Cape Caution

Cape Caution-Hecate Strait-DixonEntrance

This map from Wikipedia shows the locations of Cape Caution in Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon Entrance to the north.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about Cape Caution, considering that we are tied up in our slip in Anacortes Marina with no plans of cruising that far north this season.

Rounding Cape Caution is a major event for any cruiser going north in the Inside Passage to cruise in Northern B.C. or on to Alaska. Most of the Inside Passage is protected from ocean swells by outlying islands. However, there are two areas of travel that are open to the ocean…Cape Caution in Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon Entrance further north.

Rounding Cape Caution can be a harrowing experience and is not to be taken lightly.

Queen Charlotte Strait

Cruising north in Queen Charlotte Strait toward Cape Caution

Today I was reviewing the Waggoner Cruising Guide online, Waggoner Cruising Guide is one of the area cruising guidebooks that has been a favorite of ours over the years. Last year, the original publisher and founder of the publication, Bob Hale, retired and sold the guidebook to Mark Bunzel, who is continuing the publication and website. I was interested in what might have changed and whether there was a new look. There is a new look, but most of the same good stuff is there. Go to the website and/or buy the 2012 book to check it out yourself.

However, what caught my eye today was a section of the website called “Cruising Reports.” In that section, I noticed that Bob Hale’s cruise reports from 2011 are still available for viewing. We’ve always enjoyed his reviews and opinions, whether reading them from a publication or talking with him at a cruising get-together. Bob’s cruising suggestions are based on his own experiences over many, many years of cruising Pacific Northwest waters.

Cape Caution

Cape Caution is marked by a light for navigation.

As I was reading Bob’s report about his two roundings of Cape Caution in 2011, I noticed that he had included an updated checklist of suggestions for transiting Cape Caution, and I thought we should pay attention. He says,

“Our plan for rounding Cape Caution in what passes for comfort has four components. First, we go on a flood tide only. The flood lengthens the distance between the incoming ocean swells, in effect smoothing them. Further, on an ebb an enormous amount of water flows out of Rivers Inlet, heaping the seas. If we’re crossing from the mainland side, the ebb out of Slingsby Channel can be brutal, even dangerous. We don’t want an ebb.

“Second, the lighthouse reports from Scarlett Point, Pine Island and Egg Island need to be for light winds, maximum 2-foot chop, low swell. Fifteen knots of wind and 3-foot moderate usually isn’t moderate enough for us.

“Third, the West Sea Otter buoy report needs to be seas 1.3 meters or less, preferably less.

“Last, even if points one through three above are in line, if an afternoon westerly is predicted or apt to develop, we want to wait for another day. The westerly can change everything but the tide.”

The link to Bob’s complete cruise report can be viewed at More information about rounding Cape Caution is also available in the 2012 Waggoner Cruising Guide.

Thanks, Bob. We will remember your good advice for our future cruises. Wish we had all this information when we rounded Cape Caution in 2003, when the Slingsby Channel ebb got us!

The sea is always unpredictable, of course, but any tips that help keep us safe are worth remembering and sharing!

Allison Harbour

Before we rounded Cape Caution, we anchored for the night in Allison Harbour, an inlet on the B.C. mainland just SE of the Cape.

Fury Cove

After rounding Cape Caution, our first anchorage was Fury Cove on Penrose Island, a protective bay with white shell beaches.