On the Seventh Day...

would-be watchers of whales in the vicinity of Raza Island
May 18, 2015

Day seven dawned with Yuculta (YEW cluh tuh) rapids on the horizon. The first of 5 rapids over a 20 mile stretch, these tidal gates separate Desolation Sound from Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago to the North.  Yuculta, Gillard, Dent come all in a flurry (about 4 miles). Beyond them is Greenpoint rapids, and then Whirlpool rapids.  They are gates in several respects, not least of which is that they separate serious boaters from the crowd.  Above this point it is colder and transit planning is daunting for casual boaters, so the traffic beyond Yuculta is perhaps a tenth of what it is in the Desolation sound area.

We arrived  at the mouth of Yuculta in early afternoon and as we were ahead of slack water at this point, we had some time to hang out. Around this time we were approached by a whale watchers excursion boat who was apparently on the threshold of losing his fares, as they had been skunked in their quest for whales to watch.  He was making calls to channel 16 (hailing and emergency calls only!) and approached our humble selves wondering if we had seen any tourist-worthy marine mammals.  We had not.

We had left the warmer waters behind us at this point, but it was hot and sunny, and my intrepid Marine decided to brave the waters for a swim.  Good on ya, Captain Weibel, but for myself, I wasn't tempted. His vocalizations from the water served to confirm my good judgment. The resolution of the face picture is poor, but he looks cold to me!

taking the plunge
yeah... it is cold!
The view from the water.  Don't I look more comfy?

We had spent a good deal of time at Terry and Alane's pouring over the current tables and plotting our transit strategy for the rapids... one does not want to make a mistake in working out entry times.
The timing of the tides made it impossible for us to transit all five in a single go, so we got through the first three and spent the night at Shoal Bay, which is a great stopping point. The drill for this set is to enter Yuculta 20 or 30 minutes before high water slack, putting you at Gillard Rapids very close to slack, and then being flushed out of Dent Rapids on the beginning of the ebb tide.  These rapids are just north of the transition zone where an ebb tide flows north, and the flood tide south (go south a very few miles and the ebb is southerly).

The tide and current tables published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service are thorough, but extracting the right information requires care. One must keep in mind the direction of an ebb or flood (which means knowing where it changes in some cases), add or subtract offsets from a reference tidal or current station (there are not that many actual measurement stations), and not forget that the tables are published in standard time, whereas most boaters are using them in daylight savings time.  Lots of places to make mistakes, and an hour mistake will have you on a sleigh ride or twiddling your thumbs until the next tide.  Time and tide, dontcha know. Waggoner's Guide and others have pretty good explanations.

My Marine was not content with anything short of constructing his own table and a graph showing the states of all five rapids.  Did I mention everyone needs one?  A Marine, I mean.  The table was nice, too:
good to get all this straight before you get to the rapids!
We got through all three rapids without difficulty.  It was late in the day, and an hour or so after getting through Dent rapids, we were at Shoal Bay.  I wondered if we would get a place on the dock, but that early in the season, it was no sweat.  It is a very pretty site, with a seasonal pub (we were there too early for that), hiking trails, a gold mine (no longer productive), friendly people, quirky humour, and a music festival in August.  A place I'll make a point of staying whenever I'm in the area.

The dock at Shoal Bay, looking north into Phillips' Arm
The only slightly unnerving event in the transit was losing, once again, the chart plotter just as we started into Yuculta rapids.  I felt confident in where we were going and the path we would take, but it was unsettling, and it happened in precisely the same place on the return trip.  My theory is that the area corresponds to boundaries on the electronic charts, and there is a glitch in how the respective charts are integrated in the chart plotter.  Inconvenient, to say the least.

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