A Cautionary Tale

Vessels making passage northbound through British Columbia must round Cape Caution, a 40 nautical mile over-exposure to the Pacific Ocean.

The dismal and unremarkable headland marking the center of the crossing was named by George Vancouver in May of 1793 after nearly losing his ship, Discovery, on a nearby rock in turbulent waters the previous year. Seafarers, ancient and modern, have known of the many perils awaiting unwary vessels at Cape Caution during adverse conditions.

Port McNeill’s fishing fleet awaits an opening that will carry them past Cape Caution into the Pacific.

Winds, waves and tides determine the fate of marine traffic, and few would cross Cape Caution unless two of these three factors are favorably forecast. Boats often stack up at anchorages on either side of the Cape awaiting good conditions.

Prevailing WINDS from northwest or southeast are unimpeded and often amplified by open water. WAVES along this coast are said to originate in Japan. Rollers from the west, augmented by storms, shorten and steepen when they reach the continental shelf. TIDES reaching 4 meters in height ebb and flow through Cape Caution’s nearby inlets, and out-flowing tides colliding with incoming waves dramatically increase height and frequency.

Add the twin nuisances of RAIN and FOG plus squadrons of LOGS in the water, and Cape Caution deserves RESPECT.

Jupiter shapes a course around Cape Caution. On this day, our conditions are light winds, 2 meter waves at 9 seconds, a moderate neap tide, and rain.

Sea otters are becoming more numerous in northern British Columbia.

Humpback whales feeding at the surface among islands south of the Cape.


  1. Sally Seymour says:

    Loved the dialogue! The final shot of clouds and water could be in Maine. Looks like you’re off to another great summer of adventure. Cheers from Camden.

    • Further south we kept remarking how similar to Maine it looked. Now we are in the steep sided fjords and there is nothing like this in Maine, where the high land is older and wiser and has had its corners scraped off. Cheers to Camden!

  2. Heather says:

    A cautionary tale around the Cape! I am happy to hear you are safe after the last nerve-racking 40 nautical miles. One of the sea otters looks like they are waving goodbye. The fiords must be amazing. xo

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