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Old 06-06-2017, 14:24   #1
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Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

We will be moving our new to us Downeaster 45 from Blaine, WA to Los Angeles in early August this year and I am beginning route planning for the trip.

After doing some basic research here and in various books (e.g. World Cruising Routes), it seems as though we have two main options. Head out to sea then turn south or hug the coastline in case we need to pull into port (knowing that we would encounter more traffic, crab pots and sand bar entrances).

I am leaning towards staying somewhere around 30nm off the coast and making as few stops as possible. I am really only planning on stopping in San Francisco so we can do a crew change, resupply and have family visit us mid-trip before continuing on to Los Angeles.

Is this a reasonable approach? If so, does anyone have some suggested waypoints for navigating this passage?

We plan on sailing Blaine to Port Angeles the first day, then continuing on when the tide and weather cooperate for a departure from the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We will have ~6 people on board for each segment of the trip.

I would love to hear any suggestions on the route, waypoints or really anything else that may assist our voyage.
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:13   #2
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

I suggest one of the Alameda Marinas. You might even need a boat part or 2 from your trip down, so it would be the place for that also.
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:15   #3
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Thanks Guy - any suggestions for navigation waypoints for the GPS while transiting the PNW coast?
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:19   #4
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

We stayed further out so I can't give any advice, but perhaps it might help others help out if you were more specific in your question.

For the first question, you know that lots of people do it the same way you are planning so when you ask "Is it reasonable?" do you really mean "Is there something I should do to make it safer?" or maybe "Should I choose 20nm or 40nm instead?"


Similarly, it seems like it would be easy for you to make waypoints 30nm offshore for your route. So, I'm guessing you have another reason for asking that question too. Perhaps you mean certain areas to stay further out or further in because of crab pots? Or something else more specific?
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:22   #5
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

I prefer to head to Neah Bay and leave from there on a good weather window. One advantage is that you enter the Pacific and offshore in the daylight, letting everyone get used to it. I've done the trip 4 times and in general think the advice to go way offshore is not good. The conditions are not better 100-150 miles offshore. There is not that much traffic inshore and you have plenty of people to stand watch. If you leave Neah Bay and point roughly at inshore Cape Mendocino with good winds you will slowly drift offshore. Watch the wind, if it is going to hold then stay the course and enjoy. If it isn't then take a closer in path. On all my trips down we have had significant days of calm that had to be motored along with one pasting at one of the southern Oregon capes or Cape Mendocino. There are a number of ports you can enter on the way down for fuel or a break. In OR you can call the Coast Guard to ask about up to date bar conditions. Crescent City makes a good part way stop that is easy to get into. Also Drake's Bay is a good place to stop to time the tides into SF Bay.
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:28   #6
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Also see: Charlies Charts - US Pacific Coast
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:28   #7
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Thanks Livia - Good point on being more specific, I was hoping to avoid posting a brick of paragraphs in the initial posting, but I see what you mean.

I am hoping to avoid shipping traffic and crab pots by being ~30nm out, is that a reasonable distance? Is 10nm just as safe or would 40-50 be better?

How far did you stay offshore on your voyage(s)?

I am definitely interested in learning about any potential pinch points, especially for the time of year we will be making the voyage. Any areas to avoid?

Are there any navigation aids in this range to use a checkmarks for the trip down? Just searching on Navionics there appears to be a handful of NOAA buoys out there.
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:36   #8
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Thanks Paul! How long does it usually take you to shoot the strait to Neah Bay? I've heard of some wicked conditions when the wind and tide are coming in.

Ideally we'd like to leave Blaine at or just before first light so we can enjoy sailing through the San Juans in the morning, since we won't be able to make any stops on the islands.

Thankfully the boat is rather stout and can motor comfortably at 6-7kts. We plan on keeping her moving South at all times while in the Pacific, so a hefty combo of sail and power is likely.

Thanks again!
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:45   #9
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

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Originally Posted by MDR_Sailing View Post
Thanks Paul! How long does it usually take you to shoot the strait to Neah Bay? I've heard of some wicked conditions when the wind and tide are coming in.

Ideally we'd like to leave Blaine at or just before first light so we can enjoy sailing through the San Juans in the morning, since we won't be able to make any stops on the islands.

Thankfully the boat is rather stout and can motor comfortably at 6-7kts. We plan on keeping her moving South at all times while in the Pacific, so a hefty combo of sail and power is likely.

Thanks again!
Port Angeles to Neah Bay is 60+ miles. Takes all day along with dealing with a current change. Typically a motor or a hard beat.
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:49   #10
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Cool thanks, is there a guest dock in Neah Bay or are you typically anchoring out in the bay somewhere?
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:50   #11
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Having made the trip both ways about 25-30 times under sail and power, my suggestion heading south is to head due west from Cape Flattery through the 'washing machine' for 45-50 miles and turn left. You should hit PT Reyes, north of San Francisco in a few days depending upon wind speed and direction, sea conditions and hull speed. Youwill slowly close the coast but will avoid the Columbia River and Cape Mendocino which can be problematic any time of year. If you hang a left too soon you will have worse sea conditions, higher winds and more traffic. Staying well outside you will avoid most tankers, cruise ships, fishing vessels and other pleasure craft heading north and south as well as a lot of crap in the water! Have a fine passage... Phil
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:54   #12
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Thanks Phil - Great suggestions!
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Old 06-06-2017, 15:54   #13
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

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Cool thanks, is there a guest dock in Neah Bay or are you typically anchoring out in the bay somewhere?
Anchor out... if coming from Canadian port, call the US Customs and Immigration on the VHF to let the know. Noah Bay is dry, so don't plan on replenishing your bar stocks there!
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Old 06-06-2017, 16:06   #14
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

I've used thess route finder maps, they lay out 3 routes, inshore, express and offshore with GPS waypoints for each. All routes cross shipping lanes at right angles and as little as possible. Probably available at Amazon etc.
I'm with Paul, not any better 100 miles out than 30 and I know a few people who regretted being too far out to run for shelter on the Washington coast.
Bluewater Books & Charts - Pacific Coast Route Planning Map South Portion
Bluewater Books & Charts - Pacific Coast Route Planning Map North Portion
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Old 06-06-2017, 16:27   #15
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Re: Suggested Waypoints for WA to SF to LA

Thanks Calif.Ted - I am picking up those planning maps and look forward to checking them out!
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