We headed home from our trip through the San Juan Islands moving east then south, passing Guemes Island, Anacortes, and La Conner before cruising through Deception Pass, a body of water locally famous for tides that rip perilously through the narrow passageway. Though I’d crossed over the area on the bridge shown here I never expected to cruise through on the water below.
We went through on a slack tide, as placid a period as can be expected. Still, the water was obviously pouring westward. We moved through the pass with the engine killed, pulled along by the force of the water. It was gentle movement but I could well imagine a totally different experience on a moving tide.
Slack tide or not there were whirlpools of water. Tidal action can magnify these whirlpools such that they can completely spin a boat, motoring or not, and worse. Here is a description of the currents from Wikipedia:
“Deception Pass is a dramatic seascape where the tidal flow and whirlpools beneath the twin bridges connecting Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island move quickly. During ebb and flood tide current speed reaches about 8 knots (9.2 mph), flowing in opposite directions between ebb and flood. This swift current can lead to standing waves, large whirlpools, and roiling eddies…Boats can be seen waiting on either side of the pass for the current to stop or change direction before going through. Thrill-seeking kayakers go there during large tide changes to surf the standing waves and brave the class 2 and 3 rapid conditions.”