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Old 07-10-2011, 14:31   #1
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Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

Hi folks!

I'm very out-of-place here, since I'm not a sailor, but I need expert advice and stories and I think there may be some among you who can help.

I write historical fiction and am currently working on a novel based in 1920s Port Angeles, Washington. It was inspired by an old family story about my grandfather, who (with a bunch of buddies) would cross the Straits at night in order to smuggle Canadian whiskey during Prohibition.

We believe their landing spot was either Freshwater Bay or Crescent Beach. I'm guessing they started out from the Ediz Hook area. My father insists that they did not use motors, but instead rowed the crossing during the night. My story is fiction, so I don't have to stick to the memories, but I do need to be as historically accurate as possible.

Most of my story takes place on land, but I willl have one climactic scene on the straits. I'm NOT a sailor, so I could use any help you experienced folk could offer. I've been to Freshwater Bay at night and can't even fathom crossing that body of water in the dark--especially in storm-tossed seas. Can you describe for me what it would be like? Any idea what kind of boats or equipment they might have had (or might not have had)? I hope to have a second boat--possibly motor-equipped--to intercept them and come to their assistance.

Any suggestions, stories or advice would be most appreciated!

Karen Barnett
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Old 07-10-2011, 15:15   #2
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

I could see where that could be a very interesting part of the plot. Can you share a few more details?

A few pieces of information regarding the Strait of Juan de Fuca, from the Ediz Hook/Freshwater Bay area, the closest shore on the BC side is around Bentinck Island and then a bit more west toward the entrance to Victoria. In a decent longboat with four oarsmen, it is conceivable to do the crossing over and back in one night, assuming you don't spend too much time during the pick-up. That's about 17 miles as the crow flies, but boats don't do that.

The Straits have quite substantial currents that accelerate, decelerate and change directions with the tide. The currents are particularly strong on the BC side around Race Rocks. By the way, there are lots of rocks along that piece of shore. You could actually pick a theoretical date and go back in time with the tide and current tables to see what it would be like. In your story, you might also want to include whether you have a moon and if so, how much. The tides and currents are correlated with the moon, such that you get the strongest currents and highest tides during so called "spring tides" -- nothing to do with the season, by the way, a spring tide is when the moon is either full or new. Neap tides are during the quarter moons and the tides are weakest then. So, if you want a moonless night in the story, that's also when you would have the strongest currents and highest/lowest tides.

This effects your story because a high tide/strong current must be compensated for in the boat by having them steer towards a point either easterly or westerly of where they want to end up. This also makes for a greater distance to row.

Weather certainly makes a big difference in those waters. The straits are quite subject to weather on the ocean, as the swells tend to come right down the strait when conditions are just right and that can make it very rough, especially if you have the swells coming in from the ocean on an ebbing (outflowing) tide or with winds from the east. This is because the wind and tide start piling up with the swell coming in from the other way and this makes for short-period (close together) but steep waves -- very uncomfortable! Especially if you are crossing them such that the waves are on the beam (side) of the boat. On the other hand, I've also made that same crossing when it was like a pond.

Hopefully, this will get you started -- feel free to ask questions. In some respects, your task here is not unlike many of the stories of the smugglers who used to cross between England and France. There are many stories out there about those. Julian Stockwin did a particularly nice job describing those in one of his Thomas Kydd novels, I think it was "The Admiral's Daughter".

ID
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Old 07-10-2011, 15:19   #3
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Karen.
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Old 07-10-2011, 15:28   #4
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

"It was a dark and stormy night, and there we were, waves to the left of us and waves to the right of us; suddenly a woman screamed, a shot rang out, and a screen door slammed." All due respect to Mr. Schultz. Welcome to the forum, Karen. I am sure that there are many whom will be able to assist you. That is a nasty bit of water to cross at times, but folks back in those days were definitely tougher than us now. They had to be.
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Old 07-10-2011, 15:49   #5
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

The tides and races, the loom of the Race Rocks Light as seen through the midnight fog with its horn, the Race Rocks lighthouse keeper on the look out for contraband, the mosquito fleet ferries and their fog horn, throw in a Makah Indian dugout(no horn), tripping over a race rock burial cairn,

Lots of of good juice for a story
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Old 07-10-2011, 15:52   #6
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

I think first choice would be a large launch which could be either sailed or rowed by four to six chaps.
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Old 07-10-2011, 16:25   #7
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

If you want to make the crossing for real, send me a PM. We'll be taking Gray Hawk to Port Angeles for a haulout sometime this fall. When we're done we'll be heading back to Victoria/Sidney & you'd be more than welcome to hitch a ride.
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Old 07-10-2011, 16:33   #8
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

Back in the east runabouts like Garwood and Hacker were used frequently since they could out run revenue and CG cutters of the day. I am not sure if they were as popular on the West Coast, but it would not surprise me much if a few were used:

http://www.acbs.org/rudder/oldrudder...evolution2.htm
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Old 07-10-2011, 16:52   #9
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

Welcome Karen!
Not a help but can't resist...after a stormy crossing of the straights in a Coast Guard Cutter inbound to Todd for haul out with some newbies aboard we nicknamed it Straights of John the Puker. We were not the first to do so I imagine

Best wishes for your story!
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Old 07-10-2011, 23:26   #10
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

You might look up some other history of the area like the Pig War that took place in the San Juan islands I know it was earlier in history. Also look up the boot legging back in the Carolina mountains I know some of the loggers and moonshiners were from North Carolina just being normal.
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Old 07-10-2011, 23:56   #11
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by webejammin View Post
You might look up some other history of the area like the Pig War that took place in the San Juan islands I know it was earlier in history. Also look up the boot legging back in the Carolina mountains I know some of the loggers and moonshiners were from North Carolina just being normal.
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Old 08-10-2011, 00:38   #12
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

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Originally Posted by tropicalescape View Post
Damn Hillbillys!..DVC
Yup They were just making a living and feeding there kids on moonshine money , I grew up with kids like that.
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Old 08-10-2011, 00:58   #13
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

I live in Port Angeles and have worked in government for the last 10 years here. Interestingly, smuggling is still a bit of a problem here, except now it's BC Bud (maryjane) and the occasional terrorist (Ressam, the Millenium Bomber) coming over instead of booze. Makes you wish for the good ol days of whisky runners! The method of choice for drug runners is still small boats, but mostly small powerboats / zodiacs in the middle of the night. One of the last big loads was caught at the boat launch at Freshwater Bay by local narcotics detectives and the US Border Patrol a few years back. I guess old smuggling habits die hard. The feds have taken notice and Port Angeles is now home to several fastboats from CBP Office of Air and Marine in addition to the five CG Cutters stationed here, plus the Clallam Sheriff's Office gorgeous new patrol boat.
This may not help with the historical technical info you may be looking for, but I thought you might be interested in knowing that this is still going on today.
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Old 08-10-2011, 01:10   #14
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

Also, back in the day, it was pretty routine for the Makah and Klallam (Lower Elwha) tribes to transit the Strait to and from Vancouver Island with as few as two paddlers in canoes. I can't begin to imagine that ride. Their tribal centers may also be a good resource for your work - it was pretty common for early settlers to hire the natives to ferry them across.
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Old 08-10-2011, 01:37   #15
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Re: Strait of Juan de Fuca - Please Help :)

It's not hard to cross the strait of Juan de fuca in a rowboat, since the swell never really gets that large. They actually have a kayak/canoe race, every two years I think, from Victoria to Port Angeles.
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