Seven-Day NW Sound Sampler Cruise
When the Charles Wilkes expedition surveyed Puget Sound in 1847, he named a point of land on the western shore of Puget Sound, “North Point. Wilkes marked his survey with a 19th Century abbreviation for the cardinal direction north, “NO.” Early navigators enjoyed the pun, and referred to the geographic feature as “Point No Point”; and that became the name under which it appears on modern charts. Waters between Point No Point and Point Wilson can be considered NW Puget Sound.
Admiralty Inlet, connecting Hood Canal and Puget Sound to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, features a steady parade of tugs and barges, containerships, passenger liners, and military vessels. The typically high speed commercial traffic is following a formal vessel traffic system and pleasure boaters must not impede their passage. When a strong wind blows from the north, Admiralty inlet can become a funnel. The long fetch can bring some of the chaos from the Strait of Juan de Fuca into the central sound region.
Fortunately for cruisers exploring the NW reaches of Puget Sound, most of the interesting destinations are along the western shorelines, away from the commercial traffic and slightly sheltered from the most aggressive winds. Point No Point can be challenging when a strong wind is opposed by the current. An ebb tide against a north wind or a flood tide against a southerly can stir up some wicked chop in the vicinity. Experienced boaters often prefer to round Point No Point well offshore, (shallow waters can increase for severity of wind waves).
Old forts, Victorian towns, quirky waterfront attractions, peaceful state parks, and more will be encountered in this region. The Olympic mountain range creates a dramatic backdrop for some of the most memorable waterfront scenery imaginable.
Day 1: Port Ludlow, near 47.55.30 N, 122.41.15 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
Fans of historical locations, clean marinas, and fancy resorts will all find something to enjoy at Port Ludlow Marina (877-344-6725)
European settlers arrived here in the 1850′s to establish a lumber mill. The mill survived until the mid 1930′s. Traces of the mill remain in locations such as Burner Point, (where scraps and sawdust were burned to kiln dry dimensional lumber). Port Ludlow is primarily a recreational and retirement community, and the marina is part of a resort that includes an 18-hole golf course, a hotel, and a commendable restaurant. The marina is a popular destination for yacht club and power squadron cruises.
Bikes and kayaks are for rent at the marina. Paddle boaters will enjoy a short run to the scenic inner harbor, but should not go ashore as the shorelines are privately owned. Ask the marina office for directions to Ludlow Falls. The forested park surrounding the falls includes a delightful circular trail, sure to appeal to photographers, naturalists, or anyone who enjoys a memorable hike.
Port Towsend Canal, southern entrance near 48.01.40 N, 122.43.42 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The canal is between Port Ludlow and the rest of the waypoints on our seven-day sampler cruise. The canal precludes running north in Admiralty Inlet and rounding Indian and Marrowstone Islands to access the Port Townsend waterway. A bridge across the canal has a vertical clearance of 58 feet at mean low water. Currents of up to 3-knots will have an effect on slower boats, and within the narrow confines of the passage the term “slower boats should apply to one and all. Consult a chart, and stay in the channel when entering and exiting the canal.
Day 2: Hadlock, near 48.02.04 N, 122. 45.08 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
Cruisers visiting Hadlock will anchor north of Skunk Island or call the Port Hadlock Marina (360-385-3067). Slips in the marina are all leased to permanent tenants, but there is often space available when a boater is out cruising. The first class resort hotel at the marina features an upscale restaurant and cocktail lounge.
The tiny waterfront portion of Hadlock consists of some vintage wooden structures. One houses a well-regarded school for shipwrights with an interest in building wooden boats, and the other is home to one of the more remarkable eateries in the Pacific NW, the Ajax Café. (360-385-3450) . The food is very good at the Ajax, but this is no place for “serious dining. Goofy hats hang from pegs throughout the restaurant, and diners are enthusiastically encouraged to pick a hat and participate in the wacky hi-jinks always prevailing. There is live music several nights per week.
Day 3: Old Fort Townsend Sate Park near 48.04.64 N, 122.47.10 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The US Army fort at this location was established in the 1850′s, when loggers and homesteaders first began settling on the shores of Puget Sound. Soldiers from Fort Townsend were assigned to American Camp on San Juan Island during the Pig War boundary dispute with Britain. Troops were also dispatched east of the Cascade mountains in response to the Nez Perce uprising led my Chief Joseph.
Cruisers visiting the state park will find a row of mooring buoys available. It is advisable to dinghy ashore in a lightweight boat that can be carried up the bank, (there is no dinghy float). Nineteenth century troops marched in formation down the old military road, terminating near the mooring buoys, to board transport ships at a no longer existent dock.
Traces of the fort remain in the original parade ground, but the forest has overgrown many of the places where buildings stood. Interpretive signs along the trails, (and here and there a glimpse of a foundation) help a visitor imagine Old Fort Townsend of 150-years ago.
Kilsut Harbor, entrance channel near 48.04.85 N, 122.44.65 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
Days 4 and 5 of our seven day sampler cruise will be spend at locations in Kilsut Harbor. The only cruisers unlikely to go aground when entering the harbor will be those who have done their chart work and keep an eye on the depth sounder. Heading instinctively to the middle of the mouth of the Harbor, (where one would expect to find deeper water), will put a boat in peril. Consult a chart, follow the marks, and entering Kilsut Harbor will be a pleasant and only mildly challenging exercise in navigation.
Day 4: Mystery Bay Marine State Park near 48.03.42 N, 122.41.74 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The small state park at Mystery Bay offers over 600 feet of dock space and a field of mooring buoys. There is about 1/8 mile of public shoreline to explore, and Kilsut Harbor is popular with crabbers. Several varieties of clams are available to harvest (in season), including Manila clams planted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The beach at the state park has fresh oysters available. Should a NW cruiser preparing a fresh seafood feast at Mystery Bay need to replenish some ingredients in the galley, a convenience store is about a mile away from the park, at Nordlund.
Day 5: Fort Flagler Marine State Park near 48.05.51 N, 122.43.26 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The guest moorage floats at Fort Flagler State Park are available from late March to mid-September every year. The historic fort that sat on the elevated plateau commanded a view of Admiralty Inlet. Fort Flagler was a “coastal artillery installation, designed to destroy enemy vessels invading Puget Sound with one-third of a triangulated barrage. The other two coastal artillery forts were Ft. Worden (near Port Townsend) and Ft. Casey (on Whidbey Island).
The fort was constructed in 1897. Military strategies changed. By the early 1950′s the risk of a traditional naval invasion had subsided, and Fort Flagler was closed. Many of the original buildings survive, and some have been converted to interpretive displays open to the public. Whether exploring the historical relics, wandering along woodsy trails, or simply marveling at the outstanding panoramic views, a visit to Fort Flagler will be a memorable event.
Day 6: Point Hudson Marina, Port Townsend near 48.06.96 N, 122.44.42 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
The Port of Port Townsend operates two marinas. Point Hudson Marina (360-385-0656) is literally at the north end of the Victorian downtown business district. Most visiting boaters enjoy the greater convenience of Point Hudson, as well as the historic atmosphere. (The 1936-vintage facility was originally used to quarantine immigrants arriving by steamship, later became a USCG base).
If Point Hudson is full, space is usually available at the Port of Port Townsend Boat Haven Marina, near 48.06.44 N, 122.46.24 W (coordinates not for use in navigation).
There is a fuel dock at the Boat Haven, and a major grocery store immediately across the street, but allow for an extra 15-minute walk to attractions of downtown Port Townsend.
Port Townsend is one of the oldest communities on Puget Sound. The downtown area boomed in the late 1800′s; but speculators moved on when it became apparent that a promised railroad connection would never materialize. The grand buildings they erected remain, now housing an eclectic mix of art galleries, specialty retailers, restaurants, and more. The grand homes in what was once considered the “respectable section of town (up on the bluff and away from the tawdry bars and questionable characters of the 19th Century waterfront) have been carefully preserved by successive generations of owners.
Pacific NW cruisers shouldn’t be surprised if Port Townsend proves to be their “favorite port of call during this seven day sampler cruise.
Day 7: Fort Worden State Park near 48.08.15 N, 122.45.59 W (coordinates not for use in navigation)
Like Fort Flagler, Fort Worden was one of three coastal artillery forts creating a “triangle of fire to protect Puget Sound from a naval invasion. Moorage is available at a series of mooring buoys, with a dinghy dock located at the nearby Port Townsend Marine Science facility. Much of the old fort has been preserved, particularly the officers’ homes. The old homes are rented to vacationers, and Fort Worden is a popular site for public festivals or corporate events.
Fort Worden was built during the same period as the Panama Canal, and some of the fortifications here exactly duplicate those in Panama. (It was cheaper to use the same plans in both locations). The Coast Artillery Museum should not be missed, and when tours of the Commander’s house are available they are easily worth the token admission charge.
With 434 wooded and historic acres to explore, a naturally sandy beach, and the photogenic Point Wilson Light, a day spent at Fort Worden will surely offer something of interest to virtually anyone.