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Old 19-10-2009, 11:19   #1
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Uphill from Portland, OR to San Juan Islands

Hello everyone,

I've been trying to locate information about sailing from Portland Oregon upto the San Juan Islands.

My wife and I have been sailing with some family friends up at my parents place outside of Friday Harbor and we have caught the bug. We have been looking at boats this year trying to find the right set up for our family. We've decided that the Catalina 30 has the size and amenities that our family requires.

The only concern that I have is that I will want to be able to go up to my Mom and Dad's with the boat. I live and work in Portland and obvioulsy want to enjoy the boat through the sailing season down here. But I know that I want to take it up to the San Juans for vacations and the like.

Could anyone tell me about thier experiences sailing uphill to the Sound? Does anyone have concerns about the Catalina making the voyage? I know that my experience level will need to rise significantly before I would head up there with the boat, but I don't want to purchase a boat that doesn't meet the needs of our family, just to have to buy another one in a few years that is able to make the trip.

Thanks everyone in advance.
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Old 19-10-2009, 11:55   #2
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Hi, I am in Portland also.

I have never made the journey myself, but the Columbia River Bar is regarded as very dangerous, and I ear the sailors talk about waiting for days until they have the proper weather to cross.

Sailpdx.com is a centralized website with links to the various sailing clubs in Portland, and a local crew list.

I am a member of the Oregon Women's Sailing Association (OWSA).

And since you already have an idea of the boat you would like, you might consider joining the Class Association, and seeing how many boats are sailing on the Columbia. If you really want to use a single boat for both the Columbia and the San Juan Islands , you may consider something that can be trailered.

If you will be using the boat primarily on weekends, then it may make sense to keep it up on the Olympic Peninsula. Though I do not know how long it would take to get to the San Juans from here.

Feel free to PM me, if you like
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Old 19-10-2009, 13:55   #3
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If you want to sail both in Portland and the San Juans conventional wisdom says
1. Truck the distance for Northbound.
2. Fear the southbound, but it can be done.
That said, there will probably be someone in this group who does it. (that can be said for just about any unreasonable activity mentioned here )
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Old 19-10-2009, 14:44   #4
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I assume you are talking summer. You should be able to get accross the Bar just listening to the bar report on the VHF. The only real stop I can think of is westport/grays harbor which has a bar also. Other than that, people do it motorsailing not too far offshore I recall. You need to push hard for a couple of days and keep moving in a good weather window. Your biggest problem may be fog in the summer. It is quite often just a long easy swell out there in summer. You need to know that you have a clean fuel tank etc so the motor keeps pushing. Your sail eastbound in the Straight of Juan de Fuca in te afternoon can be a wild ride and a great sail....
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Old 19-10-2009, 20:07   #5
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See, I knew somebody here was doing it! What do you think about his choice of boat Cheech? And if I read his post right, he is talking about spring. Could he make the last of the South winds and sail up?
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Old 19-10-2009, 22:58   #6
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Can anyone tell me if the San Juan 34 is naturally a good or bad blue water boat for crossing the Atlantic? thanks
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Old 19-10-2009, 23:07   #7
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Join and ask your question on the Cascadia Mailing list:
Cascadia

or the Puget Sound Cruising Club
PSCC**•**Home

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Old 19-10-2009, 23:10   #8
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I just came across the bar a couple of weeks ago as crew on a delivery from Washington. I'd never been across the bar before this trip - my advice: if you aren't experienced in crossing the Columbia Bar you are best of hiring a deliver skipper who is.

I'll PM you privately some contact info for a deliver skipper who may be able to help, should you decide to go that route. He's a friend of mine who I happen to thing is a great guy and someone I am constantly learning from - other than that, I have nothing to gain from recommending him.
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Old 20-10-2009, 02:08   #9
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I've never sailed the area, but everyone seems afraid of that uphill trek, both here and elsewhere. I defer. :-)

The cruising guides suggest the "uphill" route on the left coast is only really practical in June or maybe July, otherwise, it's just like being flogged (and of moderate risk). I've not tried my luck north of Point Conception in California yet, but will probably make the trip someday.

Also, note that it's not just a safety issue. Going into the wind/wave/current off the northwest coast is remarkably uncomfortable and hard on the boat and I've heard a few stories of motoring for days on end with pounding seas (too much to cook). But who wants to cook when all you can smell is diesel mixed with vomit? mmmmm. :-)

I sat up all night staring at a radar screen in heavy fog motoring straight into the currents it the relatively milder area of Southern Cali and it was all I could do to handle some dry crackers. :-)
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Old 20-10-2009, 02:51   #10
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If you a relative novice then it is a difficult and potentially dangerous trip. The Columbia Bar is not dificult if you know what you are doing and pick the right weather and tide...if you don't know what you are doing it is probably the most dangerous stretch of water in the US! The Juan De Fuca is also a very dangerous place in bad weather and requires a good working knowledge of tidal streams or you find yourself sailing backwards with the tide. You need the Canadian tidal atlas to be able to sail there.

The Oregon coast is a very dangerous lee-shore in bad weather, they close the bars and the only option is to head out into the Pacific to get off the lee-shore.

The whole return trip would be a minimum of two weeks providing you had no bad weather.

Our son use to live in Portland and keep the boat in Olympia...reasonable commute and Puget Sound sailing was readily available...I thought the San Juans were one of the lovliest places I had ever sailed and being a Brit I really liked the cold wet weather. The river in Portland just bored me to tears... I would keep the boat in Olympia and make friends with the Portland sailing groups and get my weekly sailing fix crewing in their mid-week races and then drive to Olympia every Friday night.
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Old 20-10-2009, 09:22   #11
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It is a good point... why not keep the boat in Washington? I've only done it once each way and it's been 20+ years. In summer I see no problem with a Cat 30 making it if it's in good shape. But it's not a thing for someone new to boating, navigation, tides and weather. The Straight is predictable in the summer. Strong Westerly's every afternoon. So you watch the tide vs westerly wind and time your trip. I've been in and out of the Straight more times than I can count. Been in and out of the River also salmon fishing, it is predictable too if you know what you are doing... It's almost more forgiving just having to go out. If you are fishing sometimes you go out and halfway through the day the bar gets bad and they send you in or you have to wait it out to get back in. Even if you are a seasoned sailor I think having the boat in Olympia makes more sense....
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Old 20-10-2009, 09:25   #12
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The San Juans were pretty good boats, I've raced a lot on the 21,24,28 and 30's. Never on the 34 though. They are well built but they are production boats meant primarily for racing around the bouys and summer cruising.
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Old 20-10-2009, 09:59   #13
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The Washington coast has plenty of days with little or no wind and even periods of southerlys. The problem with going north is what will the weather be when it is your vacation time? In my experience the odds would be against you going north when you wanted to go, unless you were very lucky.

I would definately consider keeping the boat in the Olympia area. When I lived in Seattle, I used to alternate every summer between the San Juans and the South Sound. It is just as pretty and far fewer boats. On a big tide its an easy and fun two day trip to Friday Harbor from there.

I used to race on a SJ28 and liked it.
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Old 20-10-2009, 12:16   #14
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The Strait of Juan De Fuca is no beginners trip. It’s a two hour drive up to Tacoma. Why not just keep the boat there?
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Old 20-10-2009, 15:29   #15
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It's an ocean like any ocean. Make the voyage at the wrong moment and/or ignore the weather and you will have a less than pleasant sail. The easiest plan is to hang on the 20 fathom line, sheet the main in hard, and motor sail up. You may get a bit of a boost from the coastal counter current and the winds and waves will be bent to the west by the closeness to the coastline. Keep an eye on the weather and don't leave if it's at all iffy. The best time for this technique is the summer into September. Fewest chances of any storm and the warmest it will be all year.

If you are serious about sailing it, the winter months from January to April have the greatest chance of catching moderate southerly winds. In January it's something like a 65% chance of favorable winds, IIRC. You'll also have the greatest chance of running into a low which will mean some really interesting weather. If you go this route, keep a VERY close eye on the weather and run for cover as soon as you see an approaching low within 48 hours of you. As others have said, if you wait too long to run into protected water you will be commited to a really crappy time clawing off the coast.

Playing the weather, it's a slog to windward but doable in four days or less, moving around the clock. I don't have it on the boat but there is a self published book by a guy who made yearly trips up and down the coast in the summer, border to border, in a Coronado 27. Not a boat you'd call a great sailor or sea boat but he had no problems other than bucking the prevailing wind and waves.
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