If you are looking for a much less-traveled area with remote anchorage and intriguing, majestic scenery, the labyrinth of waterways lying southeast of Cape Caution is the place to be. How often do boaters on their way to or from Southeast Alaska focus on getting around Cape Caution instead of stopping for the cruising opportunities awaiting in the variety of inlets behind Cape Caution?
Allison Harbour, located south of Bramham Island, serves as a starting point for timing a passage through Nakwakto Rapids, the gate to this labyrinth of remote inlets.
On a recent trip, we anchored for the night in Allison Harbour and departed the following day, allowing 40 minutes to reach Nakwakto Rapids before slack. One of the world’s fastest rapids, Nakwakto can attain speeds of 14.5 knots on large ebb tides and holds a record second only to Sechelt Rapids. Like other boaters, we had heard about these rapids and had seen photos which tend to deter boaters from taking this passage. As we discovered, however, transiting the rapids at slack is a non-event; admittedly, timing the rapids is crucial. Not only is it the speed that makes Nakwakto treacherous, but also the whirlpools and eddies. Nakwakto Rapids is not one to challenge in anything but slack; within 15 minutes of slack, you can see turbulence and eddies. While transiting the rapids at slack is easily done, it’s not uncommon to meet a tug pulling a raft of logs. As we neared the entrance to Nakwakto Rapids, we saw a tug approaching from the opposite direction and circled around a small islet to wait for the tug to be well clear before continuing into the passageway. Normally, seeing tugs at rapids is often a concern; but in this case, they serve as a confirmation that it’s time to go through. Turret Rock, known locally as Tremble Island lies in the middle of the narrow Nakwakto Rapids. Boaters can pass around either side of Turret Rock; the west side is considered the preferred side. On our return trip, however, we passed on the east side with equal ease. Transiting each side allowed us to see all of the boat names attached to trees (a long-standing tradition) on this tiny rock island.
Once through Nakwakto Rapids, boaters have three main areas to explore: eastward into Nugent Sound; southeast into Seymour Inlet which includes Frederick Sound; or northeast into Belize Inlet which includes Mereworth Sound and Alison Sound. Seldom visited by pleasure boaters, we found ourselves completely alone among these isolated scenic inlets, hidden from the outside world. With limited time, we chose the beautiful Belize Inlet route, a fjord-like channel with steep mountains and numerous waterfalls. Putting the nose of Got d’ Fever up close to one of the falls, we took in the quiet, undisturbed majesty of this remote backcountry.
While traversing through the bends and turns admiring the variety of geological formations and vegetation, we couldn’t help but marvel that this area was once home to the Nakwaktok people. Pictographs in the area give evidence of their previous life here. A pictograph on the northern shore of Belize Inlet (near the entrance to Alison Sound) depicts a sailing ship and some canoes, men in the canoes appear to be holding what looks like rifles. As we turned up Alison Sound following the narrow, twisting channel lined with more mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls, we found a second pictograph on the north shore showing a row of canoes with one lone canoe approaching. It is reported that a Native Nakwaktok camp in Village Cove of Mereworth Sound was fired upon in 1868 in retaliation for an assault on a trading vessel named Thorton, perhaps these pictographs record this incident. History indicates that a main village as well as summer camps were established throughout these inlets.
Our journey took us to the head of Belize Inlet ending at a delta. Backtracking a short distance, we found anchorage at Summers Bay over an irregular bottom in about 60 feet of water. The still quiet evening was interrupted only by the sound of a nearby waterfall and the chirping of birds as the sun went behind the peaks above Chief Nollis Bay at the western end of Alison Sound.