Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 11 - Traversing the Rapids

Sunday, July 18, 2010
We weighed anchor at 0730 under clear skies and continued our trip N. We got out of Squirrel Cove and started up Lewis Channel with a brisk wind blowing down the channel at about 10 knots. As we motored several boats passed us going the same direction. The wind abated when we hit Calm Channel. I was getting concerned because our speed wasn't what I expected. We were fighting a pretty good flood current and only making about 5 knots. My plan had us traveling at an average of 5.8 knots. Fortunately just SE of Harbott Point, Stuart Island we started picking up speed - enough to lessen my concern of making it too late to the rapids. We made it to the Yuculta Rapids at 1100, Gillard at 1118, and rode a healthy ebb out of Dent Rapids. While not as crowded as Dodd Narrows near Nanaimo, these tidal rapids can be a bottleneck at times too. We were at the tail end of the boats traversing the rapids.

The Yucultas (pronounced Yew-Caw-Tahs) are a series of three tidal rapids. These rapids are a dividing point between the south and the north. South of the rapids you can find Arbutus trees (Madrona) but you will not find them north of the rapids. South of the rapids sea water temperatures are in the high 50's, north of the rapids sea water temperatures are in the low 40's. Many times you will notice a temperature difference of almost 20 degrees F! When you pass Sarah Point in Desolation Sound that is the dividing line between where water goes. South of this all water drains out through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. North of Sarah Point the water drains out through Queens Charlotte Sound.

The Yuculta's are also a set of rapids that I will only traverse at slack or near slack water. Dent Rapids is particularly nasty with a whirlpool that forms that has the name - even printed on the nautical charts - as the "Devils Hole." Once many, many years ago we heard of a fishboat that hit some whirlpools by Gillard Rapids and was capsized. It is a series of tidal rapids that demand respect.

Just after Hall Point I turned the helm to Kim and took a nap waking just as we passed Bickley Bay. Kim said that the marina at Shoal Bay was packed with boats. We saw several boats in Cordero Channel going our way to the W. The winds turned very gusty in Cordero Channel. Listening to the weather radio we heard for days now that there are afternoon gale warnings for Johnstone Strait. Weather reports confirm these forecasts of winds 30 and 40 knots or more. While Cordero Channel is well away from Johnstone Strait, the winds are coming down the narrow valleys and finding their way here.

We cruised through Greene Point Rapids where at one point we made 11.3 knots riding with the ebb current. Greene Point Rapids is one that I feel comfortable traveling regardless of the time. When riding the ebb through Greene Point you just need to be careful to turn early enough or you could be pushed up on to the N shore. The wind was building in intensity coming down Chancellor Channel when we turned into Loughborough Inlet. The southern end of Loughborough Inlet was almost calm. We made for William Point and the entrance to Beaver Inlet. As we turned into Beaver Inlet we faced very strong winds - it is blowing a gale - literally. I estimate wind speeds of 25-35 knots with higher gusts. However, the skies remain clear.

These conditions of high winds from the NW are common when there is high pressure in or near the Queen Charlotte Islands just beyond Queen Charlotte Sound. The air pressure in Washington is lower and so the air moves from the high to the low. The mountains of Vancouver Island and the mountains of the Coast Range act as a funnel to channel the winds down these narrow valley. All the while you have beautiful clear weather. That's why sometimes when cruising up here I would prefer a light rain because then the winds are not so bad.

We got into our anchorage at the end of Beaver Inlet at 1500. We're anchored in about 30' of water at near high tide. Because of the wind I put out all 100' of chain. We are snugly anchored and the boat is turning from side to side. As we move to one side the wind catches us and you can hear the anchor rode tighten like tightening a guitar string. But again our anchor is firmly set.

Shortly after arriving we went and set the shrimp pots over in Sidney Bay at our usual locations. Setting shrimp pots in such windy conditions can be challenging. I have Kim let out the shrimp pot line - all 300' - while I keep the Zipper in and out of reverse gear. I find that if done properly I can set the pot without drifting too much. Hopefully tomorrow we'll have prawns.

We are at the "zenith" of our 2010 trip. We will stay here for a few days.

Stats: 45.5 nm, average speed 6.0 knots, running time 7:37, ending engine hours 6013.5.

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