Winds north of San Francisco

Snore

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Need some help please...

I am doing a Seattle to San Francisco run later this month and have been watching the weather for the last 30 days. There seems to be a recurring ridge that causes an area with 30-50 knot gusts to form just north of San Francisco. The area of intense wind then meanders NNW up the coast, sometimes dissipating- sometimes intensifying.

It looks like one could get east of the weather, but that means coming down 10-15NM off the coast. The other option is going 200 miles off and hoping the ridge does not head off in that direction.

Is that the normal weather pattern? Does it change in late August?

Thanks
 
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Jud - s/v Sputnik

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As I understand it, that “squash zone” is fairly typical - ridge gets squashed against an inland semi-permanent low over the hot land - 40 knot gales with crystal clear blue skies are common and this can persist for days or weeks at a time.
 

Snore

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@Jud - s/v Sputnik Thanks, that explains the 40knots and no forecasted increase in seas. In a force 9, one would expect to see at least 20 footers. Are the forecasts that off??? Or do those gales bring gale-sized seas?
 

Kenny Dumas

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Skip abandoned his boat there. I’m guessing the fetch isn’t sufficient for 20’ seas. But he had continuous 6-8’ breakers as I recall.
 

solosailor

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Gale alley. Pick a window. Know your bug out ports and get in there early before it gets to gnarly.

We were a bit ahead of Skip on Wildflower on the return from Hanalei when the gale train started. Doublehanded on a Hammerhead 54' trimaran and luckily only got caught for 2 days before getting to SF. 30-40k with short steep seas as the swell hadn't built much yet. Down to the triple reef and slice of jib to keep the speed to a safe level while trying to get East ASAP which meant beam seas. Stuffed the leeward float deep which pivoted the stern a good distance with the aid of the wave. The HH54 has an aft cabin so that hip check squished George the Jockey (RIP, no not from that) against the port hull before chucking him against the starboard hull when it abruptly landed.

Wildflower was caught for days longer in huge seas with breakers. Harrowing situation. Up the side of ship with only backpack carrying the perpetual Singlehanded Transpac trophies he and Wildflower won.
 

SloopJonB

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Everyone I've ever spoken to about that trip said to either go at least 150 miles out or to harbour hop the coast.

Personally, that coast is so fuckin' scary I wouldn't even consider staying in close But people I knew well did it successfully - a 50ish couple on a big 42'
 

Kenny Dumas

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I don’t remember the source, but it’s the most likely area to have gale force winds in the Pacific (during summer I think)
 

Snore

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As always SA folks came through with some GREAT info. The Wildflower story definitely puckered my [email protected]@!!

The boat I am running is a big Amel, but hell- I don't want to break it ... or the crew. Glad I use a GO and download weather twice a day.
 

Jud - s/v Sputnik

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Skip abandoned his boat there. I’m guessing the fetch isn’t sufficient for 20’ seas. But he had continuous 6-8’ breakers as I recall.
Yes - I was gonna post Skip A’s story about Wildflower but I couldn’t remember if it was right there that he ran into trouble, and besides, it’s such a sad story to read (but with a good ending for him)....
Everyone I've ever spoken to about that trip said to either go at least 150 miles out or to harbour hop the coast.

Personally, that coast is so fuckin' scary I wouldn't even consider staying in close But people I knew well did it successfully - a 50ish couple on a big 42'
 
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longy

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I delivered a custom 63' up to Vancouver in 2014 - used DRYARMOR for weather routing. Went up the beach. 80% motorsailing, delivery mode, diesel is the fastest way to go upwind. And because of rig height & keel draft only had 4 possible refuges, so no time to lose. Made it up to SF, stopped to re-fuel, waited 30 hrs for swell to die down outside. Easy delivery
 

Jud - s/v Sputnik

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Gale alley. Pick a window. Know your bug out ports and get in there early before it gets to gnarly.

We were a bit ahead of Skip on Wildflower on the return from Hanalei when the gale train started. Doublehanded on a Hammerhead 54' trimaran and luckily only got caught for 2 days before getting to SF. 30-40k with short steep seas as the swell hadn't built much yet. Down to the triple reef and slice of jib to keep the speed to a safe level while trying to get East ASAP which meant beam seas. Stuffed the leeward float deep which pivoted the stern a good distance with the aid of the wave. The HH54 has an aft cabin so that hip check squished George the Jockey (RIP, no not from that) against the port hull before chucking him against the starboard hull when it abruptly landed.

Wildflower was caught for days longer in huge seas with breakers. Harrowing situation. Up the side of ship with only backpack carrying the perpetual Singlehanded Transpac trophies he and Wildflower won.
I did an intro offshore weather course at Royal Vic YC several years ago taught by a Commander who’s taken everything from navy ships, to the 100’ or so traditionally rigged HMCS Oriole, racing, to his own 50-ish cruising boat across the Pacific. He specifically described 40-50 unforecast in that coastal area, enough to make him describe it in some detail. Sounds like a place to avoid, with weird coastal influences.
 

Russell Brown

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I'd hug the shore. I've done it 3 times in September. First time got absolutely pasted 30 miles off Cape Mendocino. Terrifying. The buoy report for the cape was saying 25 knots while we were seeing over 50. The next 2 times we stayed close at the capes and never saw more than 25 knots.
There are a lot of places to stop on that coast, which can be another good reason to stay close.
 

Zonker

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I just helped some friends south from Juan de Fuca to SF with weather advice. I've done it twice, both times in September. (Late September is not as fun/safe)

- it's not quite as bad as you think
- when the Pacific High has become well established you do get persistent NW winds. Especially south of the major Capes, you get more wind
- there are LOTS of places to wait take shelter. Cape Blanco is my least favourite.
- harbour hopping is simplest in terms of getting a 1 or 2 day window to move to the next harbour. From Neah Bay they stopped in Grays Harbour WA, Astoria OR, Coos Bay OR, Brookings OR, Eureka CA, Crescent City CA, Bodega or Drake's Bay A.
- going 200 miles offshore means 1.5 days to get there an 1.5 days to re-close to shore; which is wasted time if you have a short window. And wx forecasts are maybe good for a day or 3 but not much longer. So you may be stuck offshore with a gale and not able to get into a port. Most of the ones listed above are bar crossings. They are not scary but you MUST cross on a flood tide and closest to high tide for least chance of drama if there is any swell of significance. Crossing on an ebb tide with an opposing incoming swell = breakers across the bar.
 

Zonker

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Right now this hurricane has messed up the regular pattern. Go today!

1659468571141.png
 

DDW

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- going 200 miles offshore means 1.5 days to get there an 1.5 days to re-close to shore; which is wasted time if you have a short window. And wx forecasts are maybe good for a day or 3 but not much longer. So you may be stuck offshore with a gale and not able to get into a port. Most of the ones listed above are bar crossings. They are not scary but you MUST cross on a flood tide and closest to high tide for least chance of drama if there is any swell of significance. Crossing on an ebb tide with an opposing incoming swell = breakers across the bar.
Harbor hopping you will also spend a lot of time sailing east and west - maybe more than going offshore.

The problem with thinking you will run for cover is, as you note, the bar must be timed for tide and seaway. Not a luxury that is always easily arranged. When we came down a couple of years ago, I came in across the Columbia a couple of hours into the ebb with about 25 knots and it could be described as "sporty". This was to fix the broken autopilot, otherwise I would have kept going. If you harbor hop, it might be best to wait for a window, check the tide tables, and then commit to the hop. That's more predictable than thinking you can dive in when the weather goes sideways.
 

Zonker

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What I suggest is not very much time sailing east and west. Leave the harbour, sail diagonally (roughly SW) about 5 or so miles offshore to avoid the crab traps. Parallel the coast. Then sail SE to close the coast at the end of the day hop or the overnighter. If you are patient to wait for decent weather windows you won't be surprised or ever need to run for cover.

If you are 100 miles offshore then it's a very different story and you will take a long time to/from offshore waters.
 

stinky

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My google failed, but I recall a harrowing tale from Steve McCarthy about losing a cruising cat on that stretch of coast. As I recall, everyone survived except the family dog.
 

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