Rapid Transit

At its northern end the wide Strait of Georgia is interrupted by an entanglement of fjords and islands known as Desolation Sound. George Vancouver, his mind entangled by bi-polar disorder, is responsible for this egregious misnomer. Here are deeply loved seascapes of immense complexity, hauntingly pleasing.

Jupiter, traveling north through Desolation Sound to the Broughton Archipelago, must transit any one of several possible routes, all with tidal rapids. Many of these surgewaters, often running to ten knots, are rich with dangerous turbulence, overfalls, rips and whirlpools. Most can be safely crossed only at or near slack tide, a few brief minutes when the tide is high turning to ebb or low turning to flood, approximately every six hours.

Unless you are a married to a mentat predictions for tidal slack-water time must be teased out of published references or extracted skeptically from the newest electronic charts. Calculations for reference stations and secondary offspring must be carefully worked and confirmed by on site surveillance before piloting the boat into a cascade of trouble. On Jupiter’s chosen route we crossed five legendary rapids in two days.

When multiple rapids are plied sequentially, timing transits and stops becomes a hesitation waltz. Synchronizing two morning passages through Yaculta and Gillard Passage afforded us a leisurely afternoon studying a double tide-turn of the substantial cataract at Canoe Cove below Dent Island Lodge, where we moored for the night.

As with humans in hotels, check-out time for boats in marinas is clearly defined, although in the case of Dent Island a vessel can only get onto, or off, the docks at slack tide due to the otherwise disruptive current.

The following morning an early slide through the eddies of Devil’s Hole and Dent Rapids at high slack dictated a five hour dalliance with nature before meeting low slack at Greene Point Rapids just 12 miles northwest.

Puttering into the deep arms off the Cordero Channel, we found a massive fish farm, hundreds of acres of newly timbered land, a large pod of Pacific white-sided dolphin, eagles solo and paired, and a lone grizzly prowling the waters edge.

Last in the lineup, Whirlpool Rapids falls under the influence of entirely distinct bathymetric parameters. Even slow tugs pulling massive log booms may pass here at slack.

British Columbia is the theater where sun and moon are actors performing a sempiternal tidal drama. Coastal canyons, often narrow, always rocky and never perfectly understood, create profound hydraulic forces at fearsome rapids.

Correctly timing slack tide through Dent Rapids makes it difficult to imagine the trouble that otherwise occurs.

“The boat sauntered, at eight knots going on nine, through Gillard Passage and Dent Rapids – a scene of spent turmoil, like the tumbled sheets of an empty bed, with an appropriately salty, postcoital smell of bladder wrack drying on the rocks.”

Passage to Juneau, Jonathan Raban


  1. Paula says:

    I clicked on the “Find Jupiter” menu item to view your location on the map and am wondering what the red dashed line on the map represents. Is that last year’s route?

  2. Tina Jones says:

    Glad you all are enjoying so much of ‘God’s country”…:-)
    Celebrated a milestone birthday at Dent Island Lodge…

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