S/V Hello World's Travel Log

the gallant fox - route planning

I posted an entry from a fellow sailing blog last week about the overwhelming generosity and inclusiveness in the sailing community. Witness:

A couple, MS & GB, from Shilshole are this very moment cruising the Sea of Cortez aboard their sailboat, the good ship Gallant Fox. They've been in port for awhile now waiting out the remainder of the hurricane season so they've had ample time to update their blog. They've been posting some really great up-to-date information on what it's like to be cruising in Mexico. They've sprinkled in stuff on Mexican history, some side trips into mainland Mexico, cooking, sunbrella, and Mexican beauracracy with a great writing style that makes their posts a real pleasure. I posted a simple comment on one of their entries thanking them for the information. I got an email back from M offering advice, experience and sea stories for the asking. Well, ask I did! But what I got back was reams of fantastic information on all sorts of topics. It really seemed a shame to let this brain dump languish in email so I asked for M's permission to post this on the blog. There's really too much to do in one blog post so I'll stretch it out over a couple posts. Make sure you head over to their blog and read what they've posted.

Gallant Fox:
I'd recommend to anybody to take off up the Inside Passage beginning in late March/early April, weather & your boat gear permitting. Yes there was ice on the deck in April when we went to Desolation Sound, but we were the ONLY boat in Prideaux Haven. There's so much to see in the Inside Passage, we moved very slowly, rounded Cape Scott in early July, moved down the Pacific coast of WA, OR & CA, sort of semi-harbor hopping in August (zero wind & 100% fog 25 miles offshore but other folks who sailed 75 miles offshore got gales). September in So.Cal. October in Ensenada, Mexico. Rounded Cabo San Lucas the 3rd week in November. OK to flat-out nice weather the whole way.

I'm really glad to hear about your schedule! I was wondering if we were gonna be pushing it if we headed north from Seattle in April/May time frame. Our plan is to beat the Bayliner crowd up through the San Juan/Gulf Islands and on into the Inside Passage. Your route sounds very similar to what we were thinking. Late spring head north. Turn around in time to arrive back in Seattle in August and fix anything that needs fixin' before we tackle the big bad Pacific. Then hit a late August/September weather window down the coast. We'd like to spend a week or two in SF. Really, I just want to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge but we've got some friends in SF that it would be nice to see. I figured we'd hit San Diego around the end of September, early October and do whatever last minute US provisioning/outfitting. I figured we don't want to round Cabo before the first of November. What do you think of those time frames/weather windows?

Gallant Fox:
Your general time frames look good - mainly because you're giving yourselves enough time and therefore flexibility to (1) hunker down somewhere for a few days if the weather gets bad & then you have to wait even another day or 2 for the waves to lie back down; (2) give yourself time to do any unexpected repairs or provisioning; or (3) if all's going great & you're traveling faster than you expected, you have more time to spend in another place further down the road - either more time in SF; or maybe a day or 2 longer in Monterey; etc.

If you have boat insurance, check with your carrier to see if they have any rules about how early or how late they want you to be places. Example: some carriers don't want you to be north of the 50th parallel before a certain date (due to incoming Pacific gales); or south of the 27th parallel after June 1 (due to hurricane potential). That said, prohibitions are usually taken care of by either paying for a rider, or staying someplace secure (like a marina with an established hurricane plan). If you're uninsured, just stay careful & keep in mind the weather - insurance carriers play the percentages so if they don't like a certain place during a certain season, you might not like being there, either. [snip...]

Definitely, you'll be ahead of the Bayliners if you leave Seattle early April. Yes, it'll be cold & there will be more days when it's wet and/or blustery, but there's a bazillion places to dive into all along the way, all with good bottoms assuming your anchor & chain combo are sturdy enough. Example: every time we left Seattle, if we left after work we'd just scoot over to Kingston & then leave the next morning for either Port Ludlow or if the wind & tides were favorable we'd go all the way up to Aleck Bay on the bottom of Lopez Island in the San Juans. From there we'd go to either Echo Bay on Sucia Island, or go up the western side of the San Juans & stay at either Garrison Bay (pretty silted in by now, tho) or cross directly over to Sidney BC & check-in to Canada at the Customs dock there. If you have one of those quick-pass permits that allows you to phone in your entry into Canada, you could skip Sidney & anchor in Bedwell Harbour - another fave of ours.

Lots of anchorages in Desolation Sound that will be all yours in April or early May. Regardless of which set(s) of rapids you decide to shoot on your way up into Johnstone Strait, there are plenty of cool spots so you can't go wrong. We went over Quadra Island way with Rebecca Spit as a stop before going thru Surge Narrows & exploring Octopus Islands. Our strategy was, that direction you don't have to time a whole bunch of rapids in succession. But whichever way you go, set aside some time to see several anchorages & docks in the Broughton Archipelago - there's a lot of First Nations history there. I think you'd really enjoy the bathtub/shower experience you'll have if you tie up at the Windsong dock in Echo Bay. Windsong is the dock on the north side of Echo Bay - it's less developed than the other one, but has a lot of character. [snip...]

Coming down the Pacific coast, your greatest hazard will be crab pots. You have to stay at least 25 miles offshore and in at least 500 feet depth, to avoid them. You can barely see the floats during the day, & they're impossible to see at night. You do not want a fouled prop from the crab pots - it could be very dangerous if the seas got up. Therefore, when you come in closer to shore than 25 miles/500 feet, make sure it's during the day and always have at least on eextra pair of eyes looking out for the telltale floats. You'll see them everywhere from Tatoosh Island to Point Conception - so just pay attention & you'll be fine. Distance and depth are your friends.

More to follow.

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