The OP describes a well in front of the tiller, and the engine cannot be tilted. He plans on a long trip up the PNW, he will leave the outboard in the sea for a long time.
The outboard water pump will be exposed to algae growth more than a tilted motor.
Outboards in this area left in the water have the water pump die in a season or so in this area.
Inboard arrangements have an inboard water pumps that can be quickly and easily cleaned or changed, inside the boat, has opposed to lifting the outboard into the cockpit
and then removing the bottom leg and fixing the pump.
The Johnstone Strait is a long cold passage
. Tidal currents can exceed 7 knots in this area, so motor failures can more problems than normally might be expected.