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.
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."