We’ve Run the Rapids!

We finished off the rapids to the Broughtons on August 3. Here’s how we did it. Jack spent a good part of the day before studying tide tables, poring over a new set of 1:20,000 charts, and packing them carefully in the zipable Hefty Bags recommended by his friend the Armchair Sailor.

At 5:30 am the day of departure I was sitting in the aft cabin berth with my coffee and the four charts laid out on the feather comforter. Jack gave an overview of the plan and, with my mind morning-fresh, I came to terms with it and saw it should work.

We shoved off at 9 am so we could cover the distance up Cordero Channel and arrive at the Green Point Rapids exactly at low water slack, just as the ebb out turned to the flow in. We rounded Green Point along with a fishing schooner. A piece of cake. Best of all we missed sharing the rapids with a huge log boom pilled by a powerful tug with a smaller tug bringing up the rear.

Our next challenge was Whirlpool Rapids, which we would take on the next slack, the high water slack. It was a spectacularly sunny day so rather than sailing aimlessly around Jack suggested anchoring for lunch in the sun followed by a long nap. We could see the clouds against the high mountains of Vancouver Island that border Johnstone Straight (see photo) but we were in good weather.
In Charlie’s Charts. cruising author Margo Wood recommends dropping anchor in a small bay off Chancellor Channel just before it meets Wellbore Channel. Alas, we poked around the shores but with the exception of tiny bay with a crab pot smack in the middle, all the bottoms we over 100 feet. We’ll have to complain to Margo if we see her at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival in September.

So we headed up Wellbore Channel, where the flood was already underway and backeddies made our progress difficult. But just before the rapids was a calm crescent beach with a sialboat already moored. We dropped anchor and had a leisurely lunch in the hot sun followed by naps. I took mine on deck under a sun hat with my fleece neck gaiter – yes, we still don snow pants and fleece dickies – protecting my lower lip from sunburn. Delicious.

We took the Whirlpool Rapids at dead slack as well, though it was a flood slack. Nothing to report except a lone fisherman in an open boat perhaps 15 feet long. We waved, reminded of our friend Don Wisham who died this past year doing what he love most – fishing. Evidently he stepped into a hole while fly fishing in wadders off the banks of Oregon’s Deschutes River.

Just beyond this final set of rapids is an inlet called Forward Harbor where we’d considered dropping the hook. But there wasn’t wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we were completely refreshed with naps so we headed on into Sunderland Channel, expecting to make Port Neville well before nightfall. Again our estimated time of arrival was short. As we entered the infamous Johnstone Strait, the wind hit us full force in the face. We motored laboriously on.

We had a couple of encounters with drift. A log 2 feet in diameter and many feet long spun past on port. I impulsively grabbed my camera to photograph it only to hear the thump of a much smaller long as it hit starboard. Another lesson well learned. Drift follows drift. From then on I squinted into the blinding sun looking for the stuff.

The only other boat underway we saw all afternoon was a small speedy vessel that bounced up and down along the south shore. We passed a single safehaven just large enough for one boat: and it was already taken.

When we finally reached Port Neville – a long finger of a bay – the sun was setting orange, making the long bunches of eel grass easy to see. There being no place at the public wharf, we anchored out.


Author: Carol McCreary

10 Inside Passages to Alaska. 10,000 miles. 10,000 hours on the S/V Aurora. This is the story of how Jack and I took up sailing late in life and are now finally getting the hang of it.

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