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Old 10-08-2022, 07:35   #1
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Columbia Bar crossing advice


We're planning to sail from Bamfield, BC to Astoria Oregon next week. Having never been there, the reputation of the Columbia Bar is intimidating.

I was hoping to hear from people who are familiar, what wind/swell conditions do you consider comfortable for a crossing?

On the day we hope to arrive, there is a flood current from 1pm to 6pm. The wind forecast at the entrance is N 20kts, and the swell forecast is westerly 4ft at 8 seconds.

Any advice appreciated!

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Old 10-08-2022, 08:52   #2
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Re: Columbia Bar crossing advice

Originally Posted by Sonrisa View Post
On the day we hope to arrive, there is a flood current from 1pm to 6pm. The wind forecast at the entrance is N 20kts, and the swell forecast is westerly 4ft at 8 seconds.
A 4ft at 8sec swell isn't bad, 20kts is a good stiff breeze.
I don't like to hug the coast when approaching from either N or S.
The bar is a long one, and (unlike Newport or Coos Bay,) you feel like you're on it forever at sailboat speeds.
The calmest conditions are right near the end of the flood, if the high is ~1800hrs I'd like to be in the vicinity of the sea-buoy ~1630>1700 so I could ride the last of the flood in.
With good timing you'll hit high slack just about the time you make the starboard turn heading towards Warrenton and then make the port turn to Astoria.
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Old 10-08-2022, 09:00   #3
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Re: Columbia Bar crossing advice

Have crossed the bar many times in the last 20+ years. And we were taught by local sailors many years ago so while I don’t consider myself expert I do have clear bits of advice. First it’s not always lumpy but always something we respect.

Ideally we arrive at end of flood - high slack and try to arrive at Buoy 2 more or less at end of flood. We always cross in the daylight. This time of year is about as good as it gets as the River is not pushing as much water as in the spring. 20kts and 4 ft seas fairly normal this time of year. Keep in mind that the Columbia is huge and it’s influence on sea state reaches several miles out into the open water. Seas get lumpy before you get between the jetty’s and on the official bar.

Some basic seamanship we always adhere to when crossing. Everyone on deck and in safety gear. Sails up (at least main) and appropriately set for wind conditions. Motor on and at least in neutral. Most of the time it’s set at cruising speed. Deck and lines cleared. Etc. idea here is to spend as little time on bar as possible.

As you have noted ,look at tides and note SLACK tides for times you will most likely arrive. Have options in your head and on paper. We have missed the window when weather was bad and had to wait for next cycle. Not fun but safe. Note we have also crossed at low slack this time of year. Not as good as high but perfectly safe with good weather and bar conditions.

Listen to the bar report on vhf as you approach. on the occasion where we had reservations about crossing we hailed CG. Always helpful. They also watch you from Cape disappointment

We set up our entry at Buoy2 and follow the cans over the bar and into Astoria. Do not cut the corner coming into Buoy 2. shoal area to north called Peacock spit is often lumpy and pushes hard to the beach. This is all setup on our MFD and back up handheld gps. Stay in the middle of the traffic zone/ buoys and away from the edges of the bar/ jetties. Even in some of the best conditions there can be small breaking waves on the south jetty. Stay between the cans.

The first time we crossed on our own was one of the most satisfying sailing experiences. Once across take a deep breath and look around. You will be in one of the most beautiful places on our blue marble.

BTW I still look at this pdf every time we plan a crossing.

You got this.
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