Rocky Pass to Wooden Wheel Cove. July 26, 2011
03 August 2011 | posted at Metlakatla
Photo: Devil’s Elbow in Rocky Pass, Keku Strait.
I have always liked the story of how the Coast Guard took out the beacons in Rocky Pass because they thought it was too dangerous then had to put them back in because boats were going through without beacons. I understand why boaters would do that. Rocky Pass can save at least a day of transit time. And after getting beat up in Chatham Strait’s rough waters, the prospect of quiet waters, even with rocks, is just too appealing.
Rocky Pass is one of those passages in Alaska that are more dangerous in reputation than reality. The chart does indeed look terrifying, full of rocks and twisty turns, especially when you realize the soundings are in feet, not fathoms. And with a 4ft sounding at the Summit (roughly half way through), it’s critical to time yourself with the tide to ensure you have enough water under your keel. But as long as you do that and as long as you pay attention and remember “red right north,” you’ll be fine. We like to schedule our passage so we reach the Summit at high water, then ride the ebb out the rest of the Pass. The currents aren’t swift because they aren’t anywhere near max ebb, but it still helps.
We’ve now been through Rocky Pass three times: all three uneventful, the way a passage should be. This year’s passage was in the rain, but even with reduced visibility we didn’t have any trouble seeing the beacons because there are so many of them and they’re close together.