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First Trip!

1921 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  newsailorbr
Hi sailors! I'm planning my first overnighter on my 23' Coronado. I live in Seattle, and I'm going to Friday Harbor for 4th of July. I've taken the 2nd and 3rd off work and will have one person on board who has done the trip before.

Still, I'm a bit nervous, as I don't know the first thing about tides/currents and other things to look out for that are not boat-related. I've been reading up a bit, but I'm looking for advice on where to anchor for the night(s), how far we can get in a day (we do want to actually put the sails up a bit, but I know it's a long haul on a 9hp outboard), and what to be aware of on my first trip.

Does anyone have advice on this trip? From talking to people, it seems like this is a fairly straightforward PNW sailing trip, but I'm looking for some more concrete advice than "check the tides," since I don't even really know what that means :)

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DeepZoom (specifically NOAA Charts with animated tides and currents.) is about the easiest way to visualize tides. Pick your day from the bottom and use the slider to change the time and you can see what is happening with your tides. You should also learn how to read tide charts.

Tides in 30 seconds: flood is when the tide is riding, ebb is when it is draining. Think of this area as being a big long bathtub that fills and empties from the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. When the flood is going all of the water comes in through there, when it is ebbing all of the water is draining to there. If a big body of water needs to empty through a small passage you get a big current (Deception Pass, Agate Pass, Tacoma Narrows are examples). When there is a larger passage you get less current, but it is still there.

Are you trying to do the whole trip from Seattle to Friday Harbor in one day? If so you want to be passing through Port Townsend before the end of the ebb (water leaving Puget Sound). On July 2nd that means aiming to pass PT around 1pm, which means leaving Shilshole marina around 8am (plan on 7am to be safe). You'll then enter Cattle Pass (narrow pass between San Juan Island Lopez Island) at the start of the flood and get into Friday Harbor around 7pm.

Catching the currents correctly can make a huge difference, especially between Seattle and Port Townsend. With the currents in your favor you average 1-2 knots of extra speed. With them against you are losing that 1-2 knots. That can make it a 5 hour trip in good conditions or a 7 or 8 hour one in bad conditions.

If the weather is rough (unlikely, but possible) you can go up Saratoga Passage (behind Whidbey Island). It is a longer and there is often no breeze behind there, but it is better protected. At the north end (by La Conner) is the Swinomish Channel and that will take you to Anacortes.

Waggoners Cruising Guide (available at Fisheries or West Marine) is a $20 dry but very useful guidebook that will help you find marinas and anchoring spots.

If you give yourself two days to get up there and two days to get home you should be able to sail most or all of the trip.
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That animated chart is incredibly cool, last time I sailed that area the daily drill involved consulting a tide book and separate current chart book.
Is the tide and current data available on most chartplotters of much value figuring routes ?
The tide and chart data on my Raymarine e7d is very useful, but it doesn't visualize tides and currents as nicely as deepzoom does. You can see all of the same chart points, but need to click on them and it brings up a separate tide or current plot for that point.

I use the deepzoom app (called "Nautical Charts") on my Windows Phone, it's one of the few apps available on Windows Phone which isn't available on other platforms. Sadly it is missing offline support, otherwise I'd say it is worth buying an unlocked/no service $60 Windows Phone just to have this app available onboard.

Give us a report when you get back, (and don't leave out anything).

So! A year+ on, and I have an update. My sailing partner bailed on this trip last year, and lots has changed since. I ended up going to Blake Island for the 4th last year, which was a blast, though we did run into some weather and were really relying on the outboard, which pulled through in the end. It was a relief to get back to the dock in Lake Union :) Cue present day...

I now have a 30' Newport with a diesel inboard, and some sailing experience under my belt. I am setting up a 2-person trip to the San Juans for next week (Thurs-Tues). I'm much less stressed about it now, since I know this boat pretty well, but still open to any additional information! I have charts and have looked at tides and re-read everyone's advice from last year.

We're planning an early morning (7ish) departure from Shilshole on the 16th, staying the first night in Port Townsend, and heading up toward Friday Harbor the 17th. Probably some cruising around the islands with a stop at Waldron and perhaps Sucia over the next couple of days, and then the trip back. Does anyone have good anchoring spots around there? At this point anchoring is what's freaking me out most - location, length of rode, tides, where to set, etc.

I'll definitely post a full update (nothing will be left out, Dave_E) upon return. If anyone has any additional advice for a couple of novices going out for a 6-day trip, I'm all ears!
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6 days is a quick trip for novices with so much to see in that area. I'd focus on a couple of places--maybe just Friday Harbor and Stuart Island. Stuart Island has two anchorage areas, Reid and Prevost. Reid is a quiet and more shaded. Prevost is on the north side and gets more crowded. You can go ashore and hike the trail to the Turn Point lighthouse--it's lovely and unforgettable. Friday harbor has a great marina and services if you'd rather dock.

By choosing just a few places this time, you can build your confidence and not stress about having to rush. Sucia is also an amazing spot, but I'd spend all 6 days there!! Take your time, look at what other sailors are doing, leave lots of room between you and others, and when in doubt, ask locals for help. Have fun!!
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