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jimmiebuchanan 04-14-2008 07:59 PM

Advice for first time on ocean
My girlfriend and I have been teaching ourselves to sail on the Columbia River for about 6 months now and we are considering taking our first day sail out on the ocean. We've done a ton of research on crossing the bar and that is a whole topic on its own, so let's leave that issue aside for the moment. Our boat is a 1972 Newport 27 and one of my concerns is where the transom is cut out for the outboard motor. Should I be concerned about getting swamped by large waves from behind due to the transom cutout? My naive optimism says, "hey, at least the water can also drain out the transom very quickly." Another area in which we could really use some advice is in dealing with the swell. Obviously it will be new to us since we have only sailed on the river. When we look at forecasts and try to decide a good day for the first trip what should we consider a "forget about it" amount of swell? When I see a forecast of swell at 12ft that sounds a little frightening, but then again I guess if the period were long maybe it wouldn't be dangerous and would instead just be sea-sickness inducing. Thanks for any advice.

zaliasvejas 04-14-2008 08:21 PM

Ocean waves are usually more comfortable the the river... As long as you stay away from the surf. Check the weather before you go and make sure you have alternate propulsion lined up (an engine). You might have to get back in a hurry...

Faster 04-14-2008 08:59 PM

Swells on the open sea are rarely a problem - and on their own are not going to be a problem vis a vis your transom cutout.

However you are dealing with the Columbia Bar, and here a high swell can turn nasty, especially on a strong ebb.

We crossed that bar some years ago with a largish swell, and they were impressive over the bar. But it was a calm day otherwise and it went fine.

A wind-driven wave train against the river flow can, as you know, create hellish conditions. Wait for a good weather window and talk to the locals that know. In our experience the USCG will not advise you whether to go or not. They'll give the prevailing conditions and leave you to decide for yourself.

negrini 04-14-2008 09:20 PM

I remember my first time at the ocean, and that I have ...
dreamed for that years before, so I dreamed the situation so many times, it showed to us like realization ! You're right, although your transon can take water, make sure it can leave at same rate. The problem is when it gets trapped in the cockpit finding its way downstairs, through locker, or even on main entrance. Once you keep things down there dry, you're ok. Well, swells are exactly what drives me going back over and over. The balance of the boat, the feel of up/down , really attract us. Make sure there will be no breakers (usually too wind), and avoid close rocky coasts, as these swells will reflect on the rock and will counteract against new ones arriving, making its shape too steep (I mean, its top will be more sharp), prone to break and very unconfortable, specially taking it sideways. You're correct also about the lenght/frequency of each wave, the longer and les frequent will give you more pleasure. Remember, all these will be affected on how close you're to the coast and its shape. Anyway, enjoy and after a while you'll be hipnotized as well ...... in a good sense ..... :)

jimmiebuchanan 04-16-2008 12:34 AM

The advice and encouragement is much appreciated. Thanks.

uspirate 04-16-2008 12:47 AM

take the advise above and go for it! pack a lunch and some drinks and have an excellent time. you will probably be surprised and amazed at your sailing skills, and your confidence will build!

Stillraining 04-16-2008 01:06 AM

Iv been out the bar twice...both times on a charter boat fishing...I remember the fist time well as it was pretty hairy...second time fairly begin so I cant hardly even remember it...choose wisly..:)

sailingdog 04-16-2008 07:34 AM


Keep in mind that a storm will close off the river entrance to you, and that there aren't too many navigable ports along that stretch of coastline in bad weather... so keep a very good eye on the weather when you do go out.

hphoen 04-16-2008 07:42 AM

You're right, with an open transom, the water will run out quickly. If you're worried about getting pooped, make sure you're both tethered to the boat with good harnesses, and keep the companionway drop-boards in and hatches closed and secured.

chris_gee 04-18-2008 03:10 AM

Remember the Simpsons - the bed goes up the bed goes down. Swells look impressive and are a bit scarey at first, but are harmless.
Bars are far more dangerous, however, you seem to have it fairly well sussed, but I would suggest that you go out with more experienced people first. Try your local club. All these things take getting used to and experience reduces anxiety as well as building skill.

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