Photo: The west cliff in Watmough Bay
We were off the south end of Lopez Island, looking for an anchorage. After leaving Shilsole at 6 am, motoring out Puget Sound and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we were ready for a break. I looked at the chart and noticed Watmough Bay in the southeast corner of the island. Sheltered from the south and west, it looked perfect for the forecast of southwest winds. A quick check in a cruising guide told us that the bay had "breathtaking views, a large sand beach and miles of hiking trails." Just the place.
"The crowds should be down now that we're past Labor Day," said Steve as we approached the bay.
We rounded Boulder Island at the mouth of the bay and I caught a glimpse of several tall masts, followed by a view of an impressive rock cliff. A minute later more boats came into view. I looked north up the Lopez coast and my heart sank. A veritable fleet of boats headed our way. So much for the crowds being down after Labor Day. We quickly picked a spot in 15 ft of water and dropped anchor, making sure it set. Behind us three elegant wooden cruisers jockeyed for space.
I was securing the anchor chain when I heard Steve say, "They're all wood!" I looked around at the boats. A few fiberglass boats swung on moorings but the vast majority of the boats were wooden. Varnished masts gleamed and fresh paint sparkled - at least as much as they could in the smoky atmosphere from the forest fires in Eastern Washington.
We were admiring the wooden boats when a man on a standup paddleboard approached us. Steve recognized him as someone he knew from his time at Todd Shipyard.
"Are you on your way to Port Townsend?" the man asked, referring to the Wooden Boat Festival where I usually speak. I explained that we had planned to be farther north at this time so I hadn't signed up to speak.
The man gestured at the wooden boats around us. "We were all in Deer Harbor last night. We're on our way to Port Townsend tomorrow morning." We were seeing part of the annual wooden boat migration that starts at the Victoria Wooden Boat Show over Labor Day, moves on to the Deer Harbor Wooden Boat Show right after, then on to the Port Townsend Festival. I felt a minute's regret that we weren't going to Port Townsend as usual, then laughed at myself. We had a better view of the boats here. What was more beautiful then a fleet of wooden boats swinging at anchor in a beautiful harbor?
Photo: Wooden Boats anchored in Watmough Bay.
By 11:00 the next morning, all but one wooden boat was gone and the smoke had partially cleared. I took the dinghy ashore, landed on a pebble beach (not sand as promised but sill nice) and walked a trail that circled a green cattail marsh. Returning to the beach, I watched a land otter swim offshore and a hawk circling above the cliff. A beautiful bay with the bonus of a fleet of wooden boats.
Photo: A glimpse of a cattail marsh from a trail at Watmough Bay. (Note the wasp nest hanging from a tree branch).