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10/10/2013

Deception Pass Whirlpools in your Nightmares, Standing Waves and Currents

       I have avoided posting potentially scary pics.  I don't want  people with vivid imaginations to have runaway thoughts and fears.   But recently I spent half an hour in Deception Pass playing with the currents, letting them spin the boat while we watched whirlpools develop and subside all around us.
      We would run up a few hundred feet and then drift back, letting the boat spin and wander.

       As you know when the tide changes, so does the pass and the water conditions.  The changes happen in minutes and even seconds, so be forewarned that you can easily get into trouble here in any number of ways.  I'm not going to argue or defend the safety point or even seamanship. Thirty minutes earlier the water was so nice you would safely paddle a canoe. Thirty minutes later well that's another story too.

        My photography skills are lacking and water pics seem to always come out flat looking so I will describe the picture below.  What you see is a swirling rotation about thirty feet across. Placid calm water on one side of the swift flowing current is slowing the flow and throwing off one whirlpool after another. The whirls are both big and little and move with the current for about a hundred feet from creation to disappearance.  At this particular spot there are 3-5 visible at any one time eliciting ewes and awes from us as we yell and point out especially big ones to each other.  The inner whirl in this pic is funnel shaped, about 10 feet across  and very pronounced dropping about 12-18" in the center.  The white center is taking in air and continues down under water just like a land borne tornado funnel.  The wispy white air bubble tail is clearly visible below the surface for quite a distance.
Deception Pass current



With the motor idling and the boat drifting we not only watch hundreds of whirlpools form and die but we can hear sucking sounds the particularly big ones emit.  Of course the conversation always touches on how a swimmer would be affected, with or without a pfd.  Next comes the kayak and dinghy what if's. On this day a standing wave began to form while we dally about.
Some standing waves look a lot like a whirlpool on its side, only without the funnel  You can see the water well up from deep down, roll over at the surface and then dive back down.  When the action gets severe a nasty roller just sits there in one spot. If a small boat (kayak) gets sideways in any wave its liable to be rolled over, but in a fast flowing pass, it is best to be somewhere else.
This standing wave was developing unnoticed and still mostly flat, but as we drifted sideways over the beginning stages, our keel got hooked and we violently lurched to one side, heeling enough to slide the coffee cups on the table, and snapping my attention back to the fact we were in Deception Pass.

Having enough fun and games, and acutely aware that the tourists watching from the bridge were by now probably making bets on our ultimate demise, I pushed her into forward gear, gunned the diesel and made a broad swinging pass back through the standing wave spot, and then for good measure, turned and ran right down whirlpool alley straddling or bisecting every whirly in sight.  An hour later or with storm conditions, the pass may not be navigable.
Another perfect July day at Deception Pass



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If you have a pic you think worth sharing, e-mail it or its url to me, the comment box wont accept pics