About - My Mistakes

Over the course of years running around on the North Coast, I have committed my share of dumb-ass errors in judgment which I reveal here in hopes that others may learn from them:
1. It's all about Sea and TIDE:
On our way home in 1997, we holed-up at Duncanby Landing in Rivers Inlet for three days waiting for the Northwesterly to go down.  It was an unusual weather pattern where the wind, which usually goes to light each evening, persisted through the night.  For three mornings I had diligently roused myself at 4:00 AM to check the weather, only to hear "Northwest 30 and gusting" from the lighthouse on Egg Island.
When I awakened on the fourth morning, Egg Island and all of the other reporting stations in the area were reporting light & variable or westerly 5 knots. Oh for joy...we are outta here this morning.  We got underway shortly before first light and made our way out into Rivers Inlet. It was not too bad going out past Cranstown Point but there was a pretty big westerly swell running from the three days of incessant wind.  The swell exploding on the shoals made for a spectacular show as we picked our way between the fountains inside of Dugout Rocks.

All was a little rolly, but not bad, until we passed False Egg Island at the north end of Smith Inlet. As we continued south, the swell grew, become steeper and began to break.  This was all made worse because we were taking it on the stern quarter and rolling our guts out. It was about this time that I realized my mistake - The tide! - I didn't check the tide!  Scrambling for the tide book, I soon new that I had sailed off into one of the largest ebbs of the year. What we were experiencing now was a huge ebb current from Smith Inlet meeting the very large swell from a three day blow.

We spent a very uncomfortable three hours rounding Cape Caution, the first mate terrified and the dogs cowering under the settee as Shelyann rolled, pitched and yawed in the following breakers. We eventually made our way into Allison Harbour, collapsed on the bunk and slept away the rest of the morning. 

Through all of this, there was no wind; It was all about sea and tide.

2. Minimum depths in lagoon entrances have little to do with the outside tide.
College of the North Coast - 
 Tidal Dynamics 101
We had spent a leisurely morning gunkholing along the Inlet when we eventually reached the entrance to Ellerslie Loagoon.  I hadn't thought previously of entering the lagoon but as we arrived off of the entrance the current was gently ebbing through the narrows of the rapids.  It seemed perfect, the slow ebb current would allow for good steerage while entering and provide the option of drifting back out in a controlled fashion if I didn't like what I saw.  

The Coast Pilot and the chart said there was three foot minimum in the entrance and the tide was now rising from a mid-day 8 foot low tide.  OK, a minimum of 3 feet says the book and the tide is now over nine feet above datum... there  should be at least 11 feet through the entrance and I'm against a slight current so we can back out if necessary. It was here that I made my mistake.

We proceeded, with Claudia on the bow watching for obstacles which we found some distance off of the entrance. After backing off and moving farther north in the channel we approached the narrows which appeared narrower and narrower the closer we got.  Looks tight but "No problemo - 11 feet through the fairway." I thought.

Just as we passed the tightest point in the narrows we both spotted the rock shelf ahead. A couple of feet below the surface, it appeared to block the entire channel...crap!!

Ok, no panic, just keep her straight with the rudder and an occasional bump into gear and let the current drift us out. It took a moment to realize that this strategy was not working as we continued to advance on the shoal ahead.  The current had chosen that moment to reverse and we now had a following current carrying us through the narrows towards the rocks ahead.

As I prepared to reverse and apply power to back us out our fate was sealed. One of the batwing stabilizers bumped a rock, turning us broadside in the channel which was barely wider than Shelyann is long. There being nothing more that could be done at the wheel we both tended the pike poles, doing our best to fend her off as we bumped and clanked over the rocks in the channel at the mercy of the following current. Moments later the danger had passed and we found ourselves drifting inside of Ellerslie Lagoon.  After collecting our wits, we made our way to anchor in front of the spectacular waterfall at the head of the lagoon, all the while wondering what happened to our 11 feet of water...
3. An anchorage with drifting icebergs is not a good place to anchor with a stern tie.
Fords Terror Alaska
4. I haven't done #4 yet.  Check for updates next year.