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A Cruising Guide to PUGET SOUND and the SAN JUAN ISLANDS
Olympia to Port Angeles
By Migael Scherer
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Migael Scherer
All rights reserved.
REGION 1 SOUTH PUGET SOUND Olympia to the Tacoma Narrows
SOUTH PUGET SOUND
(Reproduced from NOAA Chart 18448, 33rd ed., Sept. 2002. NA Datum 1983 [WGS 1984])
(5) Good refuge in a storm.
(4) Well protected under most conditions; good anchorage or moorage.
5 Both beautiful and interesting; not to be missed.
4 Very attractive or interesting; definitely worth a visit.
SOUNDINGS IN FATHOMS
South Puget Sound is a surprise to Pacific Northwest cruisers who generally head north. With no large cities nearby, coves and passages are relatively empty. In summer the water is warm enough for swimming. Salmon, seal, otter, eagle, heron, loons, and deer are abundant here; in some areas even black bear have been sighted. It's uncanny that cruising south can put you closer to Puget Sound wildlife than cruising north. Sometimes you'll find yourself in an anchorage so silent and untraveled that you'll be reminded of the way boating was years ago. Often you'll feel like you're cruising upstream, against the current, away from the crowds.
As much as population, weather explains the emptiness. Olympia receives, on average, more than 52 inches of rain a year—18 inches more than Seattle. Shelton averages even more. Southwest winds and moist ocean air move almost unhindered from Grays Harbor, where Aberdeen, at 84.5 inches, is one of the rainiest areas in the state.
If you've never been to South Sound, expect to be somewhat disoriented. Channels seem to branch off endlessly, winding this way and that in twisted fingers between narrow islands. Familiar landforms, such as Mt. Rainier and the Olympics, are in unfamiliar locations—east and northwest, rather than south and west.
You may need to sharpen your navigation skills: the only detailed charts are of Budd Inlet, Hammersley Inlet, and Pitt Passage—which means careful reading of Chart 18448 for everything else. Tides are more extreme in South Sound, and inlets are shallow, terminating invariably in broad mudflats, notched by tiny coves that dry at low tide.
The approach to South Sound is via the Tacoma Narrows, past the promontory of Point Defiance and beneath the towering suspension bridge (a new, parallel bridge, currently under construction, is scheduled for completion in 2008). The channel itself is unobstructed, but currents can exceed 5 knots and must be respected. According to the Coast Pilot, at the north end of the Narrows, the current sets north on the east side and south on the west side "most of the time."
The bold, high bluffs on both sides of the Narrows funnel and magnify winds here; the wind that caused the original Narrows bridge to writhe and collapse in 1940 was described as having a speed of "only" 42 miles per hour. When winds and current collide, expect a steep chop. Under all conditions, give tugs with tows room to navigate, and keep a safe distance from any barges and cranes near the bridge.
This book describes the west half of this region first, from Olympia to Shelton through Case Inlet. The east half (Nisqually Reach through Carr Inlet to the Narrows) begins on page 36.
BUDD INLET AND OLYMPIA HARBOR
(Reproduced from NOAA Chart 18445, 30th ed., Nov. 2003. NA Datum 1983 [WGS 1984]) SOUNDINGS IN FATHOMS
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
Budd Inlet points south from the confluence of Dana, Peale, and Squaxin passages. The inlet is wooded and residential in its northern half; south of Butler Cove it's an industrial port (mainly forest products), accented by the state capitol dome.
APPROACHES. The capitol dome, which distinguishes Budd from the other inlets, is visible from Squaxin Passage. If approaching from the east, a more prominent landmark is the white lighthouse at Dofflemyer Point. The entrance to Budd Inlet is clean on both sides as long as you keep about a quarter-mile away from shore, especially off Cooper Point, where shoals extend north and east.
Although deep at its entrance, Budd Inlet shallows out gradually from the east shore. Past Olympia Shoal—a dangerous marked reef—the east half bares altogether at the spoil bank. If your destination is Olympia, keep to the west side, which will put you in a favorable position to enter either East Bay or West Bay via the dredged channel.
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
APPROX. LAT/LONG: 47° 05.83' N, 122° 55.53' W
Olympia is one of the most pleasant cities on Puget Sound to visit by water. It has many attractions for the cruising boater: ample guest moorage, complete and convenient supplies, and a downtown within walking distance that's interlaced with historic capital grounds and parks.
Although Olympia was first developed for the timber trade, its primary business now is state government; the city has been the regional capital since Washington separated from Oregon territory in 1853. The capitol dome was the fourth tallest in the world when it was built, and it is still the dominant feature.
APPROACHES. The southern half of Budd Inlet is shoal and in many areas foul with rocks or pilings. It's important to enter via the dredged channel. A black-and- white checked daymark on pilings marks Olympia Shoal, which extends west toward green buoy "1."
The main entrance to the channel begins west of green buoy "1." Take care not to confuse "1" with "3," which is farther south. At "3," look southeast for the orange range markers set on pilings; they will set you on a clean course between the buoys toward the red-and-green junction mark, where the channel forks into East or West Bay.
Locals often approach east of Olympia Shoal, picking up the channel between green buoys "3" and "5." If you choose this route, use special caution in the vicinity of the unmarked but charted spoil bank.
Abeam of Priest Point, white can buoys mark the beginning of the "No Wake Dead Slow" zone.
MOORINGS. Olympia has three facilities for guest moorage: Port Plaza and Percival's Landing in West Bay, and Swantown Marina in East Bay.
In West Bay you'll feel snuggled right up to the city, in sight of the capitol dome and easy walking distance to local attractions. Guest moorage is in two locations, both approached via the marked dredged channel.
Port Plaza, operated by the Port of Olympia, is on the east shore under the wooden observation tower. This float is about 200 feet long, with water but no power. Pay at the fee box near shore. Short-term moorage (less than 4 hours) is free. Maximum stay is 29 days.
Percival's Landing, at the southeast end of West Bay, is operated by the City of Olympia. Once past the turning basin, head south and east of the boathouses (the boathouses and the floats south of them are part of the Olympia Yacht Club). Guest slips begin along the east shore, south of the blue-roofed kiosk, and continue along the bulkhead at the head of the bay (the first slip is for pumpout). The floats at the far south end are about 10 feet shallower. Many of the guest slips are without power. Pay at the fee stations located at either of the two buildings (which house the restrooms and showers) or at Olympia Center on Columbia Street, between Olympia and State avenues. Maximum stay at Percival's Landing is seven days. Short-term moorage (less than 4 hours) is free on the floats without power. All other marinas in West Bay are private.
Swantown Marina in East Bay affirms the Port of Olympia's commitment to high-quality marine facilities, with stout concrete floats, crisp new restrooms with showers, a laundromat, ample parking, and groomed walkways. This large marina is home port to more than 500 pleasure and commercial craft.
Enter East Bay via the marked dredged channel. All floats on "A" dock are designated for guest moorage; these floats are behind the breakwater, south of the twin launching ramps. Moorage fees include power. Pay at the fee boxes or at the marina office at the head of "H" dock, where you can also get a key for the restrooms and laundry. Maximum stay at Swantown Marina is 29 days. Swantown Marina takes reservations for a fee (360-528-8049). Current rates and other information are available on the website (www.portolympia.com).
ANCHORAGE, GETTING ASHORE. Small-craft anchorage is in West Bay, between the turning basin and the Yacht Club boathouses. Holding ground is good in 2 to 3 fathoms. Keep the channel and turning basin clear, and don't anchor too far west—the charted shoal is abrupt and close.
For shore access, use the guest floats.
FOR THE BOAT. A hardware store is south of Percival's Landing, at Columbia Street and Legion Way, past 5th Avenue. Supplies are also available at the outboard repair shop south of Swantown Boatworks. Swantown Boatworks has marine repair and a yard with a travel lift.
FOR THE CREW. Showers and laundry are at Swantown Marina. Percival's Landing has showers; you can get the code when you register at Olympia Center, or from staff walking the dock.
There is a wide variety of restaurants and shops along the boardwalk above Port Plaza and Percival's Landing; there are more east and downtown. A supermarket is on 4th Avenue, west of the yacht club, and is accessible from the boardwalk. A festive, covered farmers' market operates Thursday through Sunday, from April through December. This market is located south and across the street from Port Plaza and Percival's Landing, about 2 miles from Swantown Marina.
THINGS TO DO. Moored at Port Plaza or Percival's Landing, you can immediately begin to entertain yourself. The floats and surrounding boardwalk park commemorate Olympia's first deep-water dock, then approachable only at high tide. Steamboats used the dock from the 1850s to the 1920s. Today, the main attraction for families is the nearby playground.
For a view of the harbor, climb the tower at the north end of the boardwalk. From here, you can watch the log handling and ship loading on the commercial piers. Look south to the harbor spread below you and the capitol dome beyond. The capitol building itself is worth a visit; daily tours start from the main floor.
Capitol Lake (spelled "Capital" on Chart 18448) was a tidal bog until it was dammed in the early 1950s. The surrounding Heritage Park has a swimming beach, dock, and a kid-friendly fountain. The Washington State Capital Museum is south of the capitol building, on West 21st Street.
Special events in Olympia include a Wooden Boat Fair on the second weekend in May, and Harbor Days and Tugboat Races on Labor Day. Large portions of Percival's Landing are reserved for participating vessels during these events. In mid-July, Capital Lakefair is held at Heritage Park.
Priest Point Park 3 (1)
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
This thickly wooded day-use city park at Ellis Creek, a mile north of Swantown Marina, has a religious history. Used for centuries by Squaxin Indians for burial and spiritual gatherings, in the mid-1800s it was the site of a Catholic mission. Today its miles of trails—some quite steep—still promote contemplation. Upland is a viewpoint that overlooks Budd Inlet and many picnic clearings. There are more picnic areas and a formal rose garden over the bridge, on the east side of the divided road.
This park is approachable only in beachable craft at high tide. The shoals from Ellis Creek extend halfway out to the dredged channel, making this park one that is best visited by land.
Butler and Big Tykle Coves 2 (3)
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
These two coves on the west side of Budd Inlet offer slight protection in 1 to 3 fathoms of mud. Approaches are clean. Both are crowded with private mooring buoys and swim rafts, and are ringed by homes. There is no public shore access.
Burfoot County Park (Gull Harbor) 3 (1)
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
APPROX. LAT/LONG: 47° 06.73' N, 122° 54.23' W
Burfoot County Park lies behind a sandspit about a quarter-mile south of Dofflemyer Point. This popular day-use park has trails leading from the beach upland, where there is a large grassy area with picnic tables and shelters, play equipment, horseshoe pits, and other loop trails.
This park is inaccessible by boat at most low tides. When approaching, look for a black stone bulkhead at the park's north boundary, and the notch in the trees that marks the lagoon and ravine. The park sign is on the north bluff. Anchoring might be difficult, as the underwater shelf is narrow and steep. Be sure that your swing won't put you on the beach.
Boston Harbor 3 (3)
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
APPROX. LAT/LONG: 47° 08.63' N, 122° 54.31' W
Boston Harbor is a wide bight at the entrance to Budd Inlet, between Dover Point and Dofflemyer Point. Most of the harbor is taken up by a small private marina that welcomes visiting boats. The white lighthouse and the cottages along shore give it a picturesque, cozy feel. In summer, Boston Harbor is a busy resort; jet-skiers, board sailors, and skiffs swarm around the launching ramp west of the marina, and boaters from all over South Sound stop by for fuel and snacks.
APPROACHES. From the northeast, stay in deep water until past Dover and Jeal points, then head toward the west side of the floats. From the south, make a broad arc around Dofflemyer Point to avoid the shoals north and south of the point. On any approach, watch for private mooring buoys, and respect the "no- wake" zone inside the white can buoys. The marina reports an approach depth to the fuel dock of 12 feet at a 5-foot tide.
ANCHORAGE, MOORINGS. If your visit is brief, pull into an open space near the ramp south of the finger piers, or north of the finger piers on the west side of the outer floats. Note that the floats toward shore are aground on a minus tide.
For overnight moorage, call ahead (360-357-5670). Current rates and other information are available online (www.bostonharbormarina.com).
It's OK to anchor west and northwest of the marina itself, but be sure to keep clear of the launching ramp and the buoy field.
Although locally regarded as a good harbor in the summer, there's no protection here from northerlies, and southerlies might gust around the point.
GETTING ASHORE. Use the marina guest floats.
FOR THE BOAT, CREW. Gas and diesel are at the north end of the marina floats, with some supplies at the store on shore. Groceries are suited to the drop-in boater. Next to the store is a sandy beach that's a favorite with neighborhood kids. From May through September, a Sunday breakfast is served on the dock.
Coves Northeast of Boston Harbor
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
APPROX. LAT/LONG: 47° 08.95' N, 122° 53.27' W
Two coves north of Boston Harbor, Zangle Cove and Little Fishtrap, are used by local residents in summer. Both coves are dry at low tide, with private mooring buoys and no public shore access. Protection is from the south only.
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
Eld Inlet snakes south and west from Dana and Squaxin passages. On shore are large homes with broad lawns, interspersed with wooded areas and more modest houses. The inlet narrows about two miles south of Flap-jack Point, quickly shallowing into mudflats that bristle with oyster stakes. Even a small boat needs to take care in this southern end to avoid grounding or disturbing the oyster beds.
APPROACHES. From the northwest, the green mark on Hunter Point is visible from Squaxin Passage. Before rounding the point, wait until you see the charted dolphin pilings about a half-mile south of the mark. Stay east of the pilings. As you approach Cooper Point, which divides Budd Inlet and Eld Inlet, slightly favor the west shore.
Arriving from the east via Dana or Peale passage, look south for the white lighthouse off Dofflemyer Point and then east for Cooper Point. Boats on this approach, and those traveling up from Budd Inlet, should take extra care to stay a quarter-mile off Cooper Point, as the beach extends north like a needle (farther than you expect).
Cove North of Flapjack Point (Frye Cove Park) 3 (3)
CHARTS: 18448, 18456
APPROX. LAT/LONG: 47° 06.91' N, 122° 57.67' W
Known locally as Frye Cove, the attraction here is a small, day-use county park. A groomed path leads from the rocky beach to a grassy meadow, where picnic tables and shelters are set among what appears to be the remains of an old orchard. Upland are restrooms and more trails that connect to a parking lot at the road. This is a lovely site, with tall evergreens and just enough room to stretch your legs, throw a Frisbee, and feel far away from nearby Olympia.
APPROACHES. The park is about a half-mile west of Flapjack Point, on the knuckle of land north of the unnamed inlet. From a mile or so away you can see the green lawn and tall, light-gray building that houses the restrooms. In contrast with the surrounding residential area, the park itself is heavily wooded.
ANCHORAGE, GETTING ASHORE. Anchor off the park, north and east of the charted pilings. A sign on a nearby buoy reminds boaters that the park extends only halfway across the bay. The mud bottom shallows gradually. There's no protection from the north, and little from prevailing southwest gusts.
The park beach is small and the bank is steep. All tidelands outside the park are private.
Excerpted from A Cruising Guide to PUGET SOUND and the SAN JUAN ISLANDS by Migael Scherer. Copyright © 2005 by Migael Scherer. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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