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Old 24-02-2007, 21:55   #1
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Puget Sound Sailing

I need a bit of help. I have a most fundamental question: what are the sailing conditions found over the course of a year on Puget Sound--especially South Puget Sound?

I'm getting the sense that light winds tend to prevail. But is that true year round? And how light is light?

I'm trying to figure out what kind of sailboat would work well in the Sound. Would a full-keel heavy displacement boat, something that could handle open ocean and longer cruises, merely crawl along or get stuck motoring more often than not?

Thanks for your help, Pugetians.

Doug in Portland
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Old 25-02-2007, 09:27   #2
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Doug,

I think you might want to followup with the type of sailing you want to do. What are your own personal requirements? What level of experience you have?

If you intend on sailing only the Southern Puget Sound then it sounds like a heavy displacement boat isn't what you want. A heavy displacement boat is needed to haul lots of stuff. A lighter boat will perform better but won't carry a lot of weight nor have all the features a cruising boat might demand. So on the one hand a heavy displacement will carry a lot of gear and tankage and a light boat won't. That clearly indicates a requirement but it might not be your own.

You don't indicate the features and capacity you desire either. Something to steer the discussion would help you.

Last issue is budget. You really do need to think about the money part too. That also includes the maintenance, insurance, and slip costs too. If you budget is $5,000 or $500,000 it make a difference. Actually $500,000 isn't the highest number either.
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Old 25-02-2007, 11:32   #3
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You bet, Paul. Here's what I'm thinking after a great amount of research. I'm looking for a 30 to maybe 40 foot boat for coastal cruising for me and my wife, mostly, with occassionally the addition of our two young-adult children. A boat that can handle everything from the Columbia River, Puget Sound, the trip up and back between the two, and eventually longer trips like a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island and, if properly outfitted, a trip to Hawaii.

So I'm not just looking for a Puget Sound only boat. And there's nothing particularly rational about my approach. Because what's most perfect for Puget Sound might not be perfect for a Pacific crossing, and I know that. But I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to change boats later if I decide to take a hard turn west some day. And for initial purchase price, I'm aiming for under $50k. I don't mind putting more into it over time.

I'm looking at fin keel bluewater-capable cruisers like the Cascade 36 or Pearson 365, and at full-keel boats like the Alberg 35, Pearson Vanguard, Rawson 30, Fantasia 35, and Fuji 32.

I'm thinking of keeping the boat on the Columbia during the summer and in Olympia on the South Sound the rest of the year, since I live in Portland and that's only a two-hour drive.

So I'm wondering how the heavier full-keel 30 to 35 foot boats will fare in Puget Sound. Oh, and as for experience, I'm a novice. But I'm a freak when it comes to obsessively learning something, and I'll be taking lessons and sailing with friends who are far more experienced in order to build my skills. This is just the beginning of sailing for me.

There's the long of it.

Thanks for your interest in knowing more, Paul. I certainly appreciate any insight into the wind conditions of the Sound.

Yours,
Doug
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Old 25-02-2007, 11:47   #4
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You'll do a lot of motoring in most of the northwest, especially when the weather is nice. Not to say we don't get a lot of wind at times, but you can put a lot of hours on your engine if you are trying cruise any significant distance.

Another reason for lots of engine time are some fairly tight channels and some enormous currents. Some places the current runs faster than a dislacement boat can go so timing is everything. You probably already know this.

I've always thought a fairly high-performance boat, one that can point well and sail with some speed, is best in the Sound. Since there are some narrow passageways between islands and such, you are usually either going with the wind or beating directly against it. It's nice to be able to go to windward efficiently. A spinnaker is nice for going downwind when there is almost no breeze. Lots of potential for lee shores too though a safe anchorage usually nearby.

There aren't many shoal areas in the sound. Lots of deep water, though if you *do* run aground it will likely be on rocks and you'll do damage. That might affect your keel choices, maybe not.

There's a lifetime of cruising in the Sound, the San Juans, and north to Canada. You don't need a bluewater boat for that. The run from the Columbia to the Strait, if you choose your weather window wisely, can be done in very pleasant conditions. Hawaii is another thing altogether.

You'll certainly want a heater, even for the summer.
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:15   #5
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::nod::

PBlais has it right; we kinda need to know what you're interested in doing to give reasonable advisement.

On the other hand, there are some generalities which can be said about the southern Puget Sound. Generally the winds are light, more so during warm weather. Winds tend to follow the direction of the narrow waters: it's almost always upwind or down wind, depending on your course.

There are exceptions to the "light winds" related to topography; narrows have accelerations which can be dangerous. Such as the infamous Tacoma Narrows. When there is a breeze, the fastest wind will be found near the lee shore as it lifts over the usually high coasts. (Mind, this is a stupid place for a sailboat to try to sail, close under the lee shore, a good recipe for wrecking the boat.)

Boats in Puget Sound tend to have taller rigs, plenty of light-air and down-wind gear, and good motors. Tide and current charts are a must; and keep a very close eye on the wind relative to the tidal current. Many points and headlands have unpleasant, even dangerous, tidal rips off them; give them a cautious berth.
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:19   #6
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Aloha Doug,
Jim H is a frequent poster on this forum. You could do a search for him and send him a private message. He sails out of Portland and has done some Puget Sound stuff as well. His sailing club has boats in Portland and up in the Sound and you could talk to the staff to see which ones do best there.
Hopefully I'll get up to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend again this year to enjoy a bit of PNW fall weather. I've got a lot of famiily in Salem.
Kind Regards,
JohnL
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:20   #7
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Doug,
Having done almost exactly what you are contimplating, given your budget, and the fact you live in Portland there is no question the choice is the Cascade 36 or 42.
Happy Sailing
HG
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:26   #8
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Aloha Again,
I just reread your other post and saw that you were looking into Cascade 36 and Fuji 32. I have experience with both of those. Fuji 32 is a boat that does not do well in light wind and doesn't point well even in heavier air, however, if you are going offshore and doing a long cruise they can handle it. The Cascade 36 is a good choice. Remember Cascades can be built by private owners or by the Cascade folks in all stages so hire a surveyor to take a look at the boat before buying. Some private builders know what they are doing and some don't.
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:30   #9
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Oops,
I also have sailed a Rawson 30. It is a bullet proof boat but now pretty old. They are heavy and not too good in light wind but very seaworthy. OK in moderate winds and can handle nearly anything.
Kind Regards,
JohnL
P. S. If you can find an old Chinook in good condition you'll have a lifetime boat.
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:43   #10
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Thumbs up Puget Sound

I'll add to the pot here.
It sounds to me that you'll want a boat over 12K# something with a deep keel for pointing and a lot of sail area that can be reduced quickly (Like mine).

You do know crossing the bar to the Columbia River can be dangerous? Tide timing is important!

The South Sound (Tacoma) is great for smaller boats, but yes, there will be a lot of motoring. A typical summers day the wind would start early in the morning from the SW. It comes in off the ocean, hits the mountains and heads north. About noon it will die down and come back at around 4 -5 PM also from the SW.

But occasional after a die down, it'll pick up right again from the NE and can get up to 25 kt. with lots of wind chop. This is usually a weather front coming in from Canada. Up by Vancouver Is. this is a common event on the inside passage.

Sailing in the Sound here does require two things, tide and current watch and a weather watch. We get little mini storms that drop in from the Alaska Coast which cause wind gusts periodically, especially in the North end of Strait of Georgia (inside Vanc. Is.).

We have several bridges here to watch too. Charts area must if you’re going out of sight of marinas.

Shoals can be a problem, but again learn the charts. The tips of Islands are the norm.

Sailing the Canals/Inlets can be useless in tide changes. The current goes faster then the boat.

Ripe tides can be scary in the narrows like Port Townsend, San Juan Channel, Deception Pass and Harbor Strait come to mind!

I found the best sailing weather is when we're having a typical summer rainy day. The winds average between 10 & 25 kt continuously depending on your location.

And yes, some sort of heater maybe necessary if you plan on staying the nights on the hook, even in the summer the air will get down to 50Ί on the water.

Which also brings to mind, calculate for the tide changes when on the hook. We have as much as a 14' tide change, especially in July.

I can go on but this should give you a warm up of the Sound...................._/)
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:49   #11
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Thanks already

Thanks, everyone, for the replies already.

HG, I love your certainty. I gotta say, the Cascade 36 stole my heart when I first saw it, and I'm currently reading Jim Moore's book about his circumnavigation in a Cascade 36.

I got to thinking, though, when I started reading elsewhere about a full keel's traits and strengths, and started questioning the fin keel and spade or skeg rudder. I'm a worst-case scenario guy, and I like to know that I'll never regret the boat I've got under me in the circumstances I'm in. But reading about Moore's Swan successfully heaving to and lying ahull and otherwise handling huge seas and winds in the Tasman Sea and Indian Ocean has been putting my mind at ease.

From what I'm hearing from everyone else about the winds and the usual scenario of either beating or running in Puget Sound, a boat that points well is important to having a good Sound experience. And, truthfully, that ain't the Fuji or the Fantasia, from what I understand.

SkiprJohn--I've read that about the Cascades, that some were kits and others were factory finished. Thanks for the warning about getting a survey--I'm a firm believer in 'em. Thanks, too, for the tip about Jim H--I'll look for him.

Again, I thank you all for jumping in and giving me your comments. The web is a beautiful thing.

Doug in Portland
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:53   #12
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SkiprJohn,

tell me more about the Chinook. It's a shadowy reference that I've only come across once or twice, and I've had no luck finding them for sale when I've checked. But they're not on my hot list.

Doug
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Old 25-02-2007, 13:00   #13
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Doug,
Concerns about the fin keel and spade rudder are legitimate no question. If you can get an invite to Rose City Yacht Club ask to talk with a few of the members with Cascades. There is the largest concentration of Cascade owners and former owners here than in in any other place in the world. It's been six years or so since I was a member there so some of the names have slipped my ageing memory but if you want contact me off line for my phone number and I'll give you a name or two.
HG
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Old 25-02-2007, 13:03   #14
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Delmarrey,

Thanks for the great description of sailing conditions on the Sound. I've read about the rips, the currents, the Narrows, the tide swings, but what's amazing is, until today on this forum, I haven't found anything about the wind and sailing conditions. And I've got three books just on cruising the Sound and have scowered the web.

So thanks. Interesting wind pattern. Happily I'm not a purist--I think motors are just fine. Sounds like I'll be using one a lot.

As for the Columbia bar, yep, I'm aware. I used to commercial fish in the summers with my dad, and we crossed a small bar on the Oregon coast twice a day, often with drama. When I was 10 I rowed the Coast Guard across to the sand spit as they were trying to save a capsized boater on our bar. They even had a helicopter lowering a line to the guy, but he couldn't grab it. (This might account for my desire to have the most seaworthy boat I can.) I've got a strong appreciation of the Pacific and its bars alright. And the Columbia is the mother of them all.

Doug
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Old 25-02-2007, 14:21   #15
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SkiprJohn,

Come to think about it, I did dig in and find the story about the Chinook--the first boat built by the people who ended up founding the Cascade line. Here's a great irony--a Chinook just closed on eBay this morning. Of course, it was on the east coast. But funny how the timing worked out on that.

I'll keep an eye out for another Chinook.

Doug
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