May 30, 2019. Seattle to Mats Mats Bay.
07 June 2019 | Posted at Port McNeill
Photo: Mats Mats Bay from entrance channel.
We motored north on a glassy sea. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and we'd just left Shilshole Marina on our 7th trip to SE Alaska. We had intended to leave earlier, but even this late there was time to reach Port Townsend in the daylight, especially with the quiet seas and ebb tide.
But then, at 6:30 pm, while I was preparing a dinner of cold chicken and salad, the boat started shaking and the rigging vibrating.
"Twenty-five knots. On the nose" announced Steve. The forecast had predicted light winds, not this. Minutes later the boat started slamming into the seas. Continuing north to Port Townsend was suddenly not so appealing, nor was the open anchorage off the town.
Steve was looking at the chart. "Mats Mats Bay is the closest anchorage and we won't have to back track." Mats Mats has a pleasant protected anchorage and a narrow shallow channel navigable for us at a 1ft tide or more. It had previously been one of our favorite Puget Sound anchorages until derelict boats took up much of the anchoring space. We hoped things had improved, at least enough to fit in one more boat. The tide tables showed plenty of water depth for entering and just enough for exiting if we left early in the morning. We adjusted course for the Mats Mats channel.
As we approached the channel, the sun dipped behind the mountains, putting the entrance in shade. We passed Klas Rock outside the entrance and headed for a cut in the trees. "I can see the range marks," announced Steve. The red markers were just barely visible in the shadows as we entered the channel. Tall evergreens crowded the shores to the south. A miscellaneous collection of summer and suburban homes lined the north shore. A kingfisher chittered from the trees.
Ahead, I could see the red beacon marking the final turn into the anchorage. The beacon looked ridiculously far to the south, but I knew it was right. The beacon marked a large mud flat at low tide.
To our amazement there was plenty of space for anchorage. A line of private buoys close to shore left space for visitors in the center. As we passed the red beacon, I noticed a large sign mailed to it. "Welcome visitors," it said. "You may anchor up to five days. Violators will be towed at owners' expense." It sounded harsh, but it ensured there was room for us.
Outside the bay, the wind still blew. Inside, we could see the reflections of a fleet of herring boats in the calm water. Our reward for leaving late was a calm and quiet anchorage.