Gale warning

A major spring storm was forecast to hit the Puget Sound on Friday. A 972-mb low over southern Vancouver Island would generate storm-force winds along the  Washington state coast. A gale warning was in effect for the more-protected Puget Sound, and winds there were forecast to reach 30-40 knots, with wind waves of 5-7 feet. Perfect. We’d get a chance to test the new boat in rough waters.

The storm was at its worst when we left Bell Harbor Marina Friday afternoon. Winds at nearby West Point were southerly 37 knots, gusting to 41. The main fairway out of the Bell Harbor Marina runs alongside a sloping rock wall–the lower the tide, the smaller the fairway. We left on a zero-foot low tide, with the wall to port and a boat on the end of the dock to starboard. This gave us about 30 feet of usable fairway, or only about 8 feet on either side of our 16′ beam. This sounds like plenty, but with a new boat and a strong wind, it actually was tighter than it sounds . The east-west channel from the marina into Elliott Bay also is narrow, and waves were breaking across the entrance. But we had no trouble navigating the fairway or exiting the marina. The boat felt solid and stable.

Outside, large waves swept across Elliott Bay and broke high up on the bow of the 650-foot freighter Westwood Columbia as it approached Seattle from the northwest.

Conditions were rough but tolerable. We ran at 8 knots about halfway across Elliott Bay, on a southwesterly course for Yukon Harbor. This put the waves pretty much on our nose. After burying the bow a few times, we pulled off some speed to reduce the motion. We ran most of the way without the stabilizers, to see how the boat felt, and found it pretty comfortable.

According to Cliff Mass’ Storm Review, the maximum gusts at West Point reached 53 knots that afternoon. Conditions probably were in the top ten for worse that we’ve experienced on the previous boat. We normally would have been worn-out after arriving, but the 52 handled the conditions with ease. Everything stayed put and we arrived at Yukon Harbor fairly relaxed and comfortable. One thing we’ve done to prepare for rough water in both boats is to have a way to secure everything, inside and out. Even with no safety risk, having things moving is distracting and disconcerting. Offshore sailors reported that loose items shifting and falling reduces a crew’s confidence in their vessel’s safety. On the 52, we’ve installed D-rings in the cockpit and boat deck and use ratchet straps to secure everything on deck.

Yukon Harbor is another one of our unusual anchorages. The bay is exposed to the north, but has good holding and excellent southwest protection. We overnight there a lot, particularly in the winter when prevailing winds are from the south. Safely at anchor, we fired up the barbecue and had a relaxing steak dinner.



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2 comments on “Gale warning
  1. Yes, as rough as it was down here, Victoria and Vancouver appear to have been hit harder. My father lives in Victoria and reports losing an old favorite tree from there yard to the wind storm in winds gusting to 50 kts.

    I’m sure landing in those conditions must have been "interesting" :-).

    We’ve had a great weekend in Yukon harbor mostly working on getting more moved in. We’re past the boxes stage but still have cabinets and drawers that need more organization. And we’re still bringing systems on line. Each week it gets better.


  2. Mike Lindskog says:

    Hello James and Jennifer

    I was wondering if you would take the opportunity to take Dirona out and test her in the winds yesterday. I flew a flight into Vancouver (YVR) last night. As I was reviewing the weather earlier in the day for the trip up last evening I began to think about how Dirona would do in those conditions. Your report is as expected, but refreshing to hear none the less. Thanks for the quick post.

    While monitoring the weather for YVR I saw a low of around 29.23 inches in the midday to early afternoon. This was a fairly tightly wound depression. YVR was reporting gusts close to 50 kts and steady state winds of 30 kts out of the southeast most of the day. We arrived at midnight last night to the following conditions reported at YVR at 11:29pm local: wind 160 degrees at 25, gusts to 30 kts. Barometer 29.39 inches. SeaTac ran winds about 2/3’s of YVR all afternoon. We landed on the short cross wind runway last night for the first time in my experience. I’m staying at a hotel near Coal Harbor. On a walk through Stanley Park today there is great evidence to wind damage including a number of trees down. Clearly you choose a good day for your test. :)


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