Hole in the Wall

It had been a very pleasant day with a visit to the El Capitan Cave on Prince of Wales Island. Navigating in and out of Dry Pass from Sumner Strait through Shakan Bay had been an enjoyable. Our plan was to use Rocky Pass the following day on our early June trip to Juneau. We would transit The Summit just at high tide so that we went in on the flood and out the north end on the ebb. It was the proper plan but wind and tide in Sumner Strait were not cooperating as we attempted to reach Port Protection , our planned anchorage. We had a strong southerly wind aft and were pushing against an extreme ebb tide. It got pretty nasty as we approached Calder Rocks. Even a half dozen trollers were fishing along the shore with their stabilizers deployed. On the charts, a little slot bay inside of us caught my attention as a fall back anchorage for the night. I made the decision to go for it. It had been a long day and everyone was tired.  Its name is Hole in the Wall and it is so aptly named.

The entrance to Hole in the Wall is literally like threading a needle. It has a big exposed rock on the north side just inside the entrance followed by a south side reef and eight feet of water at MLLW. With a four-foot swell and plus two of tide getting in was a bit hairy but not really any trouble. The night’s anchorage had a few 20+ knot gusts but we had a firm hold. After dinner I checked the conditions for our morning departure and discovered I had a problem. There would be a minus tide just after 7am and if we waited for a safe margin on the flood tide we would miss our time for transiting Rocky Pass. I was in the  pilothouse at 3 am and started watching the entrance. At first light I could see white water in the strait outside. The seas were still bad. The rock in the entrance looked monstrous and was getting bigger by the minute. With some quick calculations I estimated we had to clear the entrance by 4 am in order to not have any worse conditions than coming in the night before or face being stuck in Hole in the Wall most of the morning. The Nordic Quest is 44 feet, with a 13 foot beam and draws five feet. Should I have been worried? You bet I was but she went through that slot perfectly. Boy, do I love how that boat handles.

About Fred Cooper

Alaska resident at the time of statehood; retired professional civil engineer and for 35 years owner of an engineering company; firmer owner and skipper of the Nordic Quest; author, avid fisherman and world traveler. Lives with his wife and their water-loving standard schnauzer in Portland, Oregon.
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