Downwind run of Howe Sound?

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by rider, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. rider

    rider Paddler

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    A couple times now,in winter, I've driven past Howe Sound towards Squamish/Whistler and there was a pretty potent wind funneling down the sound. I am assuming it's a catabatic from the mountains that hits water in Squamish and waves look strongest in the funnel between Anvil and the mainland.
    So, a 3 pronged question.......
    #1 How predictable is this wind? It appears the winter winds run opposite of summer winds, since Howe Sound Downwind race run in summer is ran towards squamish.
    #2 if anybody has done this,is it as fun as it looks? ( I fully realize the water would be very cold,so a decent roll is a must...)
    #3 Would anybody wanna do it? I figure shuttling with 2 cars is by far the best option, say Britannia beach to Lions bay,or so?
     
  2. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Rider, it's not predictable like the summer inflow winds are, which happen on a daily basis in the afternoon. These winter winds are arctic outflows caused by cold air from the interior spilling over the coast mountains like water overflowing a dam. You need cold, dry air being pushed from the interior to the coast. Marine weather will reliably give you a day's notice of such an event. I would watch the Pam Rocks weather station.

    An interesting side note: my stepfather was an experienced mariner who made his living off the sea both on this coast and in the Atlantic/North Sea. In all those years, he said the strongest wind he ever encountered (as measured on his shipboard anenometer) was in Collingwood Channel on the west side of Bowen.

    Regards,
    Andrew
     
  3. Jon Wescott

    Jon Wescott Paddler

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    Hi Ryder,

    I was just doing a search for Anvil Island and came across this post from over a year ago.

    Having lived in Lions Bay for over a year now, I would say the winds you described, north to south, during the winter are a common occurrence and they've been happening regularly late into this spring. They begin building around midnight (basing this on readings from Pam Rock) and often peak in the morning - 7 or 8, sometimes later, sometimes earlier. What I've found interesting is exactly what you describe: substantial conditions between Anvil and the mainland. This is reflected in frequent readings at Pam Rock of 20+ knot winds. The interesting part, to me, is that on this southern side of things, the conditions are often much tamer and I say this because I'll be seeing readings of 20 knot winds at Pam Rocks while I'm looking out my window and seeing minor waves and no whitecaps, i.e. it doesn't look anything like what it looks like in between Anvil and the highway. I often drive to Squamish, too, and this observation is confirmed, at least in my mind.

    I've paddled, too, when readings at Pam Rocks ranged between 18-20 knots and literally only felt some modest swell and no wind almost all the way to the south end of Bowyer. The waves were hitting Bowyer's north shore causing some funkiness there, but there still wasn't any wind. On this particular morning, I crossed over to Bowen (paddling toward Finisterre Island before deflecting off to Bowen's eastern side as I made my way to Snug Cove) and that's when I felt the wind. The last stretch along Bowen was when the wind actually kicked in and I cruised to Snug Cove in about 10 minutes.

    I've spent a number of mornings out and about in front of Lions Bay, experienced no wind and just remnants of larger waves, and returned home to find the readings at Pam Rock were 15 or more knots during the time I was out.

    I do want to check this out some more, but I like imagining that the wind is behaving like a river, it's constricted by Anvil, so it picks up speed. My "guess" is that on this particular morning it continued straight until it whacked into Gambier's steep southeastern shoreline, then deflected off again toward Bowen and out from there.

    I'd love to do a downwind paddle either from Britannia Beach or Porteau Cove and end up in Lions Bay, though my experience tells me there will be just some wave action and no wind once past the "cove" where Deeks Creek comes in (unless one is paddling out around Pam Rocks.) I tend to stick closer to shorelines unless making a crossing, but I'd be venture forth w/another competent paddler about.
     
  4. drahcir

    drahcir Paddler

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    A bit off topic - I heard or read that "Squamish" translates to what we call a catabatic wind. Anyone know for sure? It seems to fit the area.
     
  5. BigandSmall

    BigandSmall Paddler

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    I was always told Squamish translates to "Mother wind" by the locals (as in First Nations locals). I was also told the shape of the mountains at the headwaters is what makes the great winds for windsurfing at the spit. This also made for really crappy boating around Squamish. We used to take our boats to Porteau rather than fight the chop launching from Squamish. Hot summer days had the calmest water but would often blow up in the afternoon quite quickly.

    I grew up in Squamish and spent 12 years crossing Howe sound regularly to work at Woodfibre and I would agree with AM that it's not very predictable in winter. If you launch from Brittania though you skip the nasty stretch.
     
  6. Jon Wescott

    Jon Wescott Paddler

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    I would say the daytime winds in the winter are mixed, but the northern outflow at-night-into-morning are common. Not every single night, but quite regularly as in several times/week. Howe Sound south of Anvil/Pam Rock seems to behave quite differently than from Anvil northward. I watched the gauge readings from Pam Rock throughout the winter and stayed on the North Shore the entire winter - that's what I'm basing my estimations on.
     
  7. BigandSmall

    BigandSmall Paddler

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    Sorry Jon, I didn't mean to be argumentative. I answered that first thing in the morning and was guilty of not fully reading the thread before posting. That is some good info you have there. In future I will ensure to get a cup of coffee in before hitting the reply button. My experience with the weather on Howe Sound is only that stretch on the North end.

    Interesting Side note: My wife and I were talking about living in Squamish after having lived on the island for a few years and the difference. You wouldn't know it is a town on the ocean. The water front up until recently is mostly industrial, and you can just about always count on the wind to be howling and the water too cold for swimming. Some people took advantage of it but it wasn't representative of the population. Where as people on the island seem to embrace living by the ocean. Of course it's easier without the wind and the warmer water.
     
  8. Jon Wescott

    Jon Wescott Paddler

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    I'm always up for a good discussion and your 12 years of commuting are important.

    I first visited Vancouver Island 5 years ago to attend my sister-in-law's wedding in Victoria. It was the typical "no time to do cool stuff" wedding experience.

    But my 2nd trip to the island was this past weekend. Granted, it was ultimately to Tofino - a new tourist destination - but I appreciate the more off-the-beaten track places and Ucluelet reminded me of a coastal town where I once lived, only Ukee is thriving, relatively speaking. I'm a sucker for working waterfronts. And though I was only able to get out paddling for short chunks of time, it's very dynamic there. If I were on my own, I could easily see living somewhere on the island.

    Our family loves Squamish and we were just up there this afternoon/evening. Tons of outside stuff to do there.
     
  9. lilydipper

    lilydipper Paddler

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    I've done the Howe Sound Down Wind race a couple of times and on both occasions it looked like we were going to get skunked, but the inflow winds kicked in at 12:30 ish. My understanding is that inflows work best when there is a big temperature gradient between night (cool) and day (hot). During the peak of summer when its hot day and night, the winds are not as big. The waves were not huge and fun to ride. On one occasion, because of the translucent green colour of the glacial water, the sunlight and probably the sunscreen in my eyes, it was very difficult to discern the wave troughs from the peaks. Once you get past Watts Point, my experience has been that the winds got a bit squirrly and the current from the Squamish river interacted with the waves creating some interesting waves and back eddies. There is a big back eddy on the west side of Squamish harbour as the River Current travels diagonally across the harbour. There is a good aerial photo in a geography book called "Vancouver, City on the Edge" which clearly shows the river plume,

    With the huge wall of The Chief overshadowing the harbour, distance is distorted and the end of the harbour seems much closer than it really is. This makes for Salt in the Wounds at the end of a tiring race.

    In the morning (7 AM-ish) during the summer you can see the reversal of the inflow winds as the air cools. Often you can see heavily textured water between Whitecliffe and Passage Island.

    Winter "Artic Outflows" are nasty nasty nasty. We get them in Deep Cove / Indian Arm and they can last for several days as cold air from the interior spills out of all the coastal inlets. Read "Deep Trouble" by Matt Broze and there is a good account of some paddlers who got into trouble with out flow wind off of Whitecliffe Park some years ago.
     
  10. Jon Wescott

    Jon Wescott Paddler

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    Yes, I've read Matt Boze's book. I was just getting into sea kayaking, read it, and then for some reason, my wife read it. I was then given very wide latitude w/the joint bank account to purchase "whatever safety equipment I needed." This was before kids and is probably the only time a gear purchase hasn't been "questioned" (and that's putting it nicely) ; )

    Summer conditions are much different than winter conditions. The northerly outflows definitely let up during the days here. At least they did last winter.

    It's all good, though, to make sense of one little section of BC's coast. I imagine the west side of Bowen is yet another animal. I look out onto it from our home and it is often quite different in appearance.
     
  11. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Man, does that sound familiar! :D
     
  12. lilydipper

    lilydipper Paddler

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    Does a Werner, carbon fiber, foam core, bent shaft Kalliste qualify as safety gear?
     
  13. Jon Wescott

    Jon Wescott Paddler

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    The Ikelos purchase generated considerable discussion in our household. At least the next time we paddle together, she can use my old Cyprus - that will make her happier!

    By the way, I let the folks in yesterday's Rec 1 try out all 3 of my Werner paddles and the bent-shaft feature received the highest appreciation.