The month of Fogust is upon us, at least in the Broughtons and the area North of Desolation Sound. At Lagoon Cove I was up at 5 studying the charts Jack had laid out in anticipation of an early departure. But the tiny cove was complete socked in. It just sat there and hugged us until about 9. The cliff swallows that flit between the slopes and docks there all came down an hung out quitely on the boats. At about 8 the fog started rollimg out a bit and then rolled right back in. At one moment you could see the top of the mountain above the marina. The next moment it would disappear again but you might be be able to make out the faint contours of a rocky island about 300 feet out in the cove. And it went on like that. It wasn’t acting like any fog we’d seen before. And it wasn’t.

Finally when it was almost 11 we pulled out anyway but soon got stopped in our tracks, or rather forced to shuttle between visible cliffs. By this time the sun was bright behind the fog, playing all sorts of tricks with us. A vibrant opaque white arc rose opposite the direction of the sun and closed in a full circle around the boat. Then another intersected it like some freakish, albino version of a double rainbow. My eyes hurt. Then the landscape would come into view all around the edges of a fireball of fog, a detached retina of fog, lying exactly where we wanted to go. But then we broke out into one of the most beautiful days of the trip.

In the wonderfully informative Anchorages of the Inside Passage, authors Anne Lipond and William Kelly talk about two kinds of fog prevalent in these parts. Radiation fog is thickest at sunrise and gradually burns off. Common from September through February, it is a product of clear cool nights. As the land cools, water droplets condense and gather over the warmer waters. Summer sea fog, or advection fog, is formed above upwellings of cold water caused by tides, currents and the motion of waves across an irregular sea floor. Warm moist air blows across colder water to form the fog and to push it into even the longest inlets, where it lingers stubbornly long after the sun is out. And of course it loves rapids and difficult narrow passages.

At Kawtsi Bay, the mouth of the bay was clear when we awoke but then the fog thickened and enveloped us. About ten, when it had broken just a bit, we pulled up anchor and headed out. The first boat of five in the bay and another 10 at the docks to do so, we found ourselves leading an impressive flotilla. I guess when your boat is older and scruffier people look to you as “local knowledge”. We looked back to see a silky strip of fog draped like a woman’s dupatta over the mountains shouldering the bay.

From deep in Port Neville inlet all the way down Johnstone Strait and into to Green Rapids, we were always in fog. At our anchorage to the mouth of Port Neville we had a good enough view of the surface to wend our way through the patches of Bull Kelp.
Once out in the Strait the fog was thick as pea soup. Since we’d timed our departure for arrival at the rapids at low water slack, we edged south along the shore. With eyes on the radar and on the chart and blowing a fog horn though the greyness, The blessing of strong winds the day before had translated into a blessing of absolute stillness. Johnstone Strait is not a moderate body of water. Summer mornings mean thick, unruffled fog right up until the gale force winds of the afternoon blow it away.

Jack says I’ve come a long way. He says the first time we hit fog I panicked and wanted to call the Coast Guard! An earlier post covers some of these adventures with fog.


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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