Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rapids - the Doorways

Historic Minstrel Island Resort, a once popular venue
We departed Lagoon Cove by 11am via the narrow, short canal called “The Blow Hole” which runs between Minstrel Island and E. Cracroft Island, its name is taken from the strong westerly winds that sometimes blow through the opening.  Fortunately we had light winds and passed by the once famous Minstrel Island Resort, now vacant and abandoned except for the dock used by owners of the property.  The resort and island is said to have been named after the traveling minstrel shows that came to entertain when Union Steamships made regular stops here back in the early 1900’s.  
Whale seen in shallow Chatham Channel
Once through “the blow hole” we turned southeast down Chatham Channel, running against a 3-4 knot current which was strongest at the channel’s narrowest point.  To our surprise we saw two whales passing through the channel which has depths of only 30-40 feet of water, not much space for these large creatures of the sea.  After rounding the south end of E. Cracroft Island, we turned down Havannah Channel where the winds picked up to 12 knots with 2-3 foot chop and continued to increase once we reached Johnston Strait having turned eastward once again.  Johnston Strait, the long, wide body of water running between Vancouver Island and the Broughton Island Group was kicking up choppy 4-5 foot seas created by current and 15 knot southwesterly winds.  

Sunderland Channel
For better protection from the wind, we entered Sunderland Channel and ran along the northern shore of Hardwicke Island, arriving at the northeast end of Wellbore Channel and anchored in a small cove to await favorable conditions for transiting “Whirlpool Rapids.”  After waiting for almost two hours, we pulled up anchor and headed through the rapids in Wellbore Channel which was moving at 4 knots creating small whirlpools.  
Entrance to Whirlpool Rapids in Wellbore Channel
Running with the current, our total speed averaged 9.5 knots having reached 12 knots at one point.  Once through Whirlpool Rapids we motored along the northeastern shore of W. Thurlow Island approaching the next set of rapids called Greene Point Rapids.  As we rounded W. Thurlow Island heading south, we entered Greene Point Rapids which were relatively benign, pushing us along with a combined speed of between 9 and 10 knots.  Continuing around W. Thurlow Island to the south side, we stopped at Blind Channel Marina for the night.  
Blind Channel Resort on W. Thurlow Island
Space at this popular marina in the Broughton’s was full, but we had called ahead and were told we could moor at the seaplane dock overnight since we would be leaving in the morning.  Blind Channel Resort & Marina is best known for their excellent dinners served in the nice restaurant facilities, a treat when boating in remote areas.  
Blind Channel Resort, a popular stop in the Broughton's
The small grocery store and gift shop is also appreciated by boaters who visit this family run marina and resort.  Our second day of running the rapids began with our 9:40am departure from Blind Channel Marina via Mayne Passage connecting up once again with Johnston Strait.  The winds were blowing 17 knots with typical 4-5 foot sea chop in the Strait and we were bucking a 2-3 knot current.  
Chatham Point Lighthouse
By 11am we rounded Chatham Point Lighthouse entering Discovery Passage where the winds subsided to 6-10 knots with 1-2 foot chop, but we had yet to transit Seymour Narrows.  The two-mile long Seymour Narrows often has strong current depending on the season and the time of day; it’s safest to transit the Narrows within a half hour of slack water.  It was noon and we were nearing Seymour Narrows, too early to safely transit so we anchored in Elk Bay on the Vancouver Island side of Discovery Passage to await better conditions.  It certainly wouldn’t be safe to attempt running against a 9.9 knot current with minimal power and steerage!  After waiting over an hour, we left our anchorage and headed towards the Narrows with a tug and barge in front of us.  The 2-3 knot current moving through Seymour Narrows reduced our speed to between 5.2 knots and 6.3 knots as we made our way through the churning water.  
Campbell River, Home away from Home
We arrived at the town of Campbell River about an hour after transiting the Narrows and tied-up at the Discovery Harbour docks; it seemed like we were almost home and like so many towns we have come to know, Campbell River seemed like a home away from home.

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