If you’re looking for less traveled anchorages and some interesting cruising, consider a trip to “Hood Head,” an area around the Hood Canal Bridge where you will find several anchorages of interest.
Let’s start with Bywater Bay, located north of the bridge on the western shore. This bay offers room for several boats to anchor in 6-12 feet, with good holding. The spit or tombolo at the head of the bay provides wave protection from north winds. A few cabins tucked in the trees line the beaches, reminiscent of a remote backwoods bay. At high tide, you can take the dinghy or kayak into the lagoon at the northwest corner of the bay, which is part of the undeveloped Wolfe Property State Park. The park encompasses the western half of the tombolo. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife promotes this park as a public clam and oyster beach. The tidelands on the western shore were recently seeded with clams and oysters, and is temporarily closed for harvesting until 2021. Visitors and locals are sometimes seen harvesting shellfish along the beaches when open for collecting.
For another interesting stop, head south past the Hood Canal Bridge to the large bay of Squamish Harbor, located southwest of the bridge. The vertical clearance at the west end of the bridge is 33 feet. We lowered our boat’s antennas, enabling us to pass underneath the bridge. Larger vessels and sailboats will need to call in advance to have the center portion of the bridge opened, or you may be able to get under the high rise at the east end of the bridge (see page 139 of the 2020 Waggoner Cruising Guide for details about bridge clearance and openings). Squamish Harbor has convenient anchoring depths, with room for many boats. Just be sure to avoid the charted, marked reef in the middle of the harbor. This large bay or harbor has several areas that offer protection from southwesterly through northerly winds. The harbor is quite picturesque with open fields and country-style homes that dot the shoreline and hillsides of the Shine (as in sunshine) Community.
Next stop, Port Gamble. We motored to the east end of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, which has a vertical clearance of 50 feet, and proceeded northward under the bridge. A turn to the east, and we were within easy reach of the charming village of Port Gamble. Following the well-marked channel between sandspits, we entered Port Gamble Bay which offers ample anchorage. Depths of 18-to 30 feet can be found throughout the bay. Boaters should note and remain clear of the charted cable crossing and old log booming areas when choosing a spot to anchor. Until recently, there was no designated dinghy or kayak landing at Port Gamble for recreational boaters to access the village; all of that changed thanks to the cleanup project of the old mill site. Easy dinghy/kayak access is now available at a gravel beach located at the head of a tiny cove below the historic General Store & Café, and just west of the south end of the entrance channel. That’s great news for boaters, who have longed for this village to become a convenient boating destination.
Port Gamble is absolutely charming with its historic homes surrounded by white picket fences along with commercial buildings left from the 1800’s. It was Andrew Pope, William Talbot, Captain Keller, and Charles Foster who formed the Puget Mill Company in 1852, which lasted over 124 years; an incredible accomplishment considering the many challenges faced over the years. Today, these historic homes and buildings serve as gift shops. The New England charm of the village was influenced by Pope, Talbot, and Keller, who came from the State of Maine. Each home has a placard describing its history, and the person or family who lived there. Visiting the historic General Store is a must, and you won’t want to miss the excellent bakery at the southwest end of town. To learn more about the history of Port Gamble, be sure to visit the Museum located in the basement of the General Store. A walk through the Buena Vista Cemetery also provides a look into the past. Many graves are those of mill workers and their families. Josiah Keller, one of the original partners of Pope & Talbot, who served as Mill/Town Manager from 1853 until his death in 1862, is immortalized here. It was Emma, the wife of Josiah Keller, that planted the Maple Trees we see today that front the homes along the main street of this unique village. Vistas of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge can be seen to the west from the cemetery. You may also want to visit St. Paul’s Church and other homes found along the tree-lined street that leads south from the main village site. When planning your summer’s itinerary, we highly recommend a visit to Port Gamble Bay and other surrounding anchorages for new adventures and unexpected surprises.