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Old 14-07-2011, 15:23   #1
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Talking Young Skipper Plans to Sail the Pacific - Needs Help !

Hey guys, I would like to hear some of your advice and suggestions on some plans and ideas I have.

I am a student living in British Columbia, Canada, and I will be graduating from high-school next year. Immediately after I graduate (late June/Early July) I would like leave and go sail for six or seven months throughout the pacific with a small two or three person (plus me) crew.

My plan at the moment would be to cruise down the U.S. coast stopping every 70ish nm with some extended 160+ nm legs – effectively port hopping. After that, we would reach the Mexican border and do a handful of longer legs staying in various nooks and bays like Turtle Bay… etc. We would round Cabo San Lucas and continue back up to La Paz, and then we would cross over and work our way down to Mazatlan and finally Puerto Vallarta.

I will tell you straight up that I am not an overly experienced skipper who has circumnavigated the globe ten times single-handed and has logged a million miles under his belt. I am not, and have not. However, I have completed a number of sailing courses with flying colours, I have crewed on family friend’s yachts numerous times, and I have skippered a number of vessels.

But my blue water/offshore experience is limited, and this is why I want to ‘port hop’ on the way down, leading in to longer legs in Mexico in order to gain more time at the helm and get comfortable with the vessel. I learn exceptionally fast, is it a reasonable idea?

Once we reach Puerto Vallarta how do we get back? The commonly accepted idea is to travel out to Hawaii and then up and back - would this work with my timeline? Would being on our way out to Hawaii in November-ish be okay? How about coming back from Hawaii in December, would that be safe?

I would assume traveling back up the coast would involve a lot motoring up what is a lee coast in the beginning of winter with likely big winds and waves, and would probably not be the best experience. Am I wrong?

I cannot afford to start a trip and then stop part way through for a couple months to wait for the weather, so waiting it out in Mexico is probably out of the plan.

Has anyone done this trip and have any advice? Please offer advice on everything you can, the more replies the better!

Now I know you guys love to poke holes in plans, and I would like you to, but please be respectful.
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Old 14-07-2011, 16:31   #2
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Re: Young skipper plans to sail the Pacific - Needs help!

The problem with this plan is that there are not harbors every 70ish miles down the west coast. In fact there are very long stretches with no place to stop and some of the potential harbors have a bar at the entrance that will have very large breaking waves in strong winds that make them impassible.

So, once you start offshore down the coast you could be stuck there for many days until you can find a refuge.

Bottom line, sailing on the west coast is not the best beginners spot.
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Old 14-07-2011, 16:37   #3
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Re: Young skipper plans to sail the Pacific - Needs help!

Ask Zeehag she just did it......

"When the bow be in the trees we'll be running out of seas"
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Old 14-07-2011, 16:53   #4
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Cool Re: Young skipper plans to sail the Pacific - Needs help!

Welcome to the forum kman. There is currently a rousing discussion about new folks presenting the same ol question that has been asked and answered Many times. You sir, are doing exactly that and you are doing it in the kind of friendly, non-macho way that will never upset the tender feelings of many of us. I applaud your communication skills.

I've made that run but not in 40 years. There will be people weighing in that did the trip a couple weeks ago. Welcome
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Old 14-07-2011, 16:57   #5
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Re: Young skipper plans to sail the Pacific - Needs help!

Work it backwards. You live here (PNW), do YOU think it would be a good idea to be out there in December? Sorry, I think your plan has too many holes in it to even begin discussing it.
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Old 14-07-2011, 21:05   #6
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Re: Young Skipper Plans to Sail the Pacific - Needs Help !

You don't have a small crew, a small crew is one person plus you. With 3 people aboard, you would need a 33 or 34' boat, with 4 a 36' boat minimum, and then only if it is laid out right to begin with. What boat do you have or expect to have?

It sound like you have some experience, but it is hard to gauge how appropriate it is. I can't even guess how committed you crew might be. Rather than going down the coast then having your only way back be a long bash to weather or 2 very long offshore passages maybe intimidating some of you crew into bailing out try something a little closer to home and little more restrained in scope.

Circumnavigate Vancouver Island.

It's a 1-3 mo affair. You are remaining in country removing all boarder crossing issues. Everyone speaks English. The west side of the island will provide plenty of challenge. The shorter trip means a bit less prep work. If anyone bails they aren't out a lot of money getting home. If everyone bails you are close enough to your support base to potentially recruit enough people to finish the trip and not be stranded. This trip will give you a lot more experience skippering, it will give you a taste of ocean sailing and it will let your crew figure out if this is really for them. On a trip like this you can probably knock 3' off the length of the boat needed, I know someone who circumnavigated the island on a Cal29 with 3 people on board. A smaller cruise like this would be a good stepping stone to the cruise you want to do.

If you do want to go ahead with the big cruise the references you want to consult for routing and timing are World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell, and Ocean Passages of the World by the British Admiralty.

The Atlas of Pilot Charts for the N. Pacific would also be very useful. That and a whole list of interesting publications is available at Maritime Safety Information. The layout of the site isn't immediately obvious, the drop down menu top center shows you a list of publications that are available for download.

Once again, what boat do you have lined up for this? More advice would be dependant on that.
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Old 15-07-2011, 08:18   #7
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Re: Young Skipper Plans to Sail the Pacific - Needs Help !

To answer one of your specific questions, the trip from Hawaii to BC in December would be very difficult. Sometime in September is a rough cutoff for expectations of decent weather.

To answer a more general question, your time scale is way too compressed. This is a cruise that might well be planned for a whole year at a minimum. A tight schedule will lead to far less enjoyment and will introduce serious extra risks to you, crew and boat.

And gunk-holing down the Washington/Oregon coast without time to wait for good weather breaks is definitely a bad idea. As others have pointed out, most of the harbours along this stretch have barred entrances, and absolutely require good conditions for entry or exit.

IMO a more modest itinerary or a longer period of time are indicated for you... good luck in finding what will work.


Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II, lying Port Cygnet Tasmania once again.
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Old 15-07-2011, 14:48   #8
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Re: Young Skipper Plans to Sail the Pacific - Needs Help !

Do exactly what you are planning but take at least 2 years off

OR if you don't already have the vessel, buy it somewhere else besides BC, somewhere where you can take your 6-7 months of cruising in the safer cruising season. December in the Pacific is burly...
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sail, skipper

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