Active Pass in Action

Position: 48 51.34 N  123 29.69 W
At anchor Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island
Wind: calm morning, light to fresh nor-westerly mid-afternoon, calm evening
Weather: mostly sunny
Day's Run: 45 nm

It was dead calm in False Creek yesterday morning but I got under way at 7.30 to make use of the ebb tide. Once out into English Bay and clear of the wind shadow from Mt Strachan to our north we found a little breeze. We had to tack a couple of times to clear Pt Grey, then were able to ease sheets in the freshening breeze to lay a course back to Active Pass. Slack water was at 12.30 and 1900. I was not going to be able to make the 12.30 slack, but with the breeze freshening and veering into the north west we would get there for the 19.00 slack water with time to spare.

As it turned out we arrived off Active Pass at a little before 16.00, right at the peak of the flooding stream. I decided to poke Sylph's nose into Whalers Bay immediately to the north of the Pass to anchor for a couple of hours to wait for the stream to ease. We sailed in under the mainsail and all looked calm and tranquil. A narrow strait between Gossip Island and Cain Peninsula looked equally peaceful. Rather than anchor I thought I would have a bit of a sticky and see what conditions were like beyond the narrow passage in the entrance to Active Pass. We sailed through the unnamed strait without difficulty, it was deep up to its steep sided edges and there was no noticeable current running. On the other side we found ourselves in still water but I could see and hear the tidal race churning out into the Strait of Georgia a hundred meters or so to our east. There were a couple of other small bays lying along the northern shore line of the Pass so I decided to hug the shore to stay out of the tidal race and see how far we might get. I figured that as soon as we felt any strong current we could then go to anchor.

I cautiously motored along the shoreline, intrigued that about fifty meters away the water was tearing along, seagulls floating nonchalantly on its surface whipping past while Sylph chugged along smelling the shore in the opposite direction, the BRM turning over at a sedate 1200 rpm. As we came up on Marie Ann Point, the channel takes a sharp turn to the right. This sharp turn was no doubt what was allowing us to glide along in a back eddy, and I was curious what would happen as we rounded the bend. Sure enough the current increased but not too much, and with a slight increase in revs we were able to easily push against the stream. There was a small indentation in the shore line, with another headland, Matthew Point, still providing some protection from the full force of the current. We nudged our way forward, curious as to what would happen next.

Sure enough as we came up on Matthew Point, the stream increased significantly. I increased the revs to 1800 rpm, which equates to a speed of about five knots. We were only just gaining ground against the current. Having come this far I was loathe to turn back. I figured that perhaps if we slanted out into the current and made for the other side of the pass that we might find slower moving water on the opposite shore, perhaps even another back eddy. This seemed to work, but the current was still against us and as we came up on Helen Point, which marks the southern entry into Active Pass the current increased markedly. We were motoring along at 2000 rpm, about five and a half knots through the water, but standing still next to the shore beside us. I increase the BRM to near top speed, 2500 rpm and gradually we crept forward. The entrance to the Pass is its narrowest point, and I knew we only had to creep forward a few hundred meters into deeper wider water and the current would drop dramatically. Sure enough, some twenty minutes later we were out of the clutches of the current and into the smooth calm waters of Trincomali Channel. I gave a small whoop of satisfaction, gave Sylph a pat and thought kind thoughts for the little BRM under the floorboards, as I throttled back to 1500 rpm.

There was not a puff of wind, so we continued motoring the last six miles of the day's passage, dropping anchor in Ganges Harbour amongst the numerous boats moored there at 19.00.

All is well.