. Most will have serious issues with safe entry if the weather goes bad. Bad wewather is generally much easier to deal with when you have more searoom rather than less.
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Old 09-12-2007
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rsn- I have contemplated the same trip (I have not done it myself and would also like to hear from those who have) and I think I would choose the near shore route(10+- nm) for the following reasons. As you are probably aware, the weather predictions here in the NW are about 50/50 at best and a lot of fronts seem to develop into hard blows, especially on the coast, without a lot of warning. I don't know what size, or type of boat you have but for me in my 34' I would want to be able to decide to go in if all of a sudden it sounded like things were going to get bad. 50 or 100 miles offshore makes for a long trip in and gives things a lot more time to get serious (I know, I sound like a wimp, I prefer to think of it as having a strong sense of self preservation). I would definitely rather be in port somewhere than out in 40 knot winds and 20'+ seas for two or three days (been there, done that, not fun anymore). My youngest son crewed on a trip from Neah Bay to San Francisco in a 53' schooner during the summer, they ended up with two cracked masts after deciding to just carry on into a rough stretch of weather(personally I'm not sure the masts didn't have problems before they left knowing the owner-another story). Even only being 10 nm offshore the options are sometimes few and far between on the Oregon coast, so you may still end up having to stay out, but at least there would be a possible option. As far as time of year, you are probably right about June, any earlier and the weather is too unpredictable and any later there probably won't be any wind, and fog in August. September might also be a good choice. John
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Old 09-12-2007
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jrd...I only know what I've read about the Oregon coast and I think your plan sounds reasonable. I would emphasize a couple of things:
1. Weather, Weather, Weather ...i.e. have redundant weather gathering methods aboard and check for the latest every few hours. Leave port only with a good forecast weather window that will get you past your first put in harbor with plenty of leeway in case of a mechanical breakdown.
2. Even though you will be going coastal...prepare the boat as if you were going to sea...nothing can be left to chance and all safety equipment should be inspected and in good working order.

At least you'll be heading with the current!
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Cam, both good points, couldn't agree more. John
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Old 09-12-2007
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I did that trip in 1986 ( - Gawd - is that really over 20 years ago??) My advice would be to go offshore.

Mind you this was in the pre GPS days so that's a factor. My skipper's plan had been to follow a depth contour and use radio beacons to fix positions along the way. Off the Washington coast this worked for a while but left us too close inshore even at that. However we managed to slide down the coast alright.

It was when mechanical trouble developed and an unscheduled stop at Astoria (over the infamous Columbia Bar) was called for that I realized that this skipper was not terribly well prepared - no charts! Luckily conditions were benign and the bar crossed without incident, however there was a near grounding on the shallows until we noticed just where the channel really was. Had the weather turned nasty there would have been no entering that harbour, and the same goes for most harbours in Southwestern Washington and Oregon as well.

Anyway, long story short, poor navigation techniques left us an unknown distance off, in worsening weather at night, most charted radio beacons apparently off-line. We motored a great deal, or dealt with one system packing 40+ knots winds (when we thought maybe we were near Cape St George on the Oregon/California border but really didn't know for sure - not a good feeling)

Clearly not a good experience - it kind of put me off offshore sailing for a while.

In hindsight and with much more experience now, as I recall, the weather 2-300 miles off was stronger but more consistent and we would have had a better trip. Our difficulties were related to the long hours of motoring - which would not have been required further out.

But again, today's navigation aids are miles ahead of what we were trying to do, and with luck with the weather and inshore route may work - but don't depend on being able to use any of the few "havens" along the way when it gets snotty.

I know some experienced offshore sailors that detest that particular leg of the trip south - or back home north for that matter. A common float plan from Cabo to BC, for example, is via Hawaii.
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Old 09-13-2007
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I live in Brookings, Oregon, and have transited the Oregon and Washington coasts many times in the last 20 years, last being 3 transits during 2006 2 in a trawler, both ways and one in my Sailboat which is currently in Belllingham, WA.

The big thing to watch off OR & WA is the Pacific High. It usually sets up in May or June, and moves out in Sept or Oct. Right now, its there, but a bit weak.

When the Pacific High is firmly in place, heading south becomes quite easy as there is a North to Northwest wind, and a favorable 1-2 knot current in the close offshore (3 to15+/-miles). The swells can be big, but have a long period, so its mostly an elevator ride.

I would rate the ports in Oregon for small boats in order as Newport, Brookings, Coos Bay, and Columbia River. There are several other ports, of varying complexity, depending on weather. The entrances to Newport and Brookings are nearly North-South and reasonably protected. They are rarely closed. The Columbia River can go from benign to raucus with a change of tide, particularly when the river is high. With a sailboat such as mine of limited speed, I always time entering on the flood, never on the ebb.

In summary, sailing the Oregon and Washington coasts require using your head; pay attention to the weather. With the Pacific High in place, storms other than the occasional squall or very rare "clear air" storm, do not come up suddenly. If the PacHigh has retreated south or disappeared, storms can come up at any time. During most times, a 3 day advance forcast is fairly reliable.; 10 days is just speculation.
When heading south, I stay inside the major shipping lanes (essentially point to point) and ride the south flowing current and Northwesterly winds. During crab season, pots are rarely outside 60 fathoms. I put in at Newport and Brookings, unless we schedule in the Columbia River. Sailing off these two state coasts are spectacularily beautiful with lots of whale sightings and excellent fishing.
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Old 09-13-2007
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I am on the verge of making another voyage from Bellingham to Coos Bay, Oregon and would be happy to take one or two people along. Plan on leaving as soon as my new autopilot is installed.
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Old 09-13-2007
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I would love to take you up on your offer, and will if you are doing a run next boating season 2008. My leg is recovering from a hip replacement surgery and for some reason is giving me more pain than most with similar surgeries. Some days I'll be able to almost run on it, other days I literally involuntarily verbalizing pain as something seems to tighten and incapacitate me and I can just barely limp along - very frustrating. By the spring and summer of next year, I will have to years under my belt post surgery and I will be much better then. The problem with these surgeries isn't the muscle or bone damage, it is the nerve damage resulting from the procedure.

Now back to my question and your experience. Those swells you talk about are the very thing I want to avoid. The last time I was sea sick was on a whale watching boat out of Depoe Bay a little over a decade ago. It was the third time out watching whales there, but the swells got to me the last time, not the first two times. Now I had zero sea time under my legs then so I know I wouldn't be quite as bad as that, but I would like to avoid those swells if possible.

Now whale watching meant the boat was halted so everyone could see the whales. The non-forward movement of the boat amplified the motion of the swells as we just bobbed up and down, side to side...lol. With a boat moving through the swells, I know the inner ear vertigo action of the swells wouldn't be as profound - that was my experience in the Navy.

I don't know the route of the Victoria to Maui race, but I'm assuming they aren't hugging the coast as that would increase the distance to Hawaii.

I've edited this in: here is a video of one boat in the Victoria to Maui race; its 40 minutes long and I didn't think I would last watching it but I found it enjoyable even though the visual part of the video is poor (the music is fun, the humour is sometimes good and heck: who wouldn't want to be out there with these guys). The video reminds me why sailboating for the average guy opens so many doors around the world than power boating. Most power boats wouldn't have the fuel range to make this trip.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...39897703961704

Last edited by rsn48; 09-13-2007 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 09-14-2007
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Mal de Mar

WHale watching trips are real Pukers. When you stop foreward motion, the boat is no longer steered/steerable, and it then turns to lie ahull, meaning broadside to the swells or waves. this is the position of the most motion, and brings on seasickness at its finest.

Things to help (nothings perfect) avoid seasickness include looking at the horizon in the direction from which the seas are coming. Avoid coffee and alcohol, drink Gatorade or non-caffine tea; keep your mind occupied on something other than the motion of the boat. If you have control of the vessel, keep enough way on to point the bow into the general direction of the sea. There are lots of other remedies as well.

Last edited by captainchetco; 09-14-2007 at 07:04 PM. Reason: add a sentence
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