Dangerous situations can arise pretty quickly when you are out on the water. Living on an island we are out on the water more than most and the islanders are pretty diligent about our safety measures. We see many who are not.
To get to the Gulf Islands from Nanaimo there are two options. You can travel the wild currents of Dodd’s narrows or the complicated route of False Narrows. We prefer False Narrows.
Although some of the choppiest seas we have experienced locally were at the south end of False Narrows, it is my preferred route. We know the convoluted course well and it is the closest path to our marina. There is a very large reef down the centre of the channel and the only way to get around it is by travelling in a zig zag pattern between the hidden rocks. No one should be travelling to the Gulf Islands through False Narrows without their charts open.
The other option is the wild ride, called Dodd’s Narrows. The current can run 9 knts through the slim S-shaped channel. Not only are there wild tidal pools, but tug boats with log booms, big white boats with their accompanying wakes mixed with lots of debris from the Harmac mill. Substantial logs have been known to randomly spring from the whirlpools rendering you without the steering you need to keep off the rocks. Sailboats line up at either end waiting for slack water to get through. Slack water is the moment between highest or lowest tide before it turns and goes the other way, when the water is at its calmest. Dodd’s Narrows slack water still can’t be considered calm, but it is safer than when the tides are running at full speed.
At the most narrow point of Dodd’s, hikers gather to sit and watch the entertainment as boats are tossed and thrown across the whirlpools. I would suggest you need a fairly reliable boat to be considering a trip through Dodd’s Narrows. Ours has no problem and E actually loves the trip. As the boat flies back and forth like a ride at Disneyland, I have heard him actually say wheeee..
This is a video I took once of the sea lions playing in the whirlpools. (Dodd’s Narrows)
Tuesday night, around 5 pm my sister and brother-in-law were heading from Nanaimo to our island via False Narrows. They were keeping their eyes peeled for random logs and dead heads, perhaps an Orca or two when Janet spotted an oddly shaped kayak at the northern end of Dodd’s. It’s shape was odd because it was upside down. They changed course quickly and zipped over to the Dodds side of Mudge to check on the boat.
Hanging off the boat was a kayaker, held in an eddy, close to shock. An older man and apparently with experience. He had been in the water for ten minutes, one leg still inside the overturned kayak and his wrist attached to the kayak by a safety strap. They got him and his kayak into their boat.
This guy’s planned route was from the cedar boat ramp, through Dodd’s Narrows around Mudge, down through False Narrows, through the cut and back to cedar. Insane. He had no skirt on his kayak and hadn’t checked the currents. Ten more minutes in the water and he wouldn’t have survived.
Janet and Steve took him back to the cedar boat ramp. Congrats to them on a great save. A reminder to us all to keep our eyes peeled for the unexpected. A reminder also, that no matter how experienced we like to think we are, common sense should prevail. It couldn’t hurt to tell the story to your visitors and family as they head out on their kayak tours of the island.
If you will, a cautionary tale