Cortez Island to Loughborough Inlet or Running the Rapids.
I awoke to the quietness of Gorge Harbour. The boat was anchored at the north end of this very well protected inlet. There was no wind and a low cloud had formed overnight. Slack high tide wasn’t until 5:20 at Gillard Pass, so I had most of the day to explore. Gillard Pass is the name of the channel that goes between Jimmy Judd & Gillard Islands with the famous Stuart Island right in the wings. Stuart Island is next to 3 sets of tidal rapids, the Yuculta, Dent & Arran rapids. The current in this area can exceed 12 knots and the top speed of our boat. The plan was to go through Gillard Pass at slack water and have a favourable current for the rest of the day to make Sidney Bay on Loughborough Inlet by dark.
I decided to go north on a course taking me east of the Penn Islands so I could stop at Redonda Bay to look around. This was an area that I fished with my 1st commercial boat in the early ’80s. Redonda Bay has had a colourful history and was the site of a commune when I fished these waters. I never got to go ashore here and was curious to see what was there now. I pulled in for a late lunch to find a logging operation hauling logs to the ocean. It was kind of noisy with the skidders and dozer boats working, so I decided to go explore somewhere else. My next stop was at Church House, an old Indian Village, now abandoned. It seemed like too much hassle to anchor up and go ashore by myself so I just poked around with the boat. I was starting to feel the current and was down to 7 knots so I hugged the shore looking for back eddies to save fuel.
When the tide goes up and down in Georgia Strait the water has to travel around the ends of Vancouver Island. Mitlenatch Island is where the two tidal streams meet. Everything north of Mitlenatch Island exchanges the water through Seymour Narrows, near Campbell River, or the narrows at Stuart Island. This is what causes tidal rapids. A lot of water has to get through these channels that are only about 1/4 mile wide. The bottom of these channels have ledges & pinnacles that cause whirl pools & boils. Fast speed boats can skip over the top of these turbulent waters, but larger displacement hulls would lose all control and must wait for slack tide. These tide rips make for exciting fishing and is partly what has made this area famous.
I made the run through Gillard Pass an hour before slack tide. I had to pay attention and avoid the whirlpools but bucked my way through. By the time I got to the Dent Island rapids the tide was starting to change, so I had the current with me for the rest of this day.
The photo above is Mermaid Bay. Tug boats pulling logs through this area are too slow to make it through all the rapids in one shot and often wait here for 7 hours for the next slack tide. The crews often go ashore and tag the trees and banks with signs to proclaim their boat name.
In the 50s Stuart Island was world famous for catching the big spring salmon on light gear. John Wayne & Bing Crosby are some of the celebrities that used to hang out here. The fishing is still the big draw to this area but the rustic lodges have been bought up by big money. Dennis Washington has a lodge with the most expensive 9 hole golf course in North America. Richie Brothers built a lodge with a full sized airport. London Drugs owns an exclusive hotel that looks like it belongs at Whistler.
As you head north from this area and leave the Dent Rapids the channel widens and turns into a more relaxing waterway. On the left is Denham Bay, the location of Pete and Sarah’s new lodge. Pete Geneau has been fish guiding in this area for over 30 years. They have built a lovely resort with 4 cabins and lots of dock space for rent. Denham Bay is where we usually stay when in the Stuart Island area. It is only 20 minutes in my boat to the wild water and exclusive lodgings of downtown Stuart Island.
We have booked Denham Bay for the long week-end in May 2014. This trip has sold out but we will be doing more trips. Please E-mail us to get on one of these trips. Contact me to express interest in joining us for this trip or other trips to come. Each couple would get their own cabin and work together preparing meals in the large outdoor kitchen. If we just stay 2 nights the cost would be around $500 per couple for lodging, boat transportation and basic food stores.
Pete and Sarah were not around so I decided to keep going and spend the night in Sidney Bay. It took me three hours to get from Denham Bay to the anchorage I had chosen. I was up to 12.5 knots at half throttle for most of the trip thanks to the ebbing tide. This part of the journey warrants its own blog as it is where I did most of my commercial fishing and is one of my favourite parts of our coast. I will cover it more on the return trip.
I had recently read a book by a family that homesteaded in Sidney Bay in the 70’s and was curious if they were still there. It was dark by the time I got the boat anchored , so I had to wait till the next morning to poke around.