Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Destination: Deception Pass

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.
Deception Pass is a narrow little cut between the North end of Whidbey Island and the South end of Fidalgo Island. It may be small, but the tidal flow thru it is prodigious. And, unlike Agate Pass or the Tacoma Narrows, the flow is turbulent, disorganized.

There is no way we could possibly attempt to go thru Deception Pass against the tide. But because of the turbulence, we will not attempt it with the tide either. A friend of ours who used to be here on G dock did attempt Deception Pass with his 60' power boat. He had the power it took to stem the tide at the height of the flood, and was feeling pretty good about the transit when suddenly the boat entered an eddy, and he was heading straight toward the shore at a high rate of speed. The only thing that saved him, he said, was that another eddy then spun him back the other way.

So, we transit Deception Pass only at slack tide. And we really, really try to time things so that when the slack ends, the beginning flow is in the direction of our travel, because otherwise we would soon be overpowered and spit back out the way we came like a watermelon seed.

This tight timing means that a place to wait nearby for the slack to arrive is needed. Eastbound (transit at low slack), we find that Bowman Bay is ideal. It is part of Deception Pass State Park, and is a lovely anchorage. There are state park buoys there too. I'm not sure I'd want to be there with a strong SW wind tho.

In the Westbound direction (transit at high slack), many boats wait in Coronet Bay, just inside the Pass itself. But we find Coronet to be a tad shallow, so we wait at Hope Island. The island too is a state park, and there are are buoys on the North shore. It is also possible to anchor here, but the tidal current can be significant. We spent the longest night of our boating career anchored in the little narrow channel of deeper water on the South west shore. Tidal current figured prominently in our lack of sleep that night.

The passage up the inside of Whidbey Island and out thru Deception Pass is used by many boaters as a way to avoid a rough weather crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Pass opens at the Southern end of Rosario Strait, almost directly across from both Lopez and Thatcher passes, entrances to the San Juan islands.

(These pictures show a Westbound transit. As always, they are thumbnails - click on any one of them for a full-sized version)

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