Photo: Sechelt Rapids at slack water.
Some sources claim Sechelt Rapids, also called Skookumchuck Narrows, are the fastest tidal rapids in the world. Others merely claim them as "one of the fastest in the world." Whichever it is, it's fast: 16 knots during times of the most extreme spring tides. Whirlpools, standing waves and rough water are normal. For a dramatic picture of what can go wrong, check out this You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEfUblSDzww&app=desktop.
So when our project of photographing Native pictographs required us to go through the Sechelt Rapids, we planned our trip carefully, choosing a date of neap tides, checking the time of slack water carefully in the Canadian current tables and rechecking them at least twice. Then we sought advice from a local boater who had been through the rapids multiple times. Still, we worried (or at least, I worried; Steve is not prone to worrying). Had we read the current tables correctly? What if we arrived early? Or late?
On the chosen day, we left Pender Harbour with plenty of time. A brisk wind blew up Agamemnon Channel and we unrolled our jib, anticipating a rambunctious ride up inlet. Five minutes later, we rolled it back up as the wind died away. We motored up inlet, dawdling along. A light rain fell, but it too died away as the sun came out.
As we turned the corner into Sechelt Inlet, the Back Eddy Resort with its cabins, yurts and pub came into view. We were early. "Let's tie up," said Steve.
A dockhand took my line, as I stepped gingerly onto the dock's wooden surface, made slick by winter mold and rain.
"Is there a charge for tieing up while we wait for the current?" Steve asked. The dockhand shrugged. It was probably a question he was asked often.
1544 hours was the time of slack before ebb. At precisely 1530, we untied and pushed off into the channel. No other boats were going through on this tide and it felt odd to be having such a momentous adventure all to ourselves.
Not a breath of wind ruffled the water, and not a whisper of current. We slipped by Boom Ilet leaving it to port. We had planned to leave No Name Island and the Sechelt Islands to starboard also, to follow the widest channel, but when we saw how quiet the water was, we left all the islands to port. Ten minutes later, we were through. Like all tidal passages done right, it had been an anticlimax. Our planning had been successful.
We anchored that night in Storm Bay, a beautiful little tree-lined cove with houses tucked away under the trees. The rapids had taken us to a quiet place. For the next two days, we explored the Inlet, admiring its steep tree covered slopes and even finding some pictographs.