Trip planning, CA coast, help please
We are planning to bring our Fraser 51 cutter from San Deigo to Alameda as soon as possible.
I'm looking for historical/average weather information (currents, winds, waves) so that I can plan a safe voyage. I'll be short handed crew wise. I'm aware of curent conditions and 2 day forcasts, but I'd like to find info on typical conditions. I haven't had much luck looking on the internet for pilot charts/wind charts.
Any advise or information would be appreciated.
For an overview of "typical" conditions along the CA coast, get a copy of one of Brian Fagan's cruising guides.
For a 5-day weather forecast got to the Navy's FNMOC website (don't worry about the internet security certificate warning).
Chris...you can access historical buoy data here:
note that waves and wind are measured in meters and meters/second with 1 meter/sec = to about 2 knots
Offshore is Better
Good sailing buddy has made the trip twice in recent years.
One harbor hopping & the other offshore (>30miles)
His advice would be to do the latter.............being offshore avoids wind/water compression points ie; Point Conception, minimizes impact of current, etc
He felt the trip was smoother & safer..............they used the Farallon Islands as waypoint area to start their course/heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge.......which approaching the entrance will also require care / planning given the currents/tide effects, shallow areas north & south plus shipping traffic.
NOAA is a great source for weather & surface data.
Sorry, but when I replied earlier in this thread it did not occur to me that Alameda is actually in San Francisco Bay (rather than somewhere in the greater LA area)....... I sailed the Channel Islands area for quite a few years and although never having to go North of Point Conception myself, studied weather developments in the Pacific very carefully in connection with Rivendel's ssuccessful passages to Hawaii ('94, '97) and the Sea of Cortez ('93 and '95).
This has taught me (the hard way) that pilot charts and other forms of historical weather data are pretty much useless unless the ENSO (El Nino vs La Nina oscillation) status is pretty close to neutral. Currently, we are in a moderately strong El Nino phase. As a result, one may expect the relatively late establishment of a relatively weak Pacific High.
This can be important because the steady procession of strong depressions spinning off from the polar low tends to penetrate further South than when the West coast of the USA is being protected by a large, strong Pacific high.
Even under favorable ENSO conditions the Pacific High tends to establish itself sometime during the Spring. This is one of the reasons that Winter passages up and down the W Coast are generally discouraged. Only a few weeks ago there were horrible weather conditions along the Northern part of the coast that resulted in the loss (with all hands) of a large catamaran, as most of us do probably remember. So, in most years, longer coastal passages are best made in May or later. In an El Nino year, however, it may well take till June or July till the risk of marauding low pressure systems diminishes significantly.
In short, I would keep a keen eye on the establishment of a stable Pacific High before planning to leave. When getting ready, make sure to plot the 5-6 day FNMOC wave and wind forecasts, as the low pressure system that might be threatening you 4 or 5 days from now is almost certainly already in existence way up North and current prediction models often do an amazingly good job of predicting its trajectory. Here is an impression of the highly informative format of the FNMOC EastPac 0-144 hr wind/wave forecasts (just click past the security certificate warning typical for many DOD sites).
Finally, I would strongly discourage trying to make the trip shorthanded as fatigue is the single most dangerous factor on these type of long coastal or near-offshore passages.
S/V Rivendel II
Port Vila (Vanuatu)
Don't know if you're still watching this board. If not, I hope you're watching the FNMOC site forecasts (using the link in my previous post).
There are currently some unseasonally strong coastal highs that are expected to keep producing very nice sailing conditions along the California coast for the next 6 days or so.
So, in case you'r ready to go NOW, this might be your window!
It might be several years before another January window like this comes along.....
Thanks for all of the info and yes I have been checking out the suggested links.
The last week or two would have been great to go, but I only have Feb 10-21 or the end of March. We will be heading back to the Channel Islands in July-Aug, so if we can't get her up here soon we might leave her in Ventura, if we can find a slip. I hate to have my new baby so far away. I'll keep watching those links and see what happens.
Also I'm shopping for insurance and some underwriters aren't willing to let me pass Point Conception going North until late Spring. Any recommended underwriters you might want to suggest?
Thanks everyone, Chris
Well, insurance issues are always tough nuts to crack and things have not been getting any easier over the past couple of years. Our own Lloyds agent dumped us shortly after 9-11, even though we had been with them for 10 years, sailing all over the Pacific and never ever submitting a claim.
So now Rivendel II has been uninsured for the past 4 years and it does not make us sleep easier, especially now when the first South-Pacific cyclones of the season are starting to rear their ugly heads again...
Even if you do have a longstanding track record with any agent or company, they don't like to change their empirical time/zone restriction rules. Try to find out if that particular rule also exists if you have at least 3 experienced offshore-sailors on board....
Yeah, I understand that might create other problems. However, I have seen people find crew members for this type of "rough" spring delivery trip on some of the bulletin boards (where plenty of sailors are getting stir crazy). So, you never know.
Best of luck
You might consider hiring a delivery captain or having the boat transported via truck. If you go the route of delivery you could leave the delivery date open until late April so there will be time to wait for a good weather window. You might also be able to have the boat transported under the Delivery Co. insurance so that there is no worry about damage should there be a problem.
Remember, if the boat is new to you it is also unfamiliar in terms of it's sailing characteristics in offshore conditions.
Specific SF Link
Remembered that the NWS set up a separate SF Bay, Bar, Approach forecast link..............due to potential challenges & dangers transiting this area by both commercial & recreational vessels:)
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