Refuge Cove to Alert Bay

Boating through Desolation Sound is always a bit of a challenge due to the narrow channels and the strong tidal currents. We wanted to get from Refuge Cove to Johnstone Strait and then on to points north. We chose to go through Hole in the Wall, which is the passage between Maurelle and Sonora Islands. It’s not a dangerous passage if it’s timed right, but if you get it wrong, currents up to nine knots will stop any progress and run an unwary boater into the rocks. (At full throttle, Rinpoche will only do about 8 knots) So the trick is to go through these channels at or near slack current. We had three sources for the timing of the currents. Rainer had a paper Canadian tide and current book and an Ipad with navigational software, and I had the software on the Raymarine chartplotter. These can be a bit confusing at times, but once we got the times from all sources to agree within a few minutes, we left to get to Hole in the Wall at about 10:30. Here’s the route we took:

refuge to billy goat

Refuge Cove is in the lower right corner and Billy Goat Bay is on Helmcken Island at the upper left. Our timing for Hole in the Wall was good. We encountered a bunch of swirling currents, but nothing we couldn’t easily handle. The Hole in the Wall is wider than it’s name would suggest.P1060020

You get a little bit of an idea of the swirling waters in this picture.

Once we got into Johnstone Strait, we managed to put up the sails and sail for a few hours in relatively light winds.


I’m sure you sailors out there will criticize my sail trim, but at least I got the telltales flying!

We spent the night anchored in Billy Goat Bay, but unfortunately we didn’t see any.

The next day we sailed (mostly) the 50 nautical miles to Alert Bay. And did we ever sail! At first the winds were on our butt and relatively light, so we put up the gennaker. But we brought it down within minutes as the winds soon rose above 15 knots. And they kept rising! So we put a reef in the main. We saw winds of over 30 knots, and ended up running downwind with two reefs in the main and the genoa partially furled. We still hit speeds through the water in excess of 10 knots! The water was rough, and it was a cold dreary day, but what a blast! And we even learned a few things. I had never put a reef in the main while the sails were loaded, but we gave it a try and it worked just fine. Twice.


Alert Bay is primarily a native community, known mostly for its Potlatch Museum and a large community of native artists. As much as the cruise ships can be annoying, I’m sure the locals do well when the ships anchor and send over their shore launches full of tourists with pockets full of cash.


More on Alert Bay in my next post.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s