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Old 28-01-2014, 17:30   #1
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Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

So, my boat has been on the hard for the last few years, and sadly I had to leave her behind when I was stationed in Florida. I'm now back in California, but my boat is still in Washington. I have three weeks off that I can use in early June to go get her and sail her down. This would be my first coastal sail, so I'm doing a lot of reading. I've found some tails of woe and others that sounded utterly awesome. I understand that my window is pretty tight and won't give me a lot of wiggle room for ports of call.

My boat is a 42' steel hull Colvin Gazelle. I'm looking for any advice, recommendations, and tools that you can offer for making this trip. I'm excited to do it, but I want to be adequately prepared.
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Old 28-01-2014, 18:02   #2
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

June should be a pretty good time of year for that kind of run. I've done it a couple of times, always in summer. With this year's odd winter in California who knows if June weather will be normal.

In general you have two options; stay closer to the coast and play the land and sea breezes or go offshore. Closer to shore means you can duck in if you are near someplace suitable and the weather gets crappy. But, you have to contend with much more fickle wind.

If you stay offshore 40-50 miles or so you will be in the heart of the California Current and also should have pretty consistent wind from W through NNW (if the weather is "typical"). I've had it blow 40 at that time of year, but more normal would be 15-30. That's really nice on a broad reach (would say different if you were going the opposite direction).
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Old 29-01-2014, 01:30   #3
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

Belay that!

There are few places to tuck in; do not count on it. Read the sad thread about "Blue Mist" for what this coast can do to you. Leaving from Washington, many of the places you might hope to go in for respite are unavailable (i.e., dangerous) with much swell running.

The trip is usually with the current and with the prevailing wind.

There is a Cape Mendocino gale that is sort of canonical, and honestly, I do not know how you'd avoid that.

Good luck with it.
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Old 29-01-2014, 01:50   #4
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

Made that run 5 times and the other posters are correct, your choices are inshore or offshore. I will tell you upfront that I have never done the inshore route but many of my friends have. I've seen all the fishing villages I care to on that coast. I don't like dodging fishing boats and I like to sail not motor plus I'm not interested in taking a month to do that trip. There are several bars that in lousy weather you don't want to cross. Check the weather just before you leave and make sure you have normal conditions without a low sneaking in there and screwing things up for you. I like to go about a 100 miles offshore and get the best winds and current. Its a cold sail so take your long johns and have fun.
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Old 29-01-2014, 07:33   #5
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

Ann, I usually find your posts quite reasonable, but the "Blue Mist" thread as an example of what "this coast" can do? What does "this coast" have to do with not knowing where you are and driving your own boat up on the rocks because you think the light is someplace other than where it actually is? Any coast will suffice in that situation. Might as well point to the Alpha 42 or Nina threads for what an offshore passage can do to you.

Even a 4-knot sailboat can safely harbor-hop "this coast". It gets done every year. Numerous times. The longest passage might be overnight. It takes planning and patience. You can't go out if the swells are building and might close out the next bar. You can't get in if the swells did build and close out the bar. Fishing boats, crab pots, ... But, hugging the coast is a viable option, especially northbound, and is done all the time. Seamanship required.

I'd take the offshore route because it should be a quick downwind passage at that time of year. Less than a week. Probably leaves a little time to explore the outside of Vancouver Island on the way down. Also takes seamanship. Surfing downwind in 30 knots requires that you pay attention to the boat, the seas, and everything else. Not everyone's cup of tea.

YMMV
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Old 30-01-2014, 14:24   #6
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

I did it offshore once (my boat) and inshore twice as crew.
Imho, the only advantage to the inshore is going around Cape Mendocino because you get through the "washing machine" effect sooner.
If your boat is well found and isn't likely to need any emergency repairs, go out for better wind.
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Old 30-01-2014, 21:50   #7
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

Okay, so let me ask this question, if I would prefer an inland route because I would like to see the coast and make a few port calls, how long does that take? Or is that just a bad idea?

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Old 30-01-2014, 22:11   #8
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

It's best to go in Late July to mid Aug. I went last Sept 1st and had the wind at my back until I got just outside SF, then it was from the south with a vengeance.
I went 50-60 miles out and made it in 10 days. A coastal route with take you a few more days. The problem being is if the weather goes bad they close the bar crossings and you have to ride out the bad stuff too close to shore.
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Old 30-01-2014, 22:29   #9
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

If I was doing it I'd probably plan on two to three weeks, but it really depends on weather and if you're willing to do a few overnights. At 42' I'm assuming you can manage about 6 knots if you motor, which you'll have to do at least some of the time if you want to keep a "schedule" (dirty word when planning a passage).

Oak Harbor - Port Angeles area - Neah Bay - Gray's Harbor - Columbia River - Tillamook would take a week of daily travel. In June if you start at daybreak you should be able to manage 60-70 miles before dark, maybe a little more with the help of current.

Then maybe Newport - Coos Bay - overnight to Crescent City - Eureka - Fort Bragg/Noyo - Pt. Arena -Tomales/Bodega/Drake's - Half Moon Bay - Monterey.

As you can see, that's about two weeks with no allowance for weather delays or days playing tourist. You can speed it up by doing a couple of longer passages, and you could get held up for a week if a late season thing in the north Pacific raises some serious swells and closes out a harbor you're in. I like passages, so I would vote for the offshore route, but the shore route is quite feasible as long as accept that things won't go as "planned". In particular, be mentally prepared if you get somewhere you planned to stop and need to keep going (bar too rough, anchorage not protected for current weather, ...)

[Edit] Just looked at the log, the last time we did this offshore was from the north end of Vancouver Island (Port Hardy). Went out and around Cape Scott, took 5 days and change to SF. Was a great, fantastic, very windy ride in late September. [/Edit]
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Old 30-01-2014, 22:51   #10
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Re: Sailing Oak Harbor to Monterey

You might be interested in this approach, get the "narrative" of the trip UP the coast

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