Oregon Coast Boating

Get Out on the Big Water

With nearly 400 miles of seacoast and hundreds of lakes and rivers, the Pacific coast of Oregon is a top draw for boating enthusiasts. Whether for fishing, sailing, whale watching, touring, canoeing and kayaking or enjoying other watersports, the statistics show that on the Oregon coast boating is a popular activity, and for a larger number of boaters, the open sea is their preferred body of water.

According to the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB), a state agency that oversees Oregon boating requirements activity including registrations, there are 200,000 registered motor and sailboats in Oregon and an estimated 500,000 canoes, rafts, kayaks and drift boats. And this number doesn't include the thousands of visitors that travel to Oregon each year from across the globe to enjoy boating on the coast either with their own vessels or through an Oregon boat rental or charter service.

Although Oregon coast lakes and rivers have much to offer boating enthusiasts, it is the high sea adventure that appeals to many locals and visitors alike. This is where you will find big waves, deep sea fishing, whale watching, off shore islands, and the entire Oregon coast spread out before you waiting to be explored. But boating in Oregon on the open sea requires special considerations, especially in the coastal areas where rocks, tides, currents and other watercraft add to the equation.

In the Seas Off the Oregon Coast, Bigger Is Better

Although ocean conditions, weather, number of passengers and operator experience all help to determine what size boat is needed when traveling in Oregon coast waters, the general recommendation is that a bigger boat is better than a smaller boat. In addition, high sides and transoms are preferred as are closed bows and "V" hulls. A well-tuned motor is critical, and a smaller backup motor is highly recommended.

Oregon Boating Safety - Don't Leave Home Without It

Along with an adequate boat, there are a few other items that are considered essentials for Oregon coast boating.

- Enough life jackets for all passengers
- Fresh flares
- Marine VHF radio (cell phone coverage is not dependable and searchers can't locate on their signal.)
- Charts or information on the waters where you plan to boat
- Enough gas to make it to your destination and back with plenty left to spare
- A first aid kit and emergency food and water

In addition, GPS systems have become a useful tool for finding your way to safe port in fog or stormy weather. Boaters are strongly encouraged to file a float plan with a relative or friend before heading out on the water so that someone has destination information and expected return time to ensure your Oregon boating safety.

Respect the Bar

The areas where a shallow river entrance meets the Pacific are also known as "the bar." These areas can be dangerous to boaters during tide changes. In general, boats are more likely to capsize when crossing the bar from the ocean because the seas are on the stern and the operator may have less control over the vessel. Do not allow the waves to catch your boat on the side. This condition is called broaching, and can easily result in capsizing.

One of the greatest risks a boater can encounter is getting caught in the bar when a swift ebb (outgoing) current is meeting incoming westerly waves. Be aware of the location and status of rough bar advisory signs. These signs are 6' x 6' white, diamond shaped daymarks, with the words "ROUGH BAR" in black letters. Two alternating amber lights on the signs are activated when observed seas on the bar exceed four feet in height and are considered dangerous.

Storm signals are displayed at U.S. Coast Guard stations, marinas, public piers, and other locations along the Oregon coast. These warning signals predict potentially dangerous winds and seas when boating in Oregon.

Many river entrances contain sands, shoals, spits, or floats, on which waves build to the point where they become extremely dangerous to small boats. Visit the OSMB website for Oregon boating requirements and for links to charts and danger areas for each water entrance as well as a host of other information about Oregon coast boating. Charts of the Pacific coast are available from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Ocean Service, which also has begun putting the most up-to-date versions of its charts on-line here.

Hire An Expert

Of course if you'd prefer to sit back and relax and leave the navigating and other responsibilities to an experienced captain when boating in Oregon, there are numerous charter and guide services along the Oregon coast. These charters are available for a variety of activities from sunset cruises to ecotours to extended excursions. The Oregon Coast Visitors Association website provides information on Oregon boat rental, charter and guide companies.

No matter how you choose to get out on the big water, Oregon coast boating is likely to be an experience you will remember and cherish for many years.

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