Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shooting the Rapids and Octopus Islands

Distance traveled:  30.5 miles

Travel time: 4 hrs, 40 mins

We rose before sunrise, knowing we needed to leave Blind Channel early. Today was the day we’d find out whether we’d been adequate students in our training on how to travel the tidal rapids. We’d pored over the charts, reviewed the schedules for both tides and currents, done the calculations on when “slack” would occur at each of the 3 successive tidal rapids, Dent, Gillard and Yuculta, and said our goodbyes, headed for a 9:47am slack, 15 miles away. These rapids run to 15 knots if you hit them at the worst possible time, and the full moon is only 2 days away, so spring tides are running. We were aiming for a low slack, not as favorable as a high slack, but still good if done correctly.


It was another sunny, flat water day, and we traveled slowly with the still ebbing tide running a couple knots against us for the next 15 miles. We wondered if we’d timed our departure early enough to get there on the slack.


It’s all trees, mountains, rocks and water in this territory between The Broughton Islands and Desolation Sound, only a little development, very occasionally.


And suddenly, there’s THIS!  We have no idea what it is, but it reminds us of a lodge-style ski resort at Whistler Mountain. It doesn’t show on the charts, isn’t mentioned in any of our cruising guides, and peering at it through binoculars doesn’t reveal a name. There’s one helicopter. No one we’ve talked to knows what it is either. We suspect if you have to ask, you can’t afford it, so don’t need to know?


We arrived at Dent Rapids on schedule. We didn’t transit these same tidal rapids in 2009 when we traveled to Ketchikan as guests aboard “Gold Rush” with Greg and Terry, but the experience was similar, with roiling water full of whirlpools and eddies, turbulence that tried hard to take control of the boat and spin it, and we remember Greg literally sweating while fighting the wheel going through one such rapid. We had the same experience. It wasn’t as difficult as our “worst fears” imagined it might be, but we did think if this is what it’s like at “slack tide”, we can’t imagine what it would be like any other time. And we’ll hope never to find out. We’ve read stories of people who went through when they’d missed slack or didn’t know to pay attention to it, and none of them are good.


With transiting the 3 rapids and Hole in the Wall happily in our rearview mirror, we proceeded into the tiny, shallow channel that leads into the Octopus Islands. We’d been here once before, also with Greg and Terry, and knew that their 60-foot boat made it safely through, so 40-foot “Next To Me” would too. Following Greg’s example, we posted a bow-watch peering for rocks beneath the surface, and traveled slowly. It was beautiful.


Shortly after, we dropped anchor in a cove off Waiatt Bay in 17 feet of water, knowing it would rise to 27 feet at high tide, and happily putting out 5:1 scope. We like shallow water anchoring! The holding here is reportedly very good.


Mid-afternoon we dropped the dinghy and went exploring.


Late in the day, we connected on the VHF radio with Aaron and Julie on “Eight Bells” who’d just come through the afternoon slack at Hole in the Wall, boating friends from back home. They’re on a 3-week vacation up here, and we’d both communicated our plans in hopes of seeing each other. Soon after, they came gliding through the narrow channel into the Octopus Islands and dropped anchor 100 feet from us.


Aaron and Julie invited us to dinner on Eight Bells, and we brought our chart of Desolation Sound so they could mark their favorite spots, as they’ve been there many times and we’re headed there next. Eight Bells is a gorgeous 34’ CHB which they worked on themselves for 3 years to bring her to pristine condition. They know how to do almost everything (Julie is the one who taught Cathryn how to change the oil in the injectors) and are knowledgeable boaters too. Onboard power management was a hot topic of discussion, as they’ve already done some of the things we plan to do on Next To Me, including replacing the anchor light and others with LEDs to reduce our power consumption at anchor. Julie is a fabulous cook, so dinner was delicious, and it was great fun to see them again. They spent 3 weeks in France earlier this summer, including canal boating in the Loire valley for 10 days.


1 comment:

tCL said...

I can't resist a mystery: