Pillar Point, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington. July 1, 2016.
08 July 2016
Photo: Osprey anchored behind Pillar Point.
“Have we ever anchored at Pillar Point when the wind was 30 knots?” Asked Steve.
I looked ahead at Pillar Point, then out to the Strait. The water stretched out ahead of us flat and glassy. But for how long? The forecast for that night called for 30 knot westerlies. Pillar Point, 25 miles east of Neah Bay, is one of the most spectacular anchorages I know. But anchoring there makes me uneasy. Although the point protects from the worst of westerly swells and seas, the anchorage is completely open to the east.
“It’s a good anchorage. We’ll be safe,” said Steve, answering his own question and turning Osprey toward the point.
It was 5:30 in the afternoon and we were approaching Pillar Point. We had planned to go on to Neah Bay but with the current against us, we were facing at least another five hours. If the wind came up as forecast, those five hours could stretch out even longer and become uncomfortable.
Putting an anchor down at Pillar Point requires finding is a balance between getting close enough to the Pillars for protection from wind and waves and far enough out to avoid swinging onto the ledge that extends out from the outermost pillar. Soundings are scarce and picking the right place is partly a matter of a guess. Steve positioned Osprey just south of the outermost pillar and I dropped the anchor. But when the chain stretched out, we were too close. We up-anchored and tried again. This time, we were far enough out but the current from the nearby Pysht River swung our stern into the wind, making the anchor difficult to set.
When we were settled, I fished the oars out of the cockpit seat locker and set off in the dinghy. The calm seas gave the perfect opportunity to see the pillars up close. Looking over my shoulder to position the dinghy, I pulled for the outermost pillar. A slight swell swirled around its base, washing over a ledge to reveal irregular rocks protruding from the sandstone. At the base of the pillar the water had worn a groove in the sandstone. How many years, I wondered, would it take to topple the pillar. For now it looked strong, streaks of darker sandstone making irregular patterns and the occasional fern growing on its surface. I’d never been this close to the pillars before and was struck by how rough its surface was and how massive it appeared.
I returned to the boat where we spent a relaxing evening recuperating from a day under power. In the morning, a gray sky and light wind gave a raw feeling to the air. A slight swell curled around the point, setting Osprey rocking. But there was nothing like 30 knots. We headed out the Strait; we’d made the right decision to anchor at Pillar Point.