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dylanthered
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I'm looking for some tips: We are planning on sailing from Seattle up to the San Juans in August. The idea is that we are going to leave port around 6pm on Thursday and sail through the night hoping to arrive sometime in the morning.

I'll have a GPS hooked to a laptop for navigation. We have a back-up radio and the basic safety gear.

Here are some of my concerns:

1. If the wind is light and we aren't making much progress even the fundamentalist in me is going to give up and motor just to get up there. Do people generally sail or motor to the San Juans in the summer?

2. Should I stop in Port Townsend for a few hours to rest instead of rotating the crew through the night? I'm thinking this depends on using the tides optimally.

Any advice, tips, or tricks on night sailing or this particular cruise would be very much appreciated.

- Dylan
 

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There's 2 kinds of sailing at night in my book. One, where it's just dark but you plan to drop the hook and rests, and the other, is to push through the night and sleep in shifts. The second is much more dificult and harder on the crew. It's up to you and your crew on what you want to do. Do you have a crew that you can trust your life to while you sleep? Does that person have enough support without you to solve a problem that may arrive at 0300.

Bring paper charts and lots of flash lights, preferably one with a red lense. Sorry, I can't give you any local knowledge.
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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Summer time is not so good for sailing in the PNW. We motor a lot, and I'm not the only sailor doing so.

I have lots of hours running the work boat at night with the aid of radar and night vision. Knowing how many logs and dead heads are floating around, I don't feel comfortable running my own boat at night unless the water is glass smooth.

If it were me, I would look at the tides and catch an ebb going out Admiralty and avoid travelling at night. If you hit Partridge Point around slackwater, you can ride the flood up Rosario. Your actual travel time will be reduced considerably by using your current tables, although the date you arrive in the San Juans might be later.
 

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Good advise thus far. Some additional thoughts.

I have not sailed at night in the San Juan's other than a trip from Sucia to Sidney. But I have a lot experience in the Gulf Islands, Georgia Strait, Juan de Fuca and the West coast of Vancouver Island.

1) Before you go, make a list of the lights en route and their characteristics.
2) Crew in pdf's, harnesses and tethered. Everyone should be wearing a strobe light. Night MOBs are not easy.
3) Check with Seattle traffic (5A) for any commercial traffic. This will also let then know you are out there. Monitor Seattle traffic on the VHF. I use a dual scan mode.
4) You can get fog. Do you have radar?

Jack
 

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On the hard
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There's very little wind at night in the Summer usually. Port Townsend can be a bear at night and every time I've sailed there the weather was up. The brightness of the laptop screen is gonna KILL your night vision, trust me on this. I'd sail straight through but remember to talk to VTS and monitor 13 on your VHF. If it has scanning, set 5A, 13, 15 and 16. Ride the ebb through the Admiralty Inlet as the currents can run 6 knots. Check out bis_portal.apl.washington.edu for currents if ya don't have a tidal atlas. Avoid Cattle Pass at night unless you are very familiar with it, lotsa rocks and rips there. Don't get run over by the big boys and be prepared for fog to the west of Whidbey, especially near Deception Pass and abreast of WNAS. Depending on your proposed itinerary, I can go deeper with suggestions. I'd have a handheld GPS with charts loaded as a backup at the very least. Listen the above post too.
 

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Dylan,

Don't have too much experience in your area, but do have some running at night. We were going out the San Francisco ship channel in the dark, without radar, very rough ocean conditions, and just barely escaped being run down by a big ship. They close on you at an alarming rate!! My experience up north consists of trying to avoid the many wash rocks which seem to be everywhere. Also, big logs in the water are hard enough to see in the daytime, let alone when it is dark. Is your life worth trying to save a few hours?

Dabnis
 

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I used to live in Friday Harbor and have boated the local waters a lot. I live in Seattle now and have made the trip up in my boat a few times... Couple of things to think about...

1) If you've never been around the islands by boat, watch out for EVERYTHING. The tides in the PNW can drop 10ft easily, and that means there are tons of rocks at low tide around the islands. check your charts and give yourself plenty of clearance.

2) Once you get "inside" the islands, you will see tons of deadheads, kelp and other random things that get caught in the many tide rips. This stuff can be VERY hard to see at night. (In a sailboat I find this isn't as bad since you are going slower and most of the smaller stuff just slides along).

3) The weather and especially the wind can get very fluky. Because of the island terrain, you can get wind shifts and altogether fluky conditions... this can be a big PITA if you are sailing. Changing course could put you closer to the rocks I mention in #1

All of this though is very manageable if you think ahead and are careful about your route. I agree with everybody in the thread that the currents can be VERY helpful on the way up. The way I've done it in the past is to leave Seattle (Shillshoal) around 5am, catch the Ebb out to Admiralty Head, pass Port Townsend around slack (maybe just a bit before) and ride the Flood through Cattle Pass (don't do this at night though, it is a very tricky pass). doing this (with an avg of 5knots) I get in around 2pm. The trip (dock to dock) is about 60nm, so at 5knots your looking at 11hrs, but the current can cut that down by 2-3 hours easy.

One thing to watch is the conditions around Port Townsend. There can be a ton of fog. Also the waves can get pretty big if the wind is up against a good current. I screwed up the timing once, and went through PT at max ebb, against a north wind... make a 3-5ft sea just outside of PT... mix that with the VTS (3 main shipping lanes converge just outside PT) and it can get very messy!

I've never run up to San Juan overnight... something I'd love to try someday, but I don't know that I have the stones for it just yet... I'm sure you can do it, just be very careful! Good Luck!
 

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Sailing at night: Everything is closer than it appears but looks so far away until you are on it. If you do not have radar - have AIS as its about as good fore not having radar as you can get (AIS units run $250 and above).

Unless your course is the channel and you are comfortable sailing at night, it can be done - beware above.

Port T is interesting and it is a $15 cab ride to Safeway to replenish... But the locals are interesting and the marina - is no hassle just be aware of winds as it is not a protected harbor in practical senses. I had issues last year trying to dock as the northern winds kept blowing me off and the high free board I have.
 

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Dylan,

As Artbyjody mentioned lights at night can be really confusing. Navigational lights blink, except for range lights, lights on shore are steady, as are lights on ships. The first few times for me running at night were frightening. I never really felt completely comfortable doing it. It would be helpfull if you could go out at night with someone that has experience to see what it is like before just "jumping in" with no experience yourself. Running at night can be very dangerous, especially if you haven't run the course in the daytime before hand.

Dabnis
 

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Dylan,

As Artbyjody mentioned lights at night can be really confusing. Navigational lights blink, except for range lights, lights on shore are steady, as are lights on ships.

Dabnis
Danis

A couple of corrections:

1) Lighted aids to navigation have distinct characteristics. They do not blink.
Fixed (F) - always on
Flash (Fl)- once every 4 seconds
Quick flash (Q) - once per second
Very quick flash (VQ) - 120 times per minute

Lightstations have very distinct characteristics as do bifurcation and cardinal buoys.

2) Range lights are not necessarily fixed. The range into Nanaimo Harbour flashes.

3) Ships can also have flashing lights
Submarines
Official government vessels
Hovercraft
WIGs
 

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Jackdale,

So noted, thanks for the corrections, it's been many many years since I took the Power Squadron navigation course. Many more combinations of light configurations than I remember, the more to be confused by?

Dabnis
ColRegs were amended in 2003. Only one new aid to navigation has been added recently - the emergency wreck buoy.
 

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sometimes women blink, sometimes they flash. The difference seems trivial with lights, but not with women.
:thewave: :thewave:
 

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Dylan,

As Artbyjody mentioned lights at night can be really confusing. Navigational lights blink, except for range lights, lights on shore are steady, as are lights on ships. The first few times for me running at night were frightening. I never really felt completely comfortable doing it. It would be helpfull if you could go out at night with someone that has experience to see what it is like before just "jumping in" with no experience yourself. Running at night can be very dangerous, especially if you haven't run the course in the daytime before hand.

Dabnis
One thing to note about this transit area - it is a COMMERCIAL transit area. If you do not run with active radar, AIS (class A receiver or the newer Class B Transponders), do either have one or the either:

1. Radar reflector (passive is fine - usually that spherical metal thing you see on most, active versions come as like a VHF antenna as a stick).

2. Or cheat - and use an X-Band Radar Detector plugged in. It will not necessarily alert them (though reported it does - but I never count on it) but it will you. Most (not all) commercial ships generate microwave freqs that set off a decent radar detector.

Run as many lights as you can. I usually use my spreader / work light to illuminate my sails while in transit.

Again, can not stress, it doesn't matter if it blinks, steady on or you think it waves to you. Night-time cruising is where you have to be on top of your game because your distance vision is impaired. Your biggest enemy is other recreational boats that have no real radar, or lighted footprint.

Last year off Whidbey at 2 am -we ran across a boat, but it was not until five minutes before she could of crashed the bow we saw anything that indicated it was a boat. Nighttime - I love it myself - but you have to be on your toes because while commercial is assumed large, a majority are small tugs towing your death threat, the others, have less the lighting you do...

Do it with someone and nighttime sailing in this area is not what you would want to single hand to - unless cognizant to the follies that lie ahead.
 

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One thing to note about this transit area - it is a COMMERCIAL transit area. If you do not run with active radar, AIS (class A receiver or the newer Class B Transponders), do either have one or the either:
Thanks for prompting me to write an addition to this thought. Rosario Strait is a Traffic Separation zone in which small vessels must not impede large vessels. There are other TSZ's in the area as well: Admiralty Inlet, Haro Strait, Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound. Seattle Traffic get really perturbed as do the ocean going vessels common in the area.

Check Colreg's for details and check the charts to ensure you know where the TSZ's are.

You can miss most of this by leaving Whidbey Island to port, and taking the Possession Sound, Saratoga Pasage, Skagit Bay and LaConner route, but I would not do that at night.

Jack
 

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On the hard
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Nope, too many shallows on the East side of Whidbey plus it's narrow with not much wind. Then you're forced to transit Deception or the ditch to get to the islands.

Jody, I recall the slog to the store for smokes in PT well. Fredia and I found a nice little store about 10 blocks from the marina well back from the water in the residential area. It's within walking distance of Point Hudson.
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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for the sailors who run at night in the Puget Sound area, how do you see the logs and stuff in chop? We made a short run last month at night that started in smooth water and I could pick out the hard stuff pretty well with the naked eye. It got choppy and I switched to using binoculars to scan the water ahead, but it wasn't very effective. I suppose out on the blue water, sailors pretty much rely on a lack of crap in the water. We just don't have that luxury IMO in the Puget Sound.
 

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Dylan,

As Artbyjody mentioned lights at night can be really confusing. Navigational lights blink, except for range lights, lights on shore are steady, as are lights on ships. The first few times for me running at night were frightening. I never really felt completely comfortable doing it. It would be helpfull if you could go out at night with someone that has experience to see what it is like before just "jumping in" with no experience yourself. Running at night can be very dangerous, especially if you haven't run the course in the daytime before hand.

Dabnis

The biggest issue you'll find - is tows with tug boats. You'll see nav lights think you got it and its a tow boat with a 350 yd tow behind. One of the biggest issues I lecture on is towing - and you'll get alot of that in your experience.. You never want to be one that crosses a tow chain / rope...
 
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