Crossing Rouge River Bar in Oregon

A conversation among Whalers
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Crossing Rouge River Bar in Oregon

Postby steelhead55 » Tue Nov 24, 2020 1:45 pm

This is a scary story--for me.


In 2020 I had a frightening experience crossing the Rogue River Bar in Oregon. The bar was restricted to boats 16-feet-and-larger at the time of the crossing. I was in my 1979 Revenge V-22 powered by a Johnson 225-HP four-stroke-power-cycle engine. I was assessing [the conditions] and getting ready to cross the bar when a five-foot high wave formed about 15-feet in front of the boat.

The wave was perfectly formed and was beginning to break from starboard to port. I was still inside the Jetty, but I had no time to backup or maneuver. My reaction was to gun the engine and head the boat into the wave. This brought my boat to almost completely vertical. In fact my passengers, who were sitting [facing aft] stated that three-quarter of the outboard engine was submerged. The REVENGE V-22 bow lifted so quickly--I had never experienced anything even close to this.

The boat jumped and landed hard. I was scared, but I quickly re-established control and navigated [across] the bar.

I have actually crossed this bar probably a hundred times, so I was familiar with it, but this crossing was the first time in 2020, and the bar had not been dredged for two years.

Was heading straight into the breaking wave and increasing throttle the right thing?

Should I have let the wave hit the bow?

Should I have done something else?

[An additional topic regarding how water enters the oil sump has been deleted from the thread. Please start a second thread for the topic.--Moderator]

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Re: Crossing Rouge River Bar in Oregon; Water In Oil

Postby jimh » Tue Nov 24, 2020 3:33 pm

I cannot offer an any advice based on personal experience when heading directly into a five-foot breaking wave and accelerating to met it.

About the worse situation my REVENGE 20 was in was encountering a series of waves from a very big boat--700-footer--going very fast and creating a big wave. We took the wave more or less head on, but the boat speed at the time was not being accelerated. We just maintained enough speed to have steering. We made it up and over the first two waves in the wake, but the third wave came right over the bow, rolled up the foredeck, rolled up the windshield, and spilled onto the Flying Top. The boat did not launch off the top of the wave at all.

We had a similar situation in the REVENGE 22 W-D boat, again with a boat wake. This time from a 80-footer across our bow on plane. Again, we ended up with water coming over the bow, onto the foredeck, up the windshield, and onto the Flying Top. But there was no damage, no launching off the wave. And again, it was the second or third wave that did it. The boat was in the trough between crests and was still heading downward when the next wave--very closely spaced--hit the bow.

I don't think accelerating up the face of a large wave and launching off the top of the wave is the best approach. Trying to ease over the top of the wave seems more prudent.

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Phil T
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Re: A Scary Story (for me at least)

Postby Phil T » Tue Nov 24, 2020 3:34 pm

In my heavy seas experience, it is trusting your instincts and judgement.

I have filled one of my boats with 2 feet of water on two separate occasions due stuffing the bow or breaking waves. I have broken hardware, ripped the console and rps's out of the floor and avoided capsizing by the skin of my teeth all due to rough seas.

In many cases accelerating into a large wave that have started to crest is appropriate to avoid the wave flipping the bow up and over or swamping the boat. Landing is frequently hard and occasionally painful.

The fact that you did not capsize or stuff the bow, remained upright and under power is the sign of success.

The USCG picked 13th District (Oregon/Washington coast) for heavy weather MLB Coxswain training given its large sea conditions at the entrance of the many river bars.
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1992 Outrage 17, 1992 Evinrude 115

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Re: Crossing Rouge River Bar in Oregon

Postby jimh » Tue Nov 24, 2020 3:43 pm

There is a short recording of a Boston Whaler--perhaps an OUTRAGE 22--that is caught in some big surf and has to take on some big waves.

You can see the Boston Whaler portion at

The helmsman has no trouble but the guy in the bow gets quite a ride.

Here is a 170 MONTAUK handling some big waves at an inlet:

At one wave set the boat disappears from view, so I would expect that would be indicative of a five-foot wave.

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Re: Crossing Rouge River Bar in Oregon

Postby biggiefl » Wed Nov 25, 2020 1:15 pm

Growing up on the Barnegat Inlet in NJ which is very rough and one of the worst in the states, [the best method for handling large waves in the inlet] depends on the situation. If the wave looks like it is starting to crest, that is usually the most dangerous point as there can be a lot of force behind it. Or the wave will just break with little whitewash.

Imagine a wave on a beach. Some when they crest there is so much force that it can flip you over backwards. The worst thing is to turn and get broadsided--that is not going to end well.

Other waves just come in as whitewash and are more turbulent than powerful. Whitewash is always good to be under some power or throttle into as they again are turbulent and you need to steer. If you go slow a larger wave can do what happened to Jim and the wave breaks on the bow and washes up the windshield and into the boat. This can be wet but not usually dangerous in a Boston Whaler.

I have done all of them except flip: I lost the on-deck fuel tanks out the back and a few anchors but never flipped. We used to surf in the ocean with my 13-footer just like you would a surfboard, except you didn't have to paddle back out. That was crazy but what a rush.

Engine cowlings are pretty water tight. If you got any water in your oil it would be milky. It would have to come in through the dipstick and that would take some pressure.
On my 24th Whaler. Currently in the stable: 86 18' Outrage, 81 13' Sport(original owner), 87 11' Sport, 69 Squall(for sale cheap).

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Re: Crossing Rouge River Bar in Oregon

Postby jimh » Wed Nov 25, 2020 1:44 pm

Another consideration about how a Boston Whaler boat will behave in waves is the hull design of the particular boat.

I have driven an old 21 OUTRAGE boat, and that round-bottom hull rides like a surfboard in a following sea. You can surf down the wave fronts. The 21 OUTRAGE is a rough ride into head seas.

I think the classic OUTRAGE V-hull is probably the best all-round handling. Going with the wind and down sea, it tracks beautifully and will not bow steer. I have never buried the bow in open water waves--only with those really big boat wake waves that were very close spaced. It does not exactly slice through head seas, but it does a decent job of going upwind in seas.

The Van Lancker era hulls like a 23 WALKAROUND have a finer entry at the bow, and when going down sea in big waves they will tend to suddenly bow steer and veer off to one side. I have not tried going upwind in those hulls. I would expect they might show some advantage over other models whose bow entry is not as sharp.

As NICK comments, the last thing you want to do with a large wave coming is to be turned sideways and have the wave front hit the boat at a 90-degree angle to the keel.

In Sumer 2019 we tried to get out on Lake Michigan from Leland on a windy day. It was quite rough. We were getting offshore at just enough speed to maintain steering. On that particular day there was only one other boat out--a 36-foot express that was a commercial charter fishing boat. I had my daughter aboard, and she is not a regular boater. She was getting a bit ill from the motion on the boat. I saw the charter captain reel in and head back to the harbor. Apparenty it was too rough for his customers. I decided we would turn back to the harbor, too. I had to wait minute or two for a nice stretch of several small waves before I made the 180-degree turn. I did not want to risk turning around in a set of three or four big waves.