Everyone has a Johnstone Strait story

Up the anchor and underway for the Hole In The Wall. Timing is everything and my timing was off by an hour. At least the error was on the right side and only required waiting an additional hour for the slackening water to allow us through. A valuable lesson was learned early. The current tables of on the Inside Passage were not to be ignored. To cruise these latitudes in a small vessel demands an attunement with nature land travel never requires.

Having passed between Quadra and Sanora Islands, AVANTI joined the north flowing current of Johnstone Strait. We set our watches for a nights steaming hoping to ride the outward bound current as far as possible. There is current, then there is wind and when wind and current run strong in opposite directions water goes mad. Rounding Chatham Point we ran right into the teeth of a 40+ wind that stacked the tiderip onto itself in rolling waves with very short steep faces that tossed AVANTI like so much flotsam. From down below came the crashes and bangs of things being flung from what we thought to be very secure stowage for these seemingly protected waters. The sky was darkening early in the shadows of cloud and mountain and all fun had been washed overboard with the first three waves.

After thirty minutes of traveling up and down farther than we had traveled forward, I told Tim to brace himself, we were turning around. I watched for a lull which never came, then put the rudder hard over. We made the turn taking only one sea on the beam and then quickly gave up all our hard won progress. Acceptance is the only appropriate emotion with which to meet the sea.

We met two fishing boats coming north in what could only be interpreted as a race. As they closed in on the turn at Chatham Point , the large took the inside between the light and the rocks, (a mighty skinny channel I must add). Tim and I watched expecting a crash of hull against rock that never came. Local knowledge won the race. There are many captains willing to do things I’d never do.

I use every available source of information when on the water. I listen to weather reports and radio traffic. I watch the radar and scan the horizon. I check the plotter every thirty seconds. I read and reread the Coast Pilots and the cruising guides. Then I take that knowledge and blend it together to come to a course of action tempered with good seamanship. My mantra is this “situational awareness, keep your situational awareness”. Around the corner from Chatham Point Light is Otter Cove. We anchored and listened to the wind howling ashore. The Johnstone strait would be best taken in the light of day.

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