July PNW Cruise 2010
Day 6 - Twanoh State Park to Kitsap Memorial State Park/Port Ludlow

I crawl out of the boat at 7am to a light southerly (air moving in prep for the day’s thermal out of the North), sunny sky’s and a great view of the olympics to the west.

The Park is empty, I don’t mean just no one on the beach, all the buoy’s are empty except ours, the Dock has an old fishing boat on it, that looks like no one owns it and there is not a sole in the park on the beach. I coax MacIntosh down the transom to our El Toro to row him ashore for his morning rituals. The tide is Low, 0 tide, but there is still a couple of feet of water at the dock for us to tie up to. MacIntosh gets his rituals completed in record time, as if he is looking forward to the day’s 40 to 50 mile sail back up the Canal, or he is just hurrying along thinking he’ll get another milk bone when we get back to the boat.

7:25 and we are off the Buoy head south down the Hood Canal towards Union, 7km distant, and our turning point to start North. We Motor as the Sun is rising behind us to the East, the Mountains are sparkling to the West, and calm water with the Light Southerly still blowing. I look behind and enjoy the view of the El Toro with the Sun rise reflecting on the water. Call me corny but still love that little boat, I got it for $25 bucks when I was about 7 years old and she still keeps kickin’ along. Great little row boat, kinda small for two adults and an 85lbs dog, but it works, great little sailing dinghy as well, and sure tow’s real nice.

As I’m looking back at the El Toro I notice a gray spec heading our way. The Great Blue Herons have woken up and are heading our way towards the flats at the southern end of Hood Canal for breakfast. In they swoop as if our boat is in the way, that they need to get in front of us in line for breakfast so there is some bacon left. First one gracefully pumps it’s wings just off the water off our port side. Then unnoticed by my me one fly’s just by our port side scoping us out, I barely have enough time to get the camera up and take a shot. Then a few moments later, the kid of the group, maybe a teenager that just didn’t want to get out of bed quickly came swooping along on our starboard side, frantically flapping it’s wings trying to catch up with the others.

After an hours motor we turn the corner to start our journey north up the Hood Canal and all we see is glass, the light southerly has died off and now we wait for the forecast 15 to 25 kt. Northerly to build up, and we didn’t have to wait long. No more than 30 minutes later a black line came down towards us and all of a sudden we had 9 knots out of the north. Considering our Big mainsail, the forecast and how quickly the wind built up I opted for a reef as the sail went up. And good thing because within 15 minutes we had 18 to 22 knots, reef in the main, #3 up front, 1.5’ waves and the place to ourselves, no really not another boat out, it’s after 9 in the morning and we have the Hood Canal to ourselves.

For a good 20 miles we beat to weather by our selves in 18 to 22 knots, sun and small waves. About a spoiled as you can get in the Pacific Northwest, possibly anywhere I’ve sailed. We’ve perfect sailing conditions, waves are only splashing the foredeck every once in a while. We’re doing 5.7 to 6.2 knots through the water (granted we are fighting a knot of current on the incoming 10’ tide), there are views of the Olympic Mountains to port, Mount Rainier behind and to Starboard and Mt. Baker off the bow, pleading with us to keep tacking North. Through all this the crew of the S/V ‘Vanadis’ had a really tough day.

Our wind doesn’t last forever though and as we approach Pleasant Harbor we shake out the Reef to keep moving in a Northerly that's now down to 8 knots or so. Still making a good 5.5 Kt. through the water we keep tacking North until the wind craps out under the Peninsula while we are heading East towards the bottom of the next peninsula. We motor sail for no more that 20 minutes and here comes the Northerly again. Out rolls the Jib and two tacks later we are approaching our turn north, winds back up to the 16 to 18 knot range and we suck the reef back into the Mainsail.

Now around this corner is the Submarine Base ‘Bangor’ and it’s trigger happy coastie gaurds in their orange ribs. The restricted line is clearly denoted by Yellow buoy’s but they seem nervous if you approach that line within say 1000 yards (half way across the Canal from the other beach). 4 or 6 short tacks later we are past the Sub base and into another convergance zone. This one is cool though, we shake the reef, sail for a bit and then the wind craps out. I look down at the instruments and it tells me there is 14 knots out of the North. Stupid Instruments, there is no wind here! I look up at the top of the mast and sure enough the top of the mainsail, maybe 5 feet, is flogging in the wind while the rest of it is hanging limp. 50 feet off the water it’s blowing great, oh well, the #3 gets rolled back up and the Mainsail comes down, it’s time to motor the final 7 miles to the Park for the night.

As we arrive in the area of the Kitsap Memorial Park we can’t find any park or buoy’s. Jennifer wips out the smart phone and looks for the park on the online maps. Guess we should have checked before but it seems the park isn’t water front, but why does it say they have 2 buoy’s? We search around a bit and finally find two buoy’s that have the “park” look to them, but on top of each it say’s “private property.” Hmmm, guess things have changed since the buoy report was written. From here our choice for the night is anchor or get the Hood Canal Bridge to open up and motor the 10 more miles to Port Ludlow. After some discussion, and grumbles from the dog that has now been on the boat for 9 hours, we decide on the reciprocal dock spot in Port Ludlow with their clean bathrooms, free showers and ice. I phoned the Bridge and asked for an opening, if you ever want to do this they are very nice to deal with, most accommodating. Seems the operators have gone home for the night, but they will page them and the bridge should be open within 1.5 hours. Cool, we’ll cook dinner and wait. Steak on the BBQ, Jennifer makes mashed potatoes and a salad, the cockpit table gets set up, wine gets poured and just as we are ready to sit down the horns honk and bridge starts opening.

So much for 1.5 hours, but we’re not complaining in the least. Although I wonder how we looked to the bridge guy’s as we motored through the opening while sitting down to wine and dinner in the cockpit. I gotta tell you, it was the best view, best meal at a fancy restaurant I have ever had. Sun setting over the Olympics, Rainier behind us, Baker in front of us, great food on the table, good wine and my beautiful wife (even the dog under the table keeping our feet warm).

Couldn’t have been a better ending to an amazing day on Hood Canal. Our 40 mile sail turned into 50 miles against the current with a wait for the bridge, but now that we are tied in the reciprocal spot in Port Ludlow, well rested from a good nights sleep, showered, dog walked and coffee in hand - what a great day! I highly recommend a trip down the Hood Canal if you've never done it. Spend a night in Pleasant Harbor, visit the towns along the way, stay at Twanoh state park - all in all an amazing experience right in the back room of the Pacific Northwest.