Voyages North

17 August 2017 | Olympia
22 August 2016 | posted at Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
08 July 2016 | Posted at Ucluelet
08 July 2016 | Posted at Ucluelet
11 January 2016
30 August 2015 | posted at Maple Bay
30 August 2015 | posted at Maple Bay, B.C.

Hope Island to Olympia. July 25-27

17 August 2017 | Olympia
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: Olympia's Capitol Dome.

We motored down Budd Inlet toward Olympia, the southernmost point in Puget Sound. I was looking forward to a few days in a city: a chance to replenish our fresh produce, eat out at restaurants, play tourists in Washington state's capital city and visit with friends.

A peninsula jutting north from the bottom of the inlet, divides the inlet into two. Leaving the peninsula to port, we turned into the western channel. Ahead, the capitol beckoned us-- an imposing structure in classical style. At first, I thought it an impressive sight, but as we grew nearer, instead of admiration and pride, I felt dismay. The dome was gray and dingy. Its usual cleaning had been a victim of budget cuts.

Piles of logs covered the land to our left and log booms covered the water to our right. Log exports are the Port of Olympia's biggest business. Beyond the logs, several marinas bristled with the masts of many sailboats. We passed Percival Landing, the town's main guest dock, almost empty on a weekday morning, then turned right and tied up at the Olympia Yacht Club across the channel.
Photo: Percival Landing

While Steve did routine boat maintenance, I headed off to find a grocery store. A quick climb up a ramp, a turn to the right and a short walk across a parking lot and I was at the door of the Bayview Thriftway.

I was delighted to see Olympia had not succumbed to the recent trend of superstores located on the outskirts of towns. It had just met two of my criteria for being a good cruising destination: guest moorage close to the town center and a grocery store close to the moorage. Other criteria for a good cruising town are hardware stores, laundromats and coffee shops with wifi. A major attraction like Olympia's capital campus is a plus.

Having friends in town is another plus, I reflected, as we showed Osprey to Greg and Connie, friends from college. That evening we dined on their balcony in view of the capitol.

Seeing the capitol dome reminded us of politics, which in turn reminded us we had filled out our Seattle ballots but not mailed them. The next morning we set out on foot to find a mailbox. In our neighborhood in Ballard, they seemed to be everywhere. Surely we would find one here. After crossing a busy street, we walked down what looked to be a main street. I was encouraged to see small restaurants and coffee shops, but we found no blue mailboxes.

On our way back, we detoured to Percival Landing. It looked attractive, with clean docks and sidewalks for strolling and public art.

Photo: Art at Percival Landing

We returned to the Yacht Club. "Where can we find a mailbox?" I asked someone coming out of the gate. "I don't know of any," she replied. "But there's an outgoing mail slot next to the Yacht Club office." We found the slot and pushed our ballots through, relieved to finish our civic duty. (There is also a post office about 10 blocks away according to google.)

Later that morning, Greg and Connie picked us up in their car for a tour of the area. Greg, who is on an advisory committee for the Port of Olympia, showed us new port developments including a viewing platform for watching port activities, more transient moorage (unused at the moment), offices and restaurants. Crowds strolled by on clean sidewalks and ate at outdoor restaurants under brightly colored umbrellas.

I asked about the empty guest moorage. "The Port wants to attract more boaters," Greg told us. "They are adding more services." To prove his point, he showed us a new fuel dock scheduled to open in a few days at Swantown Marina on the other side of the Peninsula.

Fuel dock at Swantown Marina
Photo: New fuel dock at Swantown Marina

Completing our tour of Olympia's marinas, we drove to West Bay Marina for a lunch of fish and chips at Tugboat Annie's, a classic waterfront restaurant in an old wooden building with rowboats hanging from the rafters. The tide was out and a faint odor of tide flats wafted onto the balcony where we ate.

At five o'clock we settled into seats at the sidewalk café of the popular Fish Tale brew pub just as a whistle blew announcing the end of the workday and time for beer.

The next morning as we were untying Osprey's lines, a fellow boater helped shove us off. "Have a good trip north," he told us, then laughed. "I know you're heading north, there's no other way to go from here."

July 21, 2017. A Little Left Turn: A trip to South Puget Sound

09 August 2017 | Posted at Seattle
Elsie Hulsizer
Seattle to Oro Bay, Anderson Island, Puget Sound Washington

Photo: Going South Under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

"How far north are you going this year?" asked one of our Shilshole neighbors when he saw us wheeling a cartload of duffels and grocery bags down the dock.

"We're not going north this year; we're heading south." I paused at his surprised expression, and then continued, "South Sound that is."

To many Seattle boaters there are only two cruising destinations: north to the San Juan Islands, Desolation Sound and Alaska, or the "Big Left Turn" -- South to Mexico and beyond. For the last 40 years, we had been cruising to Alaska or northern British Columbia, or west to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. This year we had only 12 days for a cruise. That was enough to make the San Juan Islands if we'd wanted to, but we didn't. After summers of cruising in the isolated areas of Alaska and British Columbia, the San Juans just felt too crowde.

Years ago we had spent a week cruising in South Puget Sound. We'd also taken the occasional three-day weekend trip to Oro Bay and Penrose Point in the area. We remembered quiet waters, empty anchorages, and lots of state marine parks. What was it like now or would we find the rural equivalent of Seattle's construction cranes? We'd find out.

July 22-23. Oro Bay, Anderson Island.

Photo: Osprey anchored in the entrance to Oro Bay
Osprey anchored in Oro Bay

We turned south out of Gig Harbor toward the Tacoma Narrows and suddenly, there were no other boats until we motored under the bridge and passed a small sailboat heading north. Our chart plotter showed us going 11 knots over the ground, meaning we had 5 knots of current with us. The small sailboat was going to take a while to get through.
Once through the narrows we headed toward Oro Bay on Anderson Island, motoring on smooth waters. The majestic shape of Mt. Rainier floated over the mainland ahead of us. I reminded Steve of our favorite anchorage in Oro Bay, near the entrance with an unobstructed, awe-inspiring view of Mt Rainier.

"We'll see. It's Saturday. It might be crowded."

We zigzagged through two red and one green buoy, avoiding the three sandspits that bracketed the entrance. The bay was even more deserted than I remembered: a few resident boats on buoys, a few transients at the outstations of Bremerton Yacht Club and Tacoma Yacht Clubs, and that was it. On shore we saw the same scattering of houses we'd seen on our last trip here, lots of trees, and the old ferry in the south corner where it had always been.

We anchored where we had planned with the white cone of Mt Rainier in full view.

That afternoon at high tide, we put our new electric motor on the dinghy and puttered off to explore. We threaded the dinghy through a marsh on the west end of the bay, watching seals swim beside us and kingfishers swoop from nearby trees. We approached the old ferry. Despite its peeling paint, it still looked grand. I could imagine passengers climbing the outdoor staircase or strolling the decks. "Ocean City" it said on the front of the cabin. A speculator had bought the ferry from New Jersey, hoping to rent it to the state ferry system or to Mason County for the Anderson Island system. But neither system had been interested and the ferry had never been used in Washington State.

Old ferry in Oro Bay
Photo: The old ferry in Oro Bay.

We returned to Osprey and ate dinner in the cockpit in view of Mt. Rainier. As the sun set behind us, it lit the freight trains running along the shore five miles away, then turned the eastern sky and the mountain pink.

I awoke several times in the night to hear the lonely distant wail of train whistles-- far enough away so their noise didn't bother us but close enough to remind us of how close we were to civilization.

We spent two nights in Oro Bay, enjoying its peace, chatting with a few boaters at the yacht club outstations and just generally relaxing. The second evening we motored the dinghy along the forested shore, admiring tall firs and Madrona (Arbutus) trees.

To us the San Juans meant crowded anchorages and constant boat wakes that knock what little wind there is right out of our sails.

Oro Bay
Photo: A yellow kayak near the shore of Oro Bay.

An Oro Bay organization had purchased a large block of the bay's shoreline for a park, but I didn't know exactly where it was or whether the park had been developed. Motoring the shore, we saw some wooden fence rails among the trees with interpretive signs behind them. We looked for a trail from the beach but saw only unbroken bluffs. We were about to conclude that the park didn't include access from the water, when we saw several people walking along the shore. When we asked how we could get into the park, they pointed around the corner, "There's a stairway, we just came down it." Sure enough, tucked in a little cove was a stairway leading down from the forest.

Oro Bay
Photo: Stairway to Jacobs Point Recreation and Conservation Area.

Steve didn't feel up to hiking among tree roots, but the next morning he dropped me off on the beach below the stair, promising to come back in half an hour. I climbed up the stairs and found a sign saying, "Welcome to Jacobs Point Recreation and Conservation Area." Following a trail inland, I walked among towering firs and hemlock interspersed with alder. This looked like old growth: lots of tall trees far apart, sunlight reaching the forest floor, salmon berries and huckleberries in the underbrush. I smelled the pungent aroma of pitch and leaf litter.

All too soon, I had to turn back. We had a flood tide to catch through the Nisqually Reach to Dana Passage and Hope Island State Park 10 miles away.

Since our last trip here, Oro Bay had become an even better place to visit.
July 24. Hope Island.

Osprey on mooring buoy Hope Island
Photo: Osprey tied to a Parks buoy off Hope Island. Note the windscoop.

Hope Island shimmered in the sun and a string of State Park buoys invited us to stop. To the East Mt. Rainier peaked over Squaxin Island while across Squaxin Channel, a row of houses crowded together on Carlyon Beach. With Olympia just a few miles south down nearby Budd Inlet, Hope Island was a refuge in a suburban environment.

A current swirled by the buoys. I stood on the starboard deck, boat hook in hand, ready to snag the buoy's ring. Steve turned Osprey upcurrent, then reversed the engine to bring us to a stop. I hooked the boat hook under the buoy's ring, but the boat was still moving forward. As I struggled to hang on to the buoy, I heard a sharp snap and suddenly we were racing away in the current and I was holding a pole with no hook. The bronze hook had snapped right off.

Chastened, we motored around the corner to the island's east side to a second string of buoys. The current was less strong here, but without the boat hook, I had to lie down on the deck and grab the buoy's ring with my hand. My first attempt failed, boat speed pulling the buoy ring out of my hand before I could thread the line through. The second time Steve approached more slowly, giving me more time to thread the line. I finished pulling the line through the ring and tied it off to the bow cleats.
The water shimmered in the 80+ degree heat and not a breath of wind disturbed it. We rigged the wind scoop we had bought in Seattle and settled in to enjoy the hot weather. We might have taken a little left turn instead of a big one, but it wasn't the north, not even the San Juans, and definitely not Alaska.

Later, I took the dinghy ashore and trekked the short distance across the island. A sign in the forest told me the island had once been logged for agriculture. One of the families that had farmed it was the Schmidt family of Olympia Beer. They had grown grapes there.

Tall Douglas firs left unlogged for wind breaks alternated with shorter trees where land had been cleared. One homestead with an apple orchard and a windmill remained, maintained by park rangers. We eyed the apples but they were still too green to pick.

Deer browsed among the apple trees. Of the 5 buoys off the island, only one other wase occupied. Once again, South Sound had lived up to our expectation as a quiet getaway only a few days from Seattle.

Deer browsing in the Hope Island apple orchard
Photo: Deer in an old orchard on Hope Island.

Tomorrow we would return to "civilization":Olympia

West Coast of Vancouver Island Featured in February 2017 NW Yachting

22 February 2017 | posted at Seattle
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: Cruising sailboats tied to a dock below the Nootka Light in Friendly Cove. This photo appeared with my article.

Just in time for the 2017 Seattle Boat Show, Northwest Yachting published an article I wrote, "West Side Story" (I did not choose the title), about the west coast of Vancouver Island.

For those who enjoyed reading my book Voyages to Windward: Sailing Adventures on Vancouver Island's West Coast and are inspired to sail to windward themselves, the article provides some basic practical advice. Read about the West Coast's challenges -- wind, seas, fog and rocks -- and how to prepare yourself and your boat to meet them.

The February Issue, in which the article appeared, is still available (for a few more days only) at marinas and marine supply stores. And if you can't find a hard copy, you can always find it on line at

While you're at it, check out the picture of our cat Jack on page 97 of the same issue. He was NW Yachting's Pet of the Month for February.

Jack Contemplating Fame
Vessel Name: Osprey
Vessel Make/Model: Annapolis 44 sloop
Hailing Port: Seattle
Crew: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windward)
Elsie and Steve Hulsizer have sailed northwest waters since arriving in Seattle via sailboat from Boston in 1979. [...]
2015 blog covers trip to SE Alaska 2014 blog covered trip to Seymour and Belize Inlets through Nakwakto Rapids 2013 blog covered a trip to SE Alaska and back. We left Seattle on May 16 and returned September 9. 2012 blog covered a trip from Seattle up the west coast of Vancouver Island, then [...]
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