following the shoreline in Discovery Passage to catch a back eddy
As we approached Cape Mudge at the south end of Discovery Passage, a line of breaking waves interrupted the glassy calm waters of Georgia Strait. We were going through large tide rips where the flood from Discovery Passage and the Straits of Georgia meet.
We had left Pender Harbour at 7 am intending to arrive at Cape Mudge about two hours before the end of the flood, giving us plenty of time to reach Seymour Narrows at slack before the ebb. The current floods south and ebbs north through both Discovery Passage and Seymour Narrows so to arrive at Seymour Narrows at the right time requires going against the flood. The trick is not to arrive too early when the flood is strong or too late to catch the slack. We'd encountered favorable currents in Malaspina Strait and had arrived early.
Although the destruction of the infamous Ripple Rock by the largest non-nuclear explosion in history took out the worst of dangers in Seymour Narrows for ships, for small boats the Narrows can still be dangerous: 16 knots of current at max current is nothing to play with!
Ahead of us the tug Arctic Titan
, towing a large barge of containers, was disappearing around the bend at the cape. To our port the Western Titan
towed another large barge of containers. Steve slowed Osprey down to let Western Titan
get ahead of us and steered toward the shore. I glanced at the GPS and was surprised to see our speed was still seven knots, almost a knot above our usual cruising speed. We were in a back eddy.
We stayed close to the eastern shore all the way north to the Narrows, our speed varying between 6-9 knots with only an occasional dip down to four or five when we got out of the back eddy. On the radio we listened to Comox Traffic advising the tugs. In addition to the two Titans heading north, the tug Aware
was heading south towards us.
We watched in surprise as the Western Titan
started turning in the middle of the channel. "I'm doing a 360 turn," we heard him tell Comox Radio. "I don't want it to be too crowded going through."
Riding the back eddy, we reached the Narrows forty minutes before slack. But all appeared calm in the water, no whirlpools or over falls. There was no reason not to go through. On our chart plotter, we could see the AIS (Automatic Identification for Ships) symbol for the Aware.
They would be arriving at the Narrows just when we would -- going the opposite direction. We stayed close to shore, almost touching the kelp, as we rounded the corner. And thank goodness we did, the Aware, a big yellow tug, pulling a large empty fuel barge was coming `down the passage. A few minutes later and we were through. The traffic had been scarier than the currents.
Photo: The tug Aware
going through Seymour Narrows.