Thursday, June 5, 2008
Alaskan Adventure - Emergency Steering
One point along the southern end of the passage is called the “Seymour Narrows”. I’m not sure if the cruise ships go thru it, but the smaller vessels do. And life can become exciting real fast in the narrows, from what Capt Joe said. The tide is rather strong at this point and when it changes direction the rips can be very strong…even to the point that there are whirlpools created. Joe said one ship he was on was completely spun around by one of them! Wow!
One reference says, “Seymour Narrows is a long, slender, dangerous stretch of water north of Campbell River, B.C.. Like many sites in this part of the world, vast amounts of water are forced by ocean tides through narrow passages, which creates high water currents (15 knots at times) and dangerous conditions — whirlpools, overfalls, and other boat-busting conditions.
Explorer George Vancouver described Seymour Narrows as "one of the vilest stretches of water in the world." The rapids have claimed over a hundred lives and is regarded by many sailors as the worst hazard to marine navigation on the British Columbia coast.”
We were going to go thru the narrows right at deep dusk. While we did set anchor awhile to wait for the worst of it to pass, the ride could become interesting without warning at any time.
And I wasn’t going to miss it for anything!
I bounced up to the bridge a bit after we brought the anchor up. Capt Joe was the only one up there and all the bridge lights were off but one (the glare on the windows is really bad with the lights on). I noticed he was talking a lot on the ship’s phone to engineering. And it was kinda strange that the deck hands weren’t hanging out either, but figured it was part and parcel of going thru.
So I sat down and waited for the ride to begin. Since it was pretty dark by now there wasn’t much to look at outside, so I picked up a magazine and thumbed thru it. Pretty dull stuff. Until I hear the radio crackle and the Canadian Coast Guard ask “Independence, what is your current situation?”
Hmmmm… they take going thru these narrows really serious! I flipped a couple more pages.
Then Capt Joe replies, “We are heading into Deepwater Bay on emergency steering…”
No wonder he’s been in such close communication with the engineers and the deck hands are scarce (read “BUSY”)! I look up from the magazine to find Capt Joe looking directly at me. I raised an eyebrow, he smiled. Well, he was relaxed and if he’s OK with what’s going on…so am I! I nod my head towards the stairs off the bridge to see if he wanted me to leave but he shook his head “no”. He then snapped off the last light, leaving the bridge illuminated by the instruments and the dim light over the charts.
For the next 15 minutes or so, I watch as 42 years of experience maneuvered us out of the narrows and safely into the bay where anchor was dropped until it could be figured out what was wrong. It was fascinating.
They got the problem fixed and we were on our way again...8 hours later than planned.