A Passage Too Brief in the Pacific Northwest
Spurred on by the calendar and approaching seasonal gales, the crew of Roger Henry still manages to feast on Canada’s bounty of cruising delights.
Then an email came in from our friend Carol Hasse, one of America’s premier sailmakers. Carol lives in Port Townsend, Washington, which many people consider the most vibrant and authentic sailing town on the Pacific coast. With its location on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, classic boats galore, and quaint architecture, I was sorely tempted. Knowing me too well, Carol slipped in that they had a brewery actually attached to the local boatyard. I told Diana to prepare the sails.
But we stopped en route in Anacortes to see old sailing friends Herve and Cathy Burnell. They’ve cruised extensively throughout the Caribbean and along the Eastern Seaboard, but in the end, they wanted that sublime combination of great sailing in the summer and powder skiing in the winter. They extolled the benefits of Anacortes, with its backdoor access to the San Juan Islands and beyond, its quick connection to metropolitan Seattle, and its proximity to the Mount Baker, Stevens Pass, and Crystal Mountain ski resorts. My head locked with analysis paralysis.
In the end, the choice of winter haven wasn’t ours. Unbeknownst to us, the State of Washington had recently passed a law requiring an enormous amount of liability insurance for any vessel staying more than three days in a marina. We had neither that insurance nor the time to obtain it.
Fortunately, one marina in the village of Poulsbo, on Liberty Bay, across Puget Sound from Seattle, had been granted a dispensation from the new regulation because it’s traditionally hosted a small fleet of commercial fishing boats. As accidental as our final destination was, we weren’t disappointed. Poulsbo is a quaint little town that’s retained its strong Norwegian influences. The city marina is central, offers all the essential services, and has a dock stocked with liveaboard enthusiasts. Whether they sail no farther than the attractive hidey-holes of Puget Sound or fetch distant foreign shores, these sailors are kindred spirits in that they share our love of the sea and of all things that float upon it. That immediately gave us a strong sense of community. And coincidentally, or perhaps not, for things seem to work out perfectly for us all too often to think so, Poulsbo sits smack in the epicenter of all the above-mentioned varied attractions.
There was much to do once we were finally ashore, including repairing and cleaning the boat after so many difficult miles and establishing new residencies for ourselves, with driver’s licenses, transportation, postal addresses, a telephone, Internet access, and library cards.
Nevertheless, lest I let our cruising memories fade away without proper reflection, I took an afternoon off, sat in the cockpit, and reread our logbook. Page by page, day by day, mile by mile, the enormity of the marvelous Inside Passage waterway was revealed. Nature knows no political demarcations. Its borders are drawn with lakes, oceans, rivers, and ranges. The natural line drawn from the southern basin of Puget Sound northward along British Columbia to the Alaska Panhandle is certainly one of the most beautiful brushstrokes on this canvas we call Earth.
Alvah and Diana Simon are CW contributing editors.