The upper latitudes of North America’s Pacific Coast are blessed with a long strand of islands scattered just offshore of the mainland. These islands provide shelter from the swells generated across the expanse of the world’s largest ocean, and offer one of the most scenic passages for ships to be found anywhere on the globe. Stretching from Washington State’s Puget Sound northward through British Columbia, Canada onward to the Panhandle of Southeast Alaska, it threads between forested islands and coastal mountain ranges, encompassing a total of over 45,000 miles of coastline, thousands of islands and innumerable coves. It is comprised of the Strait of Georgia, Johnstone Strait, the more open Hecate Strait near the Haida Gwai (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands), Fitz Hugh Sound, and the Princess Royal and Grenville Channels. These waterways are subject to tidal currents with variable velocity resulting from their restricted channels. At the northern end, diurnal tides can change the sea level by as much as 30 feet (9 meters), underlining the importance of using knowledgeable pilots during any passage. A wide variety of vessels pass through the Inside Passage in both directions. People on board enjoy the scenic land- and seascapes, as well as frequent sightings of wildlife including whales, seals, birds and occasionally bears.