The 2014 season has begun for the Waggoner Cruising Guide crew. In late March we hopped aboard Managing Editor Sam Landsman’s new-to-him Nordic Tug 37 and headed south from Elliott Bay Marina. We had two objectives: update the Puget Sound portion of the Waggoner Guide and find out what on the boat needed attention before heading north in June.
Day one was pleasant and productive. Our first stop was Des Moines Marina. This is a first class marina with newly renovated docks and a great staff. Shopping and restaurants are a bit of a walk from the marina, so the marina staff will shuttle guests into town as time allows. Diesel at Des Moines was selling for $3.559 per gallon when we visited, and we filled up with 276 gallons of the least expensive diesel in the Puget Sound area.
From Des Moines we continued south. We briefly anchored off Redondo and dinghied ashore. A coffee stand, Salty’s restaurant, and small science center are on shore. Then we continued to Dockton Park in Vashon Island’s Quartermaster Harbor. Dockton is a delightful park, complete with extensive docks (although 1/3 of them were closed), restrooms, showers, picnic shelters, and more. We left the boat at Dockton and explored further inside Quartermaster Harbor by dinghy.
Next stop Tacoma, which is a great urban boating destination. Several excellent museums, restaurants, and attractions are within walking distance of the Thea Foss Waterway. Dock Street Marina thinks there is so much to do, they will give you a second night’s moorage free on a 2-night weeknight stay until Memorial Day Weekend.
Mt. Rainier was visible as we entered Tacoma’s Hylebos Waterway.
Thea Foss Waterway is lined with marinas and close to museums, restaurants, and other amenities.
On our way back from LeMay – America’s Car Museum we stumbled upon Tacoma Book Center, a massive used bookstore. We found the nautical titles, and sure enough several old Waggoner Guide’s were available.
Mark with a 2003 Waggoner Cruising Guide found at Tacoma Book Center.
Tacoma update: The IGA supermarket nearest the Thea Foss Waterway marinas closed the week before our arrival. It will not be open for the 2014 season. The dock staff at the marinas can point you to alternate stores and help arrange transportation.
The Point Defiance Boathouse Marina always hit me as a classic old-time marina and fishing pier. The boathouse, lifts, and rental boats are something out of the past, still very functional and much loved by those fishing locally. What many don’t know is they also have about 300’ of modern docks with limited power. The docks are just east of the Washington State Ferry dock, inside the breakwater shared by Breakwater Marina and Tacoma Yacht Club. The moorage rates are attractive and paid at an ATM-type machine at the boat launch attendant’s booth. The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a short walk away up the hill. There is even an Anthony’s Restaurant located near the Boathouse. The store in the Boathouse has boating and fishing supplies, and some snack items.
Gig Harbor is charming. The Harbor History Museum continues to grow and plenty of shops and restaurants can be explored. Tides Tavern and Anthony’s both have their own docks for guests who arrive by boat, and public moorage is available.
After a swift passage (aided by the flooding current) under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge we stopped at Narrows Marina. Cruising guide authors are thrilled to find new facilities to report to their readers. With new transient docks, the Boathouse 19 restaurant (open lunch and dinner), and a marina shop with boating and fishing supplies and limited groceries, Narrows Marina has been substantially upgraded. For beer connoisseurs, though, the real find is Narrows Brewing Company, in the old mill building just above the marina office and store. They serve 6 rotating microbrews with names that fit local lore, such as Galloping Gertie, Giant Pacific Octopus, and Siren’s Call. Beer can purchased in growlers, 1/6 keg, and 1/2 barrels to take back to the boat. Or, try the “Walk the Plank,” a plank presented before you with twenty-four 4 oz. glasses with tastes of various beers on tap. They do not have a food menu but you can bring your own food in from the boat or from the Boathouse 19 restaurant. On Saturday nights they do offer delicious Pampeana Empanadas, the traditional-style baked empanadas that originate from the Pampas region in Argentina.
Approaching Narrows Marina
Inside the Boathouse 19 Restaurant
From Narrows Marina we continued south, past Steilacoom Marina (dilapidated and unsafe looking). We briefly tied to a mooring buoy at Tolmie State Park and explored ashore before continuing on to Boston Harbor Marina for the night.
Boston Harbor Marina has new owners. Cam Foster-Keddie and her husband are neighbors of the marina and have a 5-year plan to improve this local favorite. When we visited, the store was in the process of being rearranged and updated. Other improvements are ongoing. Traditions like the Friday night barbecues and Sunday morning breakfasts will be maintained.
Olympia is another fantastic South Sound boating destination. Percival Landing is in the heart of the city. Although it has no power or water, it has extensive, high quality docks. A new children’s play area is just above the docks, and the nearby Children’s Museum is between Percival Landing and Swantown Marina. No kids with you? The Olympia Farmers Market is now open Thursday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The State Capital is within walking distance, and we enjoyed a free tour of the legislative building.
Walking from Percival Landing to the Capital.
Our update exploration took us to the delightful town of Shelton, where Shelton Yacht Club member and friend of the Waggoner Guide, Jim Callea, was kind enough to save us the short walk to the town and give us a local tour. Shelton has plenty of small restaurants and shops to explore. The big surprise visiting Shelton was the current in Hammersly Inlet. We entered on a flood, and at times had 4 knots of current pushing us along. Sam stayed busy at the helm keeping the boat in the deep part of the narrow channel.
Strong current in Hammersly Inlet.
After our too-quick stop in Shelton, we headed to Hope Island Marine State Park. We tied off to a buoy and poked around on shore for a bit, then, with a bit of daylight left, set off for Jarrell Cove.
Jarrell Cove is quiet and scenic, with two choices for overnight moorage: the Marine State Park docks and Jarrell’s Cove marina. Both were sleepy this time of year. Puget Sound is filled with State Parks with marine facilities, and they offer a great bargain for boaters. For cruisers spending more than six nights a year at a State Park dock, consider purchasing an annual pass for four dollars per foot of boat length.
After overnighting at Jarrell Cove, we headed to Allyn and Fair Harbor. Entering Allyn was tricky: wind was gusting to 25 knots and shallow water continually set off the depth alarm. Ashore we found several restaurants, a coffee stand, and a grocery store. Fair Harbor was delightful: clean docks, beautiful gardens ashore, and well-built facilities.
From Fair Harbor we headed for the Longbranch Improvement Club in Filucy Bay. We arrived to full docks, a first for this trip, so we anchored in the bay and took the dinghy to the docks. A group cruise had taken over the docks, confirming our note in the Waggoner Guide that this is a popular facility for club cruises.
The shakedown goal of the trip was realized when it came time to lift the anchor. We had 150 feet of chain deployed, and the windlass pulled in 140 feet before grinding to a halt. After confirming the windlass was getting voltage, we pulled the last 10 feet by hand, secured the anchor, and motored towards Lakebay Marina. It turned out the existing windlass was 14 years old and undersized, especially for all chain rode. Sam ordered a new windlass, grateful the failure happened here and not in Alaska.
There is nothing like a good restaurant to make a marina come alive. The historic Lakebay Marina Resort has new owners, Mark and Cindy Scott. The restaurant is open with a menu highlighting their fresh seafood options. Oysters come fresh from one of the local shellfish farms, not frozen. And they’re prepared just right. Patrons eat at the counter or at one of three small tables. The owners and chef are personable and talkative, and everyone seems like family by the end of the meal. When things get busy there is a second dining room for larger groups. The general store offers local beer, wines, eggs, and select produce, along with books, artwork, and local items. The place is lively and friendly. Mark and Cindy have big plans for beer and wine events on the grounds. Watch their website (www.lakebaymarina.com) for upcoming events.
The store, restaurant, and restrooms are in this building.
Dinner at Lakebay Marina.
From Lakebay Marina we headed for Tacoma Narrows, then up Colvos Passage to Manchester and eventually Bremerton. Bremerton Marina and Port Orchard Marina are both operated by the Port of Bremerton and they’re well managed facilities. Port Orchard has a new farmers market, operated out of a dedicated building. Bremerton has an excellent Naval museum and tours of an older Navy destroyer.
We visited Brownsville, Keyport, and Poulsbo, each nice stops but without major changes. Then we continued north, past Point No Point, before turning south again into Hood Canal, destination Pleasant Harbor. Pleasant Harbor Marina is in the midst of a major rebuilding. Construction won’t be complete until late summer, but they’re open for business. We borrowed a car and drove down to Alderbrook, which rivals any resort marina on the coast. Its’ facilities are truly first class.
Beautiful scenery just outside Pleasant Harbor.
Then we continued north by boat. We overnighted at Port Ludlow Resort, another well-done property. They’re installing a new automated VHF radio test station. Stay tuned for details next month. They also provide a free shuttle to Port Townsend during the Wooden Boat Festival. This is a fantastic option for boaters who want to attend the festival but can’t find moorage in Port Townsend.
After stops in Port Hadlock, Port Townsend, Mystery Bay, and Fort Flagler, we enjoyed a smooth trip back to Anacortes. Yes, even in the off season, the Strait of Juan de Fuca can be calm.
The trip totaled 350 nautical miles over 12 days, 53 stops at marinas and state parks, and hundreds of changes, large and small, to the Waggoner Cruising Guide. Happy cruising!