We stayed overnight in Campbell river.

Campbell river is a town that sits at the mouth of Discovery Passage and is one mile away from the infamous Seymour Narrows.

Seymour Narrows is famous because it is …. well narrow. The water that flows through it is a lot like a city commuter. It is in a terrible rush to go one way, and then 6 hours later is in a terrible rush to go the other. Flows can reach up to 16 knots, which when you motor at 6 knots means that you have to pay close attention if you want to go forward. On top of that, it is the route commercial traffic takes north and south so you don’t have to worry about feelings of loneliness when you pass through at slack tide.

We had never transited Seymour Narrows, most of the guide books recommend recreational users stay away due to the whirlpools, traffic, fog….Satan etc. So, other than reading all the guides and planning carefully, while in Campbell River we did some extra reconnaissance by talking to locals and watching other vessels. Most notably, we watched a 40′ Grand Banks go out into the flow directly outside the marina about 1.5 hours before slack. At full throttle we watched him inching forwards incrementally. A local told us later, that it is better to wait till almost slack before leaving other wise you spend a lot of time burning gas and going no where.

Our leave time was 4:30 am in the morning, we figured on two things:

  1. We’d be the only ones out there at that time in the morning.
  2. A. Would sleep in, while we took the boat out and wake at a reasonable time.

Obviously, we were wrong on both accounts.

In a place like Campbell River, tide is the strongest dictator of when you leave, rather than sleepy pillow time. Each time a slack rolled around the lazy marina sprang to life for 30 minutes before lapsing into sleep again.   We left with 4 or  other power boats right at day break.

I glanced in to A.’s cabin at 4:30 and was greeted with a pair of shining eye balls and a set teeth grinning at me through the early morning murk. After 30 minutes of ‘trying’ to go back to sleep without as far as I can gather actually closing one eye we gave up and had the full crew compliment on deck for the trip.

 We had a fun first hour, as our sail boat led the pack of power boats. Try as they might, they couldn’t find the slip stream of tide we had found our selves in and they couldn’t catch us. We were still reveling in that, when we lost that fickle stream and became the guy at the back of the pack, like the lonely red shirt guy in the Star Trek movies whom you know is always the first to be shot by the alien.

Company at dawn
 Sure enough, the alien loomed around the corner coming after us a few minutes later. Huge and white we calculated that the enormous cruise ship would catch us up, right as we got to the narrows.

Here we are crossing over Ripple Rock looking down the barrel of the narrows.

Seymour Narrows at ripple rock

And here is our friend over taking us at 18 knots.

Seymour Narrows, turned out to be pretty anti-climatic. We lounged on our laurels for a while before the wind piped up to 20 knots in the opposite direction from the tide and right on our nose. While the tide was giving us a good push through the intestines of BC, the wind and chop was a constant reminder that we were arriving at the mighty Johnstone Straight.

The intestines of BC.

Last year we sailed Johnstone Straight with trepedation for the first time. While the winds didn’t spank us as they are known too, it was conniving in other ways. The tide was either against us, or really against us. It was never with us. Not once. Neither way. It was also very wet. What face would it show us this year?

This year Johnstone Straight was cold, windy and choppy. The tide, that was supposed to be with us….was against us. Just as we thought about continuing on past our original destination, the seas gave into a really ugly sharp chop so we called it a day at Port Neville.

The metropolis of Port Neville consists of a government dock and a homestead lived in by 5 generations of the Hansen family. The founding Hansen had one hand and rowed up there from Vancouver (he had a stump for a second hand that he had made some kind of oar holding device for). When he arrived at Port Neville he decided this was ‘it’ and staked his claim.

Port Neville

Chatting with the caretaker we learned that the men of the family could row from Vancouver to Port Neville in 3.5 days.


I’m going to say that again, it took Olaf Hansen (the one handed guy’s son), 3.5 days to ROW, by himself over 145 nautucal miles, through some of the most treacherous and tidal waters in the world. It has just taken us 6 days to get here in our modern sailboat, doing what we call ‘hard work’ to do it. I think I just figured out why we have an obesity problem in modern society. 

The wind continued to blow the rest of the day and night into Port Neville blowing the water into playing the ‘slappy bottom dance’ loudly on the aft hull in the night. We left with the tide at six am in the morning into an icy north west wind. By nine it had moderated and as we left the confines of Johnson Straight for the wider seascapes of Queen Charlotte Sound the sun came out and taunted me to remove my toque. Looking back at Johnson Straight the clouds still sat moodily on top of it. Good bye, Johnstone Straight, see you another year.

Clouds sitting on Johnstone strait.
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Reuniting with Johnstone Straight.