2022 / #6 Entering Nakwakto Rapids

by | Apr 21, 2023 | 2022 Posts

Monday, August 29

Yesterday it rained all afternoon, evening and night in Allison Harbour so we never left the boat.  Late in the day two other boats came in and anchored.  They didn’t follow us in the morning so they must be going somewhere else.  One of them, a 79 foot Fleming named “Monte Cristo” said they were headed North when we passed them in the morning.  We were off to go the 5 miles or so to Nakwakto Rapids.

Nakwakto Rapids is one of the strongest tidal currents in the world.  Ebb currents can reach 16 knots and this morning’s was forecast to be over 11 knots, nothing to trifle with.  So we wanted to reach the rapids at exactly slack, 12:01 pm.  We left Allison Harbor with plenty of time and adjusted our speed to get our timing exact.  On the way we sighted a lone sea otter, the first we’ve seen on this part of the coast. As it turned out we were 4 minutes early but it didn’t matter, it was perfectly calm.  One feature that makes Nakwakto so dangerous is the turbulence caused by a small island called Turret Rock right in the middle of the narrowest spot.  It is said that on large tides the rock actually trembles at full flow.  Over the years many boaters have taken a small, high power dinghy to the Rock at slack and posted a sign with their boat name on a tree.

We were now in Seymour and Belize Inlets – 220 miles of fjords reaching into the coast range of British Columbia. This is one of the most remote areas along this coast.  The first nautical chart of the inlets was issued in 1987 – before that almost no pleasure boats came here, just loggers and fishermen.  Even now it is not much travelled.  We don’t expect to see another cruiser.  We anchored our first night in a finger of Westerman Bay that, except for the usual evening breeze, is almost totally calm.  It’s about 20 feet deep and the bottom is covered with eel grass.  Good crab habitat.  We put out a pot first thing, of course.  Then we rowed around looking for feathers floating on the surface of the water for Karen to add to her collection.  We also identified 6 different small streams entering this part of the bay, no doubt the result of yesterday’s rain.


Tuesday, August 30

The weather has really improved.  It was mostly clouds with occasional sun in the morning and improved to bright sun, blue sky and occasional puffy white clouds.  A perfect day for our trip to Alison Sound.  We first pulled in our crab trap and examined our finds: two starfish and one moon jelly.  Our crabbing hasn’t been too fruitful thus far.  After stowing the trap and raising the dinghy on the davits we raised the anchor and got underway.  We’ve done it enough that this process takes us about 10 minutes, including swabbing the decks to clean off the mud from raising the anchor.

It’s about 25 miles from Westerman to the head of Alison Sound, mostly traveling eastward towards the mountains, first up Belize Inlet and then up Alison Sound.  Along the way there are a number of waterfalls, including a spectacular one from Trevor Lake that drops right into the Inlet.  You can practically drive right up to it, the water is so deep. At about the half way point we turned into Alison Sound.

While the name “Sound” might suggest a large body of water, in these parts it is used for a narrow, steep-sided inlet.  Alison Sound certainly qualifies.  It averages a third of a mile wide through its 11 mile length with the mountains on both sides rising three to four thousand feet right out of the water – in many cases in spectacular rock walls.  And it is deep, too deep for anchoring except in a few isolated places and even then it’s deep.  We travelled slowly up the Sound, checking out the anchorage possibilities and the cliff faces for pictographs left by First Nations peoples from 150 or 200 years ago.  We found one depicting a long boat with a number of oars and 6 native canoes, probably from the mid 19th century.  When we got to the head of the Sound the water was dead calm, the sun was shining and there was a welcoming committee in the form of a small black bear on the beach.

The heads of most of the inlets on this coast are marked by a river delta that drops off into the deep water very quickly.  One minute it’s 200 feet deep and before you know it you’ve run aground.  But in some of these deltas there is a narrow band where you can drop an anchor and still have room to swing before hitting shallow water.   We dropped our anchor in 90 feet of water, let out 240 feet of chain rode, and backed up to stretch out the rode.  The depth was 15 feet.  But it is glassy calm and we feel perfectly safe.  And what a spectacular place to spend the night, surrounded by this pristine wilderness with the closest other people a long, long way away.  We are looking forward to the phosphorescence and the stars.


Wednesday, August 31

The stars were brilliant in the middle of the night.  By morning, fog had rolled into the inlet and only our boat and the edge of the shore around us had escaped the cloak of zero visibility.  Slowly the rising sun lit up the scene, first on the tops of the peaks then the hillsides and finally our little bay, gradually driving the fog away.  We watched this process for several hours while rousing ourselves from our slumbers, eating breakfast and getting the boat ready to go.  By this time the fog had lifted to form a layer higher than the water and lower than the mountain tops and we got underway.  The water was still as calm as it had been yesterday and all night.

At the corner of Alison Sound and Belize Inlet we found another pictograph and after getting a close up look we entered Belize Inlet for the journey back the way we came.  The winds tend to follow these long inlets and we faced a 10 knot breeze that raised a substantial chop all the way to the junction with Seymour Inlet.  When we turned the corner into Seymour it became calm.  We continued up Seymour for a few miles to Charlotte Bay which is a nice anchorage that is open to the Northwest and should have a good sunset view – the land around us is quite low, much different from the mountains of Belize Inlet.  There is a slight breeze which should die after the sun goes down.  And the temperature is decidedly cool – 65 degrees after yesterday’s 81.  Conditions certainly change quickly at this time of year.

We saw boats today, all work boats of one form or another.  A small tug was towing a log boom, a high speed aluminum crew boat buzzed around between various logging camps, a landing craft was traveling somewhere but no other pleasure boats.  We aren’t alone anymore but it certainly isn’t crowded.  Tomorrow we are going to continue exploring.


Thursday, September 1

Shortly before sunset yesterday the fog rolled in and was still here in the morning. But it wasn’t all that dense, visibility was 1/4 mile at least, so we decided to continue our journey towards the head of Seymour Inlet.  Other than one narrow spot filled with islands where the inlet makes a little zig-zag, Seymour is wide and deep with no hazards.  So we started.  After about an hour of travel the fog had lifted to about 200 feet above the water.  Visibility was perfect at water level, we just had no view of the mountains, and the water was smooth as glass.  As we motored along the inlet kept getting deeper until our depth sounder stopped reading at 1966 feet.

The further you travel up the inlet the higher the surrounding mountains become and we wanted to see them.  Since it was lunch time we decided to stop and wait for the fog to lift.  Now we could have just stopped in the middle of the inlet and drifted – there was no wind and no boats so it was perfectly safe.  But just at that moment we happened to be passing the only anchorage for miles around, a little 1 boat nook called Jesus Pocket, so we pulled in and dropped anchor.  The sun came out and there was even a small stream to listen to as we ate cucumber sandwiches in the cockpit.  Sweet.

Our lunch break ended just as the fog finally dissipated completely so we continued our journey to Frederick Sound, which was to be our destination.  Starting with Eclipse Narrows, a narrow shallow entrance – its terminal moraine, it continues straight for a few miles before narrowing and following a winding set of U turns amongst steep 2000 foot high peaks before ending in a bay with black cliffs above; our home for the night.  It turns out this is the site of a former logging operation that was abandoned not too long ago.  There is still a small dock and on shore an old pickup truck and a stack of 55 gallon drums of Jet A fuel, empty I think.  But most usefully for us, there was a logging road heading up through the trees – a hike at last.  So we rowed to the dock and hiked up the road about a mile to the first major blow down before turning around.  It was a nice hike and we would have gone further but it was late in the day and we had to keep stepping around large piles of bear dung as we walked.  So we decided to cut is short and head back to the boat.  We certainly didn’t want a close  encounter with a grizzly to end a perfectly lovely day.

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