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Old 04-08-2018, 09:32   #1
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Docking , boat handling on east coast

I am toying with the idea of taking my boat out of the Great Lakes in a few years and out the St. Lawrence and east coast. I do have occasion to deal with current and it tends to be stress full. How big a deal is it on a daily basis? Do you try to wait for slack water? Should I send plan on a coastal sailing course on the English Channel? Please no speculation, just people doing this on a regular basis and not an the BVIís either.
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Old 04-08-2018, 09:57   #2
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

As an English sailor sailing worldwide the English sail/tidal training has been invaluable. I am about to sail in Alaska where the tidal streams can be ferocious and the thought provokes zero anxiety.

However, the currents between Canada and Miami are only a problem around the Bay of Fundy and through New York.

In England do a course on the Solent with a week of theory and a week of practical.

Enjoy
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Old 04-08-2018, 10:17   #3
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

You have a good and sound boat in the Catalina 36, if all is in order. In the PacNW we deal with tidal currents all the time. Know your boats limitations and have alternate plans to execute based on the conditions.



For example. The Deception Passage on the Northern end of Whidbey Island, WA can be a peaceful 500 yard stretch between two islands or it can become a nightmare. Tidal current can go from slack to 8 plus knots against you in 90 minutes. Add to that the open water of the Juan D'Fuca Strait and a 30 knot westerly, you have the makings of a great sea story.


So you need to plan your arrival and know the weather. If you arrive and the current is going your way. It is a carnival ride. If against you, you can find yourself getting partially through then stopped.



These currents are better managed while under power.


The great thing is you can always stop above or below the passage and wait till the conditions change. No Stress while sitting at anchor. Once through you can enjoy the view and write up the experience in your log.



Thinking you want some hands on experience, come out to the PacNW (Seattle area) and give it a try.
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Old 11-08-2018, 18:41   #4
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

For your projected trip down the St. Lawrence and then (maybe) towards Florida, the currents are generally quite predictable and not overwhelming. You simply need to be alert to them and take them into account. A current could speed you up or slow you down. It could set you towards shore or away from it, to starboard or to port of your intended destination. You adjust your heading accordingly, and if the current changes, (because the tide has changed!) so do you. On most of the East coast currents run at less than 3 knots, so they are not something to be scared of. Your boat can easily go faster than 3 knots. At certain places where a lot of water has to go through a tight passage, they speed up. The Bay of Fundy is one example. Long Island Sound's Race and Plum Gut are others. The East River helped us hit 13 knots over the bottom the last time we went through there. Current can make the entrances to some harbors tricky in some wind conditions. A good pilot/guide will help identify current "hotspots" and describe how to deal with them if you need to. Don't worry. Be happy.
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Old 11-08-2018, 18:51   #5
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

Cape Cod canal can be a handful if you dont time it right. But like prev posters said generally not an issue for a 30'+ boat.
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Old 11-08-2018, 19:33   #6
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

By the time you finish the transit of the St Lawrence you will likely have learned the boat handling skills needed for the East Coast of the US.

The tides are the new thing to be considered once on the coast. But generally no worse than the current on the St Lawrence. You will find the tide is predictable. In general try to time travel with the tide. You will quickly get the hang of it.
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Old 11-08-2018, 20:33   #7
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparx View Post
By the time you finish the transit of the St Lawrence you will likely have learned the boat handling skills needed for the East Coast of the US.

The tides are the new thing to be considered once on the coast. But generally no worse than the current on the St Lawrence. You will find the tide is predictable. In general try to time travel with the tide. You will quickly get the hang of it.
This is good advice. We started from Muskegon, Michigan in 2016. Our transit was out the Welland and St Lawrence and through the locks at the east end of Nova Scotia. In addition to our Simrad chart plotter we ran Navionics on an IPAD. This shows the tides and currents by time of day so you can select a designated point on the chart and slide the time bar to see the tide, current, and rise/fall for any time for several days. We found this immensely helpful in planning transits and approaches to harbors and anchorages.

We did not take any extra courses to augment our years on the Great Lakes. By the time you reach the ocean you will know what you need to navigate the east coast. Mind the fast current above Quebec City of around 7 knots and the zig zag of the channel. It will shift you sideways quite quickly. Same at Woods Hole if you are not careful. We only passed by Bay of Fundy on the way to Bar Harbor to avoid the big tide and current. Mind the minimum depth at low tide when anchoring. Use the IPAD Navionics to show you how low the tide will drop at low tide.

My new best friend in Nova Scotia.
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Old 11-08-2018, 23:32   #8
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

Do you really mean running the full length of the St. Lawrence? Most cruisers use the Erie Canal to get to the Hudson River and come out at NYC. The St. Lawrence can be done but it's a drastically longer trip with a lot of remote wild areas (not that it is a bad thing).

Alternatively, you can go down to Chicago and take the river system down. Then come back up the east coast (google Great Loop).

As far as the primary question: Currents can be a blessing or a curse. If the current is coming on the bow or stern, it's actually easier. If you have a 2kt current on the bow going into the slip, you can set your STW a 2-3kts and very slowly creep into place with great control. If it's a 2kt current across the slip...those can be exciting.

But really, most marinas are out of the current and as long as it's not extreme, anchoring in a current isn't that hard (you do need to account for the tidal drop, so you don't end up on the bottom).

When under way, it is a good idea for a sail boat to try and time a favorable current (tidal currents). If your cruise speed (STW) is 6kts, a 2kt current on the stern gives you 8kts SOG. If you mess up, you wind up with a slow slog at 4kt SOG.
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Old 12-08-2018, 06:17   #9
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

We found the easiest way to time the currents on the St. Lawrence was using Capt. Cheryl Barr's Book Down East Circle Route.

Each section has a little chart where you can look up your speed and intended destination to get a recommended start time from your location. Sure, you can do the math yourself using current tables, but Capt. Cheryl already did the work for you!

I did a bit of a blog for our Down East Loop cruise. The section where we joined the St. Lawrence starts here.

Be prepared to wait out foul weather, and know how to operate in fog, and there's no reason you can't do that section of your trip. That said, the Erie Canal and Hudson River are nice, too. It's a totally different type of cruising, so pick whichever route you feel most comfortable with.
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Old 12-08-2018, 07:46   #10
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

Apologize for the image quality from a screen capture.

Navionics APP on IPAD

Attached fist image, chart shows red blocks where tide data is available. Red means falling. Blue would mean rising. Select a tide block takes you to the second screen. In the block is a number = tide height. Arrow at the bottom means falling.

Second screen: Notice the analog bar at the screen bottom. This indicates time of day, tide rising or falling, height. Touch the bar and drag to any time of day up to several days ahead. The bar is interactive and updates all data instantly including the on chart data of the block.

In addition to the tide blocks, there are arrows on the chart at critical places. These show the current direction at the present time and itís magnitude. Touch select a current arrow and a similar analog bar appears at the bottom of the screen. Slide this bar to see the current direction and magnitude at any future time. Arrows on the main chart change direction interactively with the slide bar.

This APP is so intuitive and simple even a dirt dweller can use it. We found it precisely accurate and indispensable throughout our Saint Lawrence and east coast transit. In the Hudson, 79th street marina, it was the best way to plan dealing with the high tide induced current. Against the current and wind, standing waves made dinghy travel impossible at certain times of day. BTW, that anchorage, marina is the worst, unfriendly place we have stayed in five years of cruising. Convenient to NYC but arrogant, nasty people running the place.
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Old 12-08-2018, 10:24   #11
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Docking , boat handling on east coast

Currents vary and if you do your due diligence when plotting your route itís easy to take advantage of them or at least be aware of them in advance. The Race at the end of Long Island, the Cape Cod Canal, and the East River in NY are well known examples.

That said, current on a local scale can often be a considerable factor when pulling into a marina, fuel dock, etc. Thereís nothing worse than approaching a dock only to discover a ripping current that puts you in a bit of a bind. Always call an unfamiliar dock in advance to get local knowledge unless itís clear there is no issue.

Beware the tides. They vary dramatically up and down the east coast. They are a function of the surrounding land and can vary a lot within a surprisingly small area. While itís something you want to factor primarily into anchoring, there are harbors youíll only be able to access at high tide and again, fuel docks where the dock is 6í above your gunwale at low tide can be a pain.

You should be fine if you plan ahead. If in doubt find some buoy in the middle of some current and practice maneuvers around it to get s better sense of handling your boat in those circumstances.
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Old 12-08-2018, 15:24   #12
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

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...You should be fine if you plan ahead. If in doubt find some buoy in the middle of some current and practice maneuvers around it to get s better sense of handling your boat in those circumstances.
+1 to everything Suijin said.

But I should add, like all boaters (and especially sailors!) you need to learn to use nature to your advantage.

As valhalla360 said, a current can be a huge help in docking, if you can point into it. Match your STW to the speed of the current speed and you can gently walk sideways right up to the dock. Or if the dock is down-current, just "park" off it a few feet and let the current bring you in.

Probably the biggest challenge is when the current is pushing you sideways in a direction you don't want to go (like into a neighboring slip.) In those cases, a spring line can be your best friend; learn how to use it! You may also need to make the approach a little more aggressively than you normally would. Don't be afraid to back out and try again if you get the timing wrong.
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Old 12-08-2018, 16:42   #13
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Re: Docking , boat handling on east coast

Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. I am three seasons from actually doing the trip. I think I probably wouldnít bring a boat back to the Great Lakes and would prefer the St. Lawrence trip over the Erie Canal, Lake Champlain or Ten/Tom Mississippi alternatives in that order. Thanks
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Old 15-08-2018, 05:09   #14
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Docking , boat handling on east coast

Oh one more thing about tides and currents. Be careful in situations where you have a strong wind set up against an appreciable current. This is mostly an issue, and potentially a dangerous one, in inlets, but it can make for extremely uncomfortable conditions out in more open water. For example, you really donít want to be headed south out of Vineyard Sound on a strong ebb with the wind out of the west or southwest. Nasty and youíll bail through Quickís Hole just to get out of it.
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