Seven-Day Central Puget Sound Sampler Cruise
Waters to the west of King County, as well as portions of Pierce and Snohomish Counties, could be considered “Central Puget Sound”. The area extends north from Point Defiance in to Possession Point and Point No Point in the north. Although about half the population of Washington State lives in communities surrounding Central Puget Sound, most of the area manages to retain a rural or suburban atmosphere. The dense regional population results in a greater number of cruising pleasure boats plying these waters than will be found in any but the world’s busiest boating locales. A plethora of marinas, parks, and city docks available along almost every shoreline provide plenty of capacity for everyone to have a fabulous time.
The Central Sound is the weekend playground for boaters living in Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton, and surrounding communities. Any of the destinations listed in this seven-night sampler cruise would prove easily accessible and highly rewarding for a one or two-night excursion.
Day One: Thea Foss Waterway, Tacoma entrance near 47.15.72 N, 122.26.32 W (coordinates not for use in navigation).
In the late 19th Century, Tacoma was the center of commercial activity on Puget Sound. Hailed as the point where “the sails meet the rails”, Tacoma was a freight transfer point between a major railroad hub and Commencement Bay (one of the deepest natural harbors in North America). Much of the old warehouse district has been recently redeveloped. Within a very short walk from Thea Foss Waterway is a domed, Victorian-era railway station (now converted to a US Courthouse and a home for the outstanding Washington State History Museum). The University of Washington converted some 125-year old shops and factories into a branch campus, and several casual bars and restaurants have emerged to serve the student population. Glass art aficionados will enjoy touring the glass museum, where works by NW native Dale Chihuly and other notable artists are displayed.
While the general area may be charmingly antique, facilities along Thea Foss Waterway are generally modern and in good repair. Some are only a few years old. Marinas near the head of the waterway include Foss Landing (253-627-4344), and Dock Street Marina (253-272-4353). Recently upgraded Foss Harbor Marina (253-272-4404) is located under the historic 11th Street Bridge, within easy walking distance to the museums and university and even more convenient to the restored Pantages Theater. The Foss Waterway Seaport, (253-272-2570) offers over 1000 feet of side tie moorage as well as a very worthwhile maritime museum.
Day Two: Gig Harbor entrance channel near 47.19.50 N, 122.34.50W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
When his expedition charted Puget Sound in 1841, Captain Charles Wilkes was reluctant to sail a large ship through the entrance channel to this sheltered bay. He explored the waters in his captain’s shoreboat, or “gig”, and the name endured.
Modern mariners will have little difficulty transiting the entrance at nearly any tide. Charted soundings are 9-feet at mean low water, but the deep water doglegs slightly once past the lighthouse. There is good anchorage throughout the bay; but be mindful of the depths. A classic waterfront village, Gig Harbor is home to many unique shops and some impressive restaurants. It would be impossible to skip Gig Harbor and still experience all facets of Puget Sound cruising.
Moorage options include a dock at the Tides Tavern (253-858-3982). This dock is reserved for use of patrons dining at the Tides, and portions of the float go aground at low water. The tavern is famous for pizza, sandwiches, seafood, and a huge selection of adult beverages.
Just beyond the Tides Tavern is Jerisch Park, (253-851-6170). This public facility is well maintained and convenient to most of the shops in Gig Harbor, but offers no shorepower or water. Boaters desiring more amenities will typically moor at Arabella’s Landing or the associated Bayview Marina, (253-851-1793), a short distance up harbor from the public park. Limited guest moorage at the head of the bay is often available at Peninsula Yacht Basin (253-858-2250).
Day Three: Blake Island State Park breakwater entrance channel near 47.32.75 N, 122.28.96 W; (coordinates not for use in navigation).
For any number of reasons, Blake Island is one of the most popular weekend destinations for Seattle-area boaters. A breakwater protects a small marina on the NE corner of the island. Observe the dredged channel when approaching the breakwater, waters to the west can be especially shoal. Numerous mooring buoys are available around the perimeter- so boaters arriving to find the floats filled will still be able to enjoy Blake Island. The marina offers shorepower, a feature seldom found at a state park dock.
Blake Island was once the private estate of a Seattle business tycoon. His wife died in a tragic accident, and he simply walked away from his mansion and never returned. The structures burned down over the course of ensuing decades, but plaques recount the history. Semi-tame deer (don’t feed them) and other wildlife are abundant on Blake Island. Sandy beaches, shady forests, and grassy meadows are available here.
The entire island is open to the public, with the exception of the private facility featuring Native American salmon bakes and tribal dance entertainment. A tour boat delivers restaurant patrons from the Seattle waterfront, but most of ticket holders don’t wander away from the area immediately surrounding the restaurant. Boaters visiting Blake Island are welcome to buy tickets for the salmon bake and enjoy the entertainment.
Day Four: Eagle Harbor visitors’ dock near 47.37.75 N, 122.31.06 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
NW cruisers keeping a sharp watch for ferry traffic and respecting well-marked hazards such as Decatur Reef, Blakely Rock, and Tyee Shoal will reach Eagle Harbor without undue drama. A visitor’s dock is on the north side of the harbor, between the ferry maintenance yard and the private Queen City Yacht Club outstation. The dock will often fill up in the summer months, but there is a linear moorage system as well as an abundance of room to drop an anchor available to anyone willing to dinghy ashore. Marinas where temporarily vacated slips may be available will include Winslow Wharf Marina (206-842-4202), Harbour Marina (206-842-6502) and Eagle Harbor Marina (206-842-4003).
The City of Bainbridge is a laid back but upscale community. The Town and Country Market is a well-stocked, moderately priced grocery about a block from the visitors’ dock. Cruisers stopping at Bainbridge will find shops, restaurants, galleries, a movie theater, and a fascinating local history museum to explore. The Farmer’s Market on summer weekends is highly rated, and at least once in a lifetime everyone should experience the classic small town Fourth of July at Bainbridge.
Day Five: Bremerton Marina near 47.33.79 N, 122.37.33 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The Bremerton Marina (360-373-1035) is the centerpiece of an ambitious revitalization project underway on the Bremerton waterway. Once shunned by NW cruisers as an industrial area fronting an uninteresting and declining commercial district, Bremerton has rebounded to become one of the premiere boating destinations in central Puget Sound.
A busy Washington State ferry dock is immediately adjacent to the Bremerton Marina, and these large vessels travel much faster than many boaters realize. Be sure to keep watch, especially if approaching the Bremerton area through narrow and winding Rich Passage. An effective breakwater ensures there is no problem with ferry wakes in the marina, but tidal currents through the marina can surprise the unprepared.
The marina has room for up to 100 transient moorage guests, and is rapidly becoming a popular destination for club cruises and rendezvous. Attractions ashore include the retired US Navy destroyer “USS Turner Joy“, a water park with fountains and sculptures, and new buildings housing good quality restaurants, coffee shops, and ice creameries. The Puget Sound Naval Museum is a short walk from the dock. A 10-minute passenger ferry ride connects the Port of Bremerton with the interesting waterfront village of Port Orchard, almost immediately across Sinclair Inlet. The Port of Bremerton additionally operates the Port Orchard Marina, where there is both gasoline and diesel available at a fuel dock.
Day Six: Poulsbo Marina entrance near 47.43.93N, 122.39.03W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
Poulsbo is at the head of Liberty Bay. The only way in or out, by water, is through a doglegged pass between Keyport and Lemolo Point. There are few challenges, providing a cruiser stays in the channel. Give the US Navy ships at Keyport a wide clearance, and consider extending a “no wake” courtesy to the liveaboards in the private marina nearby. Once well into Liberty Bay, a 5-knot or no-wake speed limit is enforced.
Signs in downtown Poulsbo reading “Velkommen til Poulsbo” are among the first indications that residents of this charming seaside village are proud of its Scandinavian heritage. Originally settled by farmers, loggers, and fishermen of Nordic extraction, the architecture and atmosphere of Poulsbo reminds many visitors of coastal villages in Norway. The Port of Poulsbo (360-779-3505) operates a marina and fuel dock. Many boaters anchor in Liberty Bay and come ashore by dinghy.
At least two excellent bakeries, a gourmet chocolate company, dozens of unique shops and boutiques, and a variety of good restaurants are a within a 5-minute walk from the marina. Lovers of art, antiques, books, ice cream, and coffee will find their appetites slaked in Poulsbo. For an interesting afternoon stroll, take the forested bayside path that begins just beyond the pavilion in the waterfront park.
Day Seven: Port of Edmonds breakwater entrance near 47.48.58 N, 122, 23, 53 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The Port of Edmonds Marina (425-775-4588) offers guest moorage on three floats immediately behind the fuel dock. Limited reservations are accepted. When the guest dock is full, management will attempt to put visiting boaters into temporarily vacated slips. Several waterfront restaurants are within a 5-minute walk. A public fishing pier and a long, sandy beach are at the north end of the marina complex. Edmonds is a popular weekend destination for boaters living in Seattle and Everett.
Downtown Edmonds maintains an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1950′s. Small specialty stores and family-owned restaurants create a fascinating environment for browsers or diners. Bookstores, coffee shops, and a 75-year old pub will provide ample diversion. Don’t overlook the Historical Society Museum, in the old Carnegie Library and about a block north of the 5th Street traffic circle.