Routes in the North Pacific

In spite of the great concentration of sailing boats on the west coast of North America, particularly in California, the number of offshore routes in the North Pacific is relatively small. By far the most popular offshore destination is Hawaii; otherwise cruising boats from the US or Canada looking for an offshore challenge have to sail either to the South Pacific or down the coast of Mexico to the Sea of Cortez and beyond to Central America. One cruising destination which is gaining in popularity is Alaska, which is usually reached by Californian boats via Hawaii. In spite of the longer distances involved, a detour via Hawaii has the attraction of better winds, as a direct route from California or the Pacific Northwest would have contrary winds all the way. For the sake of simplicity, the west coast of North America has been divided into two large groups, with routes starting from either California or the Pacific Northwest, the latter including British Columbia.

Because of the paucity of offshore destinations, most cruising is coastal. Inshore passages along the coast of California and beyond are therefore beyond the scope of this book. However, because of the strength of the prevailing winds many people who might prefer to sail offshore are forced to choose the inshore tactic. The one point to remember by those heading north is to keep moving and make the best of calm weather, which rarely lasts long. It is also worth remembering that November has the lighter winds, especially along the coast of Baja California, whereas May, the other month when many boats make their way along this coast, has stronger winds. In conclusion, it is better to use November to move in both directions, and to avoid May if at all possible for the northbound passages.

The islands of Micronesia are yet to be discovered as a major cruising ground and the relatively small number of boats visiting them does not bear comparison with the continuing popularity of the South Pacific. A few of those cruising the latter eventually cross the equator, usually on their way to the Far East. On the whole, however, very few boats are seen cruising the countries of the Far East either. The situation may change in the future, as the number of locally owned boats is steadily increasing.

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