Deception Pass For Dummies
The opening of boating season is an exciting time of year and it’s always held on the first Saturday of May; for me, it is day 85 of boating season. Having been through Deception Pass more than 18,000 times, I can honestly profess to an experience level far exceeding all other Deception Pass boaters. I have been through the Pass in all weather, all currents, and boating conditions, including some in my younger years that I probably didn’t deserve to make it through. These days, I am a cautious Captain and would like to share my knowledge with you about boating in Deception Pass. I hope you find this helpful and, please, share it with the younger generations in your life.
The greatest challenge in boating in Deception Pass are the currents. Let’s talk about how to check the tides and currents for Deception Pass. I use Captain Jack’s Tide Guide, but you can also find tide charts online or pick one up at Ace Hardware or Holiday Sports. The tides won’t help you much in Deception Pass, you want the currents, and that’s why I like Captain Jack’s, because the tides and currents are on every page.
Most boaters, even beginners, can safely travel through Deception Pass at Slack tide and generally 30 minutes before and after slack tide the water will be calm directly under the bridge. The trick is that you have to make it back through and Slack Tide is on a schedule. The next factor is the speed of the currents and if you decide that you are going to fight the current, make sure you have enough horse power to fight it. A small 15hp on a skiff, can usually handle a swift current. But, not a 15hp on a 20 foot sail boat. The deeper your boat sits under the water, the more you will be pushed around by the whirlpools and currents. Over the years, I have seen several boats thrown against the rock outcroppings in the Pass, even to the point of completely disabling them and endangering everyone aboard. Last year I saw a man, in such a life threatening situation on his small boat, coming through the Pass at night, against one of the strongest currents of the year, that I genuinely feel he is lucky to be alive.
But, on a windy day, even Slack Tide can be dangerous and that’s the next thing you have to monitor. When the wind direction is opposing the currents, waves will form rapidly, and the timing of your Deception Pass crossing should be done with caution or not at all. West winds over 15 knots can create a swell under the bridge. The stacking waves can be very dangerous if the boater makes a decision to turn back at the wrong time and the waves can overcome the boat from the side. It’s is far better to dock at Rosario for a few hours and wait for the right tide situation than to risk damage to your boat, or your ears from your spouse’s screams.
The man I mentioned before, who is lucky to be alive, was not wearing a life jacket when his boat overturned. When you are on your boat, not tied to a dock, or drinking beer in it in your driveway, you and your guests ought to have a USCG approved life jacket on when underway. I see way too many boaters these days not taking this basic precaution, and I am seeing it in one of the most treacherous places on earth for boaters.
So, get out that tide book, check the condition of your life jackets, and check the wind forecast and you will have smooth sailing this month.