Cruising Plans-Need Advice

When I used to board my horse in Livermore, California, I learned some invaluable lessons from Wendell*, a fellow horse-boarder. Among his many small pearls of wisdom, one was, “When it comes to horses, never offer unsolicited advice.” The adage can be used for many things, including sailing. Everyone has a certain way of doing things, and everyone thinks their way is the best way (otherwise they’d be doing something else). As a know-it-all such as myself, it’s hard to watch someone do something wrong, but unless they’re asking for my opinion or help, I try to keep a tight lip. It’s a challenge to be sure, and I fail more than I succeed.

Many of my posts here end with a question, asking for either your advice or stories, because even after almost one year of having a boat, I’m still green to this. As I search forums and the Internet at large, I encounter multiple solutions to problems, with each advocate considering themselves experts, that their way is the best way. That’s human nature, and I’m not knocking it.

In this post I am specifically soliciting for your opinions, advice, adages, and experiences. Despite June’s nasty winterish behavior, I must have faith that summer will happen eventually, and when it does, I’d like to do some cruising. There are a few places that are definitely on my list, but I’d also like to discover some small quaint harbors and quiet coves, that are, as they say, “off the beaten path.”

I want to anchor, not dock. I also need some suggestions regards Catholic Churches, as I attend weekly. The more traditional the church, the better. Since I’m a coffee fanatic, I’m also looking for pet-friendly shops where I can take both Riley and my laptop for some great java. Markets or stores that offer fresh veggies, fruits, and meats are also on my list, since I’m on the Paleo diet (okay, I do this 80%, since coffee and dairy aren’t really on the list of Paleo-approved items).

PNW Destinations on the List

A note on destinations: I’ll be taking current charts of my destinations with me, so I will not run aground, and be generally safe about my surroundings (and know where I’m going!). In my efforts to learn as much as I can, I’m also reading cruising guides. There’s a lot on my boat reading list right now, so it’s one lesson at a time. Your stories about the ports listed below is in addition to the required reading. Not to worry, I’m reading up on all of this too, but I enjoy hearing stories from other sailors.

  1. Kingston: I may be hitting Kingston as a midway point to Port Susan. I’m familiar with Kingston as a town, not as a Port. Words of wisdom regarding the best place to anchor are welcome. I’ve heard there are mooring cans available for free. The school of thought on Kingston as an anchorage range from “It’s crap,” to “it’s fine.” I’m not sure who to believe. If you have stories of woe or delight, please tell.
  2. Port Susan: I’ll be here for a weekend. I’m a practicing Catholic, so I need to find a church nearby. Any suggestions?
  3. Friday Harbor: I went up to Friday Harbor a couple of summers ago and fell in love with it. Now I’d like to sail up there. I know it’s a major destination, what with it being in the San Juan Islands. Do you know of any coffee shop in town that allows small dogs to come inside? I have a fantasy of sailing to Friday Harbor and writing something in a coffee shop, and want Riley to join me.
  4. Olympia: Everyone says the farmer’s market here is incredible, and the view of the capitol and Mt. Rainier make it an extra bonus. Any other place I should hit? Best place to anchor? A certain market vendor I should patronize?
  5. Blake Island (during the week, not on a weekend): I’ve already been here once, but in October. I’ll hit it up again, probably on my way somewhere South. Any other cruisers have plans to hit Blake during the week, to avoid the madness of the weekend?
  6. Port Ludlow: Possibly on my way up to Port Townsend for the inevitable: bottom painting. Where are the great coffee shops?
  7. Vashon Island: I saw a news story about a small Jersey Cow farm that makes delicious cheese. It’s the only reason I want to hit the island to be honest. I love cheese. While I’m there, I may as well look around at some other neat stuff, too, and that’s where you come in.
  8. Lake Washington: Fresh water will destroy all life currently taking refuge on the boat’s bottom. It would also be “fun” to experience going through the locks to get to the lakes. I spoke with a neighbor liveaboard last night about the lake, and he said the locks were no big deal if you had common sense. He also suggested places to anchor. Thanks, Al!
  9. Port Townsend: Conventional Boat Wisdom says that Port Townsend is the place for haul out and boat work. If that’s true, great, I’ll haul out in PT. However I’ve found that conventional wisdom is often wrong. So if you know of a better place to haul out and bottom paint, please use the comment section to opine.

Am I missing anything? Do you have stories about the locations above? About ones I haven’t mentioned? Please tell me all about it!

*My other favorite Wendell-ism:

Wendell: “Did you have a nice ride?”

Me: “It was okay, I guess.”

Wendell: “Did you stay on the horse?”

Me: “…Well, yeah…”

Wendell: “Then it was a great ride!”


  1. Dan Wierman June 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    WOW! you have a good shopping list of destinations. I am hesitant to suggest too much. I tend to go to parks and tie up to docks.

    Kingston. Seems that most people anchor to the south of the marina. And the depth needs to be watched. I have seen boats aground there and to the SW of the marina.

    Port Susan. Have not been there, but the thread on Cruising Anarchy about the Spike Perry sailby has some info on places to anchor.

    Friday Harbor. It is one of my favorite too! The Griffin Bay bookstore has a coffee shop in the back and up stairs. I go there for free WIFI. Don’t know if they allow dogs. It is on the main street just before the theater. Don’t know too many other shops, but I think there are some around the ferry landing. For a good breakfast, “Rocky Shores”(or Bay) has a great breakfast and gets busy early. It is a small cafe just beyond the theater. And beyond Friday Harbor is the rest of the San Juans: Jones Island, Stuart Island(Reid and Provost Harbors), Sucia Islands, Patos Island, Matia Island and on and on!

    Olympia. It is a long way from here. I go once a year for a race in Feb. I have not been to the market in a long time, but hear it is good. I like to tie up to the public moorage at Percival Landing. It is below the Capitol building. There might be anchorage near there just out board of the yacht club. On the way, suggested stops could be Gig Harbor, Penrose Park(State park), Long Branch, Jerrells Cove(state park).

    Blake Island. Yes, I like to go there during the week to avoid the crowds and during the winter. I am currently retired, so I have lots of time. I like to tie up to the docks and walk around the island.

    Port Ludlow. This is a neat bay. Don’t know of any coffee shops around. There really is not much there except for the marina and hotel. The cove way in the back of the bay used to be really quiet and very protected. Before the shore was built up with homes.

    Vashon Island. About the only real place to anchor is in Quatermaster Harbor. And most go to the County Park at Dockton. Vashon Island is big, probably larger than Bainbridge Island. I often carry a bicycle and have riden around Vashon. There is a town in the middle of the island.

    Lake Washington. Have not been there.

    Port Townsend. It is more than a place to haulout. It is my usual stopover on the way to Friday Harbor. The downtown has many book stores, antique stores and the whole area is heavy in the wooden boat scene. I hauled out in Gig Harbor this spring. They treat me well and let me do my own work. Some people like Edmonds.

    Other places people like: Hadlock, where the boat building school is located. Kilisut Harbor between Indian and Marrowstone Island(Fort Flagler state park, narrow winding, shallow channel). On the way to Port Susan: Langley on Whidbey Island. Oak Harbor. Coupville.

    That is all I can think of right now!

  2. Fred Facker June 12, 2012 at 7:10 am

    When does it finally get warm up there? Right now in Houston the only bearable parts of the day are 6 – 8 a.m. and post 8 p.m. I was working on my holding tank all day Saturday, and it was miserable. The thermometer was showing 110f inside the boat.

    1. Courtney June 12, 2012 at 8:10 am

      We have what I call “tease” days. So yesterday it was up in the 70s and totally gorgeous. Today it’s cloudy, but not cold. Conventional wisdom says summer doesn’t officially happen until after July 4th. It never gets hot up here, just warm. I laugh when the news outlets here call for heat warnings when it gets into the 80s! Ha! Of course most people don’t have air conditioning, nor sprinkler systems for their lawns.

      1. Lynn A. Stokes June 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

        I’m heading up to Lake Union today from Morro Bay,Ca. to pick up and deliver an Island Packet 27 to San Diego. I can let you know how the lake and locks are, plus Port Townsend on the way out. Hopefully leave L/U on Tuesday morning after provisioning. Feel free to shoot me a p/m if you like.

  3. Steve Olson July 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I will be sailing from Shilshole down to Eagle Island (not to be confused w/ Eagle Harbor). I’ve only seen it on the charts and in photos (situated between Anderson and Mcneil Islands. It’s supposed to be a 10-ach. state park w/ mooring balls – only to be accessed by dink. I think it will be fun to (likely) be the only one on this little island. Then I’d like to check out Long Branch to the West. Have you been around there? Btw, I love to go to Blake Island during the week – not much for the crowds. Hit me up if you ever need a buddy boat or a crew – I can’t sail enough!! =)