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Old 02-07-2013, 12:43   #1
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18' Sloop to cross Strait of Georgia? Safe?

I'm considering sailing my 18' sloop across the Strait of Georgia, from Horseshoe Bay to Silva Bay, Gabriola Is. I'm fairly new to sailing and I'm looking for a reality check--is this a reasonably safe thing to do given my boat, knowledge, and experience?

I've been sailing this boat for a year around Howe Sound, 1 - 3 day trips, anchoring and mooring around Gambier and Keats. That and lots of dinghy sailing is the sum total of my experience. The highest wind I've had was 21 knots as reported at Point Atkinson. When the winds get above 15kts and I poke my nose out to the open Strait, the waves get bigger (4 feet maybe?) and the bow smashes a bit when beating up, making disconcerting sounds in the hull. Beam on, we roll around a lot but feels ok. When running, steerage feels limited but still in control. I've never sailed in any seas bigger than about 4' and winds more than 20kts.

I've read a fair bit now about sailing in general and storm tactics to try to make up for a lack of experience (Lin & Larry Pardey, Adlard Coles, Don Dodds). Then I practiced some of the things I read about. I rigged up a jiffy reefing system so I can reduce main by about 1/3. I've practiced reefing and putting up the storm jib in 10kts. Also practiced heaving-to and singled-handed MOB drills in about 10kts.

The fiberglass hull, sails, and--I think--standing rigging is from about 1975. Everything looks in good shape as far as I can tell. No cracks or obvious wear in the fittings, no spongy spots in the hull. We carry a 20lb danforth and 70m of rode in great condition. I have charts, tide & current tables, GPS, and hand-held VHF on board (~5 mile range). Have a 5hp propane outboard that's been very reliable so far. I just dove and scrubbed the whole hull and keel (thus exterminating an entire ecosystem there). In good wind on the beam we can do 5kt boat speed. We carry an inflatable dinghy, very new. Also have radar reflector and battery operated anchor and running lights.

The plan is to wait for a weekend with a good forecast, 10 - 15kts either NW or SE and ideally with a current the same direction. If the wind holds and waves aren't too big, I estimate about 5 - 7 hours for the crossing.

My crew would be my financee who's done all this sailing (and MOB drills) with me and hopefully 1 - 2 others, preferably with some sailing experience.

Is this a sane things to do? In a boat that size and age, can we safely handle the summer seas of the Strait of Georgia? Is basic reefing, steering, and heaving-to skills sufficient? Am I over complicating this?

What do you think are the most likely bad endings to this plan?

What are your recommendations for other things I should learn/practice first?


One problem I have is when I talk to other sailors, I get 2 polarized opinions on the these questions. On one hand, some say I'm a fool for thinking this is such a big deal, an 18' keeled monohull is indestructible, nothing I can find in the Strait could sink it and I should just go. Other people say I'm a fool for thinking such a small boat could cross the Strait.

One notion I have is to rent ($35/day) a 4-person liferaft for the case of catastrophic hull or rigging failure. Would this be overkill?


Thanks!

ps: if any experienced sailors from Vancouver area care to join us for this adventure, let me know!
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Old 02-07-2013, 12:58   #2
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Re: 18' Sloop to cross Strait of Georgia? Safe?

I've crossed with a 18 foot beach cat and paddled a kayak across, pick your weather and if worried get a kayak dry suit and use your flares if you run into real trouble, also during this time of year there are 18 hours of daylight. keep you inflatable inflated should you need a life raft.........if the boat can't be swamped and sink, seal it up and if you lose the rig its your life boat......... but if you are really worried about the rig it would cost all of $300-400 to replace, thats what my cat costs to rerig and the tension on that rigging is way more than a 18 foot mono......

I have a friend that for 20 years has sailed a 16 foot wayfarer from Vancouver to Victoria and all the way to Port Hardy.......... those that say the boat is too small are wrong.... now the real question is CAN you do it, of course you may........
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Old 02-07-2013, 13:05   #3
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Re: 18' Sloop to cross Strait of Georgia? Safe?

most of the times the wind in the straits is blowing from the northerly direction slightly east of north or from the south west. everytime i cross the straits heading to desolation sound it has been a beat and vancouver would be a reach. so vancouver to silva bay is south east and the return is north west. most times you will be reaching each way if there is wind. but the straits are a light wind area and you tend to motor about 50% of the time so take lots of fuel. an 18 ft boat is just fine for crossing. remember they used to race bathtubs across the straits in any conditions and i've done a few rough ones. and a misserable day beating upwind is heavy winds and big seas is a great day sailing downwind so if the conditions get too bad for you you can always turn around
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Old 02-07-2013, 13:11   #4
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Re: 18' Sloop to cross Strait of Georgia? Safe?

Yeah, the dinghy is one option for a liferaft. But I can't really visualize a scenario in which the weather/seas are enough to render the sloop unmanageable yet still be survivable in an open dinghy. I guess it helps though just to have something that positively floats and you just hang on with VHF in hand calling mayday and taking pictures of your sinking boat.

That was another idea, take our wetsuits and put them on if things start to get hairy. In this weather, I feel warm almost indefinitely in the water with mine on.
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Old 02-07-2013, 13:17   #5
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Re: 18' Sloop to cross Strait of Georgia? Safe?

Quote:
and a misserable day beating upwind is heavy winds and big seas is a great day sailing downwind so if the conditions get too bad for you you can always turn around
Yeah, based on wind direction we discover out there, I was going to be prepared to head farther South if that's more comfortable. Maybe hit Valdes or Galiano instead if the wind is more N.

Quote:
if the boat can't be swamped and sink, seal it up
I think with the companionway boarded up and the hatch down, water would just pretty slowly into the cabin if the cockpit was full. The drain on the cockpit isn't big so I'll have a bucket up top to help it out. If significant water did get below though, there's no way to bail it with the hatches closed.
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Old 02-07-2013, 13:52   #6
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Re: 18' Sloop to cross Strait of Georgia? Safe?

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Originally Posted by ngermain View Post
Yeah, based on wind direction we discover out there, I was going to be prepared to head farther South if that's more comfortable. Maybe hit Valdes or Galiano instead if the wind is more N.



I think with the companionway boarded up and the hatch down, water would just pretty slowly into the cabin if the cockpit was full. The drain on the cockpit isn't big so I'll have a bucket up top to help it out. If significant water did get below though, there's no way to bail it with the hatches closed.

Bailing with the hatches closed is called a pump, install a manual whaler and pump away, but really you are over thinking this........ get the appropriate gear, I do hope you have flares to backup your radio and go.........
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