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Old 28-12-2015, 00:37   #1
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Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

This spring or summer my friends and I are hopint to sail to Tofino on our 1977 C&C 34. We're in the early stages of planning (I've done some browsing around the archives here, and will be picking up a couple Vancouver cruising books) but I thought I'd check in here to get some input.

The plan, in the broad strokes, is to take about 4 days to sail to Tofino via Port Angeles and Neah Bay. We'd then spend the week working remotely from coffee shops in Tofino, and then sail back to Seattle via Victoria and Port Townsend, again aiming for about 4 days.

Questions:

1. When would you make this trip, and why?

2. What would you consider to be "can't miss" between Seattle and Tofino?

3. What areas would you avoid (crowded, hazardous, boring)?

4. We'd definitely like to play a bit in Barkley Sound on the way there and back - what's your favorite anchorage/island/marina?

5. Understanding that our itinerary will ultimately be weather-dependent, any suggestions for route-planning strategies to maximize our safety, comfort, speed, etc.?

A bit about us - we largely sail around Seattle and occasionally made it up to the San Juans in our old Ericson 27. We purchased the C&C 34 late this past summer and are excited to get to some farther-flung destinations.
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Old 28-12-2015, 11:48   #2
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

First the basics: Where are you going to go through Customs? Your choices are Victoria or Ucluelet on the way. On the way back I think Port Angeles is your best bet. Let the USCG know beforehand.
Getting down to Port Townsend is no problem, just time your tides. The Straits can be a little more of a challenge, best to have a fair (10) knot tailwind, but you can motor/upwind sail to Neah Bay, then winds with often behave. Have a go/no go conditions already in mind when you get to Neah Bay, swells above 10 feet and wind above 30 knots generally turn me off. Remember the swells often are large right at the entrance to the strait.
Don't miss the hot springs. Go early morning/evenings to avoid the speedboat tourists.
BTW, I have spent a week in the Straits waiting for the ocean to calm down. But I am conservative.
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Old 28-12-2015, 14:10   #3
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

There is a previous discussion of a similar trip.

Anacortes to Barkley Sound - Navigation Tips

You will need to clear customs in Victoria. Ucluelet does not have a CSBA office. That means that Neah is not feasible on the outbound route.
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Old 28-12-2015, 14:28   #4
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

I would go before august to avoid the fog. Beware that the straits kick up big time wind in the summer afternoons. If it's going against the tide it will be rough.
Check in in Victoria and wait for outgoing tide on the morning run (before winds) out to Barkley sound. (Assuming no summer check in on the outside of Van isle somewhere) Motor hard to get there and leave at first daylight. Time your trip on minimal tide days maybe?
Personally I wouldn't miss Barkely sound and go anchor at the head of Pipestem Inlet.
Too bad no check in up there as it's harder going out than accross for sure.
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Old 28-12-2015, 16:32   #5
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

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You will need to clear customs in Victoria. Ucluelet does not have a CSBA office. That means that Neah is not feasible on the outbound route.
Apparently there is no customs clearance at Neah Bay either ... although being an American citizen maybe you can somehow clear in. I am under the impression that even if you have a NEXUS card as a Canadian, you are still gambling trying to go across the straight there as they might re-direct you to Port Angeles for clearance if they feel like it.
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Old 28-12-2015, 17:44   #6
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

I usually would jump to Port Angeles or PT with the tide flow coming back. But now you need to go to Victoria again to check out! What a PITA.
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Old 28-12-2015, 18:34   #7
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

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I usually would jump to Port Angeles or PT with the tide flow coming back. But now you need to go to Victoria again to check out! What a PITA.
Since when do you have check out of Canada? I am unaware of that.
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Old 28-12-2015, 18:36   #8
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

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I usually would jump to Port Angeles or PT with the tide flow coming back. But now you need to go to Victoria again to check out! What a PITA.
Huh ???? Since when do you have to check 'out' ???? This summer past, there was no such thing as 'checking out' (for a Canadian going to the US and coming back to Canada). Oh yeah ... got into deep doodooo for trying to check into Port Townsend. I heard so often that people check into Port Townsend that I never questioned it - big mistake. I 'think' you can phone in if you have a NEXUS card.
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Old 28-12-2015, 19:44   #9
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

I visited Barkley Sound this summer.

Day 1: Port Townsend to Neah bay. Motor sailed against winds to 15 knots. Large favorable Current in beginning then light opposing current. About 11 hours if I remember correctly. Very enjoyable passage.

Day 2: Neah Bay to Ucluelet. NO Wind. 6 to 8 foot swell with opposing current. VERY uncomfortable pitching and rolling (On how I wished for any type of wind). Customs at Ucluelet via telephone at a designated dock. No customs agent was present. No problem.

For the return:

Day 1: Barkley sound to Becher Bay (near Victoria). Anchored in Murder Bay (nice).
Day 2: Becher Bay to Port Townsend. Customs at my slip by appointment with our very reasonable customs agent.

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Old 28-12-2015, 19:47   #10
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

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Customs at Ucluelet via telephone at a designated dock. No customs agent was present. No problem.
That is good to know.

As a Canadian I do not have to clear.

The dock is on the port side as you enter, just past the fuel dock (I think)
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Old 28-12-2015, 19:53   #11
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

Jack, That is correct. Here is a photo. The phone is badly corroded and I was told that it works about half the time. I borrowed a cellphone from a local commercial Fisherman.

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Old 29-12-2015, 09:32   #12
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

I can't believe I knew anything about Van Island that you didn't already know Jack!
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Old 29-12-2015, 09:35   #13
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

We went around Vancouver Island in May and part of June. Almost no fog and few boats. Depending on the weather systems (unusual the last two years) it might be very cloudy/rainy or sunny/dry. Do pay attention to the tides and currents in all your planning.

The first thing that came to my mind is that you will be just sailing most of the time and not really enjoying the stunning beauty of the coast. It would be an adventure of course just going. You could spend several days in Barkeley Sound alone. August is the "busy" season, also known as Fogust, but last year we had very little fog. Other years you would have been in deep fog for most of the month. Make sure you are good with radar and navigation and have the proper charts/chips for the coast.

Have fun though - it is a spectacular place to cruise.
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Old 29-12-2015, 10:31   #14
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jd1 View Post
Huh ???? Since when do you have to check 'out' ???? This summer past, there was no such thing as 'checking out' (for a Canadian going to the US and coming back to Canada). Oh yeah ... got into deep doodooo for trying to check into Port Townsend. I heard so often that people check into Port Townsend that I never questioned it - big mistake. I 'think' you can phone in if you have a NEXUS card.
Good to know. I haven't been for a while and assumed with all the Homeland Bru haha you had to check out like when leaving other countries. My bad.
Also nice to know you can still check in at Ucluelet... that changes the whole trip. I wouldn't go to Victoria either direction then. I'd probably work my way out to PA and jump over from there.
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Old 29-12-2015, 11:18   #15
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Re: Sailing from Seattle to Tofino - best times to go? What to avoid/not to miss?

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
First the basics: Where are you going to go through Customs? Your choices are Victoria or Ucluelet on the way. On the way back I think Port Angeles is your best bet. Let the USCG know beforehand.
Getting down to Port Townsend is no problem, just time your tides. The Straits can be a little more of a challenge, best to have a fair (10) knot tailwind, but you can motor/upwind sail to Neah Bay, then winds with often behave. Have a go/no go conditions already in mind when you get to Neah Bay, swells above 10 feet and wind above 30 knots generally turn me off. Remember the swells often are large right at the entrance to the strait.
Don't miss the hot springs. Go early morning/evenings to avoid the speedboat tourists.
BTW, I have spent a week in the Straits waiting for the ocean to calm down. But I am conservative.
I had been thinking that we'd clear customs at Bamfield, as a couple trip logs I've read have Bamfield as their port of entry - I guess that's changed now? I suppose we could do Neah Bay -> Uclulet then head back to Effingham Island for the night before heading to Tofino the next morning...
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