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Old 14-02-2009, 00:28   #1
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Seattle to Hawaii Route

What's the best sailing route to Hawaii from Seattle, in May/June? Is it best to head offshore a bit before turning south, or is it best to hug the coast till mid-California?
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Old 14-02-2009, 00:47   #2
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June is the official start of Hurricane season. The tropical depressions start forming off the west coast of Mexico. The first few rise and fizzle out pretty quick. The WM Pacific cup and Traspac is run in July and so far without incident. We attempted it last year and experienced heavy seas and were forced back to Ca. with a broken gooseneck fitting. Most of the time June is ok. Cornell suggests April for better winds but I can't imagine trying to stay warm the first 1500 miles!
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Old 14-02-2009, 05:29   #3
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Cornell 5th edition recomends southerly to latitude of San Fran then westerly.
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Old 14-02-2009, 10:02   #4
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You have to sail around the Pacific high which has usually formed by then. The Pacific high is the reason you get the summer rains that we don't in California....which is probably why you are escaping the Pacific Northwest for Hawaii?

Skirting the Pacific high
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Old 14-02-2009, 10:36   #5
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Whereever you depart westerly, the first few days will often be overcast and the nights cold (until you leave the California Current). One morning, it will dawn with cumulus clouds, the wind behind your shoulder, and the sea deep blue. You are in the Trades (hopefully, unless there is decided Kona weather or other instabilities) and you will be a very happy human being (again, hopefully). Don't rush this part, it is among the coolest experiences you will ever have. My favorite is the halfway point, a thousand miles from the nearest civilization, clean air and water, and only the watch changes and daily menu are your immediate concerns.
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Old 14-02-2009, 12:25   #6
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Take a look at the Vic-Maui (http://www.vicmaui.org/index.php) and Pacific Cup (Can it be time for 2010? Race Start Picked. | Pacific Cup) race info. These websites have some decent info about the sailing conditions and weather factors (although as Celestialsailor mentioned, these races start in July). In June or earlier, the Pacific High is typically further south, so you will most probably want to sail well south of Los Angeles before you point the boat to Hawaii. The better wind is usually 50-100 miles off the coast (at least near San Francisco in July). By the time you get down to the latitude of Los Angeles you will probably have been able to work your way quite a bit to the west. The trick is to not get caught in the southeast ridge of the Pacific High.

The good thing about the hurricanes on this trip is that you usually get to see them forming a long way off, and should have adequate time to park the boat and wait, or turn back north, if it looks like one is heading your way. I've done the trip three times in July, and haven't had any problems with hurricanes (so I've been lucky). We've seen plenty of tropical depressions forming off of southern Mexico, but they have all petered out well before getting near our route.

It is a glorious passage. You are welcome to read the VALIS blogs for daily journals of our San Francisco to Hawaii passages.
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Old 14-02-2009, 15:08   #7
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The hurricanes that head west stay between and 10-20 degrees north latitude. Hawaii is 19 degrees so you won't get down to hurricane area until the last few days of the trip. FWIW, it's been nearly 200 years since a hurricane hit the northern end of Hawaii Island. We've been here for 40 years. All the hurricanes have passed south of the Islands, if they haven't dissipated by the time they get here. The 2 hurricanes that have hit Kauai and Oahu passed south of the Big Island, intensified, then turned north. Hurricanes are essentially a non issue if you make your landfall at Hilo. If a hurricane did pass north of the Islands, all you'd have to do is head north or park north of the storm. You'd have plenty of warning and time to maneuver.

As has been mentioned, you are sailing around the Pacific high on the way to the Islands. Basically set your wind vane on a reach after you get a few miles offshore. Without touching anything, you will end up in the islands a couple of weeks later. It's not quite that simple but the wind clocks around as you go around the high, initially heading roughly south and swinging to the west as your position in relation to the high changes. The challenge is staying in the band of optimum winds. Too far north and your into the high and poor winds. Too far south and your sailing unnecessary miles. If you go way too far south, you'll hit the doldrums.

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Old 14-02-2009, 16:17   #8
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Thanks for the replies. I've heard two theories about what to do after turning left at Cape Flattery...stick close to the coast, even though it's a lee shore, or stay offshore 200 miles. Do you all agree with either of these ideas, or something in between? I'm especially interested in hearing from folks who have done the round trip between Puget Sound and Hawaii, returning north above the high.
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Old 14-02-2009, 22:13   #9
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Originally Posted by richard_wb View Post
I'm especially interested in hearing from folks who have done the round trip between Puget Sound and Hawaii, returning north above the high.
Take a look at the Pacific Cup website and look for the websites / blogs of the boats. Many of them sail home after the race. Last year, I know of two boats that hit some pretty unpleasant weather as they approached Portland.

One boat on her way to Santa Cruz has to be abandoned because of very tough conditions (google "Wildflower" and "Skip Allan" -- here's one: The Wildflower). Several other boats got caught in the same gale and suffered varying amounts of damage and/or trauma. On the other hand, VALIS sailed through the same patch of water a week earlier, and merely had "vigorous" conditions. This was offshore of California in August / September, but conditions further north can be just as bad or worse.

Still, you are more likely to have a great sail. This has been my experience on three homeward passages.
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Old 14-02-2009, 22:39   #10
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I know I've said this before someplace...

There are actually *three* routes south at the time of year you're talking about.

Rock-hopping route: Going from port to port down the coast. Due to the summer weather pattern, usually best to start very early in the day and plan to be in your destination port at noon or as early there after as possible - the wind tends to rise all day and by afternoon can easily close bars. Follow this routine to San Francisco, then depart shore for Hawaiʻi. Usually the slowest route.

Near shore route: 20-40 miles off shore, taking advantage of the current and slightly higher wind speed nearer the coast. Follow the coast until nearly the latitude of San Francisco, then south to the trades, then proceeding direct. This route is longer than the offshore route, but often faster due to better wind.

Off shore route: Off Cape Flattery, proceed SW until 40 miles off shore or further, proceed nearly due south until south of the Columbia River. Plot the direct great-circle route to destination, but skirting the edge of the Pacific High. The shortest over the ground route, but it's possible to spiral into the Pacific High and the lighter winds on this route may result in a longer passage.


The return route is pretty much "Go north, over the Pacific High, turn right." There is another route some skippers have used: Sail direct on a great circle route, motoring when you run out of wind. This will have you somewhat opposed to wind and current on the latter portion of the trip home, but may be faster if you have the fuel capacity.
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Old 11-05-2010, 13:12   #11
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I have sailed to S.F. twice from Bellingham WA. I suggest staying away from Cape Flattery. We have done the 50 miles off shore route and the 80 mile off shore route. I suggest the furthest offshore the better. It will keep you in safer and flatter water and away form shipping lanes. Both voyages were in early summer. Winds were constant, quite strong at times, from the beam mostly. Going through the Gate was tricky.
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Old 11-05-2010, 16:07   #12
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Logs?

NWLight: I'm still collecting logs of vessels going up and down the west coast. If you have anything you can forward to me, I'd appreciate it.
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Old 16-05-2010, 21:50   #13
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Quote:
I have sailed to S.F. twice from Bellingham WA. I suggest staying away from Cape Flattery. We have done the 50 miles off shore route and the 80 mile off shore route. I suggest the furthest offshore the better.
I concur with that. Last summer I sailed down to San Diego and stayed between 80 and 100nm out. With frequent fog and some treacherous coasts, I felt it was best to stay well out. As NW says, the seas are smoother farther out and you avoid a lot of the coastal traffic. Closer in and there are a lot of navigational hazards such as Honda Point near Vandenburg AFB where seven US destroyers were lost on the rocks in 1923 when approaching the Santa Barbara Channel at night
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