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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry about the length of this post, but I figure I will get better advice if I give a lot of details about what I want from a sailboat.

First, I’m a reasonably experienced sailor that has owned a few different boats. I learned to sail on my parents’ 18 foot catboat. Since then I have owned these boats in this order: a Catalina 27, a home-built (not by me) 44 foot trimaran, and currently a West Wight Potter 19.

But, I’m planning a new adventure for next year, for which I’m considering getting a different sailboat. My plan is to trailer a sailboat to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, and then sail down the Yukon River all the way to Bering Sea. From here I have two choices: Sail all the way home to the Seattle area, or have my boat barged back. Going back up-river against the current is not a choice for a small sailboat.

My current boat, a West Wight Potter 19, would work well on the Yukon River, but it is not appropriate for a long trip, even a coastal gunkholing one, on the Bering Sea and North Pacific. If I decide to have my boat barged back from Alaska, I will probably stick with my Potter. But If I decide to sail back, what boats should I consider buying?

Here is what I think my requirements are:

A boat small enough to trailer.

A boat seaworthy enough for coastal cruising in fairly rough weather.

I’m hoping to get a boat (with trailer) for about $10,000, but would go to $15,000 for one that is well equipped.

I have a strong preference for a boat with a centerboard, swing keel, or daggerboard. As far as I can tell, the Yukon River is not charted, and the mapping seems to be topo maps surveyed in 1956! I doubt all the sandbars were kind enough to stay put. ;) Although I think there will be adequate draft when in one of the channels, I expect staying in the channel to be a challenge. I expect to hit bottom on a regular basis. Being able to raise the keel to get off a sand bar should be very useful.

So, finally, here are the boats I’m considering:

Jeanneau 27 Fantasia - Really too big with a 9.4’ beam

Ericson 25 CB (not the “+”) – High Displacement/Length ratio of 268, and ballast/Displacement ration of 46%. But, with a shallow draft (2.0’) it may not be any more stable than other boats on my list.

Kent Ranger 26 (Richards Design) – The cabin looks high.

Parker Dawson 26 (aka Midship 25) – Low ballast ratio of 27.5, but since it’s in the swing keel the stability might be as good as others as long as the swing keel stays extended.

O’Day 26

San Juan 26

Morgan 24/25

O’Day 25

Gib’Sea 7.6

Montgomery 23

Ericson 23 CB

Comments on these boats, or ideas on other boats that I should consider, would be appreciated. In particular, I would love to hear your thoughts on the quality of construction and seaworthiness of these boats.

Comments on my sanity for considering such a trip, while appropriate, are likely to fall on deaf ears. :D
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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A very interesting concept. My first reaction as a cruiser and canoe tripper is to wonder about river conditions beyond just draft. We were in Whitehorse last August and there was a canyon there that I might have taken a canoe through but no sailboat for sure. You could launch downstream from there but I wonder if there are similar sections of river further downstream. I think I would like for a book or blog about canoeing down the river and see what people have to say.

My reaction is that any boat suitable for doing the river would not be up to the passage to Seattle. Another concern would be timing. What is the earliest you could go down the river - you would want to avoid the worst of the spring rush I think. Would this mean early June? How long would it take to get down the river? Would this give you time to make the sea passage. Without working the distances I think probably not.

Thinking totally outside the box, if someone gave me a bunch of money if I could do the trip, I might try something like a Hobie 18 or a little bigger With a reduced rig and camp at nights both on the river and along the coast. Not sure how you would do carrying enough food and boat spares.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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Do it in a portland pudgy! 6" draft, and up to the worst the bearing sea has to offer. A little low on space though. :D

Welcome to sailnet! Your post was the perfect length for what you're asking. So often the post is, "What sailboat should I get to sail around the world." with no detail.

I love your idea BTW. Sounds like a fun adventure!

MedSailor
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My first reaction as a cruiser and canoe tripper is to wonder about river conditions beyond just draft. We were in Whitehorse last August and there was a canyon there that I might have taken a canoe through but no sailboat for sure.
You are probably thinking of Miles Canyon. This is above the dam at Whitehorse, and since shooting the spillway on the dam doesn't seem like a good idea, I'd be launching below this. Whitehorse rapids were eliminated by the same dam. This leave Five Finger Rapids and Rink Rapids.

Humph, I wanted to post pictures and links of the rapids, but I can't since I haven't made 10 posts yet.

Anyway, from the videos and pictures I've looked at of of canoes in the rapids, I'm not concerned at all about them. I've sailed in substantially bigger waves.

Note that they do run a small tour boat (maybe 40 foot long) through miles canyon. You can easily find pictures with a Google image search.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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I think it was Miles Canyon. I was not concerned about that one since you could launch downstream of it.

I don't think that the problem with a sailboat is the size of the waves it is the lack of manoeuvrability. Sailboat engines are not that powerful and I think you would have the quick ability to turn that you would in a canoe. Depending on the boat, the prop could be half out of the water at times too, which is not a good thing for sure.

What schedule are you thinking of? Suggestion of something like a Dovekie is interesting, but it seems pretty slow and I think you would spend a lot of time windbound, even in the river let alone the ocean.



















?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
SeaPearl 21. or a Dovekie. i think with your requirements, those would be the two most suitable camp cruisers, inside your budget.
Thanks for the suggestions, but I guess I should have mentioned that I really want something with an enclosed cabin. I don't want the mosquitoes to carry me off during the night. :D

Also, if I sail back, I'll be passing through areas like the Aleutian Islands, with average highs in August not breaking 60 F, and an 85% chance of rain every day. I'm too old to take these conditions in a boat without an enclosed cabin. :) In fact, I'm so feeble I plan to add a vented heater to the boat. Seriously though, it's hard to keep anything dry under these conditions without a heater.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'll probably catch a bunch of crap for this but have you thought of a Mac? they're cheap. Find one in Seattle, truck it up there, sail it down and then unload it when you're done .

Fire Away.....
Humm ...

If I was OK with one that was a bit rough around the edges, even if I couldn't sell it or give it away, I could always scuttle it and maybe still be out less than the cost of shipping a boat back on a barge. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I don't think that the problem with a sailboat is the size of the waves it is the lack of manoeuvrability. Sailboat engines are not that powerful and I think you would have the quick ability to turn that you would in a canoe. Depending on the boat, the prop could be half out of the water at times too, which is not a good thing for sure.

What schedule are you thinking of?
The rapids are basically a straight shot, and it doesn't look like there are any big eddies if you stay somewhere in the middle of them. I don't think maneuverability is I big issue. Remember they used to run paddle wheelers up and down this river. I'm sure I can outmaneuver one of them. :laugher

Now I know turning isn't all there is to maneuverability, but I suspect I can out-turn a loaded cruising canoe (not a whitewater one) with my Potter sailboat (assuming my Potter is making at least a couple of knots through the water).

Now what's this "prop" you refer too? :) I'd actually prefer to do the trip with just a sculling ore and no motor. But practicalities, and my wife, will probably dictate that I have one. In any case, I won't be counting on it to get me down the river. That's what the current is for.

As far as the schedule goes, breakup of the ice on the Yukon is usually between late April and mid May. I'll probably try to leave Whitehorse before the end of May.

I suspect I will travel the river at about the same speed as canoes. They will be able to paddle faster than me, but when there is some wind ...

I also suspect I will spend more time underway than the average canoe as I won't have to make and break camp every day. In any case, most of the mileage covered in both types of boats is thanks to the current in the river.

So, based transit times for canoes that I found at Alaska.org, I expect it to take about 110 days to run the Yukon River. This puts me in the Bering Sea in mid August. I haven't worked out all the details for a Yukon River to Seattle leg, but my rough guess is I can average 50 (statute) miles a day in decent weather.

The rough mileages are:
Yukon River mouth to Anchorage, AK (the closest major city)- 1500 miles
Yukon River mouth to Juneau, AK (the north end of the "Inside Passage") - 2000 miles
Yukon River mouth to Seattle, WA - 3000 miles

I mention Anchorage only as an alternate destination if I need to end the trip early.

If I add 2 weeks of time to sit out bad weather, I figure I could make it to Juneau around mid October. From here I could take the Inside Passage (a route I've sailed before), which offers fairly good protection from storms. But the winds can be poor for sailing. Or I could continue on the "outside" which should have good wind, often too good :eek:, this late in the year. Fortunately, there are a lot of places where I could go from outside to inside and back as the weather permitted.
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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As to your most recent post, you'd hit Homer, and then Seward, long before you got to Anchorage, which isn't really a recreational boat destination in the first place. And that doesn't include the tides you can face in Cook Inlet. Nor that you have to go out the Aleutians a ways before you can even cross into the Gulf of Alaska.

Having been on the Bering Sea in late summer/early fall, it's not somewhere I'd want to be in a trailerable boat. Heck, I wasn't all that comfortable being out there in a boat designed for it. Not that it can't be done in a small boat, but it will take a large helping of good fortune.

I'm not clear why you want to do this trip in a sailboat though, because it's the most unsuited boat for such an endeavor. Is that the motivation? As an active canoer on Alaskan rivers when I lived there, we had plans for a Yukon trip, but never had the timing work out right to do it. So I can "see" doing the Yukon, or the open water leg. What I can't see, is doing both in the same boat. Which isn't meant to dissuade, but to caution.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
As to your most recent post, you'd hit Homer, and then Seward, long before you got to Anchorage, which isn't really a recreational boat destination in the first place. And that doesn't include the tides you can face in Cook Inlet. Nor that you have to go out the Aleutians a ways before you can even cross into the Gulf of Alaska.

Having been on the Bering Sea in late summer/early fall, it's not somewhere I'd want to be in a trailerable boat. Heck, I wasn't all that comfortable being out there in a boat designed for it. Not that it can't be done in a small boat, but it will take a large helping of good fortune.

I'm not clear why you want to do this trip in a sailboat though, because it's the most unsuited boat for such an endeavor. Is that the motivation? As an active canoer on Alaskan rivers when I lived there, we had plans for a Yukon trip, but never had the timing work out right to do it. So I can "see" doing the Yukon, or the open water leg. What I can't see, is doing both in the same boat. Which isn't meant to dissuade, but to caution.
Yep, Homer is closer, but I did say "major city". Of course in Alaska maybe Homer qualifies as a major city. :)

There are of course many villages along the way where I could abort the trip if things did not "go south" (it's a joke, get it?).

As to why I want to make the trip in a sailboat:

Well first, regarding the saltwater leg - just like anyone else cruising in a sailboat, it's a way I like to explore the world. Only I don't like hot weather. I'd rather face 40 deg. F temperatures in Alaska than temperatures of 80 F in the Caribbean.

As for the Yukon River leg - a sailboat (vs. a canoe) gives me a cabin that can help protect be from mosquitoes, and bad weather. My "camp" is always set up and I don't have to pack and unpack my gear every day. It also, quite literally, gives me a bit of wiggle room. I have done multi-day (only 1 to 2 week) trips in both canoes and kayaks in the past. But since I'm slightly older now, being able to stand, stretch, and sit in a different position without going to shore is a big benefit.

Now, I've sailed, driven, and flown in Alaska, but I have not canoed there. Since you have, I'm really interested in why you say a sailboat is the "most unsuited boat for such an endeavor". A quick web search shows that today there is commercial barge service at least as far as Fort Yukon on the Yukon river. Yes, Fort Yukon is only about half way up the river to Whitehorse, but it doesn't appear that the nature of the river is much different on the upper portion than the lower (except for the 2 rapids that I discussed before). And historically, steam boats regularly went all the way to Whitehorse.

While I'll agree a sailboat is not the very best boat (I might argue that a jet sled would be the best assuming fuel availability was not a problem), it seems to me that a small sailboat is still a good fit for this river. What is it about a sailboat with a retractable keel that makes it unsuited for a very large, mostly flat, river like the Yukon?

PS - I don't think you took into account the raft that was used by the group that did the "100 Days On The Yukon" film when you considered what was the "most unsuited boat". :D

youtube.com/watch?v=muBjPrbG2HU
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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Never watched or even heard of the movie. Merely passing on my experiences and what I recall from planning to run the Yukon. But if I simply wanted to get from Whitehorse to the Bering Sea I would choose a diesel powered flat bottom boat with an inside steering station.

At that time of year you'll have more daylight than you're likely to use, and I think you'll find that sitting at the tiller for a day can be more fatiguing than it would seem. Especially until you get into the wider main channel areas of the river. And one last thing to ponder ... our canoe group left an 18' Grumman Whitewater canoe wrapped around a rock on the Gulkana River because they read the current wrong. And most of the Yukon is literally, the middle of nowhere.

As I said before, I'm not posting to dissuade you. It would be a grand adventure if completed. I'm simply trying to caution you that it may be more difficult than you anticipate.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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I am still trying to get my head around the plan for going down the river. At times I am sure you can sail a bit but you would need to be at the helm all the time - how many crew are we talking here? If you are drifting down the river you are at mercy of the current so some sort of steering oar would be in order. You will have to motor quite a bit I think - is fuel available regularly enough for this.

I tend to agree with John about a sailboat being unsuitable. Even a swing keel means you have quite a bit in the water to get caught by the current and to catch snags in the river. Also if you do get pinned by the current you are not getting a sailboat off. It is hard enough (even impossible) with a canoe. That was why I was thinking a catamaran but you would be camping rather than having a cabin.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
At that time of year you'll have more daylight than you're likely to use, and I think you'll find that sitting at the tiller for a day can be more fatiguing than it would seem. Especially until you get into the wider main channel areas of the river. And one last thing to ponder ... our canoe group left an 18' Grumman Whitewater canoe wrapped around a rock on the Gulkana River because they read the current wrong. And most of the Yukon is literally, the middle of nowhere.

As I said before, I'm not posting to dissuade you. It would be a grand adventure if completed. I'm simply trying to caution you that it may be more difficult than you anticipate.
You are absolutely right that I won't use all the daylight, at least early in the trip. I've done the sit at the tiller thing before, and don't really find it fatiguing. Admittedly when there is no wind it can get a little boring.

I don't know where you were on the Gulkana River, but it looks like it might be about 1/10 the size of the upper Yukon. In fact I easily found descriptions of it as a "rocky stream" and that it "it speeds ... around large boulders". This doesn't seam to be anything like the Yukon. I'll take your advice and keep my sailboat off the Gulkana. :D

I think the Mississippi River, or even the Columbia River (which I've had my Potter on), would be better comparisons for the Yukon River. Boats of all kinds travel these rivers with few problems.

As for it being in the "middle of nowhere", that's great. That's the type of place I like to go. It appears to have enough places along the river to get some supplies every couple of weeks or so, and other than that I'm happy to be away from civilization.

Could I lose my sail boat? Absolutely! But I think it's less likely than in other places I've sailed. It seems unlikely that waves over the 7 or so feet high needed to roll my sailboat could occur in many places on the Yukon. And if they do, most of the river has plenty of islands or sand bars to hide behind. Also in case of mechanical failure (of the mast, engine, or whatever), it appears that I could get an anchor to hold almost anywhere. Compared to the Inside Passage, where it can be 30 miles or more between possible anchorages, the Yukon seems fairly safe.

And, of course, I will carry safety gear. For example, a good quality inflatable dingy that can be used as a life raft or even to travel downstream to the next village if necessary. And if things go really bad, like I suffer a compound fracture, I will carry a GPS enabled EPIRB, which is likely to bring help in a timely manner. Obviously I could die, but I suspect it is more likely that I would be killed in a traffic accident on the drive to Whitehorse, than on the sail down the Yukon.

I understand your concern that I may be getting into an adventure that is much bigger than I want, and I actually think that might be the case if I were to try to sail all the way back to Seattle. But the Yukon River actually appears more challenging to me in a canoe than in a small sailboat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
At times I am sure you can sail a bit but you would need to be at the helm all the time - how many crew are we talking here? If you are drifting down the river you are at mercy of the current so some sort of steering oar would be in order. You will have to motor quite a bit I think - is fuel available regularly enough for this.

Even a swing keel means you have quite a bit in the water to get caught by the current and to catch snags in the river. Also if you do get pinned by the current you are not getting a sailboat off. It is hard enough (even impossible) with a canoe. That was why I was thinking a catamaran but you would be camping rather than having a cabin.
Yep, I'd need to be at the helm all the time - just like a canoeist would need to be at the paddle all the time. :) But, just like a canoeist, I would stop every night; only I would anchor in a backwater instead of camping on an island. This is the same as trips I've made to remote saltwater destinations. Other than the mosquitoes, I don't see a big difference.

The crew would by one or two depending on if I can find anyone that wants to join me.

I don't see drifting with the current as being at its mercy. I see it as taking advantage of it, just as I do with tidal currents. I don't expect that I will always have enough wind to maneuver my boat, which is why I plan to have a sculling ore (and a motor if I really need to move more quickly).

I really don't think I will need the motor very much, probably mainly for when I bump bottom and decide I need to move away from a shallow area quickly before I get stuck. Note that if I'm under way for 10 hrs a day, then to cover the 2000 mile river run in the 110 days I only need to average 1.8 mph. I think the current averages well above this, so I really only need enough speed to stay in the channel.

Also note that while I don't expect to have enough wind to sail all the time, just the speed of the current will often give me enough breeze to maneuver. For example, a National Park Service web site on floating the Yukon from Eagle to Circle says the current on this 158 mile section has "an average speed of 5 to 8 miles per hour".

I have a healthy respect for sweepers in any river, and will make every effort to stay well away from them. But from the pictures I've seen of the river, they don't look like a big problem.

I wonder, however, if maybe you are underestimating the size of the Yukon River. Here are a couple of links to pictures on Google maps.

http://goo.gl/maps/uRRt6

http://goo.gl/maps/Gx6bu

The first is just below Whitehorse where the river is still "small". The Yukon river is actually the bluer water in the lower left corner of the photo. But I like this photo because it has a highway bridge for scale, and it shows the smaller tributary to the Yukon. And even this smaller river doesn't look hard to navigate.

The second picture is much lower on the river and shows what I think is an average section of the lower river. From Google maps, it doesn't appear to be a lake or even an exceptionally wide section of the river.
 
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