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Old 22-12-2019, 12:08   #1
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Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

What is the earliest summer month you would begin a southbound journey?

I've heard so many conflicting stories "Wait til the Pacific high collapses" "August is great" "August is too early" "Go in late September, but watch for October gales"

Pulling out Jimmy Cornell"s World Routes book today, but thought I'd throw the question out there. Also, if you've done it, advice on how far off shore is optimum. Ideally, like to make a few stops along the way for rest and reprovisioning.

Thanks all. Going to consult Jimmy right now
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Old 22-12-2019, 12:14   #2
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

June before the fog starts maybe.
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Old 22-12-2019, 13:39   #3
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

The earliest is May...but conditions are generally miserable. Ask anyone who has done the Oregon Offshore.
June - no experience
July - Did Vic-Maui 3 times in past years; not bad time to leave.
This year was a bizarre year. No predominant "pacific high."
Made the left turn in mid-August. Huge low pressure area forced us into Astoria for 2 days to wait out the storm.
Lost a forestay in route to Hawaii, sailed back to SF. Left SF in October 7. When we left USCG broadcasting gale warnings for San Diego and LA areas. Late season lows generate Cordonazo winds along the west coast of Mexico so don't want to leave too late.

There are typically 2 thoughts on how far offshore...
1. Harbor hopping...stay about 25 - 30 miles offshore.
2. Avoid the coast...get 80 - 100 miles offshore.

Each has advantages/disadvantages.

Remember, the coastline from Cape Flattery to halfway down the Oregon coast is some of the most treacherous waters in the world. There's good reason why it's called the 'graveyard of the Pacific.' I personally want to be far out and away from the coastline.

It's possible to encounter fog close to the coast anytime of year in the PNW area.

IMHO...crossing bars on the west coast is never fun. Timing is critical. And you don't want to be near the coast when they close the bar that you can't cross because of the ebbing current is too strong (The Columbia River bar can have currents as strong as 8 knots).

You're also very likely to encounter a lot of shipping traffic and fishing fleets close to sure (esp. within 100 miles, but even out to 150 nm).

First 7 - 10 days is generally always rough with confused seas, or zero wind.

Not sure why you'd need to stop to reprovision. The trip to Mexico should only take about 2 weeks. If you harbor hop it will likely take you longer.

I haven't done the Coho-Ho, but they leave in Aug-Sept. timeframe.

IMHO August is the best departure time (weather wise)...but prepare for lots of motoring and late season hurricanes and gales as you get closer to Mexico.
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Old 22-12-2019, 15:22   #4
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

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Originally Posted by redhead View Post
What is the earliest summer month you would begin a southbound journey?

I've heard so many conflicting stories "Wait til the Pacific high collapses" "August is great" "August is too early" "Go in late September, but watch for October gales"

Pulling out Jimmy Cornell"s World Routes book today, but thought I'd throw the question out there. Also, if you've done it, advice on how far off shore is optimum. Ideally, like to make a few stops along the way for rest and reprovisioning.

Thanks all. Going to consult Jimmy right now
Check the pilot charts. I used to deliver when I was based our of SF, though almost always north. You can leave any month though I have no idea what type of boat you have except it's a 63-footer. Assume you have full electronics including radar. April is the most consistently windiest month. North of C Mendocino the winds can reverse but can be lighter. Mendocino can get socked in with gales for several days at a time but you'll have notice. South of Mendocino winds will be from NW.

Bottom line, headed south, your restriction is local wx, not seasonal wx. Northbound, assuming a quick passage and decent motoring ability, late Sept into mid Oct is the prime transit window.
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Old 22-12-2019, 21:35   #5
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

That's a big, competent boat you have there, redhead.

The Mexican hurricane season is not really over till the end of December, although the year we went, we arrived about Thanksgiving time. Coming from Puget Sound, You might like to visit Drake's Bay, and San Francisco, and anchorage and harbor hop south. Take some time, visit the Channel Islands. [It is not uncommon to have stuff on the boat break on your first big offshore passage. Just file that away, you may escape, you may not.] Once you're in southern Calif, you shall have left the gales far behind, for the short term. Ride the NW'ly and the south setting current south.

Complete your paper work for Mexico in San Diego. Plenty of possible stops on the way south, once you are cruising, but you'll want to check to see what kinds of permisos you will need.

Certainly, if the boat needs a few things, you can get it all finished up again, before you leave the US.

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Old 22-12-2019, 22:22   #6
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

The Douglass' book and the Charlie's Charts book describe the options in great detail. Much worth reviewing.
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Old 22-12-2019, 23:10   #7
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

Hmm.

April is quite possible, maybe even March if you take the opportunity of a weather window. May or better yet June.

If it were me I would stick close in to shore and plan stops in Neah Bay. Astoria, San Francisco and San Diego.
April or May higher likelihood of headwinds. This is why Oregon offshore chooses May. Begging of season to head north to Puget Sound and Inside Passage, with favourable winds. Coming North in June I had the probability of headwinds. I got NW 20 to 25.
For your purposes heading south June is a better bet for favourable winds. Evidence so you can expect a good westerly swell and a stiff breeze. 2 to 3 m seas.

Close inshore a night crab pots are a PIA. You can stop in Greys Harbour but might as well keep going.
I stayed a bit further out at night. Where the current is stronger, which will be in your favour.
Coming down from the North the Columbia Bar shouldn’t be a problem. The most dangerous part is to the south. Arrive with the flood, a strong westerly is best avoided. But it shouldn’t be to bad if you stay close in shore from the North.

It gets better as you go south. Washington, Oregon and California coasts are very Prone to fog. When the weather is good.
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Old 23-12-2019, 09:20   #8
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

Get a copy of “Pacific Coast Route Planning Map.” There’s a North portion and a south. I know the North shows three different options but haven’t seen the south. I’ve done all three and mostly 10-60 offshore. Try to time your bar crossings to coincide with max flood. Also, there’s no bar at Crescent City. Most of my trips have been August/September. NOAA weather forecasts you get on the trip are broken into 0-10NM, 10-60NM, and >60. Listen and choose your best option. Also, remember that the farther you go offshore the longer it will take you to get back to a safe harbor. If you’re willing to take your it can be a great trip.
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Old 23-12-2019, 10:52   #9
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

Quote:
Originally Posted by redhead View Post
What is the earliest summer month you would begin a southbound journey?

I've heard so many conflicting stories "Wait til the Pacific high collapses" "August is great" "August is too early" "Go in late September, but watch for October gales"

Pulling out Jimmy Cornell"s World Routes book today, but thought I'd throw the question out there. Also, if you've done it, advice on how far off shore is optimum. Ideally, like to make a few stops along the way for rest and reprovisioning.

Thanks all. Going to consult Jimmy right now
Mid August is the ideal time for heading south. Check with your insurance company on any restrictions. Make your offshore departure from Neah Bay with your tanks full...diesel is cheaper there as well. I would plan to bypass all the coastal harbors and sail nonstop to at least San Francisco while being prepared for all enroute applicable bar entrances in an emergency. I would stop at San Diego before Mexico to get anything repaired (parts) and crossing my "T's" before going into Mexico.

If any crew member has not been offshore, make plans for sea sickness which usually lasts two days in my case, then I'm OK...my reason for nonstop preference besides added time, expense, and bar exposure.

I second the needed respect for traversing the "Graveyard of the Pacific."

Watch the weather closely in picking your weather window. We departed at the end of May for nonstop Hawaii and were surprised to be becalmed off the coast. I would go out far enough to get beyond 300-400' depth and away from the fisherman...check marinetraffic.com beforehand to see where they currently are.

Good Luck.

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Old 23-12-2019, 11:18   #10
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

We did a similar trip in 1992 in a Norseman 447 with four-year-old and 14-year-old sons. In answer to your question, it depends great deal on the kind of experience you want. Our boat was well-equipped for its time. We use the weather fax to pick the times to travel. Now you have so much more sophisticated information about the weather conditions and sea conditions that you should be able to make you voyage safer and more enjoyable.

We used the 30 to 50 mile off shore plan with stops at places we thought were interesting. Our goal was to arrive in Mexican waters in November when our insurance coverage began.

We began in Portland at the beginning of October and during the voyage we experienced many days of good sailing as well as Fair weather gales. This is not a problem with a good vessel and the ability to reef easily. Several times, when we were very tired we followed the rule that when in doubt go to sea rather than risk an uncertain entrance.

It often takes a day of being at sea for a queasy stomach to settle down. Enjoy the adventure. Always keep a watch. Giardellis? chocolate and a cup of tea during a night watch is a treat? Have fun. Good luck.
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Old 23-12-2019, 11:30   #11
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

I've done the Neah Bay-Astoria leg many times in the May thru October period and I don't think you can pick a "best time". I've had good passages in every one of those months and passages where I had to wait for a week or more for a suitable weather window. I personally am one of those who prefers the closer to shore passages and would plan for 2 or 3 stopovers down the WA/OR/NCal coast. Newport is probably the best entrance on the Oregon Coast. It also has good marine repair and chandlery facilities as well as reprovisioning opportunities. I would list Westport (Gray's Harbor) and Eureka as other good stopovers.There really are no sections of the Oregon Coast I would call especially hazardous as long as you stay outside of shallow water and reef areas. These days with GPS chartplotters and the like, knowing where you are is pretty straight forward. The only nuisance I find for inside passages is all the crab floats in the Gray's Harbor/Willipa Bay area. Stay outside of those at night and in reduced visibility situations. A lot of folks who frequent those waters install a line cutter on their prop shaft.
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Old 23-12-2019, 11:59   #12
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

We spent an entire moonless night in mid September in 65 kt. winds in Northern California a couple years ago. We were going North though and going South I bet we would have broken our 24 hour record of 172 nautical miles we achieved in 2014 sailing down from Puget Sound to Southern California in mid October. I would do whatever Jimmy Cornell recommended. He is not infallible, but he has gathered considerable data.
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Old 23-12-2019, 12:12   #13
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

One issue in finding the earliest month to leave is what you will do while waiting for hurricane season to be over before heading to Mexico. If you roughly target to leave the third week of Aug then you will have plenty of time to dawdle on the way. Spend some time in San Fran Bay area. Then some time in the Channel Is and Santa Barbara, then Catalina, then onto to San Diego. You'll still be waiting out some time in San Diego and competing for a berth or an anchorage with all the other boats hold and waiting to go to Mex.
You can spend the early summer shaking down the boat in the San Juans if it hasn't been offshore for awhile.
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Old 23-12-2019, 12:19   #14
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

figure the distance between your home port and the next available hidey hole port. figure your fuel. next get a weather window 2 days longer than your passage and do it.
any time is good for escaping. remember winter storms begin now and end march/april, and make excellent wind windows, as 30 kts and 20 kts wind speed happens. if you like it less busy, wait until 2 days after the winter storm and set out. but know your hidey holes and distances and time overall to arrive to safe harbor. watch closely your weather as storms happen.
point conception is a trickery, but south is smoother.
remember that once to ensenada, weather patterns change.
south of turtle bay chubascos happen. reef down at night.
whenever you decide to leave, smooth sailing to you.

ps i left san diego in april on the 7th in 2011..on a prefrontal. got to ensenada before the hailstorm happened. south of ensenada was easy peasy except repairs underway which were interesting.
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Old 23-12-2019, 12:26   #15
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Re: Planning Puget Sound to Mexico

We just did Neah Bay to San Diego leaving in early September and then made a right to Hawaii.

I recommend Pilot charts to get an idea. We used Predict Wind for weather routing to San Francisco and then day sailed down to San Diego, spending some time in the Channel Island (expensive mooring balls, and seriously expensive diesel - Two harbors is much less expensive than Avalon $6 vs $8 per US gallon).

We use an Iridium Go to up date GRIBs and routing every 12 hours. The $145/month for Iridium Go service and $99 for three months of Predict Wind is worth every penny.
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