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Old 19-01-2011, 10:45   #1
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Location of Pacific High in Early July

Howdy folks. We plan on pushing off for Hawaii on May 1st of this year, from Channel Islands, CA. We will spend the entire month of June there.

However, my question pertains to the trip home: around July 1st, can we expect the Pacific High to be far enough south to warrant a sail to San Francisco? Or will we have to veer so far northbound to avoid the high that we will end up in Washington?

I ask because we need to make it home to the Channel Islands by early August. I understand that a trip down the coast from the Washington area will take quite some time. And as much as I'd hate to, I can cut the Hawaii vacation short

Thanks guys!
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Old 19-01-2011, 11:58   #2
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Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, danisinger.

The North Pacific high pressure system shifts north, and is strongest, during the summer, and is displaced South towards the equator during the winter when the Aleutian Low becomes more dominate.

See:
Skirting the Pacific High ➥ Skirting the Pacific High | Cruising World
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Old 19-01-2011, 12:04   #3
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Thanks!

Would a return home ducking south under the high be possible? I realize this would be heading into the wind, though, and may be most unpleasant...

Suggestions?
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Old 19-01-2011, 12:16   #4
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Atlas of Pilot Charts - North Pacific Ocean

June ➥
http://msi.nga.mil/MSISiteContent/St...108/108jun.pdf

July ➥
http://msi.nga.mil/MSISiteContent/St...108/108jul.pdf
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Old 19-01-2011, 12:18   #5
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You rock, thanks Gord!
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Old 20-01-2011, 17:55   #6
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Sailed right back up the course from Oahu to San Francisco in July about four years ago; 18 days double handing a Swede 55. Channel Islands would be closer and easier - you get used to living on a heel after a few days ;-)

Michael
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Old 20-01-2011, 18:41   #7
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Wow, 18 days is pretty darn good, especially fighting your way back!

I think we may just give that a shot. Or, even better, I might just quit my job so that it's really not necessary for me to be back by August 1st.

Employment is over-rated, anyway.
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Old 06-05-2011, 23:53   #8
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Re: Location of Pacific High in Early July

Aloha... fyi I lived in Hawaii 8 yrs, South pacific 7 yrs prior. Made my living as a merchant marine master. N. Pacific high was a daily observation. My first ocean crossing was Oahu to Vancouver. It's like my backyard a bit chaotic.

It's not as simple as cruisers on here seem to make it... actually a little schocking to me how little knowledge and respect for the sea exists.

The High shifts often and quickly hundreds of miles. Despite the best navigators the weather does what it does can leave you in a dead calm or MUCH underestimated Hawaii trade-winds. They can be full Gale force for days in sunny paradise with 20' plus seas building. Not to mention the hurricanes down South that thrust a sloppy South varied sea up average swells of 10-15' under your gale force Easterlies.

My advice is commit to the wind speed you want plus/minus 5knots tack into and out from the center of the High.

The fast track back is due N of Oahu 3 days prepared for hefty seas and if lucky San Fran... if not motor or enjoy the NW.

I have seen the wind shift 30 knots in a few hours and direction... always easterly but very north to very south.

Have fun... most the vacation is the journey and being on the sea not the destination. The centers with no wind are EPIC for fishing, bathing, tanning and the night flipping romantic.
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:42   #9
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Re: Location of Pacific High in Early July

It is common for the Pacific High to be amorphous and north at the end of June / start of July, then to move south and become more focused by mid-July. There are plenty of exceptions to this though, including last year when the best route from San Francisco to Oahu was actually north of the great circle route.

I've sailed back to San Francisco four times now, each time in late July or August, going over the top of the high as best I could. It's taken me between 17 and 19 days, and I have had to sail as far north as 42 degrees N. I've also been able to keep my northing to 39 degrees, and I only went that far north to ensure I had a favorable angle on the wind and seas as I transited the "squash zone" on my final approach to the mainland. Here are the tracks of my Hawaii trips:

The track just north of the great circle is my 2010 "to Hawaii" path. Everything north of that is a return track.

Bottom line, the Pacific High moves around a lot, and when it is diffuse (often the case) it can be very unpredictable with no real center. At these times the low pressure systems moving down from the Aleutians can be the determining factor in when you make your turn to the east.

I've had friends sail under the high, usually because they were heading for Los Angeles, but also heading for San Francisco. They usually get beaten up worse than I on out northern route, and I often get to San Francisco just as fast as them.

Finally, do look at the coastal gales you are likely to encounter as you get within a few hundred miles of the mainland north of San Francisco. These can be quite bad, although the odds are definitely in favor of having a pleasant trip.
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:51   #10
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Re: Location of Pacific High in Early July

And about sailing under the High, this depends of course on the location of the High, but also on your boat's pointing ability. My boat has a shoal keel and can't sail as close to the wind as the more "racerly" boats I know -- it's these boats that occasionally choose to sail under the High. Windward ability can make or break a south of the High route.

Pilot charts are good, but remember these show average conditions. You will never see an exactly "average" condition, and you have to sail in what you actually get. If you are interested, I've been saving the WFAX charts for the NE Pacific since 2006, and can point you to them (archived as an on-line mailing list) if you would like to study them. They will show the variability we've been talking about.
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:24   #11
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Re: Location of Pacific High in Early July

You can also look at the QuickScat satellite surface wind vector charts (QuikSCAT/SeaWinds Data products) -- they have data history going back to at least July 2002.
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Old 07-05-2011, 13:38   #12
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Re: Location of Pacific High in Early July

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Elliott View Post
Bottom line, the Pacific High moves around a lot, and when it is diffuse (often the case) it can be very unpredictable with no real center.
Just to further reinforce this point, below are three pictures of the pacific high each 2 days apart (may 8th, 10th and 12th). You can see this is not just seasonal movement, but the high moves around quite a bit day to day. So, it's best to get a forecasts just before and during departure and do your routing based on the actual and short-term forecast conditions. But when you are planning the trip ahead of time, you should certaintly plan and leave time for the over the top route.
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