Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 9 Old 03-15-2020 Thread Starter
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Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

Alright, a little background first.

I've been sailing off and on for 20 years now. Self taught from a book, starting on a little 16 foot dinghy, then moving up to a Hobie 16, and for the past few years, a 22 foot swing keel boat.

My sailing areas have all been lakes and rivers, Lake Washington up in Seattle, and various lakes around the Portland to Olympia area. Most all of my time in the past few years has been on the Columbia River.

So now comes my problem. I'm looking at getting a bigger boat, like a 28 footer. Preferably an Islander 28 (Perry), but that's beside the point. My goal is to take my gal and go from Portland to Seattle and spend the summer exploring the San Juans.

However, to get there, I'd have to go out over the Columbia River Bar, and then up the outside, which I gather can be a really challenging stretch of water.

I'm a list maker and in depth preparation guy. I don't do a whole lot just diving in, I like to be as prepared as possible.

What and where can I get some better experience before I venture out across the bar? Should I try and head down to Hood River for some big wind practice? I feel like I'm stuck in the kiddie pool area, and don't have many opportunities between kiddie pool and the deep end.

I have made friends at the local yacht club, and ideally I'd crew on someone else's boat that is already going to go that route, but I'm having a hard time finding someone that fits that bill.

Oh and I'm also worried that I might get really bad motion sickness. I don't do well at all on carnival rides, and small planes make me really queasy. So I'd like some suggestions of where I can get a little rougher water practice. So far I've never had any problems with 2 or 3 foot waves in any of my small boats, but that's not the same as what I'll experience outside.
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-15-2020
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

There is a sailing school in Portland that offers various levels of sailing skills.

One of the courses includes sailing in less than ideal conditions.

Check it out here: https://www.passion-yachts.com/lessons
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post #3 of 9 Old 03-15-2020
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

Perhaps you'd consider shipping the boat north and after a summer's experience up there, you should be ready for the coastal run south and the bar.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
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post #4 of 9 Old 03-16-2020 Thread Starter
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

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Originally Posted by hnash53 View Post
There is a sailing school in Portland that offers various levels of sailing skills.

One of the courses includes sailing in less than ideal conditions.

Check it out here: https://www.passion-yachts.com/lessons
That's one of the possibilities I've been considering. It's hard to justify spending the money on a course though when I'd rather spend the money on my boat and just sail more.
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

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Perhaps you'd consider shipping the boat north and after a summer's experience up there, you should be ready for the coastal run south and the bar.
That's actually what I'm leaning towards.

I'm thinking about delaying buying a new (bigger) boat until next year, and instead trailering my 22 foot swing keel (I have a trailer for it) up to the Puget Sound and exploring up there for a while. I'm thinking I can ease my way up north until I get into rougher water and build up my experience that way.

Unfortunately I was really hoping to get a bigger boat that we could honeymoon on this summer, but I may not be able to do it.

The problems are that my 22 footer needs a new main, (it has pretty bad weather helm, several people have said that they think my main is wore out) and it has absolutely no electronics. I'd really like to have a VHF, navigation lights, and a depth sounder before I go up to the Puget Sound and possibly the San Juans.

So I've been more interested in spending the money on a bigger boat that I'll keep longer, rather than dumping money into a smaller boat that I'm going to get rid of next season.

It would be really nice if there was a better way to learn rougher conditions in the area I'm at.
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post #6 of 9 Old 03-24-2020
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

Don't worry too much about your lack of rough water experience, provided that you can handle your boat competently. Summer in Puget Sound is generally pretty mellow unless there's a storm moving through, and those are usually not unexpected. TBH, lack of wind is a bigger problem than too much most of the time. Also the waves are not generally all that big (unless, of course the wind really pipes up) because we're sheltered from the ocean. Pick your days to leave harbor & you'll be fine.

There are plenty of boats your size up in the islands. I would not sail here (or really anywhere) without a depth sounder tho and you really need a VHF as safety gear. You ought to have lights too (at the very least an anchor light to stay legal in anchorages).

For the islands, the bigger issue is a dependable motor that will move your boat relatively quickly. There are some wicked currents that are not always predictable. I can remember a couple of times when we were pretty surprised how fast we got close to a rock. This will of course also help you with the afore-mentioned no-wind days.

Your ground tackle matters a lot - you want to be able to anchor safely in 40 or so feet of water. Not all the anchorages are shallow (if you want to start an online holy war, ask what kind of anchor is best).

Lots of great places to cruise here. If you are trailering up you can put the boat in at Anacortes or Bellingham and not have to deal with the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which can be interesting, on the way to the islands & north.
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post #7 of 9 Old 03-24-2020 Thread Starter
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

It's kind of coincidental that I got an email notification of a reply, when I was just reading about the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Thanks for all the first hand info. I did not know about the anchoring depths, although I had heard a bit about the currents.

We have a 6HP tohatsu sailpro outboard that's only a year old. Hopefully that will be enough. I may lower the mount a little to keep it in the water when the waves pick up.

I'm thinking of putting in near Olympia, and then meandering up to the Strait and seeing how I feel in that area. I'm not worried about the Sound itself.

Right now the two of us are very comfortable in 20 knot winds on the Columbia River. We have a lot to learn just like everyone else, but we're gaining a lot of confidence.

I decided to beef up my boat before we go, and getting the following: (please feel free to critique my choices)

Garmin Striker 4 (fishfinder) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017NI17HQ
Complete electrical wiring with solar charger, new battery, LED throughout, and navigation lights.
New mainsail.
Handheld VHF https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KN6LKVG
Inflatable PFD so that we'll actually wear them the whole time. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NXVUM60
Longer anchor rode

Various other maintenance issues, some glass and gel coat work, gaskets for the cockpit lockers, etc. I'd really like to lead the lines aft, and redo the standing rigging. I'd also like to buy a rigging tension tool and go through all of it.

Right now I have 3 anchors. A danforth (not sure of the weight, I'll have to check it) with about 10 feet of chain and 100' of line. A "navy" style that's about 20 or 30lbs, and a three fluke mushroom. I primarily use the danforth.

One thing I have been wondering, is there cell service throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca? I'm wondering if I can use my phone as a navigation aid.
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post #8 of 9 Old 03-24-2020
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

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One thing I have been wondering, is there cell service throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca? I'm wondering if I can use my phone as a navigation aid.
You don't need cell service to use your phone as a nav aid. Download something like navionics and it works off the GPS network, not the cell network.

I use my phone as my chart plotter, have been for years. Works great. A waterproof case of some description is a good idea.

Good call on sticking with the 22 ft boat and doing necessary up grades imo.
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post #9 of 9 Old 03-24-2020
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Re: Ideas with broadening my sailing experience in the Portland, OR area

I would think that crossing the bar has a lot more to do with knowing when to cross as opposed to how much rough water experience you have. I don't care how much darn rough water experience you have you're not going to cross a bar with a 6 knot incoming tide in a boat that does less than 6 knonts. You'll be going nowhere fast and most likely lose control completely when that tide is coming in against the current. Might want to start studying tide and current charts now. Knowledgeable skippers can help you with this and if there aren't any available to help with this you might want to reconsider the school if you're serious about more in depth cruising especially considering your location.
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