Waggoners Guide begins their discussion on Cape Caution with this advice:
“… Queen Charlotte Sound and Cape Caution comprise the most difficult waters of the entire Inside Passage. While this passage should be treated with caution, it is not difficult if one is well prepared, and willing to wait for good weather…”
This seemed like great advice to me. We decided to sit in port for a day, and use the time to explore Port Hardy.
Roberta’s parents and us jumped in a taxi, and spent the day exploring the area. That took care of waiting for good weather.
The trickier bit was being “well prepared.”
Queen Charlotte Sound, between Port Hardy and Cape Caution, is packed with islands and reefs. I needed to plot a course through them. I have a couple different books that suggested routes. One book, “Proven Cruising Routes – Precise Courses to Steer, Seattle to Ketchikan” suggested three different routes. Another book, “Marine Atlas Volume 2, Port Hardy to Skagway” suggested a fourth route. I took the time to enter the options into Nobeltec, and stared at them for a bit, thinking the “perfect route” would jump out at me. But, I really didn’t see one route that seemed best.
Of course, the deciding factor is the sea conditions, and the wind. Different routes have different advisability based on the different strengths and direction of the wind. I phoned a few friends who’ve crossed the Sound before, to get their advice. Now, the funny bit in all of this is that everyone asked the same question first: “What’s the forecast?”. I had to admit that the forecast was for light 5-15 knot winds from a variable direction. Admitting this immediately caused my friends to lose interest. When the winds are light, and the direction unknown, any route works. One of them even said “Ken. You got to understand. These books are written for people in 32 foot Bayliners. In these conditions you can shoot across the middle. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Deep down, I do not have absolute faith in weather projections. For instance, we have had gail warnings for five of the six days we’ve cruised, and haven’t seen a drop of rain, or had wind over 15 knots. I figured that if they can be wrong about the gale warnings, couldn’t they be wrong on a beautiful day? I figured that if I prepare for the worst, and the weather is good, I’ll be just fine. However, if I prepare for light winds, and the you-know-what hits the fan, then…
I decided to get some local knowledge. I figured the fisherman are out there every day, and know the waters, so why not just introduce myself to a local captain, and see what he says. Sans Souci was at the fishing docks and the only “recreational boat” in site. I knew I’d look a might look a bit silly carrying my charts down the docks, seeking a commercial fishing captain, but I figured “why not?”
My efforts were quickly rewarded! The captain of the first boat I knocked on invited me aboard. Boarding his ship was quite a project. There was no obvious entrance. I had to scale the side of his boat, dodging the rust. Once on board, he gave me his route, and walked me through it on Nobeltec.
I mentioned that our next major destination was Ketchikan, which led to an amusing conversation.
“When do you need to be in Ketchikan?” he asked.
– “May 10th.” I responded.
“That’s ten days away! It’s only a two-day run”
– “Yes, but that would mean running at night, and I worry about all the logs in the water.”
“Yes there are a lot of logs in the water. You just got to be careful.”
– “I don’t know how to be careful, when it is night and there are lots of logs around. They don’t show on radar, and I’ve got a big plastic boat. What do you do?”
“I don’t like hitting logs either. I avoid traveling at night when I can, but sometimes you have no choice.”
– “You see my problem then.”
“Yep. 10 days should be plenty to get to Ketchikan.”
To “profit from the current”, we departed Port Hardy at day break. I was monitoring a buoy ( http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=46204 ) which gives the wave hieght and wind speed in the middle of the sound, as well as several other weather sources. The wind was averaging under 2 knots, and had just dropped to under 1 knot.
We could handle that!
Here’s a photo of the notorious Cape Caution as it looked when we crossed it.
The trip couldn’t have been smoother, or the weather better. Blue skies. We even ran with the doors open, just to enjoy the conditions.
Some of you may point out that we could have left the prior day, when the report was for 15-25 knot winds. With a Nordhavn, the winds probably could have been significantly higher and we’d have still been safe. All I can say in my defense is “Given my choice, I prefer calm seas.” There’s that old saying: “There are old captains, and bold captains, but no old bold captains.” A few of you asked for video of us slamming through stormy seas. No worries. That will come, whether I lilke it or not. I just want to push it as far into the future as I can.
Having “crossed over”, we can now relax. We are on the inside passage, and should have hundreds of miles of calm seas ahead.
Our first stop was as near perfection as it gets.
This is Calvert Island. Note the long channel going through the middle of it. That channel runs for nearly eight miles! At the head of the channel is a series of anchorages and a seasonal tourist lodge. We dropped anchor in front of the lodge and tendered in.
Here’s a video showing our visit to the island. If you don’t see the video player, then click this link:
We spoke to the caretaker who said that the lodge wouldn’t be open until mid July. We then hiked back a short, perhaps one mile, trail to a beautiful beach on the Pacific side of the island.
Wow! A beautiful sand beach, and as you can tell from the video, it was a warm day. Shelby enjoyed her chance for some off-leash time, and a chance at a “real” bathroom.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow’s goal: Shearwater Resort!
Thank you, Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci