Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

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Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

Postby NIBoating » Thu Sep 29, 2022 4:55 pm

We have a DS1 that we sail on a lake in North Idaho. The boat is in great shape with new sails, rigging and outboard.

I have been dreaming of spending some time on Puget Sound.

I am looking for advise on short multi-night trip recommendations? There are some old posts without a lot of specific details. druidae1492 posted he sails out of Bellingham. Not sure if he is still around? I am doing more research to plan a trip for next summer?

I don’t have real experience in the sound with the tides, currents, waves and larger water. Based on that, I am wanting to start small. I have the Wagoner Guide and looking at current tables.

A couple of options I am considering are:
- Hope Island in the South Sound. Launch at Arcadia. Only about a mile to the island. It looks to have a few nice camp spots. This would be easy to bail out if the weather looks off. I could explore in that area, maybe side trip to Boston Harbor? Or other places?

- Bellingham Bay to Lumni Island, then maybe up to Sucia Island if I am feeling bold. Depending on the timing, I believe the current in Bellingham Bay could be favorable. I know there is commercial traffic to avoid.

Is that doable for learning to sail in Puget Sound. Obviously, it is weather dependent. We are setup for backpacking, so we should be able to travel light.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? Is that too much for a Daysailer to handle? Once again with a very close eye on the weather.
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Re: Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

Postby GreenLake » Thu Sep 29, 2022 7:27 pm

A sailor from the Midwest, whom I met in Texas, has sailed the San Juans more than once in his Boston Whaler, about the size of the DS but lacking a cuddy. Based on the reports of his experience, I would assume that the DS should do well among the islands.

You are correct to worry about tides. If you look at the forecast you'll see that tidal ranges are easily 12' but that of the two tide cycles, one may be much smaller. The key question is how will this translate into current? As you can see on the charts, the Sound is a rather complex system of communicating waterways, with some narrow spots (like Deception Pass) where small boats have no business, perhaps even at slack water. A quick search at Amazon shows that there's a local publication "Tidal Currents of Puget Sound: Graphic Current Charts and Flow Patterns" that might come in handy.

If you look at the wind forecasts over a few weeks you should get an idea of typical patterns. Generally, your issue may be too little wind, except in the Strait (where you can have the opposite problem). If you load an app like Windy, you can follow the evolution of the wind forecast throughout the day: you should be able to see a definite sea breeze developing each (sunny) afternoon. It progresses down into the sound and reaches its maximum in the early evening hours.

This kind of thing can be useful for planning if you are able to observe multiple forecasts in similar conditions to your planned travel season. You should also be able to get historical data on prevailing winds. For the sound, this should show that winds predominantly are either from the North or from the South, with other directions much less frequent. Make sure you get data for where you will sail and for the correct season or month.

While we are still on the weather: Amazon lists a book you can get "The weather of the Pacific Northwest". I'm not sure how useful you'll find it, but if anyone writes about regional weather patterns it should be in a book like that. But on Northern Idaho you aren't that far away, so you may know all of those things already.

Waves: the wave height is a function of both the wind strength and duration, as well as the "fetch": where wind blows along a channel for some period with some strength you get a certain wave height for that wind strength. If the wind is at an angle, or the channel starts close by, then there's not enough fetch and you get smaller waves than otherwise. (Because this is not the open ocean you wouldn't expect any swell).

Look at NOAAs marine forecasts, they give maximum wave heights. If you follow those for a few weeks you'll see that they rarely mention significant wave heights unless the wind is pretty strong and there's a "Small Craft Advisory" out.

You may have picked up a theme here: whenever I sail somewhere new I like to look not only at the day's forecast, but follow along for a few weeks ahead of time. That helps in getting a sense of what is typical for the area, and also how local weather patterns tend to evolve. That makes it easier to later use these forecasts to know when to stay off the water (or remain at anchor) and when there may be good wind for the purpose.

I don't have much of an idea about good places to sail to that allow camping or anchoring, but I know someone who took an 11' Mirror Dinghy to Blake Island from some spot along the Duwamish. He may have done that as a round trip for all I know. So, if you go for something like a mile, that should be an extremely safe choice of distance (as long as you are not trying to go against/across strong currents).

In Texas I've done stretches up to 50 miles in a DS, but with favorable and dependable winds. You'll probably find the Sound a bit more fickle but distances of a few miles should be OK, especially if you have an idea how the weather will evolve and a "Plan B" (such as an alternate destination) if the weather or tide doesn't serve.

What else might be different from lake sailing? Be sure you understand the Navigation Rules, especially those related to Vessel Traffic Separation schemes. You'll need some kind of motor to be positive that you won't be stuck in the path of some oncoming freighter...(or ferry). And I would invest in a portable VHF and keep that tuned to the proper Channels (plus 16).

There's probably a bunch more, let us know what other questions you come up with.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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Re: Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

Postby tomodda » Thu Sep 29, 2022 11:04 pm

Get yourself a subscription to "The Small Craft Advisor," and read their back issues. Lots of articles on Cruising around on the Salish Sea.

I agree with everything that GreenLake wrote, but also caution you to have a hypothermia emergency plan, in case of a dunking in inclement weather. Puget Waters are coooold, at least for a (transplant) southern boy like me. Add some driving rain and you may quickly find yourself in real danger. Hypothermia is no joke. Look at the Watertribe required kit list for a good guide. Steve Early on logofspartina.blogspot.com also goes into a lot of detail on his hypothermia planning, go have a read!

Anyway, the whole area is indeed lovely, and the San Juans are a paradise. Prepare, plan, think thru your contingencies, then go have fun!

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Re: Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

Postby EBen » Sun Jan 01, 2023 12:23 pm

Late to comment on this post, but what the heck? Happy New Year and all of that.

I have a SLI Daysailer, and I have taken it several times to the protected waters of the south Puget Sound. Our fleet is in Portland, Oregon and it is an easy trailer up to locations around Olympia, Washington. I recommend a little marina called Zittles that sits right on the Puget Sound just north of Olympia. They have a ramp and docks to accommodate the tides. I have made four separate trips up to the south sound now for sailing and camping. The last few have been in October, when the weather was beautiful and the winds were light.

The best part about this region is access to several state parks with large floating docks. You can sail to a local campground, unpack your camping gear, and stay the night. They charge $15 to tie up to the float and something similar for a campsite. I am slowly moving my way northward, but so far have stayed a night on Hope Island, Joemma Beach, and Jarrell Cove. I do have a closed cuddy for extra protection, and also a small kicker motor.

Long story short - there are many small boat sailors, fishing boats, and cruising boats that sail these waters. If the weather window is good, this is great sailing and camping. We call it "Scamping".

I have sailed charter boats up and around the San Juan Islands, and despite my experience I feel that the distances are a bit too much for my taste in a small boat. Crossing Bellingham harbor, Rosario Strait, or even the distances close inside could take a full day, depending on winds.

I would love to encourage a small boat flotilla up there someplace in the new year!

Daysailer Dipity #14123
"First to the Windward Mark", 2022 NACRs
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Re: Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

Postby Davegator83 » Tue Jun 20, 2023 12:49 am

I am replying to this old post as I have just joined the forum. I no longer have a DS, but back in the late 1990s I did. Lived in Portland, OR and did a little sailing on South Puget sound with my DS. This was in the back part of Puget Sound. Olympia is basically on Budd Inlet. North across this inlet is Case Inlet. I actually started up near Grapeview and sailed down to McMicken Island State Park. Then back. So yes it is possible. There is also Harstene State Park on Case Inlet between Grapeview and McMicken.

The tides are fierce there. But you can time your sails to take advantage of the tides. There are a couple of guides to the area. South Puget Sound by the Mountaineers. They also have other ones for the north part and the San Juan Islands.

Dave Bolton
Denver Colorado
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Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2023 7:54 pm

Re: Puget Sound & San Juan Islands

Postby NWsailor » Thu Jan 18, 2024 11:31 pm

Older thread, but I'd reccomend the Anacortez Washington park boat launch to Cypress head/ Pellican beach. The DS doesn't buck a current well when full of gear or water, but the sail is short and the outhouses are luxurious. The biggest threats are the tide rips on the north side of the head, and the ferry crossing. Check out the cascadia marine trail for other suggestions, they are geared for kayakers mainly, but all nonmotorized travel is welcome.

https://www.wwta.org/water-trails/casca ... ine-trail/
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