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Old 24-07-2017, 22:36   #1
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Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

I am going to buy a 32 foot cruising sailboat in San Francisco Bay to sail from there to Hawaii to Alaska, and eventually back to San Francisco. I would love to have some information on when the best time to sail each passage is. I am also probably going to be singlehanded, so if you are an experienced singlehanded passagemaker. Please let me know the best way to sleep and not crash while out at sea.

Thank you all in advance!

-GIOVANNI
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Old 23-10-2017, 04:13   #2
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

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Originally Posted by GIOVANNl View Post
I am going to buy a 32 foot cruising sailboat in San Francisco Bay to sail from there to Hawaii to Alaska, and eventually back to San Francisco. I would love to have some information on when the best time to sail each passage is. I am also probably going to be singlehanded, so if you are an experienced singlehanded passagemaker. Please let me know the best way to sleep and not crash while out at sea.

Thank you all in advance!

-GIOVANNI
-GIOVANNI, I have sailed from Hawaii to Canada and saw one vessel from far far away the whole trip. It would be extremely unusual if you hit another vessel since most vessels in the area will be far bigger with radar and will have seen you miles away. Just stay awake when. Getting close to the land. Sleep the rest of the way.
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Old 23-10-2017, 13:30   #3
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

pbmaise has it down for collision issues. I sleep when I'm tired often in the cockpit. Usually sleep in relatively short snatches, 4 hours or less, that probably has more to do with sleep apnea than keeping watch. At night, you probably wouldn't see a hazard even if you were hanging out on the bow. I try and stay awake within 50 miles or so immovable objects. Easy to do at the end of an ocean passage but difficult when coastal and you are always near shore. Under those conditions, plan your passages so you can drop the hook and sleep at least every 36 hours. AIS is all the rave these days but it wouldn't be something that I'd delay a passage for. Had it on my solo trip to Hawaii but it didn't alert me to any ships within 10 miles once I was past the Farallons. Off Alaska, the fishing boats will be your big issue and they don't seem to be big on broadcasting their positions via AIS. On a recent delivery from SF to Oceanside, only saw two ships, one off Point Conception and the other making it's way into LA Harbor, both well away.

As far as timing. You can sail to Hawaii year around. The only real issue for those in the PNW is getting below SF in the winter because of the parade of low pressure systems that cross the N. Pacific from November to March. Careful monitoring of weather systems and timing your run to be able to duck into the few safe harbors north of SF. You can also do it in a straight run from the PNW but good weather windows are few and far between for that in the winter.

Anchorages are few in the Winter in Hawaii. Those lows in the North Pacific send wave systems south that make surf conditions with monstrous waves that you've undoubtedly seen. Not a problem sailing offshore and between the Islands but but often dangerous and mostly very rolly if you are anchored out. Space available, and their often is, you can stay 4 months in any one State Marina in a calendar year. If you don't mind moving about in 4 month increments you can stay in these marinas for a long time. We usually have a few cruisers hanging out at our marina in Kona from August to April or thereabouts.

If you want to cruise Alaska, you'll need to leave Hawaii around May to have some time to explore. Be advised that the trip will be cold and miserable but should be free from serious storms. June in Alaska can be very much like winter in SF Bay, 50 degrees and constant rain or warmer and dry if you get lucky. Alaska is a lovely place to have a full surround enclosure for the cockpit, but it sure is a breath taking beautiful place when the sun shines and with those looonnnnggg days you'll have plenty of time to explore. Keep in mind that I live in Kona for a reason when it comes to cold and rain. The passage south can be delayed into the fall because you can do much of it inside in protected waters. Still would want to be safely tucked in a marina by November. There usually are several storm systems that bring near hurricane force winds to the PNW in the after October.

I've had dreams of doing your journey starting from Kona and back. Unfortunately, can't seem to get it together to get the boat ready and I'm not getting any younger. Should be a grand adventure for you.
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Old 23-10-2017, 17:01   #4
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

look up youtube videos.
Just watched on a couple of weeks ago a singlehander going from Ca to Hi and back.
30ish ft sailboat.

Quite a few videos of others on there also.
Think that guy sleep a bunch, more than i would have.

Another youtuber would take 10min naps.
He used a kitchen alarm right by him.
He was crossing in a more crowded area.
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Old 23-10-2017, 17:45   #5
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

I fished tuna in the North Pacific. Fishing 1500 miles NW of Midway Island, it was faster to unload in Dutch Harbor than Oahu. It's probably better to go to Alaska from Hawaii than the West Coast because you're not pounding into the prevailing swells most of the way. Storms happen year round, but are less often and less violent May to September and a lot less in August. The 100' swells that hit the north sides of Hawaii usually aren't bad at sea. Often they're far apart and not noticeable as bad weather. But as I remember, the prevailing wind is from the north within a few hundred miles of Hawaii.
I cruise alone often, but in a power boat and mostly coastal. My only long run is crossing the Gulf of Alaska. The big thing is don't fall overboard. Empty boats are occasionally found. From fishing experience, it's better to stop and drift if you need sleep. There's lots of stuff in the water now days. Still the occasional debris from the Japanese tsunami.
It would be better to find someone that wants a ride to Alaska. Even better if they share some of the costs. My dad use to find people to do that.
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Old 23-10-2017, 17:53   #6
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

Here is one of the videos.
it mentions what Lepke states about the north wind.
He sailed way north of Ca landing and then came back to it from the north.

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Old 24-10-2017, 15:23   #7
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

Thank you all for the helpful replies. I will take everyone’s requests into consideration.
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Old 26-11-2017, 23:08   #8
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Re: Sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii to Alaska

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AIS is all the rave these days but it wouldn't be something that I'd delay a passage for. Had it on my solo trip to Hawaii but it didn't alert me to any ships within 10 miles once I was past the Farallons. Off Alaska, the fishing boats will be your big issue and they don't seem to be big on broadcasting their positions via AIS.
On our passage from Seattle to Hilo, we had one useful contact via AIS, a container ship with bored crew who wanted to chat - he was from the Big Island, only a few miles from where we live :-).

But, in Alaska and B.C. it's very useful, though as roverhi notes, fishing boats go dark when they are fishing.... For instance, we were hailed by two cruise ships to negotiate how we'd pass, one in Clarence Str and one in Glacier Bay. That's a stress reliever.

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If you want to cruise Alaska, you'll need to leave Hawaii around May to have some time to explore.
Best time to cruise Alaska is May/June (best weather), and then head south when the Pacific High sets up and the northerly airflows become more consistent (and the SE AK weather goes bad). You'll still need to duck into anchorages from time to time, to sit out systems.

Too many people motor between Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound because they don't take advantage of local wind patterns and currents. Check out this book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zqgiIX

Disclaimer: my wife wrote this book. Check out the review by Good Old Boat here: https://tinyurl.com/TBTW-GOB.

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