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Old 27-07-2019, 11:52   #1
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Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

My husband and I are interested in sailing our J40 from Vancouver area up to Ketchikan in late September through October and possibly early November. Does anyone have experience sailing through the Inside Passage in October/November?

We have seen a lot of caveats about “violent storms” on the northern BC coast in the winter. Does the Inside Passage provide sufficient protection from these storms? We can handle a bit of rain, but are wondering if the winds will be a problem.
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Old 27-07-2019, 12:03   #2
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Ketchikan will be wet and coldish that time of year, lots of rainstorms and I suspect associated winds. The windiest month is November followed by September and October and will average about 8+ mph. Probability of precipitation is 70+%.
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Old 27-07-2019, 12:26   #3
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

I spent many years commercial fishing and winters towing logs and barges in the waters you plan to sail and all I can say is listen to weather forecasts and watch the sea conditions and you will be fine!
This will avoid most unpleasant surprises and assure a relatively fine trip assuming your vesel is well equipped for the arduous trip you are planning. The most dangerous part of your voyage will be from Cape Scott at the top end of Vancouver island and the bottom end of the Queen Charlotte islands. You will be exposed to the full force of the Pacific Ocean with nothing between you and Japan!
Coming from the south, There is a little cove at the top end of Vancouver Island where you can layover awaiting reasonable weather for the crossing which takes about 20 hours at 6-7 knots. Once sheltered behind the Queen Charlotte Islands you will have pretty clear sailing to Alaska. If you need a stop on the way, Prince Rupert has full on marine supplies and several large haulout facilities ( much cheaper than Alaska but still more expensive than Seattle or Vancouver.)
Have a good trip!
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Old 27-07-2019, 13:44   #4
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

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The most dangerous part of your voyage will be from Cape Scott at the top end of Vancouver island and the bottom end of the Queen Charlotte islands. You will be exposed to the full force of the Pacific Ocean with nothing between you and Japan!
Except that isn't the inside route ... The day around Cape Caution is pretty exposed, but it just needs a one-day weather window, it's day-sailing/motoring the whole way up the coast with good anchorages all the way.

The inside of Vancouver Island can be lovely at that time of year, but I've not been north of Port Hardy after October, so I can't really help ... but I expect it is similar. Don't expect to meet another cruising boat though, you'll be on your own.

Also remember that by November, daylight hours will be getting short ... don't waste them.
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Old 27-07-2019, 23:42   #5
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

True that you typically tuck behind Calvert Island before you get as far north as the Haida. I will say that my family cruises year round around the San Juans and Gulf Islands, and late October is a very sketch time. As was said, so long as you can move by the forecast and not the calendar (the most dangerous thing on any boat), you are probably good. But I for one would avoid doing this trip at that time if at all possible because the frequency of nasty storms and cold conditions would take much of the fun out of it. But I would never talk someone out of adventure if their heart is set on it.

Just be prepared for 30-50 knot SE winds on a regular basis, and avoid wind against current like the plague, and make sure your boat has a good reliable heater! Then, make your plans in the sand at low tide!
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Old 28-07-2019, 10:27   #6
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Radar is a must, as there will be lots of low visibility time and there is lots of ferry and tug and tow and log boom and fishing boat traffic.
But it is a nice time of year. The inside passage is well protected - except from the top of Vancouver Island to Calvert Island, a day sail. Also the Dixon Entrance from Prince Rupert area to Foggy Bay, also a day sail. We would go from Prince Rupert to Dundas Island anchorage, then to Foggy Bay, then on to Ketchican.

In the channels between islands one can go from anchorage to anchorage in almost any wind, as they are protected, though be prepared for the occasional blast between islands or valleys. Of course, also mind the tide table in the narrow passages to take them at slack water, especially if there is a wind-against-tide situation.
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Old 28-07-2019, 10:41   #7
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

That can be a time of year (late Oct but November mostly) with very strong wind. Including 100 mph winds recorded north end of Vancouver Island certain times of year.. Be careful. The sea bouy off north Van Isle has measured swells to 80 ft or more!
Queen Charlotte can be rough even in summer.
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Old 28-07-2019, 11:27   #8
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Hi Sailor89

The trip you are planning is very doable. We spent from April of 2017 to August of 2018 going up the Inside Passage, spending the winter in Petersburg, AK, and then coming down the outside of Vancouver Island. We came down the outside in August but did do some sailing up in AK in late September.

Lots of good info here already. It will be wet and windy, but the Inside Passage is very protected, save for the stretch past the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Fitzhugh Sound behind Calvert Island and the cross of Dixon Entrance out of Prince Rupert going up to Ketchikan. Just watch the weather forecast and heed it, and you should be fine.

A great source of info for the whole SE Alaska area is Bill Wakefield (WRWakefield) here on CF. He and his wife Donna live in Wrangell and cruise the SE extensively. He can be contacted through CF, and if you do not have enough posts yet to send a private message (PM), they can be contacted through their blog.

Denali Rose

Their blog is very informative and may already have info about cruising SE Alaska during the timeframe you have in mind.

NOTE: If they do not respond right away they are out cruising and don't always have connectivity
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Old 28-07-2019, 12:28   #9
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Very doable with the above mentioned three exposed inlets, fog and storms. I’ll add that the predominant wind in those months is from the north, so you’ll lose the ability to run downwind (summer months winds are from the south). Also you will find services reduced (hours, closed for season etc) as well as food availability (produce etc) so don’t rely on places being open, good to call ahead if unsure. If you’re trying to get a jump on the season April and May are also excellent times to head north and avoid the crowds and can be some of the best weather of the year.
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Old 28-07-2019, 15:46   #10
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

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Originally Posted by Sailor89 View Post
My husband and I are interested in sailing our J40 from Vancouver area up to Ketchikan in late September through October and possibly early November. Does anyone have experience sailing through the Inside Passage in October/November?

We have seen a lot of caveats about “violent storms” on the northern BC coast in the winter. Does the Inside Passage provide sufficient protection from these storms? We can handle a bit of rain, but are wondering if the winds will be a problem.
I just returned from Ketchikan. Don't know why anyone would want to do this trip in October/November although it is possible. With the loss of daylight, increased possibility of rain, wind, many smaller communities that flourish during the summer months closed, and the loss of scenery due to the elements you should rethink your trip. The country is beautiful but you'll miss a lot of it due to the above.

~ ~ _/) ~ ~ MJH
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Old 28-07-2019, 16:26   #11
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

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I just returned from Ketchikan. Don't know why anyone would want to do this trip in October/November although it is possible. With the loss of daylight, increased possibility of rain, wind, many smaller communities that flourish during the summer months closed, and the loss of scenery due to the elements you should rethink your trip. The country is beautiful but you'll miss a lot of it due to the above.

~ ~ _/) ~ ~ MJH
I was wondering about the Why too. The short days are going to make it a lot longer trip, colder, wetter. By the time you subtract the getting into an anchorage and out the next day time, plus timing for tides, you could be putting short travel days, with long cold nights in deep anchorages. We took our J37 from the Puget Sound to Sitka and back. But that was summer. In Fall it seems like it would just be a delivery.
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Old 28-07-2019, 16:31   #12
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

October usually isn’t too cold, just wet. If it does get cold it’ll be clear, that usually doesn’t start until November. We regularly fish the rivers well into November but have had them freeze over on us in late October early November. I would still wait for April.
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Old 28-07-2019, 17:38   #13
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Are you planning to come back to WA or BC for the winter season or stay up in AK? If you will stay up there then fine. If you are planning to come back before December then I would wait until next spring. After October numerous strong storms approach Vancouver Island these bring southern winds but also big seas on opposing tides. Your biggest challenges will Cape Caution and Dixon Entrance. Both are doable by hugging the coast to reduce your exposure. Don’t expect the smoothest rides it can be done.
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Old 29-07-2019, 02:05   #14
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Although we have been having extended good weather during the past few years you take a chance of being hammered with weather that will send you to Montana. You might be fine but you are taking a chance. How do you fell about 80 MPH winds?
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Old 29-07-2019, 05:19   #15
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Re: Sailing British Columbia Coast to Alaska doable in October?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Sailor89.
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