Finally... The Cape!

Cape Caution Navigational Light
May 23, 2015

OK, OK, we're not talking about Cape Horn.  But this was my first time in these waters, and one does not take them lightly.  Our previous day's travel brought us further than I had planned, so we felt optimistic about rounding the Cape and getting to our target destination, Fury Cove.

The interaction of currents, winds, and river outflows in this area can be treacherous and difficult to predict. Add this to the exposure to the Gulf of Alaska, and you begin to understand why rounding Cape Caution is a big deal.

The large volumes of river outflows meet a flood tide, and turbulent, confused seas can result. A strong ebb tide confronting westerly winds, and turbulent, confused seas result.  Confused seas -- waves traveling in semi-random directions -- are particularly dangerous as they meet and their amplitudes are additive. Two three-foot waves meet at an oblique angle and become a 6 foot wave. Ugly.

My distinct recollection of this day is that we were most concerned about encountering difficult seas due to a flood tide meeting the outflow of Slingsby Channel. We didn't want to leave too early, as the tide was still flooding in the morning, and the biggest threat to our progress would be a flood tide meeting the outflow from Slingsby.  Except that consulting the tide tables now, the tide was ebbing.

Our log indicates we left at about 0800, and low water was predicted for 1034.  It is possible that I have misremembered or simply misunderstood. In any case we slipped away from Skull Cove well ahead of the tide change, out of impatience, and figuring if we ran into difficulty, we could return and wait a bit. Possibly, we left at nearly an optimal time... in the waning stages of the ebb, when tidal volumes were waning.

We were careful to venture out to the west a ways when we left the shelter of Brahman Island to minimize the possibility of Slingsby chop, but the magnetism of the land gradually drew us back in, passing Cape Caution at little more than a half mile.  We had no difficulties.

The barometer favored us with the highest readings of the trip thus far, reaching 1026 millibars, and the seas never grew larger than 1 meter or so.  The expected chop just didn't materialize, and we found ourselves rolling along in a kindly sea motion in a favorable tide that gave us at least a half knot bump in speed over ground. Ripple's freeboard is a scant two feet or so, so sliding up and down 3 foot swells is a distinctly different sensation than the flat water or chop of protected passages. You feel the presence of the ocean.  It is quite pleasant, really, but hard to shake the sensation of being an interloper.

Later we would talk to fellow sojourners in largish power boats who described having less comfortable passages past the Cape, and I realized that in this case, our small size redounded to our benefit.  Our heads were perhaps 4 feet or so off the water.  Standing in the pilot house of an Ocean Alexander or Selene, you would be 3 times or more higher, much further out on the metronome of nausea.

The Lagoon communicates with Fitzhugh Sound
and affords a good view of the weather on the Sound
Primitive, but probably a great base for fisherfolk and card players in a storm
Fury Cove is a great anchorage, and popular for boats travelling in either direction. It is well protected, but also affords easy access to a narrow beach that looks out over Fitzhugh Sound.  Scenic, but also useful for reconnaissance if one felt the need to have a long hard look before departing. There is a trail and cabin that are fun to explore as well.  And an outhouse!  For those of us with portapotties, a welcome amenity.
The midden beach at Fury Cove attests to the extensive use of this anchorage over millennia


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