Weather Conditions when crossing the straight

Discussion in 'Saltwater Fishing Forum' started by samba123, Apr 30, 2020.

  1. samba123

    samba123 New Member

    Hello fellas, I am new to the salt but have a number of years around boats and boating in freshwater lakes. I want to make several crossing from Vancouver over to the Gulf Islands in the next few months. In the limited time and experience that I have being on the salt around Vancouver Harbor, I find it difficult to predict how the winds and waves will be for the day from reading the environment Canada marine weather forecasts. The problem is I live 45-55 mins away from the nearest saltwater launches and so it makes it tough to trailer the boat all the way there to be disappointed with rough/bad weather conditions. This is my usual routine. The day before I check the marine weather forecast at 4pm, 10pm and also at 4am the following day. I combine that info with what I can get from the forecast. There have been days where I am find the straight to be horrible when the forecast calls for 5-10 knot winds or even light winds... Then there are days where the forecast is 15 knot winds but I hear folks here posting reports stating it's flat calm water over at the hump or out in the exposed areas. For those that are experienced at working these forecast models, can I ask you what should I look for in terms of forecast details and wind direction for crossing the straight?

    Or is the marine forecast only as good as 50% and that's what we have to work with? I wish I lived close enough to the water where I could drive 5 mins down to the water's edge to look at conditions or look out my window...perhaps that'll be the retirement dream for some day in the future.
  2. Original

    Original Well-Known Member

    I would add “big wave dave” and use the live web cams to actually see what’s going on. Oh and also get a bigger boat or just take the ferry, jk.
    Derby likes this.
  3. Dogbreath

    Dogbreath Well-Known Member

    Too many variables- just be flexible and never be brave it can be downright weird out in the middle-rafts of driftwood are something else to watch for.

  4. Cuba Libre

    Cuba Libre Well-Known Member

    In my experience you are right-- 50% of the time the wind is NOT what is forecast. Maybe higher--- maybe lower. What size and type of boat do you have ? I got so POed once that I called the CG Radio in Victoria....What I got was "Sorry-- but we are doing the best we can with the equipment we have. " Dogbreath's advice to Never be brave.. is right on the mark.
    baddogg likes this.
  5. ab1752

    ab1752 Well-Known Member

    What rig are you going to be crossing in? I have standardized on the live readings off the halibut bank bouy and I watch to see what the clouds are doing off mt arrowhead if I'm up the straits. For the bank, anything more than 1m and 2 seconds, pass. Tides matter big time too bit more for transiting north to south, particularly if you're tight to the east side.

    I always try and stay as far out in the middle so if I was leaving nanaimo to come to Vancouver, I head directly out to see then hook right towards Vancouver harbor to avoid the potential outflow from the north arm.

    Watch tides, wind direction/ speed, wave height and duration. I'm in a 26' deep vee and I have had more than a few white knuckle runs. Better now...and hell ya, no need to be a hero, at least you wreck the boat, at worst loss of life.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2020
    Fishboy89 likes this.
  6. Are you looking at the bouy reports and the light station reports? These will give you the most current conditions, (within the hour).
  7. Brando

    Brando Active Member

    I like to watch the barometer reading on the live report in the 24hours history it’s not perfect science but if trending up and the report is decent I find the weather to be best (wind wise) don’t underestimate the tide just because it’s rough does not mean it’s only wind related. Check all reports and a few different stations entrance and halibut bank are good ones to watch for the cross. A nasty outflow from the sound can be a big factor as well.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2020
  8. spring time

    spring time Well-Known Member

    More info would be great boat size and where you are going. If going out the south arm watch for a nw wind and a falling tide it can get pretty wicked at the sand heads but a se will be some what calm.
  9. wildwest

    wildwest Active Member

    Just look at the forecast for the next day and if seems ok just launch before sunup. Don't plan on returning midday because the wind almost always comes up.Bring a sleeping bag just incase so that you can do an over-nighter somewhere if needed.Used to run over to Porlier Pass in May from Vancouver wide-open in my 17 Whaler doing 50mph ….always got a windburn!
  10. dmurph

    dmurph Well-Known Member

    All good solid info, I always checked, environment Canada marine forecasts, big wave Dave and windyty and kinda made my own average. You wanna check the previous days wind conditions and the next few. I then watch the live weather conditions at pt Atkinson, halibut bank, sand heads and entrance island. Most of all be prepared to bad weather, so often the forecast is off. If it was really windy the previous day the ocean can stay rough for a bit, and if the forecast is for wind in the next couple days take caution as it can roll in quicker. I’ve often left in fairy rough conditions on the gamble of a good forecast. Again I think you need to be prepared to be boating in some rough seas if your crossing the straight as eventually your gonna get caught even with good forecast. Biggest concern this time of year is all the log debris in the murky waters. Have lots of fuel in case in gets rough, you can burn slot of extra fuel, or may have to take alternate longer route to deal with sea conditions. That being said it can be done when rough, just be ready and have the hull and power for it
  11. wildwest

    wildwest Active Member

    I want to tell a little story that just came to mind. A lake fisherman wanted to go salmon fishing so we headed out very early one morning to cross over to Porlier from was a nice fast flat-water trip over there. Then around 7pm the wind really shot up just when we were ready to return back. I told him that no f***** way are we going to cross under those 6 foot breaking waves. Well..... he got all upset because his wife wanted him home right away. She was chewing him out on the phone and demanded he come home. Stayed at a B-Breakfast place for the night. Needless to say I never took that pussy- wiped idiot out again.
    Original, Sir Reel, Jon and 4 others like this.
  12. wildwest

    wildwest Active Member

    PS;If you want to commit to cross any large piece of water it's very important to pick your crew. I don't fish with greenhorns anymore.. too much hassle.
    Dogbreath and Aces like this.
  13. Mike1266

    Mike1266 Member

    I've done a few crossings myself. My advice would be to check your go-to weather websites. Then if you go and see similar conditions then you're good. I would always be prepared to stay a night or two in case the weather picks up. Watch for huge logs on the surface, I've seen some huge ones and wouldn't want anyone to find out what happens when you run over one..
  14. pescador

    pescador Well-Known Member,-123.304,10,1

    This is real time reporting. It’s very accurate. I’m close to,UBC and I can usually get a feel for wind in the Straight at my house , but this link confirms it. Load it on your phone. Windfinder is also good.
  15. sasqman

    sasqman Crew Member

  16. Sir Reel

    Sir Reel Well-Known Member

    I agree with other posters in that you have to look at multiple weather sources. I look at forecasts, live reports, and web cams. You can also have 3 or 4 very different conditions as you cross. Start calm end rough. Start rough end calm etc.
    Tide and current can have a big effect on waves as well. Once you do it a few times you will find your comfort zone. Mine is max 20 Knots wind. I can cross but it is going to be slower and rougher. Previous smaller boat was about 15 knots.
    Accidents happen when you have to get across. If its not good wait till later in the day or go tomorrow if the forecast is better. Wildwest above did the right thing. Both spending the night to wait for better conditions and getting rid of his buddy for not understanding the situation.
    This time of year there can be huge debris fields from winter run off so you need to be careful of that. Going into the wind in a chop the debris and pots are hard to see.

    These are a couple of sites I use. The BWD island map shows all the current wind direction and strength. Just click on the arrow and it shows wind speed. If you open up that reporting station it shows the trend line. So if the wind is steadily building don't go. But if it is steadily dropping maybe you can go in a few hours. If there has been a really big wind you can still have big waves even though the wind has dropped.
    Today looks like a good day to go across. :)

    BWD 2.PNG
  17. Fisherman Rob

    Fisherman Rob Well-Known Member

    1. Don't attempt if Environment Canada has forecast anything other than "winds light".
    2. Cross early in the morning, generally winds pick up in the afternoon.
    3. Have a plan B to stay the night if the winds are 15-20 or more. Don't attempt a crossing. Straight of Georgia has a huge fetch all the way from Texada. It doesn't take much wind to get 6' waves, particularly when it's wind against tide.
    4. Tide rip at Porlier Pass creates pretty big standing waves! So time the winds and tides.
    4. Carry an extra fuel tank. I've camped at Dionisio and have seen a few (new?) boaters make the trip across and underestimate their fuel burn. Telegraph Harbour Marina is the closest fuel once through Porlier Pass.
    Sir Reel likes this.
  18. Sir Reel

    Sir Reel Well-Known Member

    Yes on the extra fuel. If it’s rough and you can’t go your normal cruising speed you will burn way more fuel.
  19. fishin_magician

    fishin_magician Well-Known Member

    If it’s more than 15 knots any direction, put it this way—stay home. If you have a mechanical problem mid Strait there aren’t many who are going to save your ass. It doesn’t matter if you’re sledding in a 14’ or 28’. It’s C&R right now anyways and the fishing is just as good over here right now in terms of activity and that’s a current report to this minute.

    Yes to lots of fuel. Yes to be prepared to stay overnight. I know Charters and private individuals who have float planed home for a couple of Days and went back 2-3 days later to bring the boat home.

    I’ve seen conditions go from 10-20 knots to 15-25 knots in no time and gale warning after it happened in an hour.

    I’ve seen Big Wave Dave be completely off.

    Rule number 1: Never drive over a fishing hole to go to a fishing hole if you know there are fish in the first hole.
    sasqman likes this.
  20. cracked_ribs

    cracked_ribs Well-Known Member

    I used to cross a LOT in my old Double Eagle 20 footer.

    I have crossed in bad conditions and don't reccomend it - the last bad time it had been three days of 25kt+ and they shut down the ferries while I was in the river heading out and it was really, really nasty out there. Huge sweeping spray off the whitecaps and Sand Heads was incredibly rough, visibility was terrible and it took forever to get across. Totally dark by the time I got to Porlier. Gusting to 40kt, was really gnarly out there. I swore I would never cross in over 25kt winds again, and I never have. I never felt unsafe but it was the limit of what I could manage in that boat, I think.

    But that does illustrate something: you can actually cross in much worse conditions than you'd want to, ideally. I used to go at least once a month, and usually twice a month from May to October. I would time it like this: if I'm off work, I'm going. Consequently I crossed plenty of times in 20 knot winds. I had one time, once, when I waited 12 hours for things to die down a bit. Other than that I just went, time after time after time. Wind over tide, you bet. I tried to avoid big outgoing tides leaving the river, but it didn't always work out.

    My opinion is that the only really miserable spot is Sand Heads, usually. Out in the middle you see equally large waves but they're more predictable. I never worried about the middle of the strait. I did worry about the mouth of the river.

    Anyway depending on the boat and the route, I would say 15 knots or less and it's nothing to worry about. But here are the factors I used to think about:

    wind speed - 15 and under and you're laughing (in my boat, not sure what you're in)

    wind direction - due west is my favourite; you take it on the nose but it's really predictable and that part of your boat takes waves, by design. NW for a few days beforehand usually means big, stable wave patterns coming down the strait, even if it's calm when you go. SE is annoying as bounces off the breakwater at Sand Heads and goes everywhere and it's a big sloppy mess. Also usually means the weather is going to get generally worse.

    tides - I don't like leaving the Fraser on a big outgoing tide, it really churns up the mouth. If you're not leaving via Sand Heads it's not such a big deal.

    mornings are definitely better than afternoons

    Basically, if I were you, I'd plan to leave early, keep an eye on the forecast and check windspeed early in the morning, and if it's below 15, everything else will probably be pretty manageable. If it's under 10 I would hot-foot it out there because crossing in that kind of weather is really nice.

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