A couple of years ago, I wrote about the different strategies for navigating the tidal rapids north of Desolation Sound. In that post, I mentioned that we always time our journey to coincide with the ebb while going north, and the flood going south, even if it means leaving in the dark. As entertaining as that sounds, leaving at 2am to catch the tide isn’t super high on my fun list. Thankfully, there are alternatives.
Over the last 3 or 4 years, we’ve managed to approach our passage through the rapids on dates with no great morning departure times – they’ve either been crazy early, or a little too late. This, along with our increasing desire to limit the early morning heroics, forced us to re-examine our passage planning for this stretch of water. These ideas all work best on the inside route through the Yucultas, and are as follows…
Idea #1 – Arrive late. Who said that you need to be in Forward Harbour by 2 in the afternoon? We’re talking about summer travel here; the sun is out til after 9pm! As ridiculously simple as this sounds, it took a few years for us to really look at this as an viable alternative to leaving early. The key is that it’s only 30 miles from Yuculta rapids to Forward Harbour. Even at only 6 knots, that’s only 5 hours; with the tide behind you it’s more like 4. If you transit Yuculta Rapids at 3pm, that puts you in Forward Harbour at the still civilized hour of 7pm.
Idea #2 – Hang out between the rapids. You don’t need to spend the night between rapids to make this one work, just patience. The plan is to catch the last of the ebb through Yuculta, Gillard and Dent, and then relax as you poke your way north. Go for a walk at Shoal Bay, fish at Hall Point or just bob along slowly and enjoy the scenery. There really isn’t that much current to fight for the first 12 or so miles after Dent Rapids, and you will have about 6 hours to kill before running Greenpoint Rapids. Besides, there is something really powerful about surrendering your schedule to the turn of the tide. Be sure to time your transits so that you are at Dent at slack and are pushing through the last of the flood at Greenpoint.
Idea #3 – The obvious one – spend a night at one of the many cool places in the Discovery Islands. Some options that we have used (there are many that we haven’t): Big Bay. It’s always abuzz with activity, has a dock, reasonable anchoring, and a great walk to Eagle Lake. Big bay is a little like a toilet bowl with a rock in it – watch both the shoal area and the currents. Shoal Bay. Also a busy place, but with a more laid back atmosphere than the bustle of Big Bay. Thurston Bay Marine Park. Quiet and a little off all of the the main tracks north. Cordero Islands (Greenpoint Rapids). A very pretty anchorage right on the main channel. There is room for eight or nine boats in the two nooks between the islands. Blind Bay. An upscale marina (but not too upscale) with a great walk and a good restaurant. The current at the dock can be tricky, but the staff are eager to help. If you want to continue north via the inside route, you’ll have to time your departure for the end of the flood as the currents in Mayne Channel and Greenepoint Rapids run opposite to each other.
Despite the cold water, the channels north of Desolation Sound offer a laid back experience that is significantly different from the crowded waters in northern Georgia Strait. If you’re in a rush to get north but the tides don’t allow you to blast through, take the opportunity to slow down and explore.