Having an understanding of tidal exchange is the key to crossing any ocean bar. Probably the best time to cross is either on high slack or low slack, or an hour or two each side of it. However this may not be always available to you as a fisherman, so be of the rule of 12, a formula used to calculate the amount of flow of a river at a bar crossing. For each hour after the tide change the flow will be ½ of what it currently is. For example , the first hour it will be 1/12, the second hour it will be 2/12, the third hour it will be 3/12, the fourth hour it remains 3/12, the fifth hour it will be 2/12, the sixth hour it will be back to 1/12 again.
Using this information you can see that the maximum flow will be the middle two hours of an exchange. This equates to the bar being the roughest at that time. Wind conditions on any tide will effect these times. All else taken into consideration, the bar usually tends not to be as rough on the incoming tide. The tide exchange will also govern how rough the bar is going to be. The low tides will have one real low tide each day and the low tide will be somewhat higher.
Look at the tide book and compare the difference between two tides closest to the time you intend to cross. If any roughness is to be encountered, you will be able to see it better from the inside looking out, as you can see the white water coming off the tops of the waves.
Coming back in however, you are looking at the back of these waves and cannot see if there is any white water coming off the tops.
Therefore the water looks calmer when you are outside the bar looking in. Upon your return the Coast Guard on some bar crossings requires to notify them on Channel 16 on your VHF radio.
There will be situations similar to those you encountered heading out, with the exception that you’ll be writing waves in, instead of heading into them. The situation can also be different if there is a tide and when involved. If that’s the case you’ll have to quarter of the waves. You can be writing the back to waves like a surfboarder but on the backside. It will run out from under you than the next one will have you surfboarding, many times at an angle. You will then have to straighten the boat so that when you’re being pushed into the trough of the next wave so you are going straight with the wave. You do not one of the in the bottom of the trough at an angle. Too many people get themselves in trouble because they assume the boat will straighten it self. Wrong! You’ll need the power down somewhat. With normal wave conditions you will be tipped to starboard side. Your response should be the sharply steer into the starboard under mostly full power, so your Stern is at a 90 degree angle with the oncoming wave. As soon as it passes under you, straighten out and get back on your heading again.
Some boaters will get on the backside and have enough power to stay there and ride it all away across. However you should be aware that if something goes wrong it will happen very fast as these waves are usually doing in excess of 30 mph. The one thing that will get you into more trouble than any other thing is speed. This is not a boat race, hold your speed down if it is rough, and then cut the throttle as you ride over the crest so you don’t slam the boat into the trough of the backside of the crest.
West Coast Bar Reports:
Quillayute River 360-374-6993
Gray’s Harbor/Westport 360-268-0622
Columbia River/Astoria: 360-642-3565
Nehalen River: 503-322-3234
Tillamook Bay: 503-322-3234
Depoe Bay: 541-765-2122
Yaquina Bay: 541-265-5511
Siuslaw River/Florence: 541-902-7792
Coos Bay: 541-888-3102
Coquille River/Brandon: 541-347-2038
Rogue River/Gold Beach: 541-247-7219
Humboldt Bay: 707-443-2212
Noyo River: 707-964-6611
Goldengate/San Francisco: 415-331-8247