Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 56: Hamilton Island to Devilfish Bay

El Capitan Passage is a lot like Rocky Pass. Narrow, shallow, and exceptionally well marked. However, it’s a lot shorter than Rocky Pass, requiring less than an hour of intense concentration to safely steer around every rock.

El Capitan Passage
We arrived at El Capitan Caves a bit before our appointed tour time and used the extra time to bundle up. Apparently the cave maintains a consistent 40-degree temperature throughout the year and the ceiling drips incessantly. Not to mention the downpour we’d have to tolerate for the dinghy ride to shore and the walk up 370 steps to the cave.

When we got to the small shelter at the beginning of the trail, nobody was there. No USFS ranger, no other visitors. A few minutes later three people, dressed in foul weather gear, trundled up. An older, obviously pampered woman, a man who seemed rather submissive, and a young guy with a radio remote slung over his shoulder—obviously the crew. I asked what boat they were from, and they indicated a 115-footer that was anchored on the other side of El Capitan Passage. They’d arrived by dinghy, explaining the extensive foul weather gear. I asked if the boat was a charter boat. The woman quickly explained that it was her boat before whipping out an ecigarette and puffing away.

Soon Benni and Jake arrived, our guides for the day. They’re both college students studying geology, up here giving cave tours as summer interns. They fitted us with hard hats and we set off for the walk up the stairs to the cave.
Benni and Jake at the cave entrance.
The cave system is extensive, stretching several thousand feet into the mountainside. Our tour only went in 500 feet or so, but it was enough to get a sense of the place. The guides did a good job of explaining the geology, but I can’t remember a whole lot of it beyond the fact that it has taken 400 million years for the cave to develop.

After the cave tour we headed for Devilfish Bay, which looked like a good, well sheltered anchorage. According to native folklore, a huge devilfish once rose up from the bay and crashed down, creating a wave the wiped out an entire village. Many subsequent visitors have reported supernatural feelings here.

I can’t vouch for any of that, but I can say that this is one windy anchorage. At the head of the bay we had consistent 20-25 knot winds, sideways rain, and a noisy chop slapping at the hull. The noise was so objectionable that I slept in the salon. Not my favorite anchorage…

15.61 nm today
1796.92 nm total

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