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Old 19-03-2015, 21:46   #1
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From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Given:

* a reasonably seaworthy boat,
* a skipper who is fairly comfortable with coastal sailing in British Columbia Gulf Islands and racing small keelboats on lakes,
* a 2015 sailing season right around the corner, and
* a tentative plan to go on a 6 to 12 months cruise to either Hawaii or Mexico in the fall of 2016

how should I go about getting ready for it? Not necessarily in terms of gear and boat upgrades - a list of extra necessities is not that hard to figure out from literature. More in terms of what should I plan to DO before the big voyage to get useful skills and experience.
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Old 19-03-2015, 22:32   #2
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedHerring View Post
Given:

* a reasonably seaworthy boat,
* a skipper who is fairly comfortable with coastal sailing in British Columbia Gulf Islands and racing small keelboats on lakes,
* a 2015 sailing season right around the corner, and
* a tentative plan to go on a 6 to 12 months cruise to either Hawaii or Mexico in the fall of 2016

how should I go about getting ready for it? Not necessarily in terms of gear and boat upgrades - a list of extra necessities is not that hard to figure out from literature. More in terms of what should I plan to DO before the big voyage to get useful skills and experience.
First, go to the top of an 80-story building and stand on the edge. Then look down. Do that as many times as needed until your legs to stop shaking.

Next, learn to swim. I mean, really good.

Next, gather up the following:

1) Lot's of cash. I mean, lots ($$$$$).
2) A shotgun and shells to keep on board.

NOTE: You can forget number 2) since you don't need help with provisioning.

Finally, break every watch and clock that you currently own. Smash them to bits! Once you are offshore, you will never need to know the time.

Have fun!

Ps; Legs still shaking?
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Old 19-03-2015, 23:09   #3
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

If you currently go on day sails in good weather, you will need to go out for longer and longer sails and in deteriorating conditions, so that you know that both you and the boat can handle it.
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Old 19-03-2015, 23:31   #4
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Similar experience level when I left Gig Harbor in Puget Sound headed for San Diego in a Tartan 42 that I was skippering. I knew I was a very good inland heavy weather sailor because I had crossed the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia many times in a lot of boats in big gales and breaking waves. I knew I could handle big currents due to years of sailing the San Juan and Gulf Islands and from the south end of Puget Sound all the way north of Texada. I knew I could navigate having been a racing navigator for years.

I thought I knew how to deal with the ocean having done many of the old Swiftsure Lighthouse and then long course races.

Here is what I did in the last two years before heading off into the Pacific for San Diego and then Mexico.

- three trips out to Neah Bay and Bamfield which gave me even more experience with ocean speed tankers and freighters and dealing with big rollers and swells. It turned out (after several trips to San Diego) that the most important experience was the downwind sailing wing and wing or with a spinnaker from Cape Beal to Pt Wilson. That 100 NM run really shows you what the trip south along the US coast is like. It provides a great shake down for your equipment and technique.

If you can comfortably fly a kite or wing and wing from Beal to Port Angles or Race Rocks you can deal with anything along the US West Coast.

- Sailed from Neah Bay to Cape Scott on the north end of Vancouver Island. We went out 85 miles and pounded north for several days to make sure we and the boat was ready. The nice thing about the west coast of Vancouver Island is that there are a lot of places to duck in for cover or a rest (which we did twice).

- Sailed downwind from Cape Scott to Cape Beal on the outside to again practice the downwind / downswell techniques that you will need for 97% of the trip from Cape Flattery to Cabo San Lucas.

- Sailed from Neah Bay west for 24 hours and then turned around and sailed back to Port Angles. Again, practice in the NW swell and wind and the downwind down the Straits.

- Signed up as volunteer crew on a 53’ high performance cruising sloop going from Annapolis non-stop to Virgin Gorda. That was a very instructive 9-day trip and really increased my confidence. I discovered I loved being 700-miles offshore and I did love the deep blue sailing. We crossed the Gulf Stream at night in a full gale and driving rain – no seasickness and no qualms.

- Sailed every chance I could get in bad weather so I could test my staysails, storm jibs, trysail, and heaving to. I probably sailed in ten full gales in the two years before we left – just for practice – often single handed. I wanted to make sure all my equipment worked perfectly and I could do all the necessary rigging in the dark with no light.

- practised important underway maintenance while underway in adverse conditions, e.g. change a fuel filter, bleed the injectors, replace a fan belt, replace a fuel line, rig a line to control the boom after a crash jibe takes out the mainsheet attachments, untangle a snarled genoa furling line, pickup a spinnaker than dropped in the water. I had done all of those things several times while racing other peoples boats but I wanted to be sure I could do them on my boat.

- practised a lot with the radar e.g. CPA calculations, tuning radar, searching for close in objects, navigate long stretches in busy water around Seattle, Pt. Wilson, Rosario Straits, with only the radar while tracking those big fast tankers. This practise and confidence was essential on all four trips I've done from Cape Flattery to San Diego where I've spent at least 150 hours in fog with less than 1/4 mile visibility.

- practised a lot of night time sailing and motoring in heavy traffic from Seattle to Port Angles and up the Rosario Straits. Practise talking to those big ships and to VTS. Practise reading navigation lights on other ships / boats at night and calculating CPA. There is a lot of big fast traffic, and slow confusing fishing traffic off the US West Coast and you must be comfortable figuring how & where the are headed and how fast they are moving. Even when we try to minimize the overnight legs going south to San Diego we end up with at least five overnights.

An advantage for me was that I retired 15-months before we left the first time and I devoted 40-hours a week to getting ready.

You will find that sailing in the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca are much more difficult than sailing from Cape Flattery to San Diego. You just need to test yourself and your boat in ever more challenging situations than approximate the North Pacific situation 100-miles west of Washington or Oregon.

I also spent a lot of time studying the summer weather patterns along the US west coast:

- downloaded GRIB and WeatherFax files and tried to predict conditions
- downloaded buoy data for the same area I did the predictions
- compared the results
- several times a week I compared the Pt Reyes weather fax info with actual conditions
- learned how to easily call up NOAA NBDC data to get real time US west coast buoy weather data (actually did this a lot before the Neah Bay – Cape Scott trip because the Brooks Penninsula and Cape Scott scared me to death)
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Old 20-03-2015, 08:47   #5
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedHerring View Post
Given:

* a reasonably seaworthy boat,
* a skipper who is fairly comfortable with coastal sailing in British Columbia Gulf Islands and racing small keelboats on lakes,
* a 2015 sailing season right around the corner, and
* a tentative plan to go on a 6 to 12 months cruise to either Hawaii or Mexico in the fall of 2016

how should I go about getting ready for it? Not necessarily in terms of gear and boat upgrades - a list of extra necessities is not that hard to figure out from literature. More in terms of what should I plan to DO before the big voyage to get useful skills and experience.
Have you thought about joining Bluewater Cruising Association? It is an association of offshore sailors located in Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Calgary. There are over 800 members in about 500 boats all with the same interest. Check out Bluewater Cruising Association for more information, and come join us at our next Club Night in April.

We also have a free online cruising newsletter: Currents

Cheers,
Denis
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Old 20-03-2015, 09:43   #6
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Be sure that YOU can repair your boat IF it is repairable under ways.
Your Skills? Be careful and GO GO GO
Just remenber weather forecast is 90% of all!
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Old 20-03-2015, 10:07   #7
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

TacomaSailor made some really good points. If it were me, this coming year I'd do a lap around Vancouver Island or sail to Juneau and back. Be sure you can take apart and fix everything on your boat. If you've never been in bad weather offshore consider taking a heavy weather sailing course (E.g. with John Kretschmer).
Good luck w your plan!
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Old 20-03-2015, 10:51   #8
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

You're in luck! You happen to live in one of the few places on earth where there is an organisation dedicated to helping you live your dreams! Have a look at Bluewater Cruising Association: Bluewater Cruising Association

Our organisation has monthly club nights where "Doners" who have already completed their bluewater adventures pass on knowledge and stories of their trips. We have a special smaller group "Fleet" who are planners who are geared to go offshore in the next 2-5 years. This group meets once per month and has intensive training seminars on anything from radio communications to first aid to rigging. A group of Mentors is available to help you with your outfitting and plans. We have an extensive education program as well. Most of all, we offer the camaraderie and support that you may need to fulfill your dreams.

If you're interested, let me know. I'd be glad to introduce you to other members at the next meeting.
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Old 20-03-2015, 22:56   #9
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Thanks a lot to everyone who responded, especially TacomaSailor. Much appreciated!

So far, my plan for this season involves a 2-week coastal voyage up the Desolation Sound and two week-long cruises, probably venturing out of Juan De Fuca for a couple of days each time, if weather cooperates. Sorting out offshore safety gear and skills. Laundry list of boat improvement projects - thankfully only a few mission critical ones. That sort of thing.

Next season, I can either go around the Van Isle for a shakedown cruise, or maybe take the coast hugging option for a trip to SF. Haven't thought it out this far yet.
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Old 20-03-2015, 23:37   #10
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

Get enough provisions and choose a course offshore. Look ahead, not back..
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Old 21-03-2015, 02:23   #11
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Re: From coastal to offshore sailing - how to get ready?

I'd do just that, but... Have to kick the teenagers out of the house before leaving the said house for an extended period. The last of my big ones is finishing the high school next year, hence the timing.
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