Friday, August 5, 2016

Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls

The trip to Princess Louisa Inlet is considered one of the holy grails of cruising. We started early morning at 6:00AM from Backeddy Marina to make the 37 nautical mile trip to Malibu Rapids. There are many areas in this section of cruising that have large dangerous rapids and timing is everything. You have a small window of opportunity to pass the rapid areas at slack tide. Slack tide is the time between high and low when there is the least amount of current. Either side of that window and you are literally taking your life into your hands. Timing calculations are important and figuring when slack will be involves using a tide station that could be a significant distance from where you will be. It is suggested that Point Atkinson, which is near Vancouver be used and then add 36 minutes to the stated slack after high tide and that should work. Now the trick is to pace your speed to get there just at the right moment. GPS has made those calculations somewhat easy. I set my destination waypoint at the center of the rapids. I initially figured a speed of 6.5 knots running up 37 nautical miles. My GPS will then tell me my anticipated arrival time based on my current speed. As you progress winds and current change and this requires either slowing down or speeding up so that you maintain your required arrival time. We left figuring the worst case scenario and kept having to throttle back because mother nature was helping us way too much. We even stopped and anchored for a half hour since we were going so fast. We arrived at the entrance point and as one can suspect we were not the only boat waiting for slack. And remember boats want to go in and boats want to go out. It is a pretty orderly operation. You can see the Rapids from the outside and everyone is looking down the small narrow channel to see how it looks. No one wants to be the first in and usually the biggest boat takes the plunge and then reports back. After that the chatter begins (maybe that is why it is called Chatterbox Falls) and everyone announces their place in line and waits for a clear spot to enter. Only one boat at a time can go through since it is so narrow. Usually groups of three or four, one at a time, will take turns entering the rapids or exiting from the falls side. “Security, security, security, 27-foot Ranger Tug entering Malibu Rapids. Any vessel opposing please respond immediately”. No response, good to go. Usually a few other boats behind you will report accordingly and announce who they are behind. When there is a break in the announcing by incoming, anyone on the other side will jump in and announce their exiting. We all have about a 20-minute window on either side of slack to make the passage. It works well and we all enter and exit in one piece. As we get closer to the falls the canyon walls get higher and steeper, raising vertically at points to 3,000 feet. Waterfalls run down in several places and on this day clouds hung low is places creating a Jurassic Park feeling as we progressed. We finally made it to the falls. It was now time to find a spot to anchor. There is a dock, but it is usually full before you get there. The people anchored out from the night before grab a spot as soon as those who were there leave to exit.
We coincidentally met up with a couple of other Ranger Tug folks that we met previously so three of us rafted up for the night while the other group miraculously found a spot at the dock. After rafting up it was time to go to shore and hike the numerous paths and see the falls up close. Pretty magnificent. The trip was well worth it. After the hiking Jeff brought over a bucket of clams he had dug up from his secret spot the day before. Before you knew it we had an impromptu repeat of the Feeding of Multitudes from the Bible. Ken and Sandy made spaghetti and clam sauce. I cooked some clams in a tin foil bag I made and used garlic, butter, wine, onions and basil and steamed them on the grill, Ron and Libby made garlic bread and Jess made a salad. We all sat down on Sandy and Ken’s 29 foot Ranger and brought our food, appetizers and wine and indulged in a feast.  It was a great evening and we wished it wouldn’t end, but for us and Ron and Libby it was early to bed early to rise. The rapids went slack at 6:05 AM so it was a 5:30 AM departure to make it through.

Below are a few pictures of our journey to the falls. 

We are not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Yes, a bit ominous looking.

I think I saw a dinosaur 

The Falls are not as big as they are in early spring. I read that in the spring you should not anchor in front since boulders do come down at times.

Some markings of water running down earlier in the season.

I expected Gollum from Lord of the Rings to pop out at any time!

So after they put up the sign no one else died? 

Gullum are you home?

Typical forest foliage.

More forest foliage

Baby Chatterbox maybe?

Forest gnomes!

Ron, Jess and Libby going back to the boat. Not our boat behind them. Ron has a bad sense of direction. Explains why he always follows us. 

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