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Old 17-09-2007, 02:01   #1
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How Far Offshore is Offshore?

(Warning: Newbie Questions Ahead!)

Okay, the main difference between a coastal cruiser and a blue water (offshore) cruiser is typically one of sturdiness, yes? An offshore boat is built to take more of a pounding (from what I've read).

So here's my question -- if you're getting your feet wet (hopefully only as a figure of speech) with a coastal cruiser, how far out do you typically go? I mean, if you're hopping down the West Coast, for example, how far offshore would be "normal" when going from one anchorage to the next?

Are you out far enough that you don't see land?

Does offshore typically just mean that you're crossing an ocean?

Thanks!

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Old 17-09-2007, 03:02   #2
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i have always thought that coastal sailing was following the coast whether you were 1 mile off the coast or 100 miles off the coast
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Old 17-09-2007, 04:26   #3
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Jay, here's my tuppence worth, in as much as it relates to our situation here in Ireland - we would consider "coastal cruisers" in the range 18 to 23 feet (though a friend has just done the western atlantic coast in a 12 footer!). These boats are for coastal hopping, and family weekending and are obviously a bit space restricted. some would tend to be bilge keelers for easy drying out in shallow creeks. "Offshore cruisers" (as they are sold here) can be anything bigger - and would make the one or two or three night overnight cruises to, say, the UK or France and back. while some of these have been used for "Blue water cruising" ( i.e; Contessa 26's have circumnavigated) our definition of a blue water cruiser is a yacht of superior sea keeping and self suffiency as a broad rule - smaller (monohull) BWCs may have a long keel arrangement, but all will have enough capacity in water, fuel, amps, storage, etc for the proper "Ocean" crossing. As I say, just broad strokes here . . .
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Old 17-09-2007, 05:14   #4
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Hi Jay,
How far is offshore?, I consider offshore cruising to be traveling farther then you can in a single trip at the helm. I mean that to say if you sail 18 hours down the coast and pull in for the night when you have hit your limit then your coastal hoping. If you go down the coast and after 4-6-8 hours hand the helm over to the next helmsman then your offshore sailing. I have only done one recent offshore in my 10 years sailing but hope to do many more soon It was a completely different experience to what I was used to and it's a memorable experience. To me, offshore means that you have at a bare minimum 4 sailors onboard who share time at the helm and watches (I of course realize there are some dedicated daring solo sailors in the world). I used two crew on board at anytime so that if a man overboard situation occurred there was another crew member to alert the full crew. What do other's think?


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Old 17-09-2007, 05:37   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skull&Swords View Post
... I consider offshore cruising to be traveling farther then you can in a single trip at the helm. I mean that to say if you sail 18 hours down the coast and pull in for the night when you have hit your limit then your coastal hoping. If you go down the coast and after 4-6-8 hours hand the helm over to the next helmsman then your offshore sailing ...


There's another excellent discussion, on exactly this topic, somewhere on the CF.

What you describe, more closely describes “Passage Making”; which could be accomplished in either offshore, coastal, or semi-protected waters.
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Old 17-09-2007, 05:44   #6
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Offshore sailing is hard to define.

Certainly it means sailing on "no protected" waters... open ocean comes to mind or very large lakes like the Great Lakes.

There is also the implication that you are sailing far away from shore, and not coastal cruising or hopping from port to port in short runs.

When you sail 50 miles between Caribbean Islands or the Canary Islands you are almost offshore... You certainly are in the open ocean.

The conditions offshore can be quite calm and the conditions in protected waters can be harrowing... so perhaps the deal is you are way out and far away from shore.

To go offshore, you want a boat and crew that can handle whatever you might be dealt with, and have provisions, and stores to survive for some time.

I wouldn't consider a location as off shore if you could see land.

But that's me.

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Old 17-09-2007, 06:00   #7
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Offshore sailing is hard to define ...
...When you sail 50 miles between Caribbean Islands or the Canary Islands you are almost offshore ... You certainly are in the open ocean ...
Although there are numerous inter-island crossings that are wide open to the Atlantic Ocean; I believe that the Caribbean may be technically defined as “semi-protected” waters.
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Old 17-09-2007, 06:19   #8
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I'd like to add to this thread, since it has always been a question I had from the start (more than 20 yrs ago).

It seems to me that "offshore" is simply a term people made up to try and classify a more "hardcore" type of boating vs. boating inland in protected waters. It's an elitist term, IMHO. Anyone sailing in a sufficiently large body of water can experience the same conditions as an "offshore" sailor. I am recalling Donna Lange's story. Remember when she was doing her solo circumnavigation and the most brutal part was her final leg up from Bermuda to Newport? Ironically, this is just barely considered "offshore" by those in the Northeast. Many non-offshore boats participate in the Newport to Bermuda race annually here and have no trouble. But still, a woman who had rounded the horn and made it while another guy was incapacitated said the hardest part was this final leg. My point is that even in areas that are not considered "offshore" (or at least extreme offshore), you can encounter worse conditions than those you would find on a trip labeled as "offshore."

My personal definition of "offshore" is to operate one's boat in such a way that you are subject to the seas/weather with no escape for a period of time that exceeds a day or more. This means you can't just say, "awww... heck... the weather is going to be a bit rough today. Let's just tie up and go ashore or anchor." This also means that whatever the Earth decides to dish out, you have to be able to take.

I think the word itself "offshore" is a misnomer and is misleading in many ways, especially when used like the original poster was thinking about it. You can see in his post that the word encouraged him to think of it as "how far off of the West Coast USA as he was making a passage", rather than a set of conditions or circumstances.

Who could blame him? The word is misleading, a misnomer, and a lousy description at best.
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Old 17-09-2007, 07:23   #9
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I think the terms have derived a little from tradition and a little from regulations. Shipping acts or regulations tend to define "coastal" in terms of distance from shore, or distance from safe harbour. In Canada, for instance, there's coastal, and near coastal Classes 1 and 2. I think a general rule of thumb for "coastal" in the commercial sense is above the continental shelf or 200 miles from shore, whichever is greater. Offshore would be anything beyond that, and IMO has more to do with the self-sufficiency of the vessel, than its ability to take a beating.

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Old 17-09-2007, 07:29   #10
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Our certification for training here and in the U.K with the royal Yachting Association is "Day Skipper" , "Coastal Skipper", "Offshore Yachtmaster" and "Ocean Yachtmaster", (which is Offshore plus a 600 mile passage with relevant log and sunsights) - hence the boats for sale or in use here tend to fall into the same categories when being described by their owners when describing either their particular choice of use or the boats capabilities . .
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Old 17-09-2007, 07:48   #11
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For me the difference is between the philosophy of heavy weather coping. A coastal sailor/boat heads in when weather closes in. The offshore sailor/boat heads off for sea room. IF your boat can't/you don't want, to head off shore in order to gain sea room, you're coastal sailing. I would define the distance more based on the proximity to harbors of refuge and the time it takes to get there given weather on it's way. The problem with a coastal only boat is that given stormy weather approaching your only recourse is to seek shelter. Most cuts that I deal with are the last place you want to be when the wind and waves are up. They can and do turn into 'washing machine' seas with wirlpools, breaking waves, etc. And if a good tide is running out as the wind and waves pound in toward land that last 1 mile can be a killer. Usually with rock jetties on both sides. Not fun. I'd rather head off and heave to. But then rocks close at hand scare me much more than wind and waves. Add darkness to the equation and it's a no brainer for me. Give me searoom or give me death!
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Old 17-09-2007, 07:57   #12
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Old 17-09-2007, 10:40   #13
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I agree with SSullivan on this one, I think it's about 100 miles from land. With our modern weather forecasting and means of receiving it, you've 99.9% of the time got a 24 hour warning of any bad weather and can get back to land. Offshore is when you head out and must face weather that you couldn't possibly predict. Going or coming from Bermuda is definetly offshore. 20-30 years ago offshore probably meant anytime the water was blue and not green or brown, but now small coastal boats can safely cruise deep water along the coast, all through the Caribbean, etc. without ever seeing more than 25 knotts of wind(with the exception of brief thunderstorms).
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Old 17-09-2007, 11:20   #14
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I always thought of 'bluewater sailing' as being more than 24 hrs. from land. Never thought much about a definition for 'offshore sailing' - maybe they mean the same thing. I kind of like Skull&Swords view. OTOH, if I'm out of sight of land, I certainly consider myself to be offshore.
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Old 17-09-2007, 11:40   #15
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From the NOAA - NWS Glossary at: NWS JetStream - Weather Glossary: O's

Offshore (Open) Waters
1. The waters extending from 5 miles to the midpoint of the Great Lakes.
2. That portion of the oceans, gulfs, and seas beyond the coastal waters extending to a specified distance* from a coastline, to a specific depth* contour, or covering an area defined by a specific latitude and longitude points.

* Oddly, the NWS doesn’t identify those “specified” distances or depths.

***

Maritime Geography is often discussed in terms of four loosely-defined regions: riverine, brown water, green water, and blue water.
From: Maritime geography - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Riverine
The riverine environment consists of all navigable rivers of interest.

Brown water
The brown water environment consists of the littoral areas, from the coast and estuarial areas to perhaps a hundred miles from shore. It is the most important maritime arena, including all coastal traffic and territorial waters, in which are found the great majority of a nation’s maritime police, customs, environmental, and economic concerns.
A "brown water navy" focuses on coastal operations and primarily takes a defensive role.

Green water
The green water environment extends from the outer edge of the brown-water zone past any continental shelves, archipelagos and islands; perhaps a thousand miles from shore.
A "green water navy" is capable of defense of its nation in depth and is a significant offensive force within its territory.

Blue water
The blue water environment extends from the outer edge of the green-water zone through the global deep ocean.
A "blue water navy" can project its nation's power throughout the world.

***

While traditionally a distinction was made between the coastal brown-water navy, operating in the littoral zone to 200 nautical miles (370 km), and a seagoing blue-water navy, a new term has been created by the US Navy [3], green-water navy, which appears to be equivalent to a brown-water navy in older sources. The term brown-water navy appears to have been reduced, in USN parlance, to a riverine force.

In modern warfare blue-water navy implies self-contained force protection from sub-surface, surface and airborne threats and a sustainable logistic reach, allowing a persistent presence at range. In some maritime environments such a defense is given by natural obstacles, such as the Arctic ice shelf.
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