Bruce’s Weather Brief for February 18-19 and Toliva Shoal Race!

Have we had enough rain yet? Apparently not as we are currently sitting at the 6th wettest February ever and there’s a ways to go before the end of the month. All we need is about 2 more inches of rain to be the wettest and that could happen this coming week.

As you can see from the current surface chart there’s not much happening over the Pacific Northwest however California is going to take another major hit this weekend. We will feel some of the residual from that system starting on Saturday afternoon and some moisture will make it up to the Sound. It still won’t bring much wind with it. Unfortunately, the models are pretty much in agreement that it’s going to be light most of the day on Saturday. The problem will be that the wind offshore with be northerly with no gradient over the Sound. As the day goes on, the wind offshore will become more westerly, still light as in 10 knots or less. And then there will be some flow through the Chehalis Gap and into the South Sound. As the wind offshore backs around to the southwest that will bring more of a southerly component to the wind over the south Sound, still probably 10 knots or less.

The good news is that the tide will be with the Toliva Shoal Race fleet and there are plenty of options for the race committee to shorten the course at any number of marks along the way. Besides, the gracious hospitality back in Olympia is not to be missed especially after the race.

Tides for Dana Passage:    


0500      Slack

0712      Flood     1.14 knots

1030      Slack

1342      Ebb          1.96 knots

1800      Slack

2024      Flood     1.25 knots

As usual, getting out of Budd Inlet will be challenging. The key will be to be near the starting line, and not be swept over with the ebb which will probably start early because of all the runoff from this week’s rain. Then find a lane of clear air and aim down the course trying to find the axis of the current while staying in the puff. If it’s 0 gusting to ½ knot don’t let too many people accumulate in the stern which increases the wetted surface area and slows the boat down. You’ll also want to be rigged for reaching with barber haulers and flying the drifter or wind seeker. Trimmers will definitely earn their keep tomorrow.

From Boston Harbor to Itsami Ledge don’t get too close to the south side of Dana Passage. The southerly breeze or what there is of it, will be coming over the land and not touch down on the water until ¼ to ½ way off the beach. Watch the smart people in front of you in the classes that started ahead and track who goes where and how they’re doing. Not always easy but worthwhile if you can make it work.

There will be a lot of water coming out of the Nisqually Flats and that can sometimes create a current that flows to the northwest from Lyle Point to Treble Point on Anderson Island so watch your COG and SOG after Buoy “3” and before your turn to go north to Toliva Shoal. You will also be able to see this current as it will be distinctly brown, muddy water on top of the saltwater of the Sound. Also track which way the eddies are spinning on tide lines to make sure you are on the fast side.

As you can see from the Sunday surface chart another front is headed our way and that will per usual manifest itself as a southeasterly in the northern part of Admiralty Inlet and the eastern end of the Straits gradually working its way back down the Sound by mid Sunday afternoon. If you’re cruising up north this weekend, thinking about being in the Straits, track the wind reports before you head out as it could be cranking on Sunday.

By next Tuesday we will have a lot more rain as two frontal systems line up and take aim at us. Could also get a bit breezy. Looking at the 500MB Charts you can see why we’re going to be watching that 950 MB low in mid-Pacific. That is a significant storm that could impact our region by next weekend.

Have a great weekend and be safe out there.


Bruce has raced and cruised the Pacific Northwest his entire life. He earned a Bachelor's of Science from the University of Washington in Biological Oceanography and learned meteorology "to keep from getting kicked around on the race course." Bruce spent nearly two decades as Associate Publisher for Northwest Yachting Magazine, retiring in mid-2015, and was the chairman of the board of trustees for the Northwest Marine Trade Association in 2014. (photo of Bruce driving Playstation is a bit dated, but cool)

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