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Old 18-08-2015, 11:21   #1
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Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

I just bought a boat and she is gorgeous. She is an old Westsail 32. She appears to be in good shape. I am taking a test sail tomorrow and she will be surveyed next week. I want to sail her down the pacific coast to San Francisco but I typically only have 3-5 days off from work to get it done.

I need to figure out the best time of year to make the trip. I can't afford to get stuck halfway there by weather (storms/light winds). Can anyone make a recommendation on some resources I can use to plan the trip? Best time of year for a tail wind and least chance of severe weather.
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Old 18-08-2015, 11:38   #2
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Hi USAFdream and welcome to the forum.

Also congratulations on the Westsail. Nice boats, built like a tank.

You say Portland to SF so assume the boat will be coming out of the Columbia River? If so, you're talking about 650 nm or more to San Francisco. You would have to hit winds and weather just right to make that in 5 days or less in a Westsail. Also, a serious caution. Trying to sail on a schedule or beat a deadline is one of the fastest ways to get into trouble on a boat. It's just too easy to look at a marginal weather forecast and decide to go for it because you're time limited and committed to that date.

Maybe better to break the trip up into a couple of legs. There are a couple of places on the way you could leave the boat for a few weeks or so until you get more time off.
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Old 18-08-2015, 13:20   #3
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

If the NW winds hold you'd need perfect winds at force 5 to have a chance of making the trip in 5 days. Have averaged over 150nm a day for 3 days straight sailing down the California Coast in a couple of W32s but the winds and seas were perfect. Also did 900 miles in 6 days in the trades. Fortunately, the stronger the wind, up to a point, the more the Westsail loves it as long as the wind allows a reach. Move the boat down to Ilwaco, WA or Astoria, OR areas so you can wait for the right weather window and don't waste a day sailing down the Columbia. Plan a layover about halfway so you can be sure of making the trip in the time segments you have available or try and free up 7-8 days to be sure that you can make the trip in one jump.
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Old 18-08-2015, 13:23   #4
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

it is all down hill. dont look back. forward.
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Old 18-08-2015, 17:54   #5
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Quote:
Originally Posted by zeehag View Post
it is all down hill.
Except when it's not. There are usually southerly winds when a low-pressure system is moving through.

Generally the best time for a southbound trip is summer or early fall. But the conditions can be brutal any time of year, and they can change from good to bad in just a few days. There are few ports of refuge you can count on along that coastline when things get rough. Here's a link to my blog entry about out June 2014 trip down the coast to San Francisco: The Friday Harbor to San Francisco Delivery in Pictures « VALIS

I agree with the suggestion to get your boat out to the coast, then wait for a window.
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Old 19-08-2015, 11:30   #6
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

USA, u didn't mention if you have crew. This jog can be treacherous. Be careful and really think about cutting it up into different bites. There are also is one harbor that is infamous for its sand bar ....wish I still had a brain left...you can always take Greyhounds back and forth till you get her home.
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Old 19-08-2015, 14:56   #7
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Just a word of warning about the Columbia river bar (where the river empties into the ocean) you must cross the bar at slack tide, otherwise it can be very very rough. I have fished the area for many years, and seen how bad it can get when the tide is running.
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Old 19-08-2015, 15:34   #8
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Cruisers from the PNW often report that getting to California was the toughest part of their world cruising - certainly true for me. If the weather is right, the boat in good shape, the skipper prepared and able, and there is ample time, it shouldn't be a problem. Otherwise it could be less than ideal.

You haven't said anything about your experience. The boat is new to you, and even after a survey may have unknown issues. Apparently you haven't sailed in this area before. You want to do the whole trip non-stop. You are trying to fit the trip into a schedule. STOP!! This is how a lot of stories start that have bad endings.

First, start by lowering your expectations: this is going to take more time to do safely so settle in for the long haul. You will need to spend several weekends with the boat, including sailing and motoring in the Portland area, before you should even consider leaving home port. Assuming you do have the requisite skills/experience and the boat is currently ready for a potentially rough passage (heroic assumptions IMHO) then you should take a weekend to move to Astoria; this time of year there is little current to help, and considering the tides below Cathlamet, it should take 1-1/2 to 2 days of easy motoring allowing for a night at Cathlamet to time the tides to Astoria. Another weekend would allow for a safe timing of the bar crossing and down to Newport. At that point you can consider continuing to harbor-hop or go non-stop (with a weather eye towards the few safe harbors available).

September and early October are good times to head south, depending on weather. However it is highly likely you will not be ready to go by then and if that is the case be prepared to leave the boat in Oregon until spring. OTOH it might actually come together in time. The important thing is to quit thinking on a schedule: that is what gets many sailors in a lot of trouble.

Good luck. Once you buy the boat invite my over for a chat - I am on Hayden Island.

Greg
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Old 20-08-2015, 01:10   #9
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Great posts full of great advice! I had sit out 3 days in Crescent City one time due to a Gale. Just.a two day warning.
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Old 20-08-2015, 07:50   #10
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Thanks for the words. Great advice and lots to think about.

1) I want to read the blog mentioned but the link did not show up on my phone. Please respond with the name of the blog and I will look it up.

2) my experience is 20 years in trailer sailing with ASA coastal cruising and bareboat charter certs. Basically a novice to big boat sailing.

3) I am a southwest pilot so I have the ability to hop around fairly easily to break up the trip as suggested.

4) I do not have crew yet. Just friends foolishly volunteering for the adventure without understanding the risks. I have considered hiring a delivery captain and accompanying him for some/all of the trip.

5) I am test sailing the boat today and will complete the purchase next week. The boat will probably winter in Portland until I am comfortable with boat and logistics.

5) questions: where can I find weather resources. You all suggest summer/fall. Is that experience talking or are there cruising guides or NOAA resources you use when WXplanning in unfamiliar waters? Where can i find resources to plan this trip?

Thanks again for the advice. I love this site. Wish me luck on the purchase. It was love at first site with this boat. If she had been a woman I would have proposed and put a ring on her finger at the door on our first date.
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Old 20-08-2015, 09:13   #11
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

Quote:
Originally Posted by usafdream View Post
1) I want to read the blog mentioned but the link did not show up on my phone. Please respond with the name of the blog and I will look it up.
If it was my blog, here is the link address:
"www.sailvalis.com/wordpress_1/?p=597"
or, "www.sailvalis.com" and look for the blog link. The posts about the trip were made from June 1 to June 21, 2014. The whole thing took just under six days from Friday Harbor to Sausalito. We went non-stop, and experienced conditions that varied from dead calm and flat seas, to 60-kt gusts and 20-ft seas. This was a downhill run all the way.

And good luck with the boat purchase!
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Old 20-08-2015, 14:18   #12
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Re: Reposition from Portland to San Francisco

In the winter months, low pressure systems roll across the N Pacific in 4-10 day cycles, sometimes even shorter intervals. These can contain near hurricane force winds which, even in a mild one, can make for an interesting passage. Another issue with these fronts coming through is the normal NW winds are disrupted with a high percentage of southerly winds which makes sailing even in pleasant weather a chore. NOAA has 'Pilot Charts' which are an accumulation of now nearly 200 years of sailors experience with weather in specific areas. Get a set of those charts to study for others experience at various times of year. I've got the old paper variety but believe they are available online. I like htttp://passageweather.com for a good visual presentation of current weather with forecast progressions out to about a week. You can pay a specialist to give you a best time to sall prediction.

There is an interesting book by George Benson called 'Cruising the Northwest Coast'. He made the trip a couple of times in a modified Coronado 27. He used a lot of sheltered areas from the prevailing NW winds to anchor overnight. Something I wouldn't recommend in the winter but a way to sneak in for a quick nap if you needed to in the summer. There are a number of Cruising Guides that will give you information on the Harbors along the Coast.

As others have said. Don't get locked into a time table. Be prepared to duck into a snug harbor early if the weather doesn't cooperate and/or you can't get a single block of time to make the passage. Most of the ports in the PNW are river bars and close out early so don't wait for weather to develop before deciding to go into a port. Chances are good it will be closed out if you wait.

Does your boat have a self steering vane??? That would make the trip way easier and easily done with a crew of two, even solo but wouldn't recommend that with a new boat. Hiring a delivery skipper and going with him would be a way to gain some sea experience with the boat and learn from a pro.

Keeping the boat in PDX over the winter and using the time to sail and stay aboard at every opportunity would be the best bet. By next summer, you'll be familiar with the boat, have had a chance to make any changes to the boat that it needs, and maybe even a chance to poke your nose out in the ocean to get some offshore practice.
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