How to get over, under, or through the High is always the big issue. Take a look at the return tracks for the Pacific Cup boats (the ones that chose to carry a tracker): return | Pacific Cup
You will see that many of these elected to power through the center of the High, some went over the top, and some went under (The track going north to Cape Flattery is mine). When I've returned to San Francisco
I've not had to go further north than 42 deg latitude.
The truth of it is that the Pacific High can be extremely vague and will shift dramatically in just a few days. The high isn't a physical object, but rather more of a statistic: where the surface pressure happens to be the highest at any given time. There can be multiple high-pressure regions, with light and confused winds between the highs, or, on a good year, the high may look just like the textbooks show. You really need to get daily weather
information to pick your best path through the maze.
Many times the high will be spread out east and west, forcing you to motor
through it going north, or to swing significantly to the west to avoid the light stuff. As the high can change faster than you can sail, it's a good idea to carry enough fuel
for several days (at least) of motoring. That, or be prepared to wait for the wind
This year many of the Pac Cup boats seemed to sail from one high to another as they made their way east. I agree with capta about not trying to cut it too close if you are trying to sail rather than motor
, but sometimes the high just hunts you down and parks on top of you.
This late in the season you also have to watch out for the low-pressure systems coming down from the Gulf of Alaska
. These can create a nice path by compressing the top of the high, but they can also stir up some big winds and seas. The semi-permanent gales a few hundred miles offshore
between Cape Mendocino and San Francisco
can also be pretty nasty. These gales are probably worst in Autumn, but you always need to be aware of the conditions as you approach the mainland.